I am back again, but I don’t know for how long. The pencil and paper are here as promised so I will begin. Maybe this time I will succeed. God knows I hope so. My mind is quite clear and I remember everything.
It is insidious, this New Age stuff. As a philosopher I should have had more sense, but where was the harm in relaxation exercises, a whiff of incense and all that nonsense about chakras. I wore a crystal around my neck and tinkered with the Tarot. It was an intellectual holiday, a form of escapism. Escapism: We may have some idea of what we are escaping, but how are we to know what we are escaping to.

It was all pretty harmless until I fell in love with the teacher. A most unlikely event as she was diametrically opposed to my – normal standards of feminine beauty. My ideal woman, up to this stage in my life, had been the tall blonde Nordic intellectual with ice-blue eyes, the snow-capped volcano. One failed marriage and two failed relationships later I had found that my loves were indeed ice-maidens. Rosa was different.

Our regular teacher, the delightfully daffy Daffodil, was struck down by a virus, and this despite the garlic capsules, megadoses of vitamin C and allegedly infallible mantras. Perhaps that is unfair, mantras, it seems, must be intoned with perfectly clear nasal passages (The Vibrations, you know) and Poor Daffy’s were far from clear. This is how we met Rosa.

She is small, and plumpish, with huge dark eyes with the most direct and childlike gaze I have ever encountered. It expresses complete and utter trust, a sincerity that cannot be doubted, and the warmth of completely unconditional regard. She told us that her mother was a Gypsy, her nationality uncertain. Hungary, Rumania, who cares. She herself was born in Australia, a first generation daughter of a refugee.
Up to that time my attendance at the relaxation and meditation course had been prompted more by boredom of the alternatives than any strong desire to achieve enlightenment or whatever. I was. I fear, a very poor pupil and poor Daffy despaired of ever getting me to breathe ‘spiritually’ let alone transcend reality. With Rosa it was different.

Rosa’s enthusiasm was contagious. When Rosa looked at us with those trusting eyes clouded with sorrow at our incompetence to do such a simple little thing as relax completely, we relaxed! Besides, her voice was far more soothing than Daffodil’s nasal tones whose rising inflection expressed doubt whilst assuring us we were ‘utterly relaxed?’ No, Rosa was different. We would have cut off our right arm to please her. More to the point, our left brain! And this was, in effect, what we did. Gone was the critical analyzing nuisance that insisted on reminding me that I was not lying blissfully in a flower filled valley, feeling zephyr breezes and listening to songbirds. No longer did cold reason insist that I was experiencing the discomfort of hard floorboards, the dust mites of an uncleaned carpet and the agony of awaiting Daffodil’s next catarrhal sniffle, which occurred’ with the exasperating randomness of a dripping tap.

Having learned at last to relax, I found that I rather liked it.
Rosa’s soothing voice led us to the edge of sleep, bringing us to the state called ‘Hypnagogic’, a term used by psychologists to describe that strange wonderland. There is also ‘Hypnopompic’ which is the state just before fully awakening, but that does not apply, unless, of course, Rosa managed to fuse the two. I have often suspected that, but it was useless trying to get her to explain. Intellectualization was a major sin in her book.
With Rosa we made the breakthrough to ‘Creative Visualization’, a goal despaired of by Daffodil, who barely got us to close our eyes without fidgeting. I had never been able to visualize. I could dream, of course, and that reassured me that my mind’s eye was not completely blind. In my normal waking state it certainly qualified for the category of ‘legally blind’. “Close your eyes” they said, “and you will be able to see blah, blah, blah!” I closed my eyes and saw darkness. ‘Sight,’ said my left-brain know-all, ‘is the effect of reflected light on the retina of the Eye. Close the eyes and, ergo, loss of sight! Period!”
Rosa taught me to visualize. With dawning wonder I did at last see the vistas of my imagination. Hitherto I had KNOWN what things looked like and could describe them in words. Indeed I was very good with words as befits a writer and philosopher, but never before, even as a child, could I recall ever seeing something with my mind’s eye. The ‘child with a new toy’ cliche is trite but nothing else quite describes the fascination with which I experimented with my new found talent. At first it only worked when relaxed by Rosa. Later as my confidence increased it could be induced at will. And that was my downfall and where my story really begins.

We have reached the danger point! If I can keep my left brain in control, can maintain this rather stilted pedantic ‘intellectual’ style, describing, rather than visualizing what has happened, I may avoid the fiascoes of my previous attempts to tell this story. If the worst happens I hope you can piece together the fragments. It seems that I usually tear up the paper in small pieces. If only you would let me near the keyboard. I am truly sorry about last time.

Maybe this time it will be different. I have thought up this scheme of employing mathematical concepts to retain my grasp on reality, or at least OUR shared reality. Do not be alarmed if I break off into formulae. I am not crazy, it is a prophylactic against craziness.
Perhaps if I approach it carefully. Rosa first suggested that we should imagine a place. [one and one is two – two and two are four]. This place [E = mc2] was to be somewhere we felt safe. It could be on the beach, in a forest, or Daffy’s favourite, a valley of flowers. I chose the chalk downs of my childhood; the short coarse turf speckled with daisies [one – two – three – seven – thirteen – seventeen] and the unbelievable Wedgewood blue sky with its vertically ascending skylark trilling its joy.
Having found our place [the square on the hypotenuse – no! too visual! The coefficient of …Ah, that is better! having found it we are to construct a house [A Kilogram is a unit of Mass]. it can be any kind of house we like, just so we are comfortable with it was Rosa’s advice. We are to imagine its exterior in detail, walking all round it, looking at its structure, its decoration and whether there are signs of occupation. [Oh Christ! A Permutation is an ordered arrangement of a set of numbers!]
We are then to… to… to enter the house. We will find our- self in a room, [a centimetre is one hundredth of a meter] The room is furnished completely to our taste and we feel immediately at home. We feel SAFE. We are not alarmed when we realize that we are not alone.

I find I can speak of them without the math. They are away at the moment having been lured by a spell I conjured, and are at present trying to find their way out of the Maze of Voth. It should take them some time. My main fear [A Combination is any selection of n or less objects from the set] is that I shall find myself back in the inner room before I have finished my story.

They came from there, the inner room. He was the first. He was dressed as a monk. The coarse homespun fabric of his brown habit was dusty, the greasy rope that secured it around his waist was tarred at the ends to prevent it fraying. It was amazing, the details that caught my eye. He was wearing leather sandals but otherwise his feet were bare. His toe nails were cracked and thickened and none too clean. His hands, clasped as though in prayer, were callused and work worn. His smell was earthy, but not entirely unpleasant, redolent of newly dug potatoes. The hood hiding his face gave him a certain sinister aspect but I felt no sense of fear, for at that stage I still considered him a figment of my imagination. A chuckle emerged from beneath the hood. Flinging it back he exposed a face that was genial and reassuring. It was the face of a man about sixty. His beard was white, but the moustache was still grizzled with black. His smile displayed a strong set of teeth, slightly yellow but obviously his own.

He welcomed me and I was surprised. His voice was deep, but he spoke in the dialect of the English West country. It was not broad enough for Cornwall or perhaps even Devon. It was more the language of Somerset, or the new county of Avon. It certainly wasn’t the Lincolnshire dialect of Friar Tuck or that of High Church academia. His purpose, he said, was to help me in any matters of a practical or intellectual nature. I had but to ask and I would receive a reply. He cautioned me to be extremely careful in phrasing the questions as any ambiguity would result in a confusing answer. “GIGO”. The thought of a mediaeval monk using computer jargon gave me a jolt, but then the whole thing was rather odd. I decided to play along and discovered that he is very wise indeed. If he is an architypical figment of my imagination, reflecting my own subconscious then I am a lot brighter than I thought!

Spiritual matters and similar mysteries are the province of the first female presence that I encountered; emotional affairs that of another. Before I tell you more of these ladies I must give a rather broadly based warning. If you should ever encounter these beings you should bear in mind that Archetypes precede Feminism.
I learned the hard way!

Unless you are a classical scholar it is unwise to equate these ladies with Goddesses. Not, I hasten to add, that they are not! They very well may be. But The Pantheon were a mixed bunch and many of the stories about them were not entirely creditable. It does not do to offend one.
The first one I met, she who attends to my questions on the mysteries, will not permit me to name her. ‘The Tao that can be spoken is not the true Tao’. It is possibly not surprising that she approves of my using Chinese symbolism. Although not tall, she has amazing presence. She is dark, with dark eyes, her oval face pale. There is nothing unhealthy about her pallor, her complexion is exquisite, her skin as youthful and as fine as that of an infant. Her expression is slightly sad though by no means melancholy. Perhaps it would be better to say ‘saddened’ by a quiet compassion for the follies that she sees so clearly. I have seen her smile occasionally, and when that happens my heart turns over.
The second lady is very different. She is a red-head, with green eyes and freckles. She is a very- practical person and, on the whole, remarkably easy to talk to. I have found myself talking to her about topics which I had never envisaged discussing with a woman (or with anyone else for that matter) and with a complete lack of embarrassment. Mind you, one must still be careful. I have never forgotten the withering scorn of those green eyes when I was foolish enough to try a smart come-back to one of her pronouncements on the nature of Love.

These then are the Dramatis Personae who inhabit ‘you know where I and, although I have seen others briefly, these are the ones of greatest significance in my alternate life; for that is what it has become. [There is a pause while I immunize myself with the Seven Times Table]
You will be wondering where things went wrong. I have wondered myself. At first it was wonderful. I was never bored. I always had somewhere to go and someone to talk to. My practical affairs flourished with the sage advice I got from the Monk. I sold my first novel and then reaped a fortune from the film rights. My column “Philosophers Advice” was syndicated throughout the world. I didn’t feel that it was cheating to retail the counselling of my Advisers, after all, I still considered them to be facets of my own mind. No, the mistake I made was going to the well too often.

The first sign of trouble was when I was in bed with Rosa. This was before my fame and fortune but was a significant milestone on the path to my present state. Our courtship had proceeded amazingly well, especially with the advice from the two ladies {who seemed to take a most unselfish interest in my amorous quest).
We had struck one of those emotional hiccoughs that every relationship encounters once in a while. Rosa’s sorrowful gaze induced its usual feeling of guilt, but on the other hand Reason told me that it wasn’t my fault. The philosopher in me insisted that it was obviously HER problem. I felt badly in need of advice. And suddenly I was THERE. [A prime number can only be divided by itself and one]

My discussions with the Earth Mother did not seem to take much time and I am sure that the advice she gave was good. I am confident I would have had Rosa eating out of my hand, whilst still maintaining her personal dignity, always important to my advisor. The only trouble was that I found myself in an ambulance on my return, being rushed to hospital in a suspected coma.
That was my first involuntary return to the House. [String theory postulates ten dimensions]. My romance with Rosa perished as a result. She rationalized dumping me by claiming there had been a change in the colour of my aura! I actually DID feel guilty, it must have been a terrible shock to find an apparent stroke victim in her bed.

Since then, as you know, there have been many incidents. But how can I persuade you that a mental hospital is the place least conducive to my recovery. We are dealing with my subconscious, you know. Honestly, which place do you think it prefers. Here, or the perennial South Downs, with their eternal springtime and the oh so comfortable house; not to mention the company and the stimulating conversation. They will be back from the maze soon and I shall have to go. There: To the Place. Farewell!

© H.St.V.Beechey. 1990.