December 2023

The Goddess as Active Listener
Part Three - Omphalos

Brian George

Brian George, Oceanic Mask, 2004

Each of us starts life as a world center, indifferent to the laws of time and space, sure that our call will result in a response. At first, our solar plexuses have only a few shadows, like the cities on the sun. Our unconscious minds are as inhabited by symbols as an ocean is by fish. New sensory data float on the surface. We are everywhere, but in need of much.

Soon enough, we are shocked. We find, as we steadily expand the sphere of our discovery, that the world does not cooperate in affirming our self-image. Maddeningly, few recognize our age. There are theorists who dismiss our clearly audible demands as no more than mechanical reflexes. Q: "Does the young world center feel pain?" A: "No, of course not. He is only a pouch of biochemical intersections, whose random spurts of electricity cause him to make noise."

Donations from the maternal breast aside, perhaps there is something wrong here. It is not that others do not also come to kneel, or offer tribute, or express their joy and wonder. They do, but their actions are unpredictable. Colored toys revolve like intoxicated planets. When we dream of other lives, our hands no longer return with the objects that they clutch. It is necessary for light to fall on objects in order that we should see them, and it is more difficult to see at night than in the morning. Some whisper that we are "cute." Doors open and close for no reason. A revolt is imminent, perhaps, and we note that, one by one, our caretakers have begun to disobey. You then discover that your body has a skin, "you," who were once a "We." Will somebody shut that baby up? It is difficult to think with so much crying going on.

Earth is cold and wet. Life will kill you. It is probably better to keep the real story of your predestination hidden, even from yourself. Once consciousness was big. There was no fear. By sharing songs all species could communicate. Little art was needed to interpret the self-dramatizing image, the self-illuminating text. There was a mountain that rose from the bowels of the deep. To stand on it was to scan each period of history, like a landscape. The new body in which you find yourself is small. The mask you wear cannot mediate between incompatible scales. After all, it is a mask. The bigger you get, the less of your original face can be remembered.

Mount Meru and the Continents, Bhutan, 19th century

As humans, we are not the puppets of the gods; no, we played a part in the creation of the world, in the Shivirat ha-Kelim, the "Breaking of the
Vessels," in the lifting up of the first city from the depths. We played
our part in the removal of the future, in the far from innocent displacement of the past. We played our part in the successive reconstructions of the torus. The human function goes as far back as the Bindu, as the scarab Kheper, as the Aleph, as the Orphic Egg, as the gravitational singularity that preceded the Big Bang, and then even possibly beyond. These bodies are the most recent version of an archetype. The human role remains the same; it is only its associated powers that may expand or contract.

You had come with a gift. It was not like any other gift, and there was no one else who could offer it to the world. It was not that you were special, as this word is normally understood; no, you were anonymous, and each person ever born had brought some particular gift, however much they may not have remembered what it was. This gift was not an object, at least not in the usual sense. It was an aboriginal totem on the move, a baroque feat of geometry, the fixation of one of the sub-powers of the zodiac, a kneeling of the wind before the wind, a monstrous prodigy of disinformation, the opening of a clean, well-lighted space, an offering from a child of the gods to the beyond. It was, in short, an individuated Uroboros, whose tale, from the first of days, was hidden in its mouth.

Mount Meru and Ananda, the Cosmic Fish, Bhutan, 19th century

How strange that it took the form of a not-yet-spoken story. Already close to perfect, this story went in search of a new audience. Such a gift could not be separated from your nature. It simply was, a matter of fact, beyond argument, and also was why you were here. There was a task to perform for which no one else was suitable. You should find some way to make a living, yes, but there were other, more complex obligations.

There was a task to perform for which no one else was suitable, or perhaps, for which no one else had been dumb enough to volunteer. Each year, the path back to the instructions in the seed would grow more and more circuitous. Not many of your goals would be achieved. That, too, is something that you would earlier have known. For obscure reasons, like the other 6 billion people on the planet, you had picked this time and place, a time of converging crises, a place where snake oil salesmen sold only empty bottles. Leaps of imagination would be waiting to transport
you, if and when they chose. This was not at all convenient. You could hear the ticking on an inner clock. This had led you to regard your more personal objectives as irrelevant, to the extent that you had the sanity to judge. It would have been so much easier not to care at all, not to sense the growing disturbance in your bones. There were many modern devices to which you could have turned.

To not have to see with your eyes: what a joy! To not have to hear with your ears: what a joy! You were broken, perhaps. There was some sort of a screw loose, or an extra piece or a piece that did not fit. Once, the spirits had collaborated in taking you apart. They had shown great skill. They were much less certain about putting you back together. Your brain was left on some random shore. These spirits seemed to have more important things to do.

Once, the seers of the World Maritime Empire had pulled you from the waves. They were tall and thin. Their skin just barely covered the luminous currents underneath it. Within their elongated skulls, points flickered like constellations. Speaking mostly with their eyes, which were somehow both peaceful and sad, they led you up white cliffs to the ruins of an
observatory. There, they showed you how your story looked from a great distance.

Brian George, Homage to Dhyanyogi Madhusudandas, number two, 2023

They showed you how your life was really not your life, not as this was commonly understood. It was not "a" life, nor was it only yours. They showed you how wheel turned inside of wheel, each alive, each psychotically complex, each wheel kept in motion by the wheels that turned within it, each larger and more frightening than the wheels a moment before. You saw how the Earth was no bigger than a pinhead—just large enough to be visible—even as its circumference stretched to GN-z11. You then saw how, should you go there, it would not take 13.4 billion light years to fly back to the pinhead. No, at least according to what they told you, this would take less than an eyeblink. You could see the many dozens of chores that you left only half-complete, the messages unheard, the promises you broke, the tens of thousands of hours thrown away. Some might classify such a voyage as a dream. What cosmic irony. Steps would have to be taken so you did not fall entirely back to sleep.

In the end, what luck was yours. What an influx from the dark side of the sun, where you had once, so pleasantly, had sex. You no longer had to depend upon your own imagination, not at all; there was no way to determine whose imagination it was. You could hear the ticking of an inner clock, the dead, with their long shadows, laughing, the Earth cracking along its geometric seams, the birds weeping, the plants of the Amazon shriveling up. You could hear the cities buzzing like white nuclear reactors, the gods getting drunk, the hedge fund managers cursing as they jumped from the roofs of buildings. You could hear the chiming of the eight -dimensional vimanas in their clouds, the zombies gnashing, the snails roaring. You could hear the continents arguing about the state of their relationships, plate over groaning plate, the oceans whispering as they plotted out their long-delayed return.

Peter Proksch, The Four Elements, 1968

You could see the four elements fume, the primal letters cut and pasted to give birth to new cultures, the revolution shaking the sub-powers of the zodiac. You could see the flying snakes, the crawling birds. You could see the mountain rising from the ocean, the salt-encrusted ruins at its top. You could see the wide eyes of its resident cartographers, the unspeakably old, the curious, those able to look through your eyes as you tried and once more failed to look through theirs. You could see the mountain rising from the ocean, Mount Kunlun or Mount Meru or Mount Qaf, its peak towering towards Orion, even as it rose 10,000 times before.

You could see how many times your story had been told, how you wrote it long ago and far away. Why did you only just now decide to come to terms with your mistakes? Who would have thought that a finished story would take so long to revise? Utnapishtim did not leave a manual. Menes thought that only stones should be allowed to speak. It would be useful to be able to figure out how to diagram a sentence. Some help would be offered, but not, of course, in a form that you were ready to accept.

Part I
Part II


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Brian George is the author of two books of essays and four books of poetry. His book of essays Masks of Origin: Regression in the Service of Omnipotence has just been published by Untimely Books at He has recently reactivated his blog, also called Masks of Origin at He is a graduate of the Massachusetts College of Art, an exhibited artist and former teacher. He often tells people first discovering his work that his goal is not so much to be read as to be reread, and then lived with.
For more of his writings in Scene4, check the Archives.

©2023 Brian George
©2023 Publication Scene4 Magazine





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