BURNING HAND RECORD #442988
19/5/1975 Arthur Agence
The Gaol that is the World is a key phrase used in
On seeing the inside of the gaol, Bowyer recognises it as places of warmth, safety, and familiarity. The Stranger warns her that
And the warning is extremely relevant at any stage along the path. The hyletic realm is filled with draws and vices which we see as normal, everyday living. Even the most awakened soul can suddenly find themselves cast back down into the lie, simply with the effort of living a day-to-day existence.
Thus, the Greek myth of Hades becomes metaphor for our imprisonment in reality. Upon escape, do not turn back! That way lies the river Lethe, and the Cave of Hypnos, lulling you back into a warm, forgetful sleep.
Finally the revelation that the Strange is in fact Bowyer herself seems to refer to the later revelation of the Divine Spark, that ‘part of God’ that is inside all of us. We have only to ask, and listen out for the answer. we are our own guides along the path, and knowing ourselves is key to this realisation.
The image for this chapter is the double circle. The circle itself represents the world, the self and the lie. This double circle represents the wall of the Gaol that is the World. It is that which must be broken through in order to proceed along the path. It is the dual illusion, that of the internal self, and the external physical reality which both form the walls of the lie.
The Gaol that is the World
I came to the crest of a hill, beyond which lay a deep valley. Surrounded on all sides by mountains, the vale lay shrouded in the shadow of them. And built in the very depths of that shadow was a gigantic building.
“What is that place?” I asked the Stranger.
“It is the whole World, from whence you came,” she answered, and I wondered at her response, for it was a building of immense size. Castle-like, its stolid grey brick walls reminded me in design of the prison at Newgate. But they rose upwards for thousands of feet instead of tens, and no windows were there on the outside of this behemoth.
As we watched from our vantage, tiny figures could be seen on the surface of the building. They hung from ladders and wooden scaffolds, they scrambled over the many roofs and some even appeared to fly around the outside of the walls under their own power.
“Who are they?” I asked my guide.
“They are the artificers; the little-makers. They maintain the boundary of the Gaol so that none may escape its confines.”
And I looked closely and saw that many of the figures carried tools and were attending to the structure. And the more I examined their appearance, the clearer it became that these were not human beings; some were winged or horned or had some other animal characteristic. Others looked human, but were faceless. Smooth skin was there instead of eyes and nose and mouth, but still they could sense enough to perform their tasks. I shuddered at the sight of all these beings, as they were alien to me.
“Are we to go down there?” I asked the stranger.
No sooner had I spoke these words than we were stood on the valley floor. The Gaol that is the World rose up impossibly in front of me, and I gaped. There was a rough path in the base of the valley and on it we walked, the colossal edifice growing in my sight as we approached it.
“I don’t understand,” I asked as we walked. “How can you say that this is the whole of the world? In the world I am largely free to do as I please, and yet you say that it is a gaol.”
“You will see,” the Stranger replied.
As we drew near the impossibly large wall, I could discern that we were heading for a door. It was meagre compared to the monstrosity it allowed access to; a normal wooden door of normal height. Closer still, and I could see a carving on its surface; one circle inside of another.
As we approached, the simple wooden door swung open. There was no one there to guard the way, or to ask who we were. Indeed, the light that spilt through the door-frame was warm and inviting. Rich smells emanated from the place; the light of a crackling wood fire, and the sounds of a busy kitchen. I was not afraid to enter this gaol. Rather I found myself drawn toward its offerings of familiarity, safety and family.
When I took an independent step toward the opening, my companion placed a gentle hand on my arm. “Be ye not so eager to enter this place, for it is a place of subterfuge and lies,” she warned.
“But it feels so safe to me,” I said her, “It is warm and inviting inside there. But out here, it is a wasteland. I recognise nothing about this place. Even the sky is unfamiliar, and every new thing that you show me is tiresome to behold.”
She turned me away from the door then. “You are not ready to go back inside yet, for you have already escaped that place once. Should you re-enter you would forget all that is outside and all that you have learnt. And you would forget me, which would be sinful, as I am that part of you that has always dwelt here.”
And I embraced her, for it was true that she was a part of me that I had forgotten.