Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Magic in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: The Bajoran Prophets of Yesod...

Inside the Bajoran Wormhole: abode of the Prophets

It is an interesting endeavour to rewatch my all time favorite Star Trek series Deep Space Nine with my spiritual training in the back of my mind. Science fiction, like all good storytelling, does rely on the imagination, which is also one of the cornerstones of magical practice. But in Star Trek, magical concepts and ideas are often dealt with in new and surprising ways. And as Deep Space Nine may be the most spiritual of all Star Trek series, interesting correlations are bound to be found.

Take for instance the pilot episode “Emissary”. One of the key features of that episode is an encounter of Commander Benjamin Sisko with “wormhole aliens”, who the Bajoran people know as their “Prophets”. These creatures are presented as “non-corporeal” and do not live in our own “space-time continuum”, but in another higher form of being. They possess no fixed shape but communicate with Sisko while borrowing faces from people from his present and past, and continuously shifting countenances as well as the surroundings. All this happens in Sisko's mind, because we, the audience, see what's really going on: he is stuck in what looks like a white limbo, a “sea of milk”. And on an even lower level we know that his “runabout” is somehow stuck inside the Bajoran wormhole.

Sisko's encounter with the Prophets

What are these “Prophets” in our own magical terms? The Bajorans consider them as gods, but do we agree with them? The way these aliens are portrayed offers a key: they show themselves in a wide variety of guises yet their true form is somehow not perceivable. This “shapeshifting” reminded me of the next higher plane relative to our own, which is known in Kabbala as the Sphere of Yesod. This is a Hebrew word meaning Foundation, but more importantly for this discourse, Yesod is also -and more commonly known as the World of Dreams.

Tree of Life diagram: Yesod is indicated by the purple sphere,
our material world is the green sphere at the bottom

It is a “world”, where images abound and these images are often illusionary and fluid as the waters or the sea. As fluid as the faces of the Prophets Sisko is encountering! Mark also that these aliens in Bajoran religion are called “Prophets” and not “Gods”. A “prophet” is someone who speaks on behalf of (a) God and not a god him- or herself. So, one starts to wonder who are the real gods of the Bajorans and whether these can be found higher up in the Tree of Life.

A Prophet wearing the face of Sisko's deceased wife, Jennifer

The concept of shapeshifting as shown by these Prophets is often considered a trademark of a “higher being” in Star Trek. Later in Deep Space Nine, a race of shapeshifting Founders also proclaim themselves as Gods, also tapping into the power of the realm of Yesod. The same can be said about Q, the “omnipotent” nemesis of Captain Picard who resides in a realm called the Continuum which is equally fluid in its appearances. And many more examples may be given from all the various Star Trek shows. It seems that the makers of Star Trek did not want to deviate too much from the familiar states of being when portraying the nature of “advanced” beings. The World of Dreams, called “Yesod” in Kabbalah is quite close to our own experience (we all know dreams!), so that's where we see most of these entities operate. It will be interesting to test these ideas in future episodes dealing with the Prophets and assorted beings!

I also spoke about the power of Imagination, and in Season One of Deep Space Nine there are at least two episodes that make an interesting use of this: The Storyteller and If Wishes Were Horses. More about that in a next blog!

Wednesday, 11 January 2012

My Favorite walking areas: Elsenburger Bos, Rijswijk

The first of my walking areas to be described here is also the one I visit most often. As it is round the corner of my working place, I often go here during my lunch break to get some fresh air and stretch my muscles a bit. The Elsenburger Bos is a park between Rijswijk and Delft and -very uncharacteristic for Holland- it is a park with hills and valleys. Originally, this park was built over piles of refuse, which explains the height differences.

It is a fantastic park to walk in, not very large but with many opportunities for at least 30 to 45 minutes of wandering around. This park has also played a major role in awakening my pagan awareness some ten years ago as it was a lot more 'natural' back then, than it is now. Its atmosphere at that time -its “deva”, as some would call it- let me find the God and Goddess in various locations in the park, some quite obvious, others hidden away in more secretive locations.

One major clean operation, followed by many minor ones have, unfortunately, done away with all that, and though I feel the park's deva is recovering, it is not as spiritually uplifting as it used to be. As the pictures indicate, it is still a great place to stroll around in, but something has definitely been lost.

What is sometimes a nuisance, though, is the sheer number of dogs that are taken to this park throughout the day, as in most places here they are allowed to run free. The most obvious problem as a result is the constant noise of barking dogs and yelling dog owners. Another drawback is the nearby A4 motorway with its constant drone, but this is a feature of most places here in the Randstad.
All in all still a great place to hang out, but it used to be better!

Saturday, 7 January 2012

Merlin Sythove: My Obituary

As the New Year's well-wishes were pouring in, a not so nice message also came in. On New Year's Day 2012, the world was notified that the Earthly life of Dennis ten Siethoff-or Merlin Sythove as he was known to many- was coming to an end. As I was burning a candle for him, I sat by its flame and started to reminisce and thank him for all he taught me and meant to me.

And I found it was not easy to put into words precisely what it is that makes Merlin so important in my life. We met a few times in person, but most of our contacts have been through E-mail and the Internet. He was never formally and directly my teacher, but all the same I feel like I have lost someone who has had a great influence on me and my spirituality. I remember Merlin lecturing at an Elf Fantasy Fair, way back in the beginning of my spiritual journey, about Wicca and Witchcraft. I had read his book “Modern Witchcraft” before that, but sitting in the audience and listen to someone explaining it all I recall as a very special event.

I also recall us having a heated discussion on the Whiteshadow forum about what Wicca is in reality, rather than what the popular media made of it at the height of the Great Hype in witchcraft and paganism. I accused traditionals for being too 'fundamentalist', but Merlin kept his cool and -eventually- got through to me.

I also recall my time on the Silver Circle forum, that he himself was running. A forum, which had a decidedly different flavour than good old Whiteshadow. Always good for an interesting time: often sailing calm waters, but at times one had to best rather hefty swells, currents and waves. Yet, there was always Merlin the Forum Wizard to calm things down with a few well chosen words.

About a year ago I decided to leave the Silver Circle Forum after a particularly bumpy and quite painful time, in which it had gradually become clear that my own path was leading me elsewhere and that it was best to cut these ties. This was not an easy decision, or an easy process, but it was important to do so.

So I left the forum, but through other media I stayed quietly in touch with Merlin and from those channels I witnessed both his plans to restart his life with Sarah, and that awful day when he was diagnosed with metastatic cancer. But during the last months of his life, he once again became a source of inspiration and a teacher by his weekly blogs about his battle against this disease, which often left me in tears from admiration and respect for his strength and his will to live.
As I said, it is difficult to pinpoint exactly what it is that Merlin has taught me, as I feel that many of his teachings are manifest on a more subtle plane Inside. I think it is most of all a teaching by example: what it means to be a human being in control of your life and living it out of Love and Wisdom. His other teachings I will have to uncover -or recover-and I know no better way to honour his memory than to do just that.

Merlin's Earthly life ended on January 3rd 2012. Today, we celebrated his life in a moving and beautiful ceremony. Dennis, I salute you for all you have done for the Wicca and Pagan community and for your service to the Mysteries in general. Go in Peace, Rest in Peace in Tír na nÓg, and one day return to us in Peace.

Blessed Be.