Hermes Beckons: Fishing Is Like Linking with the Spiritual Realm
Chapter 21
© 2006 John Caris

Shasta looked out the kitchen window at the garden. Rafé had left, and the luncheon dishes were washed. Her mind was focused on their conversation. Although she had been expecting disturbing news, she had not been prepared for Rafé’s depiction of Ralph’s behavior nor for her intense anxiety about it. Taking off the apron and hanging it on a hook, she left the kitchen and walked to Ralph’s studio. She stood there peering in and wondering what clues about the mystery were contained inside. She had always respected his privacy and would still, but did not feel dishonorable about looking around at what was visible and tuning into any invisible energy, so she entered and wandered quietly through the room. Passing the desk, she noticed his notebook lying open. Glancing at the two pages, she was caught by several words, in particular death and spirit.

She read the passage at the top of the left hand page: “Hermes has inspired these thoughts on death and regeneration: the phoenix arises from the ashes of the body, which has been destroyed by the secret fire. The astral body with its soul is fixed on its cross by the fire of the physical body. The perineum is the nest where the egg is placed. Reincrudation, a process of profound consequence, entails a return of the treated metal to its original state. The metal is broken down and decomposed. Then its mercurial opposite revivifies it and transforms it into its archetypal form. Once the coarse, chaotic elements have been eliminated, the philosophical sulfur can now be made. The stone is first congealed with water and then, when struck by the secret fire as by a magic sword, emits a flow of water as a spring gushes from the earth. The hermetic fountain is created.”

Most of the words she understood but not the underlying meaning, at least not exactly and completely. Obviously, the words were not to be interpreted literally, but instead were a code that required a special key.

She continued reading: “The first stage in the alchemical process is to waken consciousness by transforming our awareness to an understanding of our spiritual nature: 1) we all have a spiritual nature. 2) The bond between our spiritual and physical natures must be healed. 3) We should learn to turn inward and listen to our heart. 4) We should gain an understanding of paradoxical awareness.”

Other than paradoxical awareness she immediately related to the thoughts. Rafé had emphasized the spiritual nature of Ralph’s crisis. Here were his own thoughts about spiritual questions. No wonder the loss of the Zuni stone bear had become an important focal point. Ralph had asked her if she had seen the bear, mentioning that he could not find it, but at the time she had not sensed his despair.

The next passage was barely comprehensible: “The incarnated spirit is the vehicle of light: the fire requires a container for its support and growth. The container is cleansed of impurities until it is exalted.”

Containers and vehicles—what did they actually refer to? To spiritual things no doubt, but how? If this were a description of a dream, she would interpret the words to mean the body. But what was the connection?

She read the last passage on the right hand page: “Eating the fruit of the tree of knowledge, especially all at once, will surely bring death—death to the intellect, our rational system of thought, and to the ego and self, to our personal world view. Truth is liberating and dissolves rigid mental structures upon which we have built our reality. Spiritual truth destroys the great rock that is the foundation for our beliefs. We are left with no-thing in a ceaseless flow of becoming-and-going.”

She certainly was not learning the truth all at once and so was not worried about dying, but the few bites she had taken were beginning to make sense, an aha kind of insight. Intuition seemed to be the primary faculty to employ in this type of study. In fact, as a few connections started occurring, she thought that she might enjoy this intellectual enterprise. It definitely was not arid but stimulated an emotional background.

Certain now that Ralph was trapped in a crisis that was both psychological and spiritual, she decided to intervene. Her involvement must be subtle so that healing could take place. If she pushed, he would close up, so the strategy was to encourage him gently to tell her about the deepest parts of the problem. Over the past year they had been opening their hearts to each other more and more. A refreshing intimacy had grown between them. Tonight at happy hour would be the time to begin. Perhaps several sessions would be required before Ralph totally emptied his soul. Dreams, as always, would be the initiating act. ***

They were sitting in Nancy Burke’s living room, sipping mixed berry juice. Shasta was describing her worries concerning Ralph. When Nancy had first seen Shasta standing on the front porch of her house in the Sunset District, she recognized the signs of serious anxiety, and so far Shasta’s narrative was supporting her apprehension. In describing Ralph’s weird behavior, Shasta had mentioned the information that Rafé had provided. Linking the loss of his stone bear to his depression was certainly strong evidence that he was very disturbed, perhaps on the verge of mental collapse. Nancy never had much interest in the occult and had always considered herself a pragmatist, but, for some reason she could not explain, her attention was aroused when Shasta told her about Ralph’s delving into alchemy and the passages she had read in his journal.

“Then last night during happy hour I encouraged him to bring forth his problems and talk about them. After we talked about our dreams for awhile, I mentioned that I had noticed his journal lying open and looked at a couple of pages. He thought that was a sign and asked if I had understood anything. I told him the truth that the underlying meaning was not clear and inquired if he would share the ideas with me. Smiling, he agreed to explain anything I wanted to know.” Looking at her friend, Shasta’s eyes asked for acknowledgment.

“That’s encouraging.” Nancy exuded a feeling of caring.

“He mused about a famous alchemist of the fourteenth century, Nicholas Flamel, who with the assistance of his wife Pernelle, successfully produced the magnum opus. So why couldn’t we do the same?”

“They turned lead into gold?”

“Ralph thinks alchemy is really a spiritual process, a transforming of the soul that involves the feminine and masculine, the king and queen.”

“They get together in the bridal chamber, right? Sounds pretty sexy to me.”

“It’s a psychic and spiritual mating. When I agreed to assist him with his alchemical project, his face shone with joy, but then he became quite serious and his voice got husky. He looked completely bewildered. I knew he was going to open his soul, but the effort was extremely painful. Still, I wasn’t ready for what he told me.”

Totally immersed in Shasta’s narration, Nancy silently nodded her head with sympathetic understanding.

“I’ve mention Ralph’s new friend and magic buddy, Harold Magian, who seems to have a good influence on him. Well, once Ralph was able to lay bare his heart, he said that he first met Harold in his studio. He was practicing a routine on the stage when Harold just materialized in front of him.”

Nancy was flabbergasted. “Materialized out of nothing? Was Ralph hallucinating?”

“I wondered the same thing, but I didn’t suggest any misgivings. In fact, Ralph broke down and cried, saying that he must have been hallucinating, yet he believed it had happened. He began sobbing, and I got up and went over to the couch where he was sitting and sat down beside him, putting my arm around his shoulders and hugging him. Even the kitties tried to comfort him. Karma jumped out of her chair and leaped into his lap while Lucy put her head on his thigh. After several minutes of crying, he quieted and begged for my understanding and forgiveness.”

“My God! No wonder you’re so distraught.”

“He was at a complete loss. I could sense the dark hole in his soul. His story gave me such a chill I thought perhaps there was some truth in it. I do believe in a spiritual realm, but his experience was too much to accept. If I had had the same experience, I know I would question my sanity. I do believe he had a strange, unnerving happening, but whether it was based in reality is uncertain, and I just can’t decided its truth.”

“Could you test it?”

“How?”

“Well, I was going to say by asking Harold. But of course that’s definitely out. I mean what could you say that doesn’t sound totally off the wall and crazy.”

“Why, Harold, do you ever materialize into space? Could you perform your illusion for me? I know; it’s all so weird.”

Nancy giggled. “It could become something out of James Thurber’s ‘The Unicorn in the Garden.’”

“I’d be hauled off to the loony bin.” Shasta laughed and then paused waiting for an intuition to blossom. “As I’ve mentioned, I’ve met Harold. Most of the gang were at Ocean Delights when Leila arrived very distressed and told her strange story about the cubee machine.”

“That’s the Ocean Avenue psychic you’ve mentioned? Those were strange happenings at the psychic institute.”

“Yes, and when she finished her narration, Harold arrived.”

“Materialized?”

“Now that I think about it his appearance was unusual. He phoned Ralph but using Gordon’s cell phone. I remember now that Ralph seemed upset, but covered his discomfort with a plausible tale that he had given Harold everyone’s phone number.”

“Well, well, well. A suspenseful story you’re telling.”

“Harold arrived at Ocean Delights shortly after the phone call. He was very solid and real and quite charming.”

“Remember when we were into discussing our religious beliefs—back there thirty-five years ago. We did entertain notions about the spirit world, reincarnation, and ESP.”

“Alan Watts’ Psychotherapy East and West was one of our bibles.”

“Our delvings into other cultures. I was intensely impressed by Hermann Hesse’s novel Siddhartha.”

“The world lay before us and beckoned.”

“It was a time of self-exploration, a personal quest to satisfy an innate hunger.”

“I’ve never since been as deeply concerned with the spiritual realm as then.”

“As I’ve gotten older, I’ve thought more about such ideas. The stories of the Wintu people seem to have more truth inherent in them than I believed when I was young. Rafé has wakened me to this other reality, which I had eventually written off as a new age fantasy. If it’s true, I’d have to change my conception of the world. If it’s not true, then I’d better find help immediately for Ralph.”

“When I was a child, I enjoyed stories about the land of Faerie—the other world that exists beside us.”

“It’s like a parallel reality that’s so popular in science fiction.”

“That idea has been around quite awhile, hasn’t it?”

“I think H.G. Wells was the first imaginative writer to introduce the idea in a story. Mmmm . . . in Men like Gods, I believe.

“It was part of my Celtic heritage, but at the moment it may not make any difference whether such a reality is true or not. Ralph is feeling a loss and is uncertain of his sanity. It’s definitely a spiritual crisis. His self-confidence is at stake.”

“Rafé suggested a sweatlodge ceremony for him. She knows a Potawatomi man who conducts them. Also, I was thinking maybe Leila Lubec might be of assistance. She has a degree in clinical psychology and emphasizes her role as a consulting therapist. Since her approach usually involves the spiritual realm, she should have more insight than the typical therapist.”

“And certainly more sympathy. Seeing Leila seems like the best move. I’ll go with you, if you’d like.”

“Yes, I’d like that. You’ve always been such a wonderful support.”

“Besides, I’m curious about Leila Lubec and Harold Magian.” Nancy chuckled. “Maybe we could all have dinner together, the five of us.”

After Shasta had left, Nancy sat on the couch and examined her feelings. Her good friend’s story was very disturbing and aroused a mixture of emotions. She had always liked Ralph for his gentleness, strength, and caring. She had watched their love bloom and grow, and their marriage remained bonded even through the disasters and upheavals that plague our lives. Her marriage had ended in bitterness, forcing her into the role of single parent when that nerdy husband Arnie Wayne abandoned her and their son Jim. The arrogant scumbag had gone off to Idaho with a teenybopper who was barely above the jailbait age.

She still felt anger when those memories arose, her Irish temper igniting, and thank goodness for her Irish temper. It was what saved her and little Jim from Arnie’s demeaning attitude toward them and total disaster. And thank goodness for the decent job she had that allowed her to recoup the losses when that deadbeat left after emptying their joint bank accounts. She had thought about suing him but decided to obtain a divorce that cut him off from any future monetary prospects and dealings with his son. Jim had felt so betrayed by his father’s leaving that he wanted his last name changed to Burke. Fortunately, she had kept her maiden name and did not need to do that for herself.

Jim became the center and precious gem of her life, and together they found happiness without Arnie. Jim, now thirty-four, was earning a fine reputation with a computer software company in Seattle. Five years ago, he had married a bright, young woman, Marie, who was a high school teacher. Their three year old daughter, Dorothy, was a delight for her grandmother. Yes, it was still difficult to accept her new self-image, that of the matronly grandmother, but when she did, she enjoyed the role immensely.

Nancy shook herself and stood up. The memories would always be there, but she needed to reduce their intensity and power to possess her thinking. Her empathy for Ralph and his problem came to the fore, dissolving the bitter reminiscence of her past. A small gleam began blossoming in her mind. She must focus not on the past but on her present good fortune: her son and his family, her friends, her job, and her lifestyle that allowed her the freedom to do what she wanted. Now as she moved into her senior years she would enjoy the fruits of the harvest. ***

A single candle light held back the darkness. Focusing on the flickering flame, Leila Lubec examined the events of the past two hours. She had undergone a series of intense emotions, ranging from incredulity to wonderment and ending in awe. She now realized that her involvement with the occult had only been superficial dabbling. Today, she had experienced something that went beyond her understanding into mystery that best be named natural magic.

After Shasta Garland and her friend Nancy Burke had left—their story stretching her credence but gaining her sympathy and support—she undertook the first of the two projects she had assented to. She set up Ralph’s tarot reading arrangement and examined the cards looking for more insight into his current spiritual state. The sun card in the seventh position had originally caught her attention, a portent of some future peril. Now she gleaned more comprehension in the light of the recent episodes that exhibited the powerful turmoil gripping him. The card suggested anxieties and negative forces inherent in his psyche that could be projected outward and influence the success of his new magic show and alchemical pursuits. Linking the sun card with the reversed eight of wands in the eighth position now took on deeper meaning, one marking a hazardous risk. Attitudes and opinions of family and friends would have a powerful hold on him, especially those related to his magic show. Her positive support was extremely necessary.

The second undertaking was to enter a trance and endeavor to find a clue to his crisis. The message she received was so unsettling and awesome that her worldview was shaken. She had been disturbed by the extraordinary events surrounding the experiments of Sylvia Golden and Herb Williams with the cube wave. Now she remembered that when she had told the gang at Ocean Delights Harold A. Magian had appeared suddenly into their lives. She had become alerted to something in his presence, an inexplicable energy that penetrated her psychic defenses, as if he could read her mind. She was now forced to reevaluate her gnosis.

Some trance postures required her to stand while others to kneel or sit cross-legged on the floor. For a few she sat on a low stool. Over the years she had developed her own versions of the standard positions. Using the “Cholula diviner” posture on this occasion, Leila sat on a low stool. Her right hand grasped the right leg below the knee while the left hand gripped the left knee. She shut her eyes and allowed her tongue to protrude from her lips. With the drumming in the background she moved into a trance state. The spirit guide manifested in the form of an older woman, a feeling of nurturing exuding from her, and spoke to her. She never had any difficulty accepting materialization or other abnormal occurrences during a trance, so why not acknowledge such happenings in the ordinary world? The border between the two realities was ethereal.

The woman in the vision had told her about Ralph and his crisis. Her answer was that Ralph must find himself. She had said, “He must let the Charlie Brown, always innocent, boy out. The boy awakens the girl, and the girl awakens the boy. Elders will understand this truth. Since children want to become adults with adult rights and privileges, the child is hidden away. Elders eventually realize that the child is the surviving agent who must be released before death.” The woman had dissolved into the mist, and Leila regained awareness of her surroundings.

She picked up the telephone and dialed the Garlands. Shasta answered.

“Hi. This is Leila. I’ve learned some things that you should know. Can you stop by tomorrow? Yes, the afternoon around two is fine.”

She took a pen and began writing on her notepad. She would describe her insights about the tarot reading and the trance message, which now had gained the utmost significance. The basic meaning of the message was that Ralph must remember who he is—the gnosis buried in his soul. She began writing several versions of her thoughts, searching to find the clearest expression for Shasta’s comprehension. ***

“Where’s Leila?” Rafé was surprised when she saw only three people emerge from the Garlands’ car. She noticed Ralph’s pallor and listlessness, as if he had been drained of energy. Shasta was in a serious mood, her lips drawn tight. Nancy seemed curious, anticipating an unusual event.

“She phoned this morning. She’s got a flu bug and feels miserable,” Shasta answered.

Rafé turned to the lean, gray-haired man standing beside her. “This is Earl Carpenter. He and his wife Ruth conduct sweatlodge ceremonies.”

After they exchanged greetings, Earl led them around to the back of the house where the circular sweatlodge was located. Ten feet in diameter and about four feet high in the center, it was constructed of a framework of saplings covered by canvas. Several feet away from the entrance, which faced east, was a fire pit where rocks were heating in a bed of hot coals. He told them the sweatlodge symbolized the womb of Grandmother Earth and the Grandfather Spirits in the stones were awakened by heating. Once Earl finished explaining the ceremony, Ruth emerged from the back door of the house, and, after introductions were made, she ushered them into the dressing rooms. They had brought gym shorts and shirts to wear for the ceremony. Large towels were provided by the Carpenters.

When they were ready, they returned to the sweatlodge and entered one by one, moving from east to west in a sunwise circular direction. In the center of the building was another pit about two feet wide and two feet deep. Once they were all seated inside, Ruth, who was the fire-keeper, carried several hot stones with a pitchfork into the sweatlodge and placed them in the center pit.

As the participants became aware of the heat, Earl closed the entrance flap, and darkness filled the interior alleviated only by the red glow of the hot stones. Earl sprinkled cedar on the fire, and an aromatic smoke with a cleansing power permeated the space. The participants pulled the smoke toward themselves and bathed in the sacred essence. The sweatlodge keeper then offered a prayer honoring the spirits, followed by each participant who prayed. After several minutes of prayer, Earl took a long handle dipper and ladled water from a bucket onto the hot stones. The water hissed and sizzled, filling the lodge with steam. The dry heat now became very moist. Each participant silently meditated upon the most intimate thoughts and feelings until the stones had cooled, whereupon Earl opened the lodge’s flap. As cool air flowed into the warm interior, the participants emerged and stretched, moving about and breathing the fresh air.

After Ruth had placed another group of red hot stones in the sweatlodge’s pit, they returned for a second round. Again they cleansed themselves with cedar smoke, prayed, and cleared their souls of psychological and spirituals poisons. When the second round was completed, they went back to the dressing rooms and took cool showers.

Once finished dressing, they went into a dining room where a large pot of venison stew, a plate of cornbread, a jar of maple syrup, and coffee were awaiting them. Although traditionally participants had brought medicine gifts and tobacco for the sweatlodge leader and fire-keeper, as well as food to share following the ceremony, modern culture had made changes in the offerings. Ralph, at the behest of Rafé, had given Earl a pouch of tobacco to offer the spirits in the traditional manner, but the payment to the Carpenters for their services was tendered in money.

Ralph felt renewed and bubbling with enthusiasm. His mind was alert and focused; his previous anxieties had dissolved. Now that a protective shield had been set around him, doubts could no longer wound and torment him. He noticed that both Shasta and Nancy had also benefited from the healing ceremony. They were projecting an exuberance, a sparkling brightness. Even Rafé was exhibiting a glowing, healthful appearance. He realized that Earl and Ruth by conducting the ceremony also gained. Rafé had mentioned earlier that they were both in their seventies, yet he would have guessed that they were in their fifties. ***

The doorbell chimed. Ralph wondered who it could be? Shasta was probably upstairs in her study, so he went into the vestibule and looked through the peephole. Harold was standing on the front porch. Ralph opened the door, greeted his mentor, and ushered him into the studio. Harold strode to the desk and surveyed the surroundings. Boxes were stacked against the interior wall. Several props were resting around the stage area.

“How are rehearsals going?”

“We’ve made some changes based on new ideas. I’ve ordered some different props to enhance the performance.”

Harold stared into Ralph’s eyes, nodded approvingly, and walked to the rocking chair and sat down. “What are these refinements?”

“I’m following your advice about the dramatic elements. Rafé knows a graduate student majoring in directing who will coach us. She’s been over, and we’ve discussed the outline of the show. She’ll give us some ideas to insert in the act. When we’ve rehearsed sufficiently, she’ll sit in and observe.”

“Indeed. I’m pleased to hear your progress.” Harold rocked slowly back and forth, allowing silence to permeate the studio. Then he spoke, “I’ve a story, a little parable, to tell you.”

“What is it?” Ralph sat down at the desk.

“You’ve noticed, I’m sure, how moths are attracted to light. After they’ve concluded their life’s purpose, they search for a light, and, once finding it, they land next to it, embracing its warmth, and die. This is an ideal situation, but some moths are not so fortunate. Have you ever wondered what happens if the light goes out before the moth dies? Enfeebled now and unable to use the light bridge to cross over, it falls to the floor in a stupor. When it awakens, it realizes it has been reborn and must live through its physical life again.”

Ralph felt a warm tingling as the image of the moth glared in his mind and triggered a memory from last summer. The philosophic meaning underlying the moth’s activity stirred his soul. “The moth story has many layers of meaning. It could be a cosmic symbol for the hermetic art.”

“Indeed. A just and perceptive comment.”

Ralph rose, meandered over to the stage, and studied the props there. “I’ve a question for you.”

“Ask away.”

“Remember when Leila was describing the strange events connected to the cubee device and the psi experiments? You remarked about human curiosity and its propensity to poke into perilous situations. I was reminded of the story about Psyche and Cupid. Her curiosity was her major weakness.”

“Definitely. The theme is evoked in tales throughout human culture. Pandora opens a box and releases evil into the world, for one. But what is your question?” Harold slowly glided to and fro.

“You suggested that there might be forces opposing the psi experiments. I wondered about that. Are there malignant powers, spirit beings, or what?”

Appraising his apprentice closely, Harold replied, “For every action there’s an opposite and equal reaction.”

The rhythmic gliding of the rocking chair induced an hypnotic mood in Ralph as he stood in a visionary stillness. Then he remarked, “One of the laws of thermodynamics.”

“Everything contains its opposite.”

“The yin-yang symbol.”

“One of your cats is named Karma. What does her name imply?”

“In Hinduism and Buddhism the concept that we receive the consequences of our actions.”

“As ye sow, so shall ye reap.”

“Okay, so the psi experiments are being conflicted by a psychic reaction. They’re reaping what they’re sowing. But I’m confused about the interaction with the psychic or spiritual realm. My request is for understanding and gnosis.”

“This is the day for fables. You like to fish, even in a bowl filled only with water. Have you ever put yourself in the role of the fish?” An enigmatic expression flashed on Harold’s face.

Ralph, caught in a trance engendered by the flowing, gliding chair, observed his mentor. “No, but I can try.”

“When the fish grabs the hook, the fisher pulls back on the line to secure the hook. And what might be the fish’s immediate reaction?”

Ralph was puzzled. He pretended to be a fish. “I guess I’d want to get off the hook and swim away safely.”

“Indeed. To shake off the hook and run away. The adept angler will let the line out gradually so that the fish believes it is escaping from the danger.”

“Of course. Then the line is tightened and pulled back a little, but not too tense, and let out some more.”

“Until the fish tires and can be reeled in.”

An intuition was blossoming in Ralph’s mind. An aha sensation vibrated his soul. “I’m beginning to understand, not completely, but it will advance. Fishing is analogous to linking with the spiritual realm.”

“Definitely. Meditate on the symbol. You’ll be surprised at how profound it is. Remember to play both roles—fisher and fish.” Harold reached into the air with his right hand and extracted a watch from the aether. Clicking the lid open, he glanced at the watch’s face. “It’s time to be on my way. I’ll be in touch. Give my love to Shasta.”

Hermes Beckons Chapters Laughter Keeps Him on the Edge of Existence Snatching a Piece of Eternity from the Dragon