This post contains extracts from the book, Starbook by Ben Okri, that inspired me.
It is not who you are that makes the world respect you, but what power it is that stands behind you. It is not you that the world sees, but that power.
The most puzzling thing the soothsayers said, however was that he would die young in his old age or that he would die old in his youth.
Destiny conceals strange illuminations in the suffering life visits on us. The tale of fate is tangled with mysteries. Dare one say such and such shouldn’t have happened? History is replete with monstrosities that shouldn’t have happened. But they did. And we are what we are because they did. And history’s bizarre seeding has not yet yielded all of its harvest. Who knows what events will mean in the fullness of time? Who is to say why, or what its purpose and ultimate meaning was? In the presence of great things glimpsed in the book of life one can only be silent and humble. The ultimate meaning of history is beyond the mortal mind. All one can say is that this happened. Make of it what you will.
How unpromising excellent things are in their youth. How awkward true beauty seems in its early stages. Who could tell that a butterfly would emerge from such a mess of matter that is a caterpillar?
Where does the river end?
In the wisdom of God.
Where does all our suffering end?
In the happiness that lies beyond all things.
What are all we seeking?
The kingdom, which we are in already, which we have got, and which is our home.
For the first time in his life he knew that deep inside agony there is a sweetness that is beyond compare. Only those who venture into such a dark find such a light. Deep in the pain is beauty from the high mountains of the sublime. How can it be? What fruit would give bitterness and reserve such impossible richness in its core, in its seed that is tough as diamond? The world’s puzzle shone around him.
Everything made sense. Everything was simple. And in the kingdom he saw himself everywhere, with all the people in the world, all as one.
Who knows why we wait,
For love comes to us like gentle fate.
It hides along the river of time
And gives off the fragrance of thyme.
To love is to suffer is what they say;
But to suffer sweetly is better than to decay.
This life is not a river under the sky.
Many things must happen, who knows why.
This place of the dead was like that of the living, only it seemed to have no depth and no time. It was not a place, as such, but a realm like life, only that the voices were more real than the bodies. Then the prince realised that the dead were like people in a dream, but it was a dream they couldn’t wake up from, a dream that was like real life.
He felt possessed of the simple certainty that the many ways led to one place, that the many forms were one formless harmony, the thousand histories were all one moment, one breath, one story and that all suffering, all flesh, all living was just one astonishing tale of illusion in a dream in which the boundaries seemed fixed in the body but limitless beyond the body.
…to survive in the world you must not overly dazzle out your brilliance, otherwise you wouldn’t catch true fish, and you would be hunted for your beauty. Only a truly beautiful creature could so conceal its own beauty for a higher purpose.
Evil was ignorance, was darkness, and was confined only to the earth and the lower spheres of the universe. Evil was only related to mortality and the lower souls. Beyond the lower spheres all was light. Evil served its function, which was to provide the opposition needed for the light to grow, and keep growing; for there can be no good without evil, no light without darkness, no day without night. But the destination of the soul was beyond good and evil, darkness and light, beyond it all. Evil was the ladder by which the difficult ascension was made. Evil was not only the way for the ascension, for the ascension was simpler by grace, goodness, love and natural flight – but evil was the one thing that humanity, in its blindness, was prey to. must overcome, transcend, and turn into light. Evil was a battle or a non-battle which humanity must win and overcome consciously in itself if it is to regain its former place, or find a new place, in heaven.
First, the soul must be infected with that which it will become impervious to; if it survives the attack, the foundation becomes impregnable; if it doesn’t, a good person perishes, and has to begin again from where they left off the struggle.
That which is best will be lost so that which is greatest can be found.
There is a kind of expressed love which is easy to subvert. When a figure is loved for their deeds, their conquests, their heroism, their goodness, their love of the people, these are easy enough to destroy. Rumours, whispers, lies, distortions, facts revealed, can undo such reputations, such bonds. But there is a kind of love which is felt for apparently no reason, purely because of affinity and kinship, purely because a people can’t do otherwise; a love, inspired, it seems, by the gods, which it is impossible to fight, distort, destroy or weaken. In fact, the attempts to destroy such loves only strengthen them. And to do nothing allows them to continue to grow at their natural pace, inexorably, till this love becomes a wide and silent adoration.
All the great mysteries and manifestations are simple, if you know the laws involved.
Your questions and all the questions you will ever ask were answered before you were born. All you have to do is remember, or return.
Our works have more meaning and more truth than we realise at the time, but it is not meaning or truth that we seek. We seek to serve that which directs us to create. Hence we are somewhat indifferent to what we create, since it serves a purpose higher than we understand. The person who creates is not important, only what they create, what they make. Those who are the best servants of the higher powers have more servants to help them do the work. That is why some have the power of ten while others have only their own power, which is, in the long run, the power of nothing, of dust, of oblivion. Through our works must shine not the power of the person, but the power of the power. True fame should belong to the power which guides us in the dark.
We are listeners at the oracle. Some listen, but do not hear. Some hear, but do not listen. Those who hear are touched and changed. Free to be truthful to their dreams. How they live invisibly. After the suffering, gold. When they don’t notice, best work is done. Obscure life of a master. When they see you hide again.
We do not see what we judge. Conditions change. Now is not now. The winners have lost. Life is a masquerade. What we are seeing is not what is happening. There is a shadow over all victories. It is not here that life is lived. Only where it is felt. All are dreams. It rises and it falls. Only in light can truth be found. Real condition of things do not show. To die is not all. Plant there, reap here. Seek the light that comes from the rose and the cross and the stars and the vanished kingdom under the sea. Prosperity and poverty are not what they seem. Beyond is where it really begins. Slaves are masters in heaven. Whatever happens it is getting better. Then all will be one.
To see invisible dangers before they bring destruction is one of the greatest gifts the wise can have.
The quest is for simplicity, a peace beyond the earth, a quiet glimpse of heaven, an intuition in which, in a lightning flash, all things are made clear. Understanding is a pure glass of water. All great truths have no taste. Hints of sweetness are coloured by the need for amazement. No pilgrim must abide too long with miraculous occurrences on the path. Deceptions have the greatest charm to the eye.
Nobility of birth couldn’t confer on a man nobility of soul; that is attained only by one who strives for the highest, in the lightest of ways, with humour of spirit, and a guiding sense of invisibility being best.
There is no protection against the future, except love, wisdom and hope.
The master conceals his work even when the work is evident. The master reveals only that which is the least of him. The true works of the master which lead to illumination, mastery of spirit, freedom from the dominion of matter, earthly power and illusion, which guide the true seeker to the gates of their own self-discovered heaven, these are concealed, they are hidden, they are to all intents and purposes non existent, invisible, and become visible only to those on the true path, and whose hearts are pure.
Masters are born only once or twice in the life of a people, or an age. Even the truly gifted are rare, being at best only very hardworkers or good imitators or combiners who have found a personal language with which to say nothing profound. The deep can only come out of the deep.
It is not necessary to be deaf not to hear loud noises around you; all that is required is that there be sounds played close to your ears. The smallest sounds heard in the ears blot out the thunder sounding all around. It is not necessary to be blind not to see; all that is required is to be distracted.
There are spaces there vast enough for millions millions more memories. The land is endless in its depth. What is yet to be is not hinted at. The space will accommodate whatever comes to be. Who can measure the depth of that space? Who can draw from it all that is needed for renewal. When a people sense the end of a way, of an era, of a dream, they always sense it as the end of the world. Who can stop the end of the world?
Stories in their fullness are beyond telling. Only fragments are left to us to make structures out of, that please and hint and delight us through the labyrinth. Fragments glimpsed in the invisible book of life.
There is nothing more powerful than when a great instinct is harnessed to an overwhelming desire. Such people conquer the world, or destroy it.
Nothing travels faster than an evil rumour; and rumours are the easiest things to create. Good news travels with the speed of a gazelle, but bad news travels with the swiftness of the wind.
Life is too full of mysteries to which we pay no attention, and so significant things happen and we don’t notice they ever existed. Significant events often appear so insignificant anyway, almost invisible; and yet they are the tiny catalysts that change a life.
Only one who has accepted death can see so clearly that impossible things can be done beyond the limits that are there.
Children do not always live up to the possibilities we see in them. They don’t always bear the fruit that their early brightness promised. They don’t always become the wise and balanced people that we hoped. Often they let their parents down and grow up to become quite ordinary, quite like the others.
Many want to understand but few have the character for it. It takes character to receive, to wait, to listen, to obey, to learn, to grow, to master, to keep on the right road, to make mistakes and to correct them before they have gone too far, and to always remember what the most important things are in life, beyond wealth, success and glory. Most people settle for the most ordinary average things, want a soft and easy life and fail to see that the best things often are the hardest to see, and the most challenging. They want what is easy, against the true whispers of their hearts.
Rumours can destroy only that which is not true and deep. They are like rats that eat way at the foundations of a house. If the foundation is not strong the house will fall anyway, without the rats. These things can work for our ends. We must let them come and go. People are seen to be greater if they survive the lies told about them. Out of shame the world gives more stature to those it has maligned, but only if the maligned ones turn out to be worth their weight in gold. The rumours will then turn into great praise, into songs of legend, one day. Those who tear down a good name will be forced to build a palace for their future fame.
This life of ours is a strange story that only the gods can read.
What is stable in this world? Nothing. Everything is changing, running away. Changes in the body, changes in the world. Who knows anything? All is like the wind, changing like water. Things disappear.
People resist words , because they hear them. But the spirit of words can’t be resisted because it is not heard, or is heard by deeper invisible ears.
There are many destinies. We fail to keep our appointed hour with one destiny in order to fulfil another. There are many alternative destinies waiting in the wings of our failures.
One does not become a human being just by being born. To become what one is takes a long time, and no time at all.
Now is not what people think it is: there is a now that has gone, there is a now that is going, and there is a now that will be, but which is already here – and they are all in the same now.
There are in truth, no changes. Initiations, experiences and revelations do not change a life. They only reveal what was deeply and truly there, only unveil the true self and make people become what they really were all along.
The laws that operate in the world are invisible laws, and they are greater than the force and powers of men and women. On these laws you can depend. So carry on your business, be serene, follow your conscience, and have no fear.
Love is life, to live.
Sometimes we make what we discover. Sometimes we discover what we make.
Too much attentiveness is akin to too much distraction, just as too much looking leads to too little seeing.
They stopped asking why and when and who-is-it-for and why-this-is-so; and they just accepted the reality they saw as the world as it should be. They accepted what they saw. They accepted what they saw. They accepted what was there. They accepted and believed what they were told. This was a new kind of sleep. It was a sleep of the mind.
A power invisible keeps us here, not our power.
Assume that you can’t understand anything, and that nothing can be understood, because nothing is what it seems.
Time was different in the realm of the artists; sometimes it was long, sometimes it was short, and often it simply did not exist at all. Mostly time for them was timelessness.
The more you look, the less you see.
Tranquillity in a man is an achievement, a discovery, almost a by-product of a great insight or illumination. Insignificant people don’t have that tranquillity. They may have contentment, innocence, simplicity but not that tranquillity.
Some prayers take a thousand years to be answered; some say such a period of time is less than a moment in the mind of God.
Intelligence is a form of blindness, it prevents people from seeing the truth.
Fear is the greatest and the most powerful form of belief. So do not fear anything. There is only true cure for fear, and that is knowledge.
All power is but the shadow of true power. A human being ought to know what they are human for. It is a strange blindness to live a life, roaming the earth, without understanding why. There is no tragedy greater than a god that does not know itself. There is no greater comedy than a human being who looks at their reflection in a calm river and sees a complete stranger that is them.
We have three bodies in one. Only one of them endures. But nothing perishes. Everything remembers. All time is here. Don’t worry yourself with passing sufferings, fashions, ideas, notions, conceits, disasters, failures. All are illusions. Maintain a sublime detachment from all things, and the greatest love will shine through you. Be silent. Be still. Sometimes our minds are our worst enemies. Do not hold preferences too strongly. Be guided by that clear voice within. Drink the cup of suffering that life gives you when it does. Pass through the narrow space. Do not cling to any fixed ideas of who or what you are. You are more than whatever you think in simplicity. Being a prince is nothing compared to a man or woman who has discovered that deep down in them there are gods. Humility makes you great. Who can destroy the air or the invisible things that makes the universe real. Be as nothing; be everything. Do not fear loss. Nothing is lost on the way that is not found among the stars. A way has been shown for you to reach me when you need to; and the wisest of the universe are here for you in that clear voice within. All the guidance you will ever need is within you, as part of your own mysterious nature. All human beings are princes or princesses, but only very few know their kingdom.
Throughout your life you will slowly acquire a family of people from all over the world. We have many families. Remember to stop when you have ripened. Call forth what you need only when you need it. Live simply. Carry with you only your shadow,and surrender that in the Light. Be light, in spirit and in deeds. Don’t be above people. Lower yourself without being low. Have dignity without showing it. Be a prince without displaying it. Let your wisdom be invisible to the eyes of men and women. Rule as if the people are ruling themselves.When power is needed, summon and use it. When war is needed then rise and go to war in the highest way, and win in the quickest way and use it to create better conditions for all. Many things are forgivable if you are truly extending the good in the world. Do not try to be perfect, but only to get better. And don’t carry any of my ideas in your head. Forget it all. What you need to guide you is in you. Your life is your guide and your power. You have already awoken it and all you have to do is to keep it alive, whatever life brings you. As you know now you’re a child of the starts and all the universe is your home. But the center of the circle is the home of your home. Dwell there ever, in your heart. And, you will transcend death. Then your life will never be a failure or a success, a tragedy or a comedy. It will be immeasurable.