I love the tender pale green of leaves in April, newly opened from the bud. I love the dark green of August leaves that have been out the whole summer and are about to fall.
I coloured the wood before me in greens of every shade, for I was building a meditation landscape. It was to be the sacred forest presided over by the Green Man. But he must have turned back into a stag already and brought his herd here with him, for up ahead and over to one side of the wood I could see a fallow deer that I had not put there.
She grazed by a stream at the bottom of a gentle valley, her head down and her brown neck facing towards me. I half expected to see exaggeratedly long eyelashes when she looked up, like a deer in a Disney film; however when she did look up they were the normal eyes of a deer.
Everything else was normal too as I walked down the valley and drew near to her: the dappled coat, the slender legs with well-proportioned hooves. It was only strange when she spoke. “Hallo, Villatina.”
Villatina wasn’t really my name. I made it up when I was eleven and was writing an episode of my favourite science fiction show from the TV. Had I regressed back to being a child ?- (and talking animals as well.)
The forest disappeared and I had a sudden vision of a broad open fireplace with many statues lined up along the mantelpiece shelf above it. They were of Egyptian gods and characters from Greek mythology, and all were half animal and half human hybrids: Thoth, Anubis, centaurs and fauns, and Cernunnos himself who is half a stag. All those ancestral priests and philosophers weren’t being childish, were they? That must be the message, because after all I was still engaged in a meditation.
The mantelpiece faded and the image of the deer returned. “Hallo, fallow deer,” I answered her.
“I have some things to show you further down the valley,” she said.
With my hand on her soft flank I followed her deeper into the incline towards the narrow river that lay right at the bottom of the valley. Then…
“You’ve painted over all the rungs,” I exclaimed. “Give me the paint pot.”
The air was a dull grey, and the man I had addressed stood brandishing his paintbrush with one hand and holding a paint pot in the other. The top half of the ladder took up all my field of vision like a close-up photograph, and I couldn’t see the bottom half ; it was as if I was floating, although my feet felt as though they were on the ground.
“No!” he retorted. “It’s MY paint.” He splodged a blob of brilliant white paint onto one side of the ladder and it stood out sharply against the nondescript grey, so thick that it ended in a lump and a long white strand folded back on itself.
I took a step closer to the ladder and the close-up view intensified: now all I could see was the splintered surface of one rung. It was like being right up close to a television screen, and that was when I realized that I had started to dream.
When does meditation become a dream, and when do either become a trance that is completely detached from the physical world? I didn’t know whether I was lying in bed asleep or still sitting in the home-made temple in my spare bedroom, and I couldn’t remember my name, my family or what kind of job I did. Maybe I should ask for that information at the Narnian castle with its many formal gardens laid out in front of the entrance: it would only be five minutes’ walk from here. But they might be unable or unwilling to tell me.
I lifted my foot slowly onto the lowest rung of the ladder, all the while wondering whether it was Jacob’s ladder, and began to climb.
“Hey, remember I’m painting it!” yelled the man with the paintbrush. “You’ll get paint all over your legs!” Looking down I saw a white stripe appear on the left leg of my fawn-coloured casual trousers, which I had apparently been wearing all this time.
Ignoring the man and the paint on my leg I climbed to the second rung, and then on upwards, eight rungs, and then I stepped off into navy blue clouds that gathered around my knees and obscured all other worlds and their adventures.
Looking down might help, but when I did what I saw below the ladder was many fields divided by hedges spread out like a map below me as if I was viewing them from an aeroplane. I could dive down there and it might turn into a pleasant flying dream….or else the landscape could change into a flat picture which I would land on after a few seconds. That had happened before.
I didn’t want to have a love affair with Son of Joseph, and I didn’t like him mocking Jesus by calling himself that. So I turned him into paper; that entire meditation landscape became a flat picture lying on the ground. In the end we did have an affair, but only in the story. He kept claiming that the story was real. “We country bumpkins are here all the time, but you have to drive over from the big city.” If I believed that my coma would be deep, and difficult to come out of.
Turning astral objects into a picture is a way to control them. They can no longer move or act and instead of a sequence of events happening to you it becomes a picture book that you can close as you sit at your desk above it.
A computer game appears to be three-dimensional when in reality the screen is flat. Where do you actually go when you start playing the game and enter more and more deeply into the virtual environment? An insect in the air could dive down and after a few seconds would land on the flat screen, just as I might with the fields that I could see below the ladder.
In the end the fields did have depth, and I landed in the grass by a wooden fence. I felt the lumps of grass under my feet yielding as I stepped on them, and the breeze blowing on my face. As I walked through the fields they gave way to forest, and the faces of animal guardians could be seen looking out from the trees, semi-transparent against the leaves and the dark tree trunks. There were foxes and badgers, rabbits and dogs and regal looking stags. I was back at the beginning, back in the sacred forest, and then it was a meditation again instead of a dream, and I opened my eyes.