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Planet-Sculpting Ape

Dreamed mid-1870s by George Russell (pen name: "A.E.")

I saw a mass of pale clouds, and on them was perched a little ape clutching at the misty substance with its fingers and trying to fashion it to some form. It looked from its work every now and then at something beyond and below the clouds, and I came closer in my dream and saw that what the ape was watching was our earth which spun below in space, and it was trying to model a sphere of mist in mimicry of that which spun past it.

While I was intent, this grotesque sculptor turned suddenly, looking at me with an extraordinary grimace which said clearly as words could say, "That is what you are trying to do," and then I was whirled away again and I was the tiniest figure in vast mid-air, and before me was a gigantic gate which seemed lofty as the skies, and a shadowy figure filled the doorway and barred my passage.

That is all I can remember, and I am forced by dreams like this to conclude there is a creator of such dreams within us, for I cannot suppose that anywhere in space or time a little ape sat on a cloud and tried to fashion it into planetary form.

-- AE (George Russell)

EDITOR'S NOTE

Oh, I don't know. In a few generations I think little Terran apes (such as myself) will be building planets. I'm practicing now, as fans of Planetocopia already know--building my portfolio for that scholarship interview. Somewhere in this spiral arm there's a decent graduate program in planetary engineering... But all right, AE says don't be literal. In that case...

I'm curious why AE doesn't explore the ape's opinion: "That is what you are trying to do." This was a childhood dream, and, it seems to me, a predictive one, not in any extrasensory way but simply anticipating his adult concerns and career. AE grew up to be successful poet; he painted on the side, too--no surprise given this original, highly visual, artist-at-work dream!

This account is from The Candle of Vision by AE (George Russell), quoted in The Dream World (Ed. R.L. Megroz, 1939). However, I was curious what AE himself thought of the dream, and read The Candle of Vision. I was startled. You will be too. Here's the dream in context, a context Megroz erased.

--Chris Wayan

LOOK AGAIN!

[As a boy] I had read somewhere of one whose dreams made a continuous story from night to night [not Du Maurier's "Peter Ibbetson" or Kipling's story "Brushwood Boy"--in AE's childhood, neither had yet been published], and I was excited at this and wondered whether I too could not build up life for myself in a fairyland of my own creation, and be the lord of this in dream, and offset the petty circumstance of daily life with the beauty of a realm in which I would be king.

I bent myself to this, walking about the country roads at night in the darkness, building up in fantasy the country of sleep. I remember some of my gorgeous fancies. My dream-world was self-shining. Light was born in everything there at dawn, and faded into a coloured gloom at eve, and if I walked across my lawns in darkness the grasses stirred by my feet would waken to vivid colour and glimmer behind me in a trail of green fire; or if a bird was disturbed at night in my shadowy woods it became a winged jewel of blue, rose, gold and white, and the leaves tipped by its wings would blaze in flakes of emerald flame, and there were flocks of wild birds that my shouts would call forth to light with glittering plumage the monstrous dusk of the heavens. Many other fancies I had which I now forget, and some of them were intuitions about the Many-Coloured Land [AE's name for the visionary plane trained meditators attain].

After I had conceived this world, one night in a fury of effort I willed that it should be my habitation in dream. But of all my dreams I remember only two. In the first I saw a mass of pale clouds, and on them was perched a little ape clutching at the misty substance with its fingers and trying to fashion it to some form. It looked from its work every now and then at something beyond and below the clouds, and I came closer in my dream and saw that what the ape was watching was our earth which spun below in space, and it was trying to model a sphere of mist in mimicry of that which spun past it. While I was intent, this grotesque sculptor turned suddenly, looking at me with an extraordinary grimace which said clearly as words could say, "That is what you are trying to do," and then I was whirled away again and I was the tiniest figure in vast mid-air, and before me was a gigantic gate which seemed lofty as the skies, and a shadowy figure filled the doorway and barred my passage. That is all I can remember, and I am forced by dreams like this to conclude there is a creator of such dreams within us, for I cannot suppose that anywhere in space or time a little ape sat on a cloud and tried to fashion it into planetary form.

The creator of that vision was transcendent to the waking self and to the self which experienced the dream, for neither self took conscious part in the creation. The creator of that vision was a seer into my consciousness in waking and in sleep, for what of the vision I remember was half a scorn of my effort and half a warning that my ambition was against natural law. The creator of that vision could combine forms and endow them with motion and life for the vision was intellectual and penetrated me with its meaning.

Is it irrational to assume so much, or that the vision indicated a peculiar character in its creator, and that the ironic mood was not alien to it nor even humour? I am rather thankful to surmise this of a self which waves away so many of our dreams and joys, and which seems in some moods to be remote from the normal, and terrible as the angel with the flaming sword pointing every way to guard the Tree of Life.

EDITOR'S NOTE

So suddenly

...and the dream hints at the character of the real dream-sculptor--we can call it the unconscious, but AE argues "unconscious" it is not! Far more conscious than we are. And, luckily, along with a sense when to swat the monkey-mind, it has a sense of humor.



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