Travelers are preparing for the journey into the desert, beyond the maps, beyond the cities and the last outposts of consciousness. There are many roads that lead away from absolute knowledge, only a few that will bring the traveler to a true point of entry.
The great scholar-city of Anamnesis is devoted to opening the ways, and some fly directly from its towers towards the great shining disk that is the portico of the absolute. Elaborate maps are drawn up and plans produced showing the revolutions of the stars and the star-beings who guard the gates of the ascent to the highest knowledge. Yet some of the brilliant scholars here mistake their maps for the journey, and are lost in their studies when the call comes to take the road.
Some find their ways through the Dreamlands. Many more have become lost or entangled, and return through the parched lands where dying dreams gasp or flounder like fish beached on a shore.
Few who stumble into the Souqs of Hearsay – where travelers’ tales and talismans are traded, and dubious guides tout their services – find their way.
In the cane-brakes of Half-Remembered Things, thoughts and visions take flight like waterfowl. Most escape. Some are brought down, stone dead, by careless hunters. Only the hunter with a subtle net can bring them home.
We can be diverted for whole lifetimes from the journey in the closed Cities of Revelation, where people are penned within received and fixed beliefs. From some of the closed cities, no legal exit is permitted; to continue the journey you must make an escape - and risk terrible punishments if you are caught.
In the Swamps of Forgetting and the Zona Rosa, caught in the wallows of addiction, no one recalls the existence of a zone of Absolute Knowledge. In the Cities of the Reducers, ruled by scientific materialism, the possibility of higher dimensions is denied and dreamers conceal their dreams for fear of being confined to mental institutions.
I discuss arrangements for a journey to absolute knowledge with a pleasant couple. The woman has worked with me for a long time and has traveled through many mythic gates. Her husband is tall and lean, with glasses. He is diffident about his readiness to join our expedition. I share a vision in which he is playing a key role as our quartermaster, thanks to the immense resources he will soon inherit from his mother, a fierce matriarch and mistress of a commercial empire – sending ships and tankers across the seas – who also has a deep interest in esoteric things.
We are gathering horses, equipment, provisions. I tie and retie a curious pair of black sandals whose front straps are loose. The diffident man astonishes us by driving incredibly fast through narrow spaces in a busy shopping district, pulling with astonishing skill through a space only an inch or so wider than his vehicle.
Who returns from the journey to absolute knowledge? Where can we find them and consult with them?
Can the blind Ute woman really be one of those who has made the journey?
Can the silent old man who sits all day among animals – stray cats and dogs and others – be one of the successful voyagers?
My expedition is almost complete. I am discussing the final arrangements - including such technical questions as whether we will require camels as well as horses for the desert crossing - with the couple who are devoted to my work.
The entrance to the realm we are seeking appears as a desert of clean, striated white sand, edged by a few palms and the last oasis.
There can be no turning back, after this.