Monday, October 06, 2008


Everyone knows that the mind becomes extremely mountainous only a few steps in from the coast. The creatures that reside in this uncharted area on our mental maps are seldom seen by others, yet are common to us all; still, they can be a hazard to the solitary explorer who is not prepared to confront the unbelievable in his hinterland as he wends his way into the nether regions, from which few return unchanged.

Hermits, poets and other explorers of these fastnesses are well acquainted with the species of the inward realms, and are even known on occasion to have them eating out of their hands. But these nether fauna can never be completely tamed; and what would the outer reaches be, without their inner complement of native wildlife?

Between ourselves, however, we can only use metaphoric nomenclature to speak of these denizens we harbor in common, the names we call them imparting no description of their morphology, coloring or way of life. These are not crude and dispensable beings, but highly developed and specialized life forms essential to our spiritual ecology (psychological and religious taxonomy notwithstanding).

And there are many more such beings that have no names; yet we all know very well in ourselves of at least the presence of these creatures, who have at times poked their heads out of the thick undergrowth that adorns the verge of each of us; they are all part of the vastness of the experience when, in the world outside, we see a mountain and its wilds, that call to us as like to like; to climb such a peak and view the world from its summit is to do so as well within ourselves, to view at one remove the panoramas that we are.

And in so ascending we metaphorically surmount the wilderness within, survive vicarious passage to the summits of ourselves, to a clearer light, a cleaner wind. And we take this knowledge with us on our return to the narrow lowlands where we spend our daily lives as habitants of seeming mountainous islands, surrounded by seas of intercourse teeming with creatures that thrive in the depths of the apparent distance between us, those sometimes stormy, sometimes tranquil seas of relation that are as much illusion as the real world; for as each mountain is aware, at the foundation we are all connected.

[From the archives, July 2003.
First published in Kyoto Journal
The Sacred Mountains of Asia issue, 1993;
issue republished as a book of the same title
by Shambala Press, 1995, ed. John Einarsen.]


Aunt E. Om said...

Good day.

I come to your site via "Whiskey River", a personal fave. This post is wonderful: I love its metaphorical tapestry.

I have a very small blog these days--with deliberate intention--and I was wondering if I could copy and link to this piece, as it is written, in its entirety. Just so beautiful.Please advise by comment response here. (I'm not publishing an email address at this time. Hope this isn't a problem.)

Thank you for creating an interesting space. Love your use of photographic chronology across linear time.


Bob Brady said...

Sure, aunt e. om, feel free to copy and link. And thank you for your kind words.

Anonymous said...

Love Love love LoVe loVe to you from me . . .

Thanks so much for posting this.

Sybilla and I compared creatures and agreed to create a national park of our landscapes and join them with a serpentine silver bridge . . .



Peony said...

Hi Bob,

I've been reading and really enjoying Macfarlane's book Mountains of the Mind and have been writing a bit about it on my blog, when one of our mutual friends in Kyoto reminded me of your article-- which I loved so much when it first came out and was so pleased that he reminded me of it! I copied and linked to your "mountains of the mind" over at my place (in the comments)-- hope that is ok. See you on the silk road.