"Nothing on the face of this earth—and I do mean nothing—is half so dangerous as a children’s story that happens to be real, and you and I are wandering blindfolded through a myth devised by a maniac."
— Master Li Kao (T’ang Dynasty)
My first waking impression this morning was a hazy glance through frostbitten glass at an overturned trash can. The sound of a dog rummaging through the garbage. The gentle pattering of sleet on the roof. Doppler shift as a car turns on slick asphalt. Sentence fragments, thoughts bisected in a 3 x 3 set of windowpanes on the far wall. If you’re really intent on a decent reproduction of the event, lie down and close your eyes. Imagine a chill sensation, a hazy image of a toe with overgrown toenails sticking out of the bed covers, and then a camera pan to the rusty trash can outside. Not a dramatic opening for a book, but it’s all this day has given me.
None of this bodes well. My head feels like an empty shell. Qliphothic, surely. Oh yes, to be sure: the number of panes in my window has control over what the day has in store. It’s still dawn, turquoise twilight, and I’m all tangled up in the sheets. What I really want to know is… where is my coffee, when did 7:30am become an acceptable wakeup time, and where are all the lithe nymphs I was promised when I joined this God-forsaken “mystical order”? They promise Love, Light, and Liberty, instead I get an empty apartment full of books and a goddamned pet spider monkey. It just goes to show, never believe what you read in books.
Get out of bed with a wince, because the hardwood floors are about four degrees warmer than ice, and hunt for a pair of socks for what seems like an hour. This is the part of being an Invisible Master that I think gets lost in the translation: getting up in the morning to a freezing small apartment in Chestnut Hill and hunting for your socks as you wonder why this morning reminds you of the Moon card and, metaphysically speaking, to menstrual blood as it was believed to be the receptive agent in the birth process. A beginning to be sure, but for what?
My mind jumps around. I haven’t done morning exercises yet. You have to keep yourself invisible because otherwise they’ll realize you’re still a primate just like them, and the whole game’s off. Jesus was wise not to cast himself down from Herod’s temple at Satan’s request. More’s the pity.
I carefully slide open the drawer of the chest by my bed, and review the letters I’ve received this past week from potential new recruits. Reports from agents in the field. Updates from those in other divisions of the Order. I stop suddenly on a letter I received from one of these potentials. As I read it once, and then again, I find myself absently running my finger up and down the side of the page, relishing the texture. Alexi… Alexi… now I remember, he’s the initiate that wound up in that asylum. He has promise, if he ever makes it out of the rabbit hole. I fold the letter thoughtfully and pocket it. The others I replace in the drawer.
Yes, it can get downright lonely, this life. As you go through your day, just remember there are masked ones; it may be that yonder beggar is a King. A King may choose his garments as he will; there is no certain test. But a beggar cannot hide his poverty.
My role is to act as a mirror for the higher selves of those around me. Let them project what is beautiful in them on me, and then turn the mirror around and say, “See?” Being invisible in cities is especially easy: just be an extra for the scene. Eventually you reach your destination and you can give that “special someone” the push they need. I am invisible, hidden between the lines, but always in the back of your mind now.
The positive side to being an adept is that you affect the future of the world towards evolution, not through demographics or tax cuts, but through interaction with people’s internal lives. The downside is that you never really know what effect you’ve had. You are invisible. The causeless cause.
Every action from the smallest to the largest is directed at advancing the evolution of the species, taking whatever risks are necessary to attain that peak of pressure that results in genius or insanity. Or both. It may be that the evolution, the future of our species, depends on the fringe, the counter-evolutionaries, the possessed shamans artists and lunatics… It is towards the youth in this vein that I direct my efforts.
When I say evolution, I mean the unfolding of the potentialities contained within each of us, like a rosebud gradually opening into a flower, the potentials encoded in our DNA spirals which only the right sequence of events can unlock… Like us, each of these “locks” is unique, and so we must find equally unique keys. You too are an Agent for the selfguided evolution of the species, though you may not know it yet. This is what you are an agent for, but what are we agents of?
I personally think of this, of Her, as our mother of birth and death. When you offer yourself up to Her, she takes you in and guides your actions. When you offer yourself to Her, and pass the gate of your death and birth, you are faced with a choice: return to the world, motivated by compassion, or remain forever in that dark womb, a shaman or lunatic.
When I turn on the evening news—something I do less and less these days—I begin to wonder if it is too late for humanity. This pessimism is not really in my nature however. Even if it is a losing battle I will fight it with the tools afforded to me: the pen, the word, and my embodied messenger clothed herenow in the flesh. I took an Oath, and I will follow it to the best of my ability until death claims me. No hunchbacks (?) out of you, soldier (!).
Twilight has given way to a rosy dawn; the last sliver of the moon, visible through three panes of glass, is now all but gone. Soon that rosy dawn will turn golden. And thankfully the dog has ceased his noisy rummaging.
Out the apartment door with my hair still wet, down the block where I wait at the same bus stop every morning. Each day I catch the 8:20 bus with the same assortment of people. This cold, icy morning in the short days of December is no exception.
As you may have guessed, I am the type of person who catches every detail, but I rarely speak except when it is required for an assignment. Subjective investment in a situation mars your capacity for keen observation. There are three people in the 8:20 crew, besides myself. A wrinkly shell of a woman wrapped in something coarse and thick—wool or burlap; a bubble-gum popping brunette who always wears sunglasses, probably going to the liberal arts college at the end of the line; and a boy in his late teens.
The boy catches my attention, as he somehow manages to be even more generic than the girl: blue eyes, worn Converse sneakers, ragged dirty-blond hair. No soul anywhere to be found. The Mr. Bungle t-shirt throws a small kink in his character, but with the faded, faraway look and bloodshot eyes, the whole package strikes me as a living, breathing caricature of the late 1990’s. Spending an hour in front of the mirror trying to look like you haven’t looked in a mirror your whole life. We never speak to one another, except when the boy bums a cigarette, which admittedly is rather often.
Now I’m leafing through Aaryah Copelan’s annotated version of the Sefer Yetzirah. On the back cover it claims that the invocations therein were used by ancient rabbis to communicate telepathically and to fly. Though the image of medieval rabbis flying through space to do battle with evil-doers is a compelling one, I’m having a hard time finding the method from the text. Must be missing something. I suppose I am also to believe that yarmulkes were originally worn because they make you more aerodynamic when you fly around in your merkevah chariot.
Now the bus has passed by Lenny’s, the boy gets off. As he brushed passed me I noticed that his eyes were darting around in fear and confusion.Before I get any farther, I should tell you more about my profession. When I get off this bus I am no longer head of the Philosophy department of the aforementioned “liberal arts college down the line.” I become Aleonis de Gabrael. One does not act a part, one is the part. We trade one illusion for another and are our representations—don’t let your reflection fool you. The magus is more powerful than any God, and the most powerful amongst the legions of the damned is Maya, lord of illusion.
As I have hinted, I am a member of a spiritual organization. Exactly which organization isn’t important—we make up fronts all the time just to keep new recruits guessing. It would seem, at first, that a “spiritual organization” is a real contradiction in terms. And this is precisely why we handle things the way we do, and why I am the head of “new recruits” as a neophyte in the Order. The bus is rattling laboriously over cobblestones now, which means the next stop is mine.
These have all been answers to questions you don’t yet have—but you will. Refer back to them when you have completed my report.
Ah, here’s my stop now. See you on the other side.