I’ve been watching the fish again. The aquarium is next to my desk and where I would once stare into space, waiting for inspiration, I now watch the fish and find my mind swimming with them. Just as the fish can move up and down as easily as forward and back, a mind moves in more dimensions than mere surface thoughts, tracing patterns from apparently unconnected threads.
I keep daydreaming about a new home for them. The monster plecostomus is getting so big now that it will soon be a necessity… either in a bigger tank or with another fish-lover. And as I’m quite fond of the strange, prehistoric-looking creature who watches me through the glass with more intelligence than you would expect from a fish, I know which solution I would prefer. Oddly enough, the tank I would like, though it is much bigger and much more spacious for the fish, would also take up far less floor space in my little room. Getting the perfect form for both our needs would make it fit… perfectly.
Mind you, if and when I manage to find a new tank, it isn’t just a case of swapping them over. Little did I know when I adopted the fish that I would have to gain a knowledge of the nitrogen cycle, the chemical components of water, before and after fish, and an acceptance that I have to actively encourage the breeding of bacteria to maintain the tank’s health. That goes against every housewifely instinct. And it takes time, work and patience. Yet, in order to be fit for purpose, it has to fit the needs of that purpose, not my preconceptions.
For some reason, that idea called to mind a passage from Dion Fortune’s Moon Magic, one of the best works of magical fiction ever written, in my opinion, giving a glimpse behind the veil that has always shrouded ritual magic. The passage I was thinking of tells of when Lilith, a priestess of Isis, enters her new home and sees the moonlight streaming in through the windows. She realises that she is ‘on her contacts’. The author explains that many people feel that they must invoke the goddess first, then build the temple, but that, in fact, it must be the other way round; the temple must be prepared and the deity will indwell it when the time is right.
It has always made sense to me, that passage. You would not attempt to drink wine without some kind of vessel to contain it. You could use a paper cup or a crystal goblet, or even drink straight from the bottle…the appearance of the vessel matters little, only its fitness for purpose determines whether or not it can be used. You may think the wine more beautiful in the goblet, but that is only because both outer and inner forms combine to create something that is neither one nor the other, but has become more than the sum of its parts.
Either way, the vessel has to come before the wine is poured. Just like a new fish tank has to be cycled before the fish can call it home. Any cutting of corners, and the wine will be spilled and lost… or the fish will sicken and die.
It is the same thing with a lot of the modern spiritual practices, especially those that are for sale. They promise the earth and their adherents raise their eyes to whatever version of heaven they are taught to see. They read the book or take the short course and are told that they have only to call upon the divine and it will come. And then they are disappointed when it doesn’t.
You have to make the vessel before the wine is poured…and we ourselves are the vessel that must be fit for purpose. We do not have to be sparkling crystal goblets… we can be rough cups of clay and still hold the light. How much we can hold depends on how deep the cup may be and how wide its brim… but that is up to us. The vessel we craft is never finished… we are always works in progress.