Stranger Than Fiction

“It has been a long time since most of us have experienced the world. We experience instead a constriction, a selection. We step cautiously out, checking our selves at first, against What Is Allowed, What Is Known To Be True. We constantly throw a world out ahead of ourselves and move safely into it.” Tom Cheetham

In Green Man, Earth Angel, Tom Cheetham begins with a hefty indictment on the state of soul, or Anima Mundi, in this modern age of distraction, extension-by-technology, hall of mirrors. For all of our coming and going, between people, places and things, we risk never fully entering the place of the other, and in so doing, finding that primary means of entering more fully into ourselves. The hall of mirrors we find ourselves in, insulates and protects us from the force of invisibles, shadows, and the powers beyond one’s predictability. What if by breaking through the shell and armour between self and other, crossing over the boundaries that language, perception and sensory limitations impose, every step then becomes a movement into a void, the source of creation, where all being wells up from the unfathomable depths, the place where the unknown, the not yet born, comes into being?

“It is the mythic experience, the mythic imagination that opens, reveals depth and mystery, which places the human in the context of the nonhuman, and so, forces retreat, humility, and awe, in the presence of spaces beyond our will.” 

Cheetham quotes Emma Brunner-Traut who writes: “In the ancient past the idea of faith in the sense of belief did not exist; for them it was a matter of “knowing.” For those who “know,” the unspeakable can be uttered without being misunderstood. But already when the smallest distrust creeps in and hidden meaning must be explained, then an integrity is endangered, especially so when the secret becomes a dogmatic formulation. It is placed into the light of critical doubt and demand for proof, and in this light it appears false. Myth is not definition, nor is it proof. It is self-evident. It is endowed with dignity and majesty, perfect in its inner power and validity….”

Andean manBut, isn’t it also true that we humans are not like the other animals, and especially not our imagined primordial mythological past? The human skin does not protect as does shell, fur, scales and wings, but relies as much on psyche, as the medium which senses the invisible, imaginal and fantastic through the use of artifacts such as tools, exotic coverings, airplanes, log cabins, cars and cities where we shelter our thin-skin inside farmhouses, apartment complexes, huts, suburbs, row housing and hi-risers. I’m not as convinced that we humans have a past to return to, for perhaps it has always been the case that “the son of man hath nowhere to lay his head.”

Cheetham says:

“Psyche is communal. But true community transcends any boundaries between the inner and the outer, the public and the private. Community only exists among persons, and persons can only be perceived, perhaps they can only exist, when the walls dividing the inner from the outer begin to crumble. Only when we begin to hear the voices inside can we begin to listen to the voices outside. Then the boundary between what is mine and inside, and what is Other and outside grows ambiguous and unclear. We find ourselves immersed in the conviviurn, in community.”

Sarpedon’s body carried by Hypnos and Thanatos (Sleep and Death), while Hermes watches

Here the god is Hermes, psychopomp, mediator of borders whose essence is liminality. Richard E. palmer suggests, in his paper, The Liminality of Hermes, that liminal states of being are those neither here nor there, but ambiguous. We may liken them to twilight hours, “streets with no name,” rites of passage, or any state in which passing through, fully immerses us between the known and perhaps, towards something newly given.

“During the liminal stage, the between stage, one’s status becomes ambiguous; one is “neither here nor there,” one is “betwixt and between all fixed points of classification,”2 and thus the form and rules of both his earlier state and his state-to-come are suspended. For the moment, one is an outsider; one is on the margins, in an indeterminate state.” Richard E. Palmer

It is Hermes that serves as guide between day and night, dream and waking, underworld and dayworld. In this journey to the unknown, there cannot be a map and every step in this dark world heightens the senses, disorienting us out of the familiar in preparation to receive the invisibles and the gifts they offer us in turn for our sacrifice. Referring to Martin Heidegger’s book, On the Way to Language, Palmer says:

“For Heidegger, it is significant that Hermes is the messenger of the gods and not just other humans; for the message brought by Hermes is not just any message but “fateful tidings” (die Botschaft des Geschickes).7 Interpretation in its highest form, then, is to be able to understand these fateful tidings, indeed the fatefulness of the tidings. To interpret is first to listen and then to become a messenger of the gods oneself, just as the poets do, according to Plato’s Ion.8 Indeed, part of the destiny of man is precisely to stand in a hermeneutical relation to one’s being here and now and to one’s heritage. Human beings, insofar as they are truly human beings, says Heidegger, “are used for hearing the message . . . they are to listen and belong to it as human beings.”9

We are naked, perhaps, for this reason. The state of our being exists between the gods, and the unfathomable depths of being, and our naked, vulnerable, mortal body. Our vulnerability necessitates an imaginal, ensouled perspective whose liveliness depends on that part of us that can and does spontaneously use language, tells stories, and yearn for what is beyond food, water and shelter. We sense and need more than what so-called nature provides; to experience, call it what you will, the invisibles, the gods or God. But we are also that which, as W.H. Auden reminds us, are “lived by the powers we pretend to understand,” powers we mistakenly believe to be us. Yes, like Prometheus, we can steal fire, but as with all gifts of the gods, we receive them at a cost. The gifts themselves have no preset moral value, the fear and respect for their use must come from our better angels.


” “From the source of the event of appearing something comes toward man that holds the two-fold of presence and present beings,”10 says Heidegger. .The human being stands in this gap, this zone of disclosure. One does not so much act as respond, does not so much speak as listen, does not so much interpret as understand the thing that is unveiled. The primary movement here is understanding as an emergence of being. The human being becomes Hermes, the message-bearer, only because one has first and foremost opened oneself to a process of unconcealment: “The human being is the message-bearer of the message which the two-fold’s unconcealment utters to it.” “

Here we reach a place where a primordial, pre-lingual opening is possible, a listening for what Henry Corbin referred to as the Lost Speech, coming to us as music, where the other as more truly other, and not only reflection is seen, heard, sensed, encountered, waiting to exchange gifts. For what else is a gift if not something given that we do not already have?

Etching of Vendome Green Man misericord

“We meet the Other as Other, in fear and respect. This experience is open, embodied, and mysterious. We are in company. In sympathy with the plants and the sea, and with all the persons of the world, both within and without. To receive, we must give. To be fed, we must feed. To consume we must be consumed. To live, we must die. To assimilate, we must transform-die, empty, and release-letting go of what we defend, of what we fear, of what we hide.” Tom Cheetham

Tom Cheetham quotes from, Green Man, Earth Angel: The Prophetic Tradition and the Battle for the Soul of the World (S U N Y Series in Western Esoteric Traditions). Kindle Edition.

Richard Palmer quotes from:




27 thoughts on “Stranger Than Fiction

  1. theburningheart

    Ye I enjoyed it, and made me reflect on the fact someone great thinkers have said the Original sin was not disobedience, or lust, but forgetfulness!🤷‍♂️

    Liked by 1 person

  2. theburningheart

    Well Debra the problem with man is as we say in Spanish, I will try to translate it in English: He, is at all places except at mass!
    In other words we are mixed in all kind of things, and occupations, except where it matters, the most. 🤣

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Pingback: The Green Man | The Ptero Card

  4. So wonderful to find such eloquence addressing and clarifying so many similar thoughts I have attempted to reflect for myself in my own much less delineated ways! I enjoy your structure and two feet on the ground approach to so much of what I (in my poetic and woo woo loving way) have unofficially called “Earth speak”. 🙂

    The reflections you share here are ones that give me refocused lenses and lead me deeper into seeing in black and white my own colorful experiences with truth.

    Your shares are much appreciated.



  5. Wonderfully intense and challenging post Debra. I agree with Marga, your writing shines right along with those you quote!! The love of and devotion to learning that you mention in your reply to Monika is always evident and so appreciated by this faithful Ptero9 reader.

    Thank you for introducing me to Emma Brunner-Traut; the quote you included from her arrested me most.

    “In the ancient past the idea of faith in the sense of belief did not exist; for them it was a matter of “knowing.” For those who “know,” the unspeakable can be uttered without being misunderstood. But already when the smallest distrust creeps in and hidden meaning must be explained, then an integrity is endangered, especially so when the secret becomes a dogmatic formulation. It is placed into the light of critical doubt and demand for proof, and in this light it appears false. Myth is not definition, nor is it proof. It is self-evident. It is endowed with dignity and majesty, perfect in its inner power and validity….”

    I am not sure how I feel about this quote, Debra! It is such a delicious challenge! This might be tangential, but the idea of Knowing, and an exchange of Knowing surely mustn’t be cast off into antiquity, it is ever-present and available in its lively spontaneity. In my experience it is rare, but still incredibly alive! Yes, integrity is endangered by explanation and formulation, but I wonder if that is because the vibrational experience of “it” collapses when we enter into “explaining” and out of “receiving/being with the energy of the experience.” Our state of consciousness changes when we reason away the vibes. So, I would dare consider that we need to shift our focus to the the vibrational potency of the words, and whether you are meant to (or able to) feel them in that moment. And when these archetypal moments of vibrational intensity are shared in a collective “Knowing”, the majesty of aliveness is intensified to a point barely endurable, and provide some of the deepest experiences of human connection I have ever known.

    “It is endowed with dignity and majesty, perfect in its inner power and validity….”


    Thank you for a great, challenging, mystifying post!!!


    1. Hi Amanda,

      I agree, that quote, which Tom included in his book, gives me much to think about, to either argue with or agree with.

      On one level, long ago days seem too distant for us to know what sort of consciousness people had. It’s hard to imagine anyone, even contemporaries as having a different experience of consciousness, and yet, without being sure, I believe there may be some truth to the idea that people in different times and places experienced different modes of being or consciousness.

      Look at us: How can we fully imagine a world without technology as we know it, without books, with raw exposure to the naked, cold, hot world, and not always a safe one either. I can only guess from imagining what life might be like in other times and places that one’s perception is to some extent unique to that time and place.

      So, in that sense, knowing, for the ancients, may have been more immediate, cautious, responsive to the senses which were probably sharpened much more by basic necessity, and quickly changing circumstances. Knowing is then what is happening in your immediate circle, the tribe, family, and the monoculture you are immersed in. No need for belief when there isn’t any other culture competing with the one you are part of. Belief, perhaps, comes into play when there are choices to make between competing cultures. I am guessing that might be what Emma is suggesting.

      But, agreed, we still know, but our awareness, especially of the very idea that there is a choice between many competing ideas and beliefs, taints any purity of knowing that the ancients might have had. We, too, may be ready to shift at any given moment, but less because of physical needs and threats and more because of the need to adjust to the variety of ideas and cultural beliefs available to us.

      But, what about the underbelly of it all? I sense that each of us still is beholden to our particular character, with its attraction to certain ideas, something we bring into this world, a particular god’s influence that we can’t refuse. Here is where Auden’s insight comes into play. We think we choose, but are rather, chosen. “Call or not called, the god will be present.” I think Jung said that.

      I have this sense strongly within me: There is some thread running through my life, and when I am honoring its call, I feel a certain satisfaction, a “yes.” It remains tricky though, and downright frightening at times, because I know not where it leads, other than to death, as all life eventually does. But, the life lived in between does not feel like it belongs only to me. I, we, are in a much bigger story than what we think we’re in. We have such a limited view from our place and time. Our sense of ourselves is forever incomplete because we can’t see the totality from our particular point in time and space.

      We can’t know if it’s a happy ending or a tragedy or maybe a bit of both, or just the Play, maya, as they say. But for myself, any attempt I have ever made at trying to convince myself of a particular ending, or goal, has left me feeling untrue to the calling, as if I am giving up on the challenge to live with the courage to accept not knowing. Does that make any sense?



      1. I love this, Debra thank you. I see what you mean about monoculture vs. the availability of competing beliefs. Competing beliefs can definitely create a lot of cognitive dissonance, especially for the poor, poor “Ultimate Truth-seeker” lol. Episodic moments of contradictions entwined, for sure.

        Your words here so remind me of a quote by artist MC Richards:

        “not knowing and trusting, simultaneously….”

        Always a pleasure with you

        Liked by 1 person

  6. There is a lot here to encounter, Debra. I resonate with the description of humans as existing in the liminal space between angels-gods-God-Great Mystery and skin-animal-hunger-shelter-bodies. And also with what I think you are suggesting about the necessity of vulnerability and stepping out from concealment in order to occupy this Hermetic space.

    You suggest we are “lived by the powers we pretend to understand” and I want to link this thought to the earlier quotation about how the ancients simply shared a knowing. They could share a pre-lingual knowledge with ease and without error or misunderstanding, until it was necessary to codify it in dogma, was cloaked in doubt and subjected to the burden of proof. I think there is a way in which, though we may not understand those powers fully, we can embody a greater bandwidth in that liminal zone. We can, without dogma or structure, have this same kind of ‘knowing’, and become more powerful embodiments or living revelations of what flows through those Hermetic channels.

    It is my hope that recovery of the understanding that this is perhaps the authentic human function– the essential nature of what it means to be human– we will be able to usher greater peace and harmony into the land. We will be more comfortable with allowing our better angels to live us into being…



    1. Hi Michael,

      I think though, that the ancients “knowing,” although it had the advantage of not being challanged because of a lack of competing beliefs, was still restricted, just in different ways than ours is. Were more prone to confusion because of the variety of competing beliefs. It almost seems as if we are losing the ability to believe, which may suggest would bring us full circle, back to a kind of raw knowing that the ancients once had (perhaps).

      I do think that competing beliefs has opened us up, but the opening has left a wound which we are trying to heal, each of us in their particular way of making sense of the confusion we live in. We are, I think, cultureless, and believe ourselves to be picking from the menu, the ideas that suit us, based upon an outcome we identify with.

      My sense is that there’s a huge change, or shift, that will come out of the confusion of being cultureless, and of the hubris of believing we are making a choice, steering the ship, saving the planet, etc. What it seems we don’t understand, yet, is that there are powers at play that none of us can ever be free of. Step one, for myself anyway, has been to come to a fuller acceptance of the disorienting, freefalling feeling of being in limbo, the unknown, a too small to grasp the enormity of the totality, except to know there is one, human experience.

      Perhaps that is what your are pointing at by the idea of losing dogma and structure? …I do like how you say this:

      “We can, without dogma or structure, have this same kind of ‘knowing’, and become more powerful embodiments or living revelations of what flows through those Hermetic channels.”



  7. Debra,
    Your command and poetic grasp is right up there with the voices you are connecting here, Palmer, Heiddeger, Cheetham, Corbin – I would be in the middle of your passages and wonder…which insightful voice is this? And it was you! I want to quit all day jobs and curl up with books stacked to the ceiling – in my human naked the longing, ready to be fed in order to feed. xo! m


    1. Hi Marga,
      Thank you for your very kind words of love and support!

      I am so happy you enjoyed the post and yes, to be free from tha daily grind of work would be amazing! So many books, dances, meals, and other explorations seem to always await us. We are rich in desire, opportunity and love.


  8. This is a perfect post for a cold rainy day, as we are having today. It is flowing slowly and requires a lot of attention and reflection. A lot of the quotes stood out to me but this is not what I wanted to refer to. You said: “I’m not as convinced that we humans have a past to return to, for perhaps it has always been the case that “the son of man hath nowhere to lay his head.” I also think this is such an important question worth pondering over and over again. I agree in the sense that the evolution of humankind is unstoppable But for so many people nowadays (not You obviously) this means that we should simply forget about the wisdom of the ancients because we and our times are so completely different? But are we? I am thinking of the soul as composed of the sedimentary layers with the first layer going back to the times immemorial. Just a few thoughts. Thank you for a wonderful post.


    1. Hi Monika,
      We had a cold, rainy day here yesterday that was indeed perfect for being indoors and doing some writing.

      You make a very good point about the modern inclination to discard the wisdom of the past, declaring with hubris that we moderns are smarter, better, faster, beyond superstition, and that the ancients have nothing to offer us, or worse, that they are irrelevant to our times. In America, and perhaps elsewhere, there is a tendency to discount anyone because they were white, male or particularly western. Although I am sympathetic to the notion that Western Civilization share’s in a great deal of wounding of the peoples and places they brutalized, and that women and indigenous cultures in particular have suffered much in the past (and many still do, to this day), I worry that we discard wisdom, regardless of its source, falsely, at at our own risk.

      Wisdom comes to all kinds of people from every place and time and is not exclusive to any particular culture, ethnicity, gender, religion, time or place. This is especially true if we consider the soul of humankind as an accumulative consciousness formed by both transcendent beings and the wisdom of all living creatures, and accessible to all of us.

      I think too that technology, quickening the pace of our day, filling up time for the sake of quantity rather quality, is moving people away from an interest in the ancients. It is, I think, deep interest and love that is necessary for anyone to delve into the writings of the giants of yesteryear, especially the sort of free-form study that has no other goal other than a love for the ancestors, their ideas which feed and sustain us, inspiring us to wonder, furthering the questions, and so, give us the desire to participate in the ongoing conversation whose beginning is, like you say, in time immemorial. The formalization of learning, educating ourselves for career only, has monopolized and institutionalized knowledge and wisdom into politically correct, approved curriculum, written by the so-called experts of our time.

      If the criteria for wisdom is only that which comes from the mouths of saints, I am afraid we’ll have to chuck out 99% of all that has been said so far!

      As well, the insistence of a so-called “reality” which is singular and objective only, fools us into thinking we know life in a way that God, or the gods do. It also robs us of the beauty and understanding that comes from, not only thinking mythologically, but failing to recognize that we’re never not thinking mythologically.

      I love your idea of soul as layered with all the past incorporated within it. I picture the breathing and sighing, endlessly enlivening each of us with every slice of life that has ever existed giving it it’s shape, form, sound and sustenance. All the more reason to take care of the wisdom and suffering contained within soul, and hold ourselves responsive to all the unanswered questions and wounds from all who have gone before.

      Thank you so much for leaving a comment which has inspired me to indulge in a little more writing!


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