Wednesday 12 July 2017

Journey to the Centre of the Earth

I have been wanting to write an appreciation of C.S. Lewis's 1945 novel That Hideous Strength for some time. I have been unable, however, to approach the book in any kind of conventional manner. I am not sure why, but there it is. The words refuse to flow.

The Irish sportswriter and man of letters, Con Houlihan (1925-2012), always avoided the press box at the Gaelic Football and Hurling games he covered. He preferred to stand on the terraces, slightly apart from the crowd, in a corner of the paddock by himself. His reply, when asked about this, was that 'a poet should approach his subject matter from an oblique angle.' That Hideous Strength, to my mind, is such an indisputably great book, such a wild, rumbunctious, rough and tumble tale, shot through with fire and flair, that a review of my own to add to the million and one already written can never come close to capturing its singular essence. Only an oblique angle will suffice. But it isn't easy. I find it hard to even describe the novel's plot and basic themes. There's so much crammed into its pages - so much passion, drama and vision. You can't tame it. You'll be wrestling with thunder and lightning if you try.

The forces of evil - what St. Paul calls the 'principalities, powers, and rulers of the darkness of this world' - establish themselves in the sleepy university town of Edgestow under the guise of the National Institute for Coordinated experiments (NICE), a pseudo-scientific endeavour aimed ostensibly at eradicating disease and improving living standards. This cloaks its true goal, the abolition of humanity and its replacement by a disembodied artificial intelligence, wholly subordinate to the 'bent eldils' (fallen angels) who seek to keep men and women trapped in illusion and sin.

Opposing the NICE is the little community of St. Anne's on the Hill, an atmospheric, slightly rambling house and garden, brimming over with everything good - life, laughter, good conversation, honest toil, contemplative silence and serious thought. Presiding over this is Elwin Ransom, philologist turned interplanetary explorer, the hero of Lewis's previous 'space novels' Out of the Silent Planet (1937) and Perelandra (1940). Ransom, in his travels, has been honoured by the 'good eldils', angelic intelligences and servants of Maleldil (Christ), who inhabit the spheres of Mars, Venus and beyond, never ceasing to chip away at the blockade their corrupted brethren have set up around the Earth. Ransom is open and receptive to their influence, and it is his patience and humility, his willingness to wait, watch and listen for guidance when instant physical action seems the only sane thing to do, that ultimately makes the difference and saves mankind from slavery.

That Hideous Strength has been compared by many to the 'supernatural shockers' of Charles Williams, but the two names that spring to my mind are Dostoyevsky and Joyce. It has the spiritual intensity of the former and the linguistic panache of the latter. Take, for instance, Lewis's account of Jane's first meeting with Ransom:

Pain came and went in his face: sudden jabs of sickening and burning pain. But as lightning goes through the darkness and the darkness closes up again and shows no trace, so the tranquility of the countenance swallowed up each shock of torture. How could she have thought him young? Or old either? It came over her, with a sensation of quick fear, that this face was of no age at all. She had (or so she believed) disliked bearded faces except for old men with white hair. But that was because she had long since forgotten the imagined Arthur of her childhood - and the imagined Solomon too. Solomon - for the first time in many years the bright solar blend of king and lover and magician which hangs about that name stole back upon her mind. For the first time in all those years she tasted the word King itself with all linked associations of battle, marriage, priesthood, mercy, and power.

Or this - the descent of Jupiter to St. Anne's:

Upstairs his mighty beam turned the Blue Room into a blaze of lights. Before the other angels a man might sink: before this he might die, but if he lived at all, he would laugh. If you had caught one breath of the air that came from him, you would have felt yourself taller than before. Though you were a cripple, your walk would have become stately: though a beggar, you would have worn your rags magnanimously. Kingship and power and festal pomp and courtesy shot from him as sparks fly from an anvil. The pealing of bells, the blowing of trumpets, the spreading out of banners, are means used on earth to make a faint symbol of his quality. It was like a long sunlit wave, creamy-crested and arched with emerald, that comes on nine feet tall, with roaring and with terror and unquenchable laughter. It was like the first beginning of music in the halls of some King so high and at some festival so solemn that a tremor akin to fear runs through young hearts when they first hear it.

Lewis really lets himself go here. There is a bardic quality to the prose which the bourgeois conventions of the novelistic medium can barely contain. It struck me recently that certain passages towards the end of the book - the mayhemic 'Banquet at Belbury', the death of Feverstone in the earthquake, and the erotically-charged closing pages - represent exactly the kind of fiction that respectable opinion in 2017 would run a mile from. This, in my view, is entirely a good thing, redounding massively in Lewis's favour.

There is a freshness and vitality to his storytelling which seems lacking in British writing today, as well as in the country's wider spiritual and cultural life. The oft-cited decline in British Christianity, for example, is not primarily, as many claim, a crisis of faith. The high water mark of theological liberalism came and went a long time ago. There are plenty of believing Christians and a fair few pockets of energy and vigour across the denominations. The issue, rather, is one of integration and imagination. The Christian vision has lost its imaginative hold over the nation. What is required, therefore, I feel, is neither restoration nor modernisation, but deepening and reconnection. It is a matter of ressourcement - a return to the source - a rediscovery of the wellsprings of Divine inspiration within our own hearts, the heart of the land, and the heart of the Christian faith itself.

Engaging with That Hideous Strength would be a terrific start. No-one, surely, could read this book and persist in the atheist argument that Christianity is a mere crutch or comfort blanket and not, on the contrary, something shocking, scandalous and utterly thrilling that literally knocks one for six. In the words of Pope Benedict XVI, 'Christianity is not an intellectual system, a collection of dogmas or a moralism. Christianity is instead an encounter, a love story, an event.'

Part of this 'event' is the recognition that, as William Blake put it, 'everything that lives is holy.' Every person, every object, and every facet of the natural world is endowed and imbued with the Divine mystery. This is the meaning of sacramentalism - ordinary things transformed, made holy and given back to us alive with the light of God. This is what happens to Jane on her way back from the encounter with Ransom described above:

She saw from the windows of the train the outlined beams of sunlight pouring over stubble on burnished woods and felt that they were like the notes of a trumpet. Her eyes rested on the rabbits and cows as they flitted by and she embraced them in heart with merry, holiday love. She delighted in the occasional speech of the one wizened old man who shared her compartment and saw, as never before, the beauty of his shrewd and sunny old mind, sweet as a nut and English as a chalk down.

Without this 'eye of faith', this capacity to see the extraordinary in the ordinary, Christianity in this country will remain a dry and bureaucratic thing, ordered and respectable, unable to take flight and rise to the challenges of our time.

The final element is the land itself, the 'pleasant pastures', 'mountains green', and 'clouded hills' Blake evoked so powerfully in Jerusalem. There is a conspicuous absence in the UK, I think, of anything that might be called 'British Christianity.' None of the denominations, as far as I can see, seem interested in the powerhouse of mythic lore that animates our island and gives it such imaginative resonance and archetypal depth. There is no attempt to link the faith with the land and the aboriginal understanding that the land in itself (as Blake knew) is sacred and holy - qualitative not quantitative - hallowed ground, not a random collection of rivers, mountains and fields.

Despite the best efforts of Lewis, Tolkien, and one or two others, too many minds, on both sides of the divide, remain locked in a shallow Pagan v Christian dichotomy. They fail to see how Christianity relates to the mythic stream running beneath the surface of British history - how it builds on it and makes it complete. There is a vast reservoir of spiritual energy contemporary Christianity is missing out on here. Lewis, of course, makes no such mistake in That Hideous Strength, and this, I feel, is the book's key passage:

'It all began,' said Dr. Dimble, 'when we discovered that the Arthurian story is mostly true history. There was a moment in the Sixth Century when something that is always trying to break through into this country nearly succeeded. Logres was our name for it - it will do as well as another. And then gradually we began to see all English history in a new way. We discovered the haunting.'

'What haunting?' asked Camilla.

'How something we may call Britain is always haunted by something we may call Logres. Haven't you noticed that we are two countries? After every Arthur, a Mordred; behind every Milton, a Cromwell: a nation of poets, a nation of shopkeepers ... Is it any wonder they call us hypocrites? But what they mistake for hypocrisy is really the struggle between Logres and Britain.'

He paused and took a sip of wine before proceeding.

'It was long afterwards,' he said, 'after the Director had returned from the Third Heaven, that we were told a little more. This haunting turned out to be not only from the other side of the invisible wall. Ransom was summoned to the bedside of an old man then dying in Cumberland. His name would mean nothing to you if I told it. That man was the Pendragon, the successor of Arthur and Uther and Cassibelaun. Then we learned the truth. There has been a secret Logres in the very heart of Britain all these years: an unbroken succession of Pendragons. That old man was the seventy-eighth from Arthur: our Director received from him the office and the blessings; tomorrow we shall know, or tonight, who is the eightieth. Some of the Pendragons are well known to history, though not under that name. Others you have never heard of. But in every age they and the little Logres which gathered round them have been the fingers which gave the tiny shove or the almost imperceptible pull, to prod England out of the drunken sleep or to draw her back from the final outrage into which Britain tempted her.'

This, I believe, is our role and sacred mission in this land today - to find the keys to Logres, render her visible once more, and join hands with the Pendragon in his quest to awaken England and all this holy realm from her drunken sleep.


'How can these things be?' Nicodemus asked Christ upon being told he must be born anew.

It's a question I often ask myself, counting down the hours at work, wondering if they'll notice if I take myself off the phones again and slip off to make a brew. My best bet, I decide, is to make one for everybody, so that's what I do. On my way back I notice a door that I've always seen closed standing slightly ajar. 'That's unusual,' I think. Once I've deposited the drinks I pop back. My head is sure that it's just a cleaning cupboard I haven't noticed before, but my heart keeps nagging at me, urging me to take a look. So I do, and find that both my heart and head are right. Yes, it is a cleaning cupboard, replete with all the stuff you'd expect to see - pails, buckets, detergents, etc. But my heart did not deceive me. There is indeed something more, right at the back, a spiral stone staircase, dimly lit, running down anti-clockwise.

I glance behind me. No-one watching. All locked onto their screens. I step into the cupboard, pull the door behind me, step over a mop and stand on the first step, looking down. I can't resist it. Anything to break up the morning. So down I go, intending to have a quick scout and come back up before I'm missed, but the further I go the more captivated I get, as if transported into some story or myth that feels more real, more true and more essential to who I really am than the upper world, which felt so imposing just a moment before but now seems thin and insubstantial in comparison.

The steps narrow as I descend. The further I go the more chipped and broken they become. Burning braziers lashed to the wall every twenty steps or so light the way. There's one to my left and one to my right and so on all the way down. Despite the momentary blast of heat as I pass them by, the air in the staircase is cool and fresh. I realise suddenly that I've no idea how long I've been going down for. Five years or forever, I've no idea at all. I look back up and see nothing but darkness. But there's a new smell in the air - fresh and wild and briny - like the sea, but it can't be, not here, not so far below the surface of the Earth.

The twists and turns of the stairway grow tighter. It's darker now. There are no more braziers. I reach out to the walls for support and my hands touch moss and lime. I glimpse a light ahead, creeping around the steps. Then it's all over. There's a rough, arch-shaped doorway, and I'm out of the staircase and onto a lamplit jetty, fresh air smacking against my cheeks and the cool blue light of early morning slanting into the cave through a gap in the rock to the right.

Straight ahead of me is a boat, a small coracle wobbling on the dark, shiny waters, its oars at rest and its sole inhabitant standing on her deck, looking right at me. Light shines from his person. I'm not sure if it's the lamps or an inner radiance of some kind. He's a big man with presence and charisma. His hair and beard are golden, and he's in a sweeping robe of blue with a silver circlet around his head. I walk towards him. It's hard to tell how old he is. He seems really young at first - about twenty - then really old - sixty-odd or more. I settle in the end for around forty. He holds out his hand and pulls me aboard. 'Welcome,' he says in rich and resonant tones. He sits down on a bench and takes up the oars. I sit facing him, looking around and trying to get the measure of my surroundings.

'My name is Ransom,' the man says. 'You may already have read about me.' I nod. He smiles. 'Well done indeed,' he adds, 'for discovering the door.'

'But Sir,' I blurt out. 'How can all this be? We must be miles below the Earth yet everything's so bright and open.'

Ransom lets the oars rest. The boat glides on, propelled by the current. 'This is the centre,' he replies. 'The inside is bigger than the outside. More real too. You must take care here. You can cut your finger on a blade of grass, you know.'

I sit back, look about me again and start to relax. I see islands all around in the distance - some big, some small - with white jutting rocks and lots of grass. It isn't long before one of them looms up before us. Ransom turns, takes the tiller and guides the boat onto a yellow sandy beach. 'Follow me,' he says. We follow a winding, uphill path through the rough terrain. The air is so fresh, so invigorating. I drink it down in great gulps, thinking that it would be impossible now to feel distracted or sad or bored again, knowing that such a place as this exists - not light years away or in a parallel universe - but at the beating heart of our very own world.

We arrive at the top. I want to pause to enjoy the view - the waves glinting in the sunlight - but Ransom carries straight on, towards a grey stone building that looks like an abbey or a big church. Inside it feels cool, dark and atmospheric. We walk along a corridor. Small, pointy windows give glimpses of the sea and sky. Then the sudden, welcome smell of homely things - bacon, toast and coffee - the clink of spoons and the hum of happy voices. Ransom opens a door and we're in a round vaulted chamber with - wonder of wonders - the entire community of St. Anne's. I recognise them all. They're exactly like I pictured them in the book - Dr. Dimble and his wife, Arthur and Camilla Denniston, Grace Ironwood, Jane and Mark Studdock, Ivy Maggs and, last but not least, MacPhee, the irascible, bearded Ulsterman. Even the animals are there - Mr. Bultitude the bear, with a gold medal hung around his brawny neck, plus the jackdaw and the cat, whose names, in the rush and swirl of the moment, I can't recall.

Everybody looks utterly splendid with crowns on their heads and glittering clothes. Despite my workaday attire I don't feel out of place at all. I don't think I've ever felt more at home in my life in fact. I'm treated like a brother - one of the community - and it's the nicest, most convivial breakfast I've ever known. They ask me all manner of questions - chiefly about my family, but also about my own life: the kind of stories I like writing, my favourite books and films, who my biggest influences are, and so forth. I'm about to tell them about Mr. Aherne, my old English teacher, when a gong sounds from the depths of the building, a hush descends and everyone starts packing away. 'Come', says Ransom, and I follow them out of the room, down another corridor, up some steps and into a chapel with six tall candles ablaze on a stone altar built into the wall. The women, except Grace, peel off to the left and disappear into a side door. Ransom, Dimble, Mark, Grace, McPhee and myself walk to the front, turn right and kneel down in a pew. Mr. Bultitude, I note, stays half-standing, half-crouching at the back, as if keeping guard.

Through the window I see the waves crashing against the rocks below. It's the only sound that penetrates the chapel's deep, fecund silence. The rhythmic roar soothes and settles my spirit. I feel a sense of light, happiness and peace.

A fresco on the wall behind the altar glows and throbs with spiritual and artistic vitality. It looks so ancient - like it was painted before the dawn of time. Its gold and purple background is faded now but the images and shapes depicted on it stand out clearly still - three red circles arranged in a triangle, and in each of the circles a picture of a man. In the bottom left there's a crowned king with the word 'Artorius' written underneath. To the right is a wild-looking fellow in red called 'Merlinus', while above them both is an icon of Our Lord holding out a golden chalice. 'Christus' is His title.

The gong sounds again. I hear footsteps down the aisle. I turn my head and there's Mother Dimble in her flame-coloured gown with a jagged grey stone in her hands, like a misshapen rugby ball hewn out of rock. She passes through the little gate in the wooden altar rail, ascends a couple of steps, then lays  the stone down reverently on the altar, next to the candle furthest to the left. She comes back down and sits in the pew behind us. Then Camilla approaches the altar, holding aloft a gleaming, jewelled sword. She looks fierce and regal in her silver robe and coronet as she places the sword blade-down between the two middle candles, before descending in her turn, sitting down beside Mother Dimble. Next comes Ivy Maggs in a green mantle, bearing a long white spear with a blood-red tip. She leans it between the wall and the right side of the altar, then returns to her companions below.

For a long while nothing else happens, just the waves, the silence and the peace. Then the footsteps come again, soft and suggestive, and everyone stands. There's a brightening in the air and a quickening in my mind. I look along the line of my colleagues and am astounded at how beautiful they appear - how royal, dignified and noble, one hundred percent themselves, yet at the same time infinitely more than just that.

The chapel becomes almost intolerably bright. I feel compelled to turn to my head and see, and that's when Jane comes sweeping by in a blaze of cobalt blue, with what can only be a miniature Sun between her hands, so dazzling and effulgent are its rays. She walks right up to the middle of the altar, turns, bows to the company before her and lifts the sacred object high above her head. Sparks fly. Her dark hair shines, soaked in light. I can make out little else, just the round contours of her face and the outline of the two chalices, the one held by Christ above, the other by Jane below. The rest is glory and gladness. The gong sounds, and I bow my head and close my eyes, hoping to be able to stay in this blessed place of peace and light for ever and ever.


When I open my eyes the light in the chapel is back to normal. The Holy Grail (for surely that's what it is) stands in the centre of the altar behind the sword - still radiant, still glorious - but in a more measured, manageable way than before. The sun outside seems higher in the sky. It's obvious that some time has passed.

The women are sat behind me still, but there's only Mark Studdock sitting next to me. Everyone else is up at the front doing various things. Dr. Dimble and Arthur Denniston are standing just behind the altar rail, about a yard apart, each holding a candle. I see Ransom, with his back to me, kneeling down behind them. McPhee, to his left, drapes a golden chasuble emblazoned with the scarlet figure of a rampant red lion over his blue robe. Grace Ironwood, on the other side, replaces Ransom's silver circlet with a gold one. Ransom stands, bows to the Grail, turns, walks forward, takes his position between Dimble and Denniston, and starts to address us. But I can't understand a word of what he's saying! He's talking in a totally different language. Great syllables that sound like castles pour from his mouth. My heart leaps and quivers at them. The voice doesn't sound like Ransom's at all - it's like the words are speaking themselves through him from some strong place at a distance.

'It's the Great Tongue,' Mark whispers in my ear. 'The language spoken before the Fall.'

'Ah,' I reply, as the words start to make sense. I don't know why I understand them now when I couldn't before, but nonetheless I do. Here then, as best as I can remember it, is the gist of Ransom's speech:

'Brothers and sisters, the stairways between Britain and Logres are becoming rare and few. The nation continues along the broad and ample highway to destruction. Due to forces set in motion long ago, since the coming of the Tudors at least, our Kingdom of Logres, if Britain reflects on it at all, is dismissed as a fairytale or a relic of folklore, rather than welcomed for what it is - the underlying pattern and reality behind the national story.

'It is a call for celebration then, when one of the few remaining doors is discovered and a seeker finds his or her way to Logres. The potential for recovery - a national ressourcement - contained in such a discovery is incalculable. It could well be, as our resident sceptic MacPhee believes, that Britain is too far gone to be pulled back from the brink again and that a crash against the cliff face of reality is the only way to divest her of her illusions. My own view, certainly, is that what we achieved in 1945 would be nigh on impossible today. The bar of public opinion is increasingly hostile to what and who we stand for. Christianity, in those days, was deeply rooted in British life still, and that, sadly, is no longer the case.

'Nothing, however, is set in stone. It is a God of the living we serve, not the dead; a God of surprises, not a set of iron-clad laws. We do not worship the God of the Deists, who Blake raged against, that blind watchmaker who sets the world in motion a like a child's toy, then stands back and lets it wind down until the batteries run out. No, the God of Logres is not like that. Ours is a generous God, profligate even, continually sowing seeds and distributing largesse, always on the look out for renaissance and renewal.

'The four Jewels of Logres that we see before us play a pivotal role here: the Lia Fail, the coronation stone of the High Kings of yore, and the precious relics Joseph of Arimathea brought to Britain and kept in the Grail Chapel until it was occluded in the reign of Artorius. We see the sword with which Simon Peter smote the High Priest's ear, the spear of Longinus which pierced Our Lord's side, and, at the centre of it all, the holy chalice of the Last Supper. These treasures have a deep and subtle power. They are continually at work, acting on the profoundest, most archetypal levels of the national psyche, bringing fertility where there is barrenness, quality where there is quantity, and a soulful, silent spirituality where is noise and empty chatter. Their restorative, salvific influence is keenly felt in both the visible and the invisible realms.

'The Vedic scriptures, as Grace reminded me at breakfast, make it clear that Heaven will never allow the world to disintegrate completely. Where the darkness appears thickest, that is where the messengers and avatars will appear. But it is up to us to recognise them. The avatars, in truth, are always with us. It is just that we fail to see them. The Grail Chapel, in reality, was never occluded. It was ourselves who lost the art of finding it.

'And now behold, the great wheel of the Manvantara comes full circle. The Dark Age draws to its close and the light of the Golden Age to come shines forth across the threshold of the future. The Sleep of Ulro is concluded, Albion awakes, the world is charged anew with the grandeur of God, and the Countenance Divine shines forth again upon England's clouded hills.'

His speech completed, Ransom bows to his congregation and strides back up to the altar. Denniston and Dimble accompany him briefly, laying their candles down. Ransom takes the Grail and comes down to the front. We all stand and make our way forward, kneeling down in a  line along the length of the altar rail.

'Urendi Maleldil' says Ransom to each of us in turn, as we take the chalice and drink. He's coming from right to left, and I'm at the end of the line on the left, except for Mr. Bultitude who has shuffled up beside me. When Ransom presents me with the Grail it isn't wine that's there as I'd expected but sea water, clear and blue and flecked with splashes of foam like little waves. I look up, astonished. 'Urendi Maleldil,' he says again, and I take the Grail, which is warm to the touch, and drink. Then he places his hands on my shoulders. 'The splendour, the love and the strength be upon you,' he says in English. Then I go back with the others and sit down again. Ransom puts the Grail on the altar, exactly where it was before, and sits down with us too.

The water has a potent aftertaste - salty, raw and elemental. It has an effect on my mind as well. Everything seems to mean more. Everything's bursting with life - stonework and seats; sea, rock and sky; the faces and bodies of my companions. The three men in the fresco look so real now, filling out and becoming three dimensional, as if poised to burst out of their red circles and join us in the chapel. Merlin's black and grey beard appears to quiver in an invisible breeze, and that's the last impression I have, as the mise en scène shifts and I find myself sat at my desk again, the coffee I'd brought back from the machine warm to the touch still like I'd never been anywhere at all.

Oddly enough, I don't feel disappointed to be back. It's good to see my colleagues buzzing around. The blinds flutter in the breeze and the sun slants in through the open windows. The symbols of my job I usually feel so much at war with - the screen, the keypad, the headset and the phone - look welcoming and homely, like old friends, imbued with light and depth and a personality, I feel tempted to say, all of their own. Normally I can't stand the sight of them; now I feel I could literally look at them all day. I'm reminded of Bloom in Ulysses, sitting in the pub, and captivated to the exclusion of all else by the red triangle on the label of his bottle of Bass.

Then, by association, the nimble figure of Mr. Aherne leaps into my mind again. I see him once more, thirty years ago now, in his red roll-neck jumper and wild salt and pepper hair and beard. He was everything an Irish man of letters should be - a compelling blend of mystery and fun - wholly devoted in his teaching to the transformative, salvific power of the Word.

Owen Aherne was a man out of time, standing at an oblique angle to his surroundings like Con Houlihan's ideal poet. He should have been Chief Storyteller to the High King of Erin, not cast out in the concrete jungle of a suburban '80s comprehensive. He wore it well though, like those White Russian émigrés in Paris after the revolution - Generals of the Tsar's armies eking out a living as housepainters, princes driving taxis, and so on. I remember him ripping up the curriculum and weaving his way between the desks - dancing almost - reciting great chunks of Shakespeare, Yeats and Joyce.

I recall one sun-dappled morning in particular, when lip service, on this occasion, was being paid to the curriculum and we were all supposed to be reading John Donne, who I've always found dull. Instead of reading the boring poem, The Flea, I was gazing at the drawing of Aslan my friend Mark had given me for my birthday at break. He had knocked it up in twenty seconds in yellow and red crayon on a loose piece of A5. I marvelled at the clarity and intensity of the image. He later went on to become an icon painter, which didn't surprise me, with a particular devotion to his namesake, St. Mark (St. Mark's also, by the by, being the name of our school), whose symbol, of course, is the lion.

I was so enthralled that I didn't hear Mr. Aherne approaching until he grabbed me by the shoulders and laughed out loud. I was sat at the back of the class. Everyone turned around, grinning. They knew a piece of classroom theatre was on its way. 'Well, well, well,' Aherne asked rhetorically, 'what have we here? Our very own Leopold Bloom, spellbound by Lewis's great tawny lion. We know what Malachi Mulligan said about this kind of fellow, don't we?'

'Yes Sir,' they replied in laughing unison, though no-one had the slightest notion. Aherne gave them the answer anyway. It was all part of the game. And I'll never forget that ringing, bardic voice of his as it echoed and resounded through the dour architectural modernism of Room A6:

'Go warily. That's what he said, my friends. Go warily. Preserve a druid silence. His soul is far away. It is as painful perhaps to be awakened from a vision as it is to be born. Any object, intensely regarded, may be a gate of access to the incorruptible eon of the gods.'


Bruce Charlton said...

John - Well, this piece 'worked' for me - I've been thinking on it through the day.

William Wildblood said...

That's a lovely and inspiring piece of writing, John.

Nathaniel said...

Thank you for writing this