Night of Intuition

The gods of the Dogon are the Awa, who lead the souls of the dead to their resting places; Lebe, the earth god, who is a serpent and at night licks clean the skins of the Hogon to restore their life force and purify their endeavours; and the Binou, who are many and various, the totems of the tribes. Before all of these was Amma, the sky god, who made the amphibious Nommo, who came down into the waters and split into six pairs of twins, one of one of whom rebelled; another (the other?) was sacrificed, the body cut up, the parts scattered through the universe. Every sixty-five years the Sigui is held, a ritual that might last five or six years; the next one begins in 2032. The Sigui is a processional that travels through the Dogon villages and across the immense span of time from the death of the first ancestor until the moment people acquired words. A woman's breast, say the Dogon, is second only to god; when divination is required a grid is drawn in the sand and siglas and symbols inscribed in certain of the squares. Milk, millet and peanuts are laid across the grid to attract foxes, whose footprints complete the grid and answer the Hogon's questions. The Dogon, said a couple of Frenchmen, famously, descended from the Sirian system and retain astronomical knowledge of its binary suns; but it is perhaps more likely that they made their way west and south from the upper reaches of the Nile and both their amphibious gods and astronomical memories have the same source as those of the Egyptians.

Matter is not and can never be a transformation of spirit but is a permanently existing substance, ineradicable, made up of atoms and taking many forms. Imprisoned within it and working upon it like yeast, giving it form, are the souls, who are innumerable and, like matter, never to cease to exist. The goal of the Jaina religious practice is to release the souls from their entanglement with matter. We are fettered because we go on acting and every action accumulates in our entanglement with matter. Life rules and vows will conduct the layman to the ultimate state of an advanced ascetic. Absolute release, if it can be achieved, does not mean re-absorption in the universal substance; the individual soul ascends to the zenith of the organism of the universe and remains there forever with all the other freed souls - self-existent, self-contained, immobile, all aware, occupying boundless space. The universe is itself represented as a giant in human form, male or female, with the underworlds, the purgatories and the home of demons in the lower body, from the waist to the soles of the feet. In the chest, neck and head are the heavens; while the world of humans is at the belly. Moksha, freedom, release, is at the crown of the head. These obdurate, pessimistic beliefs may have been those of the prehistoric, pre-Aryan inhabitants of the Indian sub-continent. They might be the thought of the people of the gridded, enclosed, paranoid cities - Mohenjo-Daro, Harappa, Chanhu-Daro - of the Indus Valley civilization.

It is the night of intuition. There is no moon in the sky, which is a blaze of silver, almost solid against the fugitive black. We are under the umbrella of the indigo trees. I tell Samsara the results of my researches: the gods of the Dogon, the background of the beliefs of her possible saviours two millennia and more ago. Starlight makes her eyes glint topaz; she is languorous and insouciant tonight. The account of the Dogon divination by fox footprints interests her and she describes briefly the custom of deriving knowledge from the swirling of the albumen of eggs in water. Well I think it is in water, I'm a bit distracted and don't attend as well as I should: the Onyx Lake has gone topaz too and there's something strange being born out of the lily patch that is all Monet in the starlight ... entanglement, she says, there's nothing wrong with entanglement. Why else are we here? If not to entangle ourselves in the seductive glories of the world. That Moksha, he's ... the topaz blaze of her eyes has red lights in it now, they flare, and the marvellous child, if that's what it is, birthing down there in the lilies of the lake begins a thin high shrilling that is painful to hear ... she lets it go. Nirvana, she whispers, isn't what you think. It just ... isn't. Let's do our forgetting and remembering another time. Let's just be here now. Let's ... entangle. I look up past the indigo trees to the silver sky. It's pulsing. The black, that seemed almost not to be there a moment ago, is gloss and ebony, sable and jet. It's everything and nothing. Who are you? I ask as sweet oblivion descends. I do not know if I hear exactly right but what I think she says is: I am the Dark Lady.

No comments: