Losing the Self in Passion
"I saw eternity the other night, like a ring of pure and endless light, as calm as it was bright; and, round beneath it, time in hours, days, years, driven by spheres..." (Henry Vaughan, The World (1)
It may seem strange that I blindly took such a bizarre turn of events in my stride without any obvious sense of discernment, in which case I should elucidate matters: Everything so far described is part of a greater sequence of events that had begun some weeks earlier. At the dramatic beginning I had fallen madly in love and was set to discover many things about the world, myself and other creatures, enlightenment and nature, mystery and truth, poetry and music, beginnings and the end.
Life at the university was one of rare privilege, the setting ideal in its tranquility and beauty - in fact in every way. The atmosphere was conducive to research, discovery, but also the pursuit of hedonistic (for some dissolute) pleasures. Notable were those who took the right amount of pleasure in being young, clever, gifted and good looking, and the outstandingly fortuitous circumstances which brought them together in such a way were celebrated with an alcoholic toast that began God knows when and seemed never to end. Skunk was frequently smoked and a cocktail of other drugs was dabbled in haphazardly, given the universal mandate of mind expansion with an artistic or scientific perspective. In some cases both.
The weather during the best part of my middle year, was somehow perfect between the months of May and September, the last rains having fallen on May Eve. Admittedly, they fell hard that night, enough to last the universe through to Autumn. What happened that fateful Eve is another story, but suffice it to say that one of my best friends was struck dumb by the discovery that the heavy rain had magically watered his virtual plants.
There were seven of us, give or take any number of a few at a given time, and we were unified in what was possibly quite a cliquish way. As the only real girl I was further set apart, although I knew nothing about sexual discrimination at that time. Of contribution to my insecure sense of separation was the fact that our astoundingly privileged lifestyle had come fairly easily to some of my well-cultivated public-school companions, but to me it seemed extraordinary and most wonderful. At the front of my mind was a fervent and whole-hearted gratitude that my life was blessed beyond the comprehension of most people, so I thanked my lucky stars daily and took nothing for granted except my youth.
I was capable of demonstrating an iota of common sense, nevertheless, and my indulgence in drugs was tempered by a pathological fear of adverse effects which conditioned me to use rather than abuse as a rule, and to dose myself moderately rather than excessively. Ultimately, I would suffer some unwelcome (hopefully impermanent) consequences as a result of breaking too decisively the many boundaries of mind and heart, but there was no sign that I acknowledged then of trials or tribulations to come. All was as good as it could have been: For a designated period, literally perfect, impossible though that may seem. The stage was set.
So it happened that with light but effective supervision (a key element), three classicists, an ancient and modern historian, a musician and, on random occasion, a mathematician, found themselves as willing protagonists of the mystery plays, the latest in the divine calendar. A special edition in light of the approaching millennium, entrance into which would be heralded, portentously, by a continuous stream of fire. Orpheus himself would have played for us and probably did. Whilst most other people appeared to be dutifully engaged in the conduction of intermediate academic research, we the happy wastrels (happily also the prime representative specimens of our age and student class), reveled in the rigorously academic performance through which we redeemed our otherwise irreverent existences entirely.
It could be said that in the absence of other responsibilities we rose to the occasion unquestioningly and with whole hearts, due to our complete faith in the almighty as agent of our selves. We were entirely devoted to the task (considered result with the highest honours) and held to an unspoken (unconscious?) but mortal pact that the mission should be conducted in utmost secrecy until such times as it became necessary to speak out to form a definite conclusion. One of the group was therefore charged with making a record, to be published by appointment. Being the bird, it fell to me to sing.
The task was fraught with danger in this age and eternally grateful am I for the divine protection I have been afforded. The account could be no more than a basic statement of factual events and, seeing as I am an under-qualified historian, I should at least try to be objective. In some ways it is a pity that the musician was not made responsible for this record, as music is known to be a preferred medium for the holy spirit to move within. Music is also the means by which the greatest numbers of people might be reached, so it is to be hoped that his symphony shall one day be complete.
What the classicists thought about the situation was highly intelligent yet corrupted by an undeniable penchant for debauchery, seeing as they were in the thick of a Latin quarter, having successfully evaded the Greek discipline with glee. The only one of the three who might have done the job with real commitment was of Jewish descent, but he had strong material ambitions that overrode his poetic impulse to a great enough degree. Another of them was only able to think of himself rather than the whole of the rest of the world, and was to be ruined through the misguided worship of himself by his equals. The last was a diamond geezer who could not commit to the task, despite enjoying a deep belief in higher powers.
The mathematician had his own formula for making the record, but not one which could be communicated well linguistically, except perhaps as sound-bites. (The mathematician did in fact work hard and it should be clarified that he, as an exception to the rule, came from the opposite of a public school). A timely newsflash from this number-cruncher appeared during the writing of this section: ‘Happiness is inversely proportionate to thought’ he surmised. (This might be seen as part of the negative spectrum and for an expansion on thoughtlessness, please see the section below on Zen Buddhism).
From a rapidly calculated deduction I was deemed suitable (otherwise reckless) enough to be charged with mission impossible, which was to make a subjective objective note of the occurrences by which the universe came into existence, the understanding of esoteric arts and sacred sciences, mystical essences, the processes and cycles of civilization, the point of the human race, the transcendence of time and space, the visible and invisible aspects of perception, controlled movement through myriad dimensions, the essence of cosmic music, really everything, the true meaning of life. But most of all to confirm the existence of God with distinct methods of performance, internally, externally, privately, publicly, expressly and unequivocally.
But - to get back to the central tale - I was set to become something of a Christian Hermetic, with distinctly pagan origins, a few strange perversions, but mainly good intentions, and a heart full of love for all mankind. This next is the heart of the story, the moment of rebirth.