from 'THE JEWEL OF PARADOX:
THE DREAMER CLIMBS THE COSMIC TREE
The Dreamer stands before the Cosmic Tree. He looks up, his arms embracing
it, peering up through its heavy, far-reaching branches. He bows to rest
his forehead on the Tree, in obvious greeting and homage. I sense him
inwardly connecting with the Tree, melding beings with it.
A man sitting on the ground nearby starts to tap his finger tips across
the drum's head resting in his lap, a light pattering roll accentuated
with a hand-slap. The old man starts to sway back and forth, rising up
from the soles of his feet. He goes into a dance, flapping his arms in
rhythms that seem to rise spontaneously between him and the drumming.
He sways around in a circle, loose and relaxed. His head back, he softly
prances around the Tree. It is a dance pantomime, light-footed and trotting
like a bird, moving in larger and larger circles. People back out of his
way as he clears a circle for himself.
Others sitting around the Tree join in the rhythm. They smack their bent
arms against the sides of their chests and make hooting calls like owls.
The Dreamer slides from one foot to another, flexing his knees to give
his impression of a bird in flight, of soaring and driving. I'm quite
impressed at his sudden agility. Apparently, so moved by the spirit, his
body is empowered and his motions sure. The rhythm and energy of his dance
build. More people join in the calls and clapping. All, suddenly, on a
beat, stop as one. I'm impressed and sense the strong charge of energy
that was created. I, the seeker in me, wants to see if he really can climb
up out of this mundane human domain and up into those ranges of consciousness?
He walks counterclockwise around the huge base of the Tree, bowing and
offering muttered prayers and gestures at each of the four directions.
I smile at the pleasure he takes in the rituals.
He faces into a large crevice in the trunk rising from between two huge,
gnarled roots and fits in well enough to somehow find hand and footholds.
He climbs, almost scuttles up the Tree's perpendicular surface. Though
I see what is happening right before me, I don't believe it. What he'd
explained earlier about the Tree's mythic nature comes back full-force
and I sense it was but preparation for what I'm seeing the Dreamer now
do in his body.
There is stillness. Not a pause, but an arrested moment. Every breath
is caught. Silence thick as cotton. The Dreamer's movements show the special
state he's in, a trance to access that aliveness. The drum starts again,
with soft, water-like rippling. Someone joins in with a pure and moving
"Now he climbs to the uttermost.
Now he returns to the heavenlies,
to where the spirits dwell.
Now he climbs above time
and sees tomorrow and yesterday."
The old man, arms and legs grasping around the Tree, shimmies up it
with remarkable dexterity. He arrives at the First of seven large branches,
some fifteen feet off the ground, and calls out, his voice high pitched
and faint as if being at a much greater distance.
"I am no more on those low plains. I have left them and enter back
into the heavenlies. I have crossed the threshold between time and forever.
At that boundary, I did battle with the Guardian there who plays my foe.
Now that I am past, he is again my beloved friend.
"Here I can watch life's shapes and movements unfold through time.
I see the Serpent as it really is, alive, twisting about in the spiral
circling about from First Times to the world's death and back to First
Times again. I have memories of what is yet to happen carry answers for
not yet posed questions."
His words echo in the utter silence of those watching, reverberates off
the Valley's walls into a weaving of sounds and bewitching imagery. Someone
sobs with excitement and transport, splashes of passion. Another man tones
a deep, wordless drone, his head back and long hair hanging. Some women
take up a background counterpoint to his chant -half whispered, long held
The Dreamer effortlessly climbs more and arrives at the Second Limb. He
calls out, his voice fainter, more distant, with longer pauses between
words. "I am come to the Second Heaven. I am all of light now. I
no longer climb the Tree, but fly along side it. The spirits whisper things
to me that I had forgotten while I was away. I hear them again and my
heart gladdens and returns to its true form."
As he ascends, sharing his visions and ecstasies, his words grow sparser,
their resonance within me more profound, more moving. I'm taken into higher
and higher realms of spiritual fulfillment. In the dancing firelight,
all this plays out as if out my deep consciousness, my own world of myth
The drumming becomes only a whisper, a murmuring voice-like intonation.
I'm not surprised to see tears trickling from the drummer's closed eyes,
his expression of rapture.
"The Third Heaven," the Dreamer calls out in a light, angelic
song that wafts down like feathers, the incredible sound of his transported
voice. Still echoing...
I can't tell any longer how high he's climbed, but he seems incredibly
"In my soul, I never leave this place. I live by this pure breath
of being. Here is a the Light one never leaves. A stream of star-sounds
wash through the endless space. This all is me. I am all this."
Fresh depths of silence open as he appears, soaring, effortlessly, floating
out beyond the firelight's reach, his black form eerie against the cold,
clear starlight. The distance and the flickering light disconnect him
from the earth. Wafting in the sky, just the thinnest thread of his voice
reaches us now. It could be a star-sound.
"The Fourth Heaven. Few words to give. None from here on. Even my
mind is left behind. It dissolves away, leaving emptiness...
"Here is where the Serpent swims to make those endless waves of Time.
Each of you with me too, part of you to share Presence. To share the Silence..."
All at once, a chittering howl wrenches the air. It is a holy call to
prayer. A wave of vertigo sweeps through me at being immersed in something
far, far beyond my understanding.
Here I am, head craned back looking up at him as he wafts up from branch
to branch, from heavenly to heavenly. Though I've made the Cosmic Tree's
inner journey, would I ever be willing to make that climb, ever be willing
to abandon myself in such faith.
At the Sixth Branch now the Dreamer is fully out of the fire's light,
seen only as a silhouette against the rich spread of stars. He pauses
to share with us. "Here, all being pleasurably drifts in and out
of existence," he intones. "And so do I."
He floats on up with no movement of his limbs. For some long while he's
immobile in the "Seventh Heaven", the Tree's highest branch.
Then, in a breath, his form fades and disappears. I think my eyes are
lying, but all the drumming and chants stop too. Absolute stillness.
I look up at the encircling wall, at that wiggling track worn by Snake
of Time. I'm cold and alone. Everyone else appears gone, left to some
bewildering place. The half-moon's light low in the sky beams down. I
shudder. The Dreamer is gone. Not even his shadow against the star-jeweled
sky is left behind. We wait and wait. The moon slides across the sky.
And my seeking, hungry heart is still wanting. The miracle before me awoke
the hope of finding nurturing for it. But the mystery wore doubt like
At last, a shape smokily reappears, like a balloon tied to the topmost
limb of the Tree. It gradually thickens and the form grows defined with
arms and legs. I watch the Dreamer begin to stir, to shake. A kind of
glittering sprinkles down from his body, like a celestial dog shaking
star-dust from itself. Moving his arms and legs ever so slightly, he descends
in a smooth motion, without pause. First slowly, now faster, he reaches
almost a fireman's speed down a pole.
I sense his ache of leave-taking from the Splendor. If I were the Dreamer,
enabled to ascend as he's done in the body, would I be willing and humble
enough to return back down? Yes, maybe it is time to let him stay there.
Time let him make place for the new Dreamer.
"Is it a star descending from above, or one of the Shining Ones come
to bless the Valley? See how it shimmers and sparkles." a man joyfully
"No" a tottering old woman weakly responds coming out from between
the huts. "No, not one of the stars. It is the Dreamer glowing with
the lights he carries."
"It is the Dreamer burning with the fire of vision," Another
affirms. "He comes back to share what he saw in those places."
All eyes follow his descent with expectation.
Suddenly, the Dreamer is here, sitting at the base of the Tree before
us -eyes closed, legs folded, hands resting limply in his lap. His face
and body glow with inner radiance. Swaying back and forth, an owl's howling
screech pours effortlessly from his barely open mouth.
Finally, he stops, sound growing quieter as if from a distancing bird.
Then silence. Only the sound of the breeze whipping the grain stalks in
the fields. Falteringly, the old man murmurs,
"The Voice came to me during our Feast. It told me, 'Go to where
all worlds join. Go climb the Tree. Go to the Land beyond evening and
dawn. Go, and I will clothe you with eyes,' it assured me." He falls
silent, breathing deeply.
The pyramid of his body seems squatter with fatigue, more convoluted under
its own weight. Muscle and flesh hang slack with exhaustion, collapsed
with weariness. But when he speaks again, his voice is firm. It is the
radiance within that speaks. His eyes, as he opens them now, are bright,
"The Voice spoke. And I did what it bid me. Now I try to find words,
words that may open a little of the unknowable to you. Words that might
share something of this Immensity together."
He looks worn, but by no means exhausted, as he starts to reveal, bubbling
with emotions of celebration from his odyssey. He calls out with a tone
"I have been given sight into all things. From where time starts
and returns, I watched all things born of time. I saw from First Times
to End Times and back to beginning. All of it, everything, distant, in
a bunch no bigger than a clod of earth. Every detail of every life -bug,
man, and star- clear to read as sunlight. All in all, eternity in that
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Copyright Nathaniel Schwartz 2003