I am reading Gareth Patterson’s book, The Secret Elephants. He is forthright about his extraordinary experiences from the beginning. A meticulous student of his subject, whether lion or elephant, he does not hesitate to speak of the ways in which intuition and other ways of knowing that science often disdains have been central to his discoveries and understanding. A profound and necessary honesty. I turn to this book after reading, savoring, Leslie Marmon Silko’s The Turquoise Ledge who speaks from her own deep experience of the intelligence and agency of animals as well as the constant presence of the ancestors. Simultaneously, I read the The Lightning Spirits by Craig E. Kedros. He was led to speak of experiences in Mexico that verified the persistence of the spirits and the hidden practitioners who keep the old knowledge awake.
A friend comments on how easily, it seems to her, I speak of the spirits. I didn’t always speak this way. I didn’t always have such experiences. I didn’t always know. Many events occurred to educate me about this inspirited world of ours. In 1981, I collaborated with theater director, Steven Kent, to recover and re-enact the Eleusinian Mysteries in Greece for the first time in 1500 years. We entered the Mysteries and then, without question, we knew. (Birth and Death in the Eleusinian Mysteries on my website – www.deenametzger.com).
It is so difficult to speak of these things when we know that we are going to confront the determined skepticism and scorn of science and conventional thought. Science turned against itself, turned against its original urge to know and understand free of prejudice and self-interest. It is difficult to speak truth when one might be accused of anything and everything these days, even of heresy, of devil’s work.
In the late sixties, early seventies, I was the defendant in an academic freedom case because of a poem of mine I had used in a community college English class unit on censorship. While the case was in the courts, (before we won in the California Supreme Court) I was teaching at the California Institute for the Arts. Robert Corrigan, then President, called me into his office one day to tell me that a member of the Board of Trustees had asked him: “What is that woman from hell doing on our faculty?” In those days, we were defending poetry, freedom of speech and academic freedom, the rights of students to know, etc. But it could have as easily been a defense of the right to a spiritual life. That case played out in the courts and in the press. What was most essential, however, was the dialogue between faculty and students – our camaraderie.
Again in these frightening times, in so many seemingly distinct arenas, we are called to testify and defend the truths that are re-emerging to challenge the banal, the technological, the greedy and the violent. To challenge every form of fundamentalism, all those who war against the earth and what President Eisenhower called the military industrial complex. I heard the last paragraph of his departing speech again a few days ago and it is truer, a greater warning, than ever.
I do not urge anyone to any extreme acts of bravery, or to act in ways that might endanger their lives or the lives of their loved ones. When I went to court to defend myself as a teacher, I was thirty-three and didn’t fully understand what the implications and consequence of such conflict might be. Now I know more of what the consequences may be – of speaking out and of being silent. I can only hope, as I contemplate these times, that I will meet whatever I am called to meet.
Having posted the first To Consider letter, I am afraid, of course, that I will not meet my own hopes and expectations. Perhaps I write this here to encourage myself. Isn’t it a common hope that we will live according to what we have spoken when the time comes? Still, when I am thinking of 2012, I am increasing aware of the truth of things that want to be revealed. The truth of what has become, of what we have become, of our dire and dangerous circumstances. Of our participation and entanglement in what acts against all life.
AND the truth of the great mysteries, of their existence and persistence. Both – AND the truth and and the truth – the big statements and the small.
Gareth Patterson begins this way. It is his quiet assertion that moves me. He is speaking quietly of what he sees, knows and so lives. He is speaking of what he knows, as you will see, to everyone who is listening:
“A few days after the helicopter went missing (March 6th, 1999) I gave a presentation on how, after the murder of my friend George Adamson, (with Joy Adamson, Born Free) I had rescued George’s last lion orphans in Kenya and returned them to the wild in the Tuli bushlands of Botswana. The audience that evening consisted of South African businessmen and their wives.
“During the presentation, I mentioned that I occasionally used a diving technique with a map and pendulum as a means of locating lions. In principle, this is similar to the way in which people divine for water. Dowsing, as it is called, is one of the oldest arts and is widely used today in fields as diverse as medicine and archaeology. George Adamson’s brother, Terence, discovered late in his life that he cold locate lions, geological faults, and even missing people with the use of a pendulum and map. …I too, from time to time would use a pendulum to locate lions.” from The Secret Elephants, page 5.
I have been sitting with these questions since the first posting: What is to be said? What is not to be said? What to say, what not to say? What to say? What not not to say? And how to speak of what calls to be spoken so that it is incorporated easily into language and its concerns, so that what is true, but has been hidden our of fear or lack of opportunity or lack of invitation, is reinserted into the casual conversation of each day. So much depends on speaking openly and casually to each other of what we see and know.
After a short presentation at an interfaith gathering at a NY State university, I asked the members of the audience if any one had had any experiences that would be considered events of extraordinary reality. There was a long silence. A long, terrible silence. Then, hesitantly, one of the chaplains spoke of her mother coming to her, shortly after death, as a bird. She did not doubt it was her mother. Then the second chaplain spoke. And then, one after another, everyone in the room told a story that they had had to carry secretly. It was clear at the end of the afternoon, after we had spent so much more time together than had been planned, that we had broken through a powerful barrier. Everything marvelous and true could now be spoken. Everything marvelous and true would be spoken and held in trust. A community of knowing had formed based on each one’s experience. At the end of the afternoon no one was afraid. At the end of the afternoon, we all felt joy as if the world had been restored.
I take the two pendulums that I like to wear and use, you know, the leopard’s tooth and the turquoise elephant, and hold them over this text and ask if I should post it. They swing together in a strong wide circle that looks like, Yes. It looks enthusiastically like Yes. And so, here it is.