Have you ever considered the interesting nature and interplay of health and wealth? Not just because they rhyme, but because of what they are?
Health is important to all of us, because it allows us to live, to continue to exist. What’s interesting is how we perceive it – whether it be something as simple as bodily maintenance, or trying to get the beautiful body, the top-of-the-line physicality of an attractive celebrity or a world-renowned sports-person.
But there’s another way, another method of perception, which I’ll talk about in a bit. Another useful way of regarding health which has been extremely helpful to me recently, in spiritual endeavours and otherwise. Those who’ve the fortune to know me personally will know I haven’t been top-of-the-line for the last twelve months or so. I’ve had a range of issues, from little niggles to fairly serious problems.
Right now, as I write this, I’m on medication for a fairly unpleasant stomach issue. There’s been quite a lot of pain, blood-tests, restricted diet, and talk of ultrasound. The doctors are still feeling their way towards a diagnosis, and I honestly don’t know what’s causing the problem on a medical level. What’s more, irritating as this issue is, it’s not actually my job to know what’s wrong – that’s what the doctor is for, but without the pain, I wouldn’t be aware anything was wrong. I wouldn’t have gone to the doctor, and I might have missed something important.
Today, we have all manner of pain-killers, drugs and potions to deal with symptoms and enable us to carry on our lives without the body interrupting our busy lives, and that’s great. It’s great because science and medicine have enabled us to cure diseases and save countless lives, to correct imbalances and generally increase people’s quality of life. What’s not great is perhaps the tendency to create drugs for profit, rather than solving underlying causes.
You know when you have a cold or flu, and you have the sniffles and a temperature? Those symptoms are actually signs of your body fighting valiantly against viral and bacteriological invaders – and sometimes they’re even ways of fighting off the bugs, like a temperature making the body a hostile environment to the interloper.
Yet we squish or ignore the symptoms, because they’re unpleasant, inconvenient or awkward. We divorce ourselves from our bodies, instead of listening to them. In conversation with Robert – who incidentally has done some very effective energy and healing work with me and is very good indeed – I realised that communication is paramount, not just when dealing with other people, but with yourself as well.
Learning to read the signs and interpreting them correctly means you can start doing the right thing, and consciously aid your body in healing. Whether that’s by getting more sleep or avoiding certain food for a while, you can help the natural processes a great deal if you just slow down, listen and take stock.
Of course, these thoughts and that altered perception of health I mentioned earlier, reminded me of a story I once heard – and that’s somewhat odd, because at first glance, when the story popped up, it was one of those that you don’t know quite how significant they’re going to be. One of those that seems to bubble up from nowhere in particular, as if it’s waiting for the right moment to cross-polinate with whatever’s in your back-brain, to give you that brief moment of confusion, followed by that click, that a-ha moment which you didn’t know you needed until now.
So, please, bear with me – .
Now, this story begins with three brothers crossing a desert, somewhere in the Middle-East. It’s a vast desert, a huge expanse of sand and dunes beneath a cloudless blue sky. It doesn’t take too much imagination to see the heat haze shimmering over everything, or to acknowledge that when the sun goes down, the scorching sands swiftly become a place of freezing night, as the earth rapidly gives up its heat to the air, surging upward and outward into the edge of space.
Now these three brothers are part of a merchant family, and they have to cross the desert to get to the Silk Road, that artery of trade, full of spices, goods and exotic luxuries. They’ve done this before, many times, but no one could possibly predict what was to befall them on this particular journey.
Not as they sat at their campfire, drinking coffee beneath the glittering stars which I have spoken of before, not beneath the shining souls of the immortals.
No, neither did it occur as they slept, nor as they woke and untied their mounts. Not as they set out before the sun’s rising, to travel in the coolest part of the day. Not as each brother kept his own counsel during the journey, did it occur.
Not as the eldest brother, a man with a wife and two children who journeyed far to provide for his family, rode his camel – a stubborn creature that spat and wilfully ignored him until he dug in his heels.
Not as the middle brother rode his beast – a placid creature in every way – while dreaming of the wealth he would amass after the journey, no, not then, not yet did it occur. Nor while the youngest brother travelled on a curious camel, the kind that got his nose into everything and was always wandering off to his own devices. No, not when the youngest dreamed of the far off places he would see along the Silk Road, all the adventures he would have, and all the women he would bed.
No, it occurred one afternoon, as the sun began its climb down from the highest place, preparing for its journey in the dark. There, upon the horizon, the eldest brother saw it – a thickness on the edge of sight, moving like a live thing and rolling like a fog.
Unsurprisingly, for the brothers knew the desert, they recognised this thing as a sandstorm! Hurriedly, they sought shelter as best they could, racing the storm until at last they came to some ruins, broken remnants from another time. Unbeknownst to them, the desert had once been fruitful, and an elder people had dwelt there when the desert had been green and the wells closer to the surface.
As the storm rose, coming ever closer, the mounts of the three brothers began to act fiercely, each according to their nature. The eldest brother’s camel snarled and spat, headbutting the others aside for the best shelter. The middle-brother’s mount simply cowered and shrank against the stone, moaning and groaning in fear, while the youngest’s mount promptly slipped his rope and bolted, trying to outpace the storm.
Now, as anybody with half a brain will tell you, trying something like that is a little foolish, and the camel was soon lost to sight. Soon enough however, even the brothers could not see as the storm descended upon them. It howled about them and blocked out the sun, stinging their faces and setting their eyes to stream.
All was darkness and suffocation, and even the lamentations of the brothers were scattered to the winds. It was all that they could do to breathe, so the prayers they offered up to Allah were silent and from the heart alone. Perhaps that is what saved them, for in the midst of the storm, there emerged a huge Ifrit, drawing aside the storm as a man may draw aside a curtain in his tent.
With burning eyes, this creature of smokeless fire looked upon the three brothers.
“What have we here?” asked the great spirit. “Three sons of Adam, children of dust and breath, cowering outside my door! What is it that you want of me?”
All three were struck dumb by the sight, but it was the middle brother who spoke. “O Ifrit, child of fire as we are of dust, we did not wish to disturb you. We did not know these ruins were your own home, we sought only shelter from the storm.”
The Ifrit laughed, great peals of it booming like thunder, mirth crackling like lightning in the howling gale. “Be at peace little one, for these old stones are not mine. My home is the storm itself, its winds my shelter and resting place. It travels with me wherever I go, just as the tents of men also do. You are not trespassing, though the voices of your hearts roused me from my sleep.”
“Yet awake I am, and you are here, so I am bound by divine law to offer you hospitality, though you could not stand to enter my home, lest you be torn apart. What may I give you, oh men?”
The three brothers looked at each other, hardly daring to believe their luck at disturbing an honourable djinn – for the children of fire come in many kinds, as many as those of men. Then the eldest spoke, asking for wealth to provide for his family. Here, the Ifrit nodded and swore that it would be so.
Next spoke the youngest brother, who begged for adventure and the affections of women more wise and beautiful than the houris of Paradise. Here again, the Ifrit nodded and swore that it would be so.
Finally, the last spoke, the middle brother who dreamt of wealth and fortune, and asked for the same. Here again, for the third time, the Ifrit nodded and swore it would be so.
Then, the mighty spirit stretched forth a hand to the ground, and began to trace letters in the sand. Its burning touch melted and fused the sand as it wrote, mysterious and shining words gleaming in the dark. When it had finished, the Ifrit said simply:
“Here lies what you seek.”
Then it vanished, taking the storm with it. The three brothers were left alone in the silent ruins, beneath a clear night sky that shone with stars. Though they lacked for firewood, the heat from the burning letters was more than enough to keep them warm until sunrise, and as it rose with dawn, the early morning revealed that the letters had not been fire alone. Left behind when the flame finally departed, was the smooth slickness of green glass, etched into the desert floor.
The eldest and the youngest brother were amazed and could not wait to return home. Each of them knew that they could trade on this story for the rest of their lives, but it was not so easy for the middle brother – he could not see how such letters, wonderful though they were, would bring him the riches he had requested from the Ifrit. Knowing that the creature had behaved honourably, he let the others go on their way, and resolved to study the writing until the wealth he had been promised arrived.
And study he did. He studied until his beard was long and all other thoughts save the writing had dwindled away. He meditated on the words, spoke them aloud, arranged and rearranged the letters over and over again. Years went by, and word of this strange hermit who studied the wisdom of the djinn began to spread. Some, who had heard the story from the youngest brother, would come to the ruins in hope that the Ifrit would return and grant them a boon, and others came to study under this master.
All were to be disappointed, for the hermit would smile, nod and then ignore them after the initial greeting. Some would stick it out, but most left soon after, until one day, the hermit was approached by a stranger, young of face but white of beard.
“Begging your pardon, O hermit – I have no wish to disturb you from your meditations, but I have heard tell of these letters and I have a question I must ask.”
The hermit smiled and nodded, and so the other continued. “I know you study these letters given to you by the Ifrit, and so I ask – what do they speak of?”
The hermit closed his eyes, for there was nothing in him but the words, and said:
Once Moses sought out wisdom, and he said to his servant, “I shall not stop until I reach the meeting place of the two seas, even if it takes me eighty years!”
So then, they travelled on, but at a resting spot, the fish they carried for breakfast escaped and swam towards the sea. Later, when they came to wish to eat, they discovered that the fish had escaped. Immediately, Moses exclaimed: “That is the place to which we must go, for the Most High has made it so!”
Swiftly they returned to the place of rest, where they found a Servant of Allah waiting for them, wrapped in green and free from the dust of the road. Moses asked the man “Shall I follow you, so that I may learn your wisdom which you have gained from Allah the All-Merciful?”
The other replied. “No, for we are of a different kind, and you would not bear with me in all that I will do and will not understand.”
Here, Moses said, “If Allah wishes it, then I will be patient and not disobey you!”
The other nodded. “If you are bent on following me, you must ask me no question about anything until I myself mention it, do you understand?”
Moses readily agreed, and the two set forth. Almost immediately, Moses’ companion drilled a hole in the bottom of the boat in which they were travelling. “What did you do that for? Are you trying to sink us?!” said Moses.
“Did you not say you would bear with me, and not ask questions?”
“I beg your pardon. Please ignore my forgetfulness. Do not be angry with me!”
The two carried on, until they came upon a young man, who Moses’ companion promptly slew. Outraged, Moses cried out.“Why did you murder him? You have committed a horrible crime – he was an innocent man!”
“Did I not say you could not bear with me?”
“A thousand pardons! If I question you again, please abandon me, for I deserve it.”
On they went, arriving at a city where they asked the inhabitants for food. The people refused to feed the two beggars, and so they were forced to carry on until they reached a broken down well. Moses’ companion immediately set to reconstructing the well. As he finished, Moses said:
“Why do that without payment? You could have asked for food or coin?”
Moses’ companion turned to him and said, “Now it it is time for me to leave you. Before I go, I shall explain all those things you did not understand. The boat belonged to some poor fishermen who needed it as their livelihood – what you did not know was that they were soon to encounter an evil pirate king who would steal their vessel and enslave them.
The young man that I killed was a murderer and a thief, yet he was born of righteous parents. I killed him to ease their souls and so that they may now have another son who is righteous. The well I rebuilt because it belongs to two orphans whose father was an honest man, and beneath the well lies their inheritance. I rebuilt it because the All-Merciful has decreed that none shall disturb it, nor take it from them before they come of age.
So you see, that which you could not bear in patience was not done capriciously, but in sole accordance with the will of the All-Merciful.”
Thus the hermit finished his recitation of the words for the stranger with the young face and long white beard. The stranger smiled and said to the hermit:
“It is a good tale that the Ifrit has etched here for you, in words as green as grass, vital and full of life here in the desert. Has not the contemplation of these words sustained you all these years?”
“It has,” affirmed the hermit. “Though I have naught but these words, I survive. I shelter in the ruins when the sandstorms come. I eat locusts and scorpions and all those things that shelter in the shadow of these pillars. The All-Merciful makes water to flow down the stones as the cold night falls, and there is more than enough scrub for a fire if it gets too cold. Even my dreams of wealth have passed away – all that I desire is an understanding of these words. It fills my heart with fire that burns as bright as the immortal stars.”
“And has not your contemplation of these words brought you joy? Though you know not what they mean, have you not sought truly, with as much ardour as the pursuit of any lover?”
“Yes. I have pursued it for years, night and day, with my every waking breath, until there is little time for others. You are the first I have spoken more than a few words to in many years.”
“And when others ask how this is possible, do you not tell them that is impossible to do anything else?”
“I do. I could no more cease this than the sun could cease to rise.”
“Truly then,” said the stranger, smiling and gathering his green cloak about him. “What other needs have you? You who embrace these words with all your heart, which burns brighter than the immortal stars?”
And here, the hermit began to smile. It was a smile of wonder – the kind that a person might feel when things are beginning to fall into place, or the realisation that you are beginning to become aware something important that you didn’t even know you knew. The kind of smile that starts small, and then begins spreading slowly, surely, across your face – that kind of expanding warmth that fills you up, like watching the sun rise and seeing the beauty of the landscape.
The kind of smile that stretches wide into a grin that’s so infectious that something begins to bubble up, to well up like a spring of laughter, that laughter you had as a child, innocent and carefree. We all remember it, the laughter that comes from having put aside your burdens and your worries, where anything is possible.
And just like you, the hermit smiles that smile, and begins to laugh, because he now recognised the stranger.
“It is you, the servant of the All-Merciful. You are the guide to the secret knowledge.”
“That is so,” said immortal al-Khidr. “And as I, the Green Man, have drunk the Water of Life, so shall you.”
With that, he handed the hermit a water skin and bade him drink…
So that’s where we’ll leave the hermit – about to begin a whole new journey into the unknown, in the company of the immortal, and full of wonder. Now, perhaps you’re wondering how the story of the brothers and the Ifrit relates to health and wealth?
I’ll not spoon-feed you, that’s not my way, and if you’ve come this far with with me, then you’ll already understand that, as with most things, the lion’s share of work is done behind the scenes, operating quietly as you read the story – because like so many things you do every day, the process is virtually automated.
Your conscious mind is perfectly happy to let your body get on with its business, without knowing what’s going on. Only if there’s a problem does sensation shift, to draw your attention to whatever issue is there, so that you can work on it.
Consider for a moment, an immortal wrapped in green – that youthful face and long white beard. Consider that for a second, youth and age in one, brightest green vitality, having drunk from the bubbling spring of laughter, the Water of Life.
Consider what al Khidir said to the hermit, what the Ifrit said stirred him from his tent amidst the storm?
Imagine that green vitality, that fierce viridian in the desert. For the green is what glows, what takes the light of the sun and puts it to use. It might be green glass or the deep strength of the forest, that place beyond the village where unstoppable tree roots crack concrete and recolonise everything.
The endless regenerative power that existed long before agriculture, before we tried to put lines and furrows down to control it.
Consider those roots, deep down in the black earth, those questing tendrils that somehow extract water from the desert. Think on health, as I have done, and join me with that interesting perception I mentioned at the beginning.
You are whole – and that is what health is. Wholeness. This is the goal your body and mind are striving towards – all the interconnected systems functioning together, responding to each other.
Only when you begin to pursue that sense of wholeness as you would a lover – as a hunter and prey are inextricably bound – with total focus and desire, will you begin to recall your wholeness, your own vitality. Things may intrude, may present obstacles to the memory of your wholeness, but like a lover, your mind and body will inevitably return to it.
Don’t believe me? Then remember what it is like to be in love, to have your heart seized; captured and set free all at once. Soaring above all things, when anything is possible, and yet it returns, faithful as hawk to its Master’s wrist. Ever and always, your heart returns to the Beloved, who is the centre, the fulcrum about which your existence turns.
And what’s more, you are as a whirling dervish, spinning into ecstasy. There in the desert you dance to the music of the Heavens, which is mirrored in the blood-music, the pulse of the heart burning like a beacon. There, you join your soul to the very music of the stars.
Inexorably, the realisation dawns that you are vast, as vast as the tallest tree in the forest, whose height touches the roof of the worlds, stretching out into the Beyond to soak up the light of the Hidden Sun, to bathe in the radiation of that most fundamental of gravities.
The tree whose roots are harder than iron and more supple than the softest oiled flesh – those roots that push down deeper than rock and molten fiery metal, twining through bone hollows and criss-crossing the glacial underworlds and fruitful islands of the blessed.
Austin Spare once uttered the famous aphorism:
Live like a tree walking!
And you are that tree, all amidst the green. Which brings us to wealth.
Now, you may consider wealth as numbers in your bank account, or cold hard cash. Perhaps there’s the glitter of gold, the mineral-shine of precious stones, there in your mind as you think upon wealth.
So as with health, let me assure you that there is a perception waiting to be discovered, if you’ve a mind to explore:
As health is wholeness, is the vitality of the deepest green and darkest earth and strongest root drinking the Water of Life, so wealth has its own doors and byways. We think of wealth as currency, whether that be coin, cattle or the trade of goods, but soon enough, if we track it methodically, we find that it is is the principle that allows existence.
Conjoined with the vitality of health and wholeness, it is the golden light of the sun that the tree metabolises to live. It is a shining thing yes, a swift thing that moves faster than the speed of normal light. Wealth comes from the same root as Will – the principle of movement and intention.
Have you stretched forth your will lately? Have you horsed its movement, ridden it like the wind, trusting your mount and not being distracted by other things? Have you fused yourself to it in joy?
Pull back a second, and watch. Watch how the horse moves, how it excels in its being. See the shine of its muscles, the ferocious surety of its footsteps as it races, swifter than any other. It does not think – it simply moves in its joy. All its faculties are dedicated to its Being.
Watch the rider fuse with it, so they become as one – like the centaur. Listen to the vastness of it, the whisper in the trees – Chiron, superlative specimen of that race, the healer and teacher who taught Asclepios, who raised heroes like Jason and Achilles. Wonder at the gift of wealth, the way it allows you to do as you will, beyond ‘things’.
Once, long ago, wealth was a way, a quality rather than a quantity. Before currency, before cattle, it was what allowed you to live – whether that be food, water or craftsmanship. Whether it be the tale that will change your life and open new options, or the people who lend you a hand and keep you sane.
Not a thing of earth and disks then, not slow power. No, rather a thing of air and swiftness, of bringing together and making great.
Listen to the hoof-beats on the wind. See the dancers and hear the woven songs. Remember the masked ones, the guisers and the mummers. Remember the beggars and the wise ones, the thieves, charlatans and magi.
We all know the maxim: “Do what thou wilt – Love is the Law, Love under Will.” It circles around us, teasing – profound and subtle one moment, obtuse and opaque the next. I find myself wondering which it is, for you now?
‘Tis better to give than to receive, or so some say. Perhaps they are right, but in my estimation, there is a better way.
“A gift demands a gift.”
Be seeing you.