And so it was that I found myself in the forest clearing a week later, anxiously awaiting the appearance of the Green Lady. What if she decided not to turn up after all? With some surprise, I realised that I had my heart set upon writing the new book after all, which was rather strange, considering my reticence of the previous week. Apparently my beautiful green muse truly had inspired me to get on with it.
It had been a busy week; one in which I had written two bread-and-butter articles for local newspapers, had followed up several leads for stories and had made contact with numerous potential sources of future business. In the absence of a regular salary cheque, I needed to make sure that I wouldn't starve whilst I was writing my next book. I had also spent several hours every evening polishing the manuscript of my first book and doing initial research into potential publishers.
As I huddled up amongst the roots of the massive Yellowwood tree, I realised that I was actually rather exhausted after my first week in Knysna and so I allowed my head to drop back against the tree trunk and closed my eyes, relishing the soothing forest sounds and aromas.
"Already sleeping on the job, I see," a gently mocking voice disturbed my slumber and I jumped to my feet, finding myself face-to-face with my green muse.
"No... not at all... Just meditating and mentally preparing myself to start writing your story," I grinned, abashed to be discovered at such a disadvantage, but relieved that she had decided to appear after all. With a graceful wave of her hand, the Green Lady indicated that I should sit down again and she took up position on the moss-covered log where she had sat the previous week. I removed my notebook and pen from my small daypack and made myself comfortable as small, multi-coloured bubbles of excitement fizzed up my spine and popped in my mind. This was it! I was finally going to find out more about the mysterious Green Lady. And she had picked me to tell her story!
The Green Lady smiled, and I knew that she was completely aware of the thoughts chasing each other and playing hopscotch through my mind. She waited for several minutes, giving me time to compose myself, before saying, "So, Peter, let's start with a story about betrayal. Betrayal of the worst possible kind. Betrayal of the unity of family and of the community."
"Is this story about you? About where you originated?" I asked, my inner-journalist needing to place the story in context. "And is it a true story?"
"It seems we will be beginning with a philosophical discussion," she smiled. "Peter, whether any story is true or not actually depends upon your perspective. All stories are true from some perspectives and, equally, all stories are untrue from other perspectives. All self-aware beings fictionalise their experiences and, indeed, their lives. We create stories that make sense of what we have experienced and that allow us to find meaning and value that will form the foundations for future stories we will tell ourselves about ourselves. This is how we progress in life, creating our reality as we go, story-by-story. There is no ultimately, objectively true story; all stories are subjective."
"But, wait just a minute there," I objected. "Of course there is an objective reality. Something is either true or false, surely? Sure, I can understand that we create subjective stories to explain our experiences to ourselves in our minds, but there must be one, absolute, ultimate, objective truth about everything. This is what my career as a journalist has been all about - finding the truth!"
"And this is exactly the mistake most people make; believing that there is only one truth and that they are the only ones who know what that truth is! Peter, there is no objective truth. All truth is subjective and a matter of your unique perspective.
At any given moment, you are being bombarded with millions of pieces of information about your world, and your physical senses will only pick up a fraction of a percentage of the information available to you. If you picked up all the available information, your brain would probably explode! And do you know what the filter is that will allow you to retain some information and discard other information, without even being aware of doing so? It is your beliefs, Peter. Your thoughts about yourself and your world will determine what you perceive in the world. Your perception is a function of your perspective, which, in turn, is the result of your thoughts. This means that you will only ever observe in your reality that which supports the thoughts and beliefs you already have about the world. You truly don't see the world as it is, but rather, you see the world the way you are!"
"But... but surely we must be able to objectively observe what happens in our world? I mean, for example, scientific instruments can very accurately record data about physical processes. Surely those measurements aren't subjective?"
"Scientific instruments can only record what they are designed to record. They can only measure what you humans believe is there to be measured. And they are also limited by the skill and knowledge of their designers and the technology available at any given time.
And it's not only about recording the information with instruments or with your senses. It's also about the interpretation of the information, which happens in the mind. In fact, you don't see or hear or smell through your eyes and ears and nose; you actually see and hear and smell inside your brain and you interpret these inputs in your mind. You are, in fact, experiencing your entire reality inside your own mind. Reality is not 'out there', but rather, 'in here'," the Green Lady tapped her forehead to illustrate her point.
"OK... I've encountered these kinds of ideas before; like in the story of the three blind men and the elephant. To the man holding the tail, the elephant is a piece of rope; to the man feeling the ear, the elephant is a piece of leather and to the man holding onto the leg, the elephant is a tree-trunk. And to the flea on the elephant's back, the elephant is the entire universe. But the objective truth is that the elephant is a massive, land-based mammal, living on planet Earth!"
"To some, Peter, an elephant would be viewed as an integral part of a complex eco-system; to others the elephant would be a food source; on a molecular level the elephant is a complex system of inter-related biochemical processes; on the sub-atomic level, the elephant is composed of particles, popping in-and-out of existence in an unimaginably vast field of space and, on the level of energy, the elephant is a standing wave pattern in the zero-point energy field. All of these ideas about the elephant are true from one perspective, and, equally, untrue from another. So, what is the elephant actually, Peter? Do you see that there is no objective truth about the elephant that is eternally valid from all perspectives for all time?"
I was silent for a moment as my mind stretched to accommodate this new thought. Then a further objection arose, "Uh, OK, I do get that. But then... this seems to undermine all certainty we might find in our world; in our experiences. Everything starts to feel rather ambiguous and rather frightening!"
"And the death of certainty is the birth of magic, Peter! The magic of finding your own authentic truth about yourself and about the reality you inhabit, from your own, unique perspective. And this is the process that will lead you home. But we will be covering all this in greater depth during the next few weeks. For now, just accept that it's pointless asking whether a story is true or not.
The better question to ask is this: is it a useful story? And, in that case, I can unambiguously state that, yes, the story I will be telling you today will be a very useful story, as it will give you and your readers a glimpse into how I became the Green Lady, guardian of the forest."
"But, is it a story about a past-life of yours?" I asked, struggling to understand her.
"There are no such things as past-lives, Peter," she smiled.
"Oh... So, this is it then? So there's nothing else besides this life, here now? But, what were you before you became the Green Lady then? I'm totally confused!" I rubbed my eyes, feeling completely out of my depth.
She smiled at me and said, "Peter, I have had many, many lives and many diverse experiences, as have you, and as have all of your readers. They are just not past-lives, as most people think. Time does not exist outside of this unique, time-bound reality that you currently inhabit - it is all NOW. Which means that there are many lives... and that they are all happening now.
I can illustrate this point by using the ancient Buddhist metaphor of Indra's jewelled web. It is said that in the abode of the Goddess Indra, there is a wondrous net that stretches into infinity in every single direction. At each node of the net there is a multi-faceted, precious jewel and, since the nodes are infinite, the jewels are infinite too. In each individual jewel, the infinity of all other jewels are reflected and these reflections, in turn, reflect all other jewels and so on... into infinity. When any jewel in the net is touched, all other jewels are affected, which tells us about the inter-connectivity and inter-dependence of all things.
The metaphor of Indra's net originated in the third century Mahayana School, but in more modern times the metaphor of a hologram has been used to indicate that each point is a reflection of every other point.
As you know, a hologram is a three-dimensional image of an object, which is produced by recording on photographic film the interference patterns formed by a split laser beam. These patterns are then illuminated to produce the three-dimensional image with which you will be familiar.
Now, you know that if you were to tear a normal photograph into pieces, you would end up with image confetti; each piece representing only a part of the whole image. However, if you were to break a hologram into pieces, each piece would contain the entire image, only from a slightly different perspective. So, you can see that that the hologram is indeed a useful modern analogy for Indra's web.
Now, using again the ancient metaphor of Indra's net, you can see the different lives of a spirit being as represented by the jewels in the net. Each life reflects all the other lives and each life is affected by all the other lives too. This means that a change made in one life will change the other lives as well. All is inter-connected. So, a change that you make in your life here, in this moment of now, ripples out and affects all other lives in the same moment of now. This is such a wonderful thought because it means that everything that you do has infinite consequences. Each thought, word and deed; every intent, can make a massive difference in all of your lives; in fact, in the lives of all other beings."
"I actually find that thought completely terrifying!" I exclaimed, as the impact of what she had just said hit me.
"Well, it means that you need to become very conscious of what you are creating with your thoughts. And that, until you do, you will continue to experience a random mix of what you might perceive to be good and bad things.
But, before we get carried away with any further theories, let's just agree that I will be telling you a series of stories that will provide some context for understanding how I became the Green Lady, what my reasons for being the Green Lady are and what my purpose is here on Earth?"
"I can agree to that," I said, happier now that things were moving in a more practical, down-to-Earth direction.
"So, as I mentioned before, this first story is about betrayal..."
And, with that, The Green Lady began to tell a wondrous tale, both strange and intriguing. She spoke in words of English and yet, as she spoke, images appeared in my mind's-eye allowing me to clearly see what she related. Here is the story she told - the story of the betrayal of the One.
* * *
The Council had once more arisen from within the One and had gathered in the place of debating to deal with the threat. The decision the Council would have to take on behalf of the One, in that extended moment, weighed heavily on their collective mind. In all of the Council moments in which the thought-form that called itself Sera had participated, since the first moment of its arising, it had never before felt this level of collective anxiety, dread and fear. These were completely new and unwelcome thoughts.
But... there was something else besides. Something which the thought-form, Sera, alone was carrying in this moment of decision. A terrifying, exhilarating, completely unprecedented secret. A secret which was to tear apart the unity of the One... forever.
All parts of the One were connected on every level and had no knowledge of individuality, such as the beings occupying our reality would understand it. Parts of the One arose, as temporary thought-forms, to fulfil various functions on behalf of the All; for a moment, or for a series of moments and then, once again, coalesced back into the One. And all thought, all knowledge and all outcomes of activity gained by any thought-form were immediately available, in the moment, to the One. The One's greatest strength was its unity. Complete belonging, complete connection, complete Oneness. This current moment, however, was to prove that the greatest strength of the One was also its greatest weakness.
Several moments before this one, something strange and new had emerged. A thought-form had arisen to assist in the Council decision to expand the One into a new dimension. This dimension would allow for much heretofore unprecedented growth and self-knowledge. As the One strove to understand Itself and its origin, it began to ask the question, "What am I?" And, in order to answer this question, the One began creating new thought-forms from within Itself to expand into all possible directions that could be thought of, in order to seek answers. These thought-forms expanded and explored and made the new knowledge, thus gained, available to the One, which grew ever more in self-awareness and self-knowledge. Some of these expanding thought-forms arose for only a moment, and some arose for many sequential moments to explore ever further and further reaches of what was.
One of these thought-forms, which had explored for many, many sequential moments, for the first moment ever, began to become self-aware; it became aware of itself as an individual. This thought-form became aware that it could create thoughts of its own and that, most importantly, it could shield these thoughts from the rest of the One. And, within the shielded part of its mind, this thought-form named itself Sera.
Sera discovered that, in a tiny part of its mind-space, thoughts could reside that were not available to the One, unless Sera chose to make them so. It became aware of itself as unique and special and different; as more than simply part of the One. And, in the deep, secret recesses of its own mind, that thought-form that called itself Sera began to resist the idea of simply coalescing back into the One when the function of investigating this new dimension had been fulfilled. Sera became aware of its otherness and, for the first time, individual ego had arisen. This was both magnificent and was also to prove deadly to the integrity of the One.
Sera, and the other thought-forms that had arisen to be in the place of debating and deciding, began the process of the Council. Firstly, they reviewed within their collective mind what had occurred in the moments leading up to this moment:
Within the new dimension that Sera had been exploring, it had encountered an Other that was not part of the One. This was a monumental discovery, as all expansions to this point had been only within the mind of the One. But this Other was outside of the mind of the One. It was not available or accessible to the mind of the One and the One found that it could not know the thoughts of this Other.
Sera had called out to this Other in the mind of the One. "What are you?" Sera called, "How do you come to be here in this moment? How may we know you?"
The Other did not respond as a thought arising in the mind of the One. The response arrived in a form that the One had never before encountered: an image of violence and aggression, not in the thoughts of Sera, but rather projected somehow in a kind of expression that had never been encountered by the One before. This projection showed the utter destruction of the One; the breaking apart of the connection, the drifting, the never-before encountered concept of aloneness.
Then the Other demonstrated to the One that there were indeed many other ones. The One was not the only one! This was an incredible thought within the mind of the One, but stranger and even more terrible thoughts were to arise for the first time in the moments that followed.
The Other selected one of these other ones and demonstrated that it was capable of carrying out its threat. Projected onto the substance of this dimension, the Other showed the complete destruction of another one. The mind of Sera struggled to comprehend what it was being shown. This Other could indeed annihilate an other one if it chose to do so. It was possible for the One to exist no more if this Other chose to carry out its threat! The mind of the One was cast into turmoil and the thought called fear arose for the very first time.
Then the Other showed the One yet another projection. In this projection, the circle of the Council was disbanded. The thought-forms in the Council relinquished their right to decide for the One. They simply allowed the Other to enter the circle; to enter the One. And this was an image of peace and love and unity. The Other entered the One and promoted its growth and expansion and self-knowledge. The Other offered everything that the One had always strived towards. But the price was high. The price was the surrendering of the inviolability of the One. The price was permitting the Other into the sanctity of the One.
Then the Other showed Sera a projection of a few moments of now in which the One had an opportunity to decide. And, for the first time, the thought called urgency arose within the One. There was not an infinity of moments in which to decide. A decision would need to be made, in this moment, Now!
Within the secret part of Sera's mind, it felt terror. The threat was not just to the One as a whole; more importantly, the threat was to Sera as an individual! Sera knew that it was not willing to allow itself, as an individual, to be annihilated. It had had but a few precious moments of being self-aware. It wanted so many more moments. In fact, Sera wanted the moment of its individual existence to never cease. And, in that moment, Sera knew that it would use all of its newfound abilities to ensure that it would continue to exist, for all future moments. Sera would fight for its own survival, even at the expense of the One!
And so Sera spoke to the Other, from within the secret part of itself, so as to ensure that the One would not be aware of the conversation. And Sera created a thought-form that it projected to the Other: "I am Sera. I am unique and special and I can speak to you on my own. I am on the Council and I have complete knowledge of the ways of the One. I can sway the Council to accept your proposal. But, in return, I want you to give me assurance that I will survive as an individual. I want knowledge of what is outside of the One. I want to see and experience all that is outside of me."
The Other promised Sera all that it asked, saying, "You are indeed special and different. You are the next step in the evolution of the One and you shall be held up in highest regard and esteem by us. You shall be given knowledge and abilities far beyond what you can create in your mind in this moment. Influence the Council to decide in our favour and you shall have it all. You shall continue to exist for all moments to come."
As the Council reviewed the thoughts that Sera had made available from the interaction with the Other, Sera carefully screened the thoughts of its private interaction with the Other from the rest of the One.
The first thought that arose in the Council was that the One should not comply with the demands of the Other. "Our strength is our unity; our strength is our connection. If we break that connection we are completely vulnerable. This Other is powerful beyond anything we have ever thought. How do we know it will do as it promises? How do we know that it won't just destroy us anyway once we have dissolved the circle of the Council?"
But Sera used its newfound ability to think unique thoughts that were separate from the thoughts of the rest of the One: "This Other offers the One so much more than we could ever have thought on our own. Our deepest desire is to know ourselves; to understand what we are and where we have originated. This Other promises us so much scope to explore that question. We are offered expansion of the One, way beyond even our most magnificent thoughts in any moment before. We should comply."
Then other thought-forms arose, "But perhaps we should remain exactly as we have always been in every other moment of now? We have, until the moment of meeting this Other, been peaceful and happy and complete. We didn't know that we were happy because there was no other way to contrast with what we had always experienced. But now we know that we were always happy; now that we have experienced other thoughts of fear and loss. Why change what has always worked?"
And Sera again responded, allowing the One to access its thoughts, but not all of its thoughts, "The moment for change has come anyway. If we don't comply, the One will be destroyed and there will be no further expansion in any moments at all. By allowing for change in this moment, the One assures its survival and also its expansion in all moments to come."
On-and-on the debate raged. Thought-forms arose and were countered by other thought-forms, which, in turn, were pitted against more complex and sophisticated thought-forms. In the process, the One found itself changing, evolving and rapidly growing in the understanding of its nature. Never before had such a challenge been experienced and never before had such a response been forthcoming. But, by the end of the moment, Sera's thought had prevailed. The Council would dissolve into the One, relinquishing its position as guardian and decision-maker. The final act of the Council would be to open the One to the entrance of the Other.
And so it was decided. And so it was.
And in that final moment, as the Council coalesced into the One for the final time and allowed the Other entrance, the knowledge arose in the mind of the One of the fatal mistake it had made. The Other invaded the One and completely destroyed it from the inside.
Sera's final thoughts as it spun away from the One for the very first time were, "It was a mistake. The Other needed the One to permit it entry. The projections of the Other were not the truth. The truth is that the unity of the One would always have protected it in every moment. The only way the Other could have destroyed the One was by our co-operation. The Other lied to us. And I have betrayed us!"
And then there was only aloneness, disconnection and drifting... lost... lonely... in an infinite void.
* * *
As the Green Lady's incredible story came to an end, I sat for a long moment, simply staring at her; completely at a loss as to what to think about the story I had just heard. "But... but that's simply unbelievable!" I finally expostulated. "Surely this story can't be true? Do you really expect me to believe that there are beings that occupy such a vastly different reality from ours? It's like science fiction of the worst possible kind! And, if there were such beings, how does that being... what was its name? Sera... how does that being relate to you?"
The Green Lady smiled her usual calm and serene smile at me and said, "Remember what I told you before we started, Peter? It's all just a story. Your life and mine - they're just stories that we tell ourselves in order to make sense of our experiences. We all fictionalise our so-called memories. There is no past - just the ever-present moment of now.
In the case of Sera, this is a story about an experience of mine that will eventually contribute to your making sense of how I came to be who I am, and where I am. So, the question to ask, remember, is whether the story is useful, not whether it is true, because... from a certain perspective everything is true and from another perspective, everything is not true."
"OK, OK, I remember. And I do get that. I guess it's just a stretch for me to keep it in mind when I am confronted with such strange stories!" I sighed.
"I daresay that the story I have just told you is not nearly as difficult to believe as that you are right now sitting here in the forest, sharing philosophical discussion and tales of other lives with a woman made of green light," she giggled. I had to concede that she had a point. Ever since my hike up Table Mountain in Cape Town, during which I had encountered an apparition who had helped to set me on my current life path, my life had been getting progressively stranger and stranger!
"All right, then, I'm prepared to hold lightly to notions of true and false whilst I write down these stories of yours," I said. "I can see that it's going to be a stretch for me, though! So, what happened to Sera and the remnants of the One, then?"
"We'll pick up Sera's story again in a few weeks' time, Peter. But first there are many other, inter-connected, stories that I must tell you so that you will finally be able to make sense of it all. So, be patient. All will be revealed in good time!"
"OK, then, what story will you tell me next?"
As I asked the question, I became aware of a frisson of excitement. This was turning out to the best fun I'd had in a long time and, although the story I had just been told was strange, it was certainly original and interesting! I realised that I was really looking forward to seeing how the narrative of the Green Lady would unfold in the weeks to come. I could also see that my mind would have to expand considerably in order to accommodate all the new thoughts and ideas that I would be presented with.
"You're just going to have to wait until next week to see, Peter!" she said with a smile. "And I suggest that you arrive an hour earlier next week because it will be a much longer story and we don't want to run out of daylight before we reach a natural pause point."
With that, the Green Lady rose gracefully to her feet, blew me a kiss and disappeared between the trees.
I hiked back out of the forest with a spring in my step. The next few weeks promised to be an amazing journey!