Wednesday, November 9, 2011

THE POET AND THE PENDULUM (Part One)

Part One

DAVID INTRODUCED US to the pendulum one evening when we were sitting around discussing the universe over a cup of tea. All of us were in a rather fey mood, having just witnessed Death of a Salesman on the final night of its local revival - and none of us having received any invite to the cast party.

“Have you anything metallic - a ring or something - and some thread?” he asked me (since we happened to be in my house and I was the one who presumably knew where such items were to be found).

Perhaps it was the intensity of his manner that made me oblige at once. In less than a minute the required materials were procured (with uncanny ease, I might add, considering the general chaos in which I’m accustomed to living). David held up the device he had improvised and proceeded to demonstrate its application.

It was just a small bronze brooch (of Celtic design) tied to an 8-inch length of thread. David was dangling it over a book on the table. “Is this a book?” he intoned, apparently directing the enquiry at the pendulum. It began to spin in a small but well-defined circle. “Now is this a load of crap?” The pendulum seemed undecided for a moment; then it started swinging gently from side to side as if to say, emphatically, NO.

“That’s a brilliant way to review books,” Mary snickered.

“Seems to work,” muttered David, ignoring Mary’s remark. “It’s spin for YES and swing for NO. And it tends to be quite literal, so you have to be precise in framing your questions.”

We took turns asking the pendulum rather silly questions - but it didn’t seem at all perturbed and went about its task of YESsing and NOing quite cheerfully.

Poey decided to tempt fate: “Will I win the next lottery?”

The pendulum responded by twitching vaguely. David suggested that we avoid asking it ‘will’ questions. “It’s not a fortune telling tool,” he said. “Think of it as a means of tapping into your own unconscious powers. You can, however, ask ‘should’ questions like ‘Should I leave my present job?’”

“Should I get married to B______?” Poey ventured. The answer was NO. “I thought so, too!” he laughed. “Well, should I get married at all?”

This time it was a YES. “Do I already know the lucky lady?” NO.

“Looks like you’re both quite safe,” David grinned at Mary and Suganthi.

On impulse I decided to perform an experiment with the pendulum. I waited for it to steady itself and then asked: “Have David and I had any previous incarnational links?”

David was all attention (and so were Mary, Poey, and Suganthi). The pendulum defined a tentative circle. Then, as though encouraged by the undiluted interest of five minds, it eased into a more lively spin.

“Aha!” I murmured, delighted with the positive response. “When?”

The others laughed.

“All right, all right... yes or no... let me think... okay, we’ll try this. Now, did David and I have an incarnational link in ancient Egypt?”

YES.

An inspired guess. I pressed on: “Was it during the time of Akhnaton?”

All of a sudden it seemed as if there was an invisible power lifting up the pendulum as it spun round and round: YES! YES! YES! An exhilarating sensation of weightlessness - the little bronze brooch felt like a feather. I had a magnificent insight into the way magnetism and gravity operate - how the stars and planets suspend each other in space.

David was visibly excited (“Wow!” was the best he could manage). The affirmation gave me the impetus to push the probe further. I felt my mind shift gears - no, step up its voltage is an apter way to describe the experience.

“Were we blood relatives?”

NO.

“Was David in the priesthood?”

YES.

“Was he, by any chance, an Amen priest?”

YES.

“Were we enemies?”

NO.

“Was he secretly an ally?”

YES.

I glanced up at David: “Good. I knew you couldn’t possibly have been that wicked!”

Mary, overcome by curiosity, burst out: “What are you on about? What the hell’s an Amen priest?”

“I’m glad you asked,” I smiled, automatically switching on my lecturer voice: “Well, by the time Thutmose IV became Pharaoh during the 18th Dynasty, the Amen priesthood had gone the way of all priesthoods. They were getting fat on the fears and superstitions of the masses who were dependent on the priests for intercession with the gods. And there were so many terrible gods to appease. Worship became more and more a matter of form and ritual. When Akhnaton - the grandson of Thutmose IV - came to power he discarded his official name, Amenhotep IV, and built a new capital called Akhetaton - approximately where Tell el-Amarna stands today. Anyway...”

“Hey, I didn’t know you were also an Egyptologist,” Poey butted in.

“Would you like to be embalmed, young man?” I handed him the economy-size jar of Tiger Balm Mary had left on the table. “Here, eat this!”

Mary pleaded for me to continue with the story.

“Okay. I’ll try and keep to the bare essentials. Well, Akhnaton married Nefertiti - yes, the famous beauty - and they had seven daughters, the last of whom died in her infancy. The whole family used to go skinnydipping together and everything would have been wonderful if only Akhnaton hadn’t been such a radical visionary. He didn’t think much of warfare, for instance. And he enjoyed riding through the city and stopping for an occasional chat with mere mortals. A few macho types dismissed him as a sissy - but so many people were getting to like his style that the Amen accountants were beginning to feel the pinch. The army chiefs and the Amen high priests tried flattery, bribery, and threats - but Akhnaton continued his efforts to hasten the arrival of a Golden Dawn. Eventually he was poisoned by an Amen priest at the instigation of the ambitious General Horemheb - who had never taken very kindly to the drastic cuts in his defence budget and who probably had the hots for Nefertiti. The ten-year-old Tutankhaton was crowned King and his name changed to Tutankhamen. He only lasted nine years before he, too, was poisoned by Horemheb’s henchmen. Within four years Horemheb had seized the throne of Egypt. Needless to say, his reign was extremely long and bloody.”

“Hmmm,” said David profoundly.

Poey the pragmatic wasn’t impressed: “The only thing I know about Egypt is King Tut - I saw his picture hanging in front of the National Museum last week. But you said Akhnaton had seven daughters, so how did Tut become a Pharaoh?”

“He was Akhnaton’s half-brother,” I said, picking up the pendulum again. “Was Poey around during Akhnaton’s era?”

YES.

“Was he a priest?”

NO.

“Er... was he a soldier?”

YES.

“Aha, we’re getting somewhere! Was he one of Horemheb’s officers?”

YES.

“Was he involved in the murder of Akhnaton?”

The pendulum quivered. I rephrased the question: “Was he among the soldiers who, disguised as robbers, tortured and killed Akhnaton’s eldest daughter and her husband?”

YES.

I observed that Poey had grown very interested in our pendulum investigation. Each affirmation seemed to trigger off some misty remembrance a hazy notion that there may, indeed, be more to our mysterious being than meets the everyday eye. Whatever the case, Poey did not protest the pendulum’s verdict; nor did he flinch at the idea of ever having done Horemheb’s dirty work in the name of professional duty. But I wanted to round it off on a more expiatory note:

“Maybe you were so disturbed by your own actions, you later returned to the path of light,” I offered, turning to the pendulum. “Did the entity now known as Poey suffer any remorse for his part in the disruption of the Great Work?”

YES.

Mary snatched the pendulum from me with a theatrical flourish: “Give me that, I’m going to ask whether you were formerly with the Spanish Inquisition!”

I grinned evilly just to humor her: “Actually, I was on the wrong side and got badly roasted... 14th Century France... I was a young noblewoman, a Cathar. The experience was hardly cathartic, ha ha.”

“Now that’s the pits,” Mary shook her head in mock disgust.

David exploded into uncontrollable chortles: “The pits... ho ho ho! The pits... hee hee! The pits and the pendulums... har har har! Or should it be pendula? Heh heh!”

I managed to keep a straight face: “Oh, that’s by Edgar Allan Poey, isn’t it?” That set David and Mary off again. Poey wasn’t particularly amused. Suganthi managed a pained smile.

She had been her usual quiet self so far but now she seemed galvanized into a wakefulness of sorts: “Why this sudden interest in Egypt and the Pharaohs? Where does it all lead?”

“To Rome, to Rome!” I replied, unforgivably.

Mary came to her rescue: “Well, maybe everyone in this room was alive in Egypt at the time of Akhnaton. Maybe that’s why we’re here tonight, asking the pendulum all these questions!”

“Mary,” I said. “Why don’t you let Suganthi have the pendulum so she can conduct a little research into her own mysterious past?”

Suganthi accepted the pendulum: “How do I start?”

Mary, ever helpful, suggested: “Was Suganthi incarnate in Akhnaton’s Egypt?’

The pendulum trembled momentarily.on its thread before going into a slow spin.

“YES!” shouted Mary and Poey.

Suganthi looked bewildered: “What now?” For someone who’s read nearly all of Agatha Christie’s output she was behaving in a most unsleuthlike manner.

“Here, s’il vous plait,” I said. “Zees ees a zhob for Hercule Poirot! Now zen... was the entity male in that particular incarnation?”

NO.

“May we assume female then?”

YES.

“Ah... was she related to Akhnaton?”

NO.

“Perhaps one of his consorts?”

NO.

“No? Hmmm... was she a virgin from the Temple of Isis?”

YES.

“Commendable! And was she in any way associated with Nefertiti?”

YES.

“Another clue! Was she a member of the Queen’s family?”

NO.

“I see... well, was she part of the Queen’s household?”

YES.

“Ah, so... the Queen’s personal cosmetician, perhaps?”

YES.

That won me a small round of applause. “Ladies and gentlemen,” I declared. “As you can see, the entity is still capable of working magic with eye make-up.”

Suganthi returned the pendulum to the table, thrilled but uncertain what to make of the information. David and I each lit a cigarette and Poey was on the verge of following suit - but he was struck by a bold idea. Reaching for the pendulum, he steadied it and addressed it sternly:

“Is reincarnation possible?”

YES.

Mary produced a nervous giggle and quipped: “Can the pendulum lie?”

NO.

We all had a good chuckle over that one and Mary strode off to fix more tea. The instant she returned from the kitchen she picked up the pendulum:

“My turn to find out where I fit in. I’m going for the big one... was I Nefertiti?”

NO.

“Drat. Well... was I there at all?”

YES ... NO ... YES...

“Hey, what does that mean - MAYBE?” She tried again and again the answer was ambiguous. David took over the pendulum and asked if Mary was incarnate during Akhnaton’s reign.

YES ... NO...YES...

“Velly intellesting,” I said, assuming the mask of Charlie Chan. “Appears to be some sort of Misterlee sullounding your work in that rifetime. Arrow me to meditate a moment... pendurum, prease!”

I dangled the orb thoughtfully before attempting a fresh approach to the problem: “During that period, was Mary in human form?”

“I beg your pardon!” Mary’s indignation was only half-feigned.

“Wait... the pendulum is behaving in a very odd way. Could it be saying you were partly human?”

“Maybe she was that dog-faced god,” David exclaimed. “What’s his name? Anubis!” Mary snarled and bit him on the leg. Or at least she should have. She was content to tweak his nose.

“Another strange notion is taking shape in my mind,” I said slowly, signalling for David and Mary to pay close attention. With a penetrating look for dramatic effect, I asked the pendulum: “Is Mary an earth entity?”

NO.

“Is she really an astral entity?”

YES.

“I knew it!” Mary squealed. “Always knew I had star quality.”

I persisted: “Was Mary fulfilling a dual function in that lifetime?”

YES.

The pendulum was taking off on a crazy orbit, defying gravity and our incredulous eyes. Just then the kettle started whistling. Suganthi kindly offered to brew the tea. I was acutely conscious of the incongruities of physical existence. Were we perhaps taking a party trick too far? People have generally used the pendulum to divine the number and gender of their unborn children... but this was like trying to explore fathomless undersea canyons with a pen-light. Nonetheless, we were getting some elucidating results.

“Well?” Mary was all keyed up and eager to know more.

“Well,” I sighed. “Shall we proceed?”

For as long as I could remember I’d been squirrelling away exotic titbits of trivia about the rise and fall of Aton in Egypt. I had genealogies locating Akhnaton’s place in the Pharaonic succession; I even knew his mother-in-law’s name. (It was Tyi and she’s still around, in fact she now lives just across the road from me). So it wasn’t too difficult to hazard an educated guess that Mary could have been Maya - treasurer and prime minister to five Pharaohs (beginning with Akhnaton’s father Amenhotep III - and ending with Horemheb the Usurper)! At the same time she had led an astral existence (Level Four in the Universal Pyramid of Being) as Akhnaton’s ka or etheric double. Don’t ask me how this actually works - I’m mystified by differential calculus. I only know that the pendulum indicated YES on both counts.

“I hope you’re not taking this stuff to heart,” David said very quietly when I had cracked Mary’s case. I looked deep into his eyes and saw his ancient fear. Here was one too thoughtful to follow in good faith but not yet brave enough to find his own path: a long-journeying pilgrim of truth, just the same. Or perhaps a keeper of hermetic keys...

“Think of it this way, David,” I said evenly. “The Golden Dawn is the Myth of the Millennium. Each of us plays a complex variety of parts in this colossal drama. While I don’t advise anyone to cling on to a specific role once a particular play is over, I also feel we must keep remembering anew the experience we’ve gained from each performance. You can call it psychotherapy if you like.”

“Fine. But don’t you think there’s a danger in identifying yourself too closely with these reincarnational roles. I mean, in the final analysis, there’s no way to determine the accuracy of these investigations - the pendulum merely picks up the brainwaves of the user. It’s like a simple polygraph. It measures the degree of your inner convictions, that’s all.”

“Agreed. I happen to trust my inner convictions, David. No amount of statistical evidence or the lack of it can alter the process of intuitive knowing. It’s a temporary suspension of disbelief. You open up and accept whatever images flow into your awareness. Hard-nosed detectives follow their hunches - we all do it without thinking about it. Of course, we can’t carry these insights over into consensus reality: you may have been my father once but you can’t come back into the present and boss me around. If you’re a highly evolved entity you will surely find it easy to feel ‘paternal’ and loving towards me. Essence doesn’t die, David.”

“Okay... I see your point. Anyway, what place do you occupy in your Egyptian scenario? We haven’t checked out your part in this affair, have we?”

I handed David the pendulum: “Why don’t you conduct the probe, David?”

“Right, I’ll hold the pendulum - you ask the questions.”

“Was I incarnate in Egypt during the period in question?”

YES.

“Was I the Pharaoh Akhnaton?”

YES.

“I’d like to ask a few more questions, David.”

“Go right ahead.” From his expression, David was taking all of this more seriously than I was. He was always a sucker for Hierophants and Hierarchies.

I paused for effect; it works every time:

“Is the Horemheb entity incarnate at present?”

YES.

“Does he operate in Malaysia at the moment?”

YES.

“Does he have any memory of having been Horemheb?”

NO.

I just had to laugh: “That’s precisely the problem with these Dead Zoners! They keep forgetting the mess they made the last time around, so they wind up doing the same dumb things over and over again. What was that famous quote from George Santayana? ‘Those who don’t remember the past are condemned to relive it.’ Well, just for your information: Horemheb’s criminal record is fairly spectacular. He was also Jeroboam, the biblical king who gave the Jews golden calf worship; and he did his thing as Diocletian, a pretty mean dude even as Roman emperors go. But he really went to town as Hernando Cortes the Spanish conquistador who loved melting down Aztec gold and burning up forests. I believe he was last spotted in the guise of Howard Carter, the ruthless archeologist who broke into poor Tutankhaton’s tomb – he’d forgotten about the ‘curse,’ you see. Anyway, we’re not here to pick any fights...”

“Shucks,” quoth Mary. She looked genuinely disappointed. “No showdown?”

I shook my head.

“Then how come we’re all gathered in these parts?”

“I don’t know yet. However, I’m hoping Horemheb and his Heavies will eventually wise up to the fact that we can’t be killed. No matter what people say, there is such a thing as Free Will, you realize. We’re the Friendly Ones - we almost never resort to brute force, unless it’s an absolute necessity.”

Poey shrugged and made ready to leave: “I don’t know what kind of weird books you’ve been reading - but what I’d like to know is how come you can simply yabber on as if it’s the gospel truth?”

“Well, Poey, my genetic memory tells me it has the ring of truth.”

David chuckled: “Yeh, the Ring of Truth!” Earlier he'd mentioned that he uses his wedding ring as a pendulum. “From now on that’s what I’m going to call my pendulum.”

“Right, folks!” Poey fished his car keys from his pocket and headed for the door: “I’ve enjoyed the session but I still think life isn’t fair. I mean - why do I always end up with the supporting roles? The only school play I’ve ever been in, I played a guard. In Egypt, I was a guard...”

“You mean a blackguard!” David contributed.

“Oh, shut up! Look, why couldn’t I have been Nefertiti’s uncle or at least her second cousin thrice removed?”

“Well, how do you know you weren’t?” I countered. “If you ever run into Nefertiti, talk to her - see if that jogs your memory.”

“Huh? Is she around?”

“Sure. She lives in Brickfields.”

Poey’s grin was somewhat amphibious: “You have her phone number?”

“As a matter of fact, I do - but she’s a bit of a recluse. If she thought I was in the habit of handing her number over to sex-starved ex-soldiers, she won’t speak to me for another seven years.”

Poey offered us a mock salute and turned to go. But he just had to put in an exit line: “You know I was in a Malay feature film recently? Fifty bucks and my face on the silver screen for four-and-a-half seconds. Story of my life!”

1 comment:

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