Friday, January 27, 2006

Note to Death Mother

In Rebbe's Farewell I mentioned that Stephen Spielberg's Jaws is a Quaternity movie; Father, Son, Holy Spirit and Mary (who represents Psyche/feminine). But in Jaws, the Ocean is the Psyche/feminine figure animated by her dangerous and toothy shark persona (vagina dentata), as Ocean very generally represents yin consciousness & Psyche in dreams. This is Death Mother like those (discussed here) in The Three Sisters (Mother Kali below from Exotic india Art. Jaws brings a specific relevance: the 50s brought space fear and UFO dreams and all space movies were hostile encounters. Spielberg brought harmony and psychic awakening to the Universe encounter in Close Encounters and E.T. But away from home in the Stars, alienation and an "out of place" feeling arose for the natural environment, Earth and Ocean (perhaps we went to space to escape Mother) - thus the Toothy Mother. Lucas brought equilibrium in space (Star Wars) for 30 years. But then at the end of the millenium we returned to earth and then the pop culture was filled with "fear of earth" movies (Cave, Reign of Fire, the epic tv drama Lost and Survivor and all of its spinoffs). As in the early UFO days when we went to space, return brought psychic encounters again, this time with earth in Tolkein's Rings movies and Harry Potter, (discussed in Returning) when space was left behind. My guess is that J.J. Abrams's creative popular hit Lost is a Gatekeeper and this theme will extend for decades, as Star Trek and Star Wars did.

Also failed . . .

I also failed to mention in The Three Sisters (Palma Vecchio painting here, 1520, their last days) that the general consideration of Quaternity is almost always three males and a female, but the Three Sisters (the Triple Goddess) form their own Quaternity as well; maiden, mother, wise woman, and the boy child – the Star Child – born every year of the Winter Solstice. (Graves, The White Goddess). The Yellow Emperor, 27th century BC, who founded ancient Taoism, was accompanied by three female deities.)It is my consideration that this, not the other, is the essential Quaternity of the English-speaking peoples. The boy child can be a satry or Traveller, or avatar – my astonishing Australian dreamer recently had such a dream. (Note: the four & four = the Ba Gua, featured as a portal above in the entries on Lost.)

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

A Reader's Vision

Thoughts: At the beginning of these journals I illustrate an Eastern idea which has been amplified by Swiss Depth Psychologist C.G. Jung. That is, the idea that one can have a dream that another has and that significant events can arise spontaneously in dreams of different people and at different times – but the different times are not random – they form a package over a specific period which may be greater than one individual's lifetime; that is, as one individual may share in another's dream life or visionary life, so the individual can share in dreams beyond her or his time. As different places can have varying sincerity like Linus’s Pumpkin Patch, so can different stretches of time. I use Salvador Dali’s visions of a White Grand Piano to illustrate this and explain this idea more or less as it is understood to what the Dalai Lama refers to as “conservatives” – Old School, as he says he is. Myself I have had parallel dreams and important dreams shared by other people. My dreams have always been shared by women – some I know, like my wife, others like miss3, whom I met way later than the dream.

Anyway, a reader has kindly shared an interesting vision, which he or she feels portends to a tragedy which has happened or is perhaps about to happen. The vision begins with a mention of Mount Meru, in Tibetan Buddhism, the center of the Cosmic Universe - a singular ray of light which the adept attempts through devote practise to embody. I would like to make a few comments on this particular vision and on dreams in general. First of all, when a person has a difficult dream that stays with him it is usually and important dream – what Native American Indians call a “Big Dream” – suggesting something from the Unconscious of inherent originality. One point made earlier: persons capable of having clairvoyant dreams are not – in the Taoist realm – inherently great at understanding their vision. You see this from very early times. Abbess Hildegaard’s visions are cosmic, but her explanation of her dreams is faulty and generic. Likewise, Magritte’s intuitions are cosmic but his explanations are pedantic and generic clevernesses prepared for a publicist class of misunderstanders. What makes Magritte a great painter and visionary makes him a poor publicist. Breton the the Surrealists intentionally confounded the uninitiated to send them away from their sacred circle. Jung explains this division of abilities in personality type studies – Myers-Briggs in the U.S. Taoism as well makes the point – the vision requires one to have it and one to bring it out into the world. They are two people with different skills, and in the vision the two are One: the Inside and the Outside. In Myers-Briggs terms, I believe these would be INFP for the dreamer and INTP for the interpreter. When the Dalai Lama brings a dream or a thought to the Oracle in the Old Schol tradition for explaination and interpretation he describes, this is the Inside/Outside condition.

The Second point is more important. When people have a Big Dreams they almost always feel it portends disaster. It creates fear because it comes from the Unconscious where the dreamer doesn’t often go and can only go alone with difficulty. Most often Big Dreams are auspicious. A death in a Big Dream usually means a birth, as in Tarot cards. But of course, the dream may be a dark vision. For example: I dreamed in New York City in early mid-life – where I found it difficult to dream – that a Catholic nun was dancing with a cloak over her head in the hallway of the house where I grew up in Rhode Island. I came out of my room and my father, at the other end of the hall came out and aid, “Don’t worry, it’s not your mother.” When my sister called home the next day she found my cousin had died – the first of my generation to die in my family.

Perhaps this vision is a dark harbinger. But the reader said he or she had the dream late in 1996 and in Australia. This was an astonishing dream time, and I have found Australians to be particularly astute dreamers (if this person is an Australian). As mentioned in the beginning, these journals here are about and from thinking which occurred in dreams and intuition between 1994 and 2005, the life cycle of the White Buffalo, who was born in one millennium (and one Platonic month) and died in another. I am also interested in this dream/poem because it contains an anecdote about a goat and my journals here were originally jotted in 1996 as a five-page poem called "The Goat Man" ccompanied by a picture which I painted in my barn, and twice this week I have received goat things from kind readers. I raise sheep and the kind of sheep I raise, Tunis sheep – beautiful North African sheep - (photo A here by William and Helen Kirby-Mende who have the best sheep) – to some degree resemble goats. I wish I knew more about this dream of the reader – the account here was written in 2005, almost 10 years after the fact, and to understand important dreams like this there should be a recollection immediately after. But – as a dream – this poem appears to have key elements of a new Awakening: the Sacred Mountain at the Center of the Universe; the Deathless Child which transcends avatars and Awakes new cycles of spirit and psychic awareness; a young Magical Animal – goats are capricious Trickster animals which initiate mischief and break old orthodoxies, clearing the Psyche for new Awakening; and a Great Beast lying on its back. It is important that the vision was in the sky, in Western (Zoroastrian) cosmology, the realm of the zodiac reflecting the millenia we are entering.


In the sky a vision appeared
To the Sky Dragon:

A mountain whose shape he realized -
Mt. Meru - centre of the Universe.

From its clear form arose a face
A small boy in profile.
The face transformed into an enthronement crown
Clear against the vast blue sky.

Another form arose, a young sacrificial goat
Pleading for its life.
Alas, the boy was to be sacrificed!

The Great Beast, huge and ugly appeared
Lying on its back -
Totally defenseless and vulnerable.

What could it all mean?

The Sky Dragon wept with frustration.
Why did he receive this vision?
He felt powerless to act
Yet knew some skillful action was required.

One day he decided the time had come
To send the vision on the winds
To blow where it may, to sitr
The consciousness of those who suffered
And those who were the cause of suffering
Under the rule of the Great Beast

(Copyright July, 2005, by Sky Dragon. Reprinted with permission.)

This vision suggests to Sky Dragon the child monk, the Panchen Lama, whose fate is unknown. My essay earlier on the Panchen Lama prompted the correspondence. Dreams tell several stories and as this tales makes clear Sky Dragon's point of view, it also illustrates his or her own Awakening: the Great Beast lying on its back here is very like - exactly like - the path of Shiva abandoning his old ego after he has outgrown it, so as to find new life/dance - the deity stomps an a leathery old dwarf (old beast) underfoot (as The Beatles left behind four "corpses" abandon their Old Selves and emerge as new "butterflies" at Sgt. Peppers) - Shiva casts the old skin and begins his new dance of "the Creation of Birth and Death" and leaves the leathery dwarf stomped underfoot. Surely that is here in the dream as well: the Deathless Child appears in the Mountain in the Center of the World - this is the new Creative, Psychic, Spiritual Life, transplanting the old abandoned and useless beast. In fact, as the dreamer pointed out in a letter - he or she at the moment of the vision had just entered initiation into new cosmic life form and the dream vision here is one which classically accompanies a true spiritual change. The Deathless Child is born out of the death of the Great Beast. But the dreamer is part of the world and when the dreamer enters Awakening, so does the World begin again as well; the Beast is Kali - the Death Mother - her Reign is up in the world and the Deathless child Awakens again in the world. The dreamer fears for the health and welfare of the Panchen Lama and so do I. But the part of the boy that is divine is a light that cannot die - the Deathless Child brings new life form the Moutain at the Center of the Universe, and in that, this is a most auspicious dream - coming into the world with other events - late 1996 and early 1997 - the spontaneous Awakening of thousands of Chinese in the Falun Gong, the widescale popular interest in Tibetan Buddhism in the West and the rise of the Hale-Bopp star event which hung over my farm every morning for a month when I went out to feed my chickens.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

The Age of Thomas

Tiny slips of paper falling from my desk which belongs somewhere but I can’t remember where: . . . Neo presents the vivid picture of the shaman’s journey between millenia. It is a great contemporary shaman’s journey as it returns the shaman back to earth from his space journey. As science fiction went to the heavens in the 1970s, it returns to earth with Neo . . . We are an Earth Species and must find ourselves and our way on this planet . . . To desire to find ourselves in the most distant space is to avoid our fate. In some ways it is a childish illusion of avoidance of adulthood and moral responsibility . . . One of life’s little 3 x 5 cards is the understanding of Hegel as a thesis vs. antithesis coming to a synthesis. But this is a Power Principle view of life – a yang view. The two forces in the world in this view are not yin and yang, but yang plus and yang minus. I always see yin and yang presentations as an erroneous understanding of Hegel. Two men sword fighting is not yin and yang. There is no yin present. Thesis/antithesis is a vision of the world without yin, our world in the West since the 1400s. Most marriages today are yang/yang relationships, each partner with a separate corporate identity outside the body of the other. It makes no difference if they are biologically man and woman. They are friendship relationships - pal relationships. Family as Corporation. Relationships. But that is not marriage, and not yin and yang. The popular book and upcoming movie, The Da Vinci Code on the surface suggests the dynamic Seal of Solomon code – the two interlocking triangles of the Seal of Solomon, but on investigation, there are no yin figures in this entertaining piece of pop mysticism . . . Like most marriages today in Matrix world, all man and woman – everyone in the world perhaps - are yang figures and yang individuals (their nests will always be square). Yin is Andromeda, lost in the ozone, dangling her two Japanese fighting fish at the end of a string. But she’s returning to earth now and here her name is Trinity.

The Matrix presents a mythic picture of the yin world and the yang world and the shaman’s journey from the one to the other. The difficulty in seeing comes from the fact that there are actually four things, not two. There is yin and yang, and each has a Dark Face, yin minus and yang minus. The yang plus and yang minus is brilliantly represented in Thomas Anderson’s journey. Before he Awakens, Keanu Reeves’ character, Thomas Anderson, has dual nature (Thomas means the Twin, specifically the Twin of Jesus and cosmoglomically, we enter perhaps The Age of Thomas, with the second incarnation of the Christ in Aquarius, - each of the Twelve will present as the Christ in a 24,000 Sun Cycle – this is suggested in the third Matrix, but put that aside). Neo’s dual nature is in the 3 x 5 Hegelian vision of anti-thesis and thesis (when someone speaks of the dual nature, ask if she means, man/woman, man/Dark Face, Woman/Dark Face, Man/God-Universe-and Male God [Sky and Fire] or Female God [Earth and Water] – I never know what they mean and think they don’t know). The one, the positive yang, is Thomas Anderson working days as a computer programmer. This is Mr. Anderson in the world. The other is the anti-Anderson, yang minus, working nights as a hacker to negate the work he does in the day. They could well be political parties which see in their sole initiatives contervailing the other. This is thesis and anti-thesis, but they do not form synthesis – they simply endlessly swordfight throughout the ages, the one making the other stronger and visa versa. Mr. Anderson leaves this world and finds another, the yin world. Like all male shamans, he is sent inward by the Triple Goddess (Trinity). Mr. Anderson’s is a classic shaman’s journey and it begins in sleep, where the Universe enters the Unconscious of the living individual. Neo is sleeping. In his dream he hears a voice which says; Wake up Neo, the Matrix has you. The Matrix presents Keanu in the Hegelian dual nature of the current everyday world. It is a woman’s voice from the Unconscious which brings him out. A man’s journey into the yin world always starts with a woman’s voice – it is the female inner nature of a man (and visa versa for women). She lives in the part of consciousness that a man living in Ego/Ego Dark face like Mr. Anderson has never experienced and has no abilities to travel in. The Hegelian 3 x 5 says it does not exist (the common misunderstanding is all important in creating culture. It makes no difference and is of no importance as to what Hegelian actually meant and what is true in Hegel) . . . In life, the most critical moment is the very first – the birth moment. It is then the organism is most likely to fail. Mr. Anderson has to respond to this message without any of the tools he has from his everyday or everynight natures. He has to abandon his skills and tools. He has to find intuition. He has to obey it. This is key to Awakening. Trinity tells him one thing to do: Follow the White Rabbit. Like Alice and Arguna, like most journeys to the Self, a Magical Animal will lead the way. Suddenly friends appear at the door. He is not ready (one is never redy) – he is busy – he cannot go with them – then he sees the tattoo of the White Rabbit on one of the partyers – a Trinity manifestation – he immediately says he will go. Without question, he puts aside his former everyday selves, and follows the guiding light of his Anima. The next he finds turmoil. This is the dangerous confrontation with the Unconscious in the modern world bereft of psychic experience and knowledge. Mr. Anderson has never been there, and most who try to go there (as in the Pokemon movie) will not survive the journey. But Mr. Anderson’s instinctiveness in abandoning his reason-based matrix and hearing his intuition assures his Salvation. The Matrix is a classic journey to the Self and one like all others. Every journey a man has to the Self is exactly like this: A female voice invites you to the Psyche and her world, the yin world – (but her Dark Face – vagina dentada - might eat you). Within that journey a man will find the Self if he is strong and if he can survive the Confrontation with the Self – the part of the person which is part of the Universe – the Lord of the Unconscious/Morpheus – and find a new self with a new name. In this Awakening, the new psychic life casts off the old as an abandoned skin. Neo represents us in the world today (or the one half of the world which identifies with the Neo journey/will be opposed by those who do not in equal and opposite counterforce). It is an active journey of the Collective Unconscious. The movie is a catalyst – an avatar – to a greater Awakening of the general public. It could go on to greater phases just as the Mahabarata went on volume after volume. The arcane elements in this series – the Twins, for example, (like the Twin John Paul Popes in occult folk lore, Church arcania, dreams and the zodiac, appear as Gates) present a public dream of a new world hatching. I have only talked to women who have had this journey. They dream of Twins at the beginning. Sometimes they are twins or have twin siblings. They dream of all these elements. But it is interesting and perhaps significant that this picture occurs at the turning of the millennium. Neo emerges a different man. There is a whole cosmology today from Stan Lee to Star Wars to The Matrix, The X Files, Stan Lee again with new movies, The X Men. These have profound inner intricacies which are confluent with mythical and anthropological thinking and have perhaps implications.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Note to Sirensong - Finding the Real Waldo

I wrote one of the first entries in this journal two months back after watching "Charlie Brown and the Great Pumpkin" with my kids. At the end Linus says the Great Pumpkin didn't arrive because the Pumpkin Patch wasn't sincere enough. He said next year he would find a more sincere Pumpkin Patch. Linus is a true monk. Likewise, I think TinTin would be a great guide. If you ever cross the Mississippi, try Cherokee, NC, and the Cold Mountain region for a sincere Pumpkin Patch. The gods hide in low places. They ask the question - Who is the Masked Man? - when we are the Masked Man, our identity not yet revealed even to ourselves. It is like Arjuna's Dharma path, guided by intuition. There are many guides hidden everywhere. The trick is to find the Real Waldo.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Buddhism Without Bullshit

Did you ever dream that you were dreaming of someone and woke and called them and they were dreaming of you? I’ve heard that dream from a lot of people but only furtively, as if it were a dark secret. One such event – an Arrow in the Blue as Arthur Koestler called it – occurs only a few times in life, but it changes everything. It gives personal experience evidence to Einstein’s great vision that time as we experience it is an illusion. An honest person, as Koestler was, must base her or his life threafter on that moment of truth. It is the key to everything. Anyway, what I like about this picture on the left by my blog colleague Sad Monk, (photos - all but Leonard Cohen - by Dan Farber- Visions of Buddhist life) is that you can see in the faces of the monks the shock and joy of visiting the outside world (at its contemporary essense - Disneyland). Indeed in this context they look kind of geeky and freaked out. The deeply Introverted – if they have a decent venue to skillfully advance their Introversion and these monks do - anchor the outside Extroverted culture within itself. These lovely Elfs make a brief visit to the outside and look like fish out of water. But how serene they are in their own house. We Quigs live in old places, heat with wood and have bears in the yard and an occational wandering moose. When we venture briefly to the outside world and visit modern motels where you slide magnietic cards to open the door and a stop at McDonalds while travelling, it brings us the same innocent pleasures. Maybe the monks here follow the magic animal to Enlightenment. For Neo and Alice, it was White Rabbit who would lead the way. But my astonishing Australian dreamer friend dreamed of a luminous slug and a knapsack – an Earth Guide, like Caterpillar here – and it took her on a six-month journey to the heart of the Earth Mother Herself. The week of the Caterpillar, my young daughter had the same dream as my Australian friend and so did my wife and Sister-in-law, but I’d not mentioned the dreams to any of them. For myself, the mountains are silent. So I went to visit a Buddhist monestary nearby in Vermont, but Buddhism came by the crate and in pounds. My children’s friends dream of things coming out of the ground and flying down chimneys. It is characteristic of our age. We, as a people are returning to earth in the new millennium & returning to ourselves. I go here. This is my monk. Buddhism without bullshit: Leonard Cohen.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Waiting for Arnold

I decided not to write about Arnold as said. Too abstract to explain, to difficult to follow and tends to get lost in the ozone of things which have not yet occurred. Healthy ego rejects the future. Mindless we laughed, mindless we loved, mindless at last we died. Jean Shepherd. But I do have a few thoughts.

When I write about politics, which has sometimes been my job, I use a long-term strategy of thinking that is best expressed in a book by William Strauss and Neil Howe called The Fourth Turning. The Fourth Turning looks at how ideas and trends travel generationally. It is almost as if an entire generation is encoded with the same formula. One generation celebrates Eisenhower, the next, Bob Dylan. There is a kind of charality to this. It forms a time engine of alternating currents.

What I write about in politics today is that we are at the turning of the fourth and final generation of our historical period, and the generation which rises next will complete our historical passage. That is as far as we can see. The entire post-war period can be seen as an 80-year period which began at the conclusion of warfare in Europe and Asia in the mid-40s.

For a long time my innate feeling is that this historical period will somehow end with Arnold. How that could happen is through a dumping of the current political environment – it has a failed legacy in every field of activity and is post-seasonal – and the beginning of a new one. When a new agenda builds now it will find success and stability, as after a great period of instability, what finds stability becomes institutionalized. One possible path: Consider an American government from the Northeast in the next 12 years with either New York Governor George Pataki or Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney at the helm (and a likeable and folkloric hero like John McCain as Vice President to restore dignity and honor as world ambassador) and Arnold Schwarzenegger as Secretary of State. In the first term of this realm, the governing party seeks a platform to allow foreign-born residents to become President (Elaine Chao, Jennifer Granholm, Arnold). If the new governing group is successful, such an amendment would easily pass. Twice in the last 30 years a President has won 49 out of 50 states, far more an a Constitutional Amendment needs in state endorsements. This would establish a new paradigm. But I don’t care to discuss that here as an external political issue. Anyone interested can look at my other blog Quigley: Culture, Politics, Sheep, where I write about politics in the abstract and post my political articles written for journals.

Far more important in the understanding of the passages of time and public events is their inner dynamics. In this Arnold figures even more prominently than as a politician. Key to this understanding is Miss3’s dream of the Dance of the Sun God at the beginning of this journal (it also comes up if you Google “Sun God Dance”). The Goddess cries, “I am dying.” In a sequence of dreams like this there is often a figure indicating both sexes, and sometimes it is a hermaphrodite. It is a transitional figure. In a sequence like this a hermaphrodite indicates a shift in consciousness from the feminine to the masculine sphere – from yin realm to yang realm (or visa versa). From the death of the Goddess, the Sun King (constuction here by Lisa Yount at LionLight) arises via a transitional figure. The dream presents a paradigm shift of cosmic poles.

In his early public appearance as a strong man on the beaches of Southern California in the early 1970s, Arnold quickly became a kind of cultural icon. The muscle beach culture was oddly curious in the 1950s, but it came to full flower in the 1970s. At the time, one film critic said that the strong man culture, of which Arnold was the singular representative, was an archetypal compensation for the weak male figures in movies of the day. Of that day and of this day. This approaches the truth. And although there were weak male figures in pop culture of the 60s and 70s, what brought overwhelming influence in the world was the sudden resurgence of Earth Mother culture. The men wore long hair. They sang of love. But they were not weak men; they were instead male agents of the yin principle – agents of the Earth Mother.

Celtic, Druid and Earth Mother themes which had long been forgotten, flourished and pervaded every level of society almost overnight. Although it was called the Age of Aquarius, the Sixties was in fact still well within the Age of Pisces and could more accurately be seen as the last days of that era.

The Sixties in fact reminded many of the first days of the Christian and the perceptive observer Kris Kristofferson made the good comparison in one of his popular songs: “Jesus was a Capricorn/ He ate organic food. He believed in love and peace and never wore no shoes. Long hair, beard and sandals and a funky bunch of friends/ Reckon they’d just nail him up if he came down again.” George Harrison’s final word on behalf of the Beatles and on behalf of the age was, “Here comes the Sun King.” It is a harbinger of Aquarius and the coming of the new incarnation of the Sun King. But the Aquarian Age didn’t actually – technically - begin until the year 2001.

This Earth Mother manifestation in the Sixties was a very intense and creative period, but destabilizing to the mainstream psychological trajectory we in the West and throughout the world were on. The strong man beach culture of Southern California presented a conspicuous charicature of masuline life force, a symbolic and archetypal compensation to weak man of the 70s, but it was primarily a countervailing force in compensation for the return of the Earth Mother culture of the Sixties. And it followed directly on its heels.

Almost 40 years later saw a new transition: The critical first months of the war on Iraq brought a disturbance to the force. As always, a crisis of this deep psychological magnitude brought forth new figures. Two emerged in response as natural psychological reactions to the first chaotic months, Howard Dean, the former Governor of Vermont, and Arnold Schwarzenegger. In the most chaotic standard political recall in American history, Arnold was sent almost overnight to the Governor's chair in California.

These two men are agents of the two fields, yin and yang, as they have played out in our country since World War II. Dr. Dean, product of a state, Vermont, which evolved its sensibility from a fantastic hippie vortex in the 1960s, which I shared in, and Arnold, the compensating yang factor. It was a remarkable that these two Governors would arise as representatives of American yin and yang at the crucible. The Fourth Turning hinges therewith. One of these two figures will go forward, and with him will go the American condition. The other will yield.

The Aquarian Paradigm

There is in Europe a body of work that came about in the 1960s that is a harbinger of the new millennium. It is the full body of the mature work of Swedish filmmaker Ingmar Bergman. The classic series starts with the most famous of his films, The Seventh Seal, and the haunting specter of death leading the dancers in shadow to the dark side of a hill. The story is about soldiers coming back from the Crusades, only to find northern Europe torn by plague. Only one survives, the comic peasant with a clear vision of the Celestial Mother. It is the end of the Christian age, and Bergman begins the film with an appropriate quote from Revelations. The Seventh Seal is Wormwood. Here is the essence of the prophecy from Revelations : And the seventh angel poured out his vial into the air; and there came a great voice out of the temple of heaven, from the throne, saying, It is done. (Rev. 16:17)

There follows a series of three films called the Silence of God trilogy, filled with a spiritual angst that was characteristic of the age, which could be interpreted as coming from anxieties that arise from sexual awareness in youth, the political uncertainties of the time, the destabilizing side affects of creating great art or other causes. They are masterful films, perhaps the greatest dramatic presentations of that time. But Bergman’s last major public presentation, a film adaptation of Mozart’s The Magic Flute, is perhaps his most important. It is the only moment in all of his work where the character experiences triumph in the end, and looking at the full body of work it becomes clear that the angst of the middle films were part of the spiritual and psychological struggle to find the character’s achievement in the last, and that those anxieties were allayed by the character’s spiritual victory in the last film. Other work would come, but much o fit seeking box-office cash and finding a generic audience.

Bergman’s rendition of The Magic Flute is a harbinger of the age here and pending. Taking his films out of their historical periods and viewing them as an expression of the artist’s own development and sensibility, his full body of work is a shaman’s journey which traverses ages, starting with The Seventh Seal at the very end of the Christian age and ending with The Magic Flute at the beginning of a new age.

Perhaps none surpasses Mozart’s The Magic Flute (1791) in knowledge of the masculine principle and the feminine, yang and yin, first performed at the high end of the Renaissance as the masculine principle and the Renaissance came to dominate the Earth Mother. In Mozart’s story three warriors guard the Lord of the Temple and his counselors, while three sisters accompany the Earth Mother. But now she is the Queen of the Night, the Earth Mother in her third and final phase. She is Kali, the Death Mother. In Bergman’s movie the Queen of the Night is at one point composed with the moon behind her surrounded by zodiac symbols. And Sarastro, the Ruler of the Temple, is shown with his male counsel in caves that resemble those at Lascaux. Sarastro, here in a beautiful presentation at Ithaca College, has commandeered the Earth, the organic realm of the Goddess.

Tamino, the hero of the story, follows on a sacred love quest and in the process moves his allegiance from the Earth Mother to the Lords of the Temple and joins the Lords of the Temple. Three boy spirits in a flying ship accompany the hero and give him three words to guide him in his quest. The words are: steadfast, silence, and obedience.

Mozart’s opera marks history’s turning point. It was the time of revolution throughout the world. It marks the end of the ancient regimes and the monarchies of Europe. And it marks the end to the old Earth Mother cycle of Europe – white phase, rose phase, black phase – which brought them about over the proceeding thousand years. Germany has a special place here and has a special trajectory. The age upon us and that which awakened with Mozart is the Enlightenment. All of Europe entered the Renaissance and the Enlightenment, but it was only the German and Austrian regions of Europe that embraced the Power Principle and at the same time incorporated the yin or feminine sensibility - Abbess Hildegard and Meister Eckhart to Goethe and Leibnitz to Schopenhauer and Jung, embraced the yin world, this tradition follows unbroken from the 12th century until the present. The other rising Protestant nations rose in denial and opposition to it.

Europe faces a new age today and once again sings in one voice. And it sings a German song; its anthem is Beethoven’s Ode to Joy, written within four years of The Magic Flute. The flag of the European Union is a study in zodiac symbolism, a blue background representing sky and air, the masculine field of Aquarius, and 12 gold stars, the full counsel of the zodiac; the council of Sarastro and the Lords of the Temple.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

The Death of the Earth Mother

The Irish do not prosper so well; they love to drink and to quarrel . . . from Letters from an American Farmer by J. Hector St. John de Crevecoeur (1781)

My father was a man of few words. “Jews are better to work for than Protestants,” he once said. And French people cannot be trusted, he would say. That was about it. The thing about French people was not a prejudice. Just the opposite. He wasn’t prejudiced against French people. He was prejudiced against everyone else except French people. He liked French people and his relatives would marry French people. Into his old age his only remaining friends were French people. I think he loved French people more than he loved the Irish and that’s what scared him.

The only people who worked in the factories in Fall River, Massachusetts were French people and Irish people, until the Portuguese came in, but then it was too late. So the only people you could trust were French people and Irish people. And you couldn’t really trust the French all the way, although they were Catholic, because they weren’t Irish. His employment maxim about Jews was more complex. At the heart of the matter was the core intuition that lived secretly in the collective heart of certain working-class Irish factory workers in New England in those days that Protestant people couldn’t really run things on their own because they were guided by blind optimism, unfettered by the heart, and if they tried to do things on a large scale without the aid of Jews, things would fall apart. This at a time and place where Yankees had deep roots and the Irish were new arrivals. Thus, there was a complex tribal prejudice toward Jews; they were smarter and not as predictable as Yankees -- and then there was a prejudice against them; they were not Catholics, of course, like we were. But they were a mystical force of nature. It resembled somewhat the prejudice that certain primitive religious groups in the Appalachians have about the Jews secretly controlling the world’s money supply, but it was just the opposite. It wasn’t secret and it wasn’t a conspiracy, it was supposed to be that way. It was nature. So some of the old Irish believed that in the modern world, Jews brought inner balance and were the only ones able to grasp the forces unseen; without them the world would fall apart. A notion that may have been carried across the ocean from Manchester, England when Disraeli was prime minister in Queen Victoria’s era, where a good percentage of the Irish and a half dozen of my living relatives at that time spent an interim decade or so awaiting passage to America. It is not unlike the common widespread mystic belief in fed chairman Alan Greenspan as a benevolent shaman/economist in recent times, without whose singular vision it would all go to pieces. And we working-class Irish were politically allied with Jews and polarized against Yankee Protestants. My father, who entered factory life after high school, once confided that the reason the Egyptians were a great nation thousands of years ago was because of the Jews, even though they were kept slaves, and all the history of the world was like that. It was a startling and complex observation by a man who went to daily mass and communion and said the rosary every evening with the family. And the American metamorphosis that brought this sincerely devout man from the vortex of the cavernous Mission Church in South Boston that he was born into, where the toes of the statue of the crucified Jesus were worn through the paint by humble pilgrims kissing the feet in the pale light; pilgrims who had left behind crutches, wheelchairs, eye glasses and leg braces at the feet of Jesus in surrounding piles to signify the miracles that had taken place, led him at the end of his life to seder feasts in a new eclectic Catholicism, which he didn’t fully understand but had no choice but to accept.

My Aunt Nora would babysit for Jews and sneak the babies down to the Catholic Church to be baptized, but I inherited the wise guide secret Irish folkloric tradition of my father. In college, I’d look for Jewish names among the professors in the course listings and take their courses. Then, after I left home, most of my friends were Jews. Most still are. My father’s folk prejudices about Jews and French people, passed on as a secret intuition in a rite of passage to his son in order to keep him oriented in the outer world, did no damage. I’ve always felt that I belong to Jews and French and Portuguese people more than to other outsiders, and in fact I do, as my closest cousins and native family are French/Irish.

It has been almost 40 years since I left Fall River but I still feel a strong bonding. Whenever I see that most wonderful of all photographs by Alfred Eisenstaedt of the sailor kissing the nurse at Times Square at war’s end, magically composed around the sailor’s huge, strong, magnificent hand, it first crosses my mind that the sailor is from Fall River (which he is). Or when chef Emeril pops up on television I’ll say to my wife: he’s from Fall River.

The one prejudice that lived on tenaciously was toward the Yankee Protestant. They named their kids “Ike” and the Yankee preachers had fierce masculine smiles. Irish children knew that anyone with knowledge of God did not smile. And although people of my generation -- the Jews, the French, the Portuguese and the Irish -- were not particularly religious (it was a generation in which real men did not go to church and if they loved Jesus, they kept it to themselves), we considered ourselves organically rich and alive and in certain cases among the Irish, wild and aboriginal in animal power and poetry. This was not a religious prejudice. Our friends were Protestant; Episcopalian, Unitarian and Baptist and it didn’t seem to apply to them.

It was purely a class and political prejudice. They, the Yankee Protestants, were an inert class of business keepers. They cared about nothing except business. That was the way we saw it, and this deep and tenacious prejudice came to play out in final destiny in the single warrior political combat of John F. Kennedy and Henry Cabot Lodge. We saw no irony later when we did come of age and our first guides in the river between childhood and adulthood were Protestant singers with old rugged cross authenticity, brought up from the Appalachians in Virginia and North Carolina and the Mississippi Delta for the emerging folk scene; Doc Watson, the Weavers, Elizabeth Kitchen.

That was about all my father ever said, but that was enough. I can’t imagine having one of those fathers who talks all of the time like nowadays. Father bonding is less than freedom. I’d always felt man enough coming up as a boy and didn’t particularly want any interference. My friends were the same; go out in the morning, come home at night. So as most of the fathers bonded among themselves generationally during the Second World War, we developed early relationships among ourselves.

Mine was a perfect father and I couldn’t ask for more in a man. He was the last in a massive wave of Irish immigrants to work in a city of quite beautiful stone and glass cotton mills numbering up to 150 in its heyday and employing over a million and a half at the height of the Great Migration. He worked in the last mill to head south in the 1950s and he was the last to leave. He was the electrician. He turned the lights out.

It may be an Irish thing, not to particularly devalue men and the role of men, but to see the universe in women, and in the eyes of one’s mother. Irish or not, I certainly inherited that view. A father should do his work and shut his mouth; work like a man and die like a man. That’s what my father did. It was a nice discovery finding Lao Tsu and the Tao Te Ching, who found poetry in it.

If I had anything to say as a child, it was to my mother. I notice my boys are the same way.

I remember being under the table in the living room with my mother while she was ironing, and the house was warm, and I remember the rhythm and the smell of the iron sliding and the sound it made. She watched the Garry Moore Show when we had our first TV set, because he had as a host a pretty singer named Gisele MacKensey. She was Irish and although my mother thought she was Protestant, it was close enough in the 1950s when the Irish thing was dwindling fast.

It was a perfect paradise between us and little was said, and I experienced it again when my daughter was born. Her hands were just like my mother’s, her eyes quiet like my mother’s and the time we spent holding hands together seemed virtually the same moment as the time my mother and I were together quietly while the others were at school or at work. It was a brief interval of love and grace, a moment perfect in a world that resolves itself into death. It is life’s greatest respite. Twice now I have found it before the outer world and the world of work would call.

School was hard to enter and I had to leave my mother to herself. It meant leaving paradise for a man-made matrix of beating steam pipes, strict nuns and onward and upward to sergeants and corporate managers. Then eventually my daughter would have to leave for a few hours a day for play school, just as I did. She had wanted to go to school, of course, like her brothers. But when the time came she was dreary the day before. Then when the time came, she cried for a moment at the door, composed herself, let go of my hand, and left the celestial bliss behind and went in. That afternoon she came out a kid.

I took longer and even after 50 years have never really adjusted to the outside. But she had the strength, the primal strength, of my mother. Whenever I have had to do something very hard in adult life, I recalled the strength of my mother at difficult moments. It was not that my father was weak, he was not. It was that I as a child already felt I held all a man needed and had nothing more to gain from another man. Indeed, it would weaken a boy to find strength from another man. But what a woman had was beyond the curtain. And when she showed strength it was greater than a man’s. It did not come from orders from the language centers of the brain or from a testosterone chemical directive, but from the heart or someplace secret that a man can’t know.

My mother was fair natured and like many Irish who were raised still with stories of the old country and occasionally even hearing the rosary in Gaelic said with rented death wailers at an Irish wake, she was passive toward the work of the outside world and preferred quiet. But the passive field had a fierce center, a tiger in the rain, that would rise only rarely, when it was challenged. I’d be dead if I didn’t find it in her because I don’t believe I have it in myself and certainly have never seen that force so fierce in another man. But her strength was mine and now it is my daughter’s.

A lot of my mother's family were fey and Elf-like, almost translucent and singularly tall and fine-boned. I think they no longer exists as a race. Many died of lung disease working in factories when they first arrived. I had pneumonia twice and three collapsed lungs by the time I was 30. The general idea was that if you made it past 30 you could count on getting through to 85 or so. Although the conditions that caused brown lung were probably a factor in the older generation, it was their introverted nature that was unsuited to the matrix world of factory life and the mass culture of industrialization. It is certainly too late to lodge a complaint, and anyway, I’m glad to be here under any circumstances. But consider if a society is designed so all of the robust extroverts prosper and all of the delicate introverts fail and eventually die, then the society develops without artists, without vision and without grace. It is a society that is out of balance and one that cannot find balance.

Perhaps it is meant to be like that: perhaps the industrial movement since the 1830s is a bridge to a new world, the Titan in the icon of the ascending zodiac constellation of Aquarius pouring the water into the new world; people flowing from all corners of the world abandoning caste, religion, race and national purpose to come to the United States. And when they are all here, the bridge will collapse. Nature wastes nothing. And here, in the “land of the red-faced people,” as a Tibetan prophecy of twelve hundred years ago calls it, it will begin again.

Maybe the Black Death already killed off all the introverts and left only the extroverts. Europe a hundred years before was certainly a different place – the land of Mary when she was still primarily the Earth Mother – than it was after – the land of the muscular Jesus in Michelangelo’s Sistene Chapel ceiling fresco, up from the earth and flying alone into the sky.

Maybe it is supposed to be like that.

Those with subtle mind experience the death of others. Van Cliburn froze on stage in New York the moment his mother died in Texas. I have experienced the death of others, though not my mother’s. The pain of her death was only relieved years later when my daughter was born, and the odd thing was that I didn’t ever particularly like my mother.

The very first dream I had as a child was that there was a tiger in my room. I was frightened to death and woke up screaming. My mother came in to soothe things down and bring it back to the quiet night. It was incidental that I named a novel 30 years later Tiger in the Rain, but in hindsight it seemed related to the first dream. I'd written the novel in New York City. On the night I finished it I had a dream about flying to a mountain top and meeting a Chinese women flying in white robes from the East. We consumated our marriage in a Greek-looking temple on top of the mountain. The next day I back went to work and met my wife.

When I was a child we had a yellow cat which my mother hated. I vaguely recall the smell of plaster in our new post-war house with my mother looking like Queen Elizabeth in an apron, standing in the center of the room, frozen solid in terror, while Sally, the little yellow kitten, brushed against her ankle with the back of her neck.

The incident with my mother might have triggered the first tiger dream in which the ascending life force appeared quietly in a passive field – a tiger in the rain would scare the wits out of the small child. I was afraid of life before I left the family and went to Thailand to military service. Then I wasn’t afraid anymore.

My family is not afraid of cats. In fact, we love cats and have a framed picture of a particular cat on an ancient bureau, more sacred to us than any of the ancestors.

Now, last year, I dreamed the same dream again. There was a tiger pouncing in my room, but I was not afraid. It was a vision dream; a dream, as Indians say, that has a particularly tangible quality or reality that is denser than an ordinary dream or ordinary waking reality. It is the essence of consciousness and makes waking reality seem pale by comparison. When I got up and went to wake up my little daughter in the morning, she said, “Do you see the tiger?” pointing up and all around the ceiling, laughing. “It’s there,” she laughed, “it’s there,” although I’d not told her about the dream. Two years later she had her first dream and it was about tigers.

I dreamed of the tiger three times in my life: as my first dream, 25 years later when I wrote Tiger in the Rain, and last year at Halloween. This coincides with the three phases of life: youth, active middle age and old age. Each time I had the experience a cat appeared at my door and I took her into my house.

Some of my ancestors are Anglican Irish and some Roman Catholic. All came from Ireland. The Anglicans were on my mother’s side. They found their way into the working class after Victoria went to the throne and the potato famine drove them out. Industrialization gave them a generation or so in Manchester, England, before they managed to find their way in a large homogeneous group to a mill town along the Saconnet River in Massachusetts. After thousands of years in one place, one town, they lived from 1840 to 1914 in three countries, and when they settled, they faced participation in two wars and the Great Depression. But perhaps work was worse: virtually half of them died while working in cotton mills. My mother quit school at 16, after her father and older brother died in her house on the same day of different causes, to support her mother and the remaining children. That was between the wars at the beginning of the Great Depression.

On the day my mother died twelve years ago, I built a solid wooden gate with concrete footings, but standing alone and without a fence attached to it, in the middle of my sheep pasture in North Carolina, hoping she would return.

The dead find no comfort here and return to Europe. I dream of my Aunt Nora, the sister of my mother, long dead, whenever someone in my family is about to die or to be born, even a beloved animal. But we will be staying here now. When my daughter was about to be born Nora appeared in a dream and said, "Oh, we're all coming over here now." Presumably she meant the souls of the ancestors who had returned to Ireland.

Now they would be coming back.

I understood that until the event approaching, until the birth of the girl, they had found no purpose in remaining here.

The Return of the Earth Mother

Landing on this great continent is like going to sea; they must have a compass, some friendly directing needle, or else they will uselessly err and wander for a long time, even with a fair wind. - From Letters from an American Farmer by J. Hector St. John de Crevecoeur (1781)

My wife is from the South and she brought us back there eventually after a stop here and a stop there. Later, in the upper Midwest we lived in a very big and a very old farm house that was loaded with bats. Here in New Hampshire our house goes back to 1790. Here we have bear.

There was a female spirit in the old Michigan house and I think that is why there were so many bats. The Dead are attracted to old houses in the country, especially if they lived there when they were alive. Death by snow plow is a common danger here in the cold parts, and the women who lived in our Michigan house was killed by a snow plow just before we moved in. In her late 70s. She was a child psychiatrist in Ann Arbor, a women from Iowa with two sisters. All three were doctors. Perhaps it was her, or Walker, who built the house in 1852, who remained behind after departure.

Generally, bats like houses built before the Civil War because they have character. And bats, the night side of birds, are attracted to the dead, because they scare people and keep them away, keeping it peaceful and quiet. You have to be careful in dealing with the spirit world and I wouldn’t advise it. Death doesn’t bother the spirits. They don’t believe in death. There is no death. It’s just moving furniture around. And with the Dead, its hard to get a grip on who they like and who they don’t and why, but we’ve always had good relations.

We have always had a terrific array of unsolicited animals living in and around our houses, more than most people, it seems. And when we arrived in Michigan one of those huge fire balls from heaven almost landed in our back yard. It was a great round ball of blue sparks that looked from earth about like a big 18-wheeler moving slowly across the moon about ten miles above the earth. I was driving at twilight in one direction down 6 Mile and it was going in the opposite direction. It was on NPR and everything.

In the South, it was snakes. Mice living in the walls at first until our cats got rid of them, then snakes. In New York City it was hawks, and my wife and I felt we knew them all personally. 20 years later I read with interest that a one-eyed hawk had given birth on a TV antenna, up by where Yoko Ono lives. Very good karma. About when Catherine was born too. We thought we might have known the hawk’s ancestors. There is a strange absence of hawks here in the northern mountains of New Hampshire.

There was also a snake in New York, the first night I arrived at my wife’s dorm room before she was my wife, being none to relaxed in fact, being conspicuously older than the students. There was a python in her room. It belonged to a friend who was away for the weekend, she said. He asked her to take care of it while he was away. Then when we left for the South, snakes were everywhere.

In our first old house in West Virginia, when only our first boy was born – a beautiful old brick farmhouse, built by German farm people in 1840 and put together with oak pegs – we were sleeping the first night when we heard a scraping sound. Like a shoe dragging by itself across the attic floor, directly above us. We sat and listened for awhile and looked at each other. Still being city people, we didn’t think that we needed to handle the situation right away and didn’t have a clue what to do. Maybe call the realtor: there are snakes in this house.

Finally, I took a flashlight and went up to the attic and I couldn’t see anything, although I heard the scrapping noise right under my feet. Then I shone the light between my feet and between the boards and I saw it moving like a slow train in the night. Like it was in a different world.

It appeared as long as a train as well. It was maybe seven feet but seemed endless. I shone the light around the room and saw maybe a dozen discarded snake skins hanging off chairs and things discarded in the attic, lightly moving with the air coming up from downstairs.

I didn’t do anything, which was the right thing to do, just went back to bed. The next day I saw them climbing up the brick in the sun, seven, eight feet long, moving slowly. They were black snakes, which are common throughout the South and they are benevolent. They eat mice, rats and other snakes, particularly copperheads, which are deadly. Farmers want to have the black snakes or rat snakes in their barn to keep the rats down. We found that they eat eggs as well but only two or three a day, which we considered salary to the snakes for doing their job eating the rats.

They are a big impressive sight, especially if you have never seen a big black seven-foot snake before. It lives in the part of your mind that has no interpretation, but is like getting past the man-made world of the mind all at once and you are back in the garden. It is like they were here first and are here always and will be here after we with our busy projects and city shoes have passed on.

I first saw one when my wife brought us South from New York for a visit. We were first starting out, and she took us to the top of one of the rolling hills in the west of Virginia, and looking out over the horizon in a state of new bliss, she said, “I can see it now . . .” waving her hand, then she screamed, “Eek!” A black snake was right under our feet crawling away from us. Six feet, maybe seven feet.

Ten years later when she was busy managing three kids and awaiting a fourth on our little farm in Tobaccoville, North Carolina, she once mildly complained that there were 47 animals in and around the house, including sheep, chickens, indoor cats, kids, outdoor cats, dogs, including one that had been kicked by a neighbor’s cow and had to live in the kitchen until it’s broken leg healed, and snakes in the barn and snakes in the cellar. By then she’d lost the eek reaction and if a copperhead had managed to get past the dogs, the cats, the blacksnakes and close up near the babies, she’d lop off its head with a shovel without a thought.

I am one of the people who are drawn to snakes. Women share something with snakes, I think, and that is why I am drawn to them. They share the same soul, I think. And Bela Lugosi offers this in the movie Ed Wood: when giving birth, the woman enters into the unconscious of the world or the Universe and after a few births going back and forth, a woman is familiar with the Unconscious and comfortable in it and at one with it. And Sun Bear has an observation. He says they share soul with the moon as well. Once a month, they complete a lunar cycle and if they all live together, like in a college dorm, their period cycles all synchronize. They share the same channel of consciousness, especially sisters. And especially at birth. They know what snakes know and share it with the moon.

Relatively speaking, a man doesn’t know about these things. It is the way of quiet understanding; the knowledge and experience of the Unconscious as it is understood in Islam and to the Zoroastrian, not the object knowledge in the mind of a white man. And when it is birthing about to happen it pulls the man in, having an affect that can’t be managed by a man’s own experience or knowledge. There is a kind of magnetism to it.

In the country, the ordinary Southern woman folk will take a string and hang it on a key and hold it in front of the pregnant woman’s stomach at about six or seven months, to tell what sex the baby is going to be. If it swings to the right it will be a boy, to the left, a girl. You can also tell what kind of a life force it will have by the velocity of the key spinning. It’s magnetism drawing the woman around the Fibonacci curve that is a black hole, down into the Universe and then out again into the world. The country people say there’s magnetism in the mountains too, which makes the lights on Brown Mountain so frequent and strange and they don’t have an explanation. Everybody in those parts believes in UFOs and don’t care what the city people think about it. They don’t even know about the string thing with a pregnant woman. Anyway, the hant woman at the farm market said the string thing doesn’t work with city people.

I was never able to put my finger on it or to understand why – maybe it is magnetism – but after a few years on the farm, people, not just twins who are famous for it, or sisters who would all be like one woman at the birth period, but everybody – high church, low church, trailer park, black and white – would all get synchronized after a few years of this kind of life among the snakes and chickens and the critters. Even for a displaced Yankee like myself, brought down from New York City. When I’d stand in my front yard thinking, “I’ve got to get that stump out one way or another,” later that day a good ole’ boy would drive up in his truck and ask if I needed any stumps removed. Or if I’d think to myself, “How am I going to get rid of those extra roosters?” an old country man with sons would appear who my wife had sold chickens to the year before and ask if I had any this year. Birth cycle, in and out, ties you all to the mountain like sewing, says the hant woman.

But after a while it got kind of ponderous and heavy, especially after the third boy was born. It was about that period – when the third was five to six months in the womb – that there got to be a burden on my mind. Had I been raised on that particular mountain and on that spot it might have been different. Also, just about then our friend Catherine. I could feel her coming.

Driving to Chapel Hill one day, I heard on a call-in radio show where you call in and ask the astrologer for advice, a man with my birth date, July 15, called and asked the woman on the radio what kind of wife he should get. Pisces, she said, early spring, or just the opposite; Scorpio, early fall. Now these are not opposites like yin and yang, she said, male and female, they are ascending and descending charges of the one force, in this case, the feminine force for the guy who called in about getting a wife. The both together represent the fullness of the force, in a united episode. My wife was Pisces, perfect for a man born under Cancer as I was, and Catherine was a Scorpio, perfect for a friend and companion. She was new in my office, the artist who would design the magazine I worked for. We would be friends and she would become a special friend of our family.

But a lot of things started happening all at once, just before we met Catherine and I found it quite disturbing and destabilizing. It started one night when the third boy was six months in the womb. I had a dream that I was walking through the woods with a group of Indians. Suddenly, we got to a clearing in the woods and in the center there was a round stone circle, like a primitive holy site. I stood around it in a circle with the Indians. Then they all put their weapons down and backed away into the forest. I was left standing by myself. I shouted for the Indians to come back, but they shook their heads no.

When I woke up I didn’t know what to do. I’d always dreamed of Indians acting as guides and felt navigating through life was a breeze, so long as I had my Indian guides. Now I was alone in a stone circle. Next night I dreamed I was alone at sea in a ship and was being tossed about by the stormy sea.

The other unusual thing was a series of coincidences that occurred when I first encountered befriended Catherine.

I raised sheep, and was in the market for some. Tunis sheep; pretty, reddish sheep with long ears like goats – these were sheep of African stock that were well suited to the hot, dry climate of North Carolina. But they were hard to find. There were only two breeders in the state. I’d been to one that weekend, but didn’t like his stock, as they’d been crossed with Dorset and had lost their pretty faces. So I needed to find the other breeder.

That Monday morning I went to work and was introduced to Catherine, who would be my new office mate. We got into a conversation and I told her about my weekend trip to look at sheep.

“I have sheep,” she said, to my surprise.

Sure enough. I checked the breeder’s directory and there she was. Listed as the only other breeder of Tunis sheep in the state.

There was a truck thing too. I had a 20-year-old Dodge pick-up with a Custom Cab that I’d paid $800 for ten years before when I bought if from an Elvis worshiper. It was a rare beauty. Jim, my office mate, said that as long as I had that truck I was a special person. If I didn’t have that truck I’d just be a chump, down from New York City and talking louder than the other people. The Custom Cab only underwent small production in that model and I’d never seen one exactly like it in ten years. But Catherine had one exactly like it. Only mine was red and hers was blue.

After I had that dream about the stone circle I started to have great but confusing dreams. I’d always taken my Indian guides for granted and assumed they would always be by my side. Now I was alone.

My sister-in-law who has a gift for knowing what to do in situations like this, suggested I read Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain and learn to draw. She bought a variety of pencils and drawing papers. I discovered what I’d long forgotten, that I can draw. That is, I could draw as a child, but had given it up and forgotten about it as a teenager.

I was suddenly taken by the desire to draw and set up a studio in the barn. Dreams were unrelenting now and I decided to draw the pictures that appeared in the night. Some students and a few faculty became interested and so did Catherine and I often had visitors in my studio barn.

This continued for two years. The third boy was born and things were going well, not bad that is, without my Indian helpers, but I was managing, just managing, to retain balance by painting my visions in the barn. There were flaming swords and many pictures and sculptures of a strange stick man with branches growing out of his head who I often dreamed of. These dreams were so rich and intense that they made the outside world pale by comparison. When I started to draw in the barn, I noticed the sheep and chickens would all get very quiet and become passive. One night I dreamed that the strange stick man climbed out of the stone circle. Then I discovered that other people had seen these pictures in dreams as well.

At a special exhibit of old Celtic manuscripts at the college, I happened to notice a figure just like the stick man, Chernunnus, he was called. He was considered a fore-father of the Green Man, the text said. I looked further and found drawings of other things I had drawn.

I began to understand that this was an ancestral force coming to the conscious mind. It could be nothing else. But I’d about lost interest in these ancient things as a new image was compelling my drawing and painting. I felt a strong desire, a compulsion, to draw snakes.

Catherine often visited the studio and stayed with the family for supper. When she moved to a city house from the country, she asked if she could leave her chickens with us, and we agreed, so she dropped off a chicken that the children named Magisto, the Flying Chicken, and two others.

This was a very special chicken, it turned out. It was a very small bantam, pure white, more like a dove than a chicken. What was special about her was that she liked to be picked up and pet by the children like a puppy or a kitten. The children loved to play with her and Magisto would rush out to see them when they arrived home from school. Magisto could also fly – only very small chickens can fly, ours could not – and he would fly up and light on the childrens’ shoulders. Catherine’s two other chickens were giants called Dominiques, beautiful black and white spotted birds that followed Magisto everywhere she went, one on one side, one on the other, like guard dogs.

But I wasn’t elated by the birds or anything else. And I knew what had sent my soul down beneath a funk for almost two years now that I could not retrieve it from. My mother had died almost three years earlier, and if a husband flows into the wife’s soul at child birth to some unsettling degree, so too when his mother dies, maybe his soul goes with her.

When my mother died, I died, and I could not get back. And that is what sent my soul to the Celtic netherland of flaming swords and Trees with the Eyes of God. I had no idea how I would get out or how I could survive there. And on top of that my wife was heavy with what would be our fourth child and, the tests told us, our first girl.

Snakes in the night, then snakes under water and snakes rising out of the water. These were the pictures I was compelled to paint in the barn while I ignored the demands of my family. The most vivid dream was of an ancient ship maybe a thousand years old coming into port but at a subway stop filled with water. I touched the old charred hull but found it to be fresh pitch. But then I had the most pleasant dream: I dreamed that I was standing in a river – the river of life and death, I knew – when a brightly colored snake, like a coral snake, flowed down the river. Everyone was afraid of the deadly coral snake and ran away, but I was not afraid. I knew it was not a coral snake but a milk snake, a gentle snake which disguises itself as a coral snake to fool its predators. I lifted it up out of the river, held it high and joyfully played with it.

One day just before the baby was born, I was standing in the corral with the sheep, leaning on the gate, thinking. Why don’t we name the baby Catherine, I thought to myself, like our friend? Just then my wife walked out of the house and came down to talk, not knowing what I’d been thinking.

“Do you know what I’ve been thinking?” she asked.

“What?” I answered.

“Why don’t we name the baby Catherine,” she said?

I was not surprised because things like that were happening all the time now.

“Your mother’s name was Catherine,” she said, “Did you know that?”

No, I answered, she was wrong. My mother’s name was Kathleen. I ought to know my mother’s name.

“No, you’re wrong,” she said, then she relayed an astonishing story.

Before my grandfather came over from Ireland he had been married to a woman named Catherine who had died in child birth. When my grandmother gave birth to my mother she named her Catherine and that was the name put on the birth certificate. Then, coming home from the hospital she recalled her husband’s first wife had been named Catherine and didn’t want to name her daughter after her husband’s first wife. So she scratched the name Catherine off the birth certificate and wrote in Kathleen. All my life my mother had been cheated out of her true name.

“How do you know this?” I asked my wife.

“Your sister learned it at your mother’s funeral,” she said.

Catherine was the name decided on for the baby and the other Catherine, our friend, was delighted.

Then a few weeks before the baby was born Catherine came to my office to tell about a dream she had had, the first and only time we talked about her dreams. She dreamed that Magisto, the white dove chicken, was carrying the soul of my mother to baby Catherine, who was about to be born, and as soon as the baby was born, Magisto would die.

That week baby Catherine was born. Mother-in-law and sister-in-law managed the house and family while I stayed at the hospital with mother and daughter. The only nuisance that occurred was the presence of a snake that had found its way into the house, which my sister-in-law kindly asked to have removed.

Magisto disappeared the following day. We never saw the bird again. Gotten by fox, coyote or hawk most likely. And I discovered the man’s joy of having a daughter and a love that transcends life and death. The boys are wonderful and I love them too, but as I was with my father, they are colleagues. They are my friends and equals. The love between a boy and his mother and a father and his daughter is exit and entrance to the world. The ancient ship that brings out the dead and brings in the living.

Maybe it is an Irish thing. Or maybe it is the dance of all life for all who have a mother.