The Journal of Provincial Thought
jptArchive Issue 19
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jpt installment #2
Double Take

A novel of the post-'60s

Owen Scott, III

Author's Note Table of Contents

5. What’s purple and goes "buzz?"

            After Professor Lezard adjourns his seminar, we mill about in the classroom and the hall just outside.  I am feeling a little stunned in the wake of the Lizard King’s performance.  Go-Go quietly informs me that we are finished with classes for the day; then she springs into action and immediately assumes command of the grad students. 

            “Let’s meet at Hesperides as soon as everyone has a chance to take a restroom break.  We need to get organized right away.”

            “What’s Hesperides?”  I ask.

            “The Hesperides Room is the student lounge,” replies Mr. Takashi Nakamura.  “They have coffee, bagels, you know, the usual deli stuff.”

            “How do you guys know about the place?” I ask, noting that the others are nodding their heads again.

            “You don’t remember?” replies Valerie.  “Yesterday we attended orientation and looked around.”

            Oh, right, Go-Go told me that already.  “What about before that?”  I ask. 

            Everyone shrugs as they did in Professor Hayes’ class.  “We all found ourselves here at the same time,” Takashi explains.  “Later, it dawned on us that we had no memories of Real Life.

             I notice that the one I call "the bearded satyr," Michael something, still has that funny smirk as if he knows more than the rest of us.  Aware that I’m observing him, he winks at me and extends his right hand.  

            “Leuchtenpfad.  Michael Leuchtenpfad,” he volunteers, with admirable German  pronunciation.  He is still holding out his hand.  I shake it reluctantly.  “Spelled just like it sounds,” he says, still smirking. 

            “Leuchtenpfad,” I repeat.  I really dislike this guy.  I know that leuchten in German has to do with light, for example, Leuchtturm is light house, but I can’t recall what pfad means.   As I do not want to give him the satisfaction of reminding me, I make a mental note to look it up later.

            “I agree with Gabi,” Leuchtenpfad smirks.  “We need to rock and roll.”

            Hearing him call her that sends a wave of nausea through my guts.

            “OK,” I agree.  “What about we meet there in fifteen minutes?”

            Go-Go grimaces at me for the first time.  “There are no clocks here, Will,” she reminds me. 

            No tears, no fears
            No ruined years, no clocks

            “No clocks,” I repeat.  “Sorry.”  Did I mention that I’m a low-grade moron?

            After the break, everyone has gathered around a long mahogany conference table in the Hesperides Room.  Except for Michael Leuchtenpfad.  No one mentions his absence and I am not sorry he is looking to be a no-show.  The student lounge is surprisingly elegant and tasteful, with walls of rich wood paneling, couches and chairs upholstered with green leather, all accentuated by heavy velvet drapes in a luxurious burgundy.  Pastoral oil paintings are strategically  hung and lit by tiny spotlights recessed into the dark ceiling.  Seven identical grape-colored spiral notebooks lie on the table.

            Go-Go leads off.  “Since we all remember one another, let’s introduce ourselves to Will.”  I look around at my associates and now, strangely, find that I know everyone’s name and ethnicity, as if they are all old friends. 

            “That won’t be necessary.  I seem to have gotten that piece somehow.”

            Wally Wolf, the big Aryan-looking fellow, reaches over and shakes my hand vigorously, as if welcoming me to the club; and everyone else crowds around to lay hands on me while offering words of encouragement.

             “Enough of the group hug!” I finally shout to get them to stop.  I feel embarrassed by the public display of affection.  My friends return to their seats.  “So, do you guys remember more than I do?  I noticed in class that Valerie knew about her grandfather being a missionary and teaching her that African language.”

            “Bulu.  We have some bits and pieces,” Valerie replies.  No one's memory is fully intact. It seems to come in a little at a time as needed—or when something simply triggers a particular recollection, like that bit about my grandfather.  It was a nice anecdote, but sharing it wasn't a necessity.  Though, old Lezard seemed to like it.”

            “OK,” Go-Go interjects.   She is clearly impatient with my questions and anxious to get to work.  “We all know that the goal is to figure out how to awaken from this dream state.  Anyone have any suggestions about where we start?”  My guess is that she has a few.

            “I think we should review what’s happened at MI so far and compare notes,” ventures Takashi. 

            “Good idea,” agrees Go-Go.  “Anyone else?”

            “Sounds good to me, too,” I say, as if my permission were needed.  “After that, we could consider assigning everybody a different content area and splitting up to do research in the library.  From Lezard’s comments, I would expect that it contains valuable information.”

            The group quickly agrees to this general plan, and I feel temporarily vindicated. 

            “Could you guys tell me what all happened yesterday?” I inquire, hoping to be brought up to speed.  Being informationally one down is uncomfortable. “Y’all apparently have a head start on me.” 

            “Mah, mah, woodjew jes’ listen to that li’l ol’ Su-then baw’ey tawk,”  Wally the Wolf parodies me.   “He sho’ sounds funny, now don’t he?”  

            “What’s wrong with being Southern?” I ask, looking at Wally sharply.  Realizing I am being defensive, I find myself putting on an exaggerated Yankee accent and shifting the focus elsewhere.  “So what did you’se guys find out before I woke up?”  My contrived tactic feels awkward, the faux Brooklyn accent making me even more self-conscious. 

            “Not a whole hell of a lot, Will,” replies Esther Neshama in the harsh urban dialect of the Jersey shore, tacitly acknowledging my return of service.  I am aware that she is that other kind of J*p, the Jewish American Princess.  “Yesterday was more like a regular dream.  We didn’t start to realize what was going on until later at the party, after things got really weird.”

            “Yeah?  Like how weird?”

            “Weird like your nightmare,” Takashi says with serious affect.  “I was one of those Japanese soldiers holding you hostage.” 

            “Jesus Christ, how did you end up there?” I shout, suddenly confused.

            “Look, Will,” Go-Go again interrupts the discussion.  “We think someone slipped us hallucinogenic drugs of some kind during the party, probably in the punch that was served.  We all had various nightmarish experiences.  You will have a chance to get filled in on the details later if it doesn’t come back to you by then.  We need to stay focused on the new information from today.”

            “Believe me,” Takashi reassures me, “I was not having fun.  But the funny thing is, in Real Life I once belonged to an Asian gang named G**ks in Wayfarers.  They were mostly Vietnamese, though.”

            “Oh, sh*t, man, you’re joking, right?” I blurt out, now feeling really disoriented.  “I’m sure your parents loved that!”  My brain is flooded with incongruent thoughts and images; an old song starts playing in my head.

            Last night your shadow fell upon my lonely room
            I touched your golden hair and tasted your perfume
            Your eyes were filled with love the way they used to be
            Your gentle hand reached out to comfort me

            I am more anxious than ever to know about the previous night, but it is obvious the group is on the same page with Go-Go.  It would be presumptuous of me to try to steer things my way. 

            Then came the dawn
            And you were gone
            You were gone, gone, gone

            The damn song continues to compete for my attention.  Go-Go sees my agitation.  Staring straight at me, she addresses me in a firm tone.  “None of us knows why we are here, Will.  The one thing the rest of us have realized is that we need to find out what was happening in Real Life before this whole charade started.  We will have to use the information we are getting to develop some theories.  Then, we can see how ongoing events fit in with them.  That should allow us to zero in on the correct explanation and tell us what we have to do to wake up.”

            I had too much to dream last night

            “Recall,” Ms. Chandrikasapna suggests, “that Dr. Lezard said, ‘Knowing Truth awakens us.’”

            I’m not ready to face the light
            I had too much to dream... last night.

            “But if this is all some kind of hallucination or dream,” asks Esther, “who says it has to conform to our ideas of logic?  I always thought dreams were totally irrational.”

            “Possibly,” Go-Go admits, “but we have to go on the assumption that this makes sense.  Otherwise, we might as well give up.  As I see it, we have nothing to lose.”

              I never realized how sexy logic can be in a woman.  I notice that the song has disappeared from my thought stream.

            “The sense doesn’t have to be linear, though,” Jagrati Chandrikasapna of the blazing green eyes observes.  “Let’s not get trapped in a European mind-set.”  Heads nod all around and no one speaks up for linear, Cartesian Eurocentrism.

            Suddenly, out of left field a thought strikes me.  “What’s purple and goes bzz-bzzz-bzzz?” 

            The other students, including Jagrati, look at me strangely—except for Takashi, who smiles and replies, “That’s easy.  An Electric Prune.  What’s purple and lurks beneath the waves?”

            “Moby Grape!” yells Esther. 

            “Hey,” Go-Go chimes in seamlessly. “‘I just lost at Russian roulette,’ said Tom absent-mindedly.”

            “Omigosh, a Tom Swiftie!” laughs Valerie.  Does anyone know a good elephant joke?”

            “What did the elephant say at the baggage counter?” I ask.

            “Anyone turned in a lost trunk?” offers Esther, beginning to laugh hysterically.

            We are all laughing heartily.  The humorous exchange has helped to get me grounded again.  Laughter discharges tension. 

            “But, what about Leuchtenpfad?”  I feel compelled to ask this.  “I get a very uncomfortable feeling about him.”

            “We all do,” says Wally.  “We think he was the one who drugged the punch—which, if true, would mean I will be obliged to take him out.”  In spite of my pacifist leanings, I resonate with the Wolf’s harsh sentiment.  “By the way, his last name means ‘shining path.'”

            “Path.  Pfad is the German for path,” I repeat, realizing Wally is right.  “Very good, Herr Wolf.  How did you know I couldn’t remember that?  Shining Path is a Maoist guerilla group in Peru!”

            “Sendero Luminoso in Spanish,” says Valerie.

            “Right, but I don’t see any connection,” the Aryan poster boy opines.  “Leuchtenpfad is anything but a Maoist.”

            “Seems like an awfully big coincidence,” I insist.  “Such a great name, Shining Path.  I always hated that a bunch of idiotic communist fanatics preempted it.  What a joke!”

            “Don’t worry, Alberto Fujimori took care of them,” boasts Takashi.

            “Yeah, right before he bailed to Japan, no doubt with a steamer trunk full of hundred dollar bills, courtesy of the CIA,” I comment disdainfully.

            “The world could use a few more Fujimoris,” asserts Wally.

            “He and Tojo would have gotten along famously, I’m sure,” retorts Esther.

            “I agree, Esther!”  I find myself getting passionate now.  “That’s typical right-wing thinking.  It’s like saying Hitler could have been an effective buffer in combating Bolshevism!”

            “Isn’t it ironic?” says Jagrati out of the blue, with affected tone and facial expression.

            “Don’t you think?” Valerie chimes in melodically.  We all laugh at the allusion to Alanis Morisset’s Top 40 hit.  The tension is broken for the moment.

            “Anyone got a jagged little pill?” asks Esther.

            “I got one hand in my pocket...” says Jagrati.

            “And the other one is choking Michael the Satyr,” I complete the line, realizing immediately the joke is a transparent veneer pulled over my hostility.

            “You, you, you, you ought to know!” shrieks Takashi, credibly mimicking Alanis’s raging lunacy, to everyone’s delight.

            Except for Go-Go, who is ready for us to get back on task.  “Now that we all have that out of our systems, let’s go over the material from the classes.  Who took good notes?”

            Valerie raises her hand.  “Let me see, there really wasn’t any explicit information presented in Professor Hayes’ class.  We got to class and everyone sat down.  Professor Hayes walked in and started the multimedia show without checking to see who was there.  Go-Go tried to tell her Will would be here shortly.  She didn’t react.  It was like she didn’t care who was there.  I don’t think she said anything at all prior to Will coming in.”

            “Does anyone have anything to add to that?” Go-Go asks.

            “I felt that she reacted subtly to Go-Go,” Jagrati observes, “as if she knew when Will would be coming without being told."

            “That’s purely subjective,” Wally objects.

            “You shmucks never get it about feminine intuition!” exclaims Esther.

            Wally turns red as everyone laughs at his expense.

            “Actually, I was right next to Dr. Hayes,” Takashi discloses, “and I heard her mutter under her breath something like, ‘Yes, yes, I know about Will.’"

            “See, muscle brain?”  exults Esther.  I detect an erotic undercurrent in her harassment of Wally, who seems inured to the verbal abuse.

            Valerie continues, “So, she turned the lights down and started the acid rock music and the light show.  I found it all very dramatic, especially the images of soldiers in Vietnam, civil rights marchers, and anti-war protesters with that almost Flamenco-sounding  music.  Will came in right as the vocal began.”

            “So, I really didn’t miss anything?” I say.  I feel oddly relieved.

            “What about the music?” Go-Go queries further. 

            “What is 'White Rabbit' by the Jefferson Airplane?” I shout.  “Straight out of the summer of love.  The lyric is built around references to Lewis Carroll’s books, Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass,” I add, always happy to flaunt my vast store of trivial information.

            “And they’re both full of wordplay!” Takashi comments enthusiastically.  I notice that his shirt features a hilarious takeoff on Japanese use of English.

            “Yeah, but Lewis Carroll wrote for children.  The song is about an LSD trip,” Esther notes.

            “Like everything else the Jefferson Airplane did back then,” I respond.  “I forgot to mention that part.  They both have to do with someone going into an alternative reality where everything is turned around in bizarre and humorous ways.  'White Rabbit' is from their album Surrealistic Pillow.  Oh, and Tune in, turn on, drop out was Timothy Leary’s catchphrase for the countercultural, drug-induced consciousness-expansion movement.”  Can you say "Know-it-all?" my thoughts shout at me.  Why do you need to impress everyone with how smart you are? 

            “And, purple haze was a type of LSD that was circulating back then,” Takashi adds, showing that he, too, would be a force to be reckoned with in a game of Trivial Pursuit.

             “Right, right,” I say, letting everyone see that, of course, I knew that, too.

             “So,” Go-Go summarizes, “we have whimsical children’s literature, acid rock, alternative realities, countercultural movements, war, civil rights struggles, political strife, and hallucinogenic drugs.”

             “What do you expect from a course entitled Introductory Psychedelics!” laughs Takashi.

            “That crap is totally out of left field!” Wally begins to rant, “and Hayes, showing off her ancient boobs with that made me want to puke!”

            “I’m sure,” observes Esther, “that you were also sickened by the way the tight jeans were hugging her crotch, Wally.”

            “The title of the Jefferson Airplane’s album would be a reference to sleep and dreams,” Jagrati notes.

              “Good point, Jag,” says Valerie. “And there was a third song, I think it was called 'Caught in a dream.'  What about it, Will and Takashi?”  She seems to be figuring out something about who knows what.

            “You want to take this one, Nakamura-San?" I ask, trying to perform damage control by showing some humility.

            Takashi smiles.  “Sure, Will.  That’s by Alice Cooper, who came along after the sixties peace and love movement began to deteriorate into drugs, sex and rock-and-roll decadence.  Alice’s music was very shallow and cynical.  But it had a good beat and you could dance to it.  I’d give it an 8.5.” 

            “Will?” asks Go-Go.  It has become obvious to everyone that I like to have the last word.

            “Nothing to add.  Takashi said it all,” I submit, giving only a slight indication of arrogance via the stamp of approval. 

            “Well, I’ve got a little something,” Wally unexpectedly asserts.  “Alice Cooper knows BS when he sees it.  He was sending up the entire sixties hooey extravaganza.  Dude became a conservative Republican and now he hangs out with Senator John McCain at the Phoenix Country Club!”

            “At least he has better taste than to hang out with that know-nothing son of a Bush!” I retort.

            “Who will be our next President!” Wally reminds me.

            “Because the Supreme Court is stacked with his daddy’s golf buddies!” I fire back.

            “Enough, boys!” says Go-Go, losing patience with our testosterone-fueled antics.

            “Wait a second,” I suddenly interject.  “Why aren’t we analyzing the things that happened yesterday, as well, like orientation and that party no one wants to tell me about?”

            Go-Go looks at me sternly, yet with obvious pain.  What’s with her on this?   “OK, Will.  We showed up right in this room for orientation and all we found was a stack of handouts on lavender paper, and eight purple notebooks.”

            A light bulb goes on.  “Wait, I found one of those sheets in my pocket.”

             “And you have the notebook, too, Einstein,” adds Wally.  “That’s because you were there.  We all walked around looking at the campus and seeing where the classes were.”

            “I did? ..and ...was Leuchtenpfad ...?”

            “Yes, he was with us, too,” Go-Go confirms.  “He was bright enough.  I thought he seemed  pretty much like one of us.”

            “Not to me,” Jagrati offers. “True, he was quite intelligent; but I sensed a very strong hatred about him, almost an aura.”

            “You did?” Go-Go says with surprise.  “I missed that entirely.

            “I had an intense feeling of distaste as soon as I laid eyes on him!” I chime in.

            “Yes, I felt your hostility at the orientation, as well,” she affirms, turning the acerbic comment back on me.  Jagrati’s keen instincts could become annoying.

             “I bet Wally set off Jag’s smoke alarms, too,” says Esther, like me unable to allow a good opening to pass by.

            “Not in the same way,” Jagrati observes.

            “And I don’t even remember being there...” I say, still wandering off on my own track.

            “Wally is clear and strong in his beliefs,” Jagrati adds to her response to Esther, ignoring my egocentric tangent.

            Go-Go recognizes that Jagrati has a gift.  “Is there anything else you sensed?”

             “That you were very tense, Go-Go.  And that Dr. Hayes is jaded and world-weary.”

            The Wolf’s turn to pounce upon another of his pet hatreds.  “Yeah, she’s a worthless, burned-out hippie.  You don’t have to be an empath to see that!”

            I don the scrunched eyes and curled lip of sarcastic dismissal.  “By the way, Wally, didn’t you used to play linebacker for the Munich Jack Boots?  Look, if we were given LSD by Leuchtenpfad, that ties in with "White Rabbit," "Purple Haze" and the sixties.  We can’t just dismiss that because you don’t approve of hippies!  Hayes was telling us something through that.”

            “Besides, I love that music!” says Takashi.

            “Listen, guys,” Go-Go breaks in.  “The androgen level in the room is a bit high, even without Michael being here.  And we’re getting ahead of ourselves.  We’re not going to figure it all out right now.  This arguing is pure toxic waste!  Let’s just put the pieces of the jigsaw puzzle on the table, and we’ll start assembling them when we have a few more.”

            I see that Wally is clinching his jaw and has his lips drawn tightly together.  He and I have found something in common: we both hate to have our immaturity pointed out by women.  I decide to keep my mouth shut, too. 

            “Now, what about Lezard’s class?” says Go-Go, relentlessly redirecting us to the task.  “He came down heavily on the side of Truth and being awake.”

            Valerie speaks up immediately. “Professor Lezard placed everything in the context of religious themes,” she says.  “The quote from the Rilke elegy speaks of angels and the terror they evoke.  The popular romantic view we have of angels is a far cry from what the Bible reveals about them.  In scripture, the first thing angels say to humans is ‘Fear not!’ because they know the person receiving their message is going to be awestruck before their glorious presence.”

            “How does that relate to the Bible passages Lezard alluded to?” Wally inquires, saving me the embarrassment of showing my ignorance in this area.

            “The first section is from Isaiah, one of the greatest Jewish prophets,” Esther asserts.  “He lived during the time the Assyrians were threatening the divided kingdoms of Solomon.  In the passage that ends with the part Valerie recited, Isaiah is having a vision of the Holy One of Israel, where the roof of the temple is ripped off and angels come streaming in.  One seraph takes a red hot coal out of the brazier and touches Isaiah’s tongue with it.”

            “Ouch!” I cry out, unable to miss the chance to ridicule my religious heritage.  “You know that hurt!”

            “You bet it hurt,” Esther agrees.  “Like Valerie said, Isaiah expected to be annihilated by the sight of God and his angels, a sentiment Rilke captures perfectly in that poem.  It’s a good thing for Isaiah the angel wasn’t horny!  Having third-degree burns on his lips was getting off easy.”

            Even Valerie laughs at that one and I have to admire the way Esther one-ups me. 

            “And what about the New Testament verse?” Go-Go asks.

            Valerie takes this toss-up.  “Jesus, like Isaiah, is preaching to the Jews in Jerusalem.  He is trying to tell them the truth, but they still will not listen, just like the Jews Isaiah prophesied to.”

            In one part of my brain, the explanations tying together Lezard’s statements trigger another light bulb, even as my self-control fails yet again.

            “Well, this leaves us in a bit of a dilemma, doesn’t it?” I hear myself starting in.  “Jesus is telling the Jews to believe in him or else they all go to hell, isn’t he?  Well, a lot of them didn’t buy the message.  Does that mean they all went to hell?”

            “That’s not for me to judge,” Valerie retorts.

            “Oh, I see, God gets the honor, right?  That’s a cop-out!  Esther is a Jew, so isn’t she going to hell?"

            “In a handbasket,” Esther laughs.  “I’m well on my way.”

            But I cannot let it go.  “Well, doesn’t Jesus threaten everyone with going to hell if they don’t fall into line?  I recall something about sheep and goats that ends with wailing and gnashing of teeth by the rejects.  Come on, tell us what you really think, Valerie!”         

            Once more, Go-Go has to step in.  “Will, would you put away your f*cking agenda, please?”  I am taken aback by Go-Go’s playing of the "F" card.  She looks seriously frustrated with me.  “How is this little demonstration of yours going to help us get out of here?  Couldn’t you just keep an open mind until we have a chance see how the pieces fit together?”

            I know she is right.  I look around at my friends’ faces and feel a flood of genuine remorse.  “I’m sorry, everyone,” I begin.  Then I take Valerie by the hand and say, “I apologize, especially to you, Val, for my unprovoked and senseless attack.  You certainly deserve better from me.  As you can tell, I have issues from my religious upbringing, but a reason is not an excuse.  We don’t need to be distracted from our work by my indulging in arrogance and self-righteousness.  Which, of course, are two of the very sins I hate the most in Bible-thumping types.  I promise right now you will not hear anything else out of me except for my best effort to help solve the problem we all have.”

            Strangely, I feel more connected to everyone after the act of contrition.

            “It’s OK, Will,” says Valerie.  “Everyone has issues.”

            “And thanks for standing up for us Jews,” adds Esther, facetiously.

            “No harm done, man,” says Wally, taking the opportunity to be a team player instead of piling on a rival male.  “Let’s move on.”

            “Would anyone else like to comment on Lezard’s class?” asks Go-Go. 

            I see a chance for a small step toward redemption.  “Take two on my response to the comments about Rilke.  Esther and Valerie talked about the religious themes in Rilke with great insight.  I want to add that Rilke was also concerned with worldly passions and longings, how they produce sorrow due to our weakness and limitations.”

            “Thanks, Will.  That’s an important observation,” Go-Go says, reinforcing my good behavior.  Suddenly, I am nine-years old and the teacher has given me a gold star.

            Jagrati wishes to add something, as well.  “I have a thought related to Will’s issue.  Hell is often defined as separation from the divinity,” she declares.  “If that is the case, then we are in hell right now.”

            On that note, we are finally ready to move to the next phase of the plan.  We decide that a change of scenes would be helpful to clear the air, our minds and whatever else needs clearing.  We exit Hesperides and take the short walk across the commons to the Morpheus Institute Research and Theoretical Library, affectionately known as Myrtle among the students.  I maneuver surreptitiously to walk beside Takashi during the transition.

            “So, what’s the deal with Wally and Esther?” I ask him at a point in our walk where no one else can hear.  “I’m detecting erotic tension underneath their battle of the sexes.”

            Takashi looks amused.  “Nice inference, Sherlock.  Esther and Wally are married.  I thought you knew, Will. ”

            I wonder what else I don’t know.

6.  He forgot all about the library

            I am alleged to have been introduced to Myrtle during the orientation day tour; however, I still have no memory of the day, beyond my familiarity with the people in our group.  Thus, after walking up the stairs and passing through the double front doors, very tall and heavy like all the doors at Morpheus Institute, I feel that I am seeing the interior for the first time.  I should mention here that I love libraries; and, at first blush, Myrtle is one whose charms might easily tempt me into beginning a serious affair.  Like the other interiors I have seen at MI, at least the ones I remember, the wood and carpeting and the signs and all the details speak of wealth, tradition, and artistic taste, the sort of trappings I would expect to find at Cambridge or Oxford.  Lezard’s phrase “the plunder of a thousand civilizations” is fitting:  the ambience of the library virtually drips with intellectual and scholarly distinction.

            Our team finds a long table, not unlike the one at the Hesperides, in the reference area near the card catalog files.  MI seems not to have made it to the electronic age yet—no CRTs are in evidence, just the old-fashioned wooden file cabinets so familiar from my youth.  The anachronism merely adds to Myrtle’s charm.

            Field Marshal Grace is ready to press on with the campaign.  OK, the loud inner voice is lecturing me, this time you will not act like a jerk.  Go-Go has her purple notebook open to a page with our names neatly double-spaced down the rows and the words Research Areas along the top line.  I notice that her penmanship is graceful and elegant.

            “We need to get going on the research very quickly,” she begins.  “I feel strongly that time, although we can’t keep accurate track of it here, is of the essence.  I will start by asking each one of you to write your name on a piece of paper along with a list of the areas you wish to be responsible for reviewing and summarizing.  Please list as many as possible and rank order them with 1 being your first choice, 2 your second choice, and so on.  We will then look at our stated preferences with two things in mind.  First, because of the very broad areas of knowledge our problem encompasses, the assignments will have to be mutually exclusive.  If more than one of you rank the same area highest, we will have to resolve who gets the assignment.  Second, we need to cover as many of the important areas we’ve identified as possible, given our constraints.  Limitations include our small number of warm bodies, only seven since Michael is not here, and the fact that we will probably become too tired to think before we have finished even a preliminary review of the research areas.  I hope that the assignment protocol I have proposed will cut down on the amount of discussion it takes to get organized."  Here, Go-Go pauses and sends Wally and myself icy glances.  “Questions or comments?”

            I am impressed by the efficiency and practicality of Go-Go’s plan, so I choose simply to shake my head "no."  However, I find myself wondering what the tie-breaker will be if several of us want the same areas. 

            “So,” Wally addresses Go-Go without raising his hand, “what’s the tie-breaker if several of us want the same areas?” 

            “In that case,” Go-Go replies without missing a beat, “the girls will huddle and you will be informed of our decision immediately.”

            “Oh,” he replies without protest.  Takashi and I are chuckling and making faces to one another at the Wolf’s expense.  Meanwhile, Esther and Valerie exchange high fives.  Even Jagrati is smiling.  It appears as if the ice has suddenly melted.

            Very quickly, the lots are cast and Go-Go examines them with help from her female teammates.  They read the pieces of paper and whisper into Go-Go’s ear.  Next to the names, Go-Go then jots down short phrases which I attempt unsuccessfully to read upside down.  The whole process is over in short order.

            “Here’s what we have,” Go-Go addresses the entire group.  She does not mention that only those of the male persuasion are in suspense about the outcome.  “Will, your assignment is abnormal psychology.  Obviously, you will need to concentrate on altered states of consciousness resulting in vivid dreams or hallucinations accompanied by memory loss.”

            “My extensive experience with these symptoms made me the obvious choice,” I laugh, fully satisfied with the assignment.

            “Wally will take history, anthropology, and classical mythology.  Suggested topics include the invention of LSD, the social divisions in America during the 1960s, the spread of hallucinogenic drug use, and anything you can find about altered states in various cultures, especially those represented by our students or mentioned by Dr. Lezard.  Also whatever you can find out about Morpheus, Elektra, and the fabulous beasts depicted in the statues at the entrance gate.  That’s a very broad range to cover, Wally, but we have confidence in your energy, focus, and determination.”

            I observe the Wolf closely to see how he reacts to his commission.  Contrary to my expectation that he will display self-satisfaction, Wally is as impassive as any poker player.  All I see is a man with energy, focus and determination.

            “Takashi, you’ve got music.  I suggest you concentrate on the groups and artists whose work figured in the events so far,” Go-Go instructs him.

            “Would that include Roy Orbison and the music from the orientation party?”  he inquires, reminding me that I do not know what they know about events prior to the nightmare.

            “Absolutely,” Go-Go replies, “and anything else you deem relevant.”  I feel a little jealous that he has been given explicit free rein and I wasn’t.  However, I am not ready to ditch my commitment to being a team player.

            “Now, for those who are curious, here are the women’s assignments.”  I note that Go-Go, too, is not above needling the loyal opposition.  “I am taking the literary and artistic references.  I will concentrate initially on Lewis Carroll and Rilke; and I will also see if I can identify the artistic heritage of the bronze monsters at the front gate.”  She pauses.  “Of course, when we confer later, some of you may have additional information you will wish to add.”  Go-Go punctuates the sentence with a prissy glance aimed my way, leaving no doubt as to the target of her remark.  She continues, “Valerie will research the Christian, Jewish and Islamic texts as well as the literature on mystical dreams, visions, prophecy, and other religious experiences involving altered awareness.  Esther will take the clinical pharmacology of hallucinogenic substances both natural and synthetic.  Finally, Jagrati will examine the modern literature on sleep and dreams.  Does anyone object to this arrangement?”

            The women are all on the same page; and Wally and I are in no mood to be further emasculated.  Only Takashi can safely venture a question or comment.  I am pleased when he exercises his privilege, as I have numerous thoughts popping up triggered by the way the ladies have gained control of our activities.

            “This makes perfect sense to me, Go-Go,” Takashi begins diplomatically.  “On behalf of the entire team, but especially the guys, let me thank you for your awesome leadership.” 

            Go-Go and the girls bow, wave, and blow kisses.  It reminds me of the USA Women’s Gymnastic team on the medal platform right after The Star-Spangled Banner is played over the PA system.  All they lack to complete the effect is red, white and blue spandex outfits, four bouquets of flowers, and Bela Karoli looking on with fatherly pride. 

            “The only point I want to raise is, I’m thinking that each of us will run across potentially important information that’s not directly a part of the assignment the individual has.  I presume that you want us to use our judgment as to whether we should change directions and pursue the lead?”

            “That’s right,” Go-Go affirms.  “Everyone here is an adult with a mind of his or her own.  I have the same confidence in each of you that I have in Wally.”  In spite of the fact that my friendly adversary is being singled out for praise, I am very impressed with Go-Go’s leadership.  The adjective Takashi chose is more than just flattery.  Not that Go-Go would buy into BS and hype, anyway.

            “No more questions?”  Go-Go says, looking around.  “Good, then here are your final instructions.  Keep reading, taking notes, and following up on leads until you feel that you will drop dead if you open one more book.  When you reach that point, return to the reference desk with your notes and any books you want to show us.  Then, you may close your eyes and wait for the others to show up.  OK.  Let’s hit the stacks.”

            We all rise and move toward a wall chart of the stacks.  As we study the locations of the categories under our areas of responsibility, Go-Go addresses one last remark to us.

            “And may The Force be with you.”

            I have mixed feelings about splitting up in the Library.  Usually, this to me would be as being tossed bodily into the briar patch is to Br’er Rabbit; but intuitively I feel a need to stay physically close to my friends, especially Go-Go.  Even though I know intellectually that this is only some sort of dream, I cannot help feeling that something bad may happen if I let her out of my sights for too long.  An even stronger reason is that I simply want to spend my time with her and savor each precious moment of being in her presence. 

            Nevertheless, I know that the success of our mission is more important than my immediate emotional needs; so, dutifully I take my purple notebook and start up the stairs towards the second floor library section that holds the largest concentration of medical and psychological volumes.  As a result of the assignments, Esther and Jagrati are also headed with me toward the same general section.  I feel some comfort from being with at least a part of the team; and despite my lack of general machismo, I find myself feeling protective of the two ladies.  Go-Go, Takashi, and Wally also discover that the books they target first are in a third-floor section devoted to the humanities, so they head upstairs together in that direction.  I am pleased that Go-Go has two capable men to assist her in case of trouble.  Valerie’s material is located in a basement section accessed through a flight of stairs at the back of the first floor.  She will have to go down there alone, which causes me, and I’m sure all of us, anxiety.

            “I’ll be OK,” Val says bravely as she ventures forth.  “The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear?”

7.         The next time you see me coming

            Setting aside my concerns, I quickly lose myself in the treasure house of books.  I begin with the Encyclopedia of Psychology and check the entries for dreams, hallucinations, amnesia, mental disorders, and altered states of consciousness.  This produces a list of additional key words: delirium, delusion, dementia, dissociation, fugue state, hypnosis, paranoia, psychosis, schizophrenia, suggestibility.  I omit lucid dreaming and hallucinogenic drugs from my official list since these fall into the domains of my associates.  I promise myself I will stick to my assignment and not go off on tangents. 

            Myrtle’s collection of books related to my subjects, and many other subjects not germane to my work, is amazingly rich and diverse.  Although I cannot recall specific libraries I frequented in Real Life, I have a distinct impression that this is the best I have ever seen.  I find myself in a very pleasant mood as I carry stacks of books and journals back to add to the growing piles on a table where I have set up shop.  Hearty research of all kinds of literature invigorates me; books on psychology are especially appealing.  Some indeterminate span of time later, it occurs to me that I have yet to actually consume any of this intellectually appetizing material.  Better start to read some of this

            I scan through the purple notebook to orient myself for the reading.  Here, I notice the citation I made in Lezard’s class earlier in the day.

Isaiah 6: 9-10

            In spite of all good intentions, I find myself drawn to a Bible I apparently picked up on one of my trips to the stacks.  It flips open conveniently to the exact page where the passage Val read is found, early in the lengthy book chronicling the prophet’s career.

6 In the year that King Uziah died, I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lofty; and the hem of his robe filled the temple.  2 Seraphs were in attendance above him; each had six wings; with two they covered their faces; and with two they covered their feet; and with two they flew.  3 And one called to another and said:
            “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts;
            the whole world is full of his glory.”
4 The pivots on the thresholds shook at the voices of those who called, and the house filled with smoke.

            As one who has had a strong negative bias toward the Good Book since childhood, I am nevertheless struck by the power of this dramatic scene:  A respectable citizen is worshiping as the Law says he must and here comes God blasting into the church surrounded by hordes of strange celestial beings.  I don’t recall this ever happening during the 8 A.M. service at Nazareth Presbyterian. 

5 And I said, “Woe is me!  I am lost, for I am a man of unclean lips; and I live among a people of unclean lips; yet my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!”

            Apparently, this is not a typical experience in the life of an ancient Hebrew.  Just as Val and Esther said, I comment internally, the man is terrified.  Rilke knew that.  He was not making up a whole new concept of angels; he was aware that the ancient Hebrews had a visceral sense of the terrible reality of angels and he used it as the ground for his symbolic angels.  I realize that I overestimated my understanding of the Duino Elegies prior to reading this passage.  It also dawns upon me that probably I’m just scratching the surface of Rilke’s art.  I continue reading Isaiah.

6 Then one of the seraphs flew to me, holding a live coal that had been taken from the altar with a pair of tongs.  7 The seraph touched my mouth with it and said: “Now that this has touched your lips, your sin is blotted out.”

            Bizarre, I say to myself.  This must be some sort of initiation ordeal.  The man is undergoing a level of hazing that would cause a fraternity to get booted off campus permanently!  I have a sense that beneath the shell of the story lies a hidden core of meaning that is within the scope of human cognition.  But I am not ready to grasp it.  I read on.

8 Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send and who will go for us?”  And I said, “Here I am; send me!”

            What an onslaught of shocking and violent turns of the story!  One second Isaiah is minding his own business attending church, the next he is expecting to be annihilated in an assault of the Divine Presence, then he is purified in a cruel and unusual manner without signing a consent form, and the next moment he volunteers for a mission with no idea what this unpredictable Deity will be telling him to do.

            9 And he said, “Go and say to this people:

            The passage quoted by Valerie in Lezard’s class follows.  I re-read it, recalling how she spoke the words a short time ago with such strength and conviction.  The orders and the mission the Lord of Hosts lays on his new recruit are perplexing.  Why does God not want the people to get the message?  Since He created these miserable beings, doesn’t God know they tend to be a bit dense and hard-headed?  Is He using reverse psychology or just being sarcastic?

            The nasal voice of Bob Dylan starts twanging in my head.

            God said to Abraham, “Kill me a son.”
            Abe said, “Man, you must be putting me on!”
            God said, “No.”
            Abe said, “What?”
            God said, “You can do anything you want Abe, but...
            The next time you see me coming, you better run.”

            Having stopped reading Scripture prior to junior high, I held onto the Dylanesque notion that the Bible is a repetitive story of people being given impossible rules to follow by a dictatorial Deity who has the power to have things His way.  Inevitably, after finding themselves unwilling or unable to adhere to the commandments, the hapless mortals get waxed for their trouble both now and in the hereafter.  This passage in Isaiah is demolishing my assumptions about how the game is played.  The Biblical God is much weirder and more incomprehensible than I would ever have imagined.  And Val sees something in this passage that I am missing.  What is it?

            The next time I look up, I discover myself reading through the closing chapters of Isaiah, thoroughly intrigued and even resonating with many of the amazing passages of divinely inspired poetry.  I especially like the parts where the Holy One dresses down the privileged class and promises to demolish them for their hypocritical acts of worship when they are shamelessly lording it over the needy.  Am I beginning to get what Valerie Brown gets?   My God, I think, I had better start to do my actual assignment instead of duplicating Val’s job.  At that moment, Valerie herself walks by and taps me on the shoulder.

            “I needed something on this floor,” she whispers, letting me know she is OK as she passes down the row smiling with... amusement?  Did she see I was reading the Bible?  Oh, well.

            Finally finishing Isaiah, I plunge straightway into the psychological tomes; and, finding them exciting in their own right, I manage to stay on task fairly well from this point.  At the next mile marker of consciousness, I find my head drooping into the pages of a thick volume with many more intriguing works still unexamined.  I do not want to stop, but I have no idea what I have just read.  My notes offer no clues.  There can be no doubt that I am in the mental condition Go-Go described in her marching orders; so, I decide to carry a few of the more promising books back to the reference room on the ground floor, satisfied in the belief that I am on the trail of the answers to our dilemma.

8.  I am the walrus.

            I return to the reference room expecting to be the last one in.  But, in yet another of those unlikely coincidences that happen in dreams, date movies, and bad works of fiction, everyone is arriving back at the same time.  Go-Go is already at the table.  I sit down in an empty place on her right.  My relief to be in her proximity is tempered by the recognition that Go-Go, for the first time, looks less than one hundred and ten percent.  Considerably less.  In fact, she appears so tired and emotionally drained that if she were your cell phone, you would be looking around nervously for the charger.  Wally seems to realize that someone else needs to step up, because he rises to his feet while placing his right hand on Go-Go’s shoulder momentarily.

            “OK,” he begins, letting us know that he has assumed command, “does anyone have an opinion about the order we should give our reports?  I say we go from the oldest material to the newest or our best approximation of that.”  No one questions Wally’s leadership or offers an alternative plan.  Undoubtedly, we are all worried about Go-Go’s state, and are bolstered by his manly attitude.  “Since my Greek mythology came earlier than the Christian and Muslim literature and also predates the main Hebrew scripture, let me begin with it.  It won’t take long to present what I have.  Let’s all keep it short and to the point, OK?  We need to get some rest; and, if necessary, we can go over things in more depth tomorrow.

            “First, Morpheus was the Greek god of dreams.  His father was Hypnos or Somnus, the god of sleep.  Morpheus was believed to be one who forms the shapes, the sculptor if you will, of our dreams.  He also showed up in them disguised as the various characters.  Morpheus had two brothers who were in charge of animals and inanimate objects that appeared in dreams.  He was a minor god who has no surviving stories in the Greek literature.  I found it interesting that Hypnos, the god of sleep, had a twin brother Thanatos who was the god of death.  Their parents were Erebus or darkness and Nyx, the goddess of night.  They, in turn, were born of one parent, Chaos.  Make what you will of all that.

            “The original Chimera is also from Greek mythology.  The Chimera was sort of the Godzilla of its day, going around terrorizing the countryside and breathing fire.  It was the offspring of two terrible gods, Typhon and Echidna.  The Chimera had the head of a lion, the body of a goat and a snake head for a tail.  Sometimes it had three heads as above.  In the earliest myth, it was slain by the hero Bellerophon, who is best known for catching and riding Pegasus, the winged horse.

            “I had this great poster in my room that showed Godzilla fighting a three-headed monster,” I find myself interrupting Wally.  Esther and Val roll their eyes, and Go-Go looks out of it.  “Sorry.”

            “That was King Ghidora,” says Takashi.

            Wally continues as if nothing were said.  “Elektra is the name of several women in Greek mythology.  Two were minor goddesses and one was a daughter of Agamemnon, King of Mycenae, who led the Greek forces against Troy.  The Princess Elektra helped her brother Orestes plot revenge against their mother, Queen Clytemnestra, for murdering Agamemnon.  Orestes killed Clytemnestra and her lover, and in some versions of the story, Elektra helped him do them.  The story reminds me somewhat of Hamlet with a sister.  That’s about it for the Greek myths.”

            I am impressed by Wally’s crisp summary.  If forced to be honest, I would have to admit that I am more comfortable with Wally’s masculine leadership style than Go-Go’s feminine button pushing.  Wally turns to Valerie Brown.  “What about presenting your part next, Val?”

            “Nice work, Wally,” she compliments him.  “You heard the Old and New Testament scriptures in class, as well as the Muslim confession of faith in Arabic.  Starting with the oldest, Isaiah lived between about 740 and 681 B.C.  He was a prophet primarily during the reigns of three Jewish kings, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah.  Fundamentalists will argue with this, but the book of Isaiah is believed by most scholars to be the work of several writers living at different points in time.  The entire book is very diverse in style and content, but it also has considerable overall thematic and linguistic unity.  The passage I recited in class is from the original Isaiah, who lived in Jerusalem and was a highly educated member of the ruling class.  During Isaiah’s life, a long period of decline in the fortunes of ancient Israel was in progress.  The peak of power for Israel was the reign of King Solomon.  After his death in 922 B.C., Solomon’s kingdom was split into two parts.  The northern part, whose capital was Samaria, was conquered by the Assyrians in 721 B.C., during Isaiah’s early adulthood.  The Assyrians tried to overrun the southern kingdom, Judah, around 705 B.C., but failed due to a plague that struck their army while it was besieging the capital, JerusalemJudah hung on for about 100 years after Isaiah’s death, but Jerusalem was conquered and sacked by the Babylonians in 586 B.C.  As a book, Isaiah reads like a roller coaster, alternating between peaks of blissful salvation and valleys of utter destruction.  Many of the important predictions about the Messiah are found in this book.  Parts of Isaiah are considered to be among the most beautiful and profound passages in scripture.  Jesus himself quotes the same passage in slightly different form in the Gospel of Matthew (13:14).  One more point I’ll mention is a rabbinic tradition holding that Isaiah survived until the rule of Manasseh, one of the vilest of the Jewish kings.  The story goes that Manasseh ordered his soldiers to kill Isaiah, but the prophet fled.  Isaiah prayed to be delivered and, in answer to his prayer, God caused a tree to grow around him.  However, Manasseh’s men sawed the tree in half, killing Isaiah.   I don’t know if that story has any credibility or relevance, but I sure found it interesting.

            “The next scripture Professor Lezard quoted is from about 750 years later.  However, it takes place in the exact same location, namely the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, which was the central holy place in Judaism and still is, despite the fact that a mosque now stands on the site.  The temple of Isaiah was Solomon’s temple.  It was demolished and burned by the Babylonians when they sacked Jerusalem in 586 B.C.  A second Temple was built on the site between 537 and 516 B.C. after the Persians restored the exiled Jews to their homeland.  The passage from John including the famous line 'You shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free' was spoken in the third Temple, built 500 years later by Herod.  This was a spectacular fifteen-story edifice on the site of the earlier ones.  Herod had it constructed in only eighteen months around 20 B.C.  He was a powerful tyrant, sanctioned by the Romans, who could get things done quickly if he wished.

            “We all know there are four versions of the Gospel or 'good news':  Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.  The first three are called the synoptic gospels, synoptic meaning “the same eyes,” because they are predominantly written with overlapping material.  Each one has relatively minor variations and unique sections, but scholars have determined that they all derive from one or more common sources, the most important of which has been termed ‘Q.’  In contrast, the fourth gospel, John, is quite different from the other three, both in the style of writing and in the content.  Much of the material in John is not found in the synoptic gospels. 

            “John has many long passages where Jesus explains spiritual matters in depth, with an erudite style.  For example, Jesus is referred to as the logos, a Greek philosophical term meaning the word or organizing principle.  John starts out with an esoteric retelling of the creation story from Genesis which reads as if it is intended to be mysterious and confusing.  It is as if the synoptic gospels are geared to the uneducated masses who do best with concrete stories and illustrations, while John is pitched to attract well-educated persons who have read the great works of literature and philosophy and are more impressed by an abstract approach.  John 8:32 occurs in the middle of a long conversation Jesus is having in the Temple with the educated Pharisees centering on questions the Jews are raising about his authority to speak for God.  Several other famous sayings of Jesus occur in chapter 8, including 'Let him who is without sin cast the first stone,' 'I am the light of the world,' and 'If you knew me, you would know my father, also.'  The chapter is concerned with truth and with Jesus’ claim to be speaking the truth on behalf of God.  Near the end of chapter 8, I found a less well-known passage that seems to relate to Lezard’s lecture.  I want to read it out loud for everyone to hear and see what you think.  This is John 8, verses 43 through 45.

Why is my language not clear to you?  Because you do not hear what I say.  You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desire.  He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to truth, for there is no truth in him.  When he speaks, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.  Yet because I tell the truth, you do not believe me!

            “Wow,” Takashi exclaims.  “That’s right on the money, Val!”

            “So, Jesus was telling the top Jewish scholars that their father is the devil and they want to murder the truth?  I had no idea he was such a radical!  No wonder they needed to kill him,” I say, now being surprised to discover that Jesus had the audacity to tell off the ultra-religious types of his day.  If this dream goes on much longer, I may have to drop my prejudices against the Bible.

            “Will,” Esther interjects, “please don’t promulgate the idea that the Jews killed Jesus.  A lot of us Jews have been killed by Christians working along that line of thought.”

            “Hey, I’m not a Christian,” I say, jumping to my own defense and ignoring Esther’s point.  “And I’m certainly no Bible scholar, either, so don’t quote me on anything.  I just figured that telling those upper-echelon Pharisees that their father is the devil, the father of lies, would be a major insult.”

            “Oh, it was,” Esther agrees.  “You are right on that point.”

            “OK, Valerie,” Wally steps in to get things moving again.  “What about the Islamic part?”

            “That’s very interesting, too,” Val continues, “and it ties in with the rest of Lezard’s lecture.  Islam is Arabic for surrender.  It refers to the practice of surrender to God that was taught by Muhammad.  To a Muslim, Muhammad is the Prophet, a regular mortal who was chosen by God or Al-lah, if you will, to receive the final rendition of divine instructions on how to surrender to Allah.  Since in one sense Allah is the transcendent truth, Islam is surrender to the truth.

            "Muhammad was an Arab living in Mecca in the sixth century A.D.  Arabia at the time was a total cultural backwater, if you can apply that metaphor to an arid place like the Arabian Peninsula.  The Arabs were a small ethnic group occupying a vast and largely barren land that, for the most part, no one else found attractive enough to want to conquer and occupy.  The Arabs considered themselves to be descendants of Ishmael, the son of Abraham by a slave named Hagar.  In the book of Genesis, when Abraham’s elderly wife performed the miraculous feat of having a baby, whom they named Isaac, Ishmael became a second-class citizen.  Following a pattern you see throughout the book of Genesis, Sarah won the battle of the mothers to have their preferred son be the heir apparent, reducing the rival son to a precarious state of disgrace.  In this case, Sarah sent Hagar and Ishmael off into the desert to die.  Now, that doesn’t sound so great, except God felt sorry for Hagar, who had done nothing wrong, and told her that Ishmael would also be the father of a nation.  So, Hagar and Ishmael trekked on down to Arabia and settled there.  Despite being mostly pagan, the Arabs of Muhammad’s day took pride in being descended from Abraham, just like the Jews. 

            “Muhammad was born into a family of traders in 570 A.D.  This was a time when the Western Roman Empire had already fallen to barbarian rulers, and to the east, the Byzantine Empire was considerably weakened by internal strife.  Up until he was forty years old, Muhammad was just a regular businessman engaged in the caravan trade, illiterate like most Arabs, but respected as a man of high moral character.  His nickname was Muhammad the Honest.

             “Muhammad was interested in Judaism and Christianity, which he encountered during his travels in the Middle East.  He found the idea of monotheism very attractive, admired that both the Jews and Christians had their own Holy Books, and came to believe that the idol worship practiced by most of his fellows was false and evil.  Muhammad had a practice of taking an annual retreat in a cave to meditate.  In the year 610 A.D., while Muhammad was in his cave, an angel came to him and told him to recite aloud.  Since he couldn’t read, Muhammad just repeated the angel’s words, which became the first lines of the Quran revealed to him.

Recite!  In the name of your Lord, who has created all that exists and has created man from a clot of blood.  Recite!  And the Lord is the most gracious who has taught by the pen, who has taught man that which he knew not.

            “The Quran names the angel as Gibreel, Arabic for Gabriel, the same one who announced to Mary and Joseph that their son would be the Messiah.”

            “According to Christians,” Esther qualifies Valerie’s assertion.

            “That’s correct,” Valerie agrees.  “I am just relating what the various faiths believe.”

            “So, all three references point to individuals having direct encounters with divine beings where God’s intentions and commands were revealed,” Go-Go observes, shifting the focus back to the questions we are investigating.  I am relieved to see her show the first signs of life since we began to go over the preliminary research. 

            “That’s right, Go-Go.  The Quran is the compilation of everything Gabriel related to Muhammad.  The Prophet had to recite them to scribes who then recorded the verses, since Muhammad never learned to read and write.  Throughout his life Muhammad continued to receive revelations from Gabriel.  On one notable occasion, he was mystically transported to Jerusalem by night and taken up to heaven from the Temple Mount for a personal audience with Al-lah.” 

            “Why don’t most of us know anything about the Muslim religion?” Go-Go wonders aloud.

            Jagrati speaks up, “Unfortunately, Americans and Europeans assume that their view of the world is the only one of significance.  The majority of Americans do not know where Mecca is, let alone the cultural debt they owe to the Muslims, or how much money flows, even as I speak, from the House of Saud on the Arabian Peninsula into the pockets of their corporate royalty.”

            The surprises never end.  Jag is not just a dreamy mystic!  “I want to know more about that last statement,” I egg her on, partly stirring up trouble, yet also recognizing that she has pointed out a large gap in my knowledge base.

            “You might begin by reading a biography of Muhammad—for instance, the one by Ann Armstrong, or The Prize by Daniel Yergin,” the green-eyed lady tells me.  “There are also some articles and books by former CIA agents related to this subject.  But we do not need to be distracted from our purpose here.  I don't see how more detailed information about Muhammad will move us forward.”

            “Amen,” says Wally.  “Is there anything else you want to add to that, Val?”

            “Even the preliminary readings I was able to do revealed to me how much I have to learn about the world of Islam.  And I’m sure I have just as much to learn about Hinduism and other faiths, as well.  One thing I learned is that Muhammad did not consider himself to be forming a new religion.  He considered himself to be practicing worship of the one true God, just as Abraham, Moses, John the Baptist, and Jesus did.  As an illustration, Al-lah is simply Arabic for the Lord.  For Muslims, Allah is the same God as the Hebrew JHWH and God the Father of Christians, such as me.

            “The last point I wish to add is that Islam has a history of being comfortable with the coexistence of science and religion.  For this reason, the Empire of Islam never experienced the Dark Ages in the manner that Europe did.  In one of history’s great ironies, the Christian Crusaders, who invaded the Holy Land to take it back from the Muslims, failed in their mission; however, they inadvertently opened the doors for the science, technology and literature of the Islamic world to flow back into the Christian world.  The result was a radical boost to the culture of Europe, culminating, over centuries, in the current state of the world—that is, the dominance of Europe and North America over the older civilizations.”

            “Well said,” Jagrati affirms.

            “Do you want me to go into the religious literature on dreams and visions?” Valerie addresses Wally, apparently recognizing that Go-Go is on leave from command.  “I can summarize it quickly.  All major religious traditions hold that God appears to people in dreams and visions.  The Greek belief Wally mentioned, that Morpheus used this ploy, is representative.  Similarly, all traditions hold that dreams may be from God or other supernatural sources, are meaningful, and may be interpreted by persons who have understanding of such matters.  The messages God sends in dreams and visions are often cloaked in obscure symbolism that can only be deciphered by the enlightened few.  That’s really the gist of it although examples from the Bible alone could keep us here a long time.”

            “Thanks, Val,” Wally accepts her report without comment.  “I believe the next piece belongs to me.  I was asked by Go-Go to look at the anthropological literature on altered states.  I can summarize it in one sentence: Throughout the world, virtually all known cultures have some form of shaman who has the power to move between the material and the spiritual worlds.  OK, two sentences to do the subject justice.  Often, the shaman,” ...pause...  “or sha-woman,” and here he winks at Esther, “utilizes hallucinogenic substances found in the natural world to achieve altered states during which a spiritual journey occurs.”  Wally pauses again, looking around.  “I found a very interesting example in the anthropological literature that occurred during the 1960s and became a part of the counterculture-slash-New Age movement.  Any of you heard of Carlos Castaneda?”

            “His work turned out to be a hoax, didn’t it?” Go-Go inquires.

            “Further proof that P.T. Barnum was right,” I add.

            “You’ll love this part, Will,” Wally looks at me with a smile that may be observed all over the world when males test the resiliency of one another’s egos.  “Castaneda claimed to be from Brazil but investigation proved that he was really from Peru.”

            Wally gives me a few seconds to react.  I catch the connection with our previous discussion of Shining Path immediately but decide, in the interests of discretion, to leave this one alone.  Wally sees presently that I have no comment.

            “Jagrati,” he continues, “did anything in the contemporary research on sleep and dreams appear relevant?”

            “I shall also keep my remarks brief,” Jagrati promises.  “My review of the scientific study of sleep should probably be heard after you present the history of the 1960s.  Therefore, I will limit this presentation to the subject of dream interpretation.

            “Wally and Valerie pointed out,” she addresses the entire group, “that dreams are widely viewed as an interface between the mundane and spiritual worlds.  The modern science of dreams stems from two lines of psychological research.  The scientific study of the subject was legitimized by Sigmund Freud in his classic The Interpretation of Dreams, which was published in German in 1900.  Freud had the courage to look at the mind in terms of our instinctual drives of sexuality and aggression at a time when Europeans were very repressed on these issues.  You will recall that these same powers had vast colonial holdings at the time, and many people in Europe and America were fascinated by the discovery of ‘primitive’ indigenous peoples who were more at home in the natural world. 

            "Freud opened the door for science to take on the entire range of human psychological expression.  Freud distinguished between two separate operations of the brain which contributed to conscious experience.  Primary process is the older one, and it generates emotionally driven images and symbols.  Secondary process, the newer operation, gave us language and the logic of causal relations.  Freud described this in a famous metaphor: a chariot pulled by two horses, one black and one white, who attempt to pull the charioteer in opposite directions.  This corresponds roughly to the contemporary ideas of left-brain and right-brain specialization. 

            "Freud’s apostate disciple, Carl Jung, developed the second line of research.  Jung made a major contribution to our understanding of dreams by creating a bridge between the positivism of nineteenth-century science and the spiritual traditions of myth and shamanism we have touched on tonight.  Freud believed dreams reflect symbolic wish fulfillment in order to satisfy our narcissistic needs that are frustrated by social mores and taboos.  He had no more respect for spirituality than did Karl Marx.  Jung, however, believed that a deeper understanding of dreams was achieved when we view them as spontaneous and holistic expressions of the psyche in relation to self and world.  Jung believed he had discovered a universal language of symbolism in dreams, one that reflects ancient and archetypal themes that give meaning to human life.  He made a compelling case for this by pointing out similar themes and symbols in myths, religious texts, dreams and the delusions of psychotic patients.  Jung theorized that these patterns, which he termed archetypes, were programmed into our brain structures through evolution.  This idea inspired people like Joseph Campbell, who helped spread the Jungian mode of psychological analysis to the fields of theology, myths and folklore, literary criticism, and art. 

            “Very nice,” Wally compliments Jagrati for her concision.  “Is there anything else?”

            “Yes, I discovered a quite interesting area of research and discussion termed lucid dreaming.  Many writers report that some individuals have cultivated the ability to retain consciousness while having clear and vivid dreams.  This allows them to observe, to think, and to make and carry out decisions during the dream, as well as to recall the content once they return to normal waking consciousness.  The possible parallel with our current circumstances is obvious.  On a personal note, I myself have had a series of dreams over the years that were consistent with this phenomenon. ”

            “I have, too,” I find myself saying as I realize that this has happened to me on several occasions, back in Real Life.  “It’s a very strange thing to experience.”

            “So, this could all be a lucid dream!” says Takashi.

            “Interesting,” says Esther, “but whose?”

            Mine, of course, I think.

            “Mine, of course,” Wally and Valerie exclaim simultaneously. “Jinx!”

            “Actually,” Jagrati says with a serious demeanor, “this brings up an important point about interpreting dreams.  Modern psychologists recognize that since a dream is the creative work of an individual’s brain, every aspect of the dream is a manifestation of the dreamer’s thought process, and hence must in some way represent an aspect of that person.  In other words, all of the characters, objects, places, and actions are the dreamer.  Following this line of thought leads to fruitful interpretation of the dream by a skilled interpreter or the dreamer herself.”

            “So, how does that relate to whose dream this is?” Wally asks the obvious question.

            “If in fact this is a dream, then we are all one and the same person.  Only if it is not a dream or some similar phenomenon does it make sense to think of one another as truly different individuals.”

            I am he as you are he as you are me and we are all together. 

            “All of this is beginning to make some sense,” Go-Go interjects. “We seem to be getting somewhere; but, as you can see from looking at me, I can’t stay awake much longer.  What would everyone think about knocking off for the evening and continuing the discussion tomorrow?”

            No one objects.  But I have another idea.  “I’m really tired, too,” I say, “as I’m sure all of us are.  The only thing is, I am so keyed up I don’t think I can go to sleep right away.  Is anyone interested in seeing if we can find a bar in town where we can unwind over a few beers?”

copyright 2010 Owen Scott, III

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