The thirteenth day of the crossing – relativity in the desert

The thirteenth day of the crossing had been drowsy. Sun, heat, the nauseating sway of the camel dune after dune, on a sea of endless sand. I caught myself thinking that we, the travelers, were so imbued of some routine actions that, if by chance, one was ceased, most of us would miss it. The warm coffee served, the quick stop in the middle of the day for a quick snack, supper in the early evening, the lighting of the lamps that illuminated the camp, the nice tea man, the swift mounting and dismounting of tents, the appearance and disappearance of the enigmatic woman with lapis-lazuli eyes galloping on her black stallion, as if by magic, were some examples. I too had gotten used to watching the caravanner walking away in the morning and in the evening with his hawk perched on the thick leather glove he wore on the left hand up to the forearm to train the bird. I also became used to watching him on these occasions, just before training time, on his knees on the sand, saying his two-word prayer asking for light and protection, which he had taught me a few days earlier. Another habit that had become common was the halting of the caravan at a certain time of the day, so that the travelers could say their prayers according to their religious beliefs. On that day, a pleasant and pretty European lady paired her camel next to mine and soon started a conversation. I told her I was going to meet a wise dervish who “knew many secrets of heaven and earth”. She said her name was Ingrid and that she was an astronomer. She carried in her luggage some telescopes to observe a constellation she had a particular interest in, because of the privileged location of the oasis in the middle of the desert. As I have always been fascinated by the stars, I swamped her with questions she was happy to answer. When the caravan stopped its march for prayer time, she, with no hint of aggressiveness, regretted the waste of time. She added, always very kindly, that she did not understand why humankind still wasted time and energy in this search she considered pointless. She said she was amazed that, despite the advancement of knowledge for centuries, people were still tied to absurd beliefs or yearning for a senseless metaphysical encounter.  

Next, she asked me if I believed in God. I borrowed a response a well-known alchemist gave to that same question and answered that “it is not a matter of believing. I feel Him”. The nice astronomer said it did not make sense. She explained that any divinity was a result of psychic conjectures. Science dealt with reality and required physical elements to be understood and accepted. This means, “what does not exist in nature does not exist in life”. For her, God was a fiction, like many others. I asked her if she believed in math. The astronomer answered yes. She added that math was the basis of astronomy. I pointed out that math was also a psychic product, because we do not find equations on trees or calculations by the sea. However, despite being also a creation of the brain, and therefore a fiction, math can explain nature and its phenomena. She replied by saying that fiction novels are mere creations of the brain and prove the tremendous ability of humankind to be enchanted with illusions. God was but one of these narratives. I said that stories, even the oldest ones, are based on archetypes that explain the standard behavior of people, whether in facing hardships or pursuing their ideals. This is why stories were moving, because people identified with them. Ingrid asked what God had to do with that. I answered that all people had, in different degrees, the idea of God as the main archetype. Even those who deny Him with all the force of their conscious mind, subconsciously seek the divine values that exist in the noble virtues and love disseminated over time. From criminals to saints, there is sacred in all. I added that the sacred was all that made me a better person and, in essence, it is what everyone searches for. It is the perception and the subsequent manifestation of God, always in motion in each person. Thus, even those who do not believe, seek Him without realizing it. Deep down, everyone wants to be away from the vicious circle where ignorance, fear, selfishness, envy, pride, vanity, jealousy and other shadows thrive, to live in virtuous circles where humility, compassion, sincerity, purity, generosity, justice and particularly love, among many other virtues, are practiced. Virtues are powerful sources of light. Therefore, to believe in God or not, at that point of existence, did not make a difference as long as the person incorporated in himself, a little more each passing day, each one of the virtues as tools essential for the light. This is how we get close to God, whether we are atheists or religious.

The astronomer stated she felt no need of knowing God, even though she acknowledged the value of virtues. I told her that the enhancement of virtues is the single instrument of evolution. They change the world in step with personal changes; transforming oneself is the unique possibility of transforming life. The shaping of virtues makes us whole. Plenitude is completed with the five points of life one must reach in their existence: freedom, peace, dignity, unconditional love and happiness. In other words, they are the Holy Grail templars looked for, the Philosopher’s Stone that fascinated alchemists in their attempts to transform the lead of existence into the gold of life, the Enlightenment taught by Eastern philosophical traditions, and also the preparation to meet God that monotheistic religions talk about. Imbuing ourselves with each and every virtue is also the Path of esotericists. Whether you want it or not, sooner or later this will change your perception about God, because it will change your understanding of the universe and of your own self.

“It is all just as real, as delusional and as metaphysical as the world we live in”, meddled in our conversation the beautiful woman with lapis-lazuli eyes when she passed by us riding her sturdy black stallion. She looked at us for a moment and continued on her way. 

The caravan halted for the daily prayer. I was watching the caravanner in his praying. Always by himself, he had a ritual of being on his knees, drawing a circle in the sand and then curving his body for the prayer. I did not know what that ritual meant, but I would ask in the first chance I had. People who did not pray respectfully waited in silence.

The astronomer pulled me aside and, in a whisper to not disturb the prayers, asked if I believed in dreams. I said that was a complex matter. It ranged from mere inferences about wishes and fears of the self in shallow sleep to important messages brought by the soul on its journey to other spheres of existence when it is detached from the body, during deep sleep. She confessed that during the night she had woken up startled due to a terrible nightmare. She dreamed the caravan had been attacked by nomadic tribes of the desert. It all seemed so real she couldn’t fall back asleep. But she shrugged and said that dreams were nonsense, mere wanderings of the subconscious mind.

The caravanner finished his prayer. He stood up and looked around at the people, as if searching for someone. As apparently he did not find what he was looking for, he asked if anyone had had a dream that night. Not any dream, but an extraordinary dream. Before anyone spoke up, out of pure instinct I pointed to Ingrid, next to me. The caravanner looked at her for a moment and came closer, self-assuredly. He asked her about the dream. She said it was but nonsense and, she believed, did not merit telling. The caravanner insisted. Embarrassed, she described her nightmare. Much to her surprise, the caravanner asked her for some further detail. After listening very attentively, without waiting he called one of the most experienced scouts of the security crew and told him to make an assessment of any impending danger. He commanded the others to wait until the scout returned. It didn’t take long for the scout to come back, worriedly, with the information that a gang was preparing an ambush from the top of a cliff under which the caravan would pass. Immediately the caravanner decided to take an alternative route, longer but safer, making an ambush more difficult.

Tension continued over the day, all eyes watching the horizon. Early evening the caravan halted to set up camp for the night. The caravanner assured that, even though risk was intrinsic to the crossing, the danger had lessened considerably. His authenticity made the travelers more relaxed. I had dinner next to the astronomer, but we ate silently. The caravanner came and thanked her. In response, the astronomer said she had only told the dream she had, period. She confessed she had become baffled by the coincidence between her dream and the facts. The caravanner explained: “What you call coincidence is, in fact, synchronicity.” In view of her puzzlement, he added: “There is more between the stars and the desert then we can imagine.” And left.

Alone with Ingrid again, she told me she was surprised that the caravanner had mentioned synchronicity, because that was a very polemic idea, much discussed in the scientific milieu. She explained the concept was developed by psychoanalyst Carl Jung, and served as basis for Albert Einstein to build on his famous Theory of Relativity, with which he changed and perfected many of the concepts of Physics and Quantum Mechanics, because it deals with the conventional idea of space and time in a radical, still poorly understood idea, considering them a curve, and not linear, as we are used to think about them. She added that in astronomy these concepts, even though developed a century ago, were still revolutionary and subject to much discussion. 

This is when we heard a voice behind us: “Realities are distinct between the many spheres of existence. Reality from here may be an illusion seen from another point of view. Some of the concepts that are new for scientists are ancient for spiritualists. In different vibrational spheres, the ideas of linear space and time, the way we see them as real, become relative. In deep sleep, the level of alertness falls, body and spirit are integrated as one, the former rests, the latter travels to other spheres of life, time and space do not exist as we understand them. One can go to the past and the future; one can recall or not. Dreams can be good or bad, depending on what has been experienced. However, one must be watchful, because not all dreams are news from the soul. Ordinarily, they stem from fears and desires of the self, always very active in dreams in which body and spirit did not properly detach one from the other.” It was the beautiful woman with lapis-lazuli eyes. We had not noticed her. The astronomer was quite surprised; I, a little bit. I had already witnessed her sudden appearances. Then, she continued with her explanation: “There are other ways for this to happen, for instance through contemplative practices such as meditation and deep prayer. These practices may take you to an altered state of awareness in which, in fact, one accesses the subconscious mind. In it, the file of ancestral memories is kept.” 

We were still somewhat startled when the woman said to Ingrid: “The good spirits of the desert in alliance with your personal guardian led you during your sleep, in another frequency of time and space, to the moment the caravan was going to be attacked by the nomads. That was a warning of protection. Because you did not understand the seriousness of the situation by not believing in the channel the information was relayed to you, in the imminence of danger they gave another warning, this time to the caravanner, when, with his prayer, he opened a gateway. The caravanner was only permitted to know that someone in the group had been warned of a tragedy that was about to happen to the caravan, but he did not know who that person was or what tragedy would befall. Until he got to you and we managed to escape.” 

Ingrid shook her head and said that that story of desert spirits and personal guardians was insane. She apologized for her frankness, but a mere coincidence between a dream and reality was not scientific enough evidence to prove the new concepts of time and space contemplated in the complex Theory of Relativity. The woman with blue eyes shrugged and replied, softly: “It is not my intention to prove scientific theories or to convince anyone about how I see life. I just talk about the way I feel the universe operates, particularly what is beyond what we can perceive with the five basic senses. I may be right or it may be just a pointless conversation, but this is how I see things. Please, don’t take me wrong or follow my beliefs. Enchantment with the light should not be due to a mere belief but arise from understanding.” She was about to withdraw when the astronomer, very politely, asked why God or the good spirits chose her as the intermediary for such an important matter through the dream she had, and not one of the many religious persons in the caravan, especially because she, Ingrid, did not believe in their existence? The beautiful woman cracked a beautiful smile and said: “Believing is a minor detail. What really matters is having a good heart.” She paused and added: “And yours is huge. This turns you a safe bridge for them to cross; this makes you close to them.” And left.

That night, the astronomer and I lay on the sand and watched the cloak of stars in the desert sky. For a long while we did not say a word. Ingrid broke the silence. That was a rhetorical question: “Why do stars exist?” Because I did not know, I did not answer. We slept there.

Kindly translated by Carlos André Oighenstein.

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