I was about to send this as an e-mail to Simon and Nelly. Then I realized it was the most colorful thing I'd written in ages, so I posted it here instead. Please bear in mind that "colorful" does not mean "productive."
* * *
Dear Nelly and Simon,
I've just woken from the strangest dream and I had an overwhelming impulse to write it down and tell the two of you about it. Nelly, because she is an anthropologist who studies new age, and Simon, because he is a gamer who likes vampire games that feature the nephandi. This dream seemed to have a soundtrack, not literally, in the sense there was music, but in the sense that it was permeated by the feeling of a theme that pervaded the dream in the emotional way a soundtrack permeates a scene in a film. The two "songs," if you will, were, on the one hand, the words "Jung" and "archetypes" and an urge to tell Nelly, and the word "nephandi" and an urge to tell Simon.
Please bear in mind that I have no anticipation at all that any of this should mean anything at all to you, other than, I hope, slight bemusement that I've succumb to the purely irrational this early in the morning. I desperately need coffee. And perhaps therapy. Nonetheless, as the urge to write was overwhelming and I thought you might be entertained, I write.
In the dream, I was a student in an Antioch-like learning institution. I've been telling Nelly about my trepidations about teaching an online course at Antioch this summer. To contextualize Simon, I'll just tell him that this institution focuses on the methods that he summed up in a neat category when he told me, many years ago, that he couldn't major in English because "English departments are too fruffy." At any rate, this time, I was a student, not a teacher.
The class was located in a magical classroom space that abutted off of a picturesque scene of Venice, so one simply breezed in, as if walking in from a magical tourist brouchure or a commercial for the Olive Garden (mmm.... the Tour of Italy—a bizarre breakfast choice, I know, but suddenly it sounds delicious). At any rate, a former student of mine from Antioch, whose name completely escapes me at the moment, was teaching a course on tarot. He was from India and was actually quite quiet in class. I shudder to think that my imagination is so orientalist as to foist my penchant for the exotic onto him symbolically, but I fear it may be the truth. Naturally, there were no chairs in this room, but rather a picnic blanket. Could it be that the floor was made of glass and one could see picturesque Venice below us? How odd when I had just entered from street level. But no matter.
It was a total surprise, yet nonetheless a complete delight, that today's course would be on tarot. To be honest, the whole dream felt something like a holiday sponsored by the History Channel. Tomorrow might be Marxist political economy set in London, Berlin and Moscow. For some uneffable reason, I required no logic, no footnotes. Flitting from the decline and fall of the Roman Empire to refinishing my antique desk posed no intellectual outrage. If the chianti were chilled, all would be well. I'm not altogether convinced that the reason Venice was in the dream wasn't that my subconscious wanted something picturesque and Venice was the first image associated with the world in my commodified, overly bourgeois imagination. How artless the subconscious can be, yet at the same time, how artistic!
At any rate, Simon will no doubt be entertained to know that placed right before my ex-student stood a stack of tarot cards that clearly contained more than one deck, much as one would see a dealer use in Vegas. Indeed, seeing the stack was what tipped me off as to "the subject of today's class". I don't recall if my instructor had the perfect randomizing machine a Vegas dealer might have, but I had no doubt that the cards were well-shuffled. Indeed, they had to have been, because while all the cards had a mystical, archetypal feel that screamed out "Jung," none of them corresponded to the tarot arcana. I placed the five or so cards that he dealt me on the floor next to the blanket, so I could watch the Venetians gondola by as I examined them.
When I looked at the cards, I realized that they were constructed quite cleverly. It was as if each contained a live background that one viewed on camera. In contrast, the characters that were intended to be archetypal were not live. In fact they were sort of a fusion between photographs of real people and sketches of them. Strangely, however, when you touched the card, the figure would slide off, as if it were embossed on a cellophane film, leaving behind a silhouette of the figure, embossed on the live scene. Strange that as then instructor dealt the cards, this cellophane covering didn't simply slide off. Apparently, it took my rather clumsy touch to disturb this delicate composition. Leave it to me to be the klutz.
At any rate, when I touched the first card, the word "Pisces" resounded in my head. The moving background was simply a wave-churned sea. The figure was a brown-haired man who, after I woke up seemed to remind me of my college friend, Chris Davis (he designed the logo for my pub band). The other cards had a darker, occultish feel. This was where I started thinking of the Nephandi, rather wishing I had a History Channel special on "Who Are the Nephandi, Anyway?" I recall the cards featured backgrounds with "fire and brimstone" related themes. The cards were very clearly differentiated in my dream, but I forgot what they depicted when I woke up.Apparently, I was supposed to select a card. I was about to select one of the more innocuous nehandi cards, when my teacher leaned in to correct me, as if to say, :No, no. You want this one. Pay attention." He directed me to the "Pisces" card. I woke up.