In the area of discontinuity between the salt water and sweet land is the shore. In that area grows sedge. Sedge produces an herbage of no value to any insect, or bird, or animal: nor a blossom that will produce a nectar, nor a seed of any apparent values. It’s just sedge. It just grows in the area of discontinuity between the two, just as iodine cannot be found in the ocean, because it exists only in the factor in-between sea turbulence and air, known as spew. That is where iodine is made. And only the oysters and the seaweed know how to get it.
This sedge grows. It does have a kind of blossom and a seed, but is barren otherwise. But, it does produce a decadence: it perishes and proceeds and is born, and it perishes and proceeds and is born—life into death into life. And it does produce a de-compost. After it has grown for a number of cycles in the area of discontinuity, it has produced a soil. And having produced a soil, it can no longer grow; it must perish. Having produced a giving, a seed from the sweet land blows with the winds, falls upon this, germinates, grows into plants, produces foliage, produces blossoms that the bees come to, seed that the birds eat, and foliage that the animals chew, and they all likewise produce their giving into the area. And so you enter the first scene of fertility. But note, and remember, that the whole of that procedure could go in the opposite direction, just as easily as that can happen—so the sedge can disappear, and the salt sea take over.
The subjects that we have been over this week—cultivation, fertilizations, and propagation— intermarried with man the horticulturist, with the four elements in control, produce, as with sedge, in the area of discontinuity, the beginning of fertility. Fertility is this total marriage. It has no end. It is ever. All the color, the forms, the textures, the lights, the shadows, the edges—the beneath these, the above of these—are all matters conjunct in the word fertility.
When you place those fertilizations that we spoke of into a bed, into the soil, the average householder and the average gardener are inclined to say, “That will feed the plants,” thinking that they’ve had porridge for breakfast, followed with an apple. You already perceive that this is macabre. It isn’t real. You know now about the revolutionibus. You know about the intervals between the planets and the stars. You know about the cycles, and you know about pulsation. Therefore, you see, when you place manure in a bed, you are really placing atmosphere. There are quite a lot of plants that actually don’t get the manure, and there are quite a lot of plants that often don’t quite get the moisture. Some get more and some get less. But if the atmosphere is created, they enjoy it and they get it. And that’s exactly the whole procedure of fertility in a bed. It is a marriage of moisture, of air, of earth, of fire, in their controls, and controlled by the approach of the word fertility. Therefore, it is equally important to look at these quantitives. You will see that this word fertility is delicate. It requires the most careful assumption and manipulation.
The whole of the culture that we have been focusing on this week and the basis of it of the week before, brings to your vision that the higher the note, the more carefully must you play it. For if there is any error in the production of it, it will be hideously obvious. Whereas, if you make a great quantity of grotesque noises, it doesn’t matter what mistakes you make, because nobody would notice anything. Therefore, in the whole approach of this, in this very acute fertility, is the utmost necessity of the perfection of technique. Oh dear, what have we said? What is the perfection of technique? This is utterly important.
It is this matter. It’s one of the reasons that all art is essential to us as a steppingstone into horticulture. Technique is the fulfillment of the method of playing and using the instrument, having been brought to such a perfection and fruition that it is invisible. The world of visibility and the world of invisibility. And here, all visible technique altogether becomes finally invisible, and a magic. Therefore the technique of the high art of horticulture is invisible, and you won’t see it. You will look at the horticulture in the garden and you will be eclipsed, you will be delighted by a magic. And the whole joy of it is that you can’t understand it.
Therefore, the application of technique in the whole adaptation of this marriage of moisture, fertilization, cultivation, must be absolutely succinct and obedient. Obedient to the law of Nature, and obedient to the system, whereby the technique is appropriated. If there are any mistakes, they are going to be horribly obvious, and the plants are going to scream. And that’s where Nature and the whole of horticulture are different to the whole art and craft. In horticulture with Nature, it is inner to outer; and in the whole of art, it is outer to inner. Go which way you will, it is so. It is in a sense a mechanical, so that the whole of the horticulture must be obedient to the law, which responds in its exemplification and tells you how, which way, yes and no.
Therefore it is essential to be on the tips of our toes. And you understand perhaps a little more clearly now what was said, and what was meant when one said that you could damage soil more easily than a plant. Now you have a breathing matter that is full of life, which doesn’t appear to be full of life, because the technique in it is so perfect, that you can’t perceive it. It’s the perfection of the technique of life into death into life. Therefore, at all times, the approach must be perfect and utterly considerate. The outcome of color, the outcome of texture, the outcome of nutrition, are all an ever-building resultive of the never-ending flow of the word fertility.
You can’t ever think that you will attain fertility. It is a commencement that goes on. It builds on its own laws with the mastery of the horticulturist constructing with it.
Therefore, this essentiality of approach of technique—you understand that if you build a certain size bed for a certain size crop, shall we say lettuce, you would apply this amount of wood ash, that amount of stratification beneath, that amount of fresh manure upon that stratification to set up a decomposition of heat, a certain amount of top soil upon that, and stratifications upon that and upon that, and they will all contain fairly well-measured quantitives. If you applied less, you might as well apply none. And if you applied more, you had better apply none.
Indeed this is what the French did, actually, out of the French intensive system. And even Lorette, with whom I studied, did so in the world of pruning. He went into defoliation, against the law of Nature. He overstepped the mark by saying, as Plato would not, “I know what I am doing.” And that is impossible. The French in their procedure brought about the whole of this culture of these applications of excellent cultivation—this deep cultivation—this bringing about of breathing, of pulsation, the adding of excellent organic manures, of the use of wood ash, and such matters, all applied in the right areas at the right times, and the use of coverings such as glass in the winter to maintain the perfection of the growth. They achieved what they were after, and they were not satisfied. They wanted more, because, unfortunately, having achieved that out of the mastery of the adoration of creation, of plants, money entered the scene. They found that the world wanted what they produced, and needed it and wanted it very badly, and that they could demand much more money than was adequate as a balance in the matter.
Therefore the whole entry of the word fertility flew out the window, like Tinker Bell. And in through the door came the bank, the adolescence and adoration of money. And out went idée, and in came intelligence and reason. So they added more and more quantities of manures, of fertilizers, and more manures and more fertilizers. Finally they found that if they had a whole bed of manure they could get more money out of it still. And what happened? Very much what you’ve got today. Nothing whatever in something that looks like a vegetable. The lettuce and the young beans and the little spring turnips and the baby Chantenay carrots hadn’t got any nutriment in them at all. They were bogus, and empty. But they still got their money. But at that time people still had palate, and the palate told them they were eating mush, and so they turned around and made a noise about it. In swept the chemical world, and out went the whole issue. But that is what happened over un-balance. Therefore you see that in the construction must be a taking into account of the requirement of the balance of Nature.
It is exactly the same with the use of the watering. Now the old system of what you’d call hack gardening was not to have more work than necessary, therefore you put the hose on the darn thing, and you kind of did what they do at the Gezira Club in Cairo. They simply turn a huge cock there, and the Nile comes up, and the whole of the tennis courts and the rose gardens and the polo ground is under water to that extent. The Nile just comes up and does that, and then they turn it off and it goes down. Well that’s all right in Cairo, and it works. But the point is that when you come to a garden and you water once a week, and you water extremely heavily so that the water goes down three or four feet, you of course leech out everything that you’ve put in. In other words, you drown the word fertility. The whole présentement is to keep all of these and you in balance. Therefore the less water you have to use, the better, is the approach of your fertility. And a small amount of water very continually is in most cases the obvious answer.
However, you also understand that the application here includes the planting of the plants and the observation of the utilization of the interpolation of weeds, whereby the whole thing is brought to the finest picture of manipulation, so that at all times you have conservation. Equinox and maritime.
In this area of thought must also enter any attitude we have to livestock. You see, exactly what has happened if you read Page’s1 book that he has granted to us, on the chicken. You would see exactly what has happened. It has happened exactly the same as we spoke about the French intensive system. The chicken agreed to lay an egg, a clutch, and when we said to the chicken, “If I bring you some cereal, would you manage to lay another clutch of eggs this year?” And the chicken said, “Well, if that’s the law, yes, of course I must obey. I will.” And so she lays another clutch, and we have them and get them. And then we said, “Well, that’s wonderful you can manage another clutch. What about another one?” And so the hen said, “Yes, certainly, if that is the law, so I will.” And of course all the duns would have done the same, the elephants would have done the same with milk as cows do. So it goes on, so long as you don’t disobey the idée within you, which is your link with the conscience of the law of Nature. The moment you do that, the Father has stopped and turned round. Because that is the end if you do.
I’ll talk about this with an instant story. Just afterwards, if I may.
All livestock must come into this view of fertility. You will then find that there is no end ever to what you will receive; to what will take place; to what will be given. And you do realize you must be seeing that you could never enter the whole of this with a commercial attitude. Out of it can come profit. Out of it can come gain. Most decidedly. But with commercialism, you would lose everything immediately. And this is a very succinct point, because most people will come to the gate of the garden and say, “How do I grow a crop that will make profit here?” The answer is plain. And nobody likes it.
Now perceive that when you have built these beds, when you have composed your garden as an intermarriage of plants: the inter-relators, the dis-relators; the deep-rooteds, the shallow- rooteds; the correct moistures, the correct drynesses. Why do you water the seed pan? Oh, I will tell you. So that it will dry. But why do you let it dry? Oh, so that you could water it. You see you have an idée fixe. You think that you’re really there just to water it all the time. But this is all change. This is the whole matter. It’s the whole inference of using these things, together in marriage. It’s perpetual change. And these changes are all interpolating. We can never totally understand them—they’re too vast. But they’re operating. And the more that you operate with them, the more they will operate and lead you to operate with them, the more into the invisibilities.
Therefore, when you have interpolated your orchard, your soft fruits, your butterflies, your insects, your lizards, your tortoise, your seaweeds, your soils, your airs and your waters—when you have interpolated them, and behind it there is a technique, and the technique has become invisible—by then, an astonishing thing begins to happen. In the cycle that takes place, the birth of fertility has happened. There is a cornucopia that connects with eternity. And it is no longer in your hands, and certainly not within your intelligence and reason.
You are going to find—for find you will—in each cycle, a change that comes, new things you never suspected, you never planned for. Perceive that if you take ten acres and plan the whole thing, what do you get? Exactly what you planned. Or less. But not more. When you leave the planning and the administration of the leadership of Nature, you cannot calculate that planning, of the resultant. It is in eternity. And you will even get crops that you didn’t plant. You will even get results within you that you never thought you would get out of a crop. They are things that are related to the necessity and the desire of the sowing. So in this marriage in the garden of the word fertility, the very birds in their song will speak of this fertility. And it will be heard. The very insects will convey it; and the bees, and the breeze, and the wind—a long, long journey away. And the moistures will be aware, and the clouds, and the stars. And with the cycles of change you will be induced to find and to observe and to receive new cycles of insects, new butterflies, new birds, new plants, new weeds, out of the magnification of this fertility.
In the compost heap of this year, of this cycle, will be certain resultants which you know, many resultants which you will guess, and many resultants which you will have no knowledge of at all. In the outcome of that composting to the soil of next year, with fertilities—with fertilizations and with fertility—will grow certain weeds and certain plants that you had no suspicion of, had not even heard of, and knew not of the values of. And they alone will, in their own fertility, speak of insects, and butterflies, and life, and moistures. For there are the coolth givers and the warmth givers; the sugar givers and the oil givers; and the potassium makers and the magnesium makers. They all have their duties and they all have their techniques. So that under all these comes this effect into the gardener of the garden, and it goes to the area of image. And here the individual is lifted, so that the image is in a new strata. It perceives what it has not perceived, and is lifted. And out of this lift a further perception invokes that into the re-creation of the fertility of the horticulture. And again into the art and the craft. Here enters the eternal, everlasting magic of fertility.
It can go in the opposite direction. How careful, how careful we must be in our approach, that it be reverent and obedient and full of sensitivity and full of observation. For we shall get what we bring about. And inconceivably more.
So this fertility then, is a cycle, as you see. It has not an end. We, because of our perception say we have found the world—there is nothing more to know, there is no more land to discover, and we have sailed every ocean. Well, what about inside the Earth? And so you see there can be no question, we must never pretend, and we must never delude ourselves that we can foresee this. This whole attitude of the clairvoyer, which is the essence of the herbaceous border, will lead you into this vision. And that is what you might call the architectural formation of the vision of fertility.
The enormity of this matter is that there is nothing artificial, there is nothing built up or false in the whole of this system and study of it. It is unutterably true. It does not take any individual to tell another individual about it in words. It is all there. It is all discoverable, and it is all self-relative, by the very growth of the plants, the manipulation of the soil, and the deep study of human nature within it, as a marriage matter in fertility.
And here you have one of the huge answers of the great sorrows of today. Whenever mankind—almost whatever nation, not quite with some of the native tribes, but with the majority, certainly, of civilization—whenever mankind begins to live either in a village, or a farm, or a hamlet, what happens? All the rare plants, birds, and the animals are gone. It’s ludicrous. When you go into the jungle, when you go to an island where nobody goes to, when you go to the Arctic or the
Antarctic—Oh hello. Hmm, very interesting. All gather round. It is perfectly natural.
But we have to face the fact that wherever we go, even the plants all go. And this is utterly, utterly, utterly, hopelessly erroneous. It’s got to be put right. And it’s got to be put right in the exquisite matter of children. Why should the magic of children be destroyed, and they be turned into machinated machines, and lose all of their contact with that with which they were born, and have it driven out, that they shall not see, and not know, and be hidden by the travesty of this matter. The whole of this attitude, the whole of this approach brings in, because of fertility, the whole of life. It belongs. It is science. It is the vision of the understanding of the law of Nature: of relationship and dis-relationship. And invites it more and more to come and explain itself, if such explanatory is necessary. It should be found and perceived, and given life and shared. And man, in his great majesty, as he is in the world, shall be a great leader of it, and a great ordinator of this manipulation of fertility.
Well that’s a bit of a lecture I’m afraid. Do you want to talk about it?
Q: In the plannings I wasn’t quite clear on the point you were trying to come about as far as I understand what you think you don’t see that you get out, but like there’s an example over here and an example over here it seems like we’re…
Yes. The intermingling of everything in the garden? I will give an example that should explain this quickly, in toto, but I’ll take a single example to do it, if I may. Let us take fruit trees. Let us take apples or pears, or all fruit, it does not matter what. You are going to find here a system and a technique. You will not meet it, unfortunately, in America at all. In this system you will find that every tree is trained, exactly. That all its buds will have an exactitude that is equal. You will find that all of the revolutionibus, that is light and air, will interplay equally around every bough. Every fruit will have the same perfection of totality. You will find that the tree, placed within the garden, will have cultivation and fertilization every year as a growing fertility extending with it.
Each year the fruit trees are manipulated a little further, and a little further, and intermarried with the garden; all the relators are interrelated. Did I bring to you the matter about friendly pollinations in the orchard? Well, I must bring it in here then.
In the culture of fruit today, we have brought about fruit such as apples and pears that are so far removed from their origins that they cannot intermarry themselves. You may have an entire orchard of Cox’s Orange Pippin, or an entire orchard of the Comice Doyenné pear, and they will be absolutely full bloom, the whole orchard packed with blossom, and not one fruit will ever set. Not one. Because, being all of that variety, and coming out of man’s image, have too far-fetched a self from origin. Such as dogs do when they become highly bred. Do you understand? They can’t
breed anymore. Fantail pigeons can’t breed. They’ve gotten too much tail. Parisian women have got them in their hats.
Now, it is simply got over. In an orchard of Cox’s Orange Pippin, you bring a Worchester pear main, or a James Grieve, to the tune of one tree in ten, and you have got what is called inter- pollination. And with the Doyenné du Comice pear, if you bring a Conference and a William Bon Cretian—either of those two, or both, one in ten—you will have every fruit literally set, or every fruit that should set. In all cases, all blossom and fruit is not intended in Nature to set, and does not
and was never intended to do so. It wouldn’t and couldn’t. That is an error in the first place.
Now, the average agriculturist would say, “They’re up. Isn’t that wonderful? Do you see how clever we are today? We know it all.” I’m sorry, but you’ve missed the bus completely. And it’s this: that when you have an apple orchard of all apples, if you have a few pear trees in the vicinity, and a few other fruits such as stone fruits and so on, there will be an inter-pollination that must be
termed friendly inter-pollination. The whole crop of fruit will be superior. Not only will the whole crop of fruit be superior, but also the whole growing of the trees and the district will be different. Does that confer something to you?
Now I go much further. In the training of these trees, we have talked about this equality: the equality of the boughs all having the same amount of juice, all of the fruit the same amount of light and air; none of them in the shade, and some in the sun. Do you follow?
Observe this matter. When you just plant the tree and you know little about culture and fertilities, what have you got? A great mass in the middle. Huge great mass. And on one side is the south, and on one side is the north. I ask you, when a jay eats apples, what does he do? Pecks a few of the red cheeks of some of the apples, and goes from one to the other, eating the red cheeks. And everybody says, “What a beast! Shoot it.” And of course it knows exactly what it’s doing, and is telling us, and we don’t hear. The point is that those fruits are ripe in that area, and not in any other area. No other fruit on the tree is ever going to be ripe. All fruit ripens from acid to sugar— this thing we are talking about all the time, this change—at a certain time when the light—which after all is all sunlight, literally—it is a certain degree, and gives it. Therefore, for correct ripening, fruit must be in the full light and Sun. And these are beautifully sweet and sugared. All the fruit on the north is worm-eaten. Just go and take an apple on the south side of the tree, and go and take an apple on the north side of the tree; go and take a peach, a plum, a prune, a fig, and what do you find? This very matter. Therefore perceive that in this aspect of observing Nature, you grow the tree in a most articulate shape, so that this equality can take place.
Now perceive the extra lunacy of the commercial idiot. He not only grows a tree with the whole center bunged up, but he grows a whole orchard with the whole orchard bunged up. For what else is the whole plantation? And it is nothing but the south row, and the southeast corner and the southwest corner that can ever have a ripe fruit on a tree. The rest may as well be thrown to the pigs, and they wouldn’t eat them very much. Do you perceive what I am getting at? Now you begin to see about this interpolation. Do you see that because of that pollination procedure, we say, “Oh, it only takes an apple to pollinate an apple. And there’s the answer. We only have put it out and read it.” Oh, what about these most delicate flavors? What about the little wild strawberry and the cultivated strawberry being married? Do you follow?
Back to origin every time and intermarry it with your culture, yes. But go on with your cultures and your cultures and I’m sorry, you’re quickly over the horizon and gone. The interpolation of weeds in the garden are the sustenance and holding of the most articulate anchorage you could ever pray for. They are the breathing into the atmosphere of the very word fertility. Your cultured plants are never going to produce the cultured atmosphere of fertility on their own.
The interplay of all the plants is a love and a hate. And you can’t live without it. The interplay of the tortoise, of the slug, of the caterpillar—you can’t live without it. What is soil but total life into death into life? Soil is dragonfly’s wings, bird’s beaks—students in the compost—heat, skin, everything, the droppings of wind, the droppings of birds, and the manuring of the earwigs. And all of these are articulate with a traveling of this fertility. Earwigs do belong at this time; they may not belong very soon, where you have developed a fertility that is above the necessity of the earwig, that is above the necessity of the slug in the lettuce. At present I defy you to grow a lettuce without a slug. And if you do I’m not going to eat it. Because it wouldn’t be safe. Do you begin to see? Do you see that grass grows better when there is clover there? Do you see that grass grows worse when there are buttercups there? We are going to talk about this all throughout the year. We are going to take every herb that we can, we’re going to look at it; we’re going to see what its inferences are, how it is governed by this changing revolutionibus that says to it, “Reflect you, what I am saying.” And there it is. So you don’t need to be an astronomer, but you must be either a horticulturist or an astronomer, or both. Does that answer your question?
Q: In speaking of conservation, you said equinox and maritime? I didn’t understand.
You see, we mustn’t jump our hedges. I’ve got to keep a few little secrets up my sleeve for you. Conservatoire. You will seek what an incredible magic this is, fertility. You see, I spoke of sedge, on purpose to open this. We went from sedge, which you could begin to call nothing, of no use to anything, into a compost; into a desirability; into the commencement of fertility. Do you see? Conservatoire enters there. The sedge, in its growth, made a conservatoire, and deposited, and held, and said, “I will give more than I’ve taken in this world. There you are. Now I must go and leave you.” And the other came in and made more of that, again.
We as horticulturists must perceive the whole of this law. And this is what we do not do today. We make inarticulate bags and boxes and stuff it with rubbish, and eat the bags and throw away the contents, as we should. And we don’t know what to do with all this drivel. It’s drivel. You can’t do anything with it, you can’t even destroy it. But everything in Nature is something, and you can’t destroy anything in Nature. Every stick, every leaf, every little capsule of a seed is essentially important. And the totality of Nature says, “I did it all! Grow up! Bang!”
Where are the leaves that fall off in the fall, within a month after when they fell. You go to collect them and get: “But there is such a laugh here! I’ve come to get them. Where are they?” Everywhere. They’ve all gone. Konplunny! Conservatoire. This is us. This is our intermarriage with it. “C’mon please, collect the money. Into a big, big, thing. Put them there. To hell with God!” Think of all those little bits of weed you take out. You could leave it. Good gracious, if you leave the weed in the Sun today, what on Earth is it going to look like tonight. What’s happened? All the gasses, what’s up? “Oh, they’re up there. They’ve gone over your neighbors, they’ve got them all.” I’m awful sorry, we want them in here. You take the eggs, you bring the shells back. Conservatoire: connect everything.
When I was at the university, and began that garden, everybody looked at it and said, “Poor muddle. Come from England, he’s obviously mental.” This was a bank of poison oak. Nothing but sog-hopping students jumped over it. And they all got poison oak as a result. And, within no time, we grew the most un-propitious little plants. But those un-propitious little plants made a compost heap. And that started it. They started making leaves, they started making seeds, they started making pests. And they all built life-into-death-into-life, and we collected them assiduously. We even collected the most pernicious garbage from the kitchens, and brought it in to get it going. Later on we threw it back at them. But we brought it in, and started this conservatoire. Everything is conservatoire. The whole French intensive system is the most intensive conservatoire of technique imaginable, only the technique is perfect so you can’t see it. You understand now a little?
Except the words equinox and maritime…
I see. Now, in maritime, let us take an example of the Aegean, the whole Mediterranean coast. It is backed by the great Alps—the Dolomites of the alps—and there is the ocean. And here is a great south slope towards the Sun, the government of all of the planets. And that government orders that all the beautiful effusive collaboration of Nature—fertility, which is let lose ad lib—shall be conservatoires here. Into this bed. And it should become a fertility, and is. The most beautiful fruit grows there, the flowers. Everybody travels from blooming England in November when they don’t want to be frozen anymore, and they want violets, and they want mimosa, and anemones, and beautiful peaches. They all go to the south of France. This goes on ad lib. This is what a conservatory is. It is a conservatoire.
Perceive the inter-relators are the four elements: earth, fire, air and water. They are forever obeying the gods. We call it destruction: creation and destruction, and creation and destruction, but the whole area of maritime means coastal belt, means a controlled conservatoire. Cancer and Capricorn is a conservatoire of the poles and the equator. Indeed the equinox is a conservatoire of the dormancy of summer, of mad proliferation, of burning heat, and the obtuseness of the burning of winter, and the dormancy of winter. The two equinoxes are these wonderful areas, ahhh, where you just float. Equal day and equal night. You see that everything in this horticulture, in this system, is an observation of Nature. It is not a manipulation of the intelligence and the reason. It is idée.
Does that answer you a little? Good.
The days are early. We’ve got all this terrible talking to do. But a lot of discovery, to make it real. You see, the reason only that we do this talking is that our periods here are what they are. And we have lost vision. We’ve lost inner vision. Not because it’s not with us; it is because that as children it was driven out. They pulled the blinds down and said, “Hey, c’mon my boy; c’mon now my girl. What are you going to do? How are you going to earn a living? Now you stop that playing about. Now you stop playing the piano, stop drawing those silly pictures; now you stop running out looking at those damn birds. You c’mon now, you’ve got to make something, You’ve got to sell… what about petrol? What about a motor car?” It’s not funny. It’s terribly sad. The vision is gone.
The enchantment of childhood is driven out. This is the reason that people do not have vision and are not able to look anymore.
You must be aware that even in 1500 some of the botanists said, “Do you know, people no longer have the capacity of seeing the seed of peony?” You just don’t quite understand that, but you will when you study the peony. Its seed, and the blossom is governed by the moon, and it shines at night. It is quite different to what it is by day. It throws light off it at night, and you can see it. Indeed the shepherds of the Aegean only collect the seeds of the peony—which grows most proliferously there—only collect them at night. Because, they shine when it is dark, and they can pick them up galore. They wouldn’t see them at daytime at all.
Oh dear, what are we talking about now? There is this thing we speak of. The reason why we do this talking is that we can throw stars in the air, and you could look up and see them. And once you’ve seen them, you can go and find them in the garden. But we don’t go and hunt for them in the garden anymore, because we don’t want to. We are satiated with mechanical blowing- up boxes, and all the rest of the rubbish. And of course this intense verbosity which never stops. You’ve realized already, that you really can’t enjoy gardening or be a good gardener if you are thinking in words. You’ve go to stop it, to have a touch. You can’t look at one of those flowers and smell it at the same time. You can’t eat an apple and look at it at the same time. Does that explain a little?
Q: Did you have a tale of the East?
Oh, yes. Do you want it? Can you manage it?
Oh dear, I haven’t prepared this and I should. I always have to. However I will try and do justice to this tale.
It is an ancient story from the East. It is called the Merchant and the Seer. On one occasion a merchant had lived for some time; and he was a young man. He had been very unfortunate in his business, and had not improved his situation, and had very little in the way of possessions left. Indeed it had come to one camel, and a small quantity of goods that could be contained upon this camel. And he set off by himself, to travel the desert, to try and find a town to do business in.
After he had traveled for a few days, he saw in the distance, on the horizon, dust and a caravanserai.
He bethought himself he would as well make force, and catch it up, so as to travel more safely. So he spurred his camel up and by evening he caught up with a caravanserai of twenty camels, and a very old man, with them. He hailed the old man, and the old man did obeisance, and said, “Welcome.” And the young man said that he would travel if he might with the caravanserai, as he was not safe on his own. And the old man agreed. As they sat at their evening meal, whilst the camels had been tethered, the merchant explained the position of his misfortune.
And the seer watched him and observed. The merchant said, after some time, after leading into the matter with a considerable purpose, and a careful gaze, he questioned whether the old man knew of any town or area where he could do good business for a change, and make some profit? And the seer said, “Oh yes. Of course I do.” “Oh!” said the merchant, “You do?” “Oh yes,” said the seer, “I do.” “Oh,” said the merchant, “In that case, I wonder if I might either come to terms, that is a sharing of any profit that I might make, or, on the contrary, any terms that you might suggest, but if you could possibly lead me to this, do you think that this could be considered?” So the seer said, “If you wish this, of course.”
So the merchant was a little nonplussed at the easiness of this. Didn’t seem to him quite
the usual way that business proceeded. And he began to have his misgivings about the whole thing, as he observed. He thought that this was a very old man indeed, but he looked intolerably well-to- do, and yet too utterly simple to be acceptable. And surveying all this, he said, on thinking it over, before they retired, “Now you…you said just now that there was a place that you knew of, a town. Is it far?” “Oh no.” said the seer, “No, it is not far.” “Well, you say in this town, that even I can do good business—whilst I have done no business for ages and have made no profits at all. But you say that even I could do business, do you mean that I could do much business? I could make a really big profit, do you mean?”
So the seer said, “If you wish it, yes, that is so.” So again the merchant felt more
nonplussed than ever. And he said, “Well, since you seem so free about this, to what extent could I make a total profit? To what degree are you talking?” The seer said, “I can show you all the business of the world, if you wish.” The merchant really thought now he’s got a looney. So he thought anyway, quite obviously this man could do business, and had done very good business, so he thought he would hang on to it anyway. So he said to the seer, “Then since you tell me that you can lead me to all the business of the world, you will do so? And tomorrow?” And the seer said, “If you wish it, I will.”
The merchant said, “Well, I’ve lived in these areas. I’ve never heard of this town. I’ve never heard of such a city. And we can be there tomorrow?” “Tomorrow.” “How do I know,” said the merchant, “How do I know that what you are suggesting is true. That there won’t be a murder tonight? Or a robbery?” And the seer said, “I have here a phial. In this phial is an ointment. If you place one finger of your left hand in the ointment, and apply it to your left eye, you will perceive all of the business of the world.”
The merchant roared with laughter. And he said, “You’re telling me that if I put my finger in that ointment and I apply it to my left eye, that I can see all the business of the world? And that we could be there tomorrow?” And the seer said “If you wish it, that is so.” The merchant said, “Give me the ointment! I’ll do it. And then I will know.”
And the seer said, “I will give you the ointment, and you may do it if you wish. But beware. Beware. And again, beware. Apply the ointment only with your left hand to your left eye. For if you go any further, you will be destroyed.” The merchant said, “Well, this is no matter! Give it to me and let me see!” And he took the ointment roughly and grabbed it from the seer’s hand. He undid the little cap, and he placed his finger of the left hand in the ointment, and applied it to the left eye, and looked.
He saw a city dazzling with all its possessions; and he realized that on seeing it, it was within his total grasp to have everything that he ever wanted.
And the seer said, “It is time to rest.” And the merchant went to his rest, but could not sleep, thinking of this that he’d seen, of how he would get there, but he did not know the way. He must wait for the seer. He wanted every minute to get up and get his camel and go galloping over the desert to the city. But he did not know the way. So he had to rest, the whole night sitting and aching and worrying, and thinking and wondering, “What was this all about?”
And the seer slept soundly, and eventually awoke. They greeted. And they prepared their camels and they set off at an easy pace, and galloped over the horizon, and arrived at the city. And the merchant said, “I can’t thank you…I don’t know how to thank you. We will meet.” And so the Merchant went and did his business, and in a few moments he was covered in riches—of every kind imaginable, so that the camel could hardly move, he was so laden. And by the next evening he met the seer, with twenty camels loaded with riches. The seer said, “Since we travel part of the way in the same direction, let us travel.” And the Merchant said, “Willingly.” For he knew now, that he was so laden with the utmost riches, that on his own he would indeed be likely to be attacked and robbed. And so they traveled.
On the second day of their traveling, they came to a point in the desert, when the seer halted, and turned to the merchant and said, “Fare thee well. That is your direction, and this is mine.” And again the merchant endeavored, in his grotesque way, to say his thanks. He turned his camel and galloped as fast as he could towards the north, and the seer, gently to the south.
As the merchant galloped, he began to survey what had taken place, and he was again full of the misgivings of the extraordinariness of the whole procedure. But none of it seemed to hold water. It all seemed so utterly false, so hideously unreal: it wasn’t a dream even. He then began to suddenly think. He began to realize what an utter fool he was. What an idiot he’d been made!
Here was a virile young man with endless capacity with one camel with riches, and there was an old decrepit idiot with twenty camels loaded—loaded—with fabulous wealth. And although he had enough to last a long time, there was enough for a lifetime traveling in the opposite direction. He stopped his camel like that, and about-turned, and galloped to the south.
And as he eventually came up and saw the seer in the distance, he shouted and said, “Heeeeeey!” And the seer pulled up and waited, and the merchant came galloping up, somewhat threateningly, and said, “Listen, I have something I want to talk about to you. You told me all about these riches, you took me to this place, and indeed you’ve been kind. But I perceive how
clever you are underneath. I perceive how you’ve made a fool of me; that you’ve got all these camels—there’s twenty camels loaded—look at it! And look at me, I’ve one poor camel with the riches. How could you do it! How could you do it!” And this the seer said, “What will you?”
And the merchant said, “Well, it is obvious. If you were really generous, you would give me ten of them, and let me take them. That is half of what there is.” The seer said, “If you wish it.
Do.” The merchant said, “Well, you mean to say you will give me ten of these camels with the riches? You will just give them to me with…oh then indeed, I must thank you indeed, for this is most generous. I…in fact I of course don’t know how to thank you now. I do apologize of course.” And without more ado, he turned the ten camels and his one, and galloped to the north, knowing now that he had enough riches for the whole of life. And away he went.
He galloped until he was back again, where he was before. And on the way he was again bethinking, and was overcome with all these extraordinary fortunes, of how unreal this was—when suddenly the whole thing was clear. He saw the whole thing now. He saw the trick. It was such a clever trick it wasn’t true. Here was this seer, traveling to the south, with a guard of ten camels of riches. It was nothing else. It was a cover, a hide, for in his girdle he held the whole secret. He had the ointment whereby he could see everything that there was in the whole world. And these riches are nothing. Nothing! The seer’s got the mountain and he’s getting away. He’s an old decrepit fool and he can do nothing about it. I’ll shall kill him on the spot!
He galloped to the south as fast as he could, and within two days he caught up with the
seer and he hollered to stop. And the seer pulled up and said, “What is it now?” And the merchant said, “I see it all. You’re as clever as a fox. You think you are going to get away with that ointment.” The seer said, “Beware! I warned you.” And the merchant said, “You have no capacity against me. I can kill you in an instant. Nobody will ever know. You’d rather had give it to me.” The seer said, “I have warned you. Beware.” And the merchant said, “You can’t deceive me any more!”
And he grabbed the girdle and he snatched the phial, and he tore the cap off. He put his left finger in the ointment, and he applied it to the left eye, and he applied it to the right eye, and he fell down blind, and could never see again, and was a beggar in the desert for the rest of his life.
There is the story, I believe from Persia, of the Merchant and the Seer.
1 Page Smith, The Chicken Book: Being an Inquiry into the Rise and Fall, Use and Abuse, Triumph and Tragedy of Gallus
Domesticus; taught history at UC Santa Cruz when Alan Chadwick was there; (1917-1995).