Missive the Fifty-Sixth

Themis Aegle
Unveils the Prophet.

DATELINE: Saturday, February 10, 2001, at 0415 hours
Conway, Arkansas, USA

By D. Ebenezer Baldwin Bowles
CornDancer & Company


EDITOR'S NOTE  06.16.08: Missive the Fifty-Sixth, The Second of Themis, is the second of two reports about Themis Aegle's arrival at Achernar and Ebenezer's conversation with her. A third report was projected to appear here soon. Seven years later, it hasn't, though the conversation to make it happen was dutifully recorded. We shall see. To read The First of Themis, Missive the Fifty-Second, click here.

Against myself I've fought it, the writing of The Second of Themis. The episode was predicted to appear eleven days ago. When it didn't, I fell into reticence, a dark hole. The darkness seemed to last forever.

I think it was the threat from a messenger that lifted me up. I've never cottoned to threats. They make me obstinate and balky, but I had to listen to this one.

One of Mercury's cranes, Lycia of Numidia in the North Country, who was disguised as a tinkerbell, alighted from a whirlwind to tell me, "Write the Second of Themis on next deadline, or prepare to accept a decade of her silence."

Next deadline rushes upon me. Here goes.

On Tuesday the twenty-third day of the first month, Themis Aegle arrived at Achernar, freshly exiled by decree of the Master.

Summoned by Azoth the Librarian, a watchman at Achernar's City of Light, I flew to the Land at the End of the River to welcome her.

"What a slew of capitalized nouns!" observed Oksob, observant and obstinate in his Opposite Loft. "Do you actually need such artificial emphasis?"

The Importance of All Things
Must Be Propounded. Now.

Yes, Sir. In the time of the quickening, the importance of all things must be propounded. The Brilliant Ones are seeking a Theory of Everything to bring everything to an end. I've got to get some points across before they succeed. Here goes. Again.

When The First of Themis ended, we were seated, she and I, cozily in the post-midnight glow of seven candlelights in the parlor of the Shack of the Psychic, her new home. She had begun the hundred-year exile. I resist the urge to leap into the lyrical and describe the rustic opulence of her haven in the Wilds, her majestic appearance in the nocturnal room. To leap there would push limits already pushed to the limit. How much can you bear?

I asked Miss Themis how she sees the future when there is none.

"How does the rose differ from the tulip?" she replied. "The flower of the vine from the bloom of the tuber? Look at the bare surface of the earth in winter. Will the tender plant, the root's frail shoot emerge from the void?"

Modernists, Cynics, Victorians, and Anarchists.

I realized we would not see eye-to-eye about the future. Prophets, I said, are as dead today in the minds of the dissolute modernists and post-modern cynics as Nietzsche's Nineteenth Century God was dead in the minds of the radical Victorians, anti-Romanticists, and anarchists.

"Prophets are the most enigmatic of spiritual teachers," Miss Themis said. "The prophet with God's aid can see into the future."

I have difficulty accepting the existence of any future, I said.

"Oh, because of the concept of time? Because of the barriers you choose to erect? There are prophets. There is a future. A prophet sees into that future."

I perceive the prophet as one who hears what God is saying, now, to others who cannot hear.

Looking 'Neath the Surface of Wet Cement.

"Be warned, Ebenezer. You flee behind a barrier of semantic indulgence. You want a hard and fast now. The future is wet cement. The future is an eternal moment of creation, a fact of your consciousness. It is created each and every day of your life by everything that you do. It charts paths for you.

"When I look into someone's future, I see a royal road of the psyche. It is paved and charted by their lifetime of creation and destruction. It is built totally on their past. They stand at the threshold of their morrows and allow me to see their future unfold on the path they have created for themselves.

"Understand that each person's path can be changed by the exercise of their free will. I tell the seeker when I see her future, when I see where the life he has created is leading him, when I peer beneath the surface of the wet cement and discern what is surely going to happen on this present path of theirs — at this instant I am given the seer's vision of forewarning. I receive the omen. I forewarn the seeker so that he might change the direction of her path if they so choose."

Audaciously poetic, Miss Themis is not concerned with the guardians of generic clarity, their rules and impositions, their constant dumbing down of the language. The he becoming a she transforms into the androgynous they.... and a strange sense of unity.... emerges.

and Eminent Scholars and Divines.

In Chapter Thirteen, "Palamedes and the Cranes," The White Goddess, Robert Graves wrote: "From the inability to think poetically — to resolve speech into its original images and rhythms and re-combine these on several simultaneous levels of thought into a multiple sense — derives the failure to think clearly in prose. In prose one thinks on only one level at a time, and no combination of words needs to contain more than a single sense; nevertheless the images resident in words must be securely related if the passage is to have any bite. This simple need is forgotten, what passes for simple prose nowadays is a mechanical stringing together of stereotyped word-groups, without regard for the images contained in them. The mechanical style, which began in the counting-house, has now infiltrated into the university, some of its most zombiesque instances occurring in the works of eminent scholars and divines."

"What a brilliant word, 'zombiesque,' " saith Oskob, ever diligent and ever changing. "And 'eminent divines'! Delicious indeed."

Miss Themis continued. "A prophet will see the future by calculating the sum of one's life, the convergence of all paths and all things that have happened, event and episode, and add to that vital sum the creative forces at play in the now. A grand formula is completed. Then she will say, 'This is where your life will take you.' The prophet warns, and tells the seeker how to change that future. A prophecy is.... a warning."

The gipsy cradles her crystal ball at the sideshow.

"Your gipsy is a creation of semantic dissonance," Miss Themis admonished. "You dither over the meaning of words like the diplomats and generals who create world wars. Semantics stops communication. All these agitated arbiters of the one correct and most proper relationship between this sign and that symbol are the root of the problem."

What problem?

"Mankind's inability to hear the prophet, to understand the oracle, to follow the path leading back to the Garden."

Can We Dance around the Flaming Words?

Don't tell me you undervalue the power and attendant danger embedded in certain words and combinations of words. Shouldn't we seek to eliminate the danger and by doing so, increase understanding? When I come face-to-face with a word I know is explosive or detrimental to understanding, I avoid it. I step around the sleeping serpent and say the same thing with another word, one less dangerous to harmony.

"Surely you jest," the prophetess resounded. "How can you teach, or open eyes, or change a life if you avoid the issues? You can't dance around the flame and reach the other side. You've got to leap through it as an act of faith."

No! I'm not avoiding the issue. I'm overcoming the conscious objections of the reader in a very calculated way. I know how people tend to get their back up and build walls of resistance, behind which they cannot hear. It's my duty to pave a path to understanding. If I have to avoid certain words to avoid confusion, so be it. There's more than one way to skin a cat."

"Why would you want to skin a cat in the first place," she laughed. "Won't that metaphor get you in hot water with cat lovers?

"Don't misunderstand me. You possess the free will to choose your words as you see fit. As a point of personal reference, know that I have this tendency — and you'll have to understand this about me — to take the hard road, simply because I'm so sick of the ignorance out there. Ignorance is shorn on the hard road only." Through the windows of Themis Aegle's parlor I could see naught but the darkness of the wilderness night.

Prophetess, Oracle, Priestess, or Seer.
Doubters Debase with Fallacy and Fear.

"I will seize upon the word psychic, or the word ESP, or the word future, or whatever happens to be thrown at me — prophetess, oracle, priestess, or seer — and I'll throw it back at the doubters with love in hopes that they will comprehend the deeper meaning of what they have shouted at me, realize that the words they use to debase my craft are founded in fallacy and fear.

"On a simpler plane, I'll just break it down for them. I'll say, 'Look, do you understand what you're doing to yourself with semantics?' I tell them, 'Each of you has the voice of the oracle in your soul. Can't you hear it crying to be released?' And they go, 'Oh, no, no. Only a few people have that kind of voice. It's this wonderful gift, you know, given to you by God, or this evil curse, imposed on you by the devil.'

"I go, 'No, wait a minute. Let's look closer.' Think about the cop at the crime scene, glancing at the evidence, then saying, 'I've got this gut-feeling' about what happened. The cop has heard the voice of the oracle, but doesn't realize it. A woman's intuition. Same thing. The truths of prophecy are trivialized in a game of semantics. Word wise, denying the reality of the prophetic voice is the path of least resistance.

"Wake up. Think. Controversy brings awareness. Controversy raises the necessary questions. I like to throw controversy into the middle of the room and watch how they react. But that's me."

Burned, Incinerated, Engulfed, Bitten to the Bone.

I thought about the wildfires I fought and the swamps I waded into during the past decade or so. I pondered the extent to which I had been burned, incinerated, engulfed, and bitten to the bone. I told Miss Themis how I'd sought not so much to avoid controversy, but rather to find ways to overcome it. I see much controversy. One of my missions, I dream, is to bring unity. Again and again the mission fails.

"You can't bring unity unless you can get people to think. Too many of them don't think past their front nose. The best way to unity? Hitting them upside the head maybe. It's tough. We're raised in a society where to think is taboo. To ask questions is taboo. To kick against the pricks is taboo. I rue the false taboo."

Baskets of pastries, salt meats, and fruit were arrayed on the table between us. They were like offerings to the spirit of discourse. I sipped on the honeyed tea she had poured for me, picked up a ripe peach, and bit.

Prophets to be brilliant as stars in the forgotten constellations — to be heard, if not heeded — need the eve of destruction, the front edge of a great ruin, the impending fall of a civilization. That's what I wanted to tell her, but didn't. I watched Miss Themis replace three of the candles, which had burned to wicky stumps. She moved gracefully, elegantly through the flicker and the shadow, the ether and the blaze of our glory. She opened a wooden box on the mantle and took from it a slender, precious object.

"I give you this Nail, Ebenezer," she said to me after the candlelight had been restored to fullness. "Upon your return to Cricket Song, put it securely in the sure place. Now, settle back. I want to tell you about Moab, and about Gog and Magog…." We talked 'till the rosy cheeks of dawn appeared in the oval view through her open windows.

NEXT: The plan at the time was to discuss spiritual warfare, death and deliverance, and the antipode of good and evil. It didn't happen. It may. We shall see.

on Tuesday, February 13, 2001 (or thereabouts).
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