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A university professor says, “I wish I had the confidence the students at school have. They just write ‘James I was a Protestant’ on their exam papers; if only I could go back to a time when it was that simple.” Yet if you catch him off guard in his retirement and ask after King James’s religion he will reply: “Oh he was a Protestant.”

It all works that way. The child says there are gnomes, fairies, and God—Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy etc. The child says, “Yes,” to the enquiry. The old man also says, “Yes,” to the enquiry—it is the same word but a different “yes”. How can this be so? It is like a penny that has been battered for twenty-three years; it is still a penny, just a penny with rough edges. When you part with it the penny is worth more than a new penny—yet it is still only a penny.

The intermediate stage is the problem: it is the fever. It is the fever that the university professor experiences when he presents various perspectives on the issue—he strokes his long white beard and can never be sure if James I was a Protestant or not; he publishes evaluative monographs instead. The fever is the curriculum vitae—the vanity found in it, only the best presentation and not reality.

There are people in the fever who say, “Santa Claus exists.” An extraordinary statement. “He exists because all the people motivated to give gifts at Christmas can be taken in aggregate to constitute an emergent order—the ‘Santa Claus’ egregore; we symbolically represent him when we dress up as Santa Claus. This is how God and Jesus are real too!”. These people are still in the fever, in some ways they are more in the fever than the atheist. They have got very clever—made a god from rags and sticks.

No, we still wait for their fever to break—we still wait for the simple “yes”. That only comes at the end, when the vanity is given up—until then we hear much beard-tugging. In truth, some people die in the fever—they never wake up; it is not certain you will recover, just likely. Then there are those people who wake up from the fever the middle of life; they are more rare, usually they have had a bad shock—and they can be dangerous because they wake up and realise everyone else is terribly sick, their brows are covered in sweat and they are running a temperature and yet they walk about in the cold.

The person who recovers in mid-life, awakes in mid-life, can be dangerous because he might start a crusade to cure people—to cure the world—and yet it is not necessary; people need to be left to sweat in the fever in their own time. There is no need to rush, if you rush society will go into pandemonium.

Then there is another type, more annoying, who understands in an intellectual way that he has the fever. He often seeks out a man who recovered in mid-life and makes urgent enquiries about how he can come out from the fever. He seeks out the recovered man and asks many questions. So you want to talk about Sufism? Well, I’m not a Sufi but I do know how to lie on a wool rug…“What does he mean? I must read Shah again.”

These people will talk about the fever, describe the fever—read books by Eliade and Jung about the fever—but they are among the most difficult to cure. It is easier to cure people who do not know they are sick. This man has a fever about the fever—his illness is that he wants to recover. He is the hardest to make understand—he will go to the Yucatán and Tunguska to imbibe “authentic shar-manism”, yet he will not say “yes”. He will not say “yes” because it is important to him to say “shar-man” not “shay-man” because that is more authentic—hence they travel, travel feverishly.

It’s ironic, since this business is about travelling without moving—the thing you’re looking for is inside, not on the Yucatán Peninsula. I mean, go to the Yucatán if you want—but it’s a long way to go for what you have right here. In the end, you will see the great joke that everything retailed to you as “fantasy” and “escapism”—tales of old men in the mountain who sheath their lightsabers and vanish as they are cut down—is true. The tomb is empty—yes, the tomb is empty.

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