November 2023

The Goddess as Active Listener Part Two

Brian George

Jackson Pollock, Guardians of the Secret, 1943

Of whom does the inner teacher remind us? Perhaps the outer teacher is a key to unlock the inner teacher's door, beyond which breathes the most luminous of shadows. Demanding that the code of silence be removed, each synchronistic meeting is like a knock that echoes through the Hall of Records, that hall that our Antediluvian betters once built from the skull of Akasha. "Who is there?" asks one of the bird-headed eunuchs who attend to its every need. We are usually too busy talking to respond. And if we do put aside our distractions and take a moment to respond, we will probably say something stupid like, "Who is asking?" With their wide eyes that have never ceased to stare, the seers of the World Maritime Empire watch the cities they once dreamed of sink their roots, the hunger they once planted grow. What does the shape of our longing look like? We will know it if and when.


This may be one of the key functions that good friends perform for each other. Our first meeting with such friends can be a shock, a slap to the face of our common sense, which shows us how things can make sense without having to make any sense. We are called to develop talents that we thought belonged to others. If our friend is not for use, not as such, he/she may serve ends more mysterious than we know. We may be called to summon memories for which our friend is just the conduit. We may be called to lift the spirits of the damned, to flirt with the unborn, to break the back of the military-industrial-infotainment complex, to rip the mask from the zeitgeist. And then, just as easily, the magnetic force that attracts two friends can later push them apart. We share a world with them. One day, their eyes go suddenly blank. If there were no parting, we might never gain the distance necessary to come to terms with their influence.


A good teacher is not a friend, as such. Unlike a good friend, a good teacher is never more than partially accessible, a moon of which we can only see the cusp, and yet, being gone, he/she is still capable of answering a question. If the inner teacher can justly be called "good," this goodness may depend on us. We have only to redefine the meaning of the term. We have only to find some way to invoke this teacher's presence, in such a way that our question can be posed, in such a way that the absent can answer, in such a way that student and teacher are speaking the same language. In a strange land, our lips must form the words of a song that we learned in childhood; this time around, however, its effect will not be innocent. This song may sound like the howling of a ghost; like the gasping of a city's population, buried while alive; like the banging of a door in the blood-drenched beerhall of the gods; like the whisper of the rivers of mercury in the tomb of the first Chin emperor.


Paul Klee, Departure of the Ghost, 1931


Let us posit that the inner teacher is led by another hand, by that teacher as demanding as he/she is omniscient, whose influence is most often not seen nor heard but rather felt in the peculiarities of external circumstance. We use terms like "male" and "female," "right" and "left ." These are practical enough. Terms like "body," however, stump us. We do not see how "inside" and "outside" are connected. "Do not test us," we say, "We are tired of being stalked. We would prefer that our glass houses do not have any windows. What genius planned that a tornado should be our mode of transport? Our iPhones will live for us." Of course, Sir or Madam. Your wish is our command. As you like.


Is there any moment at which the teacher behind the teacher is not
present? Yes and No. There are those who say that no good teacher would throw away his student, that cruelty is not love, that she would not leave him, cold and naked, with only a few well-worn platitudes to chew on. How absurd! There is a grammar to such silence, which the teacher expects the student to remember how to parse.


If the seers of the World Maritime Empire have pulled the waves above them, we should not assume that they are other than alert. We should only say that they observe from a great distance. Their wide eyes do not blink. They breathe neither water nor air. If they do, indeed, watch, if they even now continue to subject us to surveillance, if there is no way to escape from the life-patterns that the guard, the inner teacher may yet serve as our articulate ambassador. To what end and for whose benefit does he/she intercede? "Kneel," say the bird-headed eunuchs, and we must. "Yes, obey," says the inner teacher, "then rebel." There are few actions that will lead in a straight line. Threads can be cut without warning. Whole cultures can be ripped from their coasts. As intimate as the breath, as well-positioned as the tongue behind the teeth, the teacher subtly supports. To the dead student, this type of support is a mixed blessing. It may not, at first, be of use. 


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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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