Last weekend, at FedCon XXI, a dream came true for many Star Trek fans. A legendary figure had come to Düsseldorf to sell autographs, pose for pictures and entertain the crowds of fans that had flocked-and overwhelmed- the convention hotel. I am talking Mr. William Shatner her, 81 years old, still going strong and best known to us Trekkies as the intrepid Captain James T. Kirk in the ground breaking 60s TV series that sparked an unrivalled SciFi phenomenon that still keeps us occupied, 50 or so years afterwards.
I have met Mr. Shatner on several previous occasions, granted those were at US conventions and those have an entirely different feel than ‘our’ European FedCon. I remember him as a rather unapproachable and distant in personal contact, a born entertainer and extremely funny on stage, but at his autograph table and at the photoshoots- to use a harsh term, rather a jerk. So, yeah, it was rather great to have this legendary figure in our midst but other than that, I was not expecting a great personal visit with him and more of the ‘same old, same old’ entertainment show that he used to put on in Las Vegas or Pasadena. Well, due to the sheer number of Con attendees it was next to impossible to have any personal time with him at all, but I got a “You’re welcome!” and a smile from him after signing my autograph book. Wow, that was more than in all those previous times put together! I skipped his photoshoot , skipped his first panel, but went to his second panel on Sunday, basically drawn by raving reviews from our friends who went to his first panel. And boy, was I in for a big and happy surprise.
Granted, it helped a great deal that we were sitting front and center, it always makes it easier to establish some kind of eye contact with whoever is on stage. But right from the start, the tone and atmosphere of his panel was completely different from what I remember. No more “Shatner, The Great Entertainer, Larger than Life": there stood a human being like ourselves and I was touched into my core when he spoke about his sorrows and grieves in life, about what he feels is important in this day and age and the questions he is asking himself about what it all means. Even when he told us why he ever decided to make records while admittedly not being able to sing, it was a sincere and honest account of how he wanted to explore his talents into that direction: the power of the spoken word set to music. To cut a long story short: William Shatner seemed like a new person to me.
Now during his panel I could not help thinking about what I read some time ago in a magnificent book by Dennis William Hauck, entitled: The Emerald Tablet. In it, Mr. Hauck explores a seven step process towards self-transformation and personal development based on the hermetic alchemical Emerald Tablet. The first step in this process is called “Calcination” and it signifies the “burning” away of the gross and dross in one’s personality, usually by a series of emotional upheavals. The reason I remembered this, was that Hauck uses an episode in the life of William Shatner to illustrate how this process works in people. Apparently, Mr. Shatner suffered from what might be called an ‘inflated ego’ –or rather, others and fellow actors were the suffering party- until Nature –or Life itself- decide to kick him in the butt. And his Calcination began, expressed in a series of personal tragedies and those ‘grieves’ that he spoke about during his Sunday panel. That seems to have been quite a long process as it appears to have started around mid 70s and Hauck finishes his ‘example’ by stating that the Fires of Calcination were not done with William Shatner’: that was in 1999.
Well, apparently, by now those fires are finally done, and to me it seemed that Mr. Shatner has reached a new stage in his alchemical journey. A more balanced, quieter, nicer and more sincere person, who dares ask questions, who has no answers, but goes in search for them, and who is not afraid to show some vulnerability. To me, it seems that Mr. Shatner is currently undergoing not the second stage (Dissolution) but is already in the third stage called Separation, where the personality sifts through the various components for things of value to bring along and to discard the rest.
It was interesting to note how my hobby and my spirituality come together at such an event, and in the most unlikely of persons- when seen in advance, that is. In retrospect, and knowing how such alchemy works, I might have anticipated this. But one thing is for sure: William Shatner is finally where he himself has always wanted to be: a human being like everyone else, and not thge hero -or even god-like figure that fandom has made him out to be. And I am happy to have met this human being and spoken to him, however briefly.
Cover for 'The Emerald Tablet" by Dennis William Hauck, 1999, ISBN-13 978-0140195712