February 21, 2014
In December, my thoughts returned to the story I had recorded in July, my visit to the Circle of Life. This time, I focused on a dialogue between myself and the spirit I called “Brother.” This is the first time my internal dialogue turned to my personal problems. As I have no wish to discuss private relationships and conflicts concerning people who might not want the details of our relationships and conflicts made public, I’ve edited some sections of this internal dialog.
I have returned to the circle of life. I have stripped naked and entered the circle. I see my brother. He is also naked, and he acknowledges me. He bids me sit there. “Would you like purification?” he asks.
“Yes,” I say, “and I really have come to talk to you.”
“Okay, let’s do a purification and talk,” and he begins to wipe my body with a damp cloth. I know it is moistened with rainwater because he has told me that, and he washes all of my body that he can reach…. He reaches down and washes my feet. He momentarily has me stand up so he can wash my buttocks – part of the body he couldn’t reach while I was sitting – and then he has me sit again.
“Are you sinless?” I ask.
“Of course. So are you.”
“Are you an angel?”
“Some people would call me that because I’m a spiritual being, but I’ve never had wings. Wings are only symbolic, anyway, for spiritual beings. They show that we are not bound by time or space.”
“I can see not being bound by space, but not being bound by time confuses me. “How do you know what you’ve done and what you might have done?”
“We are pure potential. There is no difference. What we do and what we might have done are all the same except when we enter into your world, and we know when we enter into your world we are in time and therefore must react within time.”
“Can you go back in time in our world?”
“No, because that is not part of the reality of your world. So we cannot go back to correct errors back in time to make them nonexistent, but we can help you and help God through the Holy Spirit correct errors that you have made.”
“Do you recognize the errors that I have made?”
“Only if you ask for help in recognizing them.”
“Am I making errors regarding my relationship with R.?”
“Yes, you need to see him as sinless.”
“Is he making mistakes?”
“That is a judgment.”
“Is he being foolish?”
“You are making judgments that you do not need to make.”
“Then I will relinquish those judgments. Help me to relinquish them.”
He picks up the cloth and begins to wash around my face and my chest. “Feel this purification of your heart. Let your heart be part of what is going on….”
“When I see J. having a long conversation with R. and I think they are creating things … [that affect me] it worries me because I feel we don’t have collective wisdom and I feel that there will be duplication of effort.”
And my brother says, “All fear is the opposite of love.”
“The Course in Miracles says, ‘I trust my brothers who are one with me.’ so my lack of trust is a judgment … and I choose to release that fear. Help me to release that fear so that I may be without judgment. This is getting to the crux of the matter,” I say to my brother. I look into his eyes. “Help me. I do not need this judgment. I know I do not need this judgment. I can see him as sinless.”
“But you do need to ask for what you want and clarify what your needs are.?
“We need to have out in the open everything that is done, and I don’t know how to ask for this without putting a judgment on it.”
“Then don’t ask. Simply ask, ‘Is there anything you want to update about discussions you have been having ….?’
“I feel that I have some resolution on this, [and] that I can ask that question without judgment – without putting a judgment on anyone’s behavior…. Help me to live in this world without judgment and still bringing about correction of errors; and that is the miracle that I ask for, to bring a correction of error without judgment.”
The internal dialogue ended at this point, as I felt a resolution of the conflicts I had been having.
February 14, 2014
In my posting of June 30, 2013, I introduced the practices of active imagination and inner dialogue as tools for spiritual development. I have used drawings, paintings and sculpture as starting points for active imagination. In July, I used modeling clay to create a sculpture that I called “The Circle of My Family.”
Two days later, I sat naked in my cabin and put a lighted candle in the center of the sculpture.
Then I recorded my thoughts, which are transcribed below.
When I reach the Circle of My Family I find that it has a kind of spiral shape, a loose spiral with a large phallus at one end. I see one man inside, and he is naked. And I see an arch overhead with something spiraled around that I recognize as the double helix of DNA.
I stand taking it all in and then very quickly undress and enter the circle – and something very startling happens. The energy and the circle is much stronger. For a moment I’m not sure where I am or what has happened, but this man approaches me, and he is friendly, and he smiles, and he puts his hand on my shoulders and kisses my lips gently and says. “Breathe.”
I consciously take in a deep breath. “Where am I?” I ask.
“This is the Circle of Life.”
“Yes, I feel life.”
“Your family is part of this circle, so is every family in the universe, whether it be an Earth family or a spiritual family or a family on some planet that you do not even know of.” I look up at the helix and realize that that is the source of the power. “Sit for a moment,” and he shows me a place to sit right on the edge of the circle with one leg out and one leg in, and he says “Here is your place to sit, so that you can be connected with your own personal world and with the world of life. This is the place to be,” and he shows me a small model that he has made of clay and I see this figure sitting on the edge, one leg out and one leg in; and he says, “That’s you. You need to realize that you must have one leg in time, one leg in eternity.”
I’m not sure what he means by this, but it seems right. So I let myself sit there, and he takes a cloth that’s damp and washes over my whole body, every part that he can reach; and I don’t resist him doing anything, for I trust that this is a purification; and we hear some thunder in the distance; and he says, “Do not fear. If there’s rain it will be purifying. This is rainwater that I have collected because it is the right water for washing you.”
And I suddenly sort of worry. My clothes are outside the circle there in the grass. Somehow that seems insignificant, but he seems to understand my concern. “You can leave anytime you want,” he says, “and come back anytime you want,” and I look at him. I know that this is true. So again I breathe in deeply this energy, and he helps me to stand up on the outside of the circle. I’m a little reluctant to leave but for that crazy thought of having wet clothes. So I turn away, and with my physical eyes I don’t look back, but in my mind I see him standing there inside the circle filled with that energy, and I know he is a guiding spirit, and I know I will return to him. I didn’t even ask his name, but something tells me his name is “Brother.”
February 7, 2014
Poor Uncle Harry, having become a missionary,
Found the natives’ morals rather crude.
He and dear Aunt Mary swiftly imposed an arbitrary
Ban upon them shopping in the nude.
Now they all considered this silly
And didn’t take it well.
They burnt his boots and several suits
And wrecked the mission hotel.
They also burnt his mackintosh,
Which made a disgusting smell.
These lines are from “Uncle Harry,” by Noel Coward. While the treatment is humorous, the story, about a family that “loved to go off on missions to rather peculiar climes and lead the wretched heathen to the light,” illustrates something serious about conflict. Both sides believed they were right. Uncle Harry and Aunt Mary knew how the natives should live. And the natives resisted their correction.
In the story of Adam and Eve, after eating the forbidden fruit, Adam hides because he is ashamed to be seen by God naked. But God is his father. Who would be ashamed to be see naked by his father? Possibly this story is a myth attempting to show that the evil in this world comes from people being taught or convincing themselves of false standards of morality. The “knowledge of good and evil” that Adam and Eve supposedly gained by eating the forbidden fruit, was in reality a false knowledge. Did the writer of Genesis intend this meaning? I have no way of knowing.
But it is apparent that when the Nazis murdered four million Jews, they thought the were doing something good. Does this excuse their acts? Certainly not. But when Jesus hung on the cross he prayed, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do,” and I, as his follower, must say this same prayer for all those I perceive as doing evil in the world.
January 30, 2014
The Administration maintains a website where questions may be asked and comments made to the President and his staff:
I have used this website to ask two questions:
- In an address to Congress you stated “We have a supply of natural gas that can last America one hundred years, and my administration will take every possible action to safely develop this energy.” If this energy can be developed “safely”, as you have stated, why is hydrofracking – the process current used on most natural gas wells – exempt from all clean-air and clean-water regulations?
- In your oath of office, you promised to “preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.”. Why then are you supporting the Trans-Pacific Partnership Free Trade Agreement, which would allow foreign corporations to sue governments directly–for unlimited cash compensation in foreign tribunals—over almost any domestic environmental or other law that the corporation believes is hurting its ability to profit; a pact that thus takes away the local and state governments’ Constitutional right and even your own Constitutional right to protect our environment with appropriate legislation and regulations?
I closed my letter to the President by adding, “The technology for safe, renewable energy is available. Why are we threatening the health of every citizen in the country with hydrofracking?”
Whether you are a Republican or a Democrat, whether you voted for Obama in 2008 and 2012, or even if you didn’t vote at all, you need to know that the health and well-being of every American is at stake. Even if you don’t live in an area where natural gas is being extracted through hydrofracking, the resultant environmental damage can hurt water supplies in your area, especially if you live in a large city.
It is my hope that every reader of this blog – even those who are not American citizens – will ask these questions of President Obama.
January 9, 2014
“The Gospel of Thomas” is a set of 114 sayings attributed to Jesus and brief conversations with his disciples. It was not recognized as authentic by the 325 CE Council of Nicaea, which established which books would be part of Christian scriptures.
Some statements in this gospel present a vision of Jesus that is more radical than the churchmen meeting in Nicaea would have wanted to accept. One of these is in verse thirty-seven, which in English translation reads:
When you strip naked without shame and trample your clothing underfoot just as little children do, then you will look at the Son of the Living One without being afraid.
From the context of the book, we know he was speaking to his disciples, who were Jewish – as was Jesus. The disciples knew the mythology of Adam and Eve, and possibly believed it to be literally true. This mythology gave to Jewish thought a bias against the naked body, against looking on a naked body, and to some extent against sex, which involves seeing the naked body.
Jesus is saying to his disciples – and to us who read his words – that we must get rid of all shame associated with a naked body.
Recently I’ve proposed a ritual of touch, to be done first clothed and then naked. I call this ritual and the preparation for it, “The Innocence Seminar.” You can read about it on the Spiritual Explorers website. In contemplating this ritual, I experience an inner truth consistent with Jesus’ words – and this supports my belief that this verse accurately reflects his thought.
December 13, 2013
The idea of the explorer is developing as a prominent theme in the active imagination that is inspired by my art. On November 26, I recorded a monologue by the explorer who has figured in much of my active imagination. I have since transcribed it and am presenting it below. If you wish to follow all of the active imagination and inner dialogue about the explorer in the order it was created check out my page “Fantasy/Fables/Fiction” where you’ll find links to all the postings on this theme in chronological order.
When I returned to the capital city I immediately went to my old friend Dr. Higgins, who had some expertise in tropical parasites. He confirmed what I had suspected, that the parasites were gone; and then, after testing me, we had a bit of a conversation. He asked me if I had accomplished what I had set out to do in my exploration, and I said, “No, I had met this medicine man but really felt I never could attain his confidence and learn what plants and other medical substances he might be using.”
He replied, “You know, I think there’s no need for you to go into the jungle. Some of the natives have come to the capital city. They have a house on the south side where they are seeing patients, and the reports that come from these patients show that the natives are having quite marvelous success. You could go and make an appointment there.”
I thought about this for a bit. “But I don’t have any particular symptoms I might report to them.”
“Oh, they’ll see you anyway. They see everyone. They always seem to find something that helps people, at least that’s the reports I get,” and he showed me a little clipping from a newspaper, which he copied on a photocopier and gave to me. It said “The Healing Center” with an address and a phone.
I waited a whole week before I called, but I got a pleasant woman on the line who said that if I came for an initial visit the time would take three hours; it would include a spa treatment and a meeting with a healer; and the cost would be $30. This amazed me that it should be so small, but she assured me that that would be the cost for me. I don’t know how she determined that or what was behind such a low cost. I knew they were quite successful. I had asked around and obtained some reports that confirmed what Dr. Higgins had said.
I arrived at the appointed hour, about ten in the morning, expecting to be there until one, and was ushered into what looked like a men’s locker room with small lockers. There I met a man with somewhat dark skin wearing what looked like a loose, old-fashioned bathing suit, the kind that went from the shoulders down to below the hips. He was very cordial. He told me to put my valuables and all the things in my pockets into a small locker which he would lock and give me the key. He advised me then to put my shoes in a separate bag and all my clothes into another bag. He noted that they were all washable, and I confirmed this. He said the clothes would be washed and returned to me at the end of the session. They didn’t want any residue of disease from my clothes to interfere with the healing, so everyone got clean clothes on leaving their sessions.
He told me that after I had taken off all my clothes, I should go into their steam room and stay there ten minutes, and then come out ready for my spa treatment. I did this, all the time wondering what would happen. The steam room was really quite hot but not unbearable, and after ten minutes I heard the sound of a bell. The man came in and ushered me out into an area where there were a number of massage tables. He told me to lie down on one of them, face down. There was a hole in the table for my face, rather than a face cradle. The massage table was covered with cloth except for the place for my face. I felt quite comfortable. He began to soap my body up and using very rough cloth to massage it. The only treatment that I can remember like this was a massage I had experienced one time in New York City by a Korean masseur. He worked all over my back and then I could feel water spraying on me – first warm water and then cold water. Then he told me to turn over. He put a warm towel over my face and worked over my front the same way. His hands never touched my penis, but the cloth that he was using to massage me certainly did, so it was cleaned along with everything else. He removed the towel from my face and massaged it with cloth, avoiding my eyes and really giving my whole face and head a good massage. He rinsed me again with warm water and then with cold water. Then he had me stand up, and he took warm towels and dried me off. All of this left me feeling very good and very energized.
Then he gave me the kind of garment he was wearing. I put it on by stepping into it and bringing the straps up over my shoulders. He gave me a pair of the socks used in hospitals which have tread on the bottom to enable you to walk without sleeping. Then he showed me an assortment of kaftans. They were really very beautiful, but not too overly ornate. He had me select one, and I put it on. He said that now we would go to meet my healer.
She turned out to be a woman also wearing a kaftan similar to mine – but a little bit more ornate, as might befit a woman. She greeted me warmly with a smile and identified herself as Matta. She said that, as this was my first session, I should fill out some papers – the kind you might except to fill out at the first visit to a doctor’s office – a brief medical history along with my name and address and phone. I filled all this out and gave it back to her and she thanked me and looked it over rather slowly. She probably took four or five minutes while I sat in a chair feeling comfortable but also with a little bit of anxiety.
Then suddenly she looked up and said, “Tell me about your seventh grade teacher.” I was flabbergasted. How did she know my seventh grade teacher was the one teacher I felt had disciplined me unfairly. I told the whole story and really felt some anger over this teacher’s unfairness and my own inability to stand up for myself and tell her that she was being unfair. The healer gave me and a gentle, loving smile. At the end she asked, “Are you willing to release the emotional energy that you have from this?” and I said yes. Then she walked around behind me and placed her hands on my shoulders. I felt a very strong healing, like the energy was being released. I felt good about this.
Then she asked some other pointed questions. She asked about my grandmother, and it brought me back to a time when I was much younger and my grandmother lived with us. She was blind and couldn’t care for herself and finally died – both the blindness and her death being associated with a diabetic condition that had induced gangrene in her legs. The healer asked about my feelings about this and I found myself crying, though I had never cried at the time she died – not when my mother told me she had died, not when they called the doctor who came to confirm her death, not when the undertaker came, or even during the funeral; but now I was feeling what a sad life she had lived, I never knew her husband, my paternal grandfather, because he died when my father was very young. I felt all of the sadness of that death and of her living alone raising my father and then when he left to go to the university and into a seminary, keeping a house just for herself until she could no longer do that because of the onset of blindness.
Then my father would bring her to stay with us for a while in a very small apartment and then bring her to stay with her sister and move her back and forth until he was able to buy a large house and she came to live with us and occupied the second largest of the bedrooms. She remained there until she died except for a few stays in the hospital where they felt they could not do anything because amputating the leg would do no good and could be too much of a shock for her. So she was on painkillers until she died. I found myself crying over what a sad life she lived, and again the healer asked if I could release that energy. She placed one hand on my left shoulder, and I felt the energy releasing. This time it was different. I had felt the anger energy go out from my belly. This energy was going out of my heart. I was sitting there with my eyes closed. I opened my eyes just for a second and noticed that the healer was holding one hand in front of my heart.
At the end the healer looked me quite directly in the eye and said, “I think you would benefit from another session,” and I nodded. She took out an appointment book and asked if I could come back in a week. I agreed.
Then she said, “I’m also going to give you some herbal tea that I think could help you. It’s primarily cinnamon and clove, but there are a few very tiny amounts of other herbs in it. They will not harm you. They should not give you diarrhea or any other bad symptoms, though if they do you could call us.” She gave me a box with some powder in it and said to use one teaspoon in a cup of hot water and have no more than three cups a day. “But once a day is enough if that’s what you choose.”
With that I was led back to the entrance of the locker room and I met the man who had done the spa treatment, and he warmly greeted me and said, “I forgot to tell you that my name is Jacques,” He shook my hand and brought me to where my clothes were laid out all quite nicely washed and pressed. My shoes had been shined and everything was right by the locker that had my personal things in it. He said, “I’ll leave you to get dressed and you can come out and see the receptionist just for a moment before you leave.”
I did that, and when I came out to the receptionist said, “Your fee is $30 for today,” so I paid her and she said, “I see you have another appointment in a week,” and she marked that down on a little card. She seemed very professional, and I left feeling very peaceful.
I called up Dr. Higgins and told him all that had happened; and he said, “Yes, this seems to be what everybody feels, and everybody who goes there leaves feeling better.” And indeed the glow lasted a day or two, though after some time I did begin to notice other things bothering me – mostly emotions regarding my lack of success as an explorer – feeling that I wasn’t really finding what I wanted. Even though I’d had some amazing experiences, my exploration hadn’t left me with any sense of deep satisfaction. I looked forward to the session that would come the following week
December 5, 2013
Two weeks ago I was asked to speak to the Greenwich Interfaith Fellowship about the Parliament of the World’s Religions. I started by asking who in the group had heard of the Parliament prior to seeing that day’s agenda. No one raised a hand. I explained that the first Parliament was held in Chicago in 1893. Only one Muslim attended, and he was an American citizen. But there was a large representation of Hindu and Buddhist leaders, as well as Protestants, Catholics, and Jews.
One hundred years passed before the next Parliament – this time in again in Chicago. Following that, there was a Parliament in Capetown, South Africa, in 1999; one in Barcelona, Spain, in 2004; and one in Melbourne, Australia, in 2009.
It’s easy to see the need for such a Parliament. Humanity is adrift without a moral compass, and this lack is shown in many ways: indifference to the possibility of catastrophic climate change; greed of political leaders; Innocent men, women and children killed by unmanned attack planes; Individuals living in such fear that they must buy assault rifles; and the widespread indifference to all of this by the general population. But our need for a moral compass cannot be satisfied by any one religious leader – not Pope Francis, not the Dalai Lama, not Archbishop Tutu. The Benedictine monk Wayne Teasdale was at the 1982 Parliament, where the Dali Lama spoke to several thousand people in a Chicago park. Teasdale likened the final session of all the major religious leaders to Pentecost. He said, “We were not of one mind, but we were of one heart.”
The next Parliament will be in 2015, and the Council for a Parliament of the World’s Religions is asking for the help of people all around the word. Specifically, we are asked to hold Listening Sessions, which will form the basis for the next Parliament’s agenda. A Listening Session is made up of eight to twelve people, either from one religious group or from an interfaith group. Each listening session is asked to discuss two questions:
- What is the place and role of religious, spiritual, and convictional communities in the world today? How can these communities contribute to a better world?
- How can these communities effectively join with others to address the challenges facing the world today?
If you feel led to organize a listening session, there’s more in info on the website of the Council for a Parliament of the World’s Religions.
October 25, 2013
There was a well-known healer in the nineteenth century who is recorded as having once said to a class, “Love, love, love. That’s all you need to know to be a healer.” Quaker’s use the phrase “that of God within each person.” It’s clear to me that I know God within me when I realize my capacity to love. The first epistle of John reads “God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him.” (1 John 14:16)
Love is our birthright, and every human has the capacity to love. I studied healing for four years with the Inner Focus School, and I remember one of my teachers saying that what he did for the hour or so of a healing session was to share his heart.
Even after these years of study, I can’t really say that I know what is happening during a healing session. But I know that I am present for another person in a way that i’m not usually present at other times. Whatever healing occurs is not from me, but from the love that is channelled through me.
I also know that there are specific techniques that can help people connect with love and channel it. I’ve explained one of these in a video.
The video makes mention of a retreat I will be facilitating, November 22-24 at Powell House in upstate New York. I will also be leading a session of about ninety minutes for Living Soulfully in Albany on November 6. Contact me if you have any questions about either of these events.
October 10, 2013
In June I posted something about active imagination and gave an example of how I had used active imagination, based on a drawing, to develop a story. About two weeks after I posted that story, I used it as a basis for inner dialogue, developing as imaginary conversation with one of the characters in the story.
Here’s a transcription of what I recorded at that time.
I am sitting with the explorer and asking him to take a few moments for us to breathe together.
I: I’ve read your account of visiting the tribe where the men wear only the penis sheath. Do you feel you discovered what you intended to find?
Explorer: No, because I never was able to interpret the map which that other explorer had drawn.
I: And what did you expect the map to show you?
E: I don’t know – islands, flora, fauna, plants, plants that had not been discovered before by westerners, maybe medicinal plants; but I didn’t have time or even feel I had a way to get the confidence of the medicine man. And I know he healed me. Whatever medicines he gave me got rid of the parasites, but I don’t think that’s what he was trying to do. I think he was trying to show me something about myself, and maybe something I didn’t want to see. Maybe there’s something I try to escape when I go into the jungle or into the desert – into places Westerners don’t go. I try to say, “What am I trying to escape from?” and yet I know I carry that from which I’m trying to escape along with me.
And so there I was in the jungle, just another man – two men who sheath their penises with gourds and otherwise walk about naked. And I think the headband was woven with something that protected us from insects. That wasn’t the problem. He didn’t speak much English, and that just left me looking within myself as we walked, day after day, for probably six days. He never seemed to indicate anything that was of interest to him, and I sometimes think he knew that what I needed was to walk alone by myself – but I couldn’t walk by myself without getting lost. So there he was, walking ahead of me, and all I could see was his naked figure- bare back, bare buttocks, bare legs. If he turned, I’d see that penis sheath. And I’m walking behind him – bare back, bare buttocks, bare legs, sandals on my feet – trusting we were not going to find snakes or dangerous animals.
We walked to a river. We walked upriver, sometimes walking in the water, sometimes walking along the side. We stopped. We removed our penis sheaths and bathed. I looked at him and said, “Is there something special about this river?” and he said, “Sacred river.” And I felt a certain sense of gratitude – this was probably on the fifth day – that he had felt that he could trust me enough to let me bathe in the sacred river. And we followed the river back and then got on a trail.
I would have no way of knowing how to find that river again, And somehow, that doesn’t seem important. What seems important is that I carry something of that sacred river within me. I would like to be able to go back – but I can do it only in my imagination – stand there with him beside the river, take off my sandals, take off the headband, take off the penis sheath, plunge in the ice-cold water, stay under the water as long as I can hold my breath, come up, breathe in, go under – my eyes are open; I see blue all around me; I can see his naked form but it’s hard to distinguish. He pulls me up. He’s afraid I will pass out under the water. I stumble to the bank. I sit on a rock. All is quiet. There are no birds. Of course, it isn’t quiet; there’s the rush of the water, the falls upstream – but all of that is part of an inner stillness – a stillness like one I’ve never known before. And then, all of a sudden, he’s pulling on my shoulder. he’s helping me tie on the penis sheath, and we’re walking back to the village, and the next day I will be on the boat back downriver.
And what does all this mean? What has it done for me? Does it say to me I should give up exploring? No. Should I go to a different place? Maybe. Should I really try to clarify what’s important in my life? Yes.
August 1, 2013
Late in February, I was part of an arts retreat at Powell House, a Quaker Conference Center. On Sunday morning, as I lay half awake, I had a vision of a red object in a chaotic environment. That morning, I started a water-color painting based on my vision, and I finished the painting when I returned home.
In June, I wrote a story based on what I had put in the painting. I’ve transcribed it and present it here as another example of the active imagination that I discussed in my previous post.
In the second year of the Great War, two children lived with their grandmother on the edge of a forest. Gretchen was six years old; and her brother, Hans, was four.
One morning they were awakened by gun shots. They saw their grandmother stagger and fall, blood gushing from her head. They ran from their house into the woods and kept running until they were exhausted. They found a brook and followed it upstream but it ended in a marsh. They tried to walk around the marsh but seemed to only get into more marsh.
They saw a break in the trees and headed for a clearing. It was an opening in the forest about ten feet in diameter, and in it they found something that confused and frightened them more than the war and the soldiers and the death of their grandmother. It was crimson and tear-shaped and about ten feet high.
They heard a voice saying, “Do not be afraid. This object has been placed here for your protection.” They approached and found that it had the texture of a flower bud. By grabbing the surface they could climb it. When they neared the top, the void said, “You will be safe inside”; and as they reached the top the object opened and they slid down inside.
At once, they regretted this action. “No!” Gretchen shouted as they began to slide down as if they were going deep in the earth; but there was no turning back. They thought they would be smothered, but suddenly they emerged into fresh air.
They found themselves on an island in the middle of a lake. The sky was clear blue. The air was fresh. They saw what they thought were birds, but these creatures flew off.
After a short time, three of them returned and landed, and they were astonished to see that each one, though he had wings, had the body of a naked child.
“Hello,” one of the bird children called out.
“Where are we?” Gretchen asked. “Are we in Heaven?”
“No,” said the bird child. “Heaven is for those who have died, and we have not yet been born.”
“Then why are we here?” Gretchen continued.
“We don’t know,” the bird child answered, “but our mentor says we must bring you to her.”
“How do we get to her?” Hans asked.
“You are too big for us to carry,” another bird child answered, “but we can show you where the lake is shallow, and you can wade across.”
And the third bird child added, “We can carry your clothes across.”
Gretchen felt self-conscious, as two of the bird-children were boys; but Hans was out of his clothes before she could think, so she followed his example; and both waded into the water.
One of the bird boys waded with them while the two others flew with the clothes. When they reached the shore, their companion called out, “Artimas, Abraxis – this is no time for a game of hid and seek.” Then he said to the two children, “They want to make a game of making you find your clothes.”
“But we can’t keep your mentor waiting,” Gretchen said, imagining the mentor as a kind of stern school marm.
“She won’t mind, the bird boy said, “but I think you are cold and hungry.”
So they followed the bird boy to the mouth of a cave where they found an old woman in a long black dress stirring a cauldron over the fire. Hans had a fear that she might be a witch, but she had a kindly face and beckoned them with a smile and gave them berries and nuts, which they ate with gratitude.
Gretchen explained how they had come there after fleeing the soldiers. The old lady smiled and said, “I have heard of children coming back here because they needed to learn something that they could not find on earth. Children who die in a war go to Heaven, but you did not die, and you are not waiting to be reborn. We must wait until we know more clearly why you’re here. Until then, you can stay with me and my bird children in my cave.”
She led them into the cave and found a soft spot for them to sleep. When they awoke, they found they were once again clothed and in the forest. There were gun-shots in the distance, but that didn’t frighten them. They found nuts and berries to eat, and an overhanging rock for shelter.
After many days, the sounds of war drew dimmer and finally stopped. They left the forest and walked along a road until they found a building. It turned out to be a church with a kindly old priest. “Heavens! How did you survive the war!” he exclaimed.
“The angels preserved us,” Gretchen answered.
“Indeed they must have,” the priest replied.
That was all they said, and they lived the rest of their childhood cared for by this priest. They never told him the story of the crimson tear-shaped object or what had happened when they went inside.