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Monday, April 4, 2011

From Parsifal to Don Quixote

Don Quixote is and idealist. He lives in a time of Machiavellian beliefs and wants to escape these characteristics. He fantasizes about the way things used to be in the times of the knights, and the code of Chivalry, and wishes that he too could live in this time period. Some may argue that he was a madman due to his attack on the windmills, but he just seems to suffer from a slight mental illness, which does not in turn qualify him as a madman.


The fundamental question of the Mythic Way is simply, "Who am I?" The answer to the question has been a subject of inquiry for a very long time under the conceptual category of "ontology," the study of being. This inner sense of knowing ourselves is essential to a coherent way of being in the world.

In Man's Search for Meaning, Victor Frankl observed that in the Nazi concentration camps not everyone descended to primitive behavior. There were some who transcended the horror of their circumstances and became veritable saints. Such behavior was contrary to the theories of his mentor, Sigmund Freud, who expected people to respond poorly to wholesale, prolonged suffering and deprivation.

According to the HumanSynergetics model, there exists within each of us an "Ontogenic Self" that is connected to primitive, animal energies, evolved not so much to survive as to serve. Harnessing those energies is to deal with the tension of "opposites" and fundamental elements allows us to make personal, cultural and even cosmic contributions (see psychographic map).

The Ontogenic Self exists within a context that is expressed and understand in largely "psycho-symbolic" terms. The sense of being within the Ontogenic Self, allows us to view life as some combination of "Quest," "Mission" and "Burden." These are the themes of "purpose" that Frankl noted give people a reason to endure and survive.

QUEST for the "Holy Grail" and other such searches fire the imagination, but make the process seem remote from everyday living. The film "Flash of Genius" portrays the inventor of the intermittent windshield wiper as a man on a quest for justice, or for a man on a quest for recognition, or both. Oftentimes, those on such a quest will seem overly zealous, misguided or just downright foolish, which the might well be. In terms of the "Mythic Quest" there may be little distinction between Parsifal and Don Quixote.

MISSION seems often to be more noble than quest. Mother Theresa had a mission of serving the poorest of the poor. Missionaries of all type have "advanced" civilization by seeking to change the world and various cultures for nearly a thousand years—with varying degrees of "success." Prometheus' mission of bringing fire to humankind unleashed the wrath of the gods and engendered endless ages of torment for him. Gratitude is rarely the reward for any mission.

BURDEN is an unpopular notion among many of the sophisticated elite. Burden is the lot in life for the ten year old who must enter and work the dangerous mines of Latin America or Asia. Burden is what the grandmother experiences in Africa as she tries to comfort her starving grandchildren who were orphaned when their parents died of AIDS. Burden is the journey of anyone who must carry the weight of unwanted necessity on their shoulders, particularly when there are no resources or alternatives.

The Ontogenic Self is that deep inner aspect of ourselves that draws upon those hidden reserves we each possess. Within the Ontogenic self is the ability to create and endless number of "Mythotypes "—stories and characters we discover and create to help us adapt and be the hero of our own story. Necessity brings out the best of our Ontogenic Self.

Introduction 11
1 In the Beginning
God Peers at His Reflection • The Looking Glass Universe 20
2 A Short Walk in the Ancient Woods
Imagining Ourselves into the Minds of the Ancients 35
3 The Garden of Eden
The Genesis Code • Enter the Dark Lord • The Flower People 45
4 Lucifer, the Light of the World
The Apple of Desire • A War in Heaven • The Secrets of the Days
of the Week 63
5 The Gods who Loved Women
The Nephilim • The Genetic Engineering of Humankind • The Fish
Gods • The Original History of the Origin of the Species 75
6 The Assassination of the Green King
Isis and Osiris • The Cave of the Skull • The Palladium 89
7 The age of Demi-Gods and Heroes
The Ancient Ones • The Amazons • Enoch • Hercules, Theseus
and Jason 103
8 The Sphinx and the Timelock
Orpheus • Daedalus, the First Scientist • Job • Solving the Riddle
of the Sphinx 112
9 The Neolithic Alexander the Great
Noah and the Myth of Atlantis • Tibet • Rama’s Conquest of India •
The Yoga Sutras of Pantanjali 120
10 The Way of the Wizard
Zarathustra’s Battle Against the Powers of Darkness • The Life and Death
of Krishna the Shepherd • The Dawn of the Dark Age 133
11 Getting to Grips with Matter
Imhotep and the Age of the Pyramids • Gilgamesh and Enkidu • Abraham
and Melchizedek 150
12 The Descent into Darkness
Moses and the Cabala • Akhenaten and Satan • Solomon, Sheba and Hiram •
King Arthur and the Crown Chakra 168
13 Reason – And How to Rise Above it
Elijah and Elisha • Isaiah • Esoteric Buddhism • Pythagoras • Lao Tzu 182
14 The Mysteries of Greece and Rome
The Eleusian Mysteries • Socrates and his Daemon • Plato as a Magus •
The Divine Identity of Alexander the Great • The Caesars and Cicero •
The Rise of the Magi 192
15 The Sun God Returns
The Two Jesus Children • The Cosmic Mission • The Crucifixion in South
America • The Mystic Marriage of Mary Magdalene 209
16 The Tyranny of the Fathers
The Gnostics and the Neoplatonists • The Murder of Hypatia • Attila and
Shamanism • A Touch of Zen 227
17 The Age of Islam
Mohammed and Gabriel • The Old Man of the Mountains • Haroun
al Raschid and the Arabian Nights • Charlemagne and the Historic
Parsifal • Chartres Cathedral 242
18 The Wise Demon of the Templars
The Prophecies of Joachim • The Loves of Ramón Lull • St Francis and
the Buddha • Roger Bacon Mocks Thomas Aquinas • The Templars
Worship Baphomet 258
19 Fools for Love
Dante, the Troubadours and Falling in Love for the First Time •
Raphael, Leonardo and the Magi of Renaissance Italy • Joan of Arc •
Rabelais and the Way of the Fool 273
20 The Green One behind the Worlds
Columbus • Don Quixote • William Shakespeare, Francis Bacon
and the Green One 290
21 The Rosicrucian Age
The German Brotherhoods • Christian Rosenkreuz • Hieronymus
Bosch • The Secret Mission of Dr Dee 302
22 Occult Catholicism
Jacob Boehme • The Conquistadors and the Counter-Reformation •
Teresa, John of the Cross and Ignatius • The Rosicrucian Manifestoes •
The Battle of White Mountain 315
23 The Occult Roots of Science
Isaac Newton • The Secret Mission of Freemasonry • Elias Ashmole
and the Secret Chain of Transmission • What Really Happens
in Alchemy 328
24 The Age of Freemasonry
Christopher Wren • John Evelyn and the Alphabet of Desire •
The Triumph of Materialism • George Washington and the Secret Plan
for the New Atlantis 345
25 The Mystical–Sexual Revolution
Cardinal Richelieu • Cagliostro • The Secret Identity of St Germain •
Swedenborg, Blake and the Sexual Roots of Romanticism 355
26 The Illuminati and the Rise of Unreason
The Illuminati and the Battle for Soul of Freemasonry • Occult Roots
of the French Revolution • Napoleon’s Star • Occultism and the Rise
of the Novel 369
27 The Mystic Death of Humanity
Swedenborg and Dostoyevsky • Wagner • Freud, Jung and the Materializing
of Esoteric Thought • The Occult Roots of Modernism • Occult Bolshevism •
Gandhi 382
28 Wednesday, Thursday, Friday
The Anti-Christ • Re-entering the Ancient Wood • The Maitreya Buddha •
The Opening of the Seven Seals • The New Jerusalem 397

The Illuminati and the Rise of Unreason
The Illuminati and the Battle for the Soul of
Freemasonry • Occult Roots of the French Revolution •
Napoleon’s Star • Occultism and the Rise of the Novel
THE STORY OF THE ILLUMINATI IS ONE of the darker episodes in the secret history and it
has blackened the reputation of secret societies ever since.
In 1776 a Bavarian professor of law, Adam Weishaupt, founded an organization called
the Illuminati, recruiting the first brothers from among his students.
Like the Jesuits, the Illuminati brotherhood was run on military lines. Members were
requested to surrender individual judgement and will. Like earlier secret societies
Weishaupt’s Illuminati promised to reveal an ancient wisdom. Higher and more powerful
secrets were promised to those who progressed up the ladder of initiations. Initiates worked
in small cells. Knowledge was shared between cells on what modern security services call
a ‘need to know’ basis – so dangerous was this newly rediscovered knowledge.
Weishaupt joined the Freemasons in 1777, and soon many of the Illuminati followed,
infiltrating the lodges. They quickly rose to positions of seniority.
Then in 1785 it came about that a man called Jacob Lanz, travelling to Silesia, was
struck by lightning. When he was laid out in a nearby chapel, the Bavarian authorities
found papers on the body revealing the secret plans of the Illuminati. From these papers,
including many in Weishaupt’s own hand, and together with others seized in raids around
the country, a complete picture was built up.
The seized writings revealed that the ancient secret wisdom and the secret supernatural powers promulgated within the Illuminati had always been a cynical invention
and a fraud. An aspirant progressed through the grades only to discover that the
spiritual element in the teachings were merely a smokescreen. Spirituality was derided,
spat upon. Jesus Christ’s teachings, it was said, were really purely political in content,
calling for the abolition of all property, of the institution of marriage and all family ties, all
religion. The aim of Weishaupt and his co-conspirators was to set up a society run on
purely materialistic grounds, a revolutionary new society – and the place where they
would test their theories, they had decided, would be France.
Finally it was whispered in the candidate’s ear that the ultimate secret was that there
was no secret.
In this way he was inducted into a nihilistic and anarchistic philosophy that appealed
to the candidate’s worst instincts. Weishaupt gleefully anticipated tearing down, destroying civilization, not to set people free, but for the pleasure of imposing his will upon
Weishaupt’s writings reveal the extent of his cynicism:
‘… in concealment lies a great part of our strength. For this reason we must cover
ourselves in the name of another society. The lodges that are under Freemasonry are the
most suitable cloak for our high purpose.’
‘Seek the society of young people,’ he advises one of his co-conspirators. ‘Watch them,
and if one of them pleases you, lay your hand on him.’
‘Do you realize sufficiently what it means to rule – to rule in a secret society? Not
only over the more important of the populace, but over the best men, over men of all
races, nations and religions, to rule without external force … the final aim of our Society
is nothing less than to win power and riches … and to obtain mastery of the world.’
Following the discovery of these writings, the order was suppressed – but too late.
By 1789 there were some three hundred lodges in France, including sixty-five in Paris.
According to some French Freemasons today, there were more than seventy thousand
Freemasons in France. The original plan had been to impregnate people with hope and will
for change, but lodges had been infiltrated to the extent that it has been said that
‘the program put into action by the French Constitutional Assembly in 1789 had been
put together by German Illuminati in 1776’. Danton, Desmoulins, Mirabeau, Marat,
Robespierre, Guillotin and other leaders had been ‘illuminated’.
When the king was slow to agree to further reforms, Desmoulins called for an armed
uprising. Then, in June 1789, Louis XVI tried to disperse the Assembly and called his
troops to Versailles. Mass desertions followed. On 14 July an angry mob stormed the Bastille.
Louis XVI went to the guillotine in January 1793. When he tried to speak to the crowd, he was
cut short by a roll on the drums. He was heard to say, ‘People of France, I am innocent, I
forgive those who are responsible for my death. I pray to God that the blood spilled here
never falls on France or on you, my unfortunate people …’ That this should happen in the heart
of the most civilized nation on earth opened the door to the unthinkable.
It is said that in the melee that followed a man jumped on to the scaffold and yelled,
‘Jacques de Moloy, you are avenged!’ If this is true, its sentiment was in stark contrast to
the king’s grace and charity.
In the anarchy that followed France was threatened from within and without. The
leaders of the Freemasonic lodges took control. Soon many of their number were accused
of being traitors to the Revolution – and so began the Terror.
There are different estimates of the numbers executed. The driving force was the
most principled of Freemasons, the austere and incorruptible lawyer Maximilian Robespierre. As head of the Committee of Public Safety and the man in charge of the police
department, he was sending to the guillotine hundreds per day, adding up to some 2750
executions. Out of this latter total only 650 were aristocrats, the rest ordinary working
people. Robespierre even executed Danton. Saturn was eating his own children.
How could this be? How could the most enlightened and reasonable of men justify this
bloodshed? In an idealistic philosophy the ends never justify the means, because, as we have
seen, motives affect the outcome, however deeply hidden they may be. Robespierre shed
blood as a grim duty, to protect the rights of citizens and their property. From a rational point of view he did what he did for the common good.
Yet in Robespierre’s case this yearning to be completely reasonable seems to have
driven him mad.
On 8 July 1794 a curious ceremony took place in front of the Louvre. The members of
the National Convention sat in a vast, makeshift amphitheatre, each holding an ear of
wheat to symbolize the goddess Isis. Facing them was an altar by which stood Robespierre, wrapped in a light blue coat, his hair powdered white. He said, ‘The whole Universe
is assembled here!’ Then, calling upon the Supreme Being, he began a speech which
lasted several hours and ended, ‘Tomorrow, when we return to work, we shall again fight
against vice and tyrants.’
If members of the Convention had hoped he was going to call an end to bloodshed, they
were to be disappointed.
Then he stepped up to a veiled effigy and set light to the cloth, revealing a stone statue
of a goddess. The set had been designed by the Illuminated Freemason Jean-Jacques
Davide so that the goddess, Sophia, would seem to arise from the flames like a phoenix.
The poet Gérard de Nerval would later claim that Sophia had represented Isis. Yet
the ruling spirit of the times was not Isis, the lifting of whose veils leads to the spirit
worlds; neither was it Mother Nature, the gentle, nurturing goddess of the vegetable
dimension of the cosmos. This was Mother Nature red in tooth and claw.
Robespierre was accused of trying to have himself declared a god by an elderly prophetess called Catherine Théot. Revulsion at the relentless bloodletting reached a pitch, and a
crowd laid siege to the Hôtel de Ville. Robespierre was at last cornered. He tried to shoot
himself, but only succeeded in blowing away half his jaw. When he went to the guillotine, still wearing his light blue costume, he tried to declaim to the assembled multitude,
but could only manage a strangulated cry.
NAPOLEON FAMOUSLY FOLLOWED HIS star. This has been taken as a poetic way of saying
that he was destined for great things.
Goethe said of him: ‘The daemon ought to lead us every day and tell us what we ought
to do on every occasion. But the good spirit leaves us in the lurch, and we grope about in
the dark. Napoleon was the man! Always illuminated, always clear and decided and
endowed at every hour with energy enough to carry out whatever he considered necessary. His life was the stride of a demi-god, from battle to battle, and from victory to victory.
It might be said he was in a state of continual illumination … In later years this illumination appears to have forsaken him, as well as his fortune and his good star.’
How could Napoleon fail to have sense of destiny? He succeeded at everything he set
his mind to, seemingly able to bend the whole world to his will. To himself and many of
his contemporaries he was the Alexander the Great of the modern world, uniting East
and West by his conquests.
French troops moved into Egypt. It was not a particularly glorious campaign – but it
was important to Napoleon from a personal point of view. According to Fouché, the head
of the French secret police, Napoleon had a meeting with a man purporting to be St
Germain inside the Great Pyramid. It certainly seems to be the case that Napoleon chose
the esotericst and astrologer Fabre d’Olivet as one of his advisers, and also arranged to
spend a night alone in the Great Pyramid. Did Napoleon meet St Germain in the flesh
or in spirit?
Napoleon ordered the making of a catalogue of Egyptian antiquities, Description de
l’Egypt. It was dedicated to ‘Napoleon le Grand’, inviting comparison with Alexander the
Great. He was portrayed on the front of the catalogue as Sol Invictus, the Sun god.
His empire would expand to include not only Italy and Egypt, but Germany, Austria
and Spain. No emperor had been crowned by the Pope since Charlemagne, but in 1804
Napoleon had Charlemagne’s crown and sceptre brought to him, and having forced Pope
Pius VII to attend, Napoleon symbolically snatched the crown from his hands and crowned
himself Emperor.
Napoleon employed a team of scholars to come to the conclusion that Isis was the
ancient goddess of Paris, and then decreed that the goddess and her star should be included
in Paris’s coat of arms. On the Arc de Triomphe Josephine is portrayed kneeling at his
feet carrying the laurel of Isis.
We can infer from this that Napoleon did not identify himself with Sirius, he followed
it, as Orion follows Sirius across the sky. In Freemasonic initiation ceremonies candidates are reborn – as Osiris was reborn – looking up at a five-pointed star that represents
Isis. Osiris/Orion the Hunter is the masculine impulse towards power, action and impregnation, pursuing Isis, the gatekeeper to life’s mysteries.
This is how Napoleon thought of Josephine, born of a family deeply immersed in
esoteric Freemasonry and already a Freemason herself when he met her. Napoleon could
conquer mainland Europe, but he could never quite conquer the sublimely beautiful
Josephine. He longed for her as Dante had longed for Beatrice and longing made him
aspire higher.
Osiris and Isis are also, of course, associated with the sun and the moon and on one
level, as we have seen, this is to do with the cosmos’s arranging of itself in order to make
human thought possible. In ancient Egypt the heliacal rising of Sirius in the middle of
June presaged the rising of the Nile. In some esoteric traditions Sirius is the central sun
of the universe around which our sun rotates.
This complex nexus of esoteric thought, combined with his love for Josephine,
informed Napoleon’s sense of destiny.
But in 1813 the powers guiding and empowering Napoleon left him, as they always
leave everyone, quite suddenly, and, as Goethe had described, the powers of reaction
rushed in from all sides to destroy him.
We see the same process in the lives of artists. They struggle to find their voice, reach
an inspired period during which they cannot put a brushstroke wrong, perhaps leading art
into a new era. Then the spirit suddenly leaves them and they are unable to recapture it,
no matter how hard they try.
THROUGHOUT THIS HISTORY WE HAVE repeatedly referred to the series of experiences
a candidate must go through to achieve initiation, including the experience of kama loca,
or purgatory, where the soul and spirit, still united, are attacked by demons. Now it is
time to touch on the idea taught in the esoteric schools that the whole of humanity was to
undergo something like an initiation.
The secret societies were preparing for this event, helping humanity to develop the
sense of self and other qualities that would be needed during the ordeal.
In the middle decades of the eighteenth century Freemasonry spread throughout the
world – to Austria, Spain, India, Italy, Sweden, Germany, Poland, Russia, Denmark,
Norway and China. Following in the footsteps of the American and French brethren,
Freemasonry inspired republican revolutions all round the world.
Madame Blavatsky wrote that among the Carbonari – the revolutionary precursors
and pioneers of Garibaldi – there was more than one Freemason deeply versed in occult
science and Rosicrucianism. Garibaldi himself was a 33rd degree Freemason and Grand
Master of Italian Freemasonry.
In Hungary Louis Kossuth, and in South America Simon Bolivar, Francisco de
Miranda, Venustiano Carranza, Benito Juarez and Fidel Castro, all fought for freedom.
Today in the USA there are some 13,000 lodges, and in 2001 it was estimated that
there were some seven million Freemasons worldwide.
WE HAVE SEEN HOW JESUS CHRIST planted the seed of the interior life, how this interior
life was expanded and populated by Shakespeare and Cervantes. In the eighteenth century
and, particularly, the nineteenth century the great initiate-novelists forged the sense we all
enjoy today that this interior world has its own history, a narrative with meaning, highs and
lows, reversals of fortune and dilemmas, turning points when life-changing decisions
may be made.
The great novelists of the age – we think of the Brontës, of Dickens – were also full of
a sense that, just as human consciousness was understood in esoteric thought to have
evolved through history, so consciousness also evolves in individual human lives.
John Comenius grew up in the Prague of Rudolf II where he attended the coronation of the Winter King. He knew John Valentine Andrae in Heidelberg, and was then
invited by his friend, the occultist Samuel Hartlib, to join him in London ‘to help complete
the Work’. By his educational reforms Comenius would introduce into the mainstream of
history the idea that in childhood we experience a very different state of mind from the one
we develop in adulthood.
We see Comenius’s influence in, for example, Jane Eyre or David Copperfield – and
we should be aware that it was very new then.
But the area of esoteric thought which would have the biggest effect on the novel
would be that of the deeper laws. The novel provided an arena for novelists steeped in
esoteric philosophy to show the working out of these laws in individual human lives.
THE TIME HAS COME TO GET TO GRIPS with this elusive concept which lies right at
the heart of the esoteric view of the cosmos and its history.
We saw how Elijah, working behind the scenes of history, had helped bring about a split
in consciousness between the objective Baconian consciousness and the subjective Shakespearean consciousness. We saw, too, how viewing the world as objectively as possible
made the laws of physics snap into focus.
But what about subjective experience? What about the structure of experience itself?
In time the science of psychology would arise. But psychology would make the
materialistic assumption that matter influences the mind, never the other way around.
Psychology, then, turned a blind eye to a universal part of human experience – the
experience of meaning.
We have already touched on the way that Rosicrucians had begun to formulate laws in
line with oriental esoteric thought on ‘the nameless’ way, inextricably bound up with
notions of human wellbeing. In the East there is an august tradition of tracing the operation of yang and its opposite ying, but in the West this remained an elusive element that
slipped between the emerging sciences of physics and psychology.
If the laws that govern these elusive elements are difficult to think about in abstract
terms, it is much easier to see them in action. Some of the great novelists of the nineteenth century wrote explicitly occult novels. In addition to Dickens’s A Christmas Carol,
Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights shows a spirit pursue its beloved from beyond the grave.
George Eliot’s Lifting the Veil, the fruit of her passionate investigation of the occult, was suppressed by her publisher. Then, as we shall see shortly, there was Dostoyevsky.
But as well as this explicit occultism, a more widespread influence is implicit in much
more fiction. A great vision of the working out of the deeper laws in individual lives, the complex,
irrational patterns that could not occur if science explained everything there is in the universe,
can be found in the very greatest novels.
Jane Eyre, Bleak House, Moby Dick, Middlemarch, War and Peace hold up a mirror
to our lives and point up the significant patterns of order and meaning that are our universal
experience, even when science tells us not to believe the evidence of our eyes, hearts
and minds.
ON ONE LEVEL NOVELS ARE ALL ABOUT egotism. A novel always involves seeing the
world from other people’s points of view. Reading a novel, therefore, lessens egotism.
Also the failings of characters in novels are very often to do with egotism, either in terms
of self-interest or, more particularly, the failure to empathize.
But the greater contribution of the novel to the human sense of self is, as we have
just suggested, the formation of the sense of an inner narrative, the sense that an individual life seen from the inside has a meaningful shape, a story.
Underlying these notions of shape and meaning are beliefs about the ways people’s
lives are formed by their being tested – the labyrinth that keeps morphing.
What shapes lives in novels is life’s paradoxical quality, the fact that it does not run in
a straight, predictable line, the fact that appearances are deceptive and that fortunes are
reversed. The notions of the meaning of life and the deeper laws here come together.
IF THESE DEEPER LAWS REALLY EXIST AND are universal and so important and powerful,
if history really does turn on them, isn’t it perhaps surprising that we are not more aware
of them? In fact, isn’t it odd if we in the West don’t even seem to have a name for them?
It is surprising, not least because if these laws come into play when human
happiness is at stake it should follow that they could be very useful when it comes to
our hopes of living a happy life.
Of course the most common sets of rules for achieving a happy life are the downto-earth wisdom contained in proverbs and the common-sense cautionary advice
traditionally given to children.
But one difference is that both proverbs and the cautionary advice given to children only
address the basics – how to avoid physical harm and obtain the bare necessities – while the
deeper laws deal in grand notions of destiny, good and evil. As we shall see, they advise us
on satisfying our craving for the highest, most ineffable levels of happiness, our deepest
needs for fulfilment and meaning.
Compare the proverbial advice to ‘look before you leap’ with the recommendation
contained in this perverse little parable by the proto-Surrealist Guillaume Apollinaire:

Come to the edge, he said.
They said, We are afraid.
Come to the edge, he said.
They came. He pushed them.
They flew.

Inspired by the teachings of the secret societies, the Surrealists wanted to destroy
entrenched ways of thought, to smash scientific materialism. One of the ways they did
this was by promoting irrational acts. Here Apollinaire is saying that if you act irrationally,
you will be rewarded by the irrational forces of the universe.
If what Apollinaire is saying is true, this is one of the deeper laws of the universe, a law
of cause and effect lying outside the laws of probability.
Surrealists were unusually open about their irrational philosophy and its roots in the
secret societies, but this same irrational philosophy is also implicit in much more mainstream
culture. Take It’s a Wonderful Life, an old film that on the surface seems homely and
comforting, together with its literary forebear A Christmas Carol, which Charles Dickens
imbued with the philosophy of the secret society of which he was an initiate.
Scrooge is confronted by ghosts that present him with visions showing how his behaviour has caused great misery, together with a vision of what will result if he continues in
the same vein. George Bailey, the character played by James Stewart in It’s A Wonderful
Life, believes his life has been a complete failure and he is about to commit suicide when
an angel shows him how much unhappier his family, friends, the whole town, would
have been were it not for him and his self-sacrificing nature.
So both George Bailey and Scrooge are invited to ask themselves how the world would
have been different if they had chosen to live differently. At the end of this process of
questioning both characters are asked to go through the same door they were about to
go through at the beginning of the story – but this time do the right thing. George Bailey
decides not to commit suicide and to face his creditors. Scrooge redeems himself by
coming to the aid of Bob Cratchit and his family.
So in a way both It’s a Wonderful Life and A Christmas Carol depict life as having a
kind of circular quality and of being a test. They show how life directs us towards crucial
decisions and how we may be made to loop round and come back to confront these crucial
decisions again if we get it wrong.
I imagine that most of us feel that both It’s a Wonderful Life and A Christmas Carol
are in some way true. It’s difficult to see how anything in science or nature could account
for life’s being patterned in this insistently testing way, but most of us probably feel that
both these very popular works are more than just entertainments, that they say
something deep about life.
A few moments consideration may now be enough to convince us that the same sorts
of mysterious and irrational patterns also inform the structure of some of the greatest
works of literature in the canon: Oedipus Rex, Hamlet, Don Quixote, Doctor Faustus and
War and Peace.
Oedipus somehow draws to himself the thing he fears most, and ends up killing his
father and marrying his mother.

Hamlet repeatedly ducks out of his life’s challenge – avenging his father’s murder
– but this challenge returns to confront him in increasingly dire forms.
Don Quixote holds a good-hearted vision of the world as a noble place, and so strong
is this vision that by the end of the novel it has in some mysterious way transformed his
material surroundings.
In his heart of hearts Faust knows what he ought to do, but because he does not do it,
a providential order in the universe punishes him.
Tolstoy’s hero, Pierre, is tortured by his love for Natasha. It is only when he lets
go of his feelings for her that he wins her.
Imagine if you fed all these great works of literature – in fact all literature – into a
giant computer and asked it the question: What are the laws that determine whether or not
a life is ultimately happy and fulfilled? I suggest the result would be a body of laws that
included the following:
If you duck out of a challenge, then that challenge will come round again in a
different form.
We always draw towards us what we fear most.
If you choose the immoral path, ultimately you will pay for it.
A good-hearted belief will eventually transform what is believed in.
In order to hold on to what you love, you must let it go.
This, then, is the type of law that gives great narrative literature its structure, and if
we read Oedipus Rex or King Lear or Doctor Faustus or Middlemarch and feel that in a
deep and important sense they are true, it is surely because the working out of the
laws they portray resonates with our experience. They accurately depict the shape of
our lives.
Now imagine what would happen if you fed all the scientific data in the world into
another gigantic computer and asked it the same question. The results, I suggest, would
be very different:
The best way to keep something is to try your hardest to do so and never give up.
You cannot transform the world by wishful thinking – you must do something about it.
If you can avoid being found out and punished by your fellow man, there is no reason
to suppose a providential order will punish you.
And so on. The implication is clear and confirms what we suggested earlier. We get very
different results, two very different sets of laws, if we try to determine the structure of
the world than we do if we try to determine the structure of experience.
This is a distinction that Tolstoy wrote about in his essay On Life. Though the
same laws operate in the outer world of external phenomena and in our inner life with
its concern for meaning and fulfilment, they seem very different when we consider
them separately. As Abraham Isaac Kook, one of the great Cabalists of the twentieth
century and the first Chief Rabbi of Palestine, put it: ‘God is revealed in the deep feelings
of sensitive souls.’
The deeper laws can be discerned only if we view events in the external world with
the deepest subjectivity, as an artist or a mystic might. Is it the subjectivity of these laws,
the fact that they work so near to the centre of consciousness, that makes it difficult for us
to keep them in focus?
Rainer Maria Rilke, the Central European poet, seems to come close to writing
explicitly about these laws in a letter to an aspiring young poet. ‘Only the individual who
is truly solitary is brought under the deep laws, and when a man steps out into the morning
that is just beginning, or looks into the evening that is full of happenings, and when he feels
what is coming to pass there, then all rank drops from him as from a dead man, although
he is standing in the midst of sheer life.’ Rilke is using heightened, poetic language but
he seems to be confirming that these deeper laws can only be discerned if we shut out
everything else and concentrate on them over a long time with our subtlest and most
intense powers of discernment.

IN THE COURSE OF WRITING this book I have met the young Irish mystic Lorna Byrne.
She hasn’t read any of the literature that lies behind this book, nor even previously met
anyone who might have passed its ideas on. Her extraordinary knowledge of the spirit
words has come from direct personal experience. She meets Michael, Archangel of the
Sun, and has encountered the Archangel Gabriel in the form of the Moon, divided in half
yet pressed together and moving, she says, like the turning of pages in a book. She has
described to me seeing in the fields near her home the group-spirit of the fox in the form
of the fox but with human-like elements. She meets Elijah, who was once a human with
the spirit of an angel, and she has seen him walk on water like the Green One of the Sufi
tradition. Hers is an alternative method of perception, a parallel dimension that moves
things around in our own.
IN THE LATE NINETEENTH CENTURY ANCIENT creatures began to stir in the depths
of the earth, to slouch towards the appointed place.
Imprisoned since the first War in Heaven, the consciousness-eaters were on the move

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