Straying from the centre and its concentric streets I wandered without purpose through woods and near precipices With the sun scorching at the nape of my neck Shoulders aching from the straps arching inwards Into the skin so tender and too sensitive Longing for a symbol looking for a sign Of a new determination forged by a force of destiny That would reveal to my shuttered senses a revelation Of a harmonious strength sensuous and holy To repair and make whole this riven world.
Exhausted by my exertions I searched for a spot Where I could rest for a while from the rapid changes Beneath the ground and up above always generating Growing only to gradually decay before dying The heat was intense so I lay down on the shady side of the hill Closed my eyes and slowly drifted through clouds and islands Past fields of lilies and ponds of lotuses Valleys where all the birds of the air alighted vaingloriously To be granted a vision of valour and grace In a endless pasture of flowering ethereal peonies
With the clear bright gaze of the celestial bound She surveyed all around and subdued with a glance Beckoning the beast with a wave of her arm he approached Slowly the Lion stretched arching its back before lying down Prostrating its Majesty before the greater power of Her Majesty Hers was an imperious strength that neither strove or imposed A will reconciled with the way of the revolving spheres Of the Empyrean above eternal and absolute Soft and dark, serpentine and divine Dream vision of a vaster dimension
For how long had I stared at these walls in silence? My entire world confined to a despairing vision Of masses of grey stone always damp to the touch A barred window above excluding any natural light The taciturn warden who brings me my slop twice daily The only sounds the tantalising jangle of heavy keys But I know that there is no escape possible from here So I console myself with thoughts from the past
Because it hasn’t always been this way, not so long ago I lived in palaces with ante-chambers larger than this cell My wealth and prestige derived from illustrious ancestors I spoke and Popes, Emperors would listen attentively My sage counsel would be deliberated by the Senate I held the world in the palm and from my fingertips Flowed power in its purest untrammelled essence
Reminiscing of yesteryears glories I lulled myself asleep And then the dank cell was filled with the softest glow Emanating from the beautiful visage of a celestial presence Raising myself from the hard mattress I tried to speak But the Angel or Goddess placed her finger on my lips And told me to be quiet and to still my racing heart
“Do you not recognise me, you who spoke so eloquently On my behalf on many occasions, defending my ways Against the slanders of the uncouth and ignorant? I would say you have no reason to be afraid of me But that wouldn’t be strictly correct, because I am Destiny, Lady Fortuna, she who must spin the Wheel of Fortune
If you require consolation in your present plight Do not ransack your memory for vanished luxuries, You who toyed around with ideas of ethics and philosophy Were you so enraptured with the transitory pleasures Of this realm of the senses that you forgot you were human Eternally subject to the constant Divine Law and Way That requires that everything that goes up must come down?
One minute you are at the top, Lord of all you survey The next, after I turn the wheel that requires turning, You inadvertently offend those you strive to serve And bemoan the nature of your temporary lodgings As if it wasn’t the empty space that makes the room And the state of mind that defines the state of grace Realise that complete reality isn’t some trajectory It is nothing more and nothing less than a circle.”
Sunlight streams through the smeared panes of glass Illuminating the static emptiness of this strange room Pregnant with the possibility of an expanding silence Even the dust hangs still, motionless, frozen in the air
Odd how here nothing stirs, constant and unchanging I am seeking to hold fast to this unmovable centre For I know that it is the only way towards the mean That contains at its heart the secret of meaning
Without desire and attachment Without anger and aversion With knowledge and serenity All is temperate and tranquil
Yet the cycle re-commences as it must by nature and necessity For clearly I am not ready yet to experience the ultimate bliss My span here was merely a pause without measure, a hiatus, So at the sound of rustling wings I feel nothing but perturbation.
“To pass through these Obsidian Gates that separate the known world From the barbarous Western Lands populated with dog-headed peoples, Bizarre creatures, devouring demons and ferociously hungry ghosts You must give an account of the Way, for I know who you are, old man I saw through your disguise of being a humble hermit straight away I know that you are the Archivist of the Most August Emperor You are the one they call the Old Master, the Ancient Child, A transformed butterfly, the eternal dragon of the Southern Sky.”
The hermit was silent while the mists dissipated and gathered again There was a definite chill in the late autumnal air, winter was near The night watchman huddled closer to the flickering flames of the fire But the old man didn’t move an inch, just sat without saying a word He seemed to the night watchman to be melting away into the fog As he fall into a daze watching the play of shadows on the walls Against the damp stone he thought he glimpsed something other Then the Old Master began to speak in tones more ancient than days
“Do you know what you ask when you demand an account of the Way? I alone am still, I recognize no signs, I flow as water and with time What words or characters could convey the Way, by definition ineffable? Worse, names and words divide and subdivide the world indefinitely There are many righteous paths to follow if you wish to go astray A thing becomes this and a thing becomes that when really it is of itself But if you insist I will say in terms terse, enigmatic and ambiguous Because the things we cannot speak of we must forever remain silent.”