There are days when sunlight scythes through the branches of trees and etches the world into a still-life tableau. On such days time is banished as scintillas of light trap people in frozen poses, like statues, or shadows in a peepshow. It can last for less than a second but it might as well be a lifetime.
It was on a day such as this that Paul had stood with Annie outside a dome-shaped theatre surrounded by well-cut lawns. A straggling crowd was making its way into the exhibition, ‘Connections’. This was a mixed bag of a show, part market, part new age bazaar, part chicanery and pseudo wisdom, where you could buy organic juice, fresh vegetables, candles and love potions, visit a couple of clairvoyants, sit in a tepee, learn to meditate or buy oddball books.
Annie was eager to get inside. She had been showing an unusual interest in anything spiritual or even wacky. Paul had some reservations about this so-called new age explosion. His take on the whole question of life and existence had seen him delve much deeper than the transient world of ‘enlightenment’ that had now become a mass-market business worth millions.
It was partly, he supposed, because he lived and worked in a structured world of business where computers were the new gods and cyberspace the new universe.
“I want to learn to meditate,” said Annie as they went in, bought tickets and collected an armful of leaflets, “like you used to do.”
“That’s fine, but don’t be taken in by everything you see in here,” Paul replied. “A lot of this is just commercial mumbo-jumbo.”
“Yeah, yeah!” she smiled.
“I can teach you to meditate,” said Paul.
“Like you tried to teach me to drive,” she laughed. “We ended up in a shouting match.”
“I just mean, there’s real spiritual information out there and there’s razzmatazz like this.”
They entered a large hall with a decorated domed ceiling. It was full of colour and light, kaftans and dreadlocks interspersed with earnest and newly converted devotees of Hindu and Buddhist sects, po-faced Christians offering booklets, brightly coloured tarot stalls and I-Ching readers and smiling aloe vera salesmen. A heady mixture of perfumes and scents drifted through the packed hall. The visitors were a mixed bag. Some looked like refugees from a third-rate rock concert, or were gipsy travellers with snivelling kids in tow. Others were middle income bracket devotees determined to find enlightenment on their doorstep but the majority was just the plain curious.
Annie and Paul drifted with the crowd, pausing here and there. Annie rushed into the tepee to experience some Sioux Indian drumming and came out again a little later less than impressed.
“My hands hurt,” she complained.
“There’s a transcendental meditation stall over there,” said Paul. “Why don’t you check it out? I’ll have a wander around.”
Annie smiled and rushed through the crowd, pausing to buy a silk headscarf that she tied around her head tucking her long blonde hair inside. Paul smiled at her enthusiasm. You can learn a lot from your kids, he told himself.Maybe more than they can learn from you.
Paul stopped by the aloe vera stall and listened to the sales pitch that tried to persuade him to become an agent and make a fortune from residual income. He thanked the guy politely and moved on, tempted for a moment by an attractive tarot card reader who smiled at him encouragingly, as if to say, you’re special, you have a special future ahead of you.
Paul bought a pendant for Kate and then noticed a stall tucked away by a pillar. A number of people had gathered around a sallow skinned little man who was pointing out something on a large chart on the table in front of him surrounded by piles of book, manuals and pendulums.
Paul’s curiosity was aroused. Dowsing and work with pendulums did have some scientific validity and whenever something unexplainable seemed to fit neatly side-by-side with something that could be explained or surmised, Paul was intrigued. He knew, for instance, that many elements, including metals and ores of all kinds and, of course, water, could be dowsed. A pendulum was like a physical or quirky version of the periodic table. A pendulum would always spin a set number of times over or close to a chemical compound or a metal. It never varied.
He walked across to the stall and noticed that the small man was holding a pendulum above a chart upon which was printed a piano scale-like illustration with lines like barcodes of different thicknesses stretching in a semicircle across the page. Barcode was a pretty good analogy. He listened as the man explained patiently what he was doing to a sceptical onlooker.
“I am examining your past lives for debris and detritus,” he stated. “You can clear from past existences the trouble, crimes, sins and bad karma that have infiltrated your present life and are causing much of the grief and problems you currently suffer.”
“I don’t believe in past lives,” said the onlooker.
“You don’t have to believe,” said the stallholder, “you just have to notice the difference from now on. Then you will believe.”
The onlooker moved on, shaking his head. Paul stood watching the man for a moment. A sign above his stall proclaimed: ‘Ebenezer Nuttley – past life regression and clearance - parallel universes explored’. Here, at last, was Paul’s kind of stall. He didn’t know if he believed in past lives or not. He thought, on balance, that he did, but not as portrayed by any religious movement. Ebenezer - no one was called Ebenezer these days - crouched over his chart intently.
Paul glanced around looking for Annie. He saw her at the tarot card stall as she was about to sit down for a reading. He waved and she waved back.
“Can I help you?” Nuttley’s voice was thin, like a reed in the wind.
“I’m curious,” said Paul. “What’s all this about?”
“It’s a system devised by a minister of religion, believe it or not,” he answered. “Throughout various incarnations in which the spirit has been made flesh and in parallel universes where other versions of ourselves are living their lives, there takes place, what you might call, spiritual spillage.”
“Spiritual spillage?” Paul was now really curious.
“Why don’t you sit down?” Nuttley invited Paul.
Paul pulled up a small stool and looked closely at the chart. It was divided into sections with titles such as: soul partners; recently departed; parallel lives; historical relationships; future events; dark matter; angels; demons and spirit life.
“Time and space are one,” explained Nuttley and Paul looked closely at him for the first time. He had a gnome-like face, and it was difficult to guess his exact age: his bald scalp was wrapped in a bandana and he possessed remarkably long and delicate fingers.
“Each of us will die with, what you might describe as, a nugget of wisdom gained from our time in this material world. Since there is only the constant now, past and future are mental constructs that have no real substance. What does have substance is the imprint of our actions, emotions, hopes and fears on the spirit material we are made from. Most of the experiences of our lives are meaningless and serve no purpose. Other experiences have profound effects, both positive and negative. Problems, fears, emotional upsets, scandals, crimes and anything unresolved from past or future existences can affect our present lives and therefore our ability to gather wisdom and grow in spirit.
“This is a system by which we contact the supreme spirit and discover from this chart what the blockages are and where they have come from. These can then be cleared.”
“Fascinating,” whispered Paul.
“I sell the system and the instruction manual,” said Nuttley. “It is money very well spent, believe me.”
“Can you show me?” Paul asked.
“I can give you a small demonstration,” he replied. He handed Paul a pearl droplet pendulum on a silver chain.
“Hold the pendulum over the centre point,” Nuttley instructed him. “Then watch.”
Paul noticed that all the sections on the outer ring of the semicircle had lines drawn to a point in the centre of the chart. He did as Nuttley had asked and held the pendulum as still as he could. Slowly at first, then with gathering speed, the pendulum began to spin, then it oscillated until it was moving in a linear direction exactly along one of the lines leading to a section called ‘historical relationships’.
“You must be absolutely sure that you are in contact with your supreme soul,” Nuttley warned. “It is quite possible for unwanted entities to gain access and cause trouble. You will know when this happens because you will receive nonsensical answers to your questions.”
“Questions?” said Paul.
“You have to find out what is causing blockages from some historical relationship. Only the supreme spirit can wipe this clean. If the pendulum circles to the left, it is yes, to the right it is no.”
“How do I know what to ask? This could take hours.”
“Not really,” Nuttley replied patiently. “The thoughts will come into your head. Ask if you committed a crime.”
Paul hesitated at first, then, looking uncertainly at Nuttley, he asked the question in his head. Immediately the pendulum circled to the right, swinging powerfully. He watched Nuttley’s fingers as they twitched slightly, disturbing the dust motes which floated across the room in the kind of light peculiar to church halls or museums.
“That’s a no,” Nuttley told him. The fingers danced then came together.
Paul began to think over his past life. Suddenly, the pendulum veered violently to the left.
“What were you thinking of?” asked Nuttley.
“It’s personal,” said Paul.
“It doesn’t matter to me, my friend,” Nuttley smiled. “Ask for it to be cleared then confirm you are clear.”
Paul had been thinking about Marion and how he had left her pregnant. He had been carrying that guilt around ever since. His heart felt heavy and he could almost sense Marion’s presence.
“I’m sorry,” he thought and tears almost came to his eyes.
“Ask if it can be cleared,” Nuttley said softly.
Paul did so, trying to visualize the supreme soul. The pendulum stopped, then once again circled to the right before swinging to the left in a straight line to a section Paul hadn’t seen before which said the word ‘Clear’.
“I have other customers, my friend,” said Nuttley.
“I’ll take one,” Paul said.
“Good,” replied the little man. “Remember, you have to ensure you are talking to your supreme soul and not some errant spirit. The manual explains everything; all the safeguards.”
Paul glanced around and saw that Annie was making her way towards him. One or two others had been standing behind him watching. Nuttley wrapped up a chart, manual and pendulum and handed the package to Paul. As Paul paid him he noticed a pile of business cards.
“I’ll put my card in the bag in case you ever want a private consultation or need me to clear you,” said Nuttley. “Goodbye.”
“Wow, that was amazing,” said Annie as they walked across the lawn to the car park.
“Go on,” Paul encouraged her.
“I can’t tell you everything,” she said. “But, the next three years are going to be extraordinary. I have to be careful to make the right choices. I have to follow my heart and not my head. Maybe I should not try for medical school or university but try to be an actress. That’s what my heart tells me. There was a lot of other personal stuff I can’t talk about.”
“Why can’t you study to become a doctor and act part time? If you’re not any good you’ll soon find out and in the meantime you could have a career in medicine.”
Annie did not seem that convinced. “I had a funny feeling during that reading,” she told him.
“It was kind of like, taking a step into the unknown. I don’t know. I’m not explaining it very well.”
“Was it like the sudden knowledge that you have moved in a particular direction and life will never be the same again?”
She looked at him. “Yes, that’s exactly it. How did you know?”
“Because it does happen to other people too, darling.”
Annie put her arm through his. “I’m glad I’ve got you as a dad,” she said.
“I should hope so,” said Paul as he blinked and looked away for a moment.
“What was happening on that stall?” she asked.
“Oh, just some wacko talking about past lives.”
“I’m sure I’ve been here before,” she said.
“I think once is enough for you, my girl. Come on, let’s go home.”
Paul forgot about the pendulum and past life clearance for a while. He was involved in a particularly difficult project that occupied most of his time. He put Nuttley’s package in a filing cabinet in his office with the intention of exploring it later.
In any event, three months went by before he was rummaging through some old paperwork and came across the packet with the name Ebenezer Nuttley scrawled on the outside.
“Why not?” he thought.
He opened the packet, took out the instruction manual and began to read. The concept of karma, or the law of cause and effect, had always fascinated him. At first sight it appeared a remarkably obvious process. But then, it implied that there was a form of super organic organization behind the scenes. Decisions would have to made involving millions of lives past and present lives all creating and burning off karma until they merged unsullied into the great light of creation, the permanent now.
This pendulum-based karmic clearance system had been devised by a man who claimed to have already by-passed it and reached the point where he was able to communicate with spiritual beings by blinking. Neat, Paul thought, although, what if you didn’t wish to communicate? Initially however, the process was straightforward. Whatever responded to the spinning pendulum, which seemed to act as a kind of cosmic key or telephone line, had to be identified as being your soul guardian - rather like a guardian angel. The guardian could not lie to you but other wayward spirits would do more than lie. It seemed the invisible world of spirit was teeming with life, albeit dead from a human perspective. By asking questions that you alone knew the answers to, it could be established that you were in direct communication with your guardian angel not with some mischievous spirit.
You could isolate past and future lives, discover who you were or would be, understand the nature of traumatic events that may have taken place and ask your supreme soul to clear them from your soul, spirit, psyche or karmic load. Some of the more sinister categories included satanic possession. A slight shiver ran down Paul’s spine when he saw this, but the problem was, did you have to believe in all this stuff for it to be true, or, was it just the way things were irrespective of what human beings believed?
Paul began by a process of self-analysis, letting the pendulum have free rein. He noted that it was purely a matter of dreaming up a question to which an answer of sorts was given. The answers prompted further questions and answers until Paul was deep in a kind of meditative trance.
“Do I have problems from a past life?” he asked.
The pendulum indicated he had. What followed then was a bizarre series of questions and answers. Paul didn’t know where the questions were coming from. They just popped into his head.
“Was I male?”
“Am I male now?”
“Hey, what is this?”
Paul realized he had not been carrying out the regular safety checks.
“Are you my soul guardian?”
Paul asked for the soul guardian to return and this time he felt he could sense the difference. The manual recommended using the chart to narrow down areas of investigation and then position the pendulum over the palm of the hand to ask questions and request clearance.
He also realized that he could ask questions about other people. To begin with, he pressed on about his own life or lives.
“What event in my last life has caused trouble in this one?” he inquired.
The pendulum moved to the section covering death. Paul paused. Did he really want to go down this road?
This is more than self-analysis, he concluded. And the longer he pressed on, the deeper became the questions he was asking, mainly of himself. It was stunning how a simple yes and no question session began to unlock emotions and fears he had long since buried or didn’t know he had.
“Did I have a happy death last time?” he queried.
“Why?” Paul thought he’d try a new tack.
The pendulum began to spin in a large circle, first to the left and then to the right. Then it changed direction and hit the section denoted as trauma pretty violently, Paul thought. The pendulum seemed to contain its own life force, gentle and passive when the questions were run-of-the-mill but markedly furious when they got to be near-the-knuckle.
“Was I murdered?” Paul ventured.
“Yes,” came the answer with what Paul felt was a degree of satisfaction.
“Are you my supreme soul?” he checked.
The pendulum swung to a yes answer and Paul believed it. Paul asked a series of questions relating to this death and discovered that he had lived around 150 years ago in Syria. He was learning the technique of short circuiting hundreds of questions and getting to the answer pretty swiftly. He didn’t know what to believe. What exactly was he communicating with? Whatever it was, it had to be in his mind, or in his brain. But it was wholly unlikely that he could have dug up some fantasy story about being a Syrian in a previous life on his own account.
He paused for a while and looked out of his office window. He needed to talk to someone about this. The process was starting to leave a faint whiff of unease inside him. He couldn’t put his finger on it.
He changed tack and began to ask questions about Kate and their marriage.
The pendulum adamantly moved to the section, which denoted discontent in this life. This was at the opposite end of the chart to his original questions about himself.
“Is Kate happy?” he asked.
“Yes.” the pendulum circled to the left. Then, before Paul could ask another question, it began to reverse its direction.
Concerned and irritated, Paul checked out his soul guardian to make sure no wandering spirit had happened to find the channel open. No, the supreme soul was still in control. On an impulse Paul asked:
“Has Kate ever been unfaithful to me?”
There was a pause as the pendulum returned to vertical and then spun conclusively to the left. Paul looked up stunned for a moment, alternately believing and disbelieving. He didn’t notice the pendulum had stopped circling and had reversed direction.
Paul slammed the pendulum down on the desk and stared at it. It wasn’t possible. He knew Kate so well. He would surely have known. Then a worm of doubt slithered into his subconscious. What about the visits she used to make to that riding stables with Bessie, their bay mare? She had always returned from those visits a little higher than normal. He hadn’t noticed anything in particular and he had met the guy who ran the stables at country shows when he accompanied Kate and Bessie to help out. Now, he thought back, had there been a spark between them? There was nothing obvious at the time.
None of this could be true. He refused to believe it. Dare he ask the question?
He picked up the golden chain and positioned the pendulum over his left palm then took a deep breath,
“Was it Terry?” he asked. “Has Kate had an affair with Terry Sullivan?”