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Published by JoeyKuhn

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Published by: JoeyKuhn on Oct 08, 2011
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By Josef Kuhn
Once, in a faraway land, there was a Temple-Keeper, who was part of an ancient,esoteric Brotherhood. The Temple-Keeper was not yet a fully initiated Priest of theOrder; he was a novice and wore a novice’s garb, a simple brown cassock woven fromrough yarn. He had been commanded by the Brotherhood to keep one of their many holyTemples around the world, and had been sent to the far-flung peninsula where theTemple stood.Although the Temple was officially the property of the Order, the Temple washis. He was its Keeper. He and it lived together on this remote peninsula, away from people. The Temple was really only a small shrine, a stone hut by some standards, but itwas
hut and he was its soul. A work of simple but beautiful masonry, it stood on ahigh rock bluff overlooking the sea. A line of trees waited further back from the cliff, butthe Temple stood out on the open rock outcropping. The tan stones of the Temple formedtriangular peaks on the sides and back; the front presented a row of stoical, unadornedcolumns. On the roof of the Temple, in the four corners, small fantastical creaturescarved out of stone stood sentinel. On the inside, images of the Honored Deities filled thespace in the form of statues tucked back in enclaves, and adorned the walls in the form of icons painted on sheets of metal, exquisitely depicted in priceless blue, gold, and reddyes. At the back of the Temple were a few steps leading up to the Altar, where a larger statue of the Holy One stood. The bronze statue of the great Holy One, the Harbinger of Peace who had come to mankind long ago, stood up straight and rigid. His eyes of emeralds stared straight forward as if pierced with a green flame. In his right hand heheld a staff at his side; his left hand, extended calmly with the elbow tucked at the waist,held a tin flame painted gold.Every day, the Temple-Keeper would rise from his seat of contemplation on theedge of the bluff, where he performed his afternoon prayer looking out across the ocean.He would turn around, and would be directly facing the entrance to the Temple aboutthirty paces away. Then he would walk the straight line back to the Temple door, whichhad been paved into a little path. He would take the one step up and enter the opendoorway of the Temple, and then he would process slowly straight down its middle tokneel at the foot of the Holy One. Whenever he re-entered the Temple in this procession,he felt like a distant wriggling particle returning into its fold, as the bee returns to thechamber of the flower to kiss its yellow bud. Every day the Temple-Keeper would kneelin front of the Holy One, lean forward, and kiss the golden bud of the statue’s flat navel.Then, after his worship, he would curl up to sleep at the Holy One’s feet, feeling safe andsecure with this protector standing over him. In the morning, the light from the rising sunwould shine in through the Temple door and wake him, and he would rise and proceed back out to the edge of the cliff to do homage to the sun and the sea and the morning.Every day, the Temple-Keeper would emerge and sit cross-legged on the bluff and look out over the sea. The sea was his object of contemplation. The Brotherhood,when they had sent him to this outpost to keep the Temple, had told him that the sea wasthe Holy One and the Holy One was the sea, and that there he would ponder this greatmystery and delve deeper and deeper into it. So he sat and watched the sea and listened to
its chattering and mumbling and felt its changes, its pull and tug by the moon, its currentsdrifting this way and that. He came to know it intimately. Sometimes the sky and the seawould become a metallic gray, and the sea would be rough and choppy and he could hear it grinding on the rocks below him. Sometimes the sun would hang still in the sky and thesea would become perfectly blue and calm, one great flat surface that belied themysterious depths underneath. And sometimes the sky would turn dark, almost black even during the day, and the sea would toss and heave as if massive battles were beingfought in the deep, and the Temple-Keeper thought he could see the points of tridents jabbing up through the highest waves and hear the blowing of conch-shell horns amid thecrashes of thunder and surf. At these times, the Temple-Keeper would try his best toremain in his spot and watch, because the storms too were part of the sea and could not be ignored. Sometimes, though, rain lashed his face and the wind threatened to pitch himoff the cliff and the lightning flashed dangerously overhead, and the Temple-Keeper wasforced to take refuge inside, huddling under the ever firm and steadfast statue of the HolyOne, and his eternal offering of the comforting flame.Many years went by in this way, and the Temple-Keeper, though still only anovice, kept up the daily ritual always with earnest devotion. He had been stationed at theTemple for many years—for as long as he could remember. The exact measure of timeeluded him, for the repetition had turned his daily life into a still eternity, and the days allmelded into one.But as the years wore on, it seemed to the Temple-Keeper that the days of calmcame less and less often, and more frequent were the days of choppy, unsettled gray sea,and the wild squalls came more often, too. Of course, he couldn’t be sure, for he kept norecords; it might simply have been his imagination or the slatternly tricks of memory. Atany rate, he grew more and more accustomed to the untamed sea and the storms; hestayed outside during them longer and more often, and he became as comfortable withthem as he was with the sunny calm, for after all they were both faces of the same sea.After a time, the Temple-Keeper found that he was no longer afraid. He could sitoutside through the most merciless, raging storms and not be perturbed one bit. He nolonger possessed any selfish concern for his own life or death; he only wanted to enter into the mighty ebb and flow of the Holy One, with all his heart, and end this tiredcommission. He became more and more impatient with his time spent inside the Templeand more and more eager to be outside and sit in communion with the sea and the sky andthe gulls and even the trees behind him. Still, every day he did his duty withoutcomplaint, walking back into the Temple, performing the daily ritual, lighting the proper candles and bowls of incense in front of the various Honored Deities.One day, after keeping the Temple for some twenty years—but it could have beenforty, or eighty, for he could not say how long—he was sitting out upon the bluff and hefelt a slight rumbling beneath him. The sky was gray and the surf was rough, but thewaves were not abnormally large, so that the Temple-Keeper was surprised to feel such arumbling beneath him. He got up and walked to the very edge of the cliff and lookeddown, but he could not see the point where the waves struck the rock, for the rock juttedout well over the water. It had been that way since he had arrived. Nor had he ever beenable to see the point where the land met the waves from the side, for the cliffs extendedfor leagues in either direction, and there was no way to get down onto the beach. TheTemple-Keeper returned to his place of contemplation, sat down, and closed his eyes.
A short time later he felt and heard the rumbling again. This time, with his eyesclosed, he was able to hear it more attentively. He thought it sounded like a crash and anecho in a large, cavernous place. He opened his eyes and looked around him, slightlydisquieted. The sea, the sky, the rock, all looked the same as they often had, yet he feltthat something had changed, something had shifted, deep beneath him where all eyesfailed to penetrate. He took a calming breath and stood up. It was time for the afternoon procession into the Temple, anyway.He turned toward the façade of simple stone columns and felt a little rush of affection and gratitude toward the Temple for its solid, never-changing presence. Hestarted his slow, deliberate walk toward it. As he was about halfway down the paved path, though, he felt a great rumbling, this time like an earthquake. The whole peninsulashook, and the Temple-Keeper almost lost his balance. He looked around anxiously for asecond after it stopped, then proceeded more quickly into the Temple, forgetting decorumuntil he entered its hushed recesses. He took another calming breath, walked forwardsolemnly, and knelt down in front of the Holy One. As he leaned forward to kiss HisHoly Navel, for whatever reason, a wave of forlorn sadness and nostalgia washed over him and made his body tremble. He kissed the Holy One’s navel tenderly and looked upinto the emerald eyes that ceaselessly peered unseeingly ahead, into the horizon. Withoutknowing why, the Temple-Keeper felt as if he were saying goodbye to the guardian whohad been so good to him.Then the whole cliff of rock began shaking once again. The Temple-Keeper fell tothe side and steadied himself against a nearby column. A few of the painted icons fell off the walls and clanged on the ground like the clash of a dropped gong; some of the statuesalso fell over and shattered against the floor. Everything continued to shake. The Templehad not been built to endure such a riot of energy; its inflexible stone was too hard tocope with the shuddering waves that now passed through it. Cracks appeared in the walls,in the ceiling, in the floor. Lamps fell from their hangings and smashed, splashing hot oilacross the floor. The Temple-Keeper looked around wildly in panic and prayed silently tothe Holy One to protect his servant. But the blind statue, its legs bound rigidly together and its staff cemented uselessly at its side, could not stand the shaking, and it fell faceforward; its nose shattered on the flagstones, and the arm that held out the gilded tongueof flame broke off at the elbow. The Temple-Keeper spun toward the door. But as he wascrossing to it, a crack in the floor in front of him widened, and suddenly a piece of aflagstone dislodged itself and dropped away. The Temple-Keeper stepped forward andlooked with astonishment down the hole. Through the floor and a thin layer of rock, hecould see clear down to the sea surging a hundred feet beneath him.All at once, the Temple-Keeper knew that it was over, and a strange calm seizedhim. He thought back over the last twenty years and understood what had been going onall along, what he himself had seen and heard and felt day after day without realizing theconclusion to which it all would lead. Day after day he had sat and felt the murmuringripples washing against the rocky cliff, stealing away one grain of sand at a time likeinsinuating little comments and tiny disappointments; he had felt the waves crashingagainst the rock face below like the force of endless bellicose arguments, one after another after another; he had felt the surging power of the ocean during storms, poundingagainst the foundations below him with the undeniable force of law and reason. He hadlooked out across the ocean and seen how that whole, vast, infinite realm of thought and

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