Illustration by Richard Barnes, Purusha and Teacher of Transcendental Meditation, Australia.
Wellsprings: A Fable of Consciousness, William T. Hathaway’s just-published book, concerns Transcendental Meditation and the environmental crisis.
It is set in 2026 as the earth’s ecosystem has broken down under human abuse. Water supplies are shrinking. Rain is rare, and North America is gripped in the Great Drought with crops withering and forests dying. In the midst of environmental and social collapse, an old woman and a young man set out to heal nature and reactivate the cycle of flow by using techniques of higher consciousness. But the corporations that control the remaining water lash out to stop them. A blend of adventure, ecology, and mystic wisdom, Wellsprings: A Fable of Consciousness is a frightening but hopeful look into a future that is looming closer every day.
An odd couple, Bob, 18, and Jane, 77, meet at a California hot springs and set out together on a quest. Jane is convinced North America’s water has retreated into a deep subterranean aquifer, and she is searching for the place where it comes close enough to the surface to access it. She teaches him to meditate, and their visions help them find the cavern that connects to the water.
Jane and I drive around to the north side of Mt. Shasta, hoping to be able to sense the subterranean springs from there. In the moonlight the mountain looks like a silver pyramid soaring up from the horizon into the starry purple night. The ancient volcano is lord of all it surveys. Veils of clouds are blowing around its peak.
We find a grassy glade in the forest, but the grass is dry and brittle and the tree branches droop from the drought. As we are spreading our blankets out to meditate, motion on the other side of the clearing catches our eyes. Out of the trees steps a black-tailed doe. She sees us and pauses, one foot raised, sniffing, listening, looking. Jane and I stare enthralled. As the doe gazes at us, our eyes join across the space, across the species. Communication flows between us: cautious curiosity about a fellow creature. She breaks contact, begins nibbling, then looks back at us as if saying, As long as you stay on your side, it’s OK.
We watch her in delight until she trots off, then we close our eyes to meditate. At first my mantra goes with my heartbeat then slows and goes with my breath. The sound stretches out into a long hum floating through me. I seem to be beyond my skin, filling the whole clearing. I feel like I’m sinking into the earth. I want to hold on, to keep from disappearing, but something tells me to let everything go. I free-fall through space, then realize it’s impossible to fall because there’s no down. I’m hovering … like a dragonfly over water. The sound fades away, leaving me without thoughts. I seem to expand beyond all space and boundaries to unite with everything. For a moment I know I am everything, the whole universe, but as soon as I think, I’m everything, I’m not anymore. I’m just Bob Parks sitting on a blanket over cold ground.
I start the mantra again. Its whisper clears my thoughts away, and my mind becomes quiet. Part of me is watching the quietness of my mind and enjoying it. I never knew I had this watching part before. It doesn’t need to think. It’s just there, aware of everything but separate from it — a wise old part of me.
I realize I’m off the mantra, drifting on thoughts, so I pick up the sound again and follow it as it gets fainter and finer until it becomes more visual, pulsing light behind my closed eyes. It seems to shine into something, a big cavern that’s inside of me but also outside of me. The boundaries between me and everything else disappear — no difference now between inside and outside. I can see dimly into the cavern. The walls and ceiling are crystal, its facets glinting in the mantra light. Below them in all directions stretches a vast dark sea of water, its ripples gleaming. It’s deep, deep as the earth, and I want to plunge in and dive all the way to the bottom. I’m sitting above it. Down there beneath me, beneath these rocks and dirt, rests the water.
I can sense this sea’s immensity, stretching from California under the Great Basin of Nevada, Utah, and Arizona, the parched American desert, the last place the corporate drillers would’ve looked. We’re sitting by the tip of it closest to the surface. From here it goes deeper and deeper, soaking through strata of sand and porous rock, a huge aquifer waiting to be freed and flow again.
I want to jump up and yell, “I found it!” but that thought makes it disappear. I take a deep breath and am back sitting cross-legged on my blanket. Too stunned to say anything, I lie back and feel the ground under me, this good ground with all that good water under it.
A further sample of Wellsprings: A Fable of Consciousness is posted at http://www.cosmicegg-books.com/books/wellsprings. William T. Hathaway’s other books include A World of Hurt (Rinehart Foundation Award), CD-Ring, Summer Snow, and Radical Peace: People Refusing War. He and his wife, Daniela, direct the Transcendental Meditation Center in Oldenburg, Germany. A selection of his writing is available at www.peacewriter.org.