by Panos Ioannides

As published in In Focus, Vol. 12, No 1, March 2015

My talent for listening to anything and everything with unflagging interest had opened up many doors and the sympathy I showed for other people’s problems had allowed me to taste all kinds of pleasant surprises, but this particular invitation gave me special pleasure.
Half an hour after our first meeting, the archeologist Kleitos Parides invited me to a party he was giving on the occasion of the Festival of the Full Moon. “Some of our most distinguished intellectuals will be there”, he told me at the end of his monologue – it was my ability not to transform it into a dialogue that had earned me his favor – “Most of them you know, I’m sure. They’re people at the forefront of letters and science. Men admired by a public that is unaware of the fact that their enormous contribution is founded on the inner light that they found by following the path!” In the end he also promised that I would meet some others who worked in the background with “thought-forms” and who had accomplished the supreme task of weaving the umbilical cord that joins body and soul and had drawn within themselves the power of the fifth and, sometimes, sixth kingdom of nature!
I said that I was honored by the invitation and would not fail to take advantage of his kindness! As for my misgivings about what he had said, I naturally made no mention of them. I knew that patience, enhanced with discretion, can work miracles. Sooner or later I would find out what sort of Festival it was, what “the path” was, what “thought-forms” meant and what the fifth and sixth kingdoms of nature were. Moreover, experience had taught me that the wait for something is usually the only pleasant part of surprise. So why not let those stimulating uncertainties make my expectations even more tantalizing?
I was, of course, much obliged to my friend Harry who, shortly before the party, had tempered my disposition with a few chance remarks. Since he was also invited he came by so that we could go together. As I was getting into the car, careful not to crumple my clothes, he gave me a puzzled look:
“What are you wearing those for?”
He was dressed casually. I said that from what I had understood the other guests were the crème de la crème.
“At Kleitos’ place?”
It was a chance for me to fish for information, to prepare. Perhaps I should get out and change while there was still time. But no, it was better to let things take their course.
“And yet”, my friend went on as if delivering a monologue, “you’re right! It’s a fact that it takes real talent to recognize Kleitos’ genius!”
He was so engrossed in his private merriment that as he took he corner I found myself entangled in his hands as they fumbled for the handbrake….
Parides’ house, the smaller half of an apartment block, was illuminated. Several bicycles were leaning against the railings next to a motorcycle and a scooter. Further down a three-wheeler car and an old sedan were parked. Parides’ car, an American sports model, was tightly jammed into the narrow passage of the yard.
“Have you had anything to eat?”, asked my friend in the mood which had almost cost us dearly.
“Of course not. The invitation is for food.”
“The word ‘food’ means all sorts of things…”
But he was not given a chance to enjoy the revelation he planned to make at my expense. Our host, a small, fragile, indefatigable man, had already popped up in front of us. Behind him, one and a half times his size and understandably slow moving, stood his wife Merope.
“Come in. We’ve been expecting you.”
We entered. Introductions were made: “I think Mr. Harry Pelides is well known!”, said our host cheerily.
“We have not had the pleasure”, answered his guests in the same tone.
Then, laughing, each of them embraced my friend, and, shaking hands in a peculiar fashion, with the index finger extended to press his wrist in the region where one takes the pulse, called him their “brother Neophytos”.
“Mr. Alkis Heilides”, said our host as he introduced me.
“Mr. Marios Hiromerides, Mr. Evis Evangelides, Mr. Kyros Constantinides, Mr. Thanos Taramides, Tselepides, Chrysostomides, Harides…”
I shook hands with them all and, since I had some experience in deducing things, from the fragments of information contained in their conversation I attempted to form some idea of their professional or intellectual status. I had to admit, however, that I had never chanced to see any of the gentlemen around me in the press or on television. They were complete unknowns although, naturally, they were not responsible for my ignorance, and my host was not so indiscreet as to give me information about people whom he took for granted, quite reasonably I thought, that I would know.
“What will you have?”, Parides asked out of obligation.
“Oh, anything”, I said.
“Let’s see. In the cellar there’s tea, milk, fruit juice, soft drinks and home-made milk shakes”, he enumerated.
“A tomato juice please.”
As Parides walked away, Harry pushed me into a corner which was adorned with a cracked amphora, one of Parides’ finds.
“Now do you get it?”, he asked with a smile.
I admitted frankly that I didn’t. Why only juices?
“Initiates don’t touch alcohol.”
“Are they spiritualists?”, I asked boldly.
“Of course not. Occultists. They belong to a sect which prepares them for the initiation,”
“What initiation?”
“The oneness of the soul with God. They achieve it through purification, the exercise of virtue and indifference to worldly things.”
It was a pointless explanation. Only those abhorring worldly things or the bourgeoisie in revolt would go about revealing such a lack of interest in clothes. And since they weren’t the bourgeoisie there was no other explanation. Ignoring the world of appearances and knowing the vanity of all ambition why should they care if they wore red socks and black shoes, blue ties, green shirts and brown suits, or a bow tie with a pullover and a sports jacket on top! This affected insignificance was a testament to what else but their humanity?
Our hostess arrived with the tomato juice in a paper cup one and a half times bigger than the one she was handing to one of her husband’s newly arrived guests.
“We’ll open up the buffet shortly”, she said and gave us a meaningful smile.
“Isn’t she sweet?”, Harry asked me when Merope (I noticed that no-one referred to her as Mrs. Parides) had moved away.
“Yes, very. Has she been initiated too?”
“Has he gone over the path you mean?”, my friend corrected me. “Of course not. Initiation is the end, the transition of man from the fourth kingdom of nature, the human, to the fifth which is the angelic. I don’t think Merope has managed that…”
“What about you then?”, I asked playfully. “I heard them call you “Neophytos”.
“I have the honor of being the youngest member of the sect. Out of politeness I told them that I found their theory interesting and the next minute they’d grabbed me. But I don’t regret it. I’m collecting material for an article I’m writing…”
The loud voice of Marios Hiromerides who was talking to Evis Evangelides forced us to break off our conversation. Indeed, it had the same effect on everyone in the sitting room.
Hiromerides was indignant, his bald head was bright red and, as he spoke, his belly stuck out of his jacket, which was set off by a red tie. He had six-fingered hands which were constantly gesturing and always sweaty. Evangelides looked him in the eye with an indelible smile of happiness. He was thirty years old, tall and thin with a large head, fair haired and nervous. He laughed and continuously rubbed his neck, as if to help it support the round lump that was pressing against his throat.
Harry explained that they were talking about a new member of the sect who, in his well-intentioned attempts to initiate friends and acquaintances en masse, was constantly putting his foot in it.
“Blunders of he first order!”, said Himmerides. “Doesn’t he realize that he’s throwing pearls to dogs? The other day he cornered this friend of mine, an immature sort of chap who can’t have had more than eighty, say a hundred reincarnations, a draper by trade, understand! Out of the blue he started telling him about the initiation wand! Imagine!
How it enters the purified person like a phallus for the intercourse of body and soul and plenty more that made the poor chap think that either our friend was after something or he was really going downhill… And as if that wasn’t enough he told him that if he came to the sect we’d turn him into a perfect hermaphrodite!”
“Imagine if I told him about Kakaraka? He’d run away”, said the other man with a laugh.
“Kakaraka?”, Harry anticipated my question. “He’s Evangelides’ personal God. He revealed himself to him in London, in a ruined theatre. He went in to pray for a little role and the revelation occurred. He claims he’s like the Goddess Kali except that instead of breasts he’s got phalluses all over him. They symbolize the God’s total hedonism.”
The folding door dividing the sitting room from the dining room opened. An exclamation of admiration ran through the assembled guests at the sight of the set table.
“This isn’t a buffet”, hissed Harry, “it’s an anti-scurvy arsenal!”
It really was! The table was set with all lose vegetables or their extracts, all those fruits and nuts and their extracts, all those dairy products and by-products, which please vegetarians and the more noble subjects of the… yes, it must be the third since the fourth is human, the third kingdom of nature.
All the guests, with the exception of Harry and myself, belonged to the first category without a doubt. The enthusiasm with which they fell upon those greens really impressed me. And so did my own efforts to understand, through practical experience, what made the combinations of fruit and vegetables, nuts and honey, homemade bread and cheeses more interesting. In fact with a mouthful of juice or milk shake they became soft and could be swallowed more easily.
“Ever since they discovered the truth they haven’t touched meat!”, Harry explained.
“In order to ascend from the fourth to the fifth one has to eat the second and purify the third…”
“What’s the second?” I asked slow-wittedly.
“Vegetable. First mineral, second vegetable, third animal.”
“Which one do we belong to?”
“The two of us or generally?”
Another voice dominated:
“After the food”, it promised.
The hostess and several of the guests were pressing Thanos Taramides to entertain the company with some conjuring tricks.
“Can he really do them?”, I asked
“Yes, of course”, replied my friend.
“Well, why doesn’t he change the cauliflower into a couple of pigeons?”
“Him? He’s like the Rock of Gibraltar! To give you an idea of what Taramides is like, he was at a reception the other day and as soon as the waiter placed the chop in front of him he nearly threw up there and then. He pushed it away and asked for legumes. The waiter frowned. They didn’t have that sort of thing in the place. Eventually they compromised and our friend got by with a well-cooked tomato. He sliced it up expertly and ate it according to the rules. With a knife and fork and a thin slice of bread for the seeds!”
“They don’t even eat at home?”
“What do you mean? Kleitos says that he owes the fact that he’s alive today to vegetarianism. He was getting tuberculosis and now look at him! Don’t be fooled by appearances!… He’s strong underneath. Imagine what his son will be like, having been born a vegetarian. He never eats meat. It’s rumored that he was born an initiate or that he will be initiated in this incarnation. They say that he speaks three foreign languages in his sleep. He adores music, Bach and Scriabin. To look at him you wouldn’t think so. He’s a perfect combination of his mum and dad…”
“Socrates was ugly too, and yet…”
“I’ve not seen Socrates”, he interrupted, “but I’ve seen Hilarion.”
And he proceeded, as he said, to put more “greenery” on his plate. Seeing me alone our host came up to me and asked out of obligation:
“Can I get you anything?”
“Thank you, I’m full up to here…”
“I hope you’ve not been bored.”
“What do you mean? I feel wonderful”
“What’s your opinion of the chaps here? Wasn’t I right?” and he cast his eyes over the guests.
“Ah yes!”
“I consider myself lucky to have them as friends. It’s something to find yourself at death’s door or on the verge of madness and suddenly find an answer to all your problems. And the most important thing: you’re not alone anymore. Finding a crowd of colleagues living around you, waiting for you to sound your own little note for them to recognize you and stretch out their hands.”
Unfortunately he could not continue the confession. His wife came near and told him that Hilarion insisted on telling him something before going to bed.
He apologized and went. She replaced him quite admirably. She asked me if I was an old student of the lodge and when I sad no, that I was now taking my first timid steps, she said “is that so?” and sat down next to me. “And what do you want to escape from?”
“Me? What do you mean?”
“Well, since Kleitos says that most of them become occultists out of a desire to escape, I thought…” She just laughed and went on: “it’s really funny, the obstacles a pupil meets at first and the blunders he makes…”
And when I naively asked: “Which obstacles do you mean?”, she set about explaining to me.
“They are different in every case. Take Evis as an example. Evangelides! He’s my second cousin you know! After the revelation of Kakaraka, you know that Kakaraka…”
“Yes, I was told about it just now…”
“Right! Well, after that he became obsessed with the idea that it was his duty to help all women who were preoccupied with sex. Note that he himself didn’t feel any particular attraction towards my sex. At least that’s what he told us. He did it, he said, out of a feeling of responsibility. He needed to get to know Kleitos to be persuaded that this difficult task, – let’s face it, what girl isn’t interested in sex? – was not his duty and that he would do better to spend his time on salvation and less on girls’ complexes! And Marios?
Hiromerides! He’s another case! For Kleitos to persuade him to give up séances and black magic we had to put him up for six months and find him a good job which brought in as much as he’d been making as a sort of telephone exchange between the living and the dead…”
At the rate Merope was going she wouldn’t leave anyone out. She told me about Chrysostomides, Lambros, who for years would not allow an uninitiated person to touch him, not even a handshake, so as not to lose any of the ethereal energy which he concentrated through thoughts at the end of his fingernails “for therapeutic reasons”.
“Imagine the problem his poor wife had, being neither initiated nor ill, unfortunately…”
She told me about Charalambides, Andrikos, who went out of his body every evening, traveling in his astral body and, completely invisible, helped his fellow men. About Constantinides, Kyros, who believed that in previous incarnations he had been the Pharaoh Aknaton, Pindar and Spinoza until the day that Kleitos convinced him that he couldn’t be Aknaton or Spinoza since they were both previous incarnations of his own…
About Nicolaides and Tselepides and all the others who…“needed to get to know Mr. Parides…” I concluded.
“…before they could stand on their own feet,” she ended my sentence.
The thoughts which all these interesting revelations brought to my mind were shattered by some tremendous chords. The stereophonic monster was flinging the diatonic music of Scriabin at us with all its might.
“Hilarion won’t sleep if he doesn’t hear the “Poem of Ecstasy”, explained the proud father.
“Isn’t he in bed yet?”, said Merope admiringly as she got up with a promise: “in a while I’ll bring the sweets!”
“After our meditations my dear”, said Kleitos taking up his favorite topic, the eulogy of the child’s sensitivity.
“Shall we strangle Hilarion or let him off?” whispered Harry, drawing near. “Scriabin at this hour when the only suitable thing is a smoke.”
“Good idea! Shall we have one?” I asked.
“Here? Didn’t you know that nicotine is more harmful than meat?”
He sighed and asked what I’d been talking about with Merope for so long.
“About Kleitos of course”, I replied.
“Stupid question”, he admitted.
“Really, how did he meet her?”, I asked.
“Oh, it’s a long story. And what a story! I suppose you want to hear it.
“I’ll put up with it!”
I missed the first sentences of the story. They were drowned out by Scriabin. Luckily Paridees decided “for he neighbors’ sake” to lower he volume of the stereo a little.
“If he’s a saint today by his own volition, he was a saint in spite of himself before. You have to realize that he was only half the man he is today! And very nervous, a bag of nerves. For all that, one of his colleagues, a girl this tall and really pretty, fell in love with him. Our friend, gracefully doing the right thing, spurned her, but the lady archeologist was in no mood to accept defeat. To get out of what was a painful situation, Kleitos managed to get rid of her by obtaining a scholarship in Rome for her. He paid a price, of course. Deep down he was flattered by her love but he had no choice. They say that about this time he became obsessed with the idea of death. He was expecting the end to arrive at any moment. He ended up trembling at digs. He believed that one day he was going to uncover himself, embalmed, in some tomb! Anyway this situation carried on until Evangelides appeared on the scene and introduced him to the occult science. The glory for his conversion is actually claimed by many of his students today. In any case the change was a radical one. He threw himself passionately into study and meditation and in a short time had managed to catch up with and overtake his teachers. Meanwhile the lady was still bombarding him with love letters. Gathering up the strength that his new life had given him he decided once and for all that he was going to do without this small personal happiness and stop cultivating false hopes. So he sat down and wrote her a letter in which he said that he understood her problem but that a life of love and marriage was not for him as he had decided to devote himself to the service of mankind.
At about this time he gave up his position at the museum. Archeology had ceased to interest him a long time before, especially once he had begun excavations inside himself, to uncover his soul! Right on time came an invitation to visit the sect’s European centre in Lausanne. All the local elders had been invited for a course of advanced lessons. He stayed in Lausanne for about two months and was made a “Companion”, got to know all the top people in the sect and was reborn. There for the first time he heard some truths which made an impression on him and played a decisive role in his later life. They said specifically that all kinds of love are permitted when they are not simply an end in themselves and that until the day when people succeeded in becoming hermaphrodites so that the erotic dialogue between body and soul might begin, marriage was not an obstacle on the path but simply another stage in the practical application of the principles of love, self-sacrifice and adaptability. In the beginning, of course, these revolutionary theories shook the very ground beneath him. In order to assimilate them he started a series of meditations. The subject: love-marriage-the family. On one occasion, as he was analyzing his initial idea: “Marriage, reincarnation and the law of karma, three interdependent concepts” he had his first vision. He “saw” himself in a previous incarnation. He says he was a woman called Eleonora and some Kontostavlis, a Frank, had fallen madly in love with her. Kontostavlis was tall and fat with a hooked nose and had made off with her to his castle and was about to rape her when she struck him down with a stiletto. The vision was so vivid, with such detail, and she spoke the dialect of the time so wonderfully that there was no room for doubt: he was the girl and Kontostavlis had been the victim of “her morality”, the victim whom, sooner or later, life would place on his path looking for justice, knifing him as he had been knifed by “her” then…
His prediction simply had to come true. He met Kontostavlis sooner than he would have liked, only in this reincarnation he was not a man but a woman. Just as she had, so too had he changed sex, so as to have more experience, you realize! When he reached the island, on the second day, at his sister’s house he saw Merope. She was his niece’s piano teacher. As soon as he caught sight of her he broke out in a cold sweat. The big-bodied girl holding our her hand to him was the other man…
After this fateful meeting he threw himself into studying apocryphal books dealing with the law of karma, looking for a way of getting round it. In the end he found it. The solution was love! Instead of letting the eye for an eye idea work against him, it was wiser to abandon his plans to marry the pretty archeologist and try, through his devotion to the piano teacher, to blunt the effectiveness of justice. He confessed to his sister that he had liked Merope from the first moment and persuaded her that, despite all their differences, she was the one and only woman who could make him happy. He then asked her to persuade Merope of he sincerity and his feelings. It did not take much effort. The wedding took place a few months later, and from then on our friend, with all the time in the world and every reason to do so, started to offer Merope the love he had refused Kontostavlis and thereby redeem, drop by drop the blood he had spilt, through sacrifices and total submission. At the same time he was secretly impatient for the day when she would hurt him! Do you get it? But Merope, either because she loved him or because she wasn’t revengeful showed no sign of using a small or big knife on him to free him. On the contrary! His attentions caused hers to multiply and his affection forced her to make her own even more tyrannical. In the end our friend was so desperate that he wished that the child they were expecting might be born deficient or mentally retarded or that they might lose it… But fortunately the child was born normal. And the retrospective fear that such a person could have been lost because of him filled him with panic and guilt.
Only on one occasion Merope did something, out of love, which he had been hoping for so long that she would do out of hatred! He had started giving a new course of advanced lessons on the nature of love; more or less what he had been taught in Lausanne. To stress what he was saying he assured them that he did not think there was anything wrong in making love to another man since he would be just as pure, before and after! And as regards the theory of androgyny, they could take him as an example. It had already begun to take shape in him. And he lifted up his clothes to show how he had begun to develop rounded breasts with erect nipples. Merope, who suspected what was going on, swallowed her anger and did not allow her love to claim its own special privileges. But she did later on when two of the newer pupils started becoming more liberal than their teacher! Another version of the story says that the young men did not stop at words. They wanted to show their faith practically, placing their bodies at their teacher’s disposal! That was when Merope took up the fight. After swearing at them in Turkish she threw them out, and forbade them to see him, to telephone him, to write to him or send him “love-thoughts”. Otherwise she would chop to bits the means at their disposal for testing their theories! Kleitos didn’t know what had hit him. What was going on? Was he or was he not master of his own body and his own house? But then he remembered and felt relieved. The collapse of the lodge was the beginning of his liberation. He accepted it stoically and started to prepare for the next step. But nothing happened. Perhaps the pupils were really frightened, or maybe Merope was afraid that with one more scandal she would lose her beloved Kleitos… Anyway after the episode she became totally subservient, even on matters on which they had disagreed in the past. For example, from one day to the next she became a vegetarian. In vain he told her that “for her sake and that of the child he could lay his principles aside now and then”. She was unyielding and prepared to make other, more serious sacrifices. She recalled that he had once told her that an initiate should only make love when he had decided to bring a child into the world. She decided to make things easier for him in that respect too. In spite of his chivalrous objections! They would only make love when the signs of Aries and Virgo were in sizygi and with the sole aim of providing Hilarion with a brother! That’s the story and there’s much more. It’s a whole epic. And our friend is still waiting in vain for the knife…”
“Between you and me that would be salvation.”
Scriabin’s music had meanwhile died away and we could no longer continue the conversation under its protective umbrella. We thought it polite to mingle with the others and apologies for the interference we had been putting into the meditation for such a long while. But it was already too late. Our host announced officially that “at last” the time for meditation had arrived!
“Tonight with the rising of the full moon the divine energy of Christ and Buddha will pour forth into the world. An electric river of energy, a torrent of thought-forms proceeding from the two Avatars has to be absorbed and used for the realization of the divine Plan. For this reason, friends, let us spend the next thirty minutes in deep meditation, let us sink into that ocean of ethereal material-thought-energy and let us spread it into the bosom of the world.”
One by one they took their places. They sat in a strange and, as I discovered, awkward posture. Feet entwined, chest out, the jaw pressed onto the Adam’s apple and hands in the lotus position, representing the symbolic flower of the soul.
Merope switched off the light and tiptoed out of the room.
I tried, in vain of course, to sit like them. It was a good try though, judging from the sharp pain that bit into my spine. I nearly swore. I stopped myself by bringing my body back to a more natural position, and relaxing my muscles. And in this advantageous position I proceeded to observe them through half-closed eyes. First of all they sat as awkwardly as possible. Then they closed their eyes. There was a momentary pause and then they took ten very loud deep breaths. There followed a second pause, succeeded by something which impressed me greatly. One by one, fugue-like at first and then all together, in harmony, they began intoning a strange word, something like “Aum, Aum, Aum” so loudly and with such semitones that you would have thought we were in a very busy obstetrician’s clinic!
Then they fell silent perspiring and out of breath I imagined, and sank into ecstasy, trying, as was patently clear, to fish for as much of that divine energy as Christ and Buddha were exhaling to mankind.
After this the minutes passed slowly. I was beginning to feel bored when the sudden appearance of a boy grabbed my attention. He had a large, round, blonde head, which looked dropsical and out of proportion with his small body. Hilarion! He must have heard the divine sounds and the initiate within him had awoken.
He was a really unpleasant looking boy about five years of age, with an indifferent expression that reminded one of old age or undernourishment. In the light of day one would certainly notice the lines of tomorrow’s wrinkles, “the eternal wrinkles of the soul…”
From the way he looked here and there it was evident that he was looking for something specific in the half-light. He looked searchingly and coldly at the stretched out gentlemen, and particularly coldly at his father on whose face two beads of sweat betrayed the degree of inner intensity. Then his gaze rested warmly on the large dropsy-like head of Uncle Evis.
He made his way silently towards him, thrust his hand into Mummy’s cousin’s pocket and took out a large, locally made salami… Evangelides, taken up with his meditation, did not realize what had happened. The boy then advanced to the centre of the room, curled himself into the lotus position on the carpet and began to eat – He! Of ail the children in the world, at such a moment, nibbling an already half-eaten salami.
It appears that either his munching was noisy or that I was not the only one in control of my senses, because one after another the guests, and Harry first of course, suddenly began to open their eyes in astonishment.
How did the salami come to be in Kakaraka’s pocket and how did the little “prodigy” find it? And if Uncle Evis was to blame with his cheating ways how was Hilarion misled so easily, he who according to Daddy’s reports felt sick at the very sight of meat?
It was not long before Mr. Parides was clearly asking himself the same questions. When he felt intuitively that the others had left him to carry the energy from Christ and Buddha on his own and opened his eyes to protest and he saw… he leapt up like a spring, grabbed the salami, threw it away, turned to the boy, lifted him up and with sweat pouring off him, began shaking him and demanding to know where he had found that “thing”, who had given it to him, when, and why he was eating something without Daddy’s permission.
Crying bitterly, more from the disappearance of his treasure than fear, the boy managed to explain that he had seen Uncle Evis putting slices of that red cheese in his sandwiches and wanted to try it. “Stop telling lies. Your uncle was here.” “In my room”, wailed the boy. “He came to bring me some nuts. He threw the white cheese into my jigsaw and put some of that…”
“That explains it”, whispered Harry. “The smell of sin forced the boy to follow his uncle closely. And since he saw him concentrating, in order not to remove him from his ecstasy, he removed it from his pocket…”
“A very discreet child” I said.
And abandoning the lotus position I sank happily into the armchair.

Translated by John Vickers

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