Before his return from the Other Side a penultimate vision floats in spaceless time before the young man’s gazeless stare, away in the far beyond. He sees the universe from which he’s been ripped flowing and rolling through itself, a plenum formed from spiraling spectral energies channeled through inexorable cycles. Living fields of light ripple through the luminescent resonance of an eternally flowering, slowly pulsing cosmic heartbeat.
The self-enclosing coils pump tenuous fluid from the universe’s hollow centres to its bright time-bound extremities, flowing, glowing streams of aether coursing through a vast Moebius Strip. Its multidimensional shape encloses itself as a living Klein bottle – a mysteriously inside-out form familiar to the dying young shaman, an image that inflamed his imagination during his topological studies.
From his deathless perspective outside time and space, the universe is a self-contained vortex surrounded by a myriad of fractal twinkling tornadoes.
Looking ‘down’ at the mortal continuum from an indeterminable point in nothingness, the great vortex resembles many things at once to the young man whose heart has stopped. The overall structure is shaped like two squat spiraling cones joined base to base.
On one level, the universe is identical in concept to the complex, self-organising template of his cardiovascular system. Blood, heart, arteries and veins are all made of the same substance, flowing in a flexible system formed of the very stuff it contains; blood pumped by organs of solidified blood, coursing through channels constructed of itself. On another level the cosmos is an ocean filled with discrete currents of living cells, polarised and stratified to contain its streaming self-exploration.
At the same time it’s an eternal, singleton ‘electron’, the primal construction piece of all material structure - and where there’s one spinning charged skein of nothingness wrapped around itself, there’s another and another, ad infinitum, in unending fractal fields of possibility. Other shadowy vortices retreat into infinity, half-glimpsed though fine transubstantial veils that flare betwixt this verse and the next.
The universe also resembles a primordial, spiraling turd; coiled dross, the primary artefact of life’s manifesto. This irreverent but strangely apt symbol arrives in Ram’s mind as he falls back toward the system, drawn through its gravid intestinal coils to pass through the unfinished four dimensional tapestries of his lives – emerging into a single potential place in time and space.
Now, hours later, he sits in a rough-walled room with a wooden shingle ceiling. A white ram’s skull is mounted on one wall, above the bed’s black covers. The door, window, walls and ceiling are all painted a uniform matte black, matching the woolen carpet and sparse furniture. The single source of illumination is a molten beeswax candle burning down toward the crest of a human skull. Wax pools and sluices down the yellowing cranium like a long white toupee, bleeding down across the veined marble of the writing desk. The young man’s room is a sensory deprivation chamber, a womb enclosed in an oasis of green silence, miraculously untouched amid an encircling orb of urban blight.
Ram’yana has explored various entry points leading more deeply into a magical cosmos, responding to the call of inviting opportunities that have appeared like doors throwing themselves open before him. He’s groped through unknown layers of reality and awareness with his half-evolved psychic abilities, in a solitary effort to make sense of the strange things he’s seen and experienced in the course of his young life. He’s noted subtly unusual variables in the collective consciousness and the material substance of his native country, the Great Southland known as Oz. He’s noticed inexplicable changes to nondescript places and weirdnesses in the apparently mundane details of daily life, unfathomable discrepancies that are obviously arcane; flagrantly mind-blowing inconsistencies in the matrix of existence that beggar the imagination.
But all this magic seems to go unnoticed by his peers and elders and all the entrenched minds of a fundamentally feudal world. An invisible filter seems to veil deeper aspects of daily reality, only allowing fleet glimpses of synchronicity and coincidence to penetrate the enthralled mind of Man; the effect is a little less pronounced in women, but almost all the population dwells in a state of half-drunken sleepwalking self-hypnosis.
Young children often notice discrepancies and inconsistencies in the weave of their existence – but the world is such a bright, new and generally inexplicable place that even the miraculously unusual seems normal. Besides, hardly anyone pays any attention to what young children see or say – except for devoted parents, or people like Ram’yana. He remembers what it is to be a child, (though admittedly a far from typical child); he remembers being born, remembers the devoted focus of his mother’s eyes upon him, drawing his mind forth from the golden glow of his body as he nursed blissful at her breast. He recalls the sudden shock of circumcision. He recalls the nimbus that surrounded all things, and can sometimes see it still; amid the headlong headstrong rush of adolescence, past the edge of seventeen, he still listens to children.
In the long years of waiting for freedom, of waiting to ‘grow up’, to be taken seriously by shell-shocked elders who literally overlooked everything under their noses - before he happily abandoned the notion of being taken seriously by terrified superstitious workaholic self-made serfs – he practiced leaving his body and expanding his perspective, training himself to visualise detailed and vivid scenes and colours. He played with music, words, paint, clay, film and ideas. Each aspect of his uncannily free life was part of the same ongoing exploration of the utterly strange, yet pleasant and tolerant world and society he’d been born into.
‘I’m closer to the Golden Dawn,
He hadn’t considered all the implications of entraining his psychic abilities before they atrophied. Somehow, he’d avoided the usual self-blinding course taken by most adulterated post-adolescent adult dolts, in the shell-shocked cold war cultures of the late Second Millennium. He knew with absolute certainty that he wasn’t the only one to hone the blade and sharpen the point of their expanded perception. Occasional hints and suggestions from other seekers on the path came to him from the most unexpected sources and from the most unlikely people. He carefully noted their advice along with the insights of mentors, friends and elders he respected, and committed their often discombobulating words to his holographic memory - even when they made scant sense at the time.
He understood that he was certainly not the first to perceive and work with the natural energies and forces that most people around him chose to blind themselves to. Despite this awareness, he hadn’t considered all the implications of shining as brightly in the luminiferous aether as a Christmas tree, beaming out the message of his presence amid myriad circles of psychic wolves, raptors and shepherds. There are many souls who are content to guard and block the illuminating passage of our common heritage, keeping the Promethean flame from all others who are unaware of their particular agendas. Some feel they have the right to administer their own idiosyncratic brands of justice and mercy upon a sleeping Humanity – and upon those who start to awaken from the thrall.
‘I’m torn between the light and dark,
Where others see their target divine symmetry…’
The young magician soon found that he was testing the waters of a vast multidimensional psychic sea filled with fishes and sharks, dolphins and whales of all sizes and temperaments. All around him were groups, circles, covens and lodges of initiates and adepts, ranging across all the spectral hues betwixt black and white. Nothing was certain in an interlocking maze of plans, histories and wills that were often at cross-purposes; truth was a malleable commodity to be hoarded or bartered and bitchcraft competed with the Craft, magick and witchcraft for supremacy.
‘Should I kiss the viper’s fang
Or herald loud the death of Man?
I’m sinking in the quicksand of my thoughts…’
In the glorious search for soul-expanding self knowledge and the flowering of human evolution during epochs of superstitious and totalitarian madness, a necessarily secret stream of seekers had hidden core truths and techniques from their barbaric conquerors. They cooperated and competed among themselves for untold incarnations, immersed in an ever-deepening spiral of confounding codes and hierarchies. Eventually an unedifying mish-mash of imparted knowledge, beliefs and fantasies hid the heart of truth at the core of all mysteries. The simple observations, observances and practices that pointed the ways to enlightenment became unobtainable for most seekers who would explore beyond the world of the more familiar senses.
Knowledge became power and power begat a love of itself. The nature of reality was hidden from those who didn’t possess the correct keys of legitimate bloodlines and lineage. Honour and trust were rare commodities. Secrets and oaths, codes and ciphers were the order of the day throughout the Second Millennium, and the basic template of all the hierarchy-riddled groups was the pyramid, wherein power descends from a monarchical summit. It was a feuding feudal world run by an interwoven, inbred group of self-proclaimed living deities. Kings, queens and emperors sat on the hoary thrones of their cruel, slave-powered serfdoms and waved crooks and flails from the summits of conveniently crafted religions designed for slaves.
‘Work, Obey, Reproduce, Die’ was the mandatory mantra of their age and rewards would come in some other life, in a time and place far from the living world sacrificed by untold generations of peons. The unrepeatable offer - the gift of the present - was pawned for a promise the pawnbroker couldn’t keep.
But the truth is always available to those with eyes to see and nostrils to scent bullshit with. There’s always a route available to a dedicated solo seeker who is willing to juggle five elements while walking a narrow tightrope across a bottomless abyss. You must cross or die trying – either way, you truly know that death is an illusion.
Ram’yana is a tribesman of the Realm of Centraxis, a group of transcarnate explorers who have assembled and rendezvoused in the timely post-war arena of the Emerald City - and he must fulfill his demanding self-chosen role in the Court of Higher Consciousness. Now that he has been fully initiated into the clan - has passed through the mirror and met himself - his task is to become a shaman befitting a tribe of magicians who all practice the Art, equals among fellow nobility.
‘Don’t believe in yourself, don’t deceive with belief,
Knowledge comes with death’s release…’
The black-painted wooden valve A.M. radio pumps David Bowie’s magical lyrics through its single speaker while the Centraxian shaman contemplates the myriad of friendly, curious, quizzical or malevolent forays from other minds and presences, all pouring into the psychedelic stream of his consciousness. He passes time observing the links between himself and other beings, lines of light and influence radiating across the globe, flittering to and from his recumbent body. He observes a broad palette of hues in the strands that approach his bright centres, flaring around the extremities of his aura and unable to penetrate its protective, discriminating sheath. Some are familiar, others less so. Some are positively alien. He practices tracing the courses back to their sources, some of which are close and obvious; others are impenetrably knotted or distantly tenebrous and a few seem to fade to nothingness – extruding into the strange geometries of another plane or planar net.
‘I’m not a prophet or a stone age man,
Just a mortal with potential of a superman…’
Courting knowledge to be found beyond space, time and Death (and experiencing the aeternal freedoms such knowledge brings), the young prince inhabits his cell-like chamber, adorned with the empty trappings and symbols of hollow space; he surrounds himself with the manifest thought-forms and imagery that herald the Bardo realms. The Bardo – multilayered shells of the throat chakra - contain manifold illusory worlds and lifetimes that echo the ‘reality’ of this life or others, in an infinite regression of virtual possibilities.
Existence in those realms can be as apparently concrete and real as the globe of the Earth he finds himself in. Many sages dismiss the Bardo worlds as shadows and narcissistic echoes of the fading individual, mere virtual images of virtual realities. Most beings are unwilling to surrender their personality and ego to the infinite on passing from this world, and enter worlds of their imaginings.
People share common visions, ingrained dreams and deep beliefs, and create a shared reality that maintains itself for long stretches of endless time in the in-between spaces of the Bardo. Many realms are congealed, concretised visions made into manifest worlds and planes, culled from the intersecting imaginings of adherents to abstruse and popular religions and cults. These realms of shared belief feel particularly solid and un-dreamlike, and their denizens often forget how they originally arrived there - and assume they inhabit the only true reality.
Other deep wells and portals swirl through the aether beyond time - primordial sink-holes of inescapable, fear-fuelled gravid doom, or bright universes of light gently pleading with us to surrender our fears and inhibitions. These are primal visions, common to all creatures borne into the material worlds, of any level of intelligence or awareness.
To some luminaries, this is evidence that all reality is an arbitrary construction of the immortal dreaming soul and mind and that all ‘virtual’ realities are equally real – from the perspective of their inhabitants. Death is an illusion and we are all immortal beings who incomprehensibly decide to forget ourselves, and rewrite the stories of our lives on the palimpsest of the past. The womb is an excellent sensory deprivation chamber, washing the mind clean for months on end until innocence and inner sense are regained by those who die to achieve a blank slate.
Ram’yana’s Centraxian initiation has taken him through the magic mirror to meld with his alternate counterpart - and now he’s ready for one more step beyond the veil. Inner wisdom and an understanding of all knowledge wait beyond the gate known as the ‘unmanifest sephiroth’ – the spherical black portal of Da’ath, that joins and separates head and body, spirit and mortality, heaven and Humanity.
‘I’m tethered to the logic of homo sapiens,
Can’t take my eyes from the great salvation of bullshit faith…’
Death has finally responded to the call of the teenage magician, courting and dancing with his consciousness for a while before casting his floundering soul back into his world. Now he gasps, breaching the beach of reality – or lost on the shores of an illusory life. How do I know which is which? How can I know I’m alive? He wonders. What proof can there possibly be? I could be a corpse waiting to be buried, imagining I’ve been reborn in an illusory world that feels like home…
Ram’yana reaches for an eagle feather quill and opens a bottle of India ink. Then he takes a hand-made sheet of mulberry paper and inscribes a wholly inadequate sketch of his vision from transcendent time, engraving the vortex still embedded on the back of his eyelids onto the papyrus-like material. He realises the impossibility of drawing a picture that’s even suggestive of accuracy, without outlining various stages in its self-bound flow (he is, among other things, an animator) and fills the space surrounding the spiraling coils with notes, circles and arrows.
It’s been a very long day in the death of a young shaman.
‘If I don’t explain what you ought to know
You can tell me all about it on the next Bardo
I’m sinking through the quicksand of my thoughtsAnd I ain’t got the power any more.’
The long last day of Ram’s apprenticeship as Page and Squire to the Lord Kha-Aan of Centraxis began in his stone walled black chamber, where he woke just shy of high noon. Outside the wooden door the dim dream world was replaced by sunlit brightness, and he emerged blinking into daylight in an enclosed stone courtyard. The southern sun baked the court while cumulus clouds scudded through the azure sky, giving form to the sweltering atmosphere.
Lighting the gas pilot light with the last damp match in the box, he turned on both taps and a generous flow of hot water steamed from the ancient facilities of the bathroom, which was grafted into a defunct stable adjoining his chamber. His mind drifted in blood-warm water…
He breakfasted on coffee, fruit and berries in the empty little house fronting his stone room, before leaving the crumbling old servants’ quarters - an old weatherboard red cedar cottage surrounded on all sides by tree-filled yards. The cottage was only accessible by a narrow foot track that undulated past the absent vicar’s equally unkempt old manse. The other inhabitants of his charming hidden home were already abroad in the wider world.
Ram’yana began the mile-long journey from
He meandered along animal tracks, winding through the herb-choked wasteland at the bottom of a gorge - once a rainforest stream surrounded by mighty millennial trees and now-extinct animals - before mounting a worn flight of sandstone steps. He climbed past fronds of willows and the lower branches of eucalypts to the hard bitumen surfaces of an inner suburb of the
The wavering oscillation of a prop-powered passenger plane drones low overhead, blanketing the distant hum of busy traffic as he climbs the sandstone-guttered, tar coated slope. He recovers his breath at the open wooden gate of the three-storey structure and straightens his clothing as he strides through the tiled yard. He walks through the large open door into the shadowy entryway beyond – and a surprise awaits him.
Poised in the main entrance, barefoot and unnoticed, he watches as the interior of the Na-Baron Kha-Aan’s stony keep is besieged by burly men carrying deadly weapons. The young Centraxian steps into the shadows within the entryway and listens to the ruffians curse, laugh and growl as they search the ground floor rooms, throwing everything in reach to the rug-strewn floorboards and stone flagging. They barely pause to rifle through the chaotic piles, exulting in their rampage. A group of Centraxian lords and ladies (and visitors from the allied Courts of Chaos) are ordered to ‘lie on the floor’; the young shaman prince hears the beginning of a threatening interrogation as he threads his way to the stairs. He manages to slip into the stairwell unseen, and makes his way to the second floor bed chamber of his mentor - where he knows the Na-Baron’s cache is hidden.
No-one guards the head of the stairs or the corridor beyond and the door to Kha-Aan’s chamber is ajar. Ram’yana slips into the fur-lined room as coarse voices are raised downstairs. Should I? Dare I? His discretion wrestles with his courage for a moment; One of my roles is messenger, he decides, and Hermes is patron to magi and footpads alike.
The young shaman opens his lord’s secret stash (a box fitting snugly into a cavity beneath loosened floorboards, covered with a lacquered camphor chest and faded Afghani rug) and spies the rare alchemic essence the invaders are doubtless searching for. The transubstantial substance is encased in a paper-thin wedge of metal, floating on the deep purple velvet inner padding of the stash box. Ram’yana slides the package into his pouch and secretes Kha-Aan’s empty stash beneath the boards.
The raucous interrogation of his comrades becomes louder, verging over the border of violence as he silently slinks down the stairs. Ram leans around the entryway to peek into the house just as Kha-Aan enters the downstairs hall from the rear of the building; his liege lord is flanked by two huge men with blue nautical designs mantling their exposed forearms. The mustachioed cavalier’s brow crinkles when he meets his young squire’s peeking eye through the frenzied interrogation in the chamber. Kha-Aan winks at him.
At that moment one of the brigands suddenly notices the young shaman and the tall, thin, hirsute Na-Baron leaps into the midst of the fray and cries, “Flee, Ram’yana! Flee!” The Centraxian lord diverts half the assailants by jumping into their midst and landing athwart his comrades - who are lying with hands bound behind their backs on the stone floor. He gamely fends them off while a clutch of interlopers streams towards his young shaman squire. The invaders burst from their glib and jocular rowdiness to the full-fledged rapture of predators in sight of their quarry, and the glinting malevolence their eyes is enough to make Ram’yana obey his lord’s orders without an instant’s hesitation; he sprints from the house in a slow-motion rush of time-dilating adrenaline.
He runs as fast as his bare fleet feet can carry him, barely pulling ahead of a trio of cutthroats in hot and dogged pursuit. They yell at him and brandish their weapons, ordering him to stop, futilely threatening his life if he doesn’t. Passers-by divert their attention, finding fascinating things to look at in the sky and on the ground at their feet.
The adolescent prince of Centraxis leads the older men on a pell-mell chase through a maze of lanes and byways until one of his pursuers is left behind - but the two remaining ruffians put on an unexpected turn of speed just as the prince becomes certain he can lose them. Sounds of panting and clinking metal approach and his options swiftly narrow;
I can drop the package they’re really after and probably escape, or I can turn and face two armed, bull-necked brutes. Or… maybe…
A true story.
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