The Fool passed out of the city gates and into the hills and vales of the surrounding countryside. Before long, he found himself on a trail that wound through a thickly wooded canyon. In time, the trail became so faint that he was following no way at all, but moving forward completely on instinct. After a while, the narrow canyon broadened out into a valley, and he came to a clearing in the woods. It was, in fact, a ring of twelve massive oak trees. And there, standing behind an altar of white marble stood The Magician.
Magician: Welcome to this sacred glade. What brings you here?
Fool: I have had enough of the city life, and the royal court. I need fresh air and freedom. I have just followed my own feelings and wandered here by chance, not by design. I am a looking for adventure.
Magician: If you were at court, you might have spent time with The Emperor and The Hierophant. They are very wise and powerful. You must have learned something from them.
Fool: They are wise, yes, and powerful no doubt. But power is not as important to me as freedom. I find the trappings of power oppressive, even the power of a priestly tradition. But I have still much to learn, this I admit.
Magician: You have arrived at the valley of The Lovers. There is much to learn here.
Fool: What are you doing here in this lonely place? Where are all the lovers?
Magician: Like you, I am a student of life. I come here to deepen my understanding. If you like, I can show you something of what I study and how I profit by being in this place.
Fool: I would like that.
Magician: Then step up, come over here. You see this silver scrying bowl in front of you on the altar. You will observe something quite interesting if you gaze at the surface of the water which is inside it.
The Fool: approached the altar and stood gazing onto the surface of the water inside the silver bowl. At first, nothing happened. Then, he began to detect a change taking place. He saw first a faint mist on the waters surface, and then a light from below the mist. Then, within the light he saw shapes moving, and as he gazed, these insubstantial forms became clearer. In this vision, he was looking down on a clearing in the woods where he could discern a number of cottages, with people coming and going. These were beautiful people, young men and women in the prime of life, and the setting was full of charm.
Magician: This is the abode of The Lovers. They are a community. They have a peaceful and harmonious life together. They come together to learn the ways of love.
The mist on the waters surface clouded over and the light within it faded. Then the mist cleared away, and a different colour of light, a reddish light, began to glow from within the water, and a new scene appeared. It was a moss-covered bank in the woods, surrounded by ferns and violets in bloom. And there he could make out a man and woman together on the ground holding each other tightly.
The Fool: Is this the study of love they for which they come together?
Magician: This is the first rung of the ladder of love. These are new arrivals. If you find this form of love meaningful, there is a place for you here. They are close by. There are many like them, and some would be ready to be your lovers. You have only to wish for it, and they will find you. This is how it goes in the valley of love.
The Fool: So this is what one can learn here?
Again the mist clouded over the vision, and the reddish light faded. Then, a pink light appeared below the waters surface, and the mist cleared. He saw the inside of a cottage, and an elderly couple sitting before their fireplace. The wife stood up and approached the man from behind his rocking chair and began to brush his hair. Then she began to sing to him. It was only a simple lullaby, but he smiled and closed his eyes. Their contentment seemed complete.
The Magician: These lovers have achieved the second rung of the ladder of learning. They have tasted passionate love, but beyond this, they have discovered how to live together with integrity. This has taken them much time. They are old now. They are patient, kindly, peaceful, and full of affection for each other. They are loyal, unselfish, and forgiving. They will be together until they pass on to the next life. Some learn these things quickly, and some take more time. A whole life is not too much to attain the second rung in the ladder of love.
Fool: It is very beautiful. This must be a life full of satisfaction.
Magician: It is yours if you wish. The valley of love welcomes all who would wish to spend their days in this way. If you truly want a life of love like this, then you will be able to have this experience. You have come to the right place. There is much maturity and integrity required to live loyally in a committed relationship. These are good people. They would welcome you into their community.
Fool: Is this all that I can learn here in this valley of lovers?
Magician: No, there is another, a higher rung on the ladder of love. It requires even greater resources of heart and soul for the living of it, and not all are called. For this deeper love you must feel the call. You must have the willingness to sacrifice. Whatever you have, and whatever you are will be plunged into the fires of transmutation if you choose this love. Only the worthy are reborn in these fires. The others are destroyed.
Fool: I may not be ready. But I would wish to glimpse at least the possibility, or understand in some measure the nature of this love of which you speak. It would be a shame to come here and miss the experience of such a marvel.
Magician: Listen then. Listen carefully. I will explain.
In the beginning, only the Great Mystery existed. It was One. There was no other to know it. It has been called the Source, but in truth it cannot be named because it has no form, and is not separate from all that is. This sublime unknowable Source existed beyond time and beyond our capacity for understanding. It simply was and is. Before any names and forms came into existence, This has always been. It precedes time and space but holds them both within itself as a tiny fragment of its infinite life.
Somehow, mysteriously, in the secret heart of the original One, a need was born, a hunger for experience. You have felt it in your own heart, you can understand what it is. Your hunger is a spark of that original need for expression and experience. From this need came creation, the he of it and the she of it, the light of it, and the dark, the over and the under, heaven and earth.
Heaven and earth between them brought forth life, which is the dance of their eternal love. Although they are now two, they want to join as One. From their desire to join, they beget the many, and this is the dance of creation. Hence come all the stories that have ever been, and all the languages to tell them. Of this the poets sing. For this we laugh and weep and dance and procreate. We become lovers because of this memory we have, and this need in our hearts to be re-united with the Source. Even in our forgetfulness of the Source and the true way of return, we have this need to embrace the dance of life and love.
Your journey is a quest. You seek to embrace and be embraced in a way you do not yet fully understand. Today, your understanding of this will deepen.
All that was to be known and felt and seen and lived between heaven and earth, the glory of it, the agony, the mystery, lies hidden in the heart of humanity, to be brought forth and given birth in form. The stories of our lives are chapters in the love-epic of heaven and earth. When you experience within your heart the cry that earth has for heaven, and the smile that heaven has for earth, you will feel a need to be alone in a clear space in order to cherish the memory in your mind and heart, because nothing else can give you such bliss. You will know when this happiness steals into you that you are ready to experience something new and precious.
This valley, and this grove are that clear space of awareness. This sacred circle of oaks planted in a circle, this square marble altar in their centre, this silver scrying bowl and the water it holds and the eye that beholds the water and the soul that sees through the eye, and the visions seen and the intelligence that knows their meaning, they are all part of the ritual of return. By this ritual, you embrace the Source and become One again.
If you love in that way, as the sun loves the moon, as fire loves the fuel it consumes, as the trees love sunlight, then you are ready to study in the third domain of love.
Do you feel you are ready? Do you feel that it is this need which has brought you here? Or will you be satisfied with something less than this?
Fool: Yes, I know something of what you describe. There is a princess in my heart, and a prince too. They both love me. I cannot choose between them. Somehow, when I choose, I lose. I want to learn true love. I made this choice long ago. If it were not so, then it would be a mistake for me to be here. Yet it feels so right! I feel the happiness you touch upon.
Magician: I also am here because of such a choice. And it is, as you say, a destiny and a deep call rather than a predilection of the curious intellect. Perhaps if I tell you how it was with me, you will understand better.
Fool: Please tell me, for indeed I do wish to understand.
Magician: One day, my wanderings took me to a grassy hillock deep in the forest glades not far from here. I fell asleep and dreamed that I had found a doorway into the centre of that hill, and on passing through the door, I entered a great hall where harp music played, and an assembled throng was gathered. People of all sorts mixed and mingled there, dressed in styles both ancient and modern, the simple and the richly attired all together, all talking as if they knew each other and were wonderful friends. And there was the beauty of the harp music too that I shall never forget. But the noise of their talk died down, and before long the notes of the harp stopped too. Then, the High Priestess entered and took her seat in the place of honour at the head of the assembly, and everyone present sat down on chairs in a great circle, but the youngest among them simply sat on the floor. A table was placed in the centre of the circle, between the Priestess and the crows, and on it was a silver cup. Within the cup was placed a gold coin bearing the mark of a pentacle. Then, on one side of the cup was laid a wand of rowanwood and on the other they set down a very old sword.
"Come forth" the High Priestess said to me, and I stood up from my seat in the circle and came before her with the table between us.
"These," she said, "are the implements of the craft of love. If you are wise, you will master their use. If by this mastery you learn to love truly, you will exercise the law of One in all four kingdoms of your being, represented here by these signs of the craft. If you master the law of One in all four realms, yours will be the world and all that is in it. The way of mastery is yours to choose. The paths are many. But in their endings, mark well, all the paths are One. That One is seated on the throne of your own heart. Go there. Learn. Awake!
With this, she waved her hand in a motion of banishing, and I awoke. I was no longer in the hall beneath the hillock. I was alone in the forest. But I knew that I had been called to pursue a quest. This was the way the call came to me. It is not so for everyone, this I well understand. The call comes to each in its own way.
I must ask you now, have you also been called?
Fool: Between the prince and the princess in my heart, as I have said, I cannot choose. Between the longing to know which is there in my mind, and the aspiration to simply be, which I feel in my heart, I cannot choose. Between the glory of the sun and the peace of the moon, I cannot choose. But if there is a secret truth beyond the splitting up of all things in creation into opposites, as you say there is, then this is something I must find out for myself. I do not need the throes of passion; I do not need domestic bliss. What I need is the knowing of who I am and why I roam the world with such a hunger for adventure. I need the slaking of this hunger and this endless thirst that makes me restless to keep seeking and seeking. I need to come home to a place in my heart where the many roads end in sanctuary and peace.
Magician: You speak as one who has been chosen. You do not need a dream vision, your ideal is pure. You are ready to discover the way of love that unites all things in their secret oneness. By coming here, you have clarified your intent. True love is clear like the water in this silver scrying bowl. Allow it to be your teacher. Find a space within you where there is stillness without even a single ripple. There you will find what you are seeking.
Then, The Magician moved his arm in a gesture of banishing, and disappeared. And the altar and the scrying bowl disappeared too. The Fool was alone, at the centre of the circle of oak trees. But in some deep corner of his being, there was a difference, something he could feel, but was unable to express in words.
At this point he heard the distant sound of horses hooves. It drew nearer and nearer, while he savoured the meaning of the Magicians words, and all he felt within himself. Soon, from one point in the clearing there appeared four white steeds drawing a chariot and inside it a magnificent charioteer. They rushed toward him, and then when it seemed he might be trampled, abruptly they stopped.
"Come aboard," The Charioteer called. "I will take you on the next stage of your journey. I know where you must go. I will make your way easy."
The Fool climbed up onto the chariot, and held fast to its side. The Charioteer snapped the reins, and the four horses pulled away from the spot in the direction from which they had come.
Soon, The Fool was speeding through the woods on a well marked trail to an unknown destination. The wind whistled in his ears and his hair rippled in the breeze. He could feel the power of the four horses as they surged forward, and yet the master of the reins exerted complete control over all their forward momentum. The Fool could feel his confidence and power. He radiated this impression of strength, being tall and powerfully built.
Gazing ahead, The Fool saw the trees of the forest fly by at an incredible rate as the chariot sped forward. Where this new adventure would take him, he could only guess. The thrill of forward movement was exciting.