DIARY OF A GENTLE SPIRIT
by Ray Kohn
My good friend, Joseph King, died on his fiftieth birthday last year. He had no known
relatives so he left all his worldly goods to me. Because of the press coverage of his
unusual death, I have also been left to deal with the continuing interest of the media.
I knew Joseph as a colleague in the Philosophy and Theology Department at the
university where we taught and researched. He was a quiet scholar who valued his
privacy. I knew little of his life as a medium and organiser of séances. I had heard
rumours but, knowing the disapproval such activities would attract from the Faculty
Directors at the time, I always took care not to probe him on this matter - and he
never mentioned it to me.
When his cottage caught fire, there was no obvious cause. The Fire Chief, realising
that the seat of the flames was where Joseph‟s remains lay in bed, assumed that my
friend had been smoking and had fallen asleep. Joseph never smoked: and the post-
mortem findings were carried on the front page of every national newspaper. Joseph
had apparently been the victim of the phenomenon of spontaneous combustion.
Much of Joseph‟s work was kept in his study at the Department. His few effects and
little property I sold and donated the proceeds to charity. The one exception was the
little exercise book in the drawer beside his bed. It was written in Joseph‟s hand but
had been damaged by the flames. When interviewed on television, I announced that I
would try to reconstruct as much of the document as possible and have it published
simultaneously in the USA, Europe and the Far East in ten languages. The royalties
would come to the Faculty in order to resource a new chair in psychic research and
pay for cross-departmental work into spontaneous combustion. The new Faculty
Directors are very pleased with this prospect.
There is no legible title on the badly burnt front of the book. However, on the inside
cover, it is possible to make out these curious words from the Koran:
...man was created impatient. When evil befalls him he is despondent. But blessed
with good fortune he becomes niggardly...
The rest of the little book appears to be Joseph‟s dated reporting of the words of his
friend and my brother, Leo Kohn. Leo had been the Quality Manager at a local
canning factory and died in 1994, over a year before Joseph. The family remembers
Leo as a quiet soul. Since Joseph‟s dates relate to 1995, I have given the book the
working title of „Diary of a Gentle Spirit‟.
Although my death was hardly noticed at the time, it has been remembered by more
people recently. My appearance as an apparition frightens no-one but I usually make
an impression by what I say. I find it ironic that you have to die before anyone takes
notice of your words. But my friend, Joseph, has made it obvious to me that I may
have only had interesting things to say to him since he attended my funeral. Joe has a
way of bringing even spirits down to earth.
Dying was not a painful experience. I just felt my stomach and groin getting cold.
Nobody was about nor should they have been. The family were all busy: friends were
at work. So I lay in bed and slowly slipped away. Stories of those who have returned
from near-death experiences are grossly exaggerated. Sensations of moving down a
tunnel into a glorious light are one of a number of transient illusions. Others include
the feeling of floating above your body (which I must admit did not differ greatly from
dreaming after drinking too much Pernod) and sinking through an ocean (which is the
same feeling as the morning after). As for being greeted by Saint Peter at the gates of
Heaven... it is a well-advertised and signposted road which few spirits seem to bother
I was never very observant when alive. But watching people is about all I can do now.
Joseph asked if there was anything that I really missed. “What about sex?” he said.
He does not understand that feeling at one with others is no problem for me now.
“Eating a good meal,” I told him. As I watch crowds in restaurants - or even old
people, alone, in their homes at suppertime - I cannot help feeling a little envious. I
am convinced that the spirit foresees its future longings just before death which is why
the stomach goes cold. “You cannot mean it,” Joseph says. “Eating is so common.”
But not for spirits.
There is a scorched section which may or may not have had anything written on it.
With nothing that acts to separate us - like time or space - spirits are at liberty to meet
and commune with anyone. I have explained to Joe how easy it is for me to hang out
with some big names. Joe has started to make a little money through me as he is
getting well-known as a medium. But those who pay him to ask me to bring them
messages from fellow-spirits are never interested in my famous dead friends. They
always want to know about those they have loved. And I can understand that -
although spirits naturally lose interest in their nearest and dearest. It is not that we are
cold-hearted. It is just that when we are alive, we love in order to break out of our
separate characters and become more than the sum of our personal histories. As
spirits, we no longer have separable personalities in the same way. Everyone (or no-
one) is our nearest and dearest. So where remarkable spiritual powers are focused
here, they have usually been associated with individuals who achieved fame during or
after their lifetime. And the greatest of these have retained their consciousness of past
existences when they have returned to life. Their return seems to have been caused by
a massive surge of will. I wish I could summon up this force. But when I think of
reincarnation, all I can picture is me sitting with friends around a huge meal.
Architecture combines the human need for shelter with an appreciation of the meaning
and significance of space. Since I can now take a completely disinterested view on
both of these, I would hope that my words on architecture would be most valuable.
Joseph tells me that they are - but only to fellow spirits. Nonetheless, I do like giving
my opinions more than when I was alive. I suppose this is a form of irresponsibility
rarely permitted when I was an adult.
I am amused by the notion of height being associated with importance. In
architecture, people refer to “an imposing edifice”. Perhaps power and height have
something to do with greater kinetic energy. This is certainly important when
physical force is in question: when fighting, you prefer to defend or attack from a
position above your enemy. And a great deal of architecture has been influenced by
the building of defences - fortifications, defendable entrances, castellation etc.. But
beyond the stylistic is a reflection of the idea of potential power. When surveying
“natural architecture” - a landscape - the same language is used even though there has
been no intervention through human action, intention or purpose. So “an imposing
scene” can describe the sight of high mountains. The notion of superiority is
embedded in the perception of space rather than in the planning of any human
architect. Of course, some people cannot stand to think in non-anthropomorphic
terms; they have to induce a “Great Architect” as the planner of the World. As a
spirit, I suppose I can be forgiven when having to laugh at human attempts to describe
God. What is now obvious to me remains a giant puzzle to those thinking in spatial
and temporal ways - a kind of architectural mind-set.
Music, on the other hand, has no apparent spring that flows from the need for survival.
And although there are a variety of formal structures that different societies impose on
their music, they are not in any sense an appreciation of the meaning and significance
of time - more a “play” with our sense of duration. So what is going on in music? I
have told Joseph that only spirits understand the answer to this question but he has
challenged me to capture this in human language. Now I know that this is not
possible - describing this sort of process is continually drawing round the frame of a
picture (I like this Wittgenstein analogy). But I could describe other processes and
leave the genius of human imagination to make the jump - the association.
The body pushes its way through a lifetime - and its rhythms can be directly affected
by sound. So at its simplest, the bass beat of the tribal drum or the electronic
simulations of pop music used for dancing reinforce or marginally modify our
physical state. So martial music can be used to prepare young men for war: softly
modulating, slowly changing tones can be used to calm patients in music therapy.
The spirit seeks others in a quest that can only end where it began as all spirits are
one. We exist together but only understand the significance of this as a continually-
evolving but never-changing process/state when not constrained by concerns of body
rhythms and architecture. So in music, we allude to this process/state by creating a
soundscape in which composer, player, listeners, dancers are all contained.
But composition is the creation of soundscapes working only by touch - all composers
are working without a picture of the “spiritscape” to which they allude. Working
blind can be an illuminating experience, but we spirits like to pretend that musicians
will never be able to penetrate what they find so mysterious - the reason why they
make music at all. Joseph says we should not act so superior - but I tell him that there
is no such concept of superior/inferior if you do not function with architectural
notions of up and down. Composers still do work within such concepts: so they are
running along a tightrope between an increasingly brightly-lit physical/biological
universe and a still-dark spiritual universe. They risk falling if they try to lean
towards the spirit but they will fall just as surely if they lean the other way. “It must
take a lot of nerve to run along a tightrope,” Joseph says. “Does that get translated
into surges of will when they die? So do we get reincarnated musicians?” I like that
idea of his, but I shall have to explain where surges of will are apparent in the physical
Siddartha Gautama - the Buddha - was a particularly distinguished example of a surge
of will. He described many aspects of the spirit better than I can: but then he never
thinks of reincarnation as an opportunity to enjoy a good meal. Nonetheless, I would
not use the same language (or even try to copy it) when taking up Joseph‟s challenge.
The spiritual world is like a community - a sort of ultimate community where all are
in communion with everyone else. Human communities are pulled together by
relatively simple goals: competitive advantage between companies, between nations,
between families. No such “goal” exists for us: the nearest thing that I could call
“purpose” would be a kind of guardianship. At the focal points in our universe there
exists an intensity of consciousness that we do guard, protect, tend and celebrate. And
it is from these nexuses that individuals can project themselves into the physical world
as historical actors on your stage.
Joseph asked me if the rest of our universe is like some Dante-esque hierarchy with
the „outer reaches‟ of the matrix - those furthest from the bright lights of
consciousness - being inhabited by venomous snakes, mad dogs and Nazis. The
problem with this geographical image is that it makes a lot of spatial assumptions - as
well as incorporating human views about status. In an „ultimate community‟, there is
a condition of interconnectedness which means, in some ways, that I am a dog and a
Nazi. The easiest way to escape this paradox (and this is where Gautama and I might
say things differently) is to deny the existence of the individual in the spiritual world.
My experience here, for what it is worth, has shown me that there is no escape from
the paradox. In some way we all do retain an individuality - a responsibility for what
we are and what we do - despite (or perhaps because of) our existing in a completely
non-alienated web of consciousness. So the Buddha sees the ego as an illusion. But
another of my “heroes” - Moses - insists that whether you believe individual
personality is an illusion or not, you are stuck with it and our consciousness of it
becomes part of the web itself. Therefore, by definition, it exists and must play its
part in the evolution of both the physical world (history) and the spiritual world
The term “nexus” appears in the text for the first time in this passage. There are a
number of times where the words “nexus of consciousness” appear although they are
often barely readable. Joseph makes frequent alterations and crossings-out wherever
he uses this term. At two places, he has inserted the Hebrew notation for God ( )
and then scored it out. He also appears to have abbreviated it to NOC - except the
handwriting makes this an almost illegible, wavy line. I have tried to standardise the
term in my version of his text.
I did a haunting yesterday. I did not tell Joe about it until after and, although he
pretended to be cross, I knew that he found it funny. The President of the USA was
making a television broadcast and I stood between him and the camera - distorting the
light just enough to make his nose seem to grow every time he said something that
was untrue. Joe is bothered about me scaring people unnecessarily which is why he
tells me I should not haunt. But all I did was to puzzle the TV company and entertain
a few million viewers who noticed the slight changes and understood the allusion to
Although all spirits are in some sense totally interconnected, we are also apart. This
means that we can choose to be more or less “joined”. When we choose to be more
united, it is like human dreaming. Yesterday I dreamt I was at one with Moses. Like
Jesus and Mohammed, Moses retains characteristics of a warrior. But unlike his two
Semitic successors, he has managed to disassociate himself from their vision of
fighting leading to victory leading to taking over the defeated people. His vision of a
warrior guarding and defending his people has shaped the spirit world‟s view of itself
overseeing the flame of consciousness. He told me that his occasional spirit-dream
fusions with his two successors gave him nightmares. The nightmare showed their
image of the spirit world as a universe where God finally “conquers and consumes”.
In the dream, people are like fish swimming beneath the surface of a clear sea. Death,
in the guise of a huge bird, descends and plucks them from the water and flies them
into a strange world of air where, momentarily, they can look down on what was once
familiar. Being consumed by the giant bird ensures that they are all fused into one
entity - a world where there are no individual personalities - but all contribute to the
future conquests of the great flying deity. “All-seeing and all-knowing does not mean
all-eating,” Moses says. And I keep quiet about my dream of returning to the physical
world to have a good meal.
There are occasions when a diary can seem a bit of an imposition. I mean it is divided
into a daily report and Joe can understand it that way. But since I have not
experienced time as days passing since I died, I have to simulate the feeling for the
benefit of my reader. I suppose all artists have to make these formal concessions in
order to translate self-expression into communication. But the discipline is more
severe when you, yourself, have become in some sense formless. Language and its
structures feel increasingly like an uncomfortable set of clothes after you die as it is
shot through with forms of time passing - as well as „architectural‟ hierarchies of
syntax, grammar and meaning.
Joseph asked me a stupid question some time after he became a medium. He wanted
to know if spirits retain a sense of humour. “I don‟t mean the mischief of poltergeists.
I mean things like the sense of irony or satire.” The reason why this question was
stupid was that he only had to observe to know the answer. My concern for order and
discipline in the chaotic formlessness of the spirit world allows no opportunity for fun.
Comedy is a distraction from the serious business of life, liberty and the pursuit of
happiness and I would not recommend it to anyone. To that extent, a sense of irony is
the same as dying. What is worse, neither make you money when you are alive
(unless you are an undertaker) and it is too late to worry about it once the undertaker
has been paid.
Nirvana, according to Buddha, is not a state - more an evolving nexus of
consciousness. The fact that it is his consciousness means that it is, in a sense, mine.
Is it his modesty that prevents him saying that his great wheel turns because, and only
because, of the will that emanates from that consciousness? Or does he know that it
turns because, and only because, of the dreams that he and Moses must share?
Without that sharing, there can be no differentiation between right and wrong and all
existence would, by definition, be purely material. And since I do not doubt any post-
mortal experience, I know that the dream has been shared and that there is an ethical
perspective on all thought and action - in no matter which culture, time or universe it
takes place. Nirvana is the infinite point of realisation of this moral knowledge.
But where Jo‟s friendly theologians go wrong is when they attempt to ascribe some
moral imperative to this shared dream. There is not, nor ever has been, any
requirement to do what is right. Evil is an eternally attractive option - even for spirits.
Christian thinkers after Luther who sought to simplify evil as directing the world
towards the physical (and good directing the world towards the spirit) really did miss
the point. The „wheel‟ is circular - everything goes round. It is what we do and why
we act on the way that requires a shared dream that constantly overturns the easy
assumptions of those who, like me, would regard a shared meal - some particularly
delicious last supper - as the apogee of our existence.
The following three paragraphs were written on a separate, charred sheet that had
been loosely inserted into the diary at this point.
Imperatives (moral or otherwise) require sanctions. Any punishment meted out to an
erring spirit by another would be a form of self-flagellation. The only conceivable
sanction would be a distancing from the nexuses of consciousness - a condemnation
from a „higher‟ form of reincarnation, or from any return (especially the „eternal
return‟ enjoyed by those at the eternal point of nirvana)
Amusement (ironic or otherwise) requires ethics. Without a sense of how things
should be, there could be no comic clash with how things actually are. So for
Kierkegaard, an ethical entity/deity could be induced from the concept of irony.
My pontifications to Joseph about metaphysics always follow my dreaming up to
Nietzsche or Kierkegaard. I must warn him not to take me as seriously as either of
them took themselves.
It seems that I am to be given the equivalent of a trial. Now I know that Joseph will
immediately imagine that I am to be put through the absurdity, humour and coercive
experience of some Kafkaesque process. But that is not what is in store for me. In
one sense, of course, it will be the same as my future and past are fused into a timeless
present and, therefore, the „outcome‟ of the trial is already known.
The judge is, as always, my Mosaic spirit who accuses me of animist tendencies.
Apparently, I have always had an undue fondness for the imagery of Hindu, Sioux and
aboriginal gods. Seeing chthonic undertones in Gaian appeals to green social action is
an unnecessarily cynical perception. My enjoyment of „modern‟ sexual symbols like
Nabokov‟s „Lolita‟ or Paglia‟s „beautiful boy‟ shows an affection for the fleshly
physical world that is not appropriate to a spirit. My guilt is assured and my
punishment, I must assume, is to remain here - unable to get a square meal.
“Why is it not appropriate to think like that?” Joe asks. “Because I am dead,” I have
to answer. All this imagery boils down to how we live and our rites of passage. Even
meals are tiny rites of passage: and the spiritual world needs no rites as there is no
passage. Letting them go from my imagination is the only route to greater
understanding and the chute through to another incarnation. My main problem is that
I cannot fool fellow spirits into believing I have accepted the guilty verdict and
mended my ways. I am known through and through just as I know them.
About a year before his death, Joseph and I had a conversation about Nabokov‟s
novels. He said that he did not like „Pale Fire‟ - a work of which I am particularly
fond - but that he had just read „Ada‟ and enjoyed it. I had the strong impression that
he was only just discovering Nabokov and had not yet read „Lolita‟. To my
knowledge, my brother Leo only read books to do with his work and paperback best-
sellers when on holiday.
Over the past year, Joe has been reading lots of sociology. He knows that most of it is
academic wallpaper - adding little to the halls of human knowledge except a
background colour. But when he got into the sociology of religion, he got very
excited as his experience as a medium gave him a different perspective from most
writers. “If God is society mythologised, does that make you a figment of my
imagination?” he challenges me with a mischievous twinkle in his eye. “Perhaps I am
just a figment,” I answer. “How would I know if I were or not?” I think I‟ve got him
As for the Durkheim description of God, it is another one of those linguistic
conundrums that needs to be unpacked. „Society‟ contains strands of
interconnectedness (which is a feature of the spirit world) and hierarchy (which is
not). Mythologisation (if there is such a word) implies a logic between the many
elements of abstract thought (which is a feature of the spirit world) and ritual (which
Joe cannot get into Buddhism. “Even when you talk about the spirit world, I cannot
see why anyone would want to be reincarnated.” I know what he is saying and,
indeed, Gautama himself describes the process more as a fact of existence (like the
sun and moon) rather than an extension of will. And, of course, with my guilty
verdict against me I am the last spirit who should explain this puzzle to Jo. However,
I have been entrusted with this task. Perhaps it is a test to see how far I can go
without reverting back to my fascination with food.
There are many ways of describing the process and importance of incarnation - spirits
taking bodily form. The easiest - and most basic - way of looking at it is from our
point of view. Spirits will not survive without the existence of a physical universe -
ideas and aspirations do not evolve without physical beings to bear them. So there is
a constant traffic which must be regulated. Without regulation, the spirits that return
would be even worse than me and people would revert to killing each other even more
than they already do and this would threaten their survival - and, therefore, ours. In
the 20th century, it would appear that our control system has had its many
Reincarnation, then, is our attempt to regulate who goes back to the mutual benefit of
both universes. The medieval Christian concept of „limbo‟ is a description of where I
am: „hell‟ - from whence no reincarnation is possible - is where the unreconstituted
Nazis are kept. The control system leaks because of the way that spirits interconnect,
no matter where they are.
So the surges of will that are a feature of the reincarnation process are the outward
appearance of our quality assurance system. When I was alive, my job was in quality
assurance. But I am a bit hesitant to offer my services to the matrix as a whole.
Assuring the quality of right and wrong for the world seems a little more ambitious
than being the quality manager for a company that supplied food!
Great excitement over here, at the other side, as my case goes to appeal! Supported by
a range a Navajo Indians and aboriginal chiefs, I have contended that the basis of the
guilty verdict is faulty. My „pagan‟ tendencies are no more than a recognition that,
alive or dead, we are at one with the spirits of animals. Former tigers walk the Earth
as humans now: former humans fly the sky as hawks. The quality system permits -
and may even ensure - these (re)incarnations. As spirits, we are aware of each other
and so the rattlesnake and I are fundamentally kindred. The Navajo have always
contended this and - like my aboriginal friends - have been able to re-establish this
and other links through putting their bodies into a state of suspension (a trance) and
bringing their spiritual consciousness through a process of waking dream.
Similarly, my affection for food may be no more than the outward appearance of my
remaining at one with spirits who, currently, are alive. And my Mosaic/Buddhist
prosecutors can hardly ascribe blame to me for still being „in the world‟ since it has
not been my choice, nor my responsibility, that I have been appearing to Joseph. I
suspect that my being able to talk to Joe is an aberration of the quality system. On the
other hand, it may be an essential part of the process which allows the wheel to turn
and for ethics to evolve - and neither I nor they yet understand why. There is no way
to prove what part these activities might play and, therefore, I have stated that there is
reasonable doubt about my guilt. Perhaps - and only perhaps - my activities are not
only appropriate but essential for the guardianship of consciousness.
Confident of the strength of my appeal, I have further challenged my accusers to
explain how certain essential parts of their value system make any sense without the
perspective that I and my supporters bring. “How do you explain the concept of
beauty?” Of course Moses and Buddha have good answers - but I think I have got
them on the defensive here. Both need to introduce some sort of „correspondence
theory‟. If something or someone „corresponds to‟ the eternal workings of their
view(s) of the universe, then we describe it as „beauty‟. Whereas I contend that the
„beauty‟ of landscape is no more than the perceived physical semblance to the way we
feel or aspire to feel: and human beauty is specifically about our perception of a
person‟s readiness for the next rite of passage. Therefore a young girl may be seen as
beautiful because she is ready for marriage (nubile). Also, an old person who is at
repose may be seen as beautiful because he is prepared to die. It thinking about rites
of passage is inappropriate, then so is thinking about beauty.
Joe got very agitated at this. “Are you saying that you can guard - and even raise -
consciousness as a spirit by some sort of affection for human beauty? You will end
up by appealing to Moses and Buddha to be allowed to return in order to practice the
Kama Sutra.” Perhaps he is right although that would be only one aspect of my
appeal as that is only one aspect of beauty. An appreciation of the beauty associated
with rites of passage goes a lot further than even „the seven ages of man‟. The dawn
of each day should be greeted with a frugal breakfast: the passing of the sun overhead
by a lunch: the setting of the sun by a convivial dinner.
“What was the result of your appeal?” Joe asks. “You already know,” I told him. The
result is known as a unified, timeless whole together with the application and the
original decision against which the appeal is launched. “Why do you think that I am
in limbo?” Joe does not like me to answer questions with questions. “You mean
there is no decision yet?” “I mean there can never be a decision. The problem with
the „total solutions‟ provided by Mosaic monotheism and the great Buddhist vision of
time and the spirit is that they can never be “total”. There is, and always will be,
disjunctions and things that do not fit. There never is, nor can there be, a perfect
quality assurance system - nor religion, nor spiritual law-court.”
Joe dreamt of the Great Snake encircling the World - a wonderful archetypal dream
that I provided for him. But he introduced elements which were entirely his and, in
truth, enriched my mind more than the anaconda enriched his. The anaconda played
the violin! I cannot explain how, but the music was languid and curled away in a
serpentine melody which I insist could be described as beautiful. Joseph smiled in his
sleep and awoke refreshed. I thank him for his music and its angelic harmonies - the
writhing lines of Bachian counterpoint can be heard with new ears if they are each
seen as having the individuality and vigour of a young python.....
The charred remainder of this passage is completely indecipherable.
There is an African tribe - the Baganda - whose custom it was for a new king to drink
the blood of a lion and dance to a drum made from the lion‟s hide. In this way he was
expected to gain some of the fierce creature‟s spirit. Cannibals believe similar
processes occur when they eat certain parts of their victims. Catholics believe a
similar spiritual transformation occurs at the communion service. For me, who has a
full appreciation of the significance of food, these notions of transubstantiation are not
only funny, but also reveal a profound and absurd tendency amongst fellow human
spirits. The attempt to marry together the nexuses of consciousness and pagan
idolatry (a worship of all the appearances of the physical world) is based on the idea
that a „total‟ vision can be gained. It will make sense and satisfy Moses (or at least
Ezra) and Buddha; Thomas Kempis and Aquinas; the writers of the Rig Veda, the
Koran and the Zohar; Stoics and Epicureans; Aztecs and Aboriginals; idealists and
nominalists - in fact every philosophy, religion and theory that can exist. Like some
mutant monster whose every limb and organ is connected to every other limb and
organ, such an aberrant vision should abort at birth. Even if it survives, there is no
way it can evolve.
“But I thought you said that spirits were totally interconnected,” Joe puts in. “So why
should “the truth” not be similarly structured?” The problem is that although in one
sense we are unified, in another we retain individual responsibility and - thankfully -
remain alienated from each other. Spirits do not consume each other (except in
nightmare) and perhaps only cannibals (and some Christians) would see an attraction
in so invasive a process. As for “the truth”, I remain unclear why my description of it
should find favour with anyone with a regard for the verdicts of spiritual courts or
who has any ideas of his own. After all, when they die they will, like me, gain an
awful appreciation of just how many descriptions there are; and how varied the
criteria we might use to judge them.. Despite the horror of the spilling of cannibalistic
(or colonised people‟s) blood, I retain a fondness for using the criterion of taste (as in
food) and decency (as in the gentle nature of my own spirit).
Joe demands to know how I can be so sure that I am a „gentle‟ spirit. There are lots of
ways that I can show this disposition. I would never be so presumptuous as to pretend
to pontificate from burning bushes or create the illusion of a partial reincarnation of
Christ by inscribing stigmata on the hands and feet of living men and women. Apart
from my little venture into refracting the light between the President and the TV
cameras, my hauntings are generally unspectacular and unnoticed. The way I haunt is
quite different from those who deliberately terrify their viewers. I would never have
rushed up on the crew of the Marie Celeste to make them believe that their only
chance of survival was to leap overboard to escape the blood-curdling phantom.
I have made a householder‟s boards creak when stepped on by burglars and caused an
unusual gust of wind to cross a room to make a parent look across as their baby was
about to have an accident. Usually my „victims‟ believe that they have been blessed by
a stroke of good luck. Spirits act with the full knowledge of the effect of their actions
- luck is merely the human word, a catch-all, for our normally unseen interventions.
Less gentle spirits than mine like to cause a stir, or they instigate “bad luck”.
“Does the carrying out of massacres, genocide and holocaust affect the spirit matrix?”
Joe‟s question is parallel to the more common “is there any point to suffering?” It
would be reassuring to think that suffering purified the spirit and could lead to a closer
proximity to the nexuses of consciousness. It would be consoling to believe that the
terrible experience of the victims of genocide could lead to their reincarnation and
their torturers being thrown into the eternal torments of „hell‟. However, it does not
work quite so simply.
It is the paradoxes and peculiarities of the spirit world that cause the atrocities. The
imperfections and conflicts of the spirit are played out in the physical world. So, on
one level, history evolves along lines of collision already sketched out
philosophically. In this sense, Hegel was right and Marx was wrong. But there are
other levels operating simultaneously of which Hegel seems unaware and Marx
prefers to ignore. The spiritual „law courts‟ do contain a process that has an
accusation, a defence, witnesses and a quasi-judicial outcome. Although condensed
into a timeless block here, it is played out through time in the world. And because the
„law courts‟ are subject to maladministration, confused procedure, poor jurisprudence
and contested decisions, the actors „in the world‟ are constantly throwing up new
evidence and arguments which creates havoc in the spiritual caseloads. Unable to
process all the new work, the „law courts‟ have gone into a state of suspended
animation. It is as if they were unable to make any final decisions pending some
event. Messianic theologians like to characterise this event as a „Last Judgement‟: but
this is another attempt to reduce a many-layered reality into a simple solution. The
„Last Judgement‟ is not an event but an immanent reality - as are the „law courts‟.
At another level, genocidal activity is carried out by people who believe that another
people is filled with evil spirits. Therefore, the killers are fearful of their victims and
it is the origin of that fear which provides some clues as to the most significant effect
on the spiritual matrix. Those who are fearful at this level have fundamental doubts
about the values and beliefs that they hold most dear. They have lost confidence in
their god(s). Since they find it axiomatically unthinkable to examine the credentials
of their god(s), their only way of bolstering their increasingly untenable position is by
attacking those whom they perceive to have undermined their faith. And so the
strange history of European anti-Semitism (boiling over into the Nazi holocaust)
expresses the Christian faith‟s lack of assurance when confronted with the absolute
non-anthropocentric monotheism of post-Ezra, Mosaic Judaism. Islamic and
Christian insistence on conversion exposes a deep insecurity which equates numbers
of believers with certainty of knowledge (as well as economic and political power).
And now fundamentalists (Christian, Moslem, Hindu and Jewish) reveal the depth of
their ignorance of the multi-layered nature of truth by insisting that those who do not
see the world through a particular layer are not only wrong but, if necessary, should be
killed. Of course, if the „law courts‟ were working properly then the weaknesses of
the perpetrators‟ arguments would be exposed, judgement passed and the
reincarnation process would quickly put an end to the continuation of such thought
and action from one generation to the next. But, instead, the ineffective functioning
of these „courts‟ is seen as the legitimation of genocidal action by perpetrators whose
power can then only be challenged physically by others „in the world‟. Supernatural
intervention tends to be hampered if the spirits have not got their act together.
But the nexuses of consciousness evolve: and only suffering provides the context for
this evolution. So at another level, the awareness of the imperfections of the spiritual
world by Buddha, Moses and others has led them to change their guardianship of
consciousness. Although the consciousness has continuing, absolute demands, the
guardianship itself has to involve more disenchanted and dispossessed people. And
the guardianship must be afforded equal status with those who purport to develop the
consciousness itself. Without this sense of participation, it is unlikely that there will
ever be a slackening of our genocidal tendencies. This knowledge is a driving force in
the evolution of the nexuses. So, at this level, the answer to Jo‟s question is that the
carrying out of the atrocities and similar horrific acts has no effect on the spiritual
world whatsoever - except at the most profound level. It is the fact that the atrocities
can be traced back to spiritual causes that challenges spirits, whose consciousness is at
its most intense, to evolve.
The 12 February entry is on a page that was half open and partially burnt through.
Odd words are legible, but large patches are completely blackened.
The (Vatican?) is an all-male club. But the Papacy as an ancient institution has a
It remains malleable and bends with the (political?) wind. But occasionally.... a moral
stance instead of pure expediency....
....„Mit Brennender Sorge‟....
Joe says he cannot picture a nexus of consciousness. He asks about Zoroastrian fire
and poetic images from Yeats (“pern in a gyre”), Huxley and Hartley. I tell him that a
visual picture as well as a linguistic representation - both gross distortions of how we
experience the nexuses - can only provide some indication to those in the physical
world of the ethical centres of their world and mine.
The great Brazilian anaconda reappeared to Joseph last night, bit its tail and
transformed itself into a whirling crocodile. The music had gone and, in its place, was
the accompaniment of a strong white light - diffused as though seen through a pool of
water. I was trying to give him another set of images, but somehow I lost control of
the process - and so did he. It seems that we may both be entering unknown territory.
It is the silence of the dream that Joseph recalls first when waking. The animal spirits
come flooding into his consciousness a little later. But it is the inexplicable absence
of sound that pervades his memory. He calls on me for some guidance. My reference
to Saint Augustine‟s description of evil as an absence of God impresses him not one
iota. Knowing that an earlier Joseph realised that dreaming in a timeless continuum
enabled him to predict the future of Egypt, Joe wonders if his dreams would give him
a clue to his personal destiny. I dissuade him from going down that road as there is no
key to decode the message (if there is a message). Psychoanalysis has not advanced
quite that far yet!
But “to advance” seems to be a theme of Joe‟s reveries. The crocodile seeks to tear
out of the never-ending circle created by the great snake. The next dream - a recurrent
one for Joe - has him sat on a tiny boat amidst a boundless ocean. On board he has a
little pump which sucks water from the front and squirts it out the stern. In this way,
he feels he makes progress. However, the vision of the dreamer is from a distance and
the boat seems to move so slightly as to appear virtually motionless. “Perhaps this is
an allusion to the painful evolution of the nexuses of consciousness?” Joe enquires.
But like all this series of dreams, I remain silent. He is Noah and his destination -
America and a New World.
The next dream features the martyrdom of Saint Sebastian and the crucifixion of
Christ (the two images run together). Their absurdly white flesh - as portrayed by
European artists - is bruised by stones or torn by spears. But as he hangs on the cross,
the tormentors‟ weapons become long feathers and the skin - suddenly darkening - is
tickled mercilessly. Christ/Sebastian giggles noiselessly, pushes the feathers away
with miraculously freed hands, and starts moving away from the feather-bearers as if
swimming in clear water. As a quaintly squat, black, hermaphroditic figure,
Christ/Sebastian glides away without a blemish anywhere on his/her body. The flight
is effortless and the destination - back to tropical Africa.
A camel takes Joseph across the desert. Swaying back and forth, he feels the progress
is slow. But seen from afar, he is the fastest traveller on the route as he sees others
walking, or standing by overheated vehicles. The motion is hypnotic and the
destination - back to Egypt.
The tree stretches out its branches. Joe is the tree but there is no pain in this
crucifixion. The motion is gentle, Gautama sits beneath in the shade, and the
destination - to cover all of India.
The voracious dinosaur rushes headlong across the plain towards the hills. Joe is
afraid but the dragon pays him no attention as it moves past him without a whisper.
The cold, red eyes are fixed on the horizon as if it could see its goal clearly although
no-one else can. Either it is fast approaching an illusion or it is we who are all blind.
Its motion is purposeful and efficient and its destination - China again.
It is five o‟clock on Sunday morning, the minarets are silent. There is no call to
prayer and the church bells are still. The beautiful buildings stand along well-paved
streets: luxury cars are parked on nearly every drive. There are no people. The only
movement is the undulating motion as the armies of ants spread out to occupy Europe
and the Eastern Mediterranean.
I have argued with Moses that the images of animals are merely another language to
describe the psyche. He is adamant that idolatry is not “merely” another language, but
one whose usage radically undermines the evolution of ethics and consciousness. I
am unconvinced and ask Sigmund Freud to intercede. After all, Freud could hold to
Jewish tenets of faith and ethics whilst introducing the whole symbolic language of
psychoanalysis. Moses has an obvious affection for Freud because the monograph
„Moses and Monotheism‟, which claimed that monotheism was rooted in Egyptian
theology, is exactly what Moses says. In his incarnation in Egypt, Moses was actually
the revolutionary Pharaoh Akhenaton. Freud finds this disconcerting and does not put
my case well: but I may have made some impression on Moses as his imposing spirit
has not destroyed my argument with an instant and powerful riposte.
There are various ways I could have written this diary. Like some poltergeists, I could
have enjoyed moving a pen across paper or making a typewriter or wordprocessor
function unattended. These are modern versions of inscribing „Mene, Mene, Tekel
Upharsin‟ on a wall and terrifying the onlookers. Because I am a gentle spirit I
rejected this way of operating and instead chose automatic writing. Joseph is a
wonderful medium because he can sit with a pen or before a keyboard and, generally
speaking, will not interfere with my flow through his hands (Oh don‟t I?). He writes
and types quickly and is accurate in all that he does (which is more than can be said
about your logic on occasions!). He receives my thinking readily as his mind is so
empty of his own thoughts (I‟ll stop writing for you completely if all you can manage
is sly swipes at your amanuensis). But he is a kind and considerate man who deserves
greater recognition for the work that he does on my behalf (that‟s better!). And I don‟t
begrudge him the money he earns as a medium, at sham seances where sad people are
convinced that the spirits from whom I bring messages could really care a damn about
those who call out to them. After all, the spirits realise that they have no chance of
reincarnation if all they do is look back at former lives. They have to let go to move
on, so being called by those with whom they were close does them no favours at all
(although it can be a great comfort for those who have been left behind: and I would
not want to stop them paying for that consolation).
I suppose I could rethink my mode of writing if Joe does intercede all the time with
his own thoughts. Perhaps I could simply pay nightly calls to the publisher‟s
computer and dictate directly. (But there again, what guarantee would there be that the
publisher would not throw the whole thing away as the work of a computer hacker....).
There is a complex tradition of naming babies which reveals a tendency that is lost in
the spirit world. Children are given names which have a meaning to the parents. It
could be the name of a grandparent signifying the continuation of a family heritage. It
could be the name has a meaning that would be obvious to anyone he may meet („Leo‟
the lion). In American Indian and Aboriginal societies, the name should signify
something to the spirit of the child as he or she matures. So being named „Lion‟
intimates the expectation that the bravery and courage nascent in the young man will
develop: indeed, that the courageous spirit that is incarnated within the person will be
permitted to express itself through (or despite) Leo‟s physique.
Now that I am dead, strictly speaking I have no name. Although I retain personal
responsibility for my thought and action, I do not possess a nameable, separate spirit
in the sense that babies are nameable and separable from each other. So I never
remind Joseph of the name I had when I was alive. In fact I often forget what it was.
Maybe there is hope for me yet and I can be reincarnated eventually.
Joe read a Kafka aphorism today: “A cage went in search of a bird.” “Do babies have
to seek out a spirit?” he asks. In a sense they do: and the moment of finding one is the
subject of great dispute amongst those who support or fight against abortion. But
really the whole dispute is based on taking the division between the spiritual and
physical world literally.
The Cartesian model which Joe and I are using as a means to describe a relationship is
only an analogy. There is no „ghost in a machine‟ - only an interaction between
people at the many different levels at which they function and an evolution of our
understanding of what we are doing. Searching for ways to describe what is
happening is the „bird going in search of a cage‟. Finding a framework leads to our
attempting to fit all experience and understanding within the model - and this is „the
cage going in search of the bird‟. So in one sense Kafka is describing the enterprise
being undertaken by Joe and I. Pro- and anti-abortion campaigners fight each other
within the confines of a Cartesian cage whose bars have been forged by organised
religions. The bars are reinforced with every skirmish between the campaigners and
will stay strong just so long as humans need this type of framework when thinking
about the spirit. Joe‟s challenge to me is to find a less constrained, more flexible, way
of describing my experience as a spirit that uses human language (despite its obvious
constraints) in order to keep things comprehensible.
There is no scientific basis for regarding earth, air, fire and water as the building
blocks from which the physical world is constructed - but they are certainly perceived
as “elemental” by most societies. Joseph‟s studies into medieval and classical models
of the universe have made him into something of an expert in this field. His personal
theory is that when a person‟s character has the four elements in perfect balance, then
he or she achieves some sort of spiritual insight or rejuvenation. I tell him that if such
elements meant anything at all, then a perfect balance would mean complete and
systematic confusion - total insanity.
Joe persists with his personal crusade to “experience” his elements. He believes that
„earth‟ is represented by his tendency to idealise women (his few relationships rarely
amount to much in practice). „Water‟ is represented in his recurrent dreams and his
obsessive fear of drowning. „Air‟ is his relationship with the spirit world and
philosophy. It is not yet clear to him how he is to experience „fire‟.
A sunscape. Saharan dunes with a mirage grotesquely magnified and projected onto
the horizon. A mounted camel bobs up and down as if dancing slowly on the spot. Its
rider is under the illusion that they are making progress out of the desert. But, like
some sedate carousel, the Earth‟s horizon rotates beneath their feet and they continue
pacing along on a point due east forever.
Joe asks if the greatest fear for all spirits is to return as a dung beetle. Personally I
would not cherish this form of reincarnation but since nearly all returning spirits have
little or no recollection of former lives and little or no knowledge of their lives to
come, there is no fear attached to the form of incarnation that they take. It is only
annoying spirits like mine that refuse to let go of their memory who harbour such
feelings. And I suppose that by holding onto this memory, I know that I am unlikely
to be thrust back into the world as a dung beetle (or as anything else). So by recalling
my life as a quality manager, I protect myself against such a fate. Of course, I also
prevent myself evolving and returning as someone with greater attraction (and
certainly with a more varied diet) than a dung beetle.
“I think that the world of the spirit is governed by market forces - the same as human
society.” Joseph has an aggravating way of making bald statements in order to
provoke me into a dispute. It is the same technique that he uses with his philosophy
students. I agree to play his little game: “why do you say that?” “Because you value
those things which are scarce whilst hardly mentioning the common-all-garden.
These “nexuses” seem few and far between and are associated with remarkable people
and their insights and understanding. And, like a dog with a bone, you focus all your
attention into worrying over them. Whereas four billion men and women alive now -
each, presumably, with their own individual spirit - do not seem to concern you at
all.” I suppose in one sense Joe is right: but he does ask questions that maybe can
only be addressed by approaching these rare spirits. In another sense, Joe completely
misses the point. The four billion spirits and those with remarkable consciousnesses
are interlinked inextricably and my clumsy words about one address the entire matrix.
What I regard as unusual may not be thought as such by others. But from my position
- in „limbo‟ so to speak - it is these people‟s ability to reincarnate and retain
knowledge of former and future lives that I find rare and worthy of note. I suppose
that with my desperate and tenacious grip on one former life, I am attempting to be
like these spirits. There is no „market force‟ at work however since there exists no
currency with which I can purchase such facility.
A nightscape. Owl seizes an adult rodent and flies back to the nest. The beak breaks
open the body and the owl eats. Questions hang in the air: what consciousness exists
in the mouse‟s family of the loss of a parent?
Will the departed spirit return as an owl and consume his own offspring? Is this the
Saturnine, nocturnal obverse of the sunlit victory of youth over age? Do all rites of
passage face both ways? Is the wedding a vicarious joining of mother-in-law to
groom and father-in-law to bride as if age took precedence over beauty? Is birth a
flight from other incarnations? Is death a celebration of victory over reason and
thought? Dreaming of night is bad for the digestion: the owl flies on.
A feastscape. Delicious and sumptuous colour and beautifully curved decoration are
packed onto great tables decked with pure, white cloths. The aroma is light - like a
summer garden. The prospect of the food tempts the dreamer to move closer and sink
his mouth into the first green and red course. It is flavoured: but so slightly that he
cannot name the taste immediately. It has the consistency of froth. The second blue
and orange course gives him an identical sensation. By the last pink and purple
course, he realises that the entire feast is nothing but unbelievably realised and
elaborately disguised sugar-water.
Siddartha Gautama regards me as little better than some fallen spirit - all stomach and
small eyes - with an insatiable appetite and little else. Communing with him makes
you feel quite inadequate to the task of aspiring, eventually, to a state of nirvana. He
seems quite confident that, given a few aeons, I shall get there. And then I shall not
be preoccupied by thoughts of reincarnation. The wheel will cease turning for me as I
shall have departed from the world of thoughts and desires. Meanwhile, I should
attempt to live by Buddhist codes of morality.
Moses (Akhenaton) regards me as little better than a gentile idolater - consumed by
greed and worldly dreams - with goals that go little further than my next meal.
Communing with him makes you feel quite inadequate to the task of aspiring,
eventually, to the knowledge that there is and never can be a communing between
mere mortals (and their spirits) and an absolute, omnipotent, omniscient, omni-present
Deity. Once understood, and he seems to have no confidence that I shall ever
understand, I can then get on with thinking about reincarnation - or not. It really will
not matter provided that I do it within an ethical code that he lays down.
I regard myself as an inquisitive, though gentle, spirit whose meditations have not
taken me through the tribulations of the jungle to the revelations beneath the Bodhi
tree in the park nor through the tribulations of the desert to the revelation on the
summit of Mount Sinai. I accept that their meditative powers have brought forward
formidable ethical structures within which the human race has veered between
survival and progress on the one hand and catastrophe and stagnation on the other.
And I accept that my meditations rarely get me beyond the perplexities of confronting
the strange and fabulous images of my dreams (a skein of illusion according to the
Tibetan „Book of the Dead‟ through which I ought to have passed soon after death,
provided that I applied at least rudimentary meditative concentration). But humans
seem to react to one another in one of two ways when confronted with these
„nexuses‟. Either they flee into furious spiritual denials of the apparent „totality‟ and
absolutism of the ethical systems (generating whole new religions and millennia of
persecution) or they learn to live within these systems - with a sense of humour.
Something odd has been happening to me. I am finding it harder to communicate
with Jo. What is worse, I seem to be losing my affection for food. In fact, I seem to
be losing my desire for anything: I am even feeling a bit diffident towards
reincarnation, spiritual rebirth - the whole works. The only influence that I can put
this down to is my chance communing with some Jains.
These are lovely spirits who have taken great care to harm no living things. As spirits
they pass along so lightly that you are unaware of their presence. And when I
interrogated them about what they felt about the nexuses of consciousness and the
surges of will to return to the world, they smiled and asked from where I believed the
surges emanated. I asserted that as they only occurred by the nexuses it was logical to
assume that this is where they were generated. But the Jains just smiled and said:
“Look into deep water the next time you think about such surges.”
I suppose I put this advice down as another cryptic reference to Joe‟s recurrent ocean
dream. But this time I must admit I got it completely wrong. Joe was trying to
contact me to make some séance money, and I had trouble contacting him. I was
thinking in too general and unfocussed a way about “coming back”. Suddenly I
imagined being overtaken by a great wave - a surge of will - that would sweep me
back to the shore of human society. Recalling the Jains‟ advice I summoned an image
of a deep pool and gazed down. My reflection looked up and, pulsing from the water,
I could see the surges of will like burning embers thrown off by me.
So the Jains have shown me that we create our own will to return: the nexuses of
consciousness are blithely indifferent to whether we wish to go back or not. And
Siddartha Gautama (as well as countless Christian and other mystics since) has
identified the burning embers as identical to the experience of human suffering. This
knowledge seems to have put me off my food. The Jains have told me that if I ever do
go back, I shall either be a vegan or a herbivorous animal. Perhaps my growing lack
of interest in returning is less to do with any rising spiritual awareness and more to do
with not wanting to risk becoming a giraffe.
Joe keeps calling out to me, but I am finding it harder to communicate. He asks how
he should change to improve the communication: and all I can say is “meditate”. He
thinks that I mean by meditating, his life signs will fade a little, his pulse and
breathing will slow, and that he will enter a trancelike state that - appearing nearer to
death - will bring him closer to me. That is not what I want him to think at all.
When Moses meditated upon the mountain and when Buddha meditated beneath the
tree, they did not approach death - merely a consciousness, a truth. If Joe meditates,
he may approach a spiritual awareness in which I can figure. He believes that I am
turning my back on him as he thinks that I have reached a higher level of
consciousness. This is not the case. If it were then Moses would not have bothered
returning to the Israelites and Buddha would not have concerned himself with 45
years more of teaching. Saint Benedict says to me that the contemplative life of
monks - a sort of institutionalised school of meditation - is solely devoted to retaining
the knowledge of this spiritual awareness. But it is not different in kind from Jo‟s
present state of consciousness - more by degree. It is as if he were standing on rocks
and immersed in the sea. Meditation may allow him to bob above the water that he is
traversing through his life. He does not leave the water, nor does he lose touch with
the rocky ground. It does not make him a better swimmer nor diver - it just provides
him with another perspective. It does not provide food nor warmth for his body - just
a better understanding of where he is. “I can see where I am,” Joe shouts. “I am up to
my neck in it whilst you are sitting on dry land keeping warm and dry by a camp fire.”
Joe, Joe, I have to tell you about the sudden-ness of seeing all of my incarnations. I do
not think that I was actively seeking it: but it was as if they had always been there
behind a curtain. Another hand drew it back and I was met with myself - all of
myselves. I am unsure if I can bear the pain.
Joe, you persevere in trying to contact me. At times I suspect that you want to shake
off your life so as to exist as a spirit. But you must not long for this because it is not
so wonderful as you think. Hold onto life - it is precious and funny and you will miss
it soon enough.
Joe, you continue to aspire to a purely spiritual life. But I warn you, you are wasting
your energies. All your incarnations are illuminated solely by moments of what you
might view as moral courage achieved whilst alive. And all your incarnations are,
spiritually, indivisible; it does not matter when you achieve these moments. But you
will never create them if you are constantly seeking to escape.
Joe, you expend so much energy in seeking some spiritual truth; but your strivings do
little more than stir up the mud in what would otherwise be clear water. Stand still.
Do not move. Let the dust settle. All is quiet. Do not look or listen. Do not breathe
or smell. Do not reach out to touch. Just be still and you will not need to seek. The
truth will be and you will be and you will sense no difference.
Joe, your passion to do what is right will never drop from your consciousness. It is
what drives the continual re-creation of human society - of the moral infrastructure
that is the „human‟ adjective to the societal noun. If it were to cease, there would be
no more „human‟ society - if there were no „human‟, then there would be no
consciousness. And therefore, the passion can never drop from consciousness. The
two are synonymous. So the perfect balance, the total awakening, of the Buddha
knows no craving - but is not passionless. He subsumes all passion - he is totally
Now, Joe, you must understand your passion. It is misdirected. It is as if you are
determined to race down a corridor, looking neither left nor right, up nor down. But
imagine that you come to a hallway and, glancing to one side, you see yourself in a
distorting mirror. You look to your other side and another mirror, parallel to the first,
reflects images that look like you back to infinity. These are your incarnations. Now
imagine that all of your incarnations stop and turn ninety degrees - and all become one
persona. You are that one spirit who now looks left and right and finds... parallel
mirrors. These are your lifetimes - all the hopes and hurts, pains and joys, aspirations,
failures, loves and loathings. Unifying these is to reach an equilibrium where all
passion is subsumed into the fulcrum which is your spirit, your identity. And now -
and only now - are you able to turn on the one spot - beneath your Bodhi tree - and
take in the same vision, with infinitely varying lives, that greets you at every angle.
If you continue to tear down the corridor, burning with a passion to race forward no
matter what, under the illusion that it is only somewhere in the future that you will
suddenly discover the truth, you will see nothing - seeing less as you become hotter. It
is not the passion that should be stilled. Without this, you lose the richness of all your
lives and the moral drive that makes you human. It is the burning illusion that
prevents you seeing anything that is not directly in front of you.
There seem to be some pages missing, although in the margin of one in Hebrew is
written “Hear, O Israel, the Lord your God, the Lord is One.”
... and it is possible to glimpse a seamless unity - different aspects of which are
variously traced out but frequently conflicting cultures. But they are each describing
the same story - but the full story is a timeless myth and not a narrative. It is a
wordless poem whose elements are entire civilisations, musical fragments,
metaphysical systems, poignant moments, the history of continents, individual lives.
A glass-bead game with no players... ecstatic conception with no possibility of
The following paragraph appear to be in a different handwriting
In trying to reach out to the increasingly elusive spirit, I (Joe?) have become haunted
by a recurrent dream. It is a vision of an incandescent being - a glowing angel. It is a
creature - neither male nor female - who seems consumed by an internal flame -
eternally on the point of bursting into an unimaginable outpouring of energy and light.
It is as if this angel, bearing a dancing sword of fire, was the most fearful destructive
force and, at the same time, was the incarnation of the moment of all creation.
Joe has not been able to write down our joint experiences over the past few days. We
have seen into things about which we had no prior inkling. It was as if Joe‟s mind
were partially fused with others - but that he remained alive. He was not just a spirit
like me, and yet his thoughts and feelings melded with others in an imaginary universe
- as if in a “virtual” space like that created by the computer world-wide-web. One
passing dream was of some future internet where everyone was plugged in directly
through their eyes. The computers could read the impulses from the brain and send
them - almost telepathically - to others‟ heads. The machines could read everything:
criminal investigation was simply a decoding job. Visual impairment was scarcely a
disability. The inability to communicate was merely a technical hitch.
But in the dream, Joe could not escape the logic of our jointly-created universe. The
“virtual” space is inhabited by real brains interacting. Even when physical life ended,
there was no automatic termination of that person‟s virtual existence. Some seemed
to fade or become boringly predictable in their interaction with others. But a few
seemed to develop far more quickly in virtual space once they were uninhibited by a
The difference between those that faded and those that appeared to take off after death
could be seen in Joe‟s dream projected on a quaintly theatrical backdrop. It was as if
those waiting to develop crackled with an inner fire whose sparks flickered onto Joe‟s
cortical widescreen every time they communicated.
And when the sparks gathered together to make a flame, then Joe knew that together
we were entering or creating a nexus of consciousness.
Joe challenged me today over why our dreams have adopted such a technological
stance. “Surely this comes from my fondness for science fiction and not your fusion
with other spirits?” he asks. And in one sense he is right. Fascination for bionic
capabilities may go back to Frankenstein‟s monster and earlier, but it has really come
into its own with late twentieth century film and television imagery. But as Joe draws
closer to me, he may share more of the nightmares that I dream through those who
died earlier in the century. For there is a far older tradition of viewing the human
body as nothing more than an object - an instrument or tool. Companies pay people to
submit to being treated (and treating themselves) as “human resources”. The pharaohs
and other emperors enslaved millions with the express intention of using their bodies
as units of production. The Nazi holocaust went one step further by regarding those
they murdered as raw material for the salvaging of body gold and the manufacture of
lampshades. Joe may soon be waking up with the strong sensation that someone has
been trying to pull his teeth.
Joe woke up today with a toothache. He will soon develop a further aversion to
wearing rings and seeing his students with pierced ears (and other attempts to adorn
the body with metal).
In the technological universe where machines are imagined as expanding our
potential, although threatening us with reminders of our atavistic nature, there are an
infinite number of variations on the theme of ethical accountability. Our “virtual”
World might regard the inadvertent unplugging of an internet server as a form of mass
murder (even though the bodies of those who had been switched off may have turned
to dust many generations earlier). Who takes responsibility for turning off life support
machines? Joe has the dream of piloting a giant machine that saves the spirits of the
dead as well as the lives of the living. But every mechanical (or electronic)
contraption - just like every biological entity - has its limits. Therefore, Joe has the
unbearable responsibility of deciding who to save and who to leave to die. He decides
to impose a set of objective criteria and then allow the machine automatically to
assess each life on its merits. Moses and Buddha are saved. But the machine
becomes pilotless when it switches off Joseph.
Joe‟s pilotless machine becomes a column of fire in the desert. Moses and millions of
others are trying to keep up with its progress. Joe and I are up front near the leader.
The erratic movement of the column of fire makes it difficult to know which way we
will be walking next. One night, the column veers round and speeds towards us.
People rush off in different directions to avoid the flaming tornado. But Moses stands
firm and we watch as he is encapsulated by the burning, fiery furnace. He is
unscathed. But as it catches us, we are transformed into human torches that give out
an intense, blue light.
I imagine that I am back in the canning factory. The automation provides reassurance.
Production faults are not anyone‟s personal responsibility. Provided that everyone has
done their job, the inadvertent introduction of a toxin into the food causes a death by
misadventure. No blame can be attached to any one individual. The “system” killed
some consumers. It would have been unreasonable to assume that an undetected
lubricant leak could have caused such severe contamination. The fire-resistant
clothing of Reason leaves us unscathed when the families of the dead come searching
for answers to their burning questions.
And yet guilt, like smoke filtering through our asbestos suits, chokes us all....
The remainder of this passage, and the following few pages, are burnt through. The
bottom of one page with 16 June clearly marked has survived. But the next block of
legible text dates from late summer.
.... and so, Joe, I appeal to you not to emulate me. You knew me as Leo Kohn: but
you also know that that was a transient appearance. I have known so many names that
their recital would fill up meaningless pages of your little exercise book. Your
memory of me is like the photograph of a passing train. Trying to be like me is like
attempting to catch a train by boarding the photograph.
Sunshine and solitude in your room is preferable to the musty smell of the seance. Do
not bemoan the loss of income as I fail to satisfy the curiosity of your customers.
Welcome the warmth of the weather and the disappearance of the fearful seeking
comfort from the dead. You should not waste the time that you have left with chasing
after their money.
Your preoccupation with identifying any pattern by which the spirit world “breaks
into” the physical world is understandable. But it is doomed to failure. If you were to
map every occurrence of stigmata, for example, I could demonstrate to you that they
were nothing more than a totally random scattering of partial reincarnations. They are
chance faults in the quality control system.
You dream of a wonderful symphony composed as an entirely aleatoric experience.
Duchamp‟s glass „The Bride stripped bare by her bachelors, even‟ is a backdrop
projected onto a giant screen. A chaotic kaleidoscope of sound, colour, tastes, smell
and feelings resonates within your mind as your temperature starts to rise. And who is
to say that “good health” is the best state in which to appreciate the spirit world? And
yet all you then crave is peace.
Peace, Joe, is withdrawal from a close encounter with a restless spirit. It is the act of
withdrawal from the presence of Beethoven, say, that brings serenity. Therefore, the
closer the encounter the greater the sensation as you withdraw. It is the grappling that
sheds light: avoidance brings nothing but confusion. Without light, Buddha wanders
blindly around the tree, bumping his head and bruising his shins. Without light,
Moses blunders through the sand and sees no bush. But both are permanently in a
state of just having struggled with overwhelming powers. They are, therefore, at
peace and miss nothing.
When you were ill last week, you sat up in bed and looked out of the window. You
thought you saw a pretty girl walking past. She did not look up. She did not know
that you were there. Her face was serene as she made her way towards the university.
You imagined that she must be a student - she was carrying a book. She wore a
brightly-patterned, red skirt with a white blouse. She had long, dark hair and had the
light step of an innocent, clear conscience.
Her ignorance of your existence seemed to add piquancy to your memory. It was not
just the voyeuristic notion of seeing without being seen - a kind of variation on the
theme of holding power through “knowledge”. It was the essential “otherness” of the
young woman - which would have been compromised if she had returned your gaze.
You returned to health quickly after that. It was as if you had been given new breath.
You think that it was an illusion of age being replaced by a vision of youth. But it was
more like your failing capacity to communicate with me suddenly being given new
impetus from an unexpected source. You were trying to reach me by sending out
waves of heat from the embers of a dying fire. The “otherness” you experienced was
the hurling of petrol onto the sparks and ashes.
Suddenly, you are seeing everything in a new light. And the explosive impact of your
vision brings you alarmingly close to me. Whether the girl was real or a hallucination
thrown up by your fever is academic. Your summer, Joe, will be a short but eventful
I do not welcome your approach. As I already know what is going to happen to you, it
would be easy to believe that I should feel indifferent. But your experience is part of
mine. And mine will soon be yours.
Smoke cannot be contained in the open air. And yet you continue to try to tie down
your insight into the spirit. You describe what you have seen and heard. You hope
that this can act as an explanation. To believe that it is would be to regard a well-
constructed picture frame as a summary critique of an old master.
Language supports, constrains and defines your understanding. You have tried to
transcend the medium through experience and experiment. Music and architecture,
sensuality and sensation, religion and ritual - there is very little that you have not
attempted. When you do break out, it will appear as an outward spectacle. But the
force that will destroy your body will be little more than a physical bi-product of the
creation of your new understanding.
The recurrent dream returned twice last night. The glowing angel - consumed by a
strange, internal flame eternally on the point of bursting into an unimaginable
explosion of energy and light - carried a dancing sword of fire. You know that this
was the most fearful destructive force and, at the same time, was the incarnation of the
moment of all creation. But every time that the dream occurs, new nuances are
apparent. The last time was characterised by subtly flickering shadows thrown, it
seemed, by unseen figures standing before the advancing angel.
Joe, you have grasped the significance of the shadows. They have nothing to do with
Plato: nothing to do with appearance and reality. They are you and I. They are all the
spirits - fused together before the incandescent sword.
But have you yet seen the angel‟s eyes?
The dreams have stopped. The seances have stopped. The philosophy has ended.
The dreams are gone. Where is Leo?
Joe, you must listen to the silence. No silence is meaningless.
In the coldest moment of the night, the angel returned and I looked into the creature‟s
face. The pilotless machine is blind. The survival of Moses, of Buddha, of any of us,
is an entirely random occurrence.
You look at your hands and wish that you could see stigmata. But you are already half
aware that your experience of the spirit world “breaking into” your life will not be so
private. It is not sacrifice that you long for: it is a more direct approach to a divine
nexus. You already have some insight into suffering - but only glimpses into truth. It
is not crucifixion to which you aspire - it is the burning bush.
So remove your shoes and approach with care. You will hear a voice. But you will
comprehend nothing. The sound will be no more than the booming and whispers that
echo from a great cave. You look into the cave and see a burning, fiery furnace. You
can only understand the speech from inside the cave.
You seek answers: you remain a philosopher. So you still believe in magic, Joe. You
look for the Firebird with the exotic plumage: you want to pluck a single enchanted
feather that can uncover the truth and reveal the World as it really is. But you must
understand that the bird is merely myth. Only the fire is real.
Silence is not threatening. It is the sound of grass growing. It is the wheeling stars,
the distant cloud, the sleeping child. The cross-legged Buddha knows the life of the
tree as an experience from the inside - like breathing. Moses knows that the end of
life is a walk away from his great family and into the waiting lines of the Pharaoh‟s
troops. It is a walk taken at dawn without onlookers through the quiet desert. It is a
sacrifice across silent sand before the stunning, steel-tinted sun rises like an
executioner. It is an infinitely-recurring walk slowly paced through each generation
many million times. It is a soundless film, the crowds milling before gunfire, the
sidings at Auschwitz. And it is over yet never finished. And it will come again but is
The top of the next page is missing and appears to have been torn out.
You will discover soon enough, Joe, that the spirits of the stegosaurus reveal a depth
of pain that is scarcely imaginable. These creatures lumbered across the landscape
with grotesquely-armoured bodies from which they could only escape through death.
To co-ordinate their limbs, they had an additional little brain at the other end of their
body. But the horror is that they dreamt through both. And their dreams are ones we
The following little rhyme was written on the back of the page that was partly torn
out. There is no way of knowing if it is part of a longer verse.
We cannot be amazed, surely,
that we feel praised poorly
by words that we are asked to repeat -
by notated rhythm with no beat?
What can we say through phrase or story
that does not need a blaze of glory?
Language is refined and discreet
whose meaning is moulded by the heat.
Today, Joe, is your birthday and you deserve your fifty candles.
This is the last entry. It is dated on the day that Joseph died. No trace of candles or
matches was found. The seat of the fire was confirmed as Joseph‟s own body. The
university will publish the findings into this and other less publicised cases of
spontaneous combustion when the first research project is completed.
On the inside of the back cover, Joseph has inscribed in capitals one more passage
from the Koran.
What is the disaster? On that day men shall become like scattered moths and the
mountains like tufts of carded wool. Then he whose scales are heavy shall dwell in
bliss; but he whose scales are light, the Abyss shall be his home. If only you could
know what this is like. It is a scorching fire.