A Friend in the
House of Time
The souls of enlightened men return to be
“What better guide to the Otherworld than a poet?”
The question was put to me as I embarked on writing ‘The Dreamers Book of the Dead’ by a dead poet. I did not know, up to that moment, that a modern poet and his efforts to envision and create a Western Book of the Dead were going to figure as the central panel in the triptych my book was to become.
It seems to me that the true poet has two gifts that are vital for a reliable and effective psychopomp, or guide of souls. The first is the magic of words: passwords that open gates, and the power of naming that can bind or appease gatekeepers or even bring things into being. Shamans and initiates of all traditions know that poetic speech is important.
The second gift of the poet as Otherworld guide is that poets live by metaphor and are therefore friends of metamorphosis – inclined by their calling to shapeshift realities, averse to being penned in any routine concept of what is solid or ‘real’.
What better guide to the Otherworld than a poet? The more I think about it, the more the answer seems clear: none better.
The question was put to me (as you may have guessed) by a poet – not one of my contemporaries, but a poet who died seven years before I was born. You know his name: William Butler Yeats.
Our conversations took place in a space that was outside the physical world, but quite real to me and to others who have learned – and been invited – to go there. It is a place like a library, inside a complex building I have come to call the House of Time. There are fierce guardians at the gates of the building. If they let you through, you may proceed through a number of rooms and passages to reach the library on the far side of a vast atrium under a dome with an oculus high above, a window onto a sky full of stars.
The librarian often appears to me in the form of a gentle, donnish Englishman of an earlier era, but when his form casts a shadow, it is that of a being with the head of an ibis bird.
This is, of course, a magic library. You can find a book on any subject that pleases you, and – as in the children’s movie ‘The Pagemaster’ – when you open any book you may be transported into the scenes or dramas that it concerns. You can fight with pirates on the Spanish Main, or talk to Julius Caesar about how he dealt with a deadly accurate seeress advising hostile tribes, or study landscape gardening with Inigo Jones. Your call. Or, if you are brave enough, you may look at the book of your life, past and future, which may open into other life experiences. You may even be able to read the terms and conditions of the life contract you entered into before you came here.
Yes, the magic library is a ‘made-up’ place. But so is the Sears Building or the Eiffel Tower in the sense that they are products of thought and imagination. The magic library may outlast either of those physical structures. It has its own stability, now that generations of visitors have been here and contributed the energy of their own imagination and passion for study. It is a real place in the imaginal realm, which for initiates of many traditions is more real, not less real, than the physical plane. Here you are not confined to books that have been published in ordinary reality. You can examine books that might be written and published – maybe by you – and books that may never be caught on printed pages because their comments are too subtle.
I have led many group journeys to this locale, using shamanic
drumming to help travellers switch frequency and move from the
physical to the astral or imaginal plane. I can no longer recall
whether I was thinking of Yeats on the day I met him in the library
on one of these group journeys, or whether he made an entirely
spontaneous appearance. Maybe it comes to the same thing (a shrink
would no doubt say so). Either way, Yeats was no stranger. I had met
him many times before, in dreams and reverie. On that particular
visit to the library, while I was drumming for the group and helping
to hold the space for what Yeats called ‘mutual visioning’, I found
myself drawn from the ground level of the library up a corkscrew
|1 | 2 | 3 | 4||| next page >|