(M.J.E. Spirit / Sun., 19 Jul., 1998)

Spirit Dialogues

Explorations of Spirit
by Michael Edwards

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Sunday, 19 July, 1998

      Bivalia:[a] Well, come on, Michael, I'm ready.

      Michael: Yes, I felt a bit tentative. I somehow felt like sharing something with you, but it hardly seemed important enough; and also time's limited, because in 40 minutes or so I want to listen to an A.B.C. program, one of those ones on spiritual topics.

      Bivalia: We can be brief, if you like; and if you run out of time, I'm perfectly happy to break off at 10 o'clock, then resume later. It's no problem. And you don't need to worry about whether what you want to share with me is trivial or not. It is often the deeper things that prompt you to come to me - and that's fine - but I would be glad to share some of your more fleeting thoughts. And don't you see that it is really what you are longing for deeply inside to be able to just share the company of your higher self, instead of concentrating on the deeper matters as a stimulus for communion with me? We could say totally frivolous things to each other, and they may be quite unimportant and ephemeral; but the important thing is we are having fellowship, just like you might do with an earthly friend, and we are just getting to know each other, in all aspects, including the trivial or even frivolous.

      Michael: Hey, you started the conversation this time, although it is usually I who do, which is presumably because one's higher self needs to respond to a request to intervene in one's life, and does not butt in.

      Bivalia: Well, you needed a kick in the pants to get started. I could see you wanted to. And you said the prayer asking for God to be with you, and for me to channel, and that is a valid request; thus it is not necessary for the typed channelling to duplicate that request. And besides, the general principle you stated is valid about one's higher self intruding unbidden, but one's higher self may nevertheless choose not to make a fetish about the letter of the law and wait for a formal request. It is your inner desire, your intention, that counts in this regard, not the words you use or don't use.

      Michael: Anyway, I wrote some good music a couple of days ago. I wonder if you had anything to do with that.

      Bivalia: I think I had a hand in that, yes. But a thing like music, which can have so many spiritual overtones, probably always has a composer's higher self involved in some way.

      Michael: The music is really quite light-hearted, almost frivolous - but seems very good for what it is.

      Bivalia: Well, that's good, isn't it? Of course it doesn't matter whether it's frivolous or not; there's room for all kinds of music, even from the pen of one composer. A composer doesn't need to always maintain a consistent style from one piece to another, but in some cases may merely choose to do that.

      Michael: Yes, I can think of an example: Scriabin. His music is wonderful, but it specializes in a very particular style and approach. His style underwent a gradual evolution over his career that involved only small changes at any given time; but the changes, added up over the years, amount to a radical change in style. But aside from that, and transcending it, his music has a great consistency, and a stylistic purity that almost amounts to a specialized style outside of which he never strayed for a moment.

      Bivalia: Well, he was (and still is) very good at that approach, and has good reasons for doing it. But the fact remains that it was a choice he made to limit his approach to those parameters; he need not have done.

      Michael: His whole body of music has a purity, it seems to me, that approaches that of Bach (or Kuthumi as I alternatively know him). But that is not my way. I think I might, for particular pieces, adopt a special, pure style; but I would not want to confine myself to any one approach for my whole body of work.

      Bivalia: That is just as valid an approach as Scriabin's or Bach's, and you also have very good reasons for doing that, too.

      Michael: Music critics sometimes call such composers "eclectic", with a faint air of disapproval. But I have to feel free to choose the style and approach to suit the particular piece; sometimes even one single piece may not be pure to its own style, but may mingle many diverse styles and influences.
      Anyway, a couple of years ago I had a dream about lawn bowls, of all things - something I have never had anything to do with, and which I have never played. But my old place (out of which I am moving) is opposite a bowling green, which is probably what prompted the dream. In the dream, things were distorted in that way that seems peculiar to dreams, and music and bowls seemed interconnected in a funny way. After waking up, I thought, not very seriously, it might be possibe to write a piece of music about that dream, but I got a bit more serious when a musical idea came to me that was just right for the purpose. I added this note to the score for the piece, which explains fairly succinctly what the dream was all about:
A game of bowls consisted of 15 rounds. You played the first round in C-sharp major, and each round after that was in the subdominant of the key of the previous round: thus, the game began in C-sharp major, the middle round was in C major, and the final round was in C-flat major - a very logical arrangement indeed. When I was told that this was how one played bowls, it suddenly seemed so obvious: there was no other way it could possibly be.
      That pretty well sums up what the dream was about, although there were a few other details, some of which were vague, and some of which would be difficult to portray in the music, so I decided not to worry about them. I called the piece "How to Play Bowls (according to a dream)". As befits the whimsical nature of the impetus behind the piece, the music is light-hearted and whimsical, just a bit of fun, nothing more.

      Bivalia: That's wonderful just to have a bit of fun; you don't need to apologize for its being "nothing more". Fun and laughter are wonderfully good for elevation of one's spiritual awareness.

      Michael: As the note above says, the music (which I haven't finished yet) will be in 15 short sections, following the key scheme mentioned, beginning in C-sharp major, then going to successive subdominants, such as F-sharp major, B major, and so on round the circle of 5ths, as musicians call it, and ending in C-flat major for the 15th round.

      Bivalia: I follow what you mean. It is an unusual and unique tonal scheme for a piece, which no other composer has ever used, to my knowledge.

      Michael: Nor to mine. The funny thing is that, even in my dreams, my music theory is always exactly correct. If you start in C-sharp major, and go through successive subdominants, you do indeed find that C-flat major is the 15th key, and C major is indeed the middle one.

      Bivalia: I would be disappointed if you flunked music theory in the dream world, Michael. If that happened, I would have to do something drastic about that: perhaps enrol you in one of the elementary schools of music that exist in the higher realms, and you would have to attend each night as you sleep.

      Michael: Well, those extracts of that music were written a few days after the dream.

      Bivalia: And I think that C-sharp major theme which comes immediately after the introduction is really quite reminiscent of playing bowls.

      Michael: I kind of thought so, too, although it's difficult to say why.
      A little later still I got the idea that perhaps I could write another similar piece, but going through all the minor keys instead. This was an afterthought, because this didn't in any way appear in the dream.

      Bivalia: So I suppose you would start in A-sharp minor, have A minor as a middle key, and end in A-flat minor.

      Michael: You know your music theory, too.

      Bivalia: Of course I do; I'm your higher self, and I know everything you do - just as you know everything I do, although sometimes you are not aware of it.

      Michael: Anyway, you have the general idea right there about the minor keys. Well, I eventually decided at some point to have a try one day at writing the minor-key version, and this is the piece I wrote a few pages of the other day. I thought idly about what the piece would be like, not really intending to do anything about it right then, but the ideas started coming to me - and of course I had to write them down, and before I knew it about three pages of music had come out.
      You were right in a general sense about the sequence of minor keys, but I decided to do it the other way: start in A-flat minor, work through dominant instead of subdominant modulations, and end in A-sharp minor; I did this just to make the type of modulations different from the first piece.
      I had no difficulty settling on the title for this piece; right from the first time I conceived the piece a couple of years ago, I decided to call it "... but what if you play bowls in minor keys?"

      Bivalia: What else would you call it?

      Michael: Well, it does sound a bit crazy and eccentric, doesn't it?

      Bivalia: You'd be amazed at some of the weird and inventive ways some bowls enthusiasts play bowls in the astral and higher regions.

      Michael: [LAUGHS.]

      Bivalia: No, I'm quite serious. I do know of at least one group of people who do play bowls the way you dreamed that time, although I can't vouch for it being a common variant of the game. But you did at least fleetingly tap into that in your dream.

      Michael: Surely some dreams are not real events in the higher realms, but just fragments of thoughts the brain is processing in some way?

      Bivalia: Yes, this is so; not all dreams are the faint remembrance of events experienced while out of the body at night. But one that left a sufficient impression on you to inspire a piece of music - and music that promises to be very good, too - is more than likely to be real somewhere in the higher realms.

      Michael: [LAUGHS SOME MORE.] It just sounds so weird, playing bowls in C-sharp major.

      Bivalia: You can play it any way you want in those regions where physical or earthly limitations don't apply. You're thinking that bowls is a physical activity, and that musical keys are an acoustic phenomenon, and perhaps an emotional and psychologicial one, too; so, because of these differences, which seem unrelated, the two things (bowls and musical keys) have nothing with each other, so that it's impossible to play bowls in C-sharp major, and even nonsensical and meaningless to talk about it. But there are regions where those distinctions are regarded as limitations, and where they can be overcome if one desires it. The group to whom I referred think nothing more of playing bowls in C-sharp major than you think about sitting down and typing sentences on your computer.

      Michael: But how do they do it? Can you tell me in detail how you can play bowls in a particular key?

      Bivalia: They do it the way you saw in the dream. Nothing to it.

      Michael: You said that with a perfectly straight face - but you're evading the question.

      Bivalia: No, I'm not. The words to describe it simply don't exist in your language, just as you could not describe the dream itself beyond the description you've already given, which simply states that it was done. But you are aware of the way a dream seems at times to make a weird kind of sense: it feels quite logical in a way, but you can't even begin to find the words to describe it. But in the dream, and possibly for a little while after waking up, you could no doubt feel how it was done.

      Michael: That's right; it was weird, because I do remember that, after waking up, I thought to myself, "Is that how bowls is played? I must look that up in the encyclopaedia."

      Bivalia: [LAUGHS.] See what I mean? The dream must have had some conviction, some kind of unearthly sense of its own, to prompt that feeling even for a moment after you wake up. And, while I suspect you will find nothing in earthly encyclopaedias about such an obscure way of playing bowls, you will one day be able to look it up in the encyclopaedia in the higher realms: The Universal Encyclopaedia of Games, revised edition, virtual page 873: one of the obscure variants listed under "Bowls", sub-heading "Local and hybrid variants", and cross-referenced in the entries "Musical Games" and "Astral Aspects".

      Michael: Now you're having me on - Universal Encyclopaedia of Games and virtual pages indeed!

      Bivalia: [WITH A GRIN.] No, I'm fair dinkum.

      [Michael: Private thought: I really can't tell how serious Bivalia is, but it's a nice line, and points out a sense of fun he seems to have, whether or not it is a joke.]

      Bivalia: Anyway, be that as it may, after your rational mind woke up for the day, it took over, couldn't make sense of it, and so, because it's outside your ordinary experience, ever since then, it strikes you merely as being weird.

      Michael: It certainly is. I would be tempted to say that the dream simply originated because you play bowls, and you also play music in C-sharp major (or any other key), and that the dream connection was simply based on the use of the verb "play" to refer to both, and my dreaming mind (typically of dreams) simply got the two senses of "play" mixed up.

      Bivalia: Yes, this happens at times in dreams. This might be what caused you to link up with the C-sharp-major-bowls-playing people. But, partly because of the incident having enough reality to inspire in you some pretty good music, I still feel it is real; in my view that is fairly strong evidence, although maybe not quite total proof. Quite likely the common link represented by the word "play" (applying either to bowls, or playing in a certain key) is what suggested to those bowls-playing people the idea of saying, "Hey, why don't we try to play bowls in C-sharp major?" - you know, just for a lark - and after that maybe they found it interesting enough to work through other keys, too. Perhaps they then devised a systematic game, part of whose rules involved going through the 15 major keys in the sequence featured in your dream.

      Michael: Well, it sure seems weird, and I am torn between being amazed that you seem with a straight face to take it as being literally true, and thinking how delightfully whimsical you are being.

      Bivalia: Perhaps I'm being both at the same time: telling literal truth, and being delightfully whimsical. Truth can be whimsical, you know: it is not always a heavy matter of grave seriousness. And thank God for that.

      Michael: Well, all right, I'm not objecting too strongly. What you say does at least fit in with your overall spiritual view as revealed through the many pages we've done together. And yes, I do accept what you're saying in principle, although I find it very difficult to visualize it.

      Bivalia: That's all right. Of course you find it difficult; if you didn't, you would probably not be in the physical world now. But I am very glad that you are able at least to remain open-minded about things you cannot personally visualize, yes, even people playing bowls in C-sharp major (or any other key they may choose, or even all 15 major keys in sequence - or even the 15 minor keys).

      Michael: Yes, I try to be open-minded about such things. I must say it's a bit easier now that, compared to a few years ago, I am getting more and more away from a spiritual approach based on firm doctrines and teachings.
      Anyway, time's up for now. I would like to listen to this program, although sometimes it's more interesting than at other times. I have more to say, but I think this is a reasonably good point to pause. Thanks for indulging me on that.

      Bivalia: That's all right; it is part of my job to help you, but to fit in with whatever plans you make for your life.

      Michael: Be back soon.

      Bivalia: I'll be ready when you are. Enjoy your program.


      Michael: Well, Bivalia, I'm back now.

      Bivalia: I'm glad to see you again, Michael. Was the radio program interesting?

      Michael: Oh, okay, I guess. The main section was about bereavement and dying. I wouldn't say it totally grabbed me, though. That program on 3 LO on Sunday evenings has changed format a few times, but it has always been concerned with religion and philosophy, and the deeper things of life generally. When I first discovered it some years ago, I seemed to be fascinated by it, but I seem to find it less compelling now, although I still listen to it. I often tend to see it as representing a mainstream point of view I don't feel I belong to.

      Bivalia: It's fine to listen to other points of view and consider them with an open mind, including mainstream points of view. But it would not be helpful to feel pressured to believe them just because you thought this is what most people believe.

      Michael: Yes, I know that. Perhaps this is one reason why my present view of the program is that it is merely interesting to some degree, but very rarely compelling.
      Anyway, in spite of my intention to come back and pick up where we left off, I do feel the connection between us has been broken somewhat, and I do feel a bit as if I've lost the thread of the things I wanted to discuss with you.

      Bivalia: Well, feel free to just talk about anything at all, in the hope of circling back to your train of thought. There's no hurry.

      Michael: Well, there may not be from your point of view, but I sometimes have constraints, like feeling tired eventually if I go on long enough.

      Bivalia: Had we finished talking about your bowls pieces?

      Michael: I'm not sure. Perhaps. Not that there was anything of much importance to that anyway; I probably just get lonely and want to talk about things with someone, and you happen to be more accessible than most other people, who are physically remote from where I now live, and also busy.

      Bivalia: It's nice to know I'm useful to you.

      Michael: Oh, don't take it the wrong way.

      Bivalia: I'm not. I mean it seriously: one of the functions of one's higher self, amongst others, is to help and guide and provide company - if only the lower self is open enough to realize the higher self is there at all.

      Michael: Anyway, I don't know that there was much more to say about astral bowl-playing and writing music about it.

      Bivalia: So are you pleased with the music you wrote the other day?

      Michael: Yes, it seems uncommonly good. As we mentioned before, this was the minor-key piece, and perhaps it has a slightly more subtle, veiled quality than the major-key one, even a certain haunting quality. But it is quite catchy, and I found something that almost never happens with my own music, and that was that for hours after writing some of the passages, they went round in circles in my brain the way very catchy appealing tunes do.

      Bivalia: You really must have tuned into those bowls players somewhere out there in the astral.

      Michael: The two pieces are quite unlike anything else I've written, yet quite similar to each other. It's almost as if I have created a special bowls style of music.

      Bivalia: You probably have.

      Michael: But there's a reasonably close relationship to a certain semi-popular style I seem to have invented, with characteristics of ragtime and jazz, yet not ragtime or jazz itself. This style also features in a few other pieces I've done a fair bit of, including the two in memory of my grandmother and father, which, along with the bowling pieces, are at the top of my list of music I want to complete once I've settled here in Healesville properly and completed moving things from Trumper St.

      Bivalia: Well, I hope you will ask Kuthumi to help you with that music when the time comes. He wants to help you, and thinks you have great promise as a composer.

      Michael: Oh, it's too frivolous stuff for that - at least the bowling pieces.

      Bivalia: Not at all. I hope you aren't buying into that over-reverent view of the Masters as only being involved in heavy, serious things. Nothing could be further from the truth.

      Michael: Yes, I guess you're right. I guess I'm just struck by the surreal humour of calling in the Masters to help me write music about playing bowls in C-sharp major.

      Bivalia: The Masters have a wonderful sense of humour which can be quite surreal at times. If you and I can have such a sense of humour, so can they.

      Michael: Well, of course, another reason I have doubts about bringing in heavyweights like Kuthumi is that I wonder whether such elevanted beings really take that much interest in little old me, want to take the time to cultivate my talent, and even estimate my talent that highly. I mean, the great J. S. Bach thinking I have great promise as a composer?

      Bivalia: This is how I see it, yes. You have heard Kuthumi channel, so he knows of you through that at least, although he knew you long before that in reality. And you have heard that he was J. S. Bach.

      Michael: If I can believe that information.

      Bivalia: You have to judge that for yourself. It cannot be proved or disproved, as is so of any spiritual information.
      But most people, if not all, are really much greater beings in their spiritual totality than what they manifest on the earth plane, which is so limited. It shouldn't surprise you to find that you, or anyone else, may in reality be far more than they appear to be.

      Michael: Maybe. But it all seems too good to be true. Although I may differ from the New Age in a number of their teachings, I suppose what we do here is closer to the New Age than to anything else I can identify with a label. And of course one of the main criticisms levelled against the New Age by its opponents, especially some Christians, is that it is all vague, just concerned with feeling good, taking bits and pieces from this religion or ancient tradition or that, with no regard for consistency or scholarly accuracy, but only judging it by how good it feels.

      Bivalia: Yes, I know the sort of stuff you mean. If the cap fits, wear it.

      Michael: What do you mean by that?

      Bivalia: I mean, if you feel that is true, and that it's a bad thing, you should consider that criticism, and also consider doing what the critics say you should. If you feel, after proper consideration, that it's not true, it's not worthy of any further thought from you. And if you think the criticism is true, but that it's all right to be that way, you can just accept that that is the view you have, acknowledge that the crtics are stating valid facts, but that you differ from them in thinking it bad to do things that way.

      Michael: Well, the critics may have some valid points. The sort of stuff you've just been telling me about how great I am, how J. S. Bach thinks I have promise as a composer and wants to help me, and all that, is the sort of thing that those critics would jump upon as exemplifying the New Age at its self-indulgent worst, merely indulging wish-fulfilment fantasies as a compensation for a failed life, and so on; and I suppose I have a tremor of unease that this may be true in this instance, even if not generally of the New Age.

      Bivalia: I can see you're a bit divided in your view of this. If I can ask you to play devil's advocate for a moment, could I ask you what you think those people would suggest the truth is, if what I say is wrong?

      Michael: They would probably think it narcissistic, if not deluded, to fancy that J. S. Bach (or Kuthumi, whatever identity you prefer to use) even knows about me, let alone waits to help me develop my talent as a composer. Why me, out of possibly thousands of aspiring composers?

      Bivalia: Perhaps because not many of them are open to the spiritual view you are open to. Your openness is not particularly common in today's world, you know.

      Michael: Also, the critics would probably think that I shouldn't borrow New-Age ideas about the Masters, perhaps adding a bit of Christian thinking that resonates with me (and there are bits that do, you know), mixing it up with some of my own half-baked ideas which I have given a spurious authority by claiming my own higher self to have channelled them to me - but, instead of all that, I should study some particular tradition in depth and commit myself to that and remain loyal to it, and probably have the strength of character to deny some of the impulses that may come to me at times, which they would consider self-indulgent.

      Bivalia: But you are seeking truth, not merely a world-view based on some tradition. What you are describing sounds to me very much like the latter.

      Michael: They wouldn't see it that way; they would probably identify truth with their own tradition.

      Bivalia: That is their privilege, as it is yours to seek truth in your own way. There is no-one who can prove that their own tradition, or any established tradition, is in essence closer to truth than anything you come up with yourself. Even those traditions originated in someone's mind once upon a time, and it was often historical accident that they became widespread and respected.

      Michael: They would say those traditions and the ideas associated with them became widespread and respected because they were thought out by wise men, perhaps coming from revelations from God himself, and that these teachings are widely regarded by many other wise people as containing truth.

      Bivalia: Like the teaching that people who don't accept a certain view of the role of Jesus are condemned for all eternity to the agonies and tortures of hell, for example? And they dare to call God loving, almost in the same breath.

      Michael: Well, I guess so, but that damnation idea tends to be soft-pedalled now.

      Bivalia: They don't know where they stand on that now; but the Christian church taught that teaching, with all its horrible gory sadistic detail, vigorously for almost two millennia, and some of the more fundamentalist ones still do; the worst of them even gloat over the idea - mind you, always in the name of Jesus' love for humanity.

      Michael: Yes, I see what you're getting at. There's a huge part of well-established spiritual views I just can't, in the simple name of humaneness, have any truck with. Other parts stick in my craw because they are just so unreasonable by any standard I can think of. Yet other concepts seem so arbitrary and random that they lose credibility on that count. Perhaps we can separate the ridiculous or brutal parts of religious teachings from the rest.

      Bivalia: Yes, you can. But once you start selecting the bits you want to keep, you can go on with that process, and arrive at your own view of truth. It's either that, or accept outside authority per se as being binding.

      Michael: I couldn't agree with you more; I was just citing how the critics of my outlook might see it. (You understand that when I say "critics" I don't necessarily mean people who have personally criticized my outlook; sometimes I just mean people who in speech or published writing criticize that outlook as a whole; but I do think a few people close to me would share that critical view, and one or two have expressed reservations about it to my face.)
      No, I wasn't saying those things myself, just quoting the point of view of those critics; but occasionally their views can make me have tremors of doubt, at least, although not seriously. But I suppose the ideas that are most threatened by the critics are those high-flown ideas about how the Masters care for me, have such high regard for me, and so on - the things that can at times seem frankly self-indulgent.

      Bivalia: Yes, but those people (if you're thinking of Christians, which I think you are mostly) come from a tradition which has exactly the opposite view of humanity. Humans are sinful, and must grovel and cringe before God, begging for forgiveness for their terrible sins. They have little control over their own fate, and must rely on God to help them in their lives. I'm probably stating it a little more bluntly than Christianity itself would say, but that's the essence of it, shorn of needless elaboration that may appear to mitigate it, but doesn't really.
      I don't think you should be too overwhelmed by criticism based on that kind of outlook. Why, if those people wanted to really rub it in, they could say that all the goodness of man is as filthy rags in the sight of God. How could you argue against that?: the Bible itself says so, so it must be true. Need I say any more?

      Michael: I think you've made the point quite clearly. When I went to an Anglican service with my aunt once, I was rather horrified to see how often the service harped obsessively on our sinful condition, and how we must constantly and abjectly beg forgiveness (the service kept reiterating this), and must constantly watch that we repent for any mistakes we may make. I found it quite depressing to hear all that negativity, and wondered what effect it must have on people who hear that every week for decades. I was quite glad to get away from it when the service ended, as I was starting to be overwhelmed by an unpleasantly grey, heavy, dull feeling of oppression. I couldn't stand going through that every week.
      Strangely enough, I unaccountably went through a week or so after that where I felt rather depressed for some reason. I don't know if it was connected to going to church or not.

      Bivalia: I wonder. That sort of spiritual outlook would be enough to depress anybody, it seems to me.

      Michael: Another thing about the people who would criticize the spiritual way I've gone in recent years: they often seem to convey a sense that the ideas I follow are just too good to be true, just too nice somehow. They may regard their own truth as quite wonderful, but in a different way, and somehow a way that doesn't accommodate all those "too-good-to-be-true" ideas that I think we all long for when you relly down to the heart of the matter. They may actually describe their own view of truth as "wonderful" - but it seems that it must be in a very austere way, as if the spiritual path is essentially hard and difficult and strict. I never quite understand how they reconcile this, but they almost make those longings I referred to seem illegitimate, the ones that seem to be bound up with my own spiritual view; but I would say they are the common property of all humanity, though.

      Bivalia: So would I. What you seem to be saying is that those people deny the validity of your version of truth, those longings you have, because they're just too good to be true. They say life isn't like that, and they seem to be saying spirituality provides no way out of the essential dilemmas and problems of life. But I would like to say to them, "If your idea of spiritual truth really is spiritual, and if it really transcends this world, isn't it exactly what you should expect, that that spirituality should give truths that are too good to be true, at least in this world?" What the dickens is the use of it all if it just gives another version of what your limited world already teaches you? I would say there's something wrong with a spiritual view if it doesn't offer something better, if it just reinforces the limitations of your planet by elevating those limitations to the spiritual level.

      Michael: I'm glad to hear you say that, because that's kind of what I think, too. I've met people who seem to show all the signs of a spiritual outlook that transcends the level of this world; but their outlook seems pretty depressing and full of limitation to me.
      Anyway, I don't know how we got onto this; it just came up by degrees, I suppose. But I thought it might be about time we got away from this. I'm not finding it particularly useful any more.

      Bivalia: Let's go on to something joyous and wonderful that lifts your heart, then!

      Michael: Well, I don't know if this is it, or not, but something unusual happened today (or I suppose I should say "yesterday", since it's after midnight now, and therefore Monday).
      I found something in an old second-hand shop today I almost hadn't seen since my school-days. Perhaps you are aware that, from school-days onwards, I have been absolutely fascinated by coral atolls, those ring-shaped coral islands in tropical seas with a lagoon in the centre.

      Bivalia: Indeed, I am aware of that. There are a few of us that are waiting for you to produce your long-planned symphony The Spirit of the Atoll, which I think we have discussed in our sessions.

      Michael: Yes, that particular work perhaps more than any other I've ever conceived embodies all that wonderful longing I so often talk about in spiritual terms, which seems intimately linked with nature. I have no idea why I have this fascination with atolls, however, as I have never been to one, and have no connections with them that I know of.

      Bivalia: That you know of.

      Michael: I also have fascinations with other natural places and phenomena, such as fairy rings and deserts and oases and Indian summer, and a number of others. Once again I have no idea why; but they do fascinate me quite powerfully.
      I also have no idea how this fascination with atolls originated, but I would say it came up round about 1969, during my last couple of years at school. I remember going to the library at Scotch College at lunch times and after school and looking up books and encyclopaedias to see what I could read about atolls. Maybe deserts and oases, too, I'm not sure; perhaps all the other things came a bit later. But definitely atolls. Sitting in my dull lessons at school, I would fantasize about blue seas and atoll islets, green with coconut and pandanus trees, fringed around a turquoise lagoon lined with golden sandy beaches. The vision wouldn't leave me alone, and I wanted to set stories there, and (I think this came a couple of years later) write music depicting atolls - a really lush, balmy, tropical style of music.
      I remember the school library had a copy of Purnell's Encyclopaedia, which was one of those ones that came in weekly installments, which you then collected together and put into special folders. Of course I looked up "atoll" there, and it gave a little information about atolls, and I especially remembered this glorious picture (so it seemed) of an atoll, which was (according to the caption) Tahaa Atoll in the Society Islands, which are the French Polynesian group that include Tahiti.
      It was an aerial picture, and in the foreground was a beach lined with dense trees, and a lovely blue lagoon perhaps a mile or so wide. There was a boat in the foreground, which had just done a sharp turn, judging by the wake it left behind it. In the distance you could see the other side of the atoll, just a thin green belt of trees, small with distance, beyond which you could see the open sea. The opposite side of the atoll was broken by a couple of passages leading from the sea into the lagoon. The atmosphere of this picture was just so warm and luscious and tropical; it seemed like paradise to me.
      This enchanted me, and I looked up that article in the encyclopaedia many times while I was at school. I don't remember whether I actually came upon this first by chance and it triggered my fascination with atolls, or whether I was already interested and looked it up because of that. Probably the latter - but at any rate it was fairly early in my interest in atolls, and this photo was quite formative in forming my own inner picture of atolls and their atmosphere.
      At about this time, I also read a book by Louis Darling about coral islands and reefs, and I enjoyed looking at the drawings of atolls found there, which I thought really captured the atmosphere of them. I don't remember whether that book was in the school library, or the local municipal one, but this was about the same time. This book also played an important role in forming my inner image of atolls, and still does.
      Of course when I left school a bit later I wasn't able to look at the picture or read the article any more; and although in the years since then I have occasionally seen the Darling book again in libraries, I haven't seen it now for quite a few years. I think the couple of libraries which I knew had the book don't any more.
      Well, what happened today was that in the second-hand shop I saw a single bound volume of Purnell's encyclopaedia. Seeing that it was volume 1, covering A to AZ, I knew it would contain my magical atoll picture, and I looked inside, and indeed it was there. I referred earlier to something I "almost" hadn't seen since my school-days. I said "almost" because I saw a few months ago that my brother Peter had somehow acquired an old copy of the encyclopaedia from someone he knew - perhaps a brother-in-law or someone like that. I think he had an idea it might be useful for his kids' school projects and the like. Well, a few months ago, looking through that, I did see my picture there, so that's why I said I "almost" hadn't seen it since my school-days. But that look was only brief. Peter said I could take the page out if I wanted to - parts of the encyclopaedia were going to be cut out for school projects anyway - but I thought I'd get around to that later, since I didn't have anything with me at the time to cut it out.

      Bivalia: So I suppose you bought that volume?

      Michael: Yes. It was $5, which is quite a good price for an encyclopaedia volume, but, looking at it another way, a bit steep for a single photo and a few paragraphs of text. But that picture had meant a lot to me, so I thought recovery of the memory was fairly cheap at the price.
      I have to say the picture was not quite as I remembered it. Oh, it was substantially as I described it and remembered it in most of its factual details; but it didn't seem to quite have the full atmosphere I thought I remembered, and the islands on the opposite side of the lagoon didn't seem to quite have the magical sun-induced shimmer I thought I remembered. It was still unbelievably lovely, but not quite as magical as I remembered.

      Bivalia: Yes, I think distance of memory does tend to lend a magic of its own, especially when the memory dates from childhood. I think we've discussed before how children do seem to see a special magic in things which adults in your world tend to lose a bit, or even completely, and that this magic is due to a closeness to spirit that exists in humans before it is educated out of them.
      As a child (or teenager at least) you were, back in 1969, quite literally seeing, in that encyclopaedia, the spirit of the atoll, not just the physical atoll. It was that spirit that had that magic. When you look at the picture, you still see the physical atoll, but perhaps you see the spirit a little less clearly, so the picture has lost a little of its lustre.

      Michael: Oh, don't tell me that. I want to you tell me I can still see the spirit of the atoll.

      Bivalia: Well, well, we mustn't be too self-indulgent, must we? I can only say what I see as truth. No, only joking...

      Michael: I was about to say, "Don't you start on that, now".

      Bivalia: I could sense you about to say that. I was only lampooning the people we talked about before who criticize certain aspects of your spiritual outlook.
      No, on the whole, I think you do quite well by your planet's standards at seeing spirit in things like this; but yes, I think perhaps a little of that clarity of childhood has been lost.
      For goodness' sake, don't take that too much to heart. It is impossible for anyone, however spiritual, however steadfastly they maintain their vision, their idealism, to grow up in your world at this time without losing some of the clarity of that vision. You're doing very well even if you manage to keep just a glimmer of it, and you've certainly kept more than a glimmer of it.

      Michael: I need that vision of nature (however unrealistic it may be from certain points of view) if I am to write all that nature-inspired music. Losing it is a serious matter for me.

      Bivalia: It's not as serious as you think. You still see enough to write that music; and writing the music itself will strengthen your vision of it. Writing the nature music will also, as we talked about the other day, help spiritually those parts of nature you portray in the music. You could also one day consider visiting some of those places that fascinate you.

      Michael: I wonder if the magic is such an internal, subjective thing that seeing the actual thing might destroy it.

      Bivalia: I think not.

      Michael: I once heard of a writer who was renowned for the vivid settings in foreign countries he used in his novels, and was surprised to learn that he never travelled, had never visited these places, but just did his research in the library and used his imagination to create the atmosphere.

      Bivalia: It's amazing what one can do with a vivid imagination; he must have been very good at perceiving the spirit of those places (whether he was aware of it or not).

      Michael: He said he deliberately avoided travelling to those places precisely for the reason I mentioned: as long as he knew the places in his imagination only, he could evoke their special magic; but he was afraid the splendid vision would be swamped by the reality if he actually visited the places, and that he could not recover it once that happened.

      Bivalia: I can't speak for him. I don't believe that would happen to you, however. Not when you are able to see magic even in commonplace scenes at times.

      Michael: Yes, like today, soon after buying the encyclopaedia volume I took a slightly roundabout route home to try to avoid a right turn into my driveway across the busy Sunday traffic on the Maroondah Highway. I turned up into the hills on which some of the back streets of the town, with their houses, are situated, and I was struck by the atmosphere. Although it is winter, it was a lovely sunny day today, and, being shortly after five o'clock, the sun was due to set in a little while. In those foothills, there's a road which rises steeply, and nearby there seems to be a little hollow, but quite high up relative to the rest of the town as a whole, and there are a couple of side streets that go in and out of that general area. As I drove through this area, I was struck by the beautiful atmosphere created by the golden radiance which flooded the area like liquid light. I was so captivated I drove in and out of the streets a couple of times just to soak up the atmosphere. Perhaps I was perceiving the spirit of that area, and the spirit of that particular sunset.

      Bivalia: Yes, to both of those. Seeing the real place doesn't seem to dull your perception of its magic, as against merely imagining it. You can probably imagine that area in your own mind, but you probably wouldn't have imagined the particular atmosphere that existed at that time. You needn't shy away from visiting an atoll for fear it will destroy the vision of atolls you need to write the symphony about them. It might in fact give you the break you need to really get going with the symphony.

      Michael: Well, you may know I've occasionally thought one day I might visit the Cocos Islands, which are part of Australia. They form an atoll, quite a typical one which has been described as one of the most beautiful places on earth.

      Bivalia: Why don't you do that, then?

      Michael: I might, when I can afford it - and when I've completely moved. That'll probably come before affording it; but yes, it's slightly more than an idle fantasy, although, as a fantasy, I've had the idea for some years now. I suppose there are lots of atolls I could visit, but this one is the only Australian one (as far as I know), which would probably make travel formalities easier (no passports, and so on), and probably the trip would be cheaper, too.

      Bivalia: It might be a very good idea for you to do that. It might turn out to be quite a spiritual experience for you.

      Michael: I've had immense difficulty writing that symphony The Spirit of the Atoll. Although at times it's been an obsession since the mid-1970s, I have managed to write no more than a few fragments, some of which are quite good, but still just fragments. I think the problem is that the atmosphere of the atoll I have in mind, and therefore the atmosphere of the music, is so wonderful, almost other-worldly, that any music I manage to produce in reality just pales beside the splendid vision.

      Bivalia: Yes, I think that splendid vision has you flummoxed a little. It might be a good idea to consider just writing more of the music, doing it as well as you can, of course, but suspending judgement until later, after you've produced more substantial amounts of music. It may mean you have to discard more extended passages if they are not right, and that might seem like a waste of time; but it may be the only way. Creating something great like this is not always easy, and can even be agonizing. It is no reflection on you as a composer: it is well-known what agonies Beethoven went through to produce some of the most wonderful music your world has yet seen, how many times he had to revise and rewrite passages, sometimes to finally adopt the first version he wrote.

      Michael: The symphony became an obsession in the 1970s. I don't remember the precise thing that made me decide to write it, but something prompted it, and it quite quickly grew into a wonderful vision I wanted to express in music. Although I had only an atoll in general in mind, not any particular one, the mental image of that atoll almost grew into a real place, and seemed to have its own special atmosphere. I sometimes feel that image has faded a little, but I have tried to hold onto it. But I have to say some of the music I've written seems so mediocre I think it is unlikely I will use it. And when I compose something mediocre, I usually don't continue with it, because I lose interest.
      Anyway, I think I'll have to finish once more; this has been about twice as long as I thought it would be (I thought it would be a quick session), and, before I know it, it's getting to be the time I really must retire. I think I've pretty well said anything I wanted to say. Thanks for coming once again.

      Bivalia: My pleasure; and thank you for giving me the pleasure of your company and your thoughts and feelings. This is the kind of stuff out of which we build our relationship and get to know each other better, and that has an importance that goes beyond whether the actual topics we discuss are important in themselves or not. But I think they often do have their own importance, anyway.

      Michael: I guess I think so, too, or else I wouldn't write dialogues about them. I think something has to be important for one to go to the bother of writing extensive dialogues about them. That physical effort will probably always act against me sharing totally frivolous stuff with you in writing, even though you've occasionally urged me to try this.
      But I think I enjoyed writing about atolls and about the bowls pieces than that stuff about what critics think of my spiritual outlook. I seem to enjoy the "feel-good" stuff, the sense-of-wonder stuff, more than some of the heavier religious stuff.

      Bivalia: I can see that from the way you write. Your own thoughts come more easily when you are more interested, and I think you even channel me better at such times.

      Michael: Anyway, I must leave this now. Good night.

      Bivalia: Good night, Michael. My love is with you always.


[a] Tuesday, 26 March, 2002 - "Bivalia:":
      See the first
note at the end of the dialogue for Monday, 13 June, 1994, for the meaning of the name "Bivalia", and why I adopted it in these dialogues as the name for my Higher Self. [Back]

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