“The Spelling” (1976)
Some dreams are impossible to describe. I knew, waking from this one, the futility even to try ; nuances of knowledge, and the “spells” integral to it receded from my conscious language. To write it down, fetters it in the ‘prosaic’ of ready letters and conditioning. These are meaningless, without direct access to the tool-room of the psyche. What seemed then beautiful and vast – the suggestion of extraordinary riches – was it my vain delusion? I had been some place other, but could not retain enough to know, or judge.
I found myself willy-nilly starting to note down, even while still dreaming, what I could recall. The “morning after” the vision, barely outlines what was seen and done. Parts of it translated into H.P.Lovecraft’s language as an approximate vehicle, as I woke ; the American writer Lovecraft had got under my skin and blended with my feelings. Yet the vision had authentic clarity. Additionally, Mr V at that time admired Lovecraft’s literary style. He enjoyed the way different levels of meaning overlapped one another as living entities in the multi-dimensional fabric of the same paragraph, and the way each paragraph encountered and gave colour to the next. It was like a walk in the Massachussetts forest.
I think this “dream-story” records the perennial struggle – at birth and throughout life – with that monster, language. For a poet, words, when learning to read and write, as often also in speech, or in the stammered struggle to relate, are “spells”. They are keys to the inner world, and they live and glow and alter perspective. A spell condenses an intangible potency into substance and response. So the title of this story is “SPELLING”.
Many years later, I learned about the elementals – invisible forces of our collective miasms and fears.
Dreams No.265 1 September 1976
One of their manifestations was as shadowy frog-like creatures that hopped on the sheets of my bed. I regarded them and my dealings with them with a mixture of horror and triumph. Many times I made huge mental wrenches of imagery and screamed out “key” words and sounds.
My control or mastery over these dark amphibious entities was touch and go, as if I drove a herd of madly galloping black horses. I, in mortal combat with these entities, was at the same moment in alliance with them. The battle and the alliance were synonimous and mutually meaningful, lifegiving to the relationship. It was all paradox. The paradox flowed in the lucid river of all that happened. I must have talked in my sleep. For I yelled out things like YOG SOTHOTH, and I was sharply aware at one time of the warning in the Lovecraft stories : “Do not call up that which you cannot put down, lest it call up something greater in its turn against you.” I recalled these words ad verbatim in their archaic English at a time when I was very active with these terrifying forces, and very very much frightened. I woke from time to time and dived straight back into the fray. I turned from side to side, to realise and explore the things I must do.
There was a battle in a dark cavern under the hills with these entities, it seemed to be an subterranean river, one of them grasped and pinched my finger painfully in its great pincers. I saw other human beings with me. There was a titanic anger and destruction. Yet the alliance with these lethal entities sang of an exquisite and far-reaching rosy folklore, a vast fragrance of dawn, which even in those murky caverns revealed humanity, a human race, the mountains, sunset skies, and untold secrets, in all of which I was aware.
They had given me a small carved wooden crucifix which I wore round my neck, and which had little points or thorns at its junction. In the last battle in the cavern it was damaged, one of its wooden arms was broken off. At some point I woke into my bed and felt for the little engraved-silver cross he gave me and which I always wear; it was not the wooden one and not broken, and all was well. It had twisted round on its chain.
Even in the victorious joy of clear vision there lay a depth of shame in my humanity, for our dark ways of trafficking, for the things that must be exposed and endured before we are free.
Every time I woke I was full of fear. There might be mud and grass stains on my sheets. The Lovecraft character walked in his sleep. There is the local pressure of a cosmic responsibility. Where had I been? What had I done or stirred up?
My next memory takes me outside the caverns, into the steep range of mountains with the other human beings. My whole being was filled with awe, with well-being and the fragrance of tremendous things seen and done. I was the leader of this group of people. I attempted to explain to them what had come to pass. We journeyed through a forest on a high alp; across a valley soared a great rosy coloured hill, the Canadian Rocky Mountains. We were chasing or being chased by a big brown bear who yet was our friend, from one mountain top to another. This bear was our guide. I understood and could explain to my companions everything that was going on, and where we should follow and find the bear; but I cannot now. I had reached that state of total fatigue which finds the second wind, the air of the heights, rare and pure. My body, languid and alive with adrenalin, could do what I asked of it, over any distance. I was free.
We came now to the old hills of Scotland, near Inverness. In that delicious and serene twilight of the Rose, I ran down a mountainside or almost vertical cliff, followed by the policemen in their blue shirtsleeves and helmets, and all the other people, including my sister. I set the pace and they followed. Though I hurtled down, flying from one rock or mound of earth to another, too fast for belief and out of control, I knew I would not fall or trip. I knew I could slow my momentum when I wanted to. There was a vast exhileration in this plunging race, my balance barely sustained on lightning footholds: running, jumping down the falling scree.
We reached an upland lochan or sea.
Its shores were jagged with needle sharp rocks, the waters of limpid pure crystal, infinitely soft and still. We stopped there. My sister immediately dived into that lovely water and began to swim. I did not, because I had clothes on and was bothered about getting dry afterwards, and because I was lazy. The waters were those of the Scottish lochs and rivers, cold, fresh and transparent. Golden sunlight spilled into their silvery depth, and near by, arose the Rocky Mountains in majestic peaks of forest. The policemen too played an interdependent and paradoxical role. They were there as policemen and as protectors. They punished and cherished at one and the same time.
I went and sat on the rocks and began to cry, the waters rushed out with the clarity of the lake. I cried with an overwhelming, yet severely objective grief and ecstasy, for being washed clean, and for the haunting, crucial beauty of a folklore I discovered. I cried for the love of immeasurable things, in the dawn of the Rose. Compassion, grief swelled so my heart must burst, and still there is more. I was cleansed, it was baptism. The waters poured through me as the world, when I looked into the lake.
The policemen stood near me on the rock. Whether they tried to comfort me or whether they just stood by, I do not know. I knew they understood. They did not interfere. It was indescribable, blending despair and joyful hope in tears, with the overpowering and sacred presence of … what is immensely beyond and greater than me.
I woke again. Is that mud or blood? Where have I actually been?
The remainder of the night was coloured by this experience, which returned in different forms. I only recall fragments: I was in America and laughed with an irrepressible hilarity at a certain urban arrangement of leisure persons in glass houses along the edge of a big green meadow – like bathing-huts by the sea: a greenhouse effect along the wilderness. I laughed with their entire culture, with an extraordinary welling of happiness. And my period began with a rush of blood somewhere in a cellar, before its due time: and so I sorrowed again, because it meant I had not conceived from these extraordinary events. And I took LSD at one time. I wondered fleetingly – shouldn’t I have listened, during it, to Messiaen’s Vingt Regards sur l’Enfant Jesus?
There were drawings on my bedroom wall at Manor Farm, which I had covered up with new tight delicate geometrical designs. I had almost forgotten my Bransdale boys with great heads like ripe pods, and serious eyes. They could just be seen here and there through the frieze of later designs which overlaid them like crystals of frost on the winter window pane.
Something big had happened.
I told my parents, both of them, I mustn’t try now to talk. It’s too big. It’s unsayable. I knew this within the dream. They knew. They do know. They smile. Their very agreement is formidable with the secret.
There came a time, through the days and rooms of my house with them, when I must try to explain. It – some details – must be communicated somehow. What if they don’t know, what if it is never known…? – I’d better write it down after all. “The brown bear …” I began, to fix it in my memory piece by piece “ … the Americans live in glass houses, on TV all the time for everyone to see, yet try to preserve their privacy, not throw stones – that … rosy dawn, the sky, the Cross – pincers, they were titan entities – it all happened in the – yes the water, water the tears – the Word it drowns in grief and beauty, welling up inside. God. Oh yes, dark places, fighting and then the light, all of it in the waters, it happened like this, I knew, I spelled the code, I did, I led them, it …”
So near, so far!
How thin on the ground, like a rime of salt on sand that is left by the receding wave … words only; my poverty, my recall.
My mother’s voice: “Jane-crane, don’t forget your promise! – it cannot be ‘told’. You can keep it safe, open bud in the dark, where it flourishes and nourishes the garden. If you expose it too soon to common currency, you debase and betray it. You know that. It’s not yet time. You might miscarry the just.”
My parents in on this conspiracy? – how so? But I couldn’t stop talking and trying to tell of this thing.
Other voices from time to time during the night sounded a warning bell. They alerted me to what could become an infantile impasse. “That is a narrow world,” they said “that dreams itself a mighty one. It is not the craft of love. You have heard. Don’t entice to you a Force without the Formation, or it will rule you in a sad mad narrow place. And you won’t come out.”
I read that the angel closes the mouth of an emerging infant for a very good reason. To really know is to be all over again the very beginning: genesis. To really know – the gnosis – is for vision to grow as the sap – through osmosis – within the Tree of language on earth.
But I tried and I cried against nature to tell.
To spell of the fruit. On such a Tree.
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My adventure invites fellow travellers. I am a poet, an artist and a seer. I welcome conversation among the PHILO SOFIA, the lovers of wisdom.
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