I have just seen the artwork for my forthcoming book The Divine Magician, and I have to say, it looks amazing. It is going to take a while for it to actually come out (we are in the final editing phase at the moment), so I thought I’d give you a little taster now. This is from chapter seven and just happened to be what I was re-reading when I got the artwork through. It also features my best friend Seamus, though I don’t mention him by name (my thanks to Mark Andrew, who posted a version of this story on my FB a few months ago),
There was once a competition that asked people to construct the largest possible sheep enclosure using a limited set of materials.
Three people entered: a mathematician, an engineer and an old Irish farmer.
Each of them were given basic tools, a pile of wooden planks and twenty-four hours to complete their pen.
When it came time for the judges to decide the winner they begin by examining the mathematician’s work. She had used her extensive knowledge of geometry to construct an impressive circular structure that maximized the utility of the materials. As a result nothing went to waste and a hundred sheep could easily be held.
Next they looked at the pen created by the engineer. His was more basic but twice the size of the mathematicians. Again he had used all of the material, but he had spent much of his time studying the strength of the wooden planks and worked out that it he could split them in two without compromising the security of the pen.
Lastly they came to the old farmer who, in contrast to the others, was surrounded by unused planks and bags of nails. They watched on in disbelief as the farmer stepped into the one foot square box he’d made.
“Is that your enclosure?,” said one of the judges in disbelief.
“Of course not!” replied the farmer, “I’m on the outside. You’re standing in it!”
The logic of this joke can help us glimpse the ultimate role of the temple: it is the place where the great reveal, the Turn of the trick, takes place. It is a place where the apocalyptic tearing of the magician’s curtain occurs and the Holy of Holies is exposed before our very eyes as an empty container.
It is a place that people gesture toward, laugh and say, “Is this where the sacred dwells.” To which the response must be, “Of course not! You’re already standing there.”
It is a place that displaces, a door that leads us back to where we started, much like the door in a horror film might lead the protagonist back into the very room she thought she was leaving.
It is then a space that reveals it’s own emptiness as a “deep” space so as to expose the depth dimension of all space.