DAVID INTRODUCED US to the pendulum one evening when we were sitting around discussing the universe over a cup of tea. All of us were in a rather fey mood, having just witnessed Death of a Salesman on the final night of its local revival - and none of us having received any invite to the cast party.
“Have you anything metallic - a ring or something - and some thread?” he asked me (since we happened to be in my house and I was the one who presumably knew where such items were to be found).
Perhaps it was the intensity of his manner that made me oblige at once. In less than a minute the required materials were procured (with uncanny ease, I might add, considering the general chaos in which I’m accustomed to living). David held up the device he had improvised and proceeded to demonstrate its application.
It was just a small bronze brooch (of Celtic design) tied to an 8-inch length of thread. David was dangling it over a book on the table. “Is this a book?” he intoned, apparently directing the enquiry at the pendulum. It began to spin in a small but well-defined circle. “Now is this a load of crap?” The pendulum seemed undecided for a moment; then it started swinging gently from side to side as if to say, emphatically, NO.
“That’s a brilliant way to review books,” Mary snickered.
“Seems to work,” muttered David, ignoring Mary’s remark. “It’s spin for YES and swing for NO. And it tends to be quite literal, so you have to be precise in framing your questions.”
We took turns asking the pendulum rather silly questions - but it didn’t seem at all perturbed and went about its task of YESsing and NOing quite cheerfully.
Poey decided to tempt fate: “Will I win the next lottery?”
The pendulum responded by twitching vaguely. David suggested that we avoid asking it ‘will’ questions. “It’s not a fortune telling tool,” he said. “Think of it as a means of tapping into your own unconscious powers. You can, however, ask ‘should’ questions like ‘Should I leave my present job?’”
“Should I get married to B______?” Poey ventured. The answer was NO. “I thought so, too!” he laughed. “Well, should I get married at all?”
This time it was a YES. “Do I already know the lucky lady?” NO.
“Looks like you’re both quite safe,” David grinned at Mary and Suganthi.
On impulse I decided to perform an experiment with the pendulum. I waited for it to steady itself and then asked: “Have David and I had any previous incarnational links?”
David was all attention (and so were Mary, Poey, and Suganthi). The pendulum defined a tentative circle. Then, as though encouraged by the undiluted interest of five minds, it eased into a more lively spin.
“Aha!” I murmured, delighted with the positive response. “When?”
The others laughed.
“All right, all right... yes or no... let me think... okay, we’ll try this. Now, did David and I have an incarnational link in ancient Egypt?”
An inspired guess. I pressed on: “Was it during the time of Akhnaton?”
All of a sudden it seemed as if there was an invisible power lifting up the pendulum as it spun round and round: YES! YES! YES! An exhilarating sensation of weightlessness - the little bronze brooch felt like a feather. I had a magnificent insight into the way magnetism and gravity operate - how the stars and planets suspend each other in space.
David was visibly excited (“Wow!” was the best he could manage). The affirmation gave me the impetus to push the probe further. I felt my mind shift gears - no, step up its voltage is an apter way to describe the experience.
“Were we blood relatives?”
“Was David in the priesthood?”
“Was he, by any chance, an Amun priest?”
“Were we enemies?”
“Was he secretly an ally?”
I glanced up at David: “Good. I knew you couldn’t possibly have been that wicked!”
Mary, overcome by curiosity, burst out: “What are you on about? What the hell’s an Amun priest?”
“I’m glad you asked,” I smiled, automatically switching on my lecturer voice: “Well, by the time Thutmose IV became Pharaoh during the 18th Dynasty, the Amun priesthood had gone the way of all priesthoods. They were getting fat on the fears and superstitions of the masses who were dependent on the priests for intercession with the gods. And there were so many terrible gods to appease. Worship became more and more a matter of form and ritual. When Akhnaton - the grandson of Thutmose IV - came to power he discarded his official name, Amunhotep IV, and built a new capital called Akhetaton - approximately where Tell el-Amarna stands today. Anyway...”
“Hey, I didn’t know you were also an Egyptologist,” Poey butted in.
“Would you like to be embalmed, young man?” I handed him the economy-size jar of Tiger Balm Mary had left on the table. “Here, eat this!”
Mary pleaded for me to continue with the story.
“Okay. I’ll try and keep to the bare essentials. Well, Akhnaton married Nefertiti - yes, the famous beauty - and they had seven daughters, the last of whom died in her infancy. The whole family used to go skinnydipping together and everything would have been wonderful if only Akhnaton hadn’t been such a radical visionary. He didn’t think much of warfare, for instance. And he enjoyed riding through the city and stopping for an occasional chat with mere mortals. A few macho types dismissed him as a sissy - but so many people were getting to like his style that the Amun accountants were beginning to feel the pinch. The army chiefs and the Amun high priests tried flattery, bribery, and threats - but Akhnaton continued his efforts to hasten the arrival of a Golden Dawn. Eventually he was poisoned by an Amun priest at the instigation of the ambitious General Horemheb - who had never taken very kindly to the drastic cuts in his defence budget and who probably had the hots for Nefertiti. The ten-year-old Tutankhaton was crowned King and his name changed to Tutankhamun. He only lasted nine years before he, too, was poisoned by Horemheb’s henchmen. Within four years Horemheb had seized the throne of Egypt. Needless to say, his reign was extremely long and bloody.”
“Hmmm,” said David profoundly.
Poey the pragmatic wasn’t impressed: “The only thing I know about Egypt is King Tut - I saw his picture hanging in front of the National Museum last week. But you said Akhnaton had seven daughters, so how did Tut become a Pharaoh?”
“He was Akhnaton’s half-brother,” I said, picking up the pendulum again. “Was Poey around during Akhnaton’s era?”
“Was he a priest?”
“Er... was he a soldier?”
“Aha, we’re getting somewhere! Was he one of Horemheb’s officers?”
“Was he involved in the murder of Akhnaton?”
The pendulum quivered. I rephrased the question: “Was he among the soldiers who, disguised as robbers, tortured and killed Akhnaton’s eldest daughter and her husband?”
I observed that Poey had grown very interested in our pendulum investigation. Each affirmation seemed to trigger off some misty remembrance a hazy notion that there may, indeed, be more to our mysterious being than meets the everyday eye. Whatever the case, Poey did not protest the pendulum’s verdict; nor did he flinch at the idea of ever having done Horemheb’s dirty work in the name of professional duty. But I wanted to round it off on a more expiatory note:
“Maybe you were so disturbed by your own actions, you later returned to the path of light,” I offered, turning to the pendulum. “Did the entity now known as Poey suffer any remorse for his part in the disruption of the Great Work?”
Mary snatched the pendulum from me with a theatrical flourish: “Give me that, I’m going to ask whether you were formerly with the Spanish Inquisition!”
I grinned evilly just to humour her: “Actually, I was on the wrong side and got badly roasted... 14th Century France... I was a young noblewoman, a Cathar. The experience was hardly cathartic, ha ha.”
“Now that’s the pits,” Mary shook her head in mock disgust.
David exploded into uncontrollable chortles: “The pits... ho ho ho! The pits... hee hee! The pits and the pendulums... har har har! Or should it be pendula? Heh heh!”
I managed to keep a straight face: “Oh, that’s by Edgar Allan Poey, isn’t it?” That set David and Mary off again. Poey wasn’t particularly amused. Suganthi managed a pained smile.
She had been her usual quiet self so far but now she seemed galvanized into a wakefulness of sorts: “Why this sudden interest in Egypt and the Pharaohs? Where does it all lead?”
“To Rome, to Rome!” I replied, unforgivably.
Mary came to her rescue: “Well, maybe everyone in this room was alive in Egypt at the time of Akhnaton. Maybe that’s why we’re here tonight, asking the pendulum all these questions!”
“Mary,” I said. “Why don’t you let Suganthi have the pendulum so she can conduct a little research into her own mysterious past?”
Suganthi accepted the pendulum: “How do I start?”
Mary, ever helpful, suggested: “Was Suganthi incarnate in Akhnaton’s Egypt?’
The pendulum trembled momentarily.on its thread before going into a slow spin.
“YES!” shouted Mary and Poey.
Suganthi looked bewildered: “What now?” For someone who’s read nearly all of Agatha Christie’s output she was behaving in a most unsleuthlike manner.
“Here, s’il vous plait,” I said. “Zees ees a zhob for Hercule Poirot! Now zen... was the entity male in that particular incarnation?”
“May we assume female then?”
“Ah... was she related to Akhnaton?”
“Perhaps one of his consorts?”
“No? Hmmm... was she a virgin from the Temple of Isis?”
“Commendable! And was she in any way associated with Nefertiti?”
“Another clue! Was she a member of the Queen’s family?”
“I see... well, was she part of the Queen’s household?”
“Ah, so... the Queen’s personal cosmetician, perhaps?”
That won me a small round of applause. “Ladies and gentlemen,” I declared. “As you can see, the entity is still capable of working magic with eye make-up.”
Suganthi returned the pendulum to the table, thrilled but uncertain what to make of the information. David and I each lit a cigarette and Poey was on the verge of following suit - but he was struck by a bold idea. Reaching for the pendulum, he steadied it and addressed it sternly:
“Is reincarnation possible?”
Mary produced a nervous giggle and quipped: “Can the pendulum lie?”
We all had a good chuckle over that one and Mary strode off to fix more tea. The instant she returned from the kitchen she picked up the pendulum:
“My turn to find out where I fit in. I’m going for the big one... was I Nefertiti?”
“Drat. Well... was I there at all?”
YES ... NO ... YES...
“Hey, what does that mean - MAYBE?” She tried again and again the answer was ambiguous. David took over the pendulum and asked if Mary was incarnate during Akhnaton’s reign.
YES ... NO...YES...
“Velly intellesting,” I said, assuming the mask of Charlie Chan. “Appears to be some sort of Misterlee sullounding your work in that rifetime. Arrow me to meditate a moment... pendurum, prease!”
I dangled the orb thoughtfully before attempting a fresh approach to the problem: “During that period, was Mary in human form?”
“I beg your pardon!” Mary’s indignation was only half-feigned.
“Wait... the pendulum is behaving in a very odd way. Could it be saying you were partly human?”
“Maybe she was that dog-faced god,” David exclaimed. “What’s his name? Anubis!” Mary snarled and bit him on the leg. Or at least she should have. She was content to tweak his nose.
“Another strange notion is taking shape in my mind,” I said slowly, signalling for David and Mary to pay close attention. With a penetrating look for dramatic effect, I asked the pendulum: “Is Mary an earth entity?”
“Is she really an astral entity?”
“I knew it!” Mary squealed. “Always knew I had star quality.”
I persisted: “Was Mary fulfilling a dual function in that lifetime?”
The pendulum was taking off on a crazy orbit, defying gravity and our incredulous eyes. Just then the kettle started whistling. Suganthi kindly offered to brew the tea. I was acutely conscious of the incongruities of physical existence. Were we perhaps taking a party trick too far? People have generally used the pendulum to divine the number and gender of their unborn children... but this was like trying to explore fathomless undersea canyons with a pen-light. Nonetheless, we were getting some elucidating results.
“Well?” Mary was all keyed up and eager to know more.
“Well,” I sighed. “Shall we proceed?”
For as long as I could remember I’d been squirrelling away exotic titbits of trivia about the rise and fall of Aton in Egypt. I had genealogies locating Akhnaton’s place in the Pharaonic succession; I even knew his mother-in-law’s name. (It was Tyi and she’s still around, in fact she now lives just across the road from me). So it wasn’t too difficult to hazard an educated guess that Mary could have been Maya - treasurer and prime minister to five Pharaohs (beginning with Akhnaton’s father Amunhotep III - and ending with Horemheb the Usurper)! At the same time she had led an astral existence (Level Four in the Universal Pyramid of Being) as Akhnaton’s ka or etheric double. Don’t ask me how this actually works - I’m mystified by differential calculus. I only know that the pendulum indicated YES on both counts.
“I hope you’re not taking this stuff to heart,” David said very quietly when I had cracked Mary’s case. I looked deep into his eyes and saw his ancient fear. Here was one too thoughtful to follow in good faith but not yet brave enough to find his own path: a long-journeying pilgrim of truth, just the same. Or perhaps a keeper of hermetic keys...
“Think of it this way, David,” I said evenly. “The Golden Dawn is the Myth of the Millennium. Each of us plays a complex variety of parts in this colossal drama. While I don’t advise anyone to cling on to a specific role once a particular play is over, I also feel we must keep remembering anew the experience we’ve gained from each performance. You can call it psychotherapy if you like.”
“Fine. But don’t you think there’s a danger in identifying yourself too closely with these reincarnational roles. I mean, in the final analysis, there’s no way to determine the accuracy of these investigations - the pendulum merely picks up the brainwaves of the user. It’s like a simple polygraph. It measures the degree of your inner convictions, that’s all.”
“Agreed. I happen to trust my inner convictions, David. No amount of statistical evidence or the lack of it can alter the process of intuitive knowing. It’s a temporary suspension of disbelief. You open up and accept whatever images flow into your awareness. Hard-nosed detectives follow their hunches - we all do it without thinking about it. Of course, we can’t carry these insights over into consensus reality: you may have been my father once but you can’t come back into the present and boss me around. If you’re a highly evolved entity you will surely find it easy to feel ‘paternal’ and loving towards me. Essence doesn’t die, David.”
“Okay... I see your point. Anyway, what place do you occupy in your Egyptian scenario? We haven’t checked out your part in this affair, have we?”
I handed David the pendulum: “Why don’t you conduct the probe, David?”
“Right, I’ll hold the pendulum - you ask the questions.”
“Was I incarnate in Egypt during the period in question?”
“Was I the Pharaoh Akhnaton?”
“I’d like to ask a few more questions, David.”
“Go right ahead.” From his expression, David was taking all of this more seriously than I was. He was always a sucker for Hierophants and Hierarchies.
I paused for effect; it works every time:
“Is the Horemheb entity incarnate at present?”
“Does he operate in Malaysia at the moment?”
“Does he have any memory of having been Horemheb?”
I just had to laugh: “That’s precisely the problem with these Dead Zoners! They keep forgetting the mess they made the last time around, so they wind up doing the same dumb things over and over again. What was that famous quote from George Santayana? ‘Those who don’t remember the past are condemned to relive it.’ Well, just for your information: Horemheb’s criminal record is fairly spectacular. He was also Jeroboam, the biblical king who gave the Jews golden calf worship; and he did his thing as Diocletian, a pretty mean dude even as Roman emperors go. But he really went to town as Hernando Cortes the Spanish conquistador who loved melting down Aztec gold and burning up forests. I believe he was last spotted in the guise of Howard Carter, the ruthless archaeologist who broke into poor Tutankhaton’s tomb – he’d forgotten about the ‘curse,’ you see. Anyway, we’re not here to pick any fights...”
“Shucks,” quoth Mary. She looked genuinely disappointed. “No showdown?”
I shook my head.
“Then how come we’re all gathered in these parts?”
“I don’t know yet. However, I’m hoping Horemheb and his Heavies will eventually wise up to the fact that we can’t be killed. No matter what people say, there is such a thing as Free Will, you realise. We’re the Friendly Ones - we almost never resort to brute force, unless it’s an absolute necessity.”
Poey shrugged and made ready to leave: “I don’t know what kind of weird books you’ve been reading - but what I’d like to know is how come you can simply yabber on as if it’s the gospel truth?”
“Well, Poey, my genetic memory tells me it has the ring of truth.”
David chuckled: “Yeh, the Ring of Truth!” Earlier he'd mentioned that he uses his wedding ring as a pendulum. “From now on that’s what I’m going to call my pendulum.”
“Right, folks!” Poey fished his car keys from his pocket and headed for the door: “I’ve enjoyed the session but I still think life isn’t fair. I mean - why do I always end up with the supporting roles? The only school play I’ve ever been in, I played a guard. In Egypt, I was a guard...”
“You mean a blackguard!” David contributed.
“Oh, shut up! Look, why couldn’t I have been Nefertiti’s uncle or at least her second cousin thrice removed?”
“Well, how do you know you weren’t?” I countered. “If you ever run into Nefertiti, talk to her - see if that jogs your memory.”
“Huh? Is she around?”
“Sure. She lives in Brickfields.”
Poey’s grin was somewhat amphibious: “You have her phone number?”
“As a matter of fact, I do - but she’s a bit of a recluse. If she thought I was in the habit of handing her number over to sex-starved ex-soldiers, she won’t speak to me for another seven years.”
Poey offered us a mock salute and turned to go. But he just had to put in an exit line: “You know I was in a Malay feature film recently? Fifty bucks and my face on the silver screen for four-and-a-half seconds. Story of my life!”
AFTER POEY LEFT we sat around some more drinking coffee and discussing David’s predisposition towards priestliness. I intimated that the Amun priesthood was still very much at large - some might even say in charge - cleverly camouflaged as big bureaucracy. But the idea was too debilitating to dwell upon. David’s appetite for mystical adventures, alas, proved insatiable:
“Have you ever fooled around with a ouija board?”
Oh well, one time or another... just for the hell of it... but I couldn’t recall anything worth recording ever emerging from the few sessions I’d witnessed as a kid.
“If you have a piece of cardboard...” David’s enthusiasm was infectious, that’s for sure. In half-an-hour we had rigged up a workable board with the alphabet felt-penned clockwise around it. An old coffee jar lid served as our marker.
“Let’s do this with the proper ceremony,” David insisted. “Is there some incense around the house? And a candle would be a nice touch.”
I found an antediluvian packet of Lotus Feet incense tucked away among my paperbacks. The candle posed no problem at all. Soon the four of us - David, Mary, Suganthi, and myself - were seated round the ouija board with our index fingers resting lightly on the coffee jar lid.
A minute tiptoed by without a snigger.
Two minutes minuetted under the moonlight to the musical hum of my philharmonic mosquitoes. In another moment three otherwise intelligent adults would be glaring at David in befuddled annoyance...
The lid began to slide across the cardboard surface. It traced a determined path around the letters, as though memorizing the alphabet. Then it glided back to the centre and waited.
We exchanged glances, each wondering whether the other knew what to do next. David took the initiative: “We welcome you to the circle. How shall we address you?”
The lid slid slowly and sinisterly over the letters T, A, R, I, Q.
“Tariq? Is that your name?”
There were two extra circles on the board, one marked YES and the other NO. ‘Tariq’ headed directly to the YES circle.
“Er... Tariq... we’re happy to meet you. Can you tell us where you come from?”
P, A, K, I, S, T A, N.
At least that’s what David read. I admit to having lost track of the message after the first four letters.
“Do you have a message for us, Tariq?” That was Mary, retired Tarot reader and terminal fruitcake.
We waited with, as they say, bated breath. No movement... then a random meander at variable speed.
“Er... Tariq? We asked if you had a message for us?”
YES... I, A, M, T, R, A, P, P, E, D.
Mary: “Where are you trapped?”
I, N, E, T, E, R, N, I, T, Y.
“In eternity! Wow! Who trapped you there, Tariq?”
N, 0, N, E, T, 0, B, L, A, M, E, B, U, T, M, Y, S, E, L, F.
“Tariq... can we help you in any way?”
“How long have you been trapped?”
A, N, E, T, E, R, N, I, T, Y.
I was beginning to enjoy this. Mary, bless her soul, sounded concerned: “But are you happy, Tariq?”
W, H, A, T, I, S, H, A, P, P, I, N, E, S, S?
Very profound spirit, possibly. But I could tell we weren’t going to have much to converse with Tariq about; he seemed totally wrapped up in his predicament. As we racked our brains for a way to continue the dialogue, the lid began moving again:
N, 0, F, E, M, A, L, E, S.
“No females? What do you mean, no females?” demanded Mary the usually reasonable feminist.
D, A, V, I, D, K, N, 0, W, S, W, H, Y.
“Do you, David?”
David suggested that the girls remove their fingers from the lid for a while. Within seconds, with only David and me as conductors, the coffee jar lid was zipping about demonically. But it wasn’t making any sense.
“I’m not sure I like what’s going on,” Mary mumbled.
David the diplomat interceded: “Tariq... would you explain why you object to the females?”
M, A, Y, B, E, L, A, T, E, R.
We got nothing coherent from Tariq for a long while. Just a lot of kinetic discharge. I decided to put an end to it: “Er... Tariq... we thank you for being with us. We wish you all the best. Now please return to eternity. Goodbye.”
Everyone was glad Tariq was gone. Mary yawned: “Time for me to call a cab.”
“No need for that. I’m taking Suganthi home. I’ll drop you off where there are latenight cabs.” It was coming up five in the morning.
Driving back with David later, I couldn’t help mulling over Tariq’s ominous pronouncement: NO FEMALES. What a horrible concept. Or was it Tariq’s complaint? Trapped in eternity with no feminine company. God! Supposing a character like Khomeini came through on the ouija board... ah, but we could always shoo him away with incantations from my Salman Rushdie novels.
David left the next day to rejoin his family in another town. I didn’t have much time to bask in my solitude. Mary burst in, bubbling with excitement.
“I’ve been doing a lot of research with the pendulum,” she announced. “Do you know, I’ve always been male. This is my first attempt at womanhood!”
“You’re not doing too badly,” I reassured her.
“But that explains why I’ve had such difficulties with my menstrual cycle. All these years, I’ve never been pregnant - not once! I suspected I was incapable of conceiving!”
“I have an idea!” I said. “Let me try and stimulate your biomagnetic field with my pendulum.”
“Oooh, sounds like fun,” she responded, jumping out of her clothes.
It seemed to have some positive effects. However, it’s a little too soon to tell if the pendulum also works as an aid to natural healing. I have no doubt that within certain limits it can be used to diagnose: unhealthy or injured organs tend to produce a null field which can be readily detected by the pendulum. End of medical digression.
“I’ve been doing a fair bit of probing myself,” I confessed. “I hate to tell you this, but I appear to have enjoyed a ridiculously illustrious past.”
“I’m not surprised,” said Mary without sarcasm. Another wonderful thing about her. “Well... are you going to tell?”
“I may also have been David Livingstone and Emanuel Schickaneder.”
“Livingstone I’ve heard of, the lost explorer, right? But who’s the other chap? You don’t mean Chicken Little?”
“No, Schickaneder. Mozart’s librettist on The Magic Flute.”
“Oh... at least you aren’t claiming to have been Wolfgang himself.”
I chuckled and said: “Ah, but I’ve discovered that Mozart’s wife Constanze is still around. In fact, she’s residing in Kenny Hill.”
“You don’t mean that pretty pianist friend of yours, Ms Chan?”
“Nein, Constanze is now a man - and he plays the ‘cello.”
“What, Hans Solltenich, of the Goethe Institute?”
We giggled a bit about it. Reincarnational research can be a barrel of laughs. Mary’s eyes were ablaze with irrepressible affection:
“Guess what, I managed to track down fifteen incarnations in which we’ve known each other. In eight of those you were my brother.”
“And you were my kid sister once - in Ireland in the early 9th Century. We had an incestuous relationship. Later I married Alan.”
“You turned gay?”
“No, Alan was female then.”
I roared with mirth: “Too much!” This inspired me to pick up the pendulum once more and we spent the entire day engaged in esoteric research. I was particularly keen to find out what really happened in Palestine during the Roman occupation government of Herod Antipas. Strangely, the pendulum seemed unable to help us at first. Some invisible power held it down so that it couldn’t move.
“I think some depraved mentalists have installed a psychic seal on the Palestinian mystery,” I said, relishing the flavour of conspiracy and paranoia. “Some entities apparently thrive on official secrets.”
Mary managed to break through at last. She discovered that visualizing the colour purple had the effect of nullifying the blocks. And thus we proceeded step by step to try and unravel the mystery of the Piscean initiation. Once in a while, when Mary got tired of sneaking past the psychic seals, she’d resort to bullying, and it worked. “Don’t give me this bullshit! I know what your silly little game is, so don’t mess with me! Now... did some sneaky slimy creep put a seal on this?” The pendulum would sheepishly begin to spin... and soon we’d be getting some straight answers.
“I forgot to mention,” Mary boasted, “that more than a few of my incarnations were of a warlike nature. In the 9th Century we were royal twins somewhere in India. You were the scholar and I stormed off to battle, only to get myself killed.”
“Makes sense to me,” I smiled. By now my living room was cluttered with reference works. It certainly helps to have a few names, dates, and places to juggle with. But the problem is all the juicy stuff is tightly locked from honest sight in the Vatican vaults. Someday… soon!
We went out and had a good feed. Both of us felt very alive and elated. Our electrical fields were fully charged. Time had dilated around us and the immediate reality was a lot less relevant than it normally seems. In this perfect state of mind we drove home to my secret laboratory and put the kettle on for perhaps the fifth time that day.
As I served tea, Mary was busy lighting a candle. “Let’s work the board again,” she suggested. I had no particular objection. Nor was I particularly keen. The results we’d had thus far weren’t too impressive. The ouija phenomenon was evidently related to the unconscious telekinetic power of the participants’ minds. Still, the ouija could be a fun way to sharpen telepathic affinities. I was convinced, too, that the board worked like a primitive tuner which we could use to receive mental frequencies not normally accessible to us. The ritual itself surely helped to generate an atmosphere of higher receptivity - an essential factor in the various fields of psychic research.
The first spirit visitor that arrived was our old friend Tariq.
“Hello, Tariq,” I said a bit warily.
I, W, A, N, T, T, 0, H, E, L, P.
“Thank you, Tariq. How can you help us?”
I, A, M, A, J, I, N, N.
“He’s a what?” Mary asked, whispering.
“Jinn,” I said. “A genie, you know, the Arabian nights?”
Mary found it very amusing: “Now I see... he’s our message in a bottle.”
Tariq didn’t seem to be offended by our levity. Instead he dragged our fingers about the board with startling energy, a couple of times with such vigour that the coffee jar lid fell right off the board. As soon as we replaced it, the movement would recommence. There was no stopping this jinn. Suddenly, after a full minute or two of this frenetic activity, Tariq became coherent again. He spelled out:
I, G, 0, N, 0, W.
And Tariq was gone. The lid stayed motionless beneath our fingers. But only for a few moments; a discernible surge of energy now reanimated it. The lid sailed fluently over the letters:
B, 0, B, 0.
“Bob?” I enquired. “Is your name Bob?”
A brief pause - then the lid moved with a certain deliberate dignity:
R, 0, B, E, R, T.
“We bid you welcome, Robert,” I began. “What are you... er, are you a person?”
YES ... S, A, M, E, A, S, Y, 0, U.
“Well, then, do you have a surname?”
G, R, A, V, E, S.
“Robert Graves!” Mary said, surprised.
“The poet, of course.” I assumed that much.
“Delighted to meet you, Robert,” I said, feeling a tinge of unbidden skepticism. Unfortunately, I am ignorant enough about poets for almost any impostor to fool me. But so what, I thought...
H, E, L, L, 0, M, A, R, Y.
“Why, hello, Robert,” said Mary inanely.
W, H, 0, I, S, Y, 0, U, R, F, R, I, E, N, D?
“Oh.” Mary proceeded to introduce me to Robert.
“Do you two know each other from somewhere?” I asked Mary.
Robert answered my question:
I, K, N, E, W, H, E, R, A, S, E, D, D, I, E.
“Eddie? Was that her last incarnation?”
“Have you come to see me for a special reason, Robert?” Mary asked.
A, L, L, S, 0, U, L, S, T, U, E, S, D, A, Y.
“All Souls’ Tuesday!” Mary exclaimed. “Nobody I know observes All Souls’ Tuesday anymore - but three days ago I was arguing with my colleague about it!”
L, 0, 0, K, E, D, F, 0, R, Y, 0, U, A, T, L, U, N, C, H …
The lid was skimming very smoothly and swiftly around the board now…
A, N, D, Y, 0, U, W, E, R, E, N, T, T, H, E, R, E.
“Did Eddie kill himself?”
I looked at Mary and she looked right back.
“I need a cigarette,” she said. “Robert, could you hang on while I light a cigarette?”
0, F, C, 0, U, R, S, E.
I took the chance to light one up myself. “Robert, do you remember when you... er... passed on?”
E, I, G, H, T, Y, F, I, V, E.
“1885?” I really had no idea whatsoever when Robert Graves lived and died. He might have been a touch offended because he didn’t bother correcting me. We looked up some books later and learned that he, in fact, died in 1985 at the age of ninety.
I tried another tack: “Robert... could you describe Eddie to us?”
H, E, W, A, S, R, A, V, I, S, H, I, N, G.
Mary was extremely pleased. “I still am, Robert,” she chirped.
I, N, D, E, E, D.
Just then I had an inspiration: “Robert, now that you’ve contacted Eddie... I mean Mary... do you think we could communicate with pen and paper instead of this clumsy old board?”
W, E, C, A, N, T, R, Y.
And so we did. Mary wasn’t at all confident that she could receive initially. I put a pen in her hand and suggested that she relax completely. I was quite sure somehow that Robert would come through. A few moments later Mary’s pen hand trembled a little - and she started transcribing. I peered over her shoulder, feeling a bit uneasy that I might be intruding (but Robert insisted he didn’t mind at all):
I’M SO HAPPY I FOUND YOU AGAIN. THERE WERE SO MANY THINGS I WANTED TO TRY AND EXPLAIN TO YOU BUT YOU COULD NOT UNDERSTAND AND I DIDN’T HAVE THE TIME TO KEEP ON TRYING TO MAKE YOU SEE THAT THE LOVE I HAD FOR YOU WAS ONE OF THE PUREST THINGS I EVER FELT. IT WAS THE SOURCE OF ENDLESS INSPIRATION TO ME. FOR YEARS AFTER YOU CLOSED THE DOOR FOREVER I TRIED TO FEEL WHAT YOU MUST HAVE EXPERIENCED AS THE GREEN WATERS ENFOLDED TOU. TRY AS I COULD I NEVER FELT ANY TERROR; JUST A SILENT RESIGNATION. YOU ALWAYS WERE SO STRONG-WILLED.
I AM COMFORTED TO KNOW THAT THE EXPERIENCE DID NOT IMPAIR YOUR ZEST FOR LIFE. I REJOICE THAT YOU ARE HAPPY AND THAT THE LOVE YOU HAD FOR ME OUTLIVED THE GRAVE. FOR MY PART YOU STILL ARE AND ALWAYS WILL BE MY DESDEMONA.
I decided to excuse myself by making another round of tea. “Mary, ask Robert if he'd like a cuppa, too.” When I returned with three steaming cups (“This is Robert’s. Milk, no sugar.”) - Mary paused to show me what she’d just transcribed:
I HAVEN’T BEEN OFFERED A DECENT CUP OF TEA SINCE MY DEMISE. SORRY I CAN’T DRINK IT BUT KNOWING YOU DID MAKE ONE FOR ME IS WONDERFUL. SOMETIMES I WONDER IF I STILL EXIST TOO. YOU’VE CONFIRMED FOR ME THAT, YES, I DO STILL EXIST.
We became firm friends, the three of us. Mary and I kept remarking that it had been some time since we’d been in such good spirits. Every day Mary would happily serve as secretary while we conducted highly spirited three-way conversations. It was sort of like an on-going dialogue between the 3rd and 5th dimensions. Mary had a greater sensitivity to Robert’s frequency. She was able to carry on chatty little exchanges with him all day. Occasionally, I’d try beaming my thoughts to Robert telepathically while Mary stood by to write down his replies. It didn’t work every time but often enough to convince me it was only a question of attunement and practice. One afternoon, in the middle of a session with Robert, my phone rang. It was a friend who had just seen a Peter Weir film called The Dead Poets’ Society - she wanted to know if I had seen it. I suppose Mary and I had become life members of that society, whether we liked it or not. And we liked it very much.
I MUST CONFESS, DEAREST EDDIE, THAT I’VE NOT REALLY WANTED TO (RETURN TO PHYSICAL EXISTENCE). I’VE BEEN UP TO MY OLD TRICKS MUSING A LOT AND GENERALLY WASTING TIME. I’VE STARTED SO MANY PROJECTS BUT HAVEN’T COMPLETED ANY OF THEM SO FAR. I EVEN TRIED TO WRITE A SHORT DRAMA - A SORT OF OUTLINE OF MY LIFE’S WORK WITH ASPIRATIONS AND HOPES. BUT I COULDN’T QUITE GET IT RIGHT. THE PROBLEM IS THERE IS NO ONE TO DISCUSS THESE THINGS WITH. MOST OTHER FORMS I ENCOUNTER ARE BUSY FULFILLING THEIR OWN LITTLE PETTINESSES. NO ONE WANTS TO SPEND TIME WITH AN OLD MUSE LIKE ME.
Robert proved to be a Muse of many moods - and a vital, labyrinthine mind capable of fresh inputs. He hadn’t only written poetry, of course. His best known work was historical fiction (I, Claudius and Claudius the God) and scholarly expositions of ancient Hebrew and Greek myths. We managed to get him interested in pendulum research and before long discovered our complex reincarnational links. He may well have been Nefertiti’s father Ay - but his genetic memory certainly linked his experience with mine in the most epic and mythical ways imaginable. I was Chronos and he had deposed me as Zeus. We were Remus and Romulus - but he had a city named for him and I didn't! Together we had played out every role in the universal pantheons and were now reborn as friends. Friends beyond time.
“Bobo,” Mary told me one day. “That’s what Eddie used to call Robert.”
“That’s how he first announced himself, remember?”
Robert seemed particularly obsessed with the unseen causes of the First World War in which he had lost a great many of his best friends. In fact, he was convinced that the entire exercise had been engineered by evil profiteers out to make a killing in the armaments market - and that the whole gruesome deal had been carried through with the connivance of various prominent politicians.
It was no surprise to me, for I had recently read about the ugly business scams conducted in the name of the Vatican by a conspiracy of rightwing elitists and the Mafia. They wouldn’t stop at murder. The pillage and plunder of our precious planet was all they lived and died for. But that was little comfort to Robert’s wounded soul. He had been permanently scarred by his belated discovery that the world was not quite what it could or ought to be. That the world was - at least on the physical plane - really a raging battlefield of light and dark forces: one faction committed to waking up the sleepers and the other committed to keeping the unawake asleep. There were times when Robert felt ready to fight.
But who do we fight if not ourselves? I began to nudge Robert’s thoughts away from pessimism and passivity - and towards the realization that there were perhaps higher levels of awareness to which he could aspire. We had already established that Robert existed as pure thought on Level Five - the mental plane. Now if he could just open his heart to the higher frequencies...
It happened in the wee hours of the 20th of November, 1989. Twelve hours earlier Robert had been in an exultant mood, hallelujaing about planetary redemption through the universal attainment of Christ consciousness. Then he exhausted his emotional energies and fell into a sense of gloom and self-doubt. He rambled on maudlinly about the utter helplessness of his situation. He couldn’t go higher. And he couldn’t enjoy the simple pleasures of the the physical senses the way we earthbound beings could. In any case, he felt he'd had enough of all that. An idea flashed into my mind:
“Mary, let’s work the board once more.”
This time I emptied my thoughts and concentrated on pure cosmic love - Level Six. The lid began to move...
Our visitor announced itself as LOVE.
“Were you once known as Bob Marley?” I enquired.
I, D, 0, N, T, R, E, M, E, M, B, E, R.
“Do you mind if I call you Bob?”
N, A, M, E, N, 0, T, I, M, P, 0, R, T, A, N, T.
“We need your help. We are in contact with a Level Five entity. His name is Robert Graves. Can you locate his frequency?”
D, 0, Y, 0, U, H, A, V, E, P, E, N, A, N, D, P, A, P, E, R?
I took the pen from Mary and poised myself, ready to receive. At this juncture I must explain that I had been practising with Robert - learning to attune my brainwaves with his - with acceptable results. The Level Six transmission was non-conversational - almost telegraphic - but it was clear.
GREETINGS, BROTHER & SISTER. YOU CALLED ME OVER. IS THERE A PROBLEM I CAN HELP YOU WITH?
I felt that vocalizing the message would reinforce my beam: “Yes. We have a friend on Level Five who needs assistance. His name is Robert Graves.”
AM LOCATING... ROBERT GRAVES... FOUND HIM! HELLO, ROBERT GRAVES. I AM FROM SIX... YES ... YOU ARE A PART OF MY LARGER EXISTENCE. WE NEED TO REINTEGRATE OUR EXPERIENCES BEFORE WE CAN BE A FUNCTIONAL ENTITY.
Meanwhile, Mary had been picking up Robert’s communication with the Level Six entity. He was trying to explain why he was in dalliance with a couple of Level Three entities (Mary and myself):
WE HAVE BEEN HELPING EACH OTHER TO GROW. WE HAVE A BOND OF COSMIC ENERGY BETWEEN US.
There was no contact for several minutes. Mary experienced a wave of depression and went off to the bathroom, I waited in silence. Ah... there it was, the subtle buzz in the mid-brain that indicated Robert’s mental frequency. I picked up the pen again:
THE LEVEL SIX ENTITY YOU CONTACTED WAS MOST HELPFUL. IT IDENTIFIED ITSELF AS PURE COSMIC LOVE AND INSTANTLY I WAS FULFILLED. THAT WAS THE ONLY EXPERIENCE I HAD NEVER HAD UP TILL THIS POINT. THE TOTALLY OVERWHELMING EXPERIENCE OF UNIVERSE-ENCOMPASSING LOVE. INDEED THE WORD ‘LOVE’ HARDLY EXPRESSES THE SENSE OF ABSOLUTE JOY I’M FEELING. THERE IS NO FURTHER NEED TO BE MAUDLIN... WHERE’S MARY? (Just then Mary reappeared at my side) THERE IS SO MUCH... I CANNOT PUT IT INTO WORDS. BUT THE EUPHORIA I FELT EARLIER IS NOTHING COMPARED TO THIS ... HEAVEN! HEAVEN IS...
And I heard, as if from an incomprehensible distance and yet within my very own being, a strangely familiar celestial music. It was grand, gloriously festive, a wedding celebration. Over the music I thought I heard Robert again: MUSIC! THE MUSIC IS THE MUSE ON LEVEL SIX!
It took Mary and me more than a few days to get readjusted to the routine business of Level Three living. The world of laundry, landlords, and screaming lorries.
We hardly missed Robert, of course. Robert was the delicious tirgling, the electrifying blissfulness emanating from our mid-brains right down to our toes. We only had to think of Robert - and there Robert was. Whenever we dangled our orbs - as Robert puts it - we only had to ask: “Robert, are you with us?”
And the pendulum would spin round weightlessly: YES! YES! YES!
But, of course, we missed Robert Graves the poet and his lyrical eloquence. We missed his snide asides on Wordsworth:
HOW COULD A CLOUD POSSIBLY FEEL LONELINESS? THIS IS A CONDITION SPECIFICALLY APPLIED TO THE HUMAN SPECIES BECAUSE THEY REFUSE TO ACCEPT ANYTHING OTHER THAN THEMSELVES AS HAVING RELEVANCE. WW OBVIOUSLY CONSIDERED HIMSELF TO BE THE CENTRE OF HIS UNIVERSE. NO WONDER HE WAS LONELY.
No matter. The verbal Robert lives on between covers. We only need to dip into any of his books, though we may prefer to linger, to savour that divinely inspired aspect of his erstwhile being.
30 November 1989