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excerpts from texts and recordings by Laurens van der Post

While attempting to share below something of what has touched me from the stories of Laurens van der Post, the difficulty always is that the quote, when taken out of context of its complete text, is necessarily an incomplete and partial representation of what the whole insight or point being communicated included. Despite this fact of not being able to fully impart the given story's totality of meaning, i nevertheless feel presenting these excerpts for those who have not encountered the author before, may provide an initial exposure that stimulates further interest and exploration which otherwise might not occur.

In including excerpts here, the hope is that by sharing passages i have found particularly meaningful and insightful, perhaps others will likewise discover something new and fresh.


          To me it was simply that the older I got, the more and more I felt that we had lost, there was a bushman in everybody, and we'd lost contact with that side of ourselves. And we must learn again from the bushman. Trying to find out what is that side about.
          I thought how strange it was that people were digging up old ruins -- archeologists excavating to find out what archaic man was like, and here he was walking about in our midst. Why didn't we ask him? That really is at the back of it: the fact that the bushman personified an aspect of natural man which we all have, but with which we've increasingly lost contact and that has impoverished us and endangered us.
          And when I spoke to Jung about it he said this is not an extravagant thought at all. He said every human being has a 2 million year-old man within himself. And if he loses contact with that 2 million year-old self he loses his real roots. So this question of why modern man is in search of his soul and has lost his religious roots had a lot to do with my interest in the bushman.
          Because I found that the difference between this naked little man in the desert, who owned nothing, and us was that he is and we have, but no longer are. We have. We've exchanged having for being.
          So if the bushman goes, through what one knew of him, his stories, and his art, he would still be important to us. He must live on through these things. And that's what I've tried, merely tried, to bring back -- to use him as a bridge between the world in the beginning, with which we've lost touch, and the now.

-- Laurens van der Post at 87, 1994, interviewed in his home in Chelsea

          After such a night Francois would know that he was even closer to Nonnie. Just the merest touch of her skin startled him with its message, as if one skin enclosed them both. And his being closer to her, to Nuin-Tara and to Xhabbo, sustained him when away alone hunting. He would remember the physical nearness of Nonnie and the look of trust with which Xhabbo would always watch him go in the morning. It was the same look Xhabbo had given him the day he rescued him from the lion-trap. It was a look Francois had seen elsewhere only in Hintza and the animals who had never before looked into the eyes of other men. He remembered Mopani telling him about this very look that one sees, as he put it, "only in the virgin eyes of the children of nature. It is a look one must never betray, little cousin."
          He could almost hear the beloved voice itself there in the desert where he walked alone:   "One can perhaps betray oneself if one must, and hope some time for pardon from life, and one can betray the men of the twentieth century because they have all betrayed one another for so long that they have some kind of terrible immunity to betrayal. But for people of nature and animals and birds still capable of such a look, there is no such immunity, and betrayal is death to them as it is ultimately to the betrayer."
          Intangible as all these feelings and intimations and recollections were, they did Francois more good than any amount of medicine, ammunition or the help of others could have done. Once they were recognized, welcomed and made at home in his daily reckoning, he would be reassured, composed and more resolute. And he would come back, tired as he was, night after night, with whatever little of food he had gathered from the desert, eagerly looking forward to seeing those dear, trusting faces, dismayed though he would be by noticing again how ill and thin they looked, asking only that they should open their eyes and show him that the ancient, first look of trust was still there.
          The detail of every evening was stored up accordingly in his memory as a new source of wealth and daily he would hasten back, spurred on by a feeling of going "home", however strange it may sound in a desert where no one had a fixed home, where home was not in any given place but in the feeling of being at home anywhere in the universe, by instant right of the fact that one is a child of it and the life it lit on earth.

-- Laurens van der Post, A Far Off Place, p. 271

... the confusion inwardly was so great that he was compelled to ask Mopani's advice.
          This added to Mopani's predicament. He had always abhorred giving advice to people. He had certainly never advised anybody unless asked to do so and then only with extreme reluctance. For unless one were in someone else's situation so completely that one could be described as being "inside his skin," one's advice would inevitably be based on an inadequate comprehension of all the facts essential for constructive counsel. Moreover, giving advice in general appeared to him to presuppose a lack of respect -- if one may borrow from Lammie's phrase for the `otherness' of human beings -- an intrusion into their personal fate which his experience had proved to be followed usually by undesirable consequences.

-- Laurens van der Post, A Story Like The Wind, p. 203

          I know that those who are in the business of dream analysis and who help others and have gone through it themselves, and who know far more about it than I know, would hesitate to pronounce on any single dream, least of all when they could not ask the dreamer for his own amplification of the dream. But the dreamer was gone, and out of touch with us, or perhaps, more precisely, was in touch only in a kind of new and inexpressible nearness, and one could not ask him, in what passed for language between us, for his own associations. But I felt that there was more than enough evidence from history to give us the relevant associations, particularly in regard to a person who knew his Cape and its history as well as he did. Besides, whatever it is that dreams through flesh and blood would have presided over these dreams, true and free of anything that is false, as it had presided over the centuries behind us.
          The Europeans, especially the Portuguese, who probed along the coast of Africa from the north to the south, fearfully around the Bight of Benin, past Guinea, the coasts of gold and ivory and 'the white man's grave', onwards south for year after year under the Southern Cross, would always see the sun rise on their left -- until one day, centuries later, there came the strange, blessed but awesome morning when the sun rose on their right. They sailed on, fearing it could be an aberration or an illusion or perhaps just a distortion of the coastline they had followed for so long. They watched it almost in unbelief, day after day, but it kept on rising on the right until they accepted with a great inrush of joy that what had been called the Cape of Storms at first had suddenly become the Cape of Good Hope, and that the way to `the East' where the new day begins was open to them.
          It seemed to me no message could be clearer, that both before the uprooter of trees had appeared and after that strange sunrise, the master dream, of its own accord, began the uncoding of the message we had longed for and stated clearly that there was more to the life of which we had just lost sight.
          I stress the word `began' because the process of wondering started by these two dreams, one at the introduction of the cancer into flesh and blood and the other at its exit from the here and now, led me to realise, without any feeling of bitterness or condemnation, how inadequate were the hypotheses and the points of departure of scientists and doctors in their approach to something so mysterious as cancer. I have so often heard doctors say that if only people had come earlier they could have dealt with the cancer. But how can one be early enough when the process itself may not be accessible to human perception until, having crept in on tiptoe and caught one asleep, with no conscious reason to protect one, it moves in and takes hold of the imagination, as it had done with my son? What did surgeons achieve when, to use one of the most ambivalent popular phrases of the English language, they proceeded to `cut it out', when they were dealing with something that was not just physical but also dream material? Even if doctors did, as one hopes they will one day, use dreams and their decoding as an essential part of their diagnostic equipment and perhaps could confront cancer at the point of entry, how are they to turn it aside, unless they are humble enough to keep their instruments in their cases and look for some new form of navigation over an uncharted sea of the human spirit for a way to resolution of this fateful affliction?

-- Laurens van der Post, About Blady, A Pattern out of Time, A Memoir, pp. 48-9

. . . Nuin-Tara from the start had been fascinated by the abundance and quality of Nonnie's hair and seemed almost overwhelmed with impatience towards the end of the day for the moment when Nonnie, arriving at camp, would remove her hat, throw it casually aside and let her beautiful hair fall down to her waist. At times Nuin-Tara would come over to her, take a thick shining strand between her fingers and stroke it with a deep unbelieving wonder. . . .
          Once indeed Nuin-Tara had moved Nonnie almost to tears by saying, as she fondled a strand of hair between her fingers, "We who feel that the clouds of the sky are feeling themselves to be the hair of the people who have gone before us, gathered by the wind that breathes also in our bodies, know thus all the more now for seeing hair like yours, that clouds and hair feel themselves to be forming and forming always together from one into the other by the same wind on account of it."

-- Laurens van der Post, A Far Off Place, pp. 230-231

. . . Obedience to one's greater awareness, and living it out accordingly to the rhythm of the law of time implicit in it, was the only way. Unlived awareness was another characteristic evil of our time, so full of thinkers who did not do and doers who did not think. Lack of awareness and disobedience to such awareness as there was meant that modern man was increasingly a partial, provisional version instead of a whole, committed version of himself. That was where tyranny, oppression, prejudice and intolerance began. Tyranny was partial being; a part of the whole of man masquerading as his full self and suppressing the rest. All started within before it manifested itself without and tyranny began within partial concepts of ourselves and our role in life. Hence the imperative of obedience, obedience to our greatest awareness and the call always to heighten it still.
          All this, Ouwa would add, meant living in terms not of having but of being; a difference which in his own inimitable, ironic way he always stressed was something our civilised superiors could learn from their primitive inferiors. For what, he often asked, was the difference between the 'Bamuthis of this world and the Europeans of Africa, if not that the Europeans specialised in having and the 'Bamuthis in being.
          At that flashpoint of memory both Ouwa and 'Bamuthi were joined first by what his old nurse Koba had told him of the Bushmen and then above all by the figure of her dispossessed kinsman Xhabbo, poor in everything in which the Europeans and the Africans were rich, but rich in a way in which they were poor and deprived; rich in a sense of belonging. Though naked in body Xhabbo moved brightly dressed in Francois's imagination in his own vivid, unique experience of life and not in the second-hand experience that passed for living in the civilised world without; never alone and unknown but always feeling known and part of life and travelling in the company of even the remotest of the stars.

-- Laurens van der Post, A Far Off Place, p. 111

          Mopani realised more and more how a major source of corruption in men was their excessive love of the power of ideas -- a love so excessive that they did not hesitate to kill and murder one another for them. In women, however, the source tended to be possessive love, a compulsion to command permanently the object of their love, most especially the love of the person from their own bodies. Yet out of her own supreme love of Ouwa, Lammie he was certain, had come to know in full the temptation and dangers of the all-possessive love of her sex and so determined that Francois should never be a victim of it; that he should never be a mere extension of her and Ouwa's love, bent to express some unlived aspect of themselves. She seemed to know how that would be the death of him, as if she recognised it already as the explanation of the gap which had opened up so disastrously between parents and their children, between old and young -- a young who insisted on being themselves, however unarmed for the task, and not just another pale version of their parents' pattern. If he were wrong in this, Mopani asked, what other explanation could there be of the ease, the absolute coincidence of the coming of Nonnie into Francois's life? Had he ever felt a shimmer of shade even of Lammie come between him and Nonnie or did he not see, as Mopani thought he saw now, how Francois's imagination had been opened up and furnished, complete with guest-room ready for the coming of someone like Nonnie. Francois, he was convinced, owed such readiness in a great measure to Lammie.

-- Laurens van der Post, A Far Off Place, p. 299

          He did what he did instinctively. Yet responsibility for an accurate report on his life forces one to ask oneself something about the nature of this instinct. One wonders whether it was not the process of growth, produced by the urgent feeling for life within himself, hastening to the rescue of an inexperienced and vulnerable nature, in danger of having its evolution arrested, compelling him to concentrate on the growth of things in the world without so that their example would set in motion again growth within himself. World without and world within, after all, whether one knows it or not are expressions of one another; interdependent and ceaselessly in communication, serving something greater than the sum of themselves. They are, however stern and exacting, allies of a questing spirit, particularly a young spirit, charged to join them both in a little garden allotment of space and time. Happy for Francois, therefore, despite the miseries of the moment, that he was free of the mistrust of instinct and intuition wherein contemporary Europe tends to imprison human imagination, and that the pagan influences of his environment encouraged an unquestioning acceptance of this impulse which came to him.

-- Laurens van der Post, A Story Like The Wind, p. 123-4

the terrible invasion of meaninglessness and a feeling of not belonging invading the awareness of man, that was the unique sickness of our day . . . was the result of the so-called civilised man, parting company with the natural and instinctive man in himself.

          So in their three hundred and twenty years of a new life, even in the Africa of their promise, when this craving for a better way of being seemed thwarted, they had again and again renounced homes and possessions just as readily as any in Europe and moved deeper into the interior, looking once more for a place where their problems would not exist, where life would be innocent like a slate wiped clean, and they could write all over it perfect phrases and sentences of the perfect life on earth. They had of course found no such thing. They had not only not found it but had gradually begun to create a greater form of tyranny than they had opposed and fled from in the beginning, so unaware were they of the new heresy of believing in places where evil did not exist. Not only were there no such places in Africa but there were none anywhere else in the world. Man had run out of places, had run out of geographical solutions for his problems and changes of scene as a "cure" for his restlessness. The journey in the world without as an answer to our searching and resolution of our failings was dismally bankrupt.
          There was only one thing which could lead to an answer and that was to let the sense of journey expressed for so long in travelling the world without become a journey within the spirit of man. Statesmen, scientists, philosophers, even priests and the whole intellectual trend of the day put up a plausible presence that our troubles were due to imperfect political systems, badly drawn frontiers and other environmental and economic causes. The whole history of man as he, Mopani, knew it, had tried all those approaches over and over again and at last, as far as he was concerned, they were proved utterly bankrupt. The real, the only crises out of which all evil came was a crisis of meaning. It was the terrible invasion of meaninglessness and a feeling of not belonging invading the awareness of man, that was the unique sickness of our day. And this sickness, he was convinced, was the result of the so-called civilised man, parting company with the natural and instinctive man in himself. Never had the power of the civilised over the natural been so great and never had power corrupted man within himself so dangerously. For that reason the journey within could not be resumed soon enough, the journey of what he called the exiled Jacob back to the Esau, the hunter, whom he had betrayed and with whom he had to be reconciled before he could come home again to inherit his full self.
          This journey to total reconciliation within depended on man standing fast at last in his surroundings and there refusing to give in to any assault on his integrity. He had been horrified by the extent to which people were leaving Africa, saying that they were leaving it for the sake of their children and going back to other amply discredited geographical points of departure and patterns of behaviour as a way out of their problems. Yes-no, we had to stand fast and in standing fast bring out into the world around us what was revealed to ourselves on a new journey within and make it part of our here and now; make what was first and oldest in us, new and immediate. Man had to give all his imagination, all his devotion, before it was too late, to whatever was nearest at hand, refusing nothing, however humble or insignificant or even distasteful that came out of him and at him from his immediate surroundings, but accepting all as the raw and only material, however base, on which he could work, just as those old alchemists of whom he had heard so much from Ouwa, took the basest of all metals -- lead -- and tried to transform it into gold.

-- Laurens van der Post, A Far Off Place, pp. 301-2.

Blady's waiting was the waiting of the feminine, the waiting of the feminine not just after a thousand million years of neglect to be recognized by man but a waiting that was utterly for waiting's sake, a waiting in which the longing which moves all creation is born, a waiting which is not the waiting of man. Man has his own kind of waiting, but it is a waiting imposed on him by his quest in the external world; it is more conscious in its beginning, and it develops as an instrument of will and experience and character and outer necessities. The waiting of the feminine is there and was there always, born with the feminine, always alive in the feminine. It was the waiting of creation itself, the waiting which is at the heart of time where out of longing the stars are made and the child is formed and born. How could one not have known that all the living and growing and all the light and shining things coming out of the darkness at the beginning were made out of this waiting, which neither the darkness could quench nor any sun, however great, burn away? It was as if a seed that had not fallen by the wayside had found some dark, still place in the earth of human life, in the earth of the feminine being, where it could slowly uncurl and begin to reach out to where it could grow and achieve in the full light of the new-born day the flower that beckoned it in its heart.

--Laurens van der Post, About Blady, A Pattern Out of Time, p. 249

          I was about to add that this, of course, was precisely the principle on which the diesel engine worked and that here, unbeknown, in one of the greatest jungles of the world, primitive human beings who had never had any contact with our own civilisation, which we thought so superior, had for centuries been applying a principle of ignition which we had only recently discovered and whose application to the diesel engine we regarded as one of the brightest of our inventions. But of course Jung had already grasped this point and for the first time I heard him laugh.
          That laugh of his was one of the more memorable events of that afternoon, as far as I was concerned. It was both Olympian and intensely human at the same time. It came out of that big man sheer and immediate, with no inhibition at all between the impulse to laugh and the laughter itself. I had only heard such laughter before among the Bushmen, the first people of my native country, whose brightest possession it is and whose capacity for laughter had impressed and moved me so much in the past that I had felt that if I myself could acquire the gift of such laughter for the proceeds of the sale of everything I possessed, I would not hesitate.
          "How can you do it?" I was to say to him often. "You are the only person I've met who can laugh like a Bushman." And he just laughed all the more.

-- Laurens van der Post, Jung and the Story of Our Time, pp. 41-42

          If I had still any doubts about the quality and calibre of Jung, his laugh on that sombre and sombring autumn afternoon settled it, all the more because it affirmed that the continuity had not been broken between it and the first laugh of an authentic child of life, laughing because the policeman who for him represented the desert in the human spirit which the grown-up world creates and calls law and order, had been brought low in the common dust by a mere banana peel.
          He could laugh as he laughed then because in this story of fire I had just told them the despised primitive, the rejected child of civilisation, had tumbled the police imperialism of knowledge and values European culture imposed on others to a far greater extent than even its territorial and political dominion, and restored it to its place in the heat and dust where no flesh and blood has pride of place, where men are compelled to accept their common fallible and groping humanity equally and are forced to struggle humbly for such meaning and fire as their brief and impartial ration of time permits.
          There are many ways of laughing, but the greatest is that which comes from the joy of seeing disproportion restored to proportion. Few men, I was to find, had so great a reverence as Jung for the forms of life and mind which the established and powerful world despises and rejects. Were I compelled to select one great text for introducing the main theme of Jung's life and career in his own spirit and for those of others, it would have to be a text taken from the Book of Common Prayer:   "The same stone which the builders refused:   is become the head-stone in the corner."
          And all this came out of a profound love of the ancient proportions implicit in the original blueprint of life. His laughter was delight, sheer and uncompromising, in the triumph of the significance in the small over the unreality of excess and disproportion in the established great and so a pure rejoicing in another enlargement, however minute, of the dominion of proportion. I never knew him to laugh at anyone or anything so much as with them and with life. It was inevitable that from then on he made me laugh, not only by the infection of his own example but because of his wit, sense of fun, and spirit, more than anyone I have ever known.

-- Laurens van der Post, Jung and the Story of Our Time, pp. 44-45

          Coincidences have never been idle for me, instinctively, but as meaningful as I was to find they were to Jung. I have always had a hunch that they are a manifestation of a law of life of which we are inadequately aware and which in terms of our short life are unfortunately incapable of total definition, and yet however partial the meaning we can extract from them, we ignore it, I believe, at our peril. For as well as promoting some cosmic law, coincidences, I suspect, are some sort of indication to what extent the evolution of our lives is obedient or not obedient to the symmetry of the universe.
          Coincidence is nothing if not an expression of a symmetry of meaning, and that symmetry of meaning, I felt that night, had demanded not only that we should have been to the heart of Africa I loved at a similar moment in time but also that fire should have been my first introduction to the world of his mind and his nature.
          Also, my experience of Africa and above all what it evokes in human imagination have been the source of almost all that has concerned my imagination. I have walked through vast areas, from the Cape of Good Hope to the baroque mountains and deeply wooded valleys of Ethiopia, and travelled in other ways through yet more of it. I thought that if I came near to knowing and understanding anything, it was Africa and its peoples. Yet I was finding as we talked that Jung, although he had not walked literally so far and wide as I had done, understood African aboriginal patterns of life even better than I and, if anything, revered them more. The whole tone of his speech became warmer and more animated and his turn of expression more poetic and almost lyrical when he spoke about it. He had always, as I came to call it, a special "African" voice.
          Although there were moments when I felt a little abashed that a Swiss, however eminent, should know my native continent quintessentially better than I did, any possibility of resentment was cancelled by the confirmation and support he gave to my own intuitions and feelings about it and their wider significance for the life of our time. It would warm me like wine to hear him too imply that the balance between the primitive and the civilised, the Jacob and Esau of which I have spoken, had never been honourably struck, and that a great deal of the troubles of modern man came from the fact that he himself had a deep, warm, caring, trusting, instinctive, primitive self from which he had not only allowed himself to be divorced but had gone on to despise and repress with a deadly ruthlessness.

-- Laurens van der Post, Jung and the Story of Our Time, pp. 47-48

          I had been deeply hurt by this incident but how deep the injury went even I myself did not realize at the time. There is a kind of natural anaesthesia in the human spirit which helps to absorb the shock of the operations which life performs on all who are its guinea-pigs. It is only over the years, as the anaesthesia wears off, that we are allowed to know how deep an incision was made in our being. It is only in the rediscovery of pain that one can know how severe was the injury.
          It is, of course, a cherished conception of adults that the young quickly forget injury and recover easily from their unhappiness. Certainly the young have so urgent a thrust of life within them that it carries them quickly out of the technical area of their injury. But I believe that the young, perhaps because they care so much more and are so much more committed and helpless before hurt, can carry the injury itself, no matter how much overlaid by events, along with them. And because there is so much more life before the young, so the injury itself too has further to travel than with adults.
          At this moment in my life I was just beginning my adolescence and no human being is so completely helpless and lonely as at the moment of his adolescence. A baby an hour old is older, to me, than any adolescent. Babies seem to be born with all antiquity present and active in them. They breathe in a world that is rich, deep and meaningful with instincts, feelings, vast, simple appetites and an insatiable will to live, all tested, proved and hammered out by life, as it were, into patterns of gold in the smithy of time. Moreover they have an adult world which for some years continues to care for them on those terms, and only gradually converts the currency of their antiquity into the inflated coinage of the present until, by the time they reach adolescence, they find the values of their inborn antiquity debased. They have come, as it were, to a market place where their ancient exchange is no longer valid.
          This is the moment of their own private and personal birth, in which they face a distinctive future inwardly naked and curiously ashamed. All that seems left of their antiquity is a vast indefinable nostalgia. At all sorts of unbidden moments, when the wind gathers clouds for rain, or the lightning taps out thunder on the taut parchment of some drum of parched earth, or the red dawn fills the sky bringing light round the horn of the morning, they are reminded of what they have been deprived.
          In addition, generally, there is the fact that there appears to be no reason or justification for the way things have happened. I was too young at this time to realize that tragedy is no tragedy if one finds reason or meaning in it. It becomes then, I was yet to learn, a darker form of this infinitely mysterious matter of luck. It is sheer tragedy only if it is without discernible sense or motivation.

-- Lauren van der Post, The Hunter and the Whale, pp. 133-134.

          The truth is that from an early age most people found my looks disturbing and many of them were strongly attracted to me on account of my appearance. This again is one of those things I say without pride or humility, without vanity or self-satisfaction. I have long since come to the diamond point of the tumult within myself where facts alone, and nothing but the facts, accurately observed and truly interpreted, can move me. I know that only facts can save me and I long passionately to be able, from the facts of my being, to forge a weapon strong enough to enable me to fight back against the power and pomp of unreality which is marching so boastfully against both me and the spirit of my time. But over this matter of my appearance if I do recognize any other emotion in myself it is one of subtle and pervasive distaste. Perhaps this sounds ungrateful to life which has conferred such favours on me? Yet the truth remains. Part of me strongly resented my looks and blamed them too for what became of me. We had a neighbour who was born a dwarf and, as a child, whenever I saw him I used to pity him and feel grateful that I had not been given his shape. Yet today I am not sure that I should not have envied him. I simply do not know which constitutes the greatest danger to the integrity of being:   to attract or to repel; to incur the dislikes or likes of one's fellow men. The dwarf, after all, had only pity to fear and, men being what they are, that is never excessive. But I had their instant, magnetic liking for my enemy and before I knew where, or even who I was, I had become a prisoner of the effect I had on them. The dwarf was firmly shackled to his deformity. But I was shackled not so much to my good looks as to what people, after seeing me, first imagined and then through their imaginations compelled me to be. I know now that from my earliest age the effect that I had on those about me enticed me away from myself, drew me out of my own inner focus of being, and left me irrevocably committed to the role that my admirers and the obscure laws of their magnetic attraction automatically demanded of me. To this day I shiver at the recollection of the cold impersonal power and efficiency of the mechanisms of this compulsion, both in me and others, which forced me to lend my little measure of irreplaceable flesh and blood to the shadowy desires, phantom wishes and unlived selves of those around me. Slowly but surely I grew into a bitter estrangement from myself:   a prodigal son in a far country of famished being, without any inkling of the dream that could have worked on my errant raw material. I suffered, as it were, from the curse of Helen whose face `launched a thousand ships and burnt the topless towers of Ilium', that Helen whose image still haunts the eyes of men wherein she was held prisoner for so long.

-- Laurens van der Post, The Seed and the Sower, pp. 46-47.

          Shipwreck, almost unendurable hardship at sea, and the constant and mysterious disappearance of vessels became so normal a part of Portuguese experience that it inspired a special literature of its own. Ordinary Portuguese men and women had their imagination so inflamed by what was increasingly a national horror story that they acquired an insatiable apetite, not just for factual records of what happened at sea but for fiction about the sea, ships and the men who sailed in them. It was called Literatura de Cordel, loosely translated as `string literature.'
          It was given this name because so many stories of this kind came from the pens of popular Portuguese writers that they were rushed into print in a glorified pamphlet form and displayed all over Lisbon, strung up on string and hung up outside shops like some new sort of salami of the imagination, pre-cut for instant consumption.

-- Laurens van der Post, Yet Being Someone Other, pp.22-23

          It occurred to me in time that this kind of separation, even in the animal, was necessary to create a greater awareness which it was impossible to acquire in the context of sympathetic numbers of their own kind. In the years I had already spent in devout observation of the creatures of Africa, it was most striking how these lone phenomena developed senses so keen that the beasts who preyed on them and their kind would leave them alone, because they realized they were no match for the qualities of vigilance produced by loneliness and isolation. It was, in fact, far easier to prey on animals who assumed that there was safety in numbers. If this were true and necessary for the increase and renewal of animal awareness, I often wondered how much more necessary it was for the human being. Unlike the animal, the human had no sheer, blind obedience to the will of nature which is instinctive. On the contrary, he had an inspired kind of disobedience to the laws of nature which led to a recommitment of life in a more demanding law of individuality designed for the growth of consciousness. This growth set the implacable pre-condition that any new awareness had to be lived out in isolation before it could be understood and known, and made accessible to society. I believed that Thor Kaspersen was just such a spirit.

-- Laurens van der Post, Yet Being Someone Other, p.75

          I had been watching the rise of Hitler in Germany with a terrible foreboding, increasingly dismayed by the inability of so many English and French to see the phenomenon for what I was convinced it was. In the course of the slow, impervious, and sullen pre-war years of ranting out of what seemed to me always a tranced, mediumistic state, Hitler said only one thing that struck me as real, and that was:   "I go the way fate has pointed me, like a man walking in his sleep." That and his own account of the dream which purported to have saved his life in alliance of unholy meaning for me.
          According to Hitler, he was asleep in an advanced salient of the German trenches when he dreamed that he was about to be engulfed in an upheaval of earth and mud. He broke out of this nightmare with the utmost difficulty. Feeling suffocated and fighting for breath, he stumbled out of the dug-out for air. He had hardly got clear when an enemy shell hit the post and killed all his companions. He himself looked upon this dream as an act of Providence intervening to save him for a greater destiny and from that moment the conviction that he was under the special protection of fate accelerated the process of inflation to which he was already prone.
          One could not doubt, of course, that on the literal level in its special context of war the dream had indeed saved his life for the moment. But there was for me another dimension to the dream, even more important. I thought that the dream addressed also the most urgent of warnings of another kind of peril to the dreamer himself. It seemed to be trying to tell him that he was in imminent danger of being overwhelmed, not so much by the physical earth as by what the earth stood for in the imagination.
          Always it has been one of the greatest images of titanic forces and urges of life that have their source below the daylight of reason in some dark underground of the human spirit, as great trees have their roots deep down in the blacked-out recesses of the earth. This dream, I felt, could not be warning the dreamer more clearly that he was in peril of being overwhelmed and suffocated in an upsurge of some dark, instinctive, unrecognised collective aspect of himself. Unless he woke up, in the sense that was an image of a process of being self-aware, and removed himself from the mass, the crowd, the collective pressures of whom his fellow soldiers were the image and their sleeping state the sign of their unawareness of their condition, he and they all would surely perish. The dream seemed to stress that his salvation was possible only in finding himself as an individual. But content in the purely literal surface manifestation of the dream, he neglected the cataclysmic warning latent in it. Reversing the deeper trend of his dream, he embarked on a course of rejoining the mass, the great mindless German collective compulsions to rally his countrymen round him in greater and more solidly congealed numbers than even the Kaiser had done.
          That one remark of his, read in the light of such a dream, appeared to me all one needed of explanation of Hitler and the Germans swarming to him like bees around their one and only sovereign. It was transformed at once from a dream metaphor into a proposition of a direct and profound scientific exactitude. He, Germany, and by hypnotic induction the whole of Western Europe at that moment, I was convinced, were walking towards unimagined disaster in a nightmare of sleep.
          History was written in a way that did not explain history and threw no light on its latent meaning. The legends and myths in which it has its roots and of which the dreaming process seemed so dynamic an element, as I had concluded in my amateur way. There seemed an underworld of history filled with forces far more powerful than the superficial ones that it professed to serve. Until this world was brought out into the light of day, recognised, and understood, I believed, an amply discredited pattern of self-inflicted death and disaster would continue to reiterate itself and dominate the human scene. I had even coined a name of my own for it and called it the "mythological dominant of history." I came to suspect that this area in myself, from which my childhood interest in dreams had come, was connected with it in a way not understood, because it was itself the subject of one of the most dangerous errors in our thinking. We assumed that "without" and "objective" were one and the same thing, as were "subjective" and "within." I believed that they were by no means synonymous and that there was something as objective within the human being as great as the objective without, and that men were subject to two great objective worlds, the physical world without and a world within, invisible except to the sensibilities of the imagination.
          That dream of Hitler, for instance, seemed to me as objective a fact as a cloud in the sky foretelling the storm to come. The lesson I had learned in childhood that no one could subject dreams to his own will or fancy had gone deep enough in me to make that at last clear. Dreams had a will of steel and a way of their own in their role as direct manifestations of this other objectivity. They were incapable of any falsehood; only our reading of them was liable to error, and I had an inkling that they and the prompting of this other objective within, and not even Freud's psychosexuality at its subtlest and inspired best, were the true source of mythology, religion, legend, and art, seeking and reseeking recognition and expression through our several histories. If denied those by fair means, they sought them by foul. Refused admission with a bland "not at home" at the front door of the spirit, they came in by force or stealth at the rear.
          Gerard Manley Hopkins had already said it definitively for me when he wrote that there were not only landscapes for us but "inscapes" as well, or, as he put it in one of his greatest poems,

                        O, the mind, the mind has mountains;
                                                                cliffs of fall,
                        Frightful, sheer, no-man-fathomed.

          And he added to those the words, "Hold them cheap may who ne'er hung there." Those words of his should have rung out like an alarm awakening a sleeping aspect of myself, had I not been so much the child of my own slanted and bigoted moment in time. All I can say in mitigation of myself is that I did not accept the statement just as great poetry but also as some kind of scientific axiom.
          Germany in the thirties by the day seemed to me such stuff as nightmares were made on, and everyone in the country goosestepping towards an abyss in a terrible dream of sleep. I thought I saw the new German hordes in the grip of a long, unacknowledged mythological dominant, grown terrible and angry through neglect and about to revenge itself not only upon Germany but an entire culture which had been indifferent to the legitimate claims of the forces of this "inscape" within themselves.

-- Laurens van der Post, Jung and the Story of Our Time, pp.19-22

          I had not said more to Ruud because I had a hunch that the less I told the rest of the crew about my exchanges with 'Mlangeni the easier it would be for him to confide in me. Also how explain to a man like Nils Ruud what had just passed between the two of us? How make a regular church-goer like Nils understand that 'Mlangeni, ostensibly one of the benighted [Zulu] heathen, was more aware of the world of the spirit and its claims than most of us? To 'Mlangeni everything from a grain of sand to the fire underneath his boiler, from the movement of an ant to the lowing of cattle at night, even the sneeze of a boy, were all significant manifestations of meaning. What would Nils Ruud have said had I told him that 'Mlangeni was such a dedicated, accepting servant of the spirit that we, by comparison, became brutal materialists rejecting it?
          Besides it was even more complicated than that. For one thing there was the fact that 'Mlangeni was black. I am not suggesting that the crew of the Kurt Hansen suffered from the kind of highly organized colour prejudice from which so many of my countrymen suffered. They were remarkably free of it and happily shared their quarters, ate at the same mess table with 'Mlangeni and shook hands with him as they did with one another. Yet his blackness did make a difference to them. Had he been white he would not, I am certain, have excited the constant curiosity that he did. Yet I had already learnt that there are many Europeans who are curious about primitive peoples not in order to understand them better, but just to laugh them out of the way. There had become something frightening to me about the European laughter over Africans and African practices. It was significant how, once the crew knew I spoke 'Mlangeni's language, they could never see the two of us in conversation without being drawn to us, like iron filings towards a magnet, to demand what we were discussing.
          I suppose black is the natural colour of what is strange and secret in the human spirit. It is the uniform of the unknown. Somehow 'Mlangeni through his blackness and his nearness to nature, was a personification of those aspects of the Kurt Hansen's blond crew which were hidden, or estranged from them; a living mirror wherein they saw the dark face of all that was rejected and out of reach in them themselves.
          Unfortunately therefore since the process of acquiring self-knowledge is by no means painless or without humiliation their natural curiosity had an undertow of suspicion and apprehension. It seems an a priori condition of our so-called success in civilizing ourselves that what is to be rejected must in itself be proved to be something discreditable. Consequently the crew were both attracted and repulsed by 'Mlangeni. Not, I stress, because of anything in his character but because unknowingly they associated him with their own.

-- Laurens van der Post, The Hunter and the Whale, pp.88-89

It is not difficult to like people provided they have something in their lives that they themselves like. Liking begets liking. The difficult people are the great critics, the ones who cannot find anything in life to like.

-- Laurens van der Post, Venture To The Interior, p.112

          It is one of the laws of life that the new meaning must be lived before it can be known, and in some mysterious way modern man knows so much that he is the prisoner of his knowledge. The old dynamic conception of the human spirit as something living always on the frontiers of human knowledge has gone. We hide behind what we know. And there is an extraordinarily angry and aggressive quality in the knowledge of modern man; he is angry with what he does not know; he hates and rejects it. He has lost the sense of wonder about the unknown and he treats it as an enemy. The experience which is before knowing, which would enflame his life with new meaning, is cut off from him. Curiously enough, it has never been studied more closely. People have measured the mechanics of it, and the rhythm, but somehow they do not experience it.

-- Laurens van der Post, Patterns of Renewal, p.2

          History was written in a way that did not explain history and threw no light on its latent meaning. The legends and myths in which it has its roots and of which the dreaming process seemed so dynamic an element, as I had concluded in my amateur way. There seemed an underworld of history filled with forces far more powerful than the superficial ones that it professed to serve. Until this world was brought out into the light of day, recognised, and understood, I believed, an amply discredited pattern of self-inflicted death and disaster would continue to reiterate itself and dominate the human scene. I had even coined a name of my own for it and called it the "mythological dominant of history." I came to suspect that this area in myself, from which my childhood interest in dreams had come, was connected with it in a way not understood, because it was itself the subject of one of the most dangerous errors in our thinking. We assumed that "without" and "objective" were one and the same thing, as were "subjective" and "within." I believed that they were by no means synonymous and that there was something as objective within the human being as great as the objective without, and that men were subject to two great objective worlds, the physical world without and a world within, invisible except to the sensibilities of the imagination.
          That dream of Hitler, for instance, seemed to me as objective a fact as a cloud in the sky foretelling the storm to come. The lesson I had learned in childhood that no one could subject dreams to his own will or fancy had gone deep enough in me to make that at last clear. Dreams had a will of steel and a way of their own in their role as direct manifestations of this other objectivity. They were incapable of any falsehood; only our reading of them was liable to error, and I had an inkling that they and the prompting of this other objective within, and not even Freud's psychosexuality at its subtlest and inspired best, were the true source of mythology, religion, legend, and art, seeking and reseeking recognition and expression through our several histories. If denied those by fair means, they sought them by foul. Refused admission with a bland "not at home" at the front door of the spirit, they came in by force or stealth at the rear.

-- Lauren van der Post, Jung and the Story of Our Time, pp.20-21

I have always had a profound respect for aboriginal superstition, not as formulations of literal truth, but as a way of keeping the human spirit obedient to aspects of reality that are beyond rational articulation.

-- Lauren van der Post, The Lost World of the Kalahari, p.173

Human beings are perhaps never more frightening than when they are convinced beyong any doubt that they are right.

-- Lauren van der Post, The Lost World of the Kalahari, p.55

[E]ver since i can remember, I have been attracted by deserts in a way I do not properly understand. I have always loved above all others what I call Cinderella country. I know of nothing more exciting to my imagination than discovering in the waste land, which the established world rejects as ugly and sterile, a beauty and promise of rare increase not held out anywhere else in life. I am not the only one who has felt a strange desert compulsion, as the country round the three great pans of Tsane, Lehututu and Hukhuntsi reminded me on this ample afternoon. Many others, with an obsession even greater than my own, had been that way before me. . . .
          Another who came this way, though finally he settled in the Kalahari farther north, was a friend of mine, Tom Hardbattle. I have always suspected that there are names which cannot fail to have a profound influence on the character of the persons on whom they are bestowed. Tom's, I believe, was the kind of name on which a personality turns. I know nothing about his childhood, but I would not be surprised to learn that he was in battle from the start, for in all the years I have known him he has been hard at war of some kind. An ex-London policeman who fought with a City contingent in the South African War at the beginning of the century, he could not face returning to a metropolitan livelihood. He had had enough of houses, chimney pots and a measured beat in a narrow street. He loved the openness of the South African scene and instinctively made for the wildest and emptiest part of it. . . . It took him forty-five years to attain security and some comfort of life, but he was never tempted to give up and return to England.
          "I found all I wanted here, and here I'll stay until the end," he told me in one of this last letters. But what had he wanted? It is easy to answer negatively -- that it was clearly something the outside world in this view could not give him. But what? A personal challenge and call to individual battle? I am certain that had much to do with it. I suspect it was also the old story of the implaccable necessity of a man having honour within his own natural spirit. A man cannot live and temper his metal without such honour. There is deep in him a sense of heroic quest; and our modern way of life, with its emphasis on security, its distrust of the unknown and its elevation of abstract collective values, has repressed the herioc impulse to a degree that may produce the most dangerous consequences. One has only to observe the great paradox of our time:   how, in the midst of the imposing display of public welfare, the private sense of neglect and insecurity has grown in the heart of the individual man.

-- Laurens van der Post, The Heart of the Hunter, pp.76,80-1.

          We know so much intellectually, indeed, that we are in danger of becoming the prisoners of our knowledge. We suffer from a hubris of the mind. We have abolished superstition of the heart only to install a superstition of the intellect in its place. We behave as if there were some magic in mere thought, and we use thinking for purposes for which it was never designed. As a result we are no longer sufficiently aware of the importance of what we cannot know intellectually, what we must know in other ways, of the living experience before and beyond our transitory knowledge. The passion of the spirit, which would inspire man to live his finest hour dangerously on the exposed frontier of his knowledge, seemed to me to have declined into a vague and arid restlessness hiding behind an arrogant intellectualism, as a child of arrested development hides behind the skirts of its mother.
          Intellectually, modern man knows almost all there is to know about the pattern of creation in himself, the forms it takes, the surface designs it describes. He has measured the pitch of its rhythms and carefully recorded all the mechanics. From the outside he sees the desirable first object of life more clearly perhaps than man has ever seen it before. But less and less is he capable of committing himself body and soul to the creative experiment that is continually seeking to fire him and to charge his little life with great objective meaning. Cut off by accumulated knowledge from the heart of his own living experience, he moves among a comfortable rubble of material possession, alone and unbelonging, sick, poor, starved of meaning. How different the naked little Bushman, who could carry all he possessed in one hand! Whatever his life lacked, I never felt it was meaning. Meaning for him died only when we bent him to our bright twentieth-century will. Otherwise, he was rich where we were poor; he walked clear-cut through my mind, clothed in his own vivid experience of the dream of life within him. By comparison most of the people I saw on my way to the sea were blurred, and like the knight at arms in Keats' frightening allegory, "palely loitering" through life.

-- Laurens van der Post, The Heart of the Hunter, pp.137-8.

          I myself was utterly opposed to any form of war trials. I refused to collaborate with the officers of the various war crimes tribunals that were set up in the Far East. There seemed to me something unreal, if not utterly false, about a process that made men, like war crimes investigators from Europe, who had not suffered under the Japanese more bitter and vengeful about our suffering than we were ourselves. There seemed in this the seeds of the great, classic and fateful evasions in the human spirit which, I believe, both in the collective and in the individual sense, have been responsible for most of the major tragedies of recorded life and time and are increasingly so in the tragedies that confront us in the world today. I refer to the tendencies in men to blame their own misfortunes and those of their cultures on others; to exercise judgement they need for themselves in the lives of others; to search for a villain to explain everything that goes wrong on their private and collective courses. It was easy to be high-minded always in the life of others and afterwards to feel one had been high-minded in one's own. The whole of history, it seemed to me, had been bedevilled by this unconscious and instant mechanism of duplicity in the mind of man. As I saw it, we had no moral surplus in our own lives for the lives of others. We needed all our moral energies for ourselves and our own societies.

-- Laurens van der Post, The Night of the New Moon, pp.151-2.

          I had been drawn steadily over the years to a conclusion which has become almost a major article of faith. Men, I believed, were their own greatest villain -- they themselves the flies in their own ointment. Villains undoubtedly do exist in the wide world without. But they do so in a mysterious and significant state of inter-dependence with the profoundest failures and inadequacies in ourselves and our attitudes to life. It is almost as if the villain without is a Siamese twin of all that is wrong within ourselves. The only sure way to rid life of villains, I believed, after years of thinking about it in prison, was to rid ourselves first of the villain within our own individual and native collective contexts. If we could take care of the measure of the failures in ourselves, I was certain that the world on the whole would ultimately take better care of itself.

-- Laurens van der Post, The Night of the New Moon, pp.152-3.

          I felt strongly that if war had had any justification at all it was only in the sense that at its end, it should leave victors and vanquished free for a moment from the destructive aspects of their past. Modern war appeared to me a grim autonomous state of life carrying within itself, its own harsh system of reward and punishment for those who waged it. It was almost as if war today were a bitter form of penance for all our inadequate yesterdays. Once this terrible penance had been paid, my own experience suggested, it re-established men in a brief state of innocence which, if seized with imagination, could enable us to build better than before. To go looking for particular persons and societies to blame and punish at the end of war seemed to me to throw men back into the negative aspects of the past from which they had been trying to escape, and to deprive them of the opportunity they had so bitterly earned to begin afresh.

-- Laurens van der Post, The Night of the New Moon, p.153

          In any case, I did not believe then as I do not believe now, that you could punish whole peoples or even solitary individuals into being better persons. This seemed a renegade, discredited and utterly archaic concept. It has been tried throughout history. Far from being an instrument of redemption, which is punishment's only moral justification, it is an increasingly self-defeating weapon in the hands of dangerously one-sided men. I know only that I came out of prison longing passionately -- and I am certain my longing was shared by all the thousands of men who had been with me -- that the past would be recognized as the past and instantly buried before it spread another form of putrefaction in the spirit of our time. I thought that the only hope for the future lay in an all-embracing attitude of forgiveness of the peoples who had been our enemies. Forgiveness, my prison experience had taught me, was not mere religious sentimentality; it was as fundamental a law of the human spirit as the law of gravity. If one broke the law of gravity one broke one's neck; if one broke this law of forgiveness one inflicted a mortal wound on one's spirit and became once again a member of the chain-gang of mere cause and effect from which life has labored so long and painfully to escape.

-- Laurens van der Post, The Night of the New Moon, pp.153-4.

          There were many people who would try to prove to Francois that this kind of thinking was nonsense. Their condemnation would be all the more convincing because the world was full of know-alls who knew only what they knew and no longer what they did not know. To them, that there could be proof of any relationship between the mind and spirit of civilised man and the mind of the natural world, would be ridiculous. But this, Mopani said, was in his view the sickness in so-called civilised people. In the final analysis one had to stand by one's own experience of life and refuse to allow any one-sided specialist to discredit it.

-- Laurens van der Post, "The Birds Change Their Tune,"
in A Story Like The Wind, p. 277

          The lightning vanished, leaving our own great fire looking small and Ben saying conclusively out of his reminiscent self that the promise of plenty of food and water on the spot often would not keep Bushmen back when the lightning called them from below the horizon after a long period of darkness and silence. It was like their God beckoning them:   they could not help but obey. Even the tame Bushmen working close around the desert would be made unbearably restless by it, until one morning their white and black employers woke up and found them gone. It had happened to him with his Bushmen servants, and he wouldn't be surprised if in the morning we found our own Bushmen gone.
          "Gone by the morning?" Duncan exclaimed, as if he had other hopes for them and himself. "Gone without even saying thank you for what we have done for them?"
          His dismay was so genuine that we all laughed. Besides, his last remark touched on an old controversy. Some of my companions were continually worried by the apparent inability of Africans in general and Bushmen in particular to say thank you for any help or gifts made to them.
          Ben answered him, not without a certain amused irony.
          "But surely you would not expect thanks from anyone for the little we have done? Surely you do not want to be thanked merely for having behaved well? Do you expect a woman to say `thank you' every time you raise your hat to her? Well, however much we appear to have done for the Bushmen here, to them it is just good manners and no more than was to be expected of properly brought up people. If our positions were reversed, they would without hesitation do the same for us or anyone else, but they would not expect to be thanked for it. No! They would not risk insulting you by suggesting with a `thank you' that it was unusual for you to behave well!"
          Ben appealed to me for support amid the laughter his explanation provoked. I have suffered all over Africa from the delusion of Europeans that, because the indigenous peoples of the dark continent have not the fulsome expressions for gratitude we have, they feel no gratitude. It was as unreal to me as another prejudice noticed long ago in Britain -- that since the French had no single word for home, they did not really value their home-life. I had no hesitation in backing up Ben with an example of the Bushmen's regard for manners. I told my companions a story I once heard from Faanie Ritchie. She had known Lucy Lloyd and the Bleeks, who were the first people ever to make a serious study of the Bushman tongue. In order to do so they had gained permission from the government at the Cape to house at the bottom of their garden in a suburb of Table Bay a number of Bushman convicts from the national jail. The Bushmen soon became very attached to the Bleek family, with the exception of one little man. He behaved so badly that the Bleeks one day asked the Bushmen why he was difficult when they were all good and helpful.
          "Oh, but don't you know?" they exclaimed amazed:   "He was brought up by Europeans!"

-- Laurens van der Post, The Heart of the Hunter, pp.29-31

There's nothing wrong in searching for happiness. But we're using happiness there in a term as if it were the ultimate of human striving. And actually what we found in prison, and I find in life, which gives far more comfort to the soul, is something which is greater than happiness or unhappiness and that is meaning. Because meaning transfigures all. And once what you are living and you are doing has for you meaning, it is irrelevant whether you are happy or unhappy. You're content. You're not alone in your spirit. You belong.

-- Hasten Slowly, The Journey of Sir Laurens van der Post, 1996

          Kneeling there I found myself instantly and profoundly moved by it. I've seen many people die in many different ways, but I never get used to dying and death. I always feel when I meet it as if it comes for the first time, and I uncover all my mind and heart humbly before such uncomprehended royalty. This man was an utter stranger to me, but in that look he was suddenly very close, was almost part of me, if only because we are in life all near to one another in our common nearness to this end which ultimately makes us one.

-- Laurens van der Post, Flamingo Feather, p.8

          And there I must leave it. In most lives, and particularly in a life such as mine, points of departure inevitably are arbitrary, and so become ends, ends indeed of other beginnings. This end, too, which comes down like a curtain upon us is the end only of that search which brings a man to the threshold of his private and personal task, the task that life demands of him day and night in his blood:   to live with love out of love, to live the vision beyond reason or time which draws him from the centre of his being as the vision of Joan drew me, in spite of my fearful, conscious self. To serve this vision, to protect it against all plausible substitutes, reasonable approximations, and coward compromises is still, I believe, the knightly duty of contemporary man. If he shirks it, I believe, he shall never know inner peace. If a man accepts the challenge, however, even if his vision is never confirmed, as mine was, in flesh and blood but forever beckons him in a quicksilver reflection of a cause beyond himself, then he has only to remain steadfast in pursuit of it and his life will achieve, as John's had done, something which is greater than happiness and unhappiness -- and that is meaning.

-- Laurens van der Post, Flamingo Feather, p.341

          As his eyes opened with this great impersonal tide of light, he seemed to have just enough of his receding self left to distinguish my white face close to his black one and to read the compassion in my eyes. Then the most amazing thing happened. A slow, fluttering smile moved over his thick, firm lips and he said quite distinctly, "It is you, Bwana. It is you I see -- ekenonya! Ekenonya!"
          I wish I could translate the meaning of "ekenonya" adequately but, alas, there is no English equivalent and it must be experienced and lived to be fully appreciated. I can only say that it is a kind of ecstatic "thank you," an expression of the most profound gratitude of which the Amangtakwena are capable. It is a "thank you" addressed not merely to another person or even to a god, but to all life and all the great shimmering African totality of things. And as he said "thank you" thus, he died.

-- Laurens van der Post, Flamingo Feather, p.8-9

          I find it so tragic and ironical that the age in which we live should regard the word "myth" and "illusion" as synonymous, in view of the fact that the myth is the real history, is the real event of the spirit. It is this immense world of meaning with which the image links us. The myth is the tremendous activity that goes on in humanity all the time, without which no society has hope or direction, and no personal life has a meaning. We all live a myth whether we know it or not. We live it by fair means or we live it by foul. Or we live it by a process or a combination of both. We have a myth that we live badly. The Christian myth is a myth in the real sense of the word.

-- Laurens van der Post, Race Prejudice as Self Rejection, 1957, p.18

`Why' in any case is a severely limited question as the child discovers from the moment it begins to talk. It produces limited answers, limited as a rule to the mechanics and laws of the world, universe and life of man. But the human heart and mind come dishearteningly quickly to their frontiers and need something greater to carry on beyond the last `why'. This beyond is the all-encompassing universe of what the Chinese called Tao and a Zen Buddhist friend, in despair over the rationalist premises native to Western man, tried to make me understand as a newly-graduated man by calling `the great togetherness' and adding, `in the great togetherness there are no "whys", only "thuses" and you just have to accept as the only authentic raw material of your spirit, your own "thus" which is always so.' In and out of these great togethernesses it came to appear to me that the story brings us a sense of this unique `so' that is to be the seed of becoming in ourselves during the time which is our lot.

-- Laurens van der Post, "Witness to a Last Will of Man,"
p.137 of Testament to the Bushman, 1984

          One of the most deceptive of popular half-truths is the saying that history repeats itself. Only unredeemed, unrecognized, misunderstood history, I believe, repeats itself, and remains a dark, negative and dangerous dominant on the scene of human affairs. Although the Bushman has gone, what he personified, the patterns of spirit made flesh and blood in him and all he evoked or provoked in us, lives on as a ghost within ourselves. This is no subjective illusion of mine evoked by the special relationship I have always had with him. Something like him, a first man, is dynamic in the underworld of the spirit of man, no matter of what race, creed or culture. I know this as an empiric fact because of all the books I have written and films I have made about the Bushman; his story has been translated into all languages except Chinese, travelled the world and been taken into the hearts of millions as if it were food in a universal famine of spirit. What this means for our own time depends in the first instance on our rediscovery of these patterns in ourselves and our readiness to cease being accessories after the fact of diminished consciousness, of which murder is the ultimate symbol. As Hamlet in his haunted fortress had it, when the time is out of joint, as ours certainly is, the readiness is all.

-- Laurens van der Post, "Witness to a Last Will of Man,"
p.123 of Testament to the Bushman, 1984

          The real trouble began for me, as it has done for countless others, when I sought to understand imaginatively the primitive in ourselves, and in this search the Bushman has always been for me a kind of frontier guide. Imagination shifts and passes, as it were, through a strange customs post on the fateful frontier between being and unrealized self, between what is and what is to come. The questions that have to be answered before the imagination is allowed through are not new but have to be redefined because of their long neglect and the need for answers to be provided in the idiom of our own day. For instance, in what does man now find his greatest meaning? Indeed, what is meaning itself for him and where its source? What are the incentives and motivations of his life when they clearly have nothing to do with his struggle for physical survival? What is it in him that compels him, against all reason and all the prescriptions of law, order and morality, still to do repeatedly what he does not consciously want to do? What is this dark need in the life of the individual and society for tragedy and disaster? Since the two World Wars that have occurred in my own lifetime, disorder and violence have become increasingly common on the world scene. Surely these things are rooted in some undiscovered breach of cosmic law or they would be eminently resistible and would not be allowed to occur? Where indeed does one propose to find an explanation for the long history of human failure? How can one hope to understand this aspect of man and his societies, and comprehend a scene littered with ruins and piled high with dunes of time which mark the places where countless cultures have vanished because men would not look honestly, wholly and steadily into the face of their inadequacies? The answers to none of these questions are available unless one is prepared through profound self-knowledge to re-learn the grammar of a forgotten language of self-betrayal, and in so doing the meaning of tragedy and disaster. It is the ineluctable preliminary to our emancipation, especially for those priests and artists who have been subverting themselves and the societies which they are dedicated to preserve. Unless one is honestly prepared to do so, one is warned at this crepuscular immigration post that one had better not cross the frontier.

-- Laurens van der Post, "Witness to a Last Will of Man,"
pp.124-5 of Testament to the Bushman, 1984

          All this may seem as remote from the Bushmen and Stone-age culture as to be irrelevant. Yet in reality it has an a priori significance not only for understanding the nature of primitive being but for preventing the contraction of individual consciousness which is such an alarming symptom of our collectivist day and promoting the enlargement of individual consciousness into an expanding awareness on which the renewal of our societies depends. The collectivist and intellectual turned `intellectualist', the promoter of `isms' of the intellect that are to the sanity of being and spirit what viruses are to the body, will no doubt find it absurd but it is precisely because the Bushman has been a scout and frontier guide to me from infancy in the same dark labyrinthine underworld of human nature which Shakespeare entered precipitately with Hamlet, that I have been compelled to tell the world about him. From time to time during my life I try to reappraise what the Bushman has done for me and here I do so probably for the last time. I cannot disguise that for many years I lost conscious sight of him as I went my own wilful way but instinctively he was always there and bound never to mislead or fail. He could not fail, as I realized looking back on to the vortex of the movement which he started in my imagination, because I recognized with the clarity and precision of instinct of the child that he was still charged with magic and wonder. He was an example of a `spy of God', to follow beyond the well-dug trenches of the aggressive Calvinist consciousness of our community into some no-man's land of the spirit where he had taken upon him the mystery of things. He, too, was from the beginning `such stuff as dreams are made on' and had soldiered on in the field where the prophetic soul of the wide world also dreamed of things to come.

-- Laurens van der Post, "Witness to a Last Will of Man,"
pp.125-6 of Testament to the Bushman, 1984

. . . To add to my heightening apprehension, I recognized the dread power of jealousy.
          However much the grown-up world might pretend to be immune to such primordial urges, we children knew better. However angelic the best of us may have looked, we were not in danger of thinking of ourselves as `only babies small, dropped from the sky'. This embarrassing euphemism featured in a song popular among `respectable' young women of the day who had been shamed into using it by Calvinist indoctrination. Exposed to all the processes of birth, procreation and death that went on around us in the natural world from the moment we ourselves were born, we had a more realistic view of life. We, therefore, instantly recognized, feared and were perpetually perplexed by adult hypocrisy and prejudices in primordial things. We knew and both gloried and suffered daily from the fact that we were as open and subject to storm from all the primeval urges as the sea is to the great winds that travel the world and time. How could I, for instance, as one of fifteen children, not begin with jealousy of the child that displaced me? Had it not been that the love available in our own vast family was impartially accessible and at the service of all, envy, jealousy and competitiveness could have distorted us. But happily I could not recollect a single act of parental favouritism. Scrutinizing the family record as I have over many years, I am uplifted by it. It was not until my mother was dying that I discovered that she had had a favourite after all without ever having succumbed to favouritism.
          One began to learn early, therefore, that this basic form of insecurity, jealousy, could only be experienced without damage to oneself and others and ultimately one can only be redeemed from it and the fears it engenders, by a kind of emotion of self-courage. This has to be induced by reconciliation with the valid needs of others living in an atmosphere of love. This selfless love was the centre of our family. It remains an irrefutable social and individual premise, that no culture has ever been able to provide a better shipyard for building storm-proof vessels for the journey of man from the cradle to the grave than the individual nourished in a loving family.

-- Laurens van der Post, "Witness to a Last Will of Man,"
pp.130-1 of Testament to the Bushman, 1984

          From that moment of illumination from the light of a star story, my appetite for Bushman stories, myth and legend grew and I clamoured for more. For years Klara and my mother complied. And as my interest in Bushman stories grew, the attractions of the fairy-tales of the Western world which were also thrust on me lessened, only the Greek myths and stories from the Old Testament still holding my imagination. It was not that I despised the Brothers Grimm, Hans Christian Andersen, or Andrew Lang but their characters were comparatively pale and remote proxies of those of men, animals and plants that were the heroic and anti-heroic material and settings of the Bushman stories. These were peopled with an immense cast of characters from the physical world into which I had been born and were the essential stuff of my imagination, dreams and being. There were even times when I felt sorry for European children fed on such anaemic food, so deprived of the trace-elements and forms of natural life that were lightning conductors of miracle and magic in my childhood. The more complex stories and literature of the West only moved into my imagination when the last Bushman story had been told.

-- Laurens van der Post, "Witness to a Last Will of Man,"
p.133 of Testament to the Bushman, 1984

          Perhaps uniquely, therefore, the Stone-age Bushman had leisure and this explains why and how he could evolve the richest and most complex form of Stone-age civilization in Africa. That is why in The Heart of the Hunter I turned to the record of Bushman civilization and gave it preference over others I knew as well. I use the word `civilization' rather than culture deliberately because of the Bushman's extraordinary achievement in the detail of his daily routine, and in the realm of the spirit through his myths, legends, stories, music, dancing and paintings. They are all without trace of the hubris to which Greek, Roman and Hebraic man were so prone that they feared it as the greatest source of evil. The inspiration of Bushman painting embraced not only `magical' aspirations but all aspects of man and his surroundings, from the immediacies of his day to the most complex and subtle intimations of reality and immortality. Specialists in this field are usually not artists themselves. They tend to approach their subject with the preconceived attitudes imposed on them by the basic assumptions of their own discipline, conceived in a cultural context that could not be more remote and alien to that of the Bushman. I know of none among those who have written on Bushman art, for instance, who has thought it necessary to acquire in depth a knowledge of symbolism, comparative mythology and psychology. They need to recognize that the dream is the gateway to the meaning of our prehistoric past on which our sense of continuity and the totality of history depends. Indeed history is nothing if it is not so illuminated. Life is made intuitive and instinctive and inscribed in the forgotten language of the dream and its symbols. Dreams finally are the main instruments with which the meaning and achievement of Stone-age culture can be decoded, and the quintessential humanity of the Bushman unlocked. Indeed the Bushman was and, to an extent, remains what we, increasingly cut off from our natural selves and the little that is left of the natural world, can only dream of today. It is a constant source of amazement and of hope to me, that I have not been to a continent or island from East to West, where I have not found that when men fall asleep something like the Bushman awakes and beckons them.

-- Laurens van der Post, "Witness to a Last Will of Man,"
pp.134-5 of Testament to the Bushman, 1984

          Creatures of nature can live on and dominate a world of human society as, for instance, in the stories of Beatrix Potter whose own safe passage from childhood in the claustrophobic confines of a house in London to unimpaired womanhood and marriage, was due to the pets she kept in cages in her bedroom in Kensington and the fantasies she wove round them in isolation. The role of the mouse in her Tailor of Gloucester first excited me as a child, because it is similar to the role of the striped mouse in one of my first Bushman stories where it, too, is an image of the hidden fecundity and infinitely detailed little forces of great powers that live in the wainscots of our cat-like consciousness. They emerge only after dark and under the protective cover of the great objective unconscious to further causes of creation which can only be done in secrecy just as the seed can only germinate in the darkness and privacy of the earth. I can think of other instances from Alice in Wonderland to Black Beauty, National Velvet and Animal Farm. The animals from oysters to horses and pigs are epic and seminal material of the questing imagination of man when the abstract and cerebral word fails it.
          They abound, too, in folklore and fairy-tales and in Africa, there are great Bantu nations who still put the soul of their people in the keeping of some animal and call themselves Men of the Crocodile, Elephant, Baboon, Duiker and so on. All these things are incontrovertible testimony to how new forms of life are not merely fresh stages in the mechanistics of zoological and botanical evolution, but each one of them a unique and truly proven achievement. They are a leap forward of spirit made visible and alive, and hence an organic and dynamic element of our being which instinct and intuition put at the disposal of the child. By maintaining continuity of origin and destination and deepening our roots in aboriginal earth they promote a growth of awareness high and wide into the blue of our own day.

-- Laurens van der Post, "Witness to a Last Will of Man,"
pp.147-8 of Testament to the Bushman, 1984

Isolated from the great tides of civilization ebbing and swelling like the seas over Asia and Europe, the Bushman fought the battle for light and creation in his own triumphant way, transforming darkness into light and as he renewed and increased himself, he held back the forces that sought to deny life, until European and Bantu man arrived to quench him. Considering how long that old, old Africa had been there, a known unknown, a mystery in the full sun, and that none of the great civilizations surrounding it had been able to penetrate its natural frontiers and explore it, one would have thought this achievement alone would have entitled the Bushman to respect and been a passport to human consideration by the invaders. Yet despite all this, there appeared to have been something just in what he was which provoked all that was worst in the invaders and aroused the extreme self-righteousness which can only be justified by the unconscious guilt for the wounds man inflicts on himself. It resulted in this compulsion to kill in the illusion that he would only have to remove the external reminders of this primordial unrest to calm his conscience forever. It was all summed up for me in the cry of explanation that both white and black sent echoing, like the voice of Cain, down the canyons of the centuries, `You see. He just would not tame!'

-- Laurens van der Post, "Witness to a Last Will of Man,"
p.149 of Testament to the Bushman, 1984

          The essence of this being [of the Bushmen], I believe, was his sense of belonging: belonging to nature, the universe, life and his own humanity. He had committed himself utterly to nature as a fish to the sea. He had no sense whatsoever of property, owned no animals and cultivated no land. Life and nature owned all and he accepted without question that, provided he was obedient to the urge of the world within him, the world without, which was not separate in his spirit, would provide. How right he was is proved by the fact that nature was kinder to him by far than civilization ever was. This feeling of belonging set him apart from us on the far side of the deepest divide in the human spirit. There was a brief moment in our own great Greek, Roman, Hebraic story when his sort of being and our own were briefly reconciled and Esau, the first born, the hunter, kissed and forgave his brother Jacob, the strangely chosen of God, his betrayal. But after that Esau, like Ishmael before him, vanishes from our story and a strange longing hidden in some basement of the European spirit still waits with increasing tension for his return. Meanwhile, the divide in our consciousness between the Esau and the Jacob in man deepened and the Stone-age hunter and his values could not have been more remote and antagonistic to ours when we clashed increasingly in southern Africa. We were rich and powerful where he was poor and vulnerable; he was rich where we were poor and his spirit led to strange water for which we secretly longed. But, above all, he came into our estranged and divided vision, confident in his belonging and clothed as brightly as Joseph's coat of dream colours in his own unique experience of life. Where we became more and more abstracted and abstract, he drew closer to feeling and the immediacy of instinct and intuition. Indeed for him, his feeling values were the most important and the liveliest. Even the language he spoke was a feeling language, expressing reality not in ideas, calculation and abstraction so much as through the feelings provoked in him. He would speak of how the sun, feeling itself to be sitting prettily in the sky and feeling itself to be warm, believed it could make people on the cold earth feel warm as well. His language, therefore, was poetic rather than realistic and though, of course, he was not indifferent to a robust range of the sort of verbs we favour, all usages of his grammar, still warm from the presses of his aboriginal imagination, were contained in an assessment of reality and meaning through feeling.
          This pre-eminence of feeling for natural forms of life was attached to him from birth. The family became his fundamental social and universal unit and his feeling of belonging was so wide and deep that all on earth and the universe were family to him. It was the unchanging rod in his bureau of standards by which experience of reality and a sense of future were measured. He seemed to have felt no need to organize himself into tribes or nations. He moved naturally as hunter societies do, in small family groups, and his contact with others of his own kind appears to have been unusually free of friction and dominated by the consideration that they were a family among other human families and one and all, they were part of a universal family.
          He was never imperilled as we are by numbers, and the blurring of the human spirit which their collective standards and approximations exact today. He had as a result no national organizations or institutions, no ruling establishment and therefore no kings, queens or presidents. The highest and noblest titles he could bestow were those of `grandfather' and `grandmother'. And since the stars, with which the nights of the southern hemisphere are so densely packed that one can hear them straining at the seam of the milky way in the stillness, since they were family too, he naturally addressed the greatest of them as grandfather and grandmother, since there was no discrimination of value and dignity between the sexes.

-- Laurens van der Post, "Witness to a Last Will of Man,"
pp.150-1 of Testament to the Bushman, 1984

          As important [for the Bushmen] as the element of belonging was the feeling of being known. Perhaps this more than anything else sets him apart from us and the rest of Africa. In this connection we must not forget that the great black societies of Africa from which we derive our notions of the primitive, were and are not primitive at all. They were already extremely advanced in what we like to term the stages on the way to civilization; they, too, were people of property, with sophisticated concepts of life, law, order and makeshift ideological abstractions of their own. Moreover, they had already succumbed to the heresy of numbers and inflicted on themselves the stifling collective priorities in which socialism and communism are now trying to imprison the life of our time, as if they were the newest leap forward instead of a lethal somersault backwards into an amply discredited pattern of spirit.

-- Laurens van der Post, "Witness to a Last Will of Man,"
pp.151-2 of Testament to the Bushman, 1984

          We have become perhaps the most bigoted collection of know-all cultures and sects the world has ever seen but this sense of being known, which accompanied, uplifted and preserved the Bushman from extremes and held him accountable throughout his thousand and one centuries alone in the vastness of Africa, has vanished from the heart of modern man. All that Klara told me, all I read, and all I experienced of the Bushman in the years I knew him in his last keep in the heartland of the Kalahari, almost overwhelmed me with nostalgia for this shining sense of belonging, of being known and possessing a cosmic identity of one's own, recognized by all from insect to sun, moon and stars which kept him company, so that he felt he had the power to influence them as they influenced and helped him. All was two-way traffic and honourable reciprocity. I have already anticipated some of this obliquely in the story of the Morning Star and his response to the appearance of Canopus and Sirius, the grandmother stars, in his night sky but there was more of this in the practical detail of his everyday life.
          For instance, as a hunter he would call on the stars to guide the hand that released the arrow from his bow, with a certainty that was as much a command as a prayer:   `Thou shalt take my arm with which I do not kill. For I miss my aim, Thou shalt give me Thine arm.' He already knew himself well enough to be in battle against error and fallibility and falsehood in himself and to turn to the cosmic pattern of stars and constellations, in ordered courses where falsehood and error did not exist, to overcome his own inadequacies.

-- Laurens van der Post, "Witness to a Last Will of Man,"
pp.152 of Testament to the Bushman, 1984

          For years I would watch the Bushman as I shall always remember him by countless such fires at nightfall, so confident and at home in his immense wasteland, full of an unappeasable melancholy. He was the Esau being we daily betrayed in our partial and slanted modern awareness and instead of blaming ourselves for the betrayal, we projected it on to him to such an extent that we had to kill him as Cain killed Abel. Yet, though he himself is vanishing fast from the vision of our physical senses as Esau vanished from the great story which contained as it fashioned the foundations of our culture, he lives on in each one of us through an indefinable guilt that grows great and angry in some basement of our own being. The artist and the seer, even though the priests who should have known it best have forgotten it for the moment, know there is an Esau, a first man, a rejected pattern of being within us which is personified by something similar to a Bushman hunter, without whom they cannot create and sustain a vision of time fulfilled on which a life of meaning depends.
          As they create and dream their dreams by making his sort of being contemporary, by linking that which was first with what is new and latest and all that is still to come, they do work of cosmic importance and in the process are invaded with a compassion for this betrayed Esau element that leads unerringly to a love that is overall and which knew him long before we were made. Like that which created creation, named or not named, known or unknown, he is always there.
          That this vital link with the first man in us is no subjective assumption of mine but objective truth is proved, I believe, by the striking parallels that exist between the basic images of his spirit and those of Shakespeare, Goethe, Blake and Valéry on which I have already drawn. I know of many more. But I believe these are enough to show how, in considerations such as these, we can proceed to dispel the lethal imperviousness in the cultures which compelled men to fear and extinguish him. Our diminishing civilizations can only renew themselves by a reconciliation between two everlasting opposites, symbolized by Cain and Abel, Jacob and Esau and, in our own day, by the Bushman and his murderer. We have no excuse left for not seeing how fatally divided against themselves the processes of civilization have been, and how horrific the consequences in the human spirit. Now there is only a re-dedication of man to knowing himself:   the command of both Christ and Apollo which can lead him to rediscover the wholeness lost in the beginning in a contemporary and greater form. Something of this sort is the armour the spirit needs for a future imperilled by corruption from the power we have acquired over the forces of nature. Since this future has come to include man's journey to the stars, the proportions that our humanity needs to protect it from brutalization by hubris of power and extremes of greed demand that we should look back to the moment the first man summoned his son, his future self, and gave him a stick of light with his fire, his awareness, and pointed it to a great feminine star, a mother figure through which an overall father begets. In that slight exercise of what the anthropologists label Stone-age superstition, the journey to space was born and made inevitable, and we have an inkling of why the first man thought of the glittering men of heaven as hunters.

-- Laurens van der Post, "Witness to a Last Will of Man,"
pp.154-5 of Testament to the Bushman, 1984

Added to the film record, Lost World of the Kalahari, I made in 1954-5, my book The Heart of the Hunter, and this film [Testament to the Bushman] made with Paul Bellinger and Jane Taylor, what we have written here is in a sense, therefore, a last will and testament. Late, partial and hurried as it was in the doing, it will make those who ponder its fragmentary bequests nonetheless rich because they are all he had left to bequeath of the wealth of natural spirit out of which in his own day he gave so abundantly with all the grace, willingness and fulness of which he in his time on earth was capable.

-- Laurens van der Post, "Witness to a Last Will of Man,"
p.160 of Testament to the Bushman, 1984

          First man, as I knew him and his history, was a remarkably gentle being, fierce only in defence of himself and the life of those in his keeping. He had no legends or stories of great wars among his own kind and regarded the killing of another human being except in self-defence as the ultimate depravity of his spirit. I was told a most moving story of how a skirmish between two clans in which just one man was killed on a long forgotten day of dust and heat and sulphur sun, caused them to renounce armed conflict forever. He was living proof to me of how the pattern of the individual in service of a self that is the manifestation of the divine in man was built into life at the beginning and will not leave him and the earth alone until it is fulfilled. It is no mere intellectual or ideological concept, however much that, too, may be needed, but a primary condition written into the contract of life with the creator.

-- Laurens van der Post, "Witness to a Last Will of Man,"
p.160 of Testament to the Bushman, 1984

          As I thought of the first man's instinctive sense for the meaning of life, I seemed to be more aware than ever of the loneliness creeping into the heart of modern man because he no longer sought the answers of life with the totality of his being. He was in danger of going back precisely to those discredited collective concepts and surrendering this precious gift of being an individual who is specific for the sake of the whole, an individual who believes that a union of conformity is weakness but that a union of diversities, of individuals who are different and specific, is truly strength. A grey, abstract, impersonal organization of a materialistic civilization seemed to be pressing in on us everywhere and eliminating these life-giving individual differences and sources of enrichment in us. Everywhere men were seeking to govern according to purely materialistic principles that make us interesting only in so far as we have uses. It was true even in Zululand, let alone Paris and London.
          I was speaking once to an old Zulu prophet who, when I asked him about their First Spirit, Unkulunkulu, said to me:   `But why are you interested in Unkulunkulu? People no longer talk about him. His praise names are forgotten. They only talk about things that are useful to them.'

-- Laurens van der Post, "Witness to a Last Will of Man,"
pp.160-1 of Testament to the Bushman, 1984

          This ancient reverence for the individual, so clear and unprovisional in the Bushman, has been lost, this individual dedicated to a self that is greater than the individual, who serves something inside himself that is a microcosm of the great wheeling universe. This individual who, by being his self, is in a state of partnership with an overwhelming act of creation and is thereby adding something to life that was not there before, is being taken away from us. We no longer feel the longing, the wonder and the belonging out of which new life is raised. In the depths of ourselves we feel abandoned and alone and therein is the sickness of our time.

-- Laurens van der Post, "Witness to a Last Will of Man,"
p.161 of Testament to the Bushman, 1984

          Human beings can enjoy anything except a state of meaninglessness of which it seems a great tide is creeping down upon us. Apparently nothing but conformity will do. Take, for instance, the concept we hear so much about -- the statistical notion of the average man. When you come to think about it, there is no such thing as an average man. It is like the average rainfall, which never falls. But because numbers have replaced unique and human considerations in the faceless abstractions of our time, we feel lost in a world where nobody cares any more for what we are in ourselves. Inevitably we cease to care in return. One of the most awful consequences is that as we lose touch with the natural man within, which demands a unique self of us, we lose respect for him. And as the natural man within loses honour, so too does nature without. We no longer feel reverence for nature, and defoliation of spirit and landscape are everywhere to be seen.
          It is only now that we have lost what I re-found in the Kalahari in the nineteen fifties when, for months on end, I moved through country no `sophisticated' man had ever set eyes on, that I realize in full what it meant and did for my own senses, brutalized by years of war. It was as if I had been in a great temple or cathedral and had a profound religious experience. I returned to the world, knowing that unless we recover our capacity for religious awareness, we will not be able to become fully human and find the self that the first man instinctively sought to serve and possess. Fewer and fewer of us can find it any more in churches, temples and the religious establishments of our time, much as we long for the churches to renew themselves and once more become, in a contemporary idiom, an instrument of pentecostal spirit. Many of us would have to testify with agonizing regret that despite the examples of dedicated men devoted to their theological vocation, they have failed to give modern man a living experience of religion such as I and others have found in the desert and bush. That is why what is left of the natural world matters more to life now than it has ever done before. It is the last temple on earth which is capable of restoring man to an objective self wherein his ego is transfigured and given life and meaning without end.
          Looking back with a nostalgia that I am powerless to describe and which often wakes me aching in the night and walks like my own shadow at my side, I must testify with all the power and lucidity of expression at my command that this lost world was one of the greatest of such temples, in which the first man and the animals, birds, insects, reptiles and all, had a glow upon and within them as if they had just come fresh and warm from the magnetic fringes of whoever made them. He and they were priests and acolytes of this first temple of life and the animals dominated his stories, his art, his dancing and imagination because they followed neither their own nor his will but solely that of their creator.
          Follow, I would add today, the first man in ourselves, as well as the rainbow pattern of beasts, birds and fish that he weaves into the texture of the dreams of a dreaming self, and we shall recover a kind of being that will lead us to a self where we shall see, as in a glass, an image reflected of the God who has all along known and expected us.

-- Laurens van der Post, "Witness to a Last Will of Man,"
pp.161-2 of Testament to the Bushman, 1984

This moon which lifted Mantis out of hate and the black rejection, is an image charged with evocation of the capacities with which life has equipped the human spirit to see through the darkness that falls when his conscious self fails. It is the symbol of all the feminine values, the caring, feeling values, the receptive spirit charged with wonder and hope and the glow, as the shining of the moon, that is intuition and its shy intimations of new being and becoming that make the opaque past, the dark present and obscure future, translucent with inner light, as was the comb of wild African honey that Mantis used to make the eland great and [Bushmen] Stone-age spirit new.
          We live, I wrote at the end of a long desert exploration some thirty years ago, in a sunset hour of time and need the light of this moon of Mantis, this feminine Ariadne soul, which conducts the travel-stained prodigal son of man on a labyrinthine journey to the innermost chamber of his spirit where he meets the `thou that heals'. Had it not been for the Bushman I myself would not have the confirmation, the certainty and continuity of hope in the wholeness of an origin and a destination that is one and holy. And I wish I could take each one of these anonymous fragments of those remaining Stone-age men and women by the arm and say to them before they vanish: `Thank you, and please go in the dignity that is your right. You and your fathers were not beasts and cattle but hunters after meaning:   painters of animal eucharist and metamorphosis of man on canvasses of rock; tellers of stories that were seeds of new awareness; dancers of dances that restored men to the fellowship of the stars and moon and made them heal one another; and makers of music in which the future sings. They have altogether travelled a way of the truth that would make men free.'
          In this, I know, they did not live in vain, however much the desecrated present denies their children. We need their spirit still. We who loom so large on the scene are not better than they, only more powerful with a power that corrupts us still. It is we who shall have lived in vain unless we follow on from where their footprints are covered over by the wind of the moving spirit that travels the ultimate borders of space and time from which they were redeemed by their story. Woven as it is into a pattern of timeless moments, their story may yet help the redeeming moon in us all on the way to a renewal of life that will make now forever.

-- Laurens van der Post, "Witness to a Last Will of Man,"
pp.169-70 of Testament to the Bushman, 1984

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