The road soon became a mountain track so steep that the horses strained to pull the chariot. Across the valley the sun sunk below a purple horizon until the way ahead could no longer be seen.
The darkness was broken by a flash of lightning. Thunder followed close behind and the startled horses began to slide in every direction as a deluge of torrential rain turned the path into a muddy stream. The lightning illuminated the mountain with vivid intensity, revealing a steep drop to one side with a stormy sea below. The Fool braced himself inside the swaying cabin and concentrated hard on keeping the Chariot to the twisting path.
Not for long did he have cause to worry, for abruptly the Chariot lurched and shuddered to a halt, its wheels firmly entrenched in the quagmire beneath. The Fool was tossed forward and his head smashed against the rail.
Dazed, he thought for a moment his chariot had burst into flames, and then the stars disappeared and the crackling noise turned into the sound of rain splattering against the roof, and far away the roar of the ocean. But his nostrils, though filled with the smell of salt, detected another smell - the sulphurous aroma of burning wood. Peering into the darkness outside, he could see a faint flickering glow to one side of the mountain path. The fire meant the possibility of shelter, and he decided to explore.
The moment he opened the chariot door he was drenched by the rain, and as he ran towards the glow he became aware of another sound that filled him with terror - the howling of wolves.
He quickly reached a small opening in the mountain rock face, illuminated by a small bonfire crackling away inside. He crept into the cave, keeping near the side so as not to be too brightly lit by the flames. He was shaking, as much from fear as from the coldness of the night. As his eyes became accustomed to the scene, he saw what he thought was a second fire deeper in the cave. Then he realised that the light was coming from a lantern held by an old man, with a beard so long it reached to the ground. The old man raised the lantern to reveal an impassive face. In one hand he held a wilted rose, and in his eyes of deepest blue there twinkled an ocean of experience.
The Hermit spoke in gentle tones, but his words were ominous.
"You seek, perhaps, temporary refuge from the storm which rages outside? You are welcome to rest and take refreshment here. Be warned however for none ever leaves this place by the same door through which he enters. This is a place of dreams, and to enter it means to cast aside the comforting predictability of the mundane world."
"This place of dreams," said the Fool cautiously. "I have entered many times. Yet now I seek, above all, to achieve some success in the waking world."
The Hermit laughed. ""You have come to me to learn how to live your dreams? Yet how may you know what it is you truly want, unless you learn how to ask within."
The old man closed his eyes, then continued quietly.
"After midnight is the time for true insight. In darkness the unexpected, the strange and amazing, thrive in a shadowy land, shielded from, yet connected to, the demands of the world. Your trained mind rules by day, but by night unconscious forces provide the inspiration and nourishment that regenerates your spirit - the very source of your being. When your Spirit fails to use these hours of darkness wisely, daybreak loses its magic and the hidden forces that drive conscious life have no strength to guide your waking hours.
You have seen the creatures of the town? They are so busy scrambling up the ladders of ambition they have no time to question where these ladders lead. They have lost their souls! They are unable to find meaning, magic or awe in life. They cannot dance, or take part in ritual, or even truly experience. Life, for them, is no adventure, but a series of trials with no proper reward. Short-lived Fame, Worthless Fortune, and Distant Fulfilment always just out of reach!
Only at night may these people catch glimpses, through their dreams, of the realms of wonder which they ignore in their everyday life. Sometimes it is necessary to draw back in order to leap forwards. Your chariot is stuck fast. Leave it outside, and follow me."
The Hermit led him to a subterranean river running into the heart of the mountain.
Tonight you will ride this river. It will take you as far as you will allow it. Don't be discouraged if your progress seems at first slow. You are so used to mundane reality that perhaps you have lost touch with the Underworld, and will need to explore it slowly at first.
Yet these shadow lands make up the underlying structure of your life, and unless you are willing to examine this underlying structure you will unconsciously follow the path of least resistance through the peaks and troughs of the Underworld."
The Hermit's eyes became incandescent as a strange passion animated his frail frame.
"There is fear in the forest, my child. There is fear all around. I feel the fear of the animals. I feel your fear. This fire will protect you from wolves, but where can you hide from the wolf that gnaws inside you?"
His eyes met the Fool's.
"I think you have yet to meet your Shadow."
"At the centre of the labyrinth we call the mind, dwells your Shadow. He is that which you fear or won't accept. For each of us he assumes a different form. If you will not allow him his say, he will erupt into your waking life. But at night, you may meet him under different terms, not to control or subdue, nor to surrender to, but to acknowledge for what he is. He is that which makes you an individual, different from any other. Until you come face to face with him, you are but half alive."
The Hermit's words seemed to hypnotise him. Was he now seated in a boat, carried on dark tides, smelling salt in the air? The old man's voice was like bees droning.
"This channel is your way to the Tower. Until you have been there and met the Devil within, you can only return to the Castle of the past, retaining all the old habits and patterns you seek now to move beyond."
The Hermit's voice grew faint as the boat moved away. A strange sense of anticipation mingled with contentment filled him, at the Hermit's final whispered words.
"When you were young, were you not able to transform yourself into what you saw in the world? Or have you forgotten? All that we see, or seem, is but a dream within a dream..."
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