The Story of a Professor and the Sphinx

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Sphinx

Herr Doktor David Wiseacre adjusted his pince-nez.  Carefully he set his right palm under his bearded chin, and placed his elbow firmly on his oak desk, forming a pedestal like Rodin’s Le Penseur.

One can almost hear the mental machinery grinding.  Finely tuned electronics whirr in his furrowed brow.  A trapped fly buzzes up and down the window pane;  he is oblivious – the professor ponders the pendulum between points of view.

Dr.Wiseacre is the highly respected Professor Emeritus of advanced Metaphysics at the ancient University of Tubingen.  He is the pride of the German academic establishment. They regard him as a genius, arguably the most outstanding since Albert Einstein, whom by comparison, many have considered a bit of a dolt.  Some even believe he’s a reincarnation of the great Immanuel Kant, the Sage of Magdeburg.  World opinion has held that he outshone all his predecessors in the noble tradition of Western hyper-idealism.  His book The Core Questions Beyond Paranormal Metaphysics was hailed as a universal masterpiece, a superb ‘a priori intellectualisation’ of the highest order. There had been nothing like it since the ‘Critique of Pure Reason’.

How does my cat see me? - (circa 1968) - human paw and twiddle finger to food

How does my cat see me? – (circa 1968) – human paw and twiddle finger to food

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For certain reasons best known to him, three years ago Dr Wiseacre chose to abandon all this excitement, and to make his home in London.  Perhaps the celebrity has palled.  A study of the Stoics directed him to a more austere environment, where he could enjoy the Recession.   He was recommended to a villa overlooking Holders Hill Park; she keeps a kosher house.  The rent was rather high, and the room needs decorating, but his bursary is generous;  he settled immediately, and enriched his reflections on the home ground of Bacon’s English School, whose distinguished heirs – Locke, Berkeley, Hume and Russell –  have further teased western thought along the diligent generations.

Indeed, he occasionally leaves his desk to stroll into the park and enjoy the air.  For from the window of his back bedsitter, a prospect of green meadows, a rolling golf course and seminars of graceful, feathered trees, extending to a good-natured horizon, invites him.

But to-day the Professor is glum and down cast, behind the glass.  His native Teutonic abstractions have the upper hand, and his head aches.   He has collided with a great problem which threatens to undermine the magnificent cast iron structure of his conceptual linguistic analysis, which he built – his lifetime’s work.   A worm is eating him!   Recently, he began to suspect that this world in which he lives, has no substantial or material reality whatsoever.  What is more, he is the only so called ‘mind’, and he exists in some kind of weird phantasmagorical dream!  The notion won’t go away, and it is upsetting him.  The fine view from the window is all in the mind.  A fly is buzzing – ach!

He pondered some more, and then suddenly moved over to his Toshiba and began to briskly bang the keys. These will be his preparatory notes for the address he will deliver to the conference on the “Ultimate State of Consciousness Studies”.  It is being held in honour of the great Arthur Schopenhauer, no less, this coming summer in Geneva.

Arthur Schopenhauer

Arthur Schopenhauer

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He wrote:                 “AM I THE SOLE DREAMER?

 SOME FOOD FOR COLLEAGUE DREAM FIGURES IN MY DREAM TO PONDER –
‘I believe that I am pure infinite absolute consciousness-awareness-bliss.  That is my true nature, or the Self.”

Nah!  Nein! he thought, pushing back his chair.  Das ist not guttWhoever told you that?  Locke has held that the …  At that moment, something soft brushed his calf;  he started, looked down and saw his landlady’s cat Sabina, tail in the air.  She gets in through the bathroom window.   “Go, go away, pussy!”  He read the sentence again, without comprehension, tried to concentrate, but found his mind wandering;  his hands tapped out:

“… Unfortunately this primordial truth has been obscured by my many latent egotistic tendencies accumulated in this and possibly previous lives.

“However, I know that I exist.  This causes the light of my pure Consciousness to arise and to mirror these latent tendencies and egotism.  Therefore, the world, body, and mind that appear to me are actually unreal, like some dream projected on my screen of pure Consciousness. Am I therefore the sole dreamer of that dream?   Are the so called ‘others’ merely dream figures in my preordained dream of life?

The professor struck the “Save” key, and leaned back in his creaky chair.  This is arguably an accurate proposition.  The cat Sabina is pulling his trouser leg;  she is about to leap up into his lap.  When he first moved in to Mrs Felsenberg’s, Sabina was still a kitten, and absently he allowed her to sit on his knee while he was working;  the tapping keys became her lullaby;  absently also, he would stroke her while wrestling a difficult point.  Now he can’t get rid of her!   Grudgingly, he gave in, for it is too much trouble to break his thread, and put her out.  She leaps, scrabbles, lands, and kneads his thin thighs with her claws while she rotates, to settle her bed.  Ach!  Ow!   Stoically, he endures.  Systematically she subsides, and purrs.  The professor’s mind races on:

“This is not exactly a philosophic solipsism, such as the famed Bishop George Berkeley and others propounded ‘de novo’.   It is much more sophisticated.

8a sphinx 1

“2.            A WARNING
While still holding onto the ‘I am the sole Dreamer’ notion, keeping it in mind, I must always live and behave as if the apparent dream and the dream figures I seem to perceive are other than myself, and therefore real. The dream figures are conditioned in my predetermined dream world to react aggressively, if my behaviour does not conform with what is regarded as ‘normality’ by them;  i.e. if I do not act as if their dream world was Real.

The dream world imposes consequences on the ‘sole dreamer’ who does not conform to its predetermined character, or behave as if it was real.  Such is the nature of this mental delusion.”

He paused again.  Now he is far away among the distant trees.  He is stroking Sabina’s soft fur, again and again, rhythmically.  Her pleasure warms his fingertips and palm.  The sensation barely registers cognitively;  yet sensuously it prevails.  Abstract cognition is his freedom.  She quietens and prepares his mind.  A range of snowy mountains excitingly beckons him;  like a chamois he leaps from crag to crag.  The cat stretches, yawns sharp teeth, flexes claws again.  From the accomplices in pleasure, the web spins on and on …

“3.            SOLIPSISTIC DELUSION
“Solipsistic delusion is one of the powers inherent in the organ of cognition –  to delude the human being, that the so called world appears as a dream or hallucination – a mountain, a cloud or a lump in the ground.  This is because, built into the organ of my cognition, brain and senses, are a priori conditioned reflexes of Time, Space and Causality. Every sentient being creates his or her own universe, from the mosquito to the chimpanzee, according to the structure of its organ of cognition …” 

 ..

What?  A childhood memory is knocking at the door.  His mother told him that a stoat and a weasel are –  ach, then what was it?

“In the human being, the inbuilt mechanism of space creates the three dimensional theatre or screen of consciousness on which the pre-programmed dream unfolds. This unfolding of 32 frames a second in perception, gives an impression of events happening in a temporal sequence like a cinema film.  It is compounded by the observation of changes apparently taking place, in the so called natural forces, as seen in this life dream. The causal faculty deduces a reason for these so called ‘happenings’, which may be accurate or inaccurate.   The ‘me’ acts accordingly in response.”

brean down

He is still searching – that enticing little valley – yes!  That visit to the fortifications at the end of Brean Down.  He was a child, on holiday with his parents in the English west country.  The war-time fort is rusted by the sea;  in spring the returning swallows swoop down Brean and skim the Bristol Channel waves, as they skid home like arrows, to Wales.  He and his brother Benjamin played the siege of Sebastopol through concrete bunkers cracked by dandelions;  and at the iron door of one of these, he stood looking out cautiously to each side;  for his brother hunted him.  In the fall of sour grass, broken bricks and rubbish across the path, he detected a tiny movement – a small head by a hole – two bright eyes;  it quivered and vanished.

“Mother!  Mother!  I saw a stoat!”

“What’s the difference,” asked Benjamin, coming up and grabbing him, “between a stoat and a weasel?  How do you tell them apart?  Bang, you’re dead!”

Their mother was English, so she replied, “You can weaselly tell them apart, liebchen, because a stoat is-totally different.”

Upon this premise stands the Professor’s life work.  The unanswerable conundrum pops out from his hole.   The emotional sterility of his limited cogitation disintegrates, and he is a child again.

stoat in winter coat, photo by A & W Bilinscy

stoat in winter coat, photo by A & W Bilinscy

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At the end of Brean Down, a sleeping serpent sinks into the sea.  Among the stones, a little stoat is seen.  He sees us with his eyes, and disappears into a hidey hole.  But what really does he see?  And what is concealed behind the forms of nature that we see?

Delighted with this pictorial potential – how it will flummox his students! – the Professor soothes his forefinger along the cat’s whiskers.  Perhaps there’s a drop of milk in the fridge – perhaps it hasn’t gone sour?

The human visual spectrum is one slice off the pie of reality, one sliver cut across the apple, the total universe called Adam.  But what of the total universe called Stoat?  The Professor is on the horns of a dilemma – to disturb the cat and fetch a sardine for her from the cupboard, or to pursue the pleasure of his thoughts, and her bliss.  How can I know, he wonders, in a rare mood of softness, what she sees in me.  Am I a biped?  Or a heavy yet benevolent pair of paws through the feline filter?  How can I know what the small russet stoat sees and reacts to?  Or whether he knows the difference between seeing and being in his hole?  Or what his own point, in the relative world which I think of as Brean Down, can possibly feel like?  I KNOW NOTHING!   NOTHING  nein!  And yet I contemplate myself.   All appearance, all matter, all that matters and all that does not, floats like clouds or water-lily leaves in front of the tremendous space of manifestation.

This paragraph floats through the Professor’s busy mind and leaves not a trace;  for he is on his feet, and fussing around the fridge;  the cat Sabina, after a brief lick to save her face, now preens against her expected treat.  She is a handsome animal, with a pure white face, black ears and black saddles along her back.  Her tail, thick and shiny like a wet otter, is erect with joy.  “There you are!” exclaims the Professor, stroking her – he found an old bit of cheese also, which she seeks to like.   And now, to return to the problem …

“4.            NOTES ON THE DREAM OF SUFFERING IN AN UNREAL WORD
All the dream figures complain endlessly and bitterly about the immense amount of suffering which appears to happen in their individual dream of the world. But the world cannot be judged horizontally, just as it seems to appear on their screen of consciousness.  It is better perceived vertically, as a densely populated field of Fate, where the hand of preordained destiny is constantly directing these dream figures to actions, which are designed ultimately for them to pursue their selfish egotistic pleasures.”

Sabina has finished her snack, and is doing her toilette.

“These dream figures interact all the time unknowingly.  A world of suffering appears as a consequence;  but internally they are being taught a severe lesson which forces them to turn within introspectively, and end their dreadful repetitive cycle of dream births. Then aid arrives, and relief descends in the form of an enlightened Philosopher like me, who reveals certain principles, or ways to escape from the prison house of their dreams.”

The Professor pauses.  The cat eyes him speculatively.  Then he continues:

“But they must work persistently on themselves.  Self-investigation and Self-interrogation help to remove all their old latent habits and conditioned tendencies, which create their dreams. Then the Real Self shines through.  The suffering soul wakes up to Reality, and the dream ends .”

The Professor is now boiling himself a cup of tea in a saucepan on the Baby Belling;  he ransacks the drawer for biscuits.  Sabina has gone off in a dignified huff.  He feels sleepy, abandons the Toshiba and lies down on the bed for a nap.

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“5             MORE ON THE DREAM FIGURES
To imagine that there are ‘ some others who are real’ in the dream of life, is like imagining that all the dream figures in one’s private night dream are dreaming the same dream as you are, at exactly the same time.

“6             FIRST PERSON EVENTS
Only one’s own first person events have any validity. We have no experience whatsoever of another’s first person events.  We only interpret them by inference, which is widely open to misinterpretation by us, and cannot be relied upon with any exactitude. The ‘other’ can only be interpreted as a ‘dream figure’ because we have no reliable experiential evidence of his or her actual existence or consciousness, except as dreamed by us, which is then superimposed by us upon him or her.

“We are left with being the Sole Dreamer until realisation of the real Self unveils the illuminated substrate of the world.   This may be perceived as Real and is no longer a subjective dream.”

15 sphinx 2

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The Professor lay dreaming about The Indifferent One.  The Indifferent One, he was told, is I and Thou.  The Indifferent One looks out of each and all of our eye sockets, uniquely.  The bone is its container, and the Indifferent One wanders in and out of the orbital cavities at will … through a fluid co-incidence of Will, within as without, to be done. On the fourth day of the vision of Christian Rosenkreutz, a white serpent wound herself about through the eye-holes of a skull … An old book on anatomy for artists was in his hand.  Why!   Here’s a drawing of the skull – and each gaping socket for the eye is a base of a pyramid with four faces – and the apex of two pyramids points inward through the optic nerve to cranial centre !  The apex is Quintessence – the point of “5” within the four elements.  No need to cross your eyes!  The 5 is an Egyptian priest.  He co-ordinates the quickening mystery of earth and heaven.

5 hierophant - Version 2

It comes to focus through the apex.  It receives also rain, and lightning.  “And look, my own orbital pyramids point inward.  My brain streams visual stimuli along the optic nerve into each apex, to perceive – outward through the widening bony base – the earthly world.  The further in I look, the wider appears the world outside.  And I begin to ask Who is looking in? – through the vault to heaven?  And so the mystery of Five in the magic square of Three is plain to me as the breath of life moves in and out of my solar plexus.  The mystery of Five in the magic Square of Three, with equal intervals to each side, is my instrument of vision.  It enters and then seems to emanate from somewhere within the depth of my noddle.  God be in my head, and in my … nein, nein!  wrong religion, dumkopf … “

 THE MAGIC SQUARE OF THREE

 4            9           2

 3            5           7

 8             1           6

Three-squared (3X3) is 9.  The digits of each row, across, vertical or diagonal, add up to 15 (3X5).  Of further interest, are the intervals radiating from 5, to the pairs of numbers to each side.  And so on …

 ?

He further reflects, “Who am I?  The Sphinx asks that question.  The Sphinx’s gaze is the mill or wheel on which the grain is pounded and the loaf is kneaded.  The great Eliphas Levi has said, ‘Angels not wholly freed, fall again into the abyss.’ 

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skull eyes pyramid

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“From the Sphinx’s gaze within, my mask of life begins to slip and crumble away from bedrock, like peeling paint.  It leaves a cave or cavity – like water or air.   The Sphinx appears pitiless, but only relatively so, from the lower levels.  Through the Sphinx, I actually am the pounding of the provincial grain upon the wheel.  At certain shy moments, the intense calm of the Sphinx’s smile …  I look out through these caves, in the mountain of sandstone that this great cat is. 

“Her smile is a deep, central peace – my dreamless sleep – the gentle airs.  There is no movement at the hub of the wheel.  Those who are subjected to Her gaze, live and die upon Her anvil.   But those who are equal to Her gaze begin to learn to love their enemies.  In the Bull and the Lion of Ezekiel’s vision, dwell in unity the Eagle and the Angel – the serpent Redeemer. ‘Whenever you meet someone, think deeply:  ‘G-d – The HOLY ONE – dwells in this body.  Then comes initiation for ever.’” 

Initiation through so “Indifferent” a “One”, wakes from the dream, always.

 Arc 10 wheel

 ..

The Professor started from his slumber, hurried to his disheveled desk, woke up the Toshiba, and wrote firmly:

“7.            OBJECTION
Most important Philosophers state that the case for Solipsism is formidable.  The chief objection however, comes from Arthur Schopenhauer, whom we honour to-day.  He says that ‘the object necessarily implies a subject’. But as the subject supplies the object, as has already been stated by me, this fails.

“8.            GENERAL OBSERVATIONS
Ludwig Wittgenstein believed that Solipsism is at the core of the Metaphysical. Even the Subject’s relationship to Philosophy and other Philosophers is a solipsistic experience. It is impossible to get beyond the boundaries of the egotistic self, until one realises pure Consciousness. What evidence is there of a World beyond our mental states, other than the deceptive senses, which are all highly untrustworthy? To infer there is a World from other dream figures’ statements is nonsensical, as it begs the question of ‘who makes the inference?’ The subject, and the reply from the object, the dream figure, is supplied by me, the sole dreamer, myself.”

“But I,” he ruminated, “am not a stoat.  The stoat is not a David Wiseacre.  Both of us are potentially weasels, and neither of us is the cat.  Nein, Nein!”  For congestion threatened to overwhelm him in its dry harbours.  He grabbed his cap and coat and hurried downstairs out of doors.  From his landlady’s sombre back garden, a little latch-gate gave access to the Park.  Next door, in Hendon Cemetery, hosts of rank anxieties lay at last in stony peace;  on such occasions, that regimented garden, battered and be-mossed by the four seasons, soothed him.

But the sun was beginning to set, tinting the whole western sky orange beyond the sparse and disciplined woodlands.  And the first thing the Professor saw, as he stepped past the oak tree and out onto the cut grass, was the cat.  Sabina sat in the long grass at the foot of the tree, quite, quite still, with the setting sun in her face, and ignored him;  she sat like a Queen.  So he stopped, for his flight from philosophy had made him breathless.

He stopped, and watched.  He had noticed a certain tension.

Presently the cause of this came into view.  Liebe Gott!  A most remarkable animal.  It came over the links, creeping nearer and nearer to Sabina’s wide ring-pass-not, as if bewitched.  It was tall, it had a cat-like grace, it stalked, it glided on slender, sinewy silver legs, feathered a little with long white hairs;  it had a long, slender muzzle, soft dark eyes like a seal in a fairy tale, and an improbable tail held high, bushy and silky soft like a squirrel – this animal was pure white all over, and shone in the slanting light;  this animal was A DOG.

The Professor trembled, and stood rooted to the spot.  Along the animal’s curving spine, all the short hairs stood up in tufts, even as far as the splendid tail.  And it prowled, from side to side, like a serpent or metaphysical breakthrough ;  for Sabina held her field.  Like an Egyptian priestess, her spell enshielded her to a distance of at least ten metres;  silently she hissed;  the invader as silently opened his jaws to snarl, but couldn’t bark.  No mythological creature such as this, can merely bark.  The space was electrically charged.  Were they at play, or were they predators?  Suddenly it exploded.  The dog broached an invisible wire;  Sabina turned and shot up the tree, like lightning in reverse, and sat in the first high fork, as wise, as feathered and unblinking as AN OWL – the brilliance of the sunset in her face.

And the Professor could do nothing.  A human biped from beyond his line of sight, called to the animal – “Dubi !” – who pranced a little, obeyed the distraction, and reluctantly loped away.  The Professor stood in the grass, unable even to think of fetching a ladder; because Nature knows how Cheshire cats get there, and Nature knows how to get down again, and it is not proper to interfere.  He walked a little away, and in the oak tree still shone that white brilliant star, defiantly aloft.  It troubled his soul.  The sun sank in a copper blaze of glory.  The Professor shook his head, and took a turn around the graveyard.

..

On his return to the Toshiba, he read his day’s work so far, but it all looked a little boring, and he couldn’t really make head or tail of it.  Half heartedly, he drew his conclusions:

“9. ULTIMATE PERSPECTIVE
From an Absolutist perspective, all is One. The dreamer is a dream, dreamed by the Absolute, and as ‘I am That – my Self’, it is my sole dream. Only ‘I’ have the first hand experience of ‘That’. This concept can only be experienced when the latent, habitual, conditioned tendencies are all expelled through ruthless Self-examination, and the mind is surrendered to the truth I have to-day outlined.”

 *

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 Which is what?  The learned Professor stopped typing with a jolt.  Even if it feels true, he must never reveal his confession to the world; otherwise his whole delightful game of metaphysical disputation and assertion will cease and he will be bereft of his occupation, livelihood and sole raison d’etre.

Dr Wiseacre feels better now – he has relieved himself of extreme mental torment.  He goes downstairs with a book by one of his colleagues in Tubingen, who argues those hard questions arising from Advanced Consciousness Studies:  it is a sort of hobby.

“The Stoat is Totally Different, therefore the Weasel is Weaselly Right:  Discuss.”  He’ll set the students that question, and amuse himself with their responses, then demolish them with his nut cracker brain and acerbic wit – ah, such Socratic irony!  His walk gave him an appetite.  Ha, ha, ha, he chortled to himself. A Dream within a dream, you stupid dolt! Forget such an absurd fantasy even if it may be true.

Now for some of Mrs Felsenberg’s thick frankfurter and lentil soup, which she serves on a Monday!

On Somerset Levels

On Somerset Levels

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This story developed from a first draft by Alan Jacobs. He provided the philosophical narrative and arguments.  I contributed the Creatures and some further a-musings.  It is in a collection of our esoteric tales for all ages, published in 2012 by 0 Books:  The Dreamer in the Dream  – available on Amazon or order from your bookshop.

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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.

This blog is  a vehicle to promote also my published work – The Sacred India Tarot (with Rohit Arya, Yogi Impressions Books) and The Dreamer in the Dream – a collection of short stories (0 Books). Watch this space.

aquariel link – New posts on Master R

All art and creative writing in this blog is copyright © Janeadamsart 2012-2013. May not be used for commercial purposes. May be used and shared for non-commercial means with credit to Jane Adams and a link to the web address https://janeadamsart.wordpress.com/

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