a letter from deena metzger, forwarded to me this morning, on behalf of Save the Elephants. her letter refers to a series of photos i have chosen not to publish:
I saw these photos and had a major dream – a mandate with instructions from spirit. I have been trying to distribute the dream but also to live according to its instructions. Be cautious as you open the photos. I have turned the Buddha fountain that is the focus of our summer water circles (in lieu of fire circles) into an altar for the elephants. But we have to save all the creatures. By this dream, spirit says we can.
I saw the attached photos on the night of May 24th 2009. I had just closed the book I was reading, Bird of Life; Bird of Death by Jonathan Evan Maslow because I could not bear the pain of it. At the beginning of the book, Maslow who is pursuing the rare Resplendent Quetzal in Guatemala during the maniacal regime of the evangelist Rios Montt, is photographing vultures at the Guatemala City dump: “The dogs get the short end of it. The brazen vultures had little trouble driving the dogs away from their finds, and the men, too, picked up any handy stick or rock and lit into the cringing canines. One man went after a dog wiht his belt, and administered such a savage whipping that the howling mongrel stumbled, then keeled over. Then the man grabbed a stone and bashed the dog’s brains in.” P. 39.
Close book. Pick up the email. Open the images despite the cautionary statement that accompanies the photographs. I had been teaching a writing intensive and was exhausted, also raw and heartbroken from the beauty and devotion of the writers I had been with for the last week.
I studied only the first photo of the desert elephants before being overwhelmed by grief and anguish for the elephants and every creature on the planet. I remember such grief from the year I spent reading holocaust literature of all kinds in preparation for a pilgrimage to the Death Camps of Central Europe. The Other Hand, [Red Hen Press] on the two koans of the twentieth century, the Bomb and the Death Camps, was the result of that journey. It took me ten years to write. Sometimes the grief is so great, one must pause not to become numb, before going on.
Close the book. Close the computer. Pained beyond language, I prayed for a dream that would show us a path out of the horror we have created. I prayed for a dream that might show the way to restoration. I prayed for a dream though I have never, as I recall, ever received a dream in answer to such a request.
This is the dream that came at 8:45 on May 25, 2009:
I have put out a call to gather those who carry sacred and magical powers. I have no name for them in the dream though when I want to write shamans I know it is not the correct word. It is not sufficiently inclusive. The people are coming together in a rectangular room that will allow each of us enough space to sit in an ellipse much like the loft room where we gather for the Intensive in Pine Mountain. This room, however, is entirely empty of furniture.
I have some trepidations as I am not certain I can make clear the beautiful importance of this gathering.
There is a little clutch of women at one end who know each other. They have been doing political work together for years. They gather in conversation in a tight circle that feels familiar if exclusive.
One of the women asks me if this is the way I imagined our sitting together and it is not. I had seen us spread out on cloths, kangas, lappas, the like, with our ritual items around us prepared to do ceremony. She asks me if I have a microphone. Yes, I can get one, I answer although convinced that a microphone that one has to pass and hold is inappropriate as it will interfere with the ambiance we are called to create. If we don’t use a microphone, we will have to listen deeply and project our voices to be certain that everyone hears. Without a microphone, the conversations can be more intimate and spontaneous.
We are failing to gather in the way that meets the call. We are losing the energy of what we might accomplish, of what promises a new sensibility necessary for this time. I had imagined we would form ourselves into a sacred community composed of individuals who carry magical and spiritual powers. We would devote ourselves to supporting public activities on behalf of healing the earth, peacebuilding and restoration. The thesis of the gathering is that an alliance of political, spiritual and ritual activity has the best chance of success. [Writing this now I remember that such collaboration between Native American elders, medicine people and younger Native American activists has recently, in some cases, turned years of failure to achieve their goals into success.
I am rehearsing the words that I will speak to inspire the participants. Unable, in the dream, to remember an example of a partnership that reflects the work and way of life I am envisioning, I refer to Thich Nhat Hanh. I, the dreamer, am uncertain whether he was the spiritual support for a cause or whether spiritual people did ceremony to support his work. The point is that this gathering of those who are trained and initiated and truly have spiritual powers is a call for on-going ritual and ceremonial work in support of more pragmatic social, political and environmental activities.. In the dream, I am thinking of the plight of the elephants, polar bears, wolves, of pollution of the earth, air and the waters, of global warming and its consequences. Of people driven to violence, brutality and cruelty.
In order to please the women who want the microphone, though they are insisting on the old political school through which they have attained a modicum of influence, I set off at a run down the steep streets to First Street where the microphone is. But the street is further away than I remember and I soon recognize that it will take too long a time to retrieve it. I turn around and return with the intent of realizing the original vision, which is different from how we normally do things, and so derives new content from its new form.
When I return, I try to begin our meeting, but everyone is distracted and I don’t know how to gather them together. A younger dark skinned woman with dark hair lying on a low couch or mattress, raises herself on her forearms and begins singing a chant in a foreign language, a Balkan song perhaps. It reminds me of a song I heard during the retreat in response to a story of war that referenced Georgian music. The young woman’s voice is deep and resonant and the song gathers us to attention and creates the field in which our mandate, for it is a mandate, can be articulated.
As I write the dream, I am aware that this call is not a suggestion but is spiritual instruction that can help accomplish our deepest hopes for the future if we make these activities the very core of our daily lives. This is the labor that calls to each of us even as it entirely transforms and refocuses our definition of work. It is not that we are called to do this work together in a group but that we are each, in the way we are trained, called to it as our primary activity while the same is true for everyone else. Each of us devoted and alongside each other. The very definition of work and making a living is altered by the requirement to put ritual activity and prayer first before our work, before our personal concerns and lives.
Writing the dream has the quality of articulating the call that I was to speak and make known in the dream. Might the telling of the dream be the calling of the circle?
This was, it seems, spirit’s answer to my prayer to be shown ways to end the horror.
In order to know how to meet the dream mandate, I cast the oracle:
The I Ching: Hexagram 49 Skinning – Context Hexagram 30 Radiance
Skinning: Strip away the old. Let the new life emerge. …It focuses on ritual transformations that occur as the wu, the technicians of the sacred, put on the animal mask to call the spirits and change the time. … Perhaps the most dramatic and secret of these rituals are the dances and ceremonies that lead up to melting the metals to cast a new vessel. … The Vessel is a ruling image, a sort of grail that establishes the time and the connections to all the various spirits. The time of Skinning is great indeed. It is a time when the basic images of our lives go into flux and renewal. … Radically change and renew the way things are presented. Eliminate what has grown old and useless so that the new can be seen. … Great people change and renew the Mandate of heaven.
9 at 5th The Great Person makes a tiger transformation. Even before the omens are cast, he is connected to the spirits. This is transformation at the core of your being. Take a quantum leap.
6 above. The Nobel One makes a leopard transformation. Change your life with grace and elegance. This is a transformation that can realize things and ground change in the life around you. … Give people a common purpose.
Radiance: Radiance is the Bright Presence of things … a part of the Axis of Change. Awareness and coherence. Illuminate, articulate, discriminate, make things conscious. Bring together what belongs together. This is a time of intelligent effort and accumulating awareness. … You have fallen and found bottom. Not the time calls for bring things together. Radiance shines above you. Connect your idea with the brightness and use it again and again to spread clarity and care to the Four Corners of the world. Radiance means connecting and illuminating. …This is how change occurs in the world.
When I asked the Shining Tribe how to meet the mandate on behalf of the Desert Elephants, I was given 4 of Stones: "To look at this card is to look backwards into time, from our own modern culture through the ancient temple and then through the prehistoric opening to the light of the Spirits. ... Despite the openings to other realities we are solidly in the world of mater here, of earth.”
Dreamer and Shaman Valerie Wolf suggested that we meet the mandate by beginning with ritual prayer and ceremony -- whatever our spiritual powers and gifts might be ...on behalf of these thirsty, threatened beings....