Freedom Expanded: Book 1—The Nature and Role of Denial-Free Thinking
Part 10:4 Sir Laurens van der Post’s Vision
The visions of Sir James Darling, Charles Darwin and Pierre Teilhard de Chardin—and Louis Leakey, will be looked at shortly.
With regard to Sir Laurens van der Post’s vision, which I summarised in my dedication to him in my 1991 book Beyond The Human Condition with this quote from his writing: ‘…for I had a private hope of the utmost importance to me. The Bushman’s physical shape combined those of a child and a man: I surmised that examination of his inner life might reveal a pattern which reconciled the spiritual opposites in the human being and made him whole…it might start the first movement towards a reconciliation…’ (Laurens van der Post, The Heart of the Hunter, 1961, p.135 of 233), his vision was to use the Bushmen or San people of southern Africa, that DNA studies have shown to be the most ancient race of humans alive in the world today, to resurrect the truth that humans once, before the advent of the human condition some two million years ago, lived happy, loving, harmonious, innocent-of-upset lives. Since, as will become clear later, the upset state of the human condition began some two million years ago and has been increasing ever since, the Bushmen, being relatively modern people must be far from being completely free of upset, however compared with the rest of the existing races of humans in the world they are comparatively free of it. As Sir Laurens recognised, in the difference between them and other existing races we can see something of what innocence is like.
The following condensation of the beginning of Sir Laurens’ famous first book about the Bushmen, The Lost World of the Kalahari (1958), further illustrates Sir Laurens’ vision that the quote of his used in my Dedication above evidences: ‘This is the story of a journey in a great wasteland [Kalahari desert] and a search for some pure remnant of the unique and almost vanished First People of my native land, the Bushmen of Africa…I know…that no sooner did I become aware of myself as a child than my imagination slipped…into a profound pre-occupation with the little Bushman and his terrible fate…Beside the open hearth on cold winters’ nights on my mother’s farm…the vanished Bushman would be vividly at the centre of some hardy pioneering reminiscence; a Bushman gay, gallant, mischievous, unpredictable, and to the end unrepentant and defiant…He was present in the eyes of one of the first women to nurse me, her shining gaze drawn from the first light of some unbelievably antique African day [because she had]…a strain of Bushman blood…The older I grew the more I resented that I had come too late on the scene to know him [the Bushman] in the flesh…They said…there had never been anyone who could run like him over the veld…When he laughed, which he did easily, his face broke into innumerable little folds…Whenever my mother read us a fairy-tale with a little man performing wonders in it, he was immediately transformed in my imagination into a Bushman. Perhaps this life of ours, which begins as a quest of the child for the man, and ends as a journey by the man to rediscover the child, needs a clear image of some child-man, like the Bushman, wherein the two are firmly and lovingly joined in order that our confused hearts may stay at the centre of their brief round of departure and return’ (pp.11-13 of 253). Sir Laurens has here recognised and acknowledged how we humans once did live in an innocent, happy, loving state which we then lost, and he has described his vision of reconnecting us with that truth in order that we might better find our way back home to that ‘lost world of the Kalahari’—the Kalahari also being a metaphor for our ‘pure’ soul, that ‘great wasteland’ of neglected substance and soundness within us.
As further evidence of his vision it is worthwhile including more of Sir Laurens’ inspirational, truth-full writing about the Bushmen: ‘He [the Bushman] and his needs were committed to the nature of Africa and the swing of its wide seasons as a fish to the sea. He and they all participated so deeply of one another’s being that the experience could almost be called mystical. For instance, he seemed to know what it actually felt like to be an elephant, a lion, an antelope, a steenbuck, a lizard, a striped mouse, mantis, baobab tree, yellow-crested cobra, or starry-eyed amaryllis, to mention only a few of the brilliant multitudes through which he so nimbly moved. Even as a child it seemed to me that his world was one without secrets between one form of being and another’ (The Lost World of the Kalahari, 1958, p.21 of 253). ‘Wherever he [the Bushman] went he contained, and was contained, deeply within a symmetry of the land. His spirit was naturally symmetrical…And there is proof too of the balance and rough justice of his arrangements in the fact that when my ancestors landed on the southern tip of the continent three hundred years ago, Africa was largely bursting its ancient seams with riches of life not found in any other land on earth. Even I who came on the scene so long after the antique lock was picked and the treasure largely plundered, can still catch my breath at the glimpses I get, from time to time, of the riches that remain’ (ibid. p.22). ‘He [the Bushman] built no home of any durable kind, did not cultivate the land, and did not even keep cattle or other domestic chattel’ (ibid. p.25). The Bushmen possessed an ‘astonishing gift of painting…I know one painting where a frightened herd of running eland is shown with such a gift of movement’ (ibid. pp.29,31). ‘[E]ven his bitterest enemies were forced to reluctantly admit his immense courage’ (ibid. p.42). ‘Wounded and bleeding he fought to the last. Shot through one arm…the Bushman would instantly use his knee or foot to enable him to draw his bow with the uninjured one. If his last arrow was spent he still struggled as best he could until, finding the moment of his end had come, he would hasten to cover his head so that his enemies should not see the agony of dying expressed upon his face’ (ibid. p.45). [When you are still in touch with your soul you are in touch with such truth and awareness of another true world that, unlike the alienated, soul-destroyed and lost, you have something precious to hold on to and thus ‘immense courage’.] ‘It seemed a strange paradox that everywhere men and women were busy digging up old ruins and buried cities in order to discover more about ancient man, when all the time the ignored Bushman was living with this early spirit still intact. I found men willing enough to come with me to measure his head, or his behind, or his sexual organs, or his teeth. But when I pleaded with the head of a university in my own country to send a qualified young man to live with the Bushman for two or three years, to learn about him and his ancient way he exclaimed, surprised: “But what would be the use of that?”’ (ibid. p.67). [Bereft of soundness, mechanistic science could not look at the whole truth.] ‘One of the most moving aspects of life is how long the deepest memories stay with us. It is as if individual memory is enclosed in a greater which even in the night of our forgetfulness stands like an angel with folded wings ready, at the moment of acknowledged need, to guide us back to the lost spoor of our meanings’ (ibid. p.62). ‘I thought finally that of all the nostalgias that haunt the human heart the greatest of them all, for me, is an everlasting longing to bring what is youngest home to what is oldest, in us all’ (ibid. p.151). ‘You know I once saw a little Bushman imprisoned in one of our goals because he killed a giant bustard which according to the police, was a crime…he was dying because he couldn’t bear being shut up and having his freedom of movement stopped…Physically the doctor couldn’t find anything wrong with him but he died none the less!’ (ibid. p.236).
In his other great book about the Bushmen, The Heart of the Hunter (1961), Sir Laurens wrote that, ‘mere contact with twentieth-century life seemed lethal to the Bushman. He was essentially so innocent and natural a person that he had only to come near us for a sort of radioactive fall-out from our unnatural world to produce a fatal leukaemia in his spirit’ (p.111 of 233). In The Heart of the Hunter Sir Laurens also wrote that, ‘There was indeed a cruelly denied and neglected first child of life, a Bushman in each of us’ (p.126). And on the last page of The Heart of the Hunter: ‘All this became for me, on my long journey home by sea, an image of what is wanted in the spirit of man today. We live in a sunset hour of time. We need to recognize and develop that aspect of ourselves of which the moon bears the image. It is our own shy intuitions of renewal, which walk in our spiritual night as Porcupine walked by the light of the moon, that need helping on the way. It is as if I hear the wind bringing up behind me the voice of Mantis, the infinite in the small, calling from the stone age to an age of men with hearts of stone, commanding us with the authentic voice of eternal renewal: “You must henceforth be the moon. You must shine at night. By your shining shall you lighten the darkness until the sun rises again to light up all things for men”’ (p.233).
As was explained in Part 5:2, Bruce Chatwin’s comment that ‘the First man was also Christ’ (from his quote included earlier that ‘There is no contradiction between the Theory of Evolution and belief in God and His Son on earth. If Christ were the perfect instinctual specimen—and we have every reason to believe He was—He must be the Son of God. By the same token, the First Man was also Christ’ (What Am I Doing Here, 1989, p.65 of 367)), was reminiscent of Sir Laurens’ observation that ‘The pastor, Dominee Ferdie Weich, though much loved by the Bushmen, could report no permanent conversion to Christ in 21 years’ (Testament to the Bushmen, 1984, text accompanying photograph 91). The Bushmen, being Christ-like themselves in their innocence, weren’t in need of Christianity. They didn’t need a sound person to defer to, live through, be ‘born-again’ through as a result of being so upset they could no longer afford to trust in and live through themselves. They weren’t that upset. In his 1985 book Black Robe, the Northern Irish novelist Brian Moore recorded this revealing comment made by an American Indian to Jesuit missionaries in Canada about the comparative innocence of native people: ‘It is because you Normans are deaf and blind that you think this world is a world of darkness and the world of the dead is a world of light’ (p.184 of 256).
Elsewhere in his writings about the Bushmen, Sir Laurens wrote of ‘This shrill, brittle, self-important life of today is by comparison a graveyard where the living are dead and the dead are alive and talking [through our soul] in the still, small, clear voice of a love and trust in life that we have for the moment lost…[there was a time when] All on earth and in the universe were still members and family of the early race seeking comfort and warmth through the long, cold night before the dawning of individual consciousness in a togetherness which still gnaws like an unappeasable homesickness at the base of the human heart’ (Testament to the Bushmen, 1984, pp.127-128 of 176). Sir Laurens further recognised the battle between our original innocent instinctive self and our newer ‘individual consciousness’ when he wrote, ‘I spoke to you earlier on of this dark child of nature, this other primitive man within each one of us with whom we are at war in our spirit’ (The Dark Eye in Africa, 1955, p.154 of 159).
Significantly, while Sir Laurens was able to clearly recognise the ‘war’ between our original, innocent, instinctive soulful ‘dark child of nature’ and our newer ‘individual conscious’ intellect or ‘spirit’ he wasn’t able to explain the reason for the ‘war’. His vision, as stated in my Dedication to him, was the ‘hope’ that by ‘reveal[ing]’ the ‘inner life’ of the ‘child’ in ‘man’ he ‘might start the first movement towards a reconciliation’—and that ‘hope’ of ‘reconciliation’ that, as I will now explain, his work contributed so greatly to is exactly what has been achieved in this book.
Once we became hurt and alienated, hearing about the magic world of our soul was unbearable, which is why all the truth about our soul has been so denied and buried. J.D.F. Jones, a British journalist who wrote a book that tried to crucify Sir Laurens as a charlatan (which is a ridiculous accusation when it could not be more clear from Sir Laurens’ writings how sound and secure he was), said in an interview, ‘the academic experts on the Kalahari [Bushmen] are absolutely berserk with rage about the things he [Sir Laurens] said, because, if you read The Lost World of the Kalahari, you must not believe that this is the truth about the Bushmen; it’s not’ (ABC Radio, Late Night Live, 25 Feb. 2002). Throughout history denial-free thinkers like John the Baptist and his protégé Christ were often brutally persecuted, or, like John the Baptist and Christ, even killed for telling the truth. The great danger of such persecution was that while it protected upset humans from unbearable condemnation it also thwarted the expression of truths needed to explain the human condition. In fact, as has been mentioned before, the real threat facing the human race was terminal levels of denial/alienation—a world where humans were walking around in such terrible truthless and meaningless darkness that they could never hope to find their way back to a world of liberating and relieving light/knowledge. To write so honestly about humanity’s collective loss of innocence was Sir Laurens’ great inspiration and vision. It was an incalculably important contribution to the world because it brought light to an area of denial that was crippling the human race.
I know how precious the truth Sir Laurens resurrected was because it was able to save my soul from extinction. Some time in my late teenage years, my mother, Jill Griffith, gave me a copy of a book by Sir Laurens (I think it was his 1952 book Venture to the Interior because I remember the zebras pictured on the cover) and it was this book, and then Sir Laurens’ two main books about the Bushmen, The Lost World of the Kalahari (1958) and Heart of the Hunter (1961), which I sought out soon after reading the first book, that gave me the confirmation I needed that my very different unresigned, denial-free, unevasive way of thinking wasn’t some form of madness. As some evidence of how precious Sir Laurens’ writings have been to me, my original copies of The Lost World of the Kalahari and Heart of the Hunter are now so tattered from use they are held together by lots of tape and some string. Many times as a young man, especially when I was at a party, I couldn’t contain my complete bewilderment about everyone’s denial and pretence that there was nothing wrong with the world, in particular with human behaviour, and ended up protesting out aloud or running away through the night in tears of confusion. To the resigned, alienated person the reason for upset behaviour is self-evident but to the relatively innocent it is a complete mystery, made so much worse by the upset not acknowledging there was anything wrong with their behaviour, in fact pretending that they were completely happy with the way they and the rest of upset humanity were behaving. For example in 1973 when I was 28 years old and had just returned from the wilds of Tasmania where I had been searching for the possibly extinct Tasmanian Tiger or Thylacine (which did turn out to be extinct—you can read more about my search at <>) I remember being taken by my girlfriend at the time to a lavish dinner party attended by many of Sydney’s young socialites. I think it was Sydney’s Black and White Ball, or something like that. I remember I became so overwhelmed by the extravagance of the function and the artificiality and pretence of everyone that I ended up standing on my chair defiantly accusing everyone in the room of being fake and phony and totally indifferent to the epidemic of suffering in the world. I remember that following my outburst that there was a great silence in the room, then the men in particular turned their backs. My girlfriend then stood up and kindly put her arm around my shoulder and said out aloud so everyone could hear something like, ‘Jeremy, the world isn’t an ideal place but it’s all we have’ and persuaded me to sit down, after which everyone returned to their jovialities. On another occasion I remember going to a woolshed party (a woolshed is a big shed used for shearing sheep that offered lots of space for a band, dancing and a party) at Bowral, south of Sydney, and becoming so distressed by everyone’s silence about the artificiality of the world and pretence that the world was exactly as it should be, that I ended up running away through the bush for miles and miles until my arms were torn from running through the rough scrub. Eventually I collapsed in a heap on the ground in a state of exhausted distress before eventually walking all the way back to where my friends and I were staying at a residence near the party. I have always had many friends because I have always been outgoing and excited about the world, but when it came to trying to understand why the world wasn’t an authentic place, I was deeply perplexed and alone in that regard. In my late teens and twenties there were many occasions like the two just described. I know exactly why Christ in his extreme innocence as a youth frustratedly ‘overturned the tables of the money-changers’ in the temple (Matt. 21:12 and Mark 11:15) and later on angrily called the denial-practicing academics of his day ‘you, blind guides…you blind fools…you hypocrites…you snakes! You brood of vipers!’ (see Matt. 23:16-33).
As mentioned above and as I have said before in this book, to the resigned and alienated it is self-evident why the world is so false but to the relatively innocent it is a complete and utter mystery, and if the alienated won’t admit that they are living in denial, and in fact are pretending to be happy and content, then the mystery of what is going on is truly incredible. My mother once told me that when she was young she thought of joining a monastery and I understand now that that was because she was so innocent and naive that the false and superficial upset world was an almost overwhelming unbearable mystery for her also. The significance of an alienation-free, unresigned mother in producing an alienation-free, unresigned son was explained in Part 10:1 about Moses, Christ and Plato. Given how bewildering a mystery upset behaviour is for innocence it can be appreciated how immensely relieving it was for me to read Sir Laurens’ books. As I mentioned, his honesty virtually saved my life; better than that, it encouraged me to hold on to my unusual way of thinking. I was variously being described by people as ‘hopelessly idealistic’, ‘quixotic’, ‘a dreamer’, ‘utopian’ and, more unkindly, as being ‘mad’, ‘idiotic’, ‘childish’, ‘pathetic’; and my ideas as being ‘offensive’ and ‘just plain wrong’. Later in my life I was regularly accused of practicing ‘bad science’, which I now know only too well is mechanistic science’s code words for science that doesn’t comply with its evasive, denial-complying etiquette. With the confirmation from Sir Laurens’ writing that I wasn’t mad I was able to go on thinking unevasively and eventually find my way to the humanity-liberating truth about the human condition. Sir Laurens played a crucial role in producing these liberating understandings of the human condition.
As a boy, Sir Laurens must have also suffered from total bewilderment about the silent, fraudulent, dishonest, deluded, pretentious, arrogant, artificial, escapist world of upset humans and he must have found much needed reassurance and confirmation that the ideal world that he knew of was real from the Bushmen. Realising their importance to him he realised their importance to humanity in terms of bringing some real truth back into the world, and that was his vision, the contribution he could see that he should make. My innocence, my naivety, my soundness was so great that my vision was to be able to actually explain and liberate humanity from the human condition.
On 30 January 1972, when I was 27 and still in the wilds of Tasmania trying to rediscover the Tasmanian Tiger I wrote a love letter, which I still have a copy of, to my then girlfriend in Sydney (the one that took me to the lavish party I mentioned earlier) that included these words: ‘Playing saying seeing dreaming you left me with a funny feeling! I won’t study so I will try and write to you. I feel like writing because it’s cloudy. There were a thousand wild horses out on that great plain and before them strode a boy and he was alone and hopelessly happy.’ Accompanying the letter was a drawing of thousands of galloping horses coming over the horizon towards the viewer with a small boy out in front leading them. I can understand now that this image of the horses and boy was a representation of my vision of my innocence being able to lead humanity home from its alienated state. In fact in every major document I have written I have included a phrase that has always summarised my vision, which is that ‘soon from one end of the horizon to the other will appear an army in its millions to do battle with human suffering and its weapon will be understanding’.
All my life whenever I have heard or read Australia’s most celebrated poem, Banjo Paterson’s 1895 The Man From Snowy River, emotion has overtaken me and tears come to my eyes. For a long time I didn’t understand why. While Australia has an ancient mythology that is grounded in the Dreamtime stories of the Aborigines, it also has a powerful contemporary mythology with The Man From Snowy River at the centre of them—Banjo Paterson’s image and all the words to The Many From Snowy River, written in tiny text as they are, even features on our most used currency, Australia’s $10 note. Mythologies only develop if they contain a resonating deep truth. Ostensibly the poem is about a great ride by mountain horsemen to recapture an escaped thoroughbred that joined the wild horses or brumbies in the mountain ranges but I now understand the poem is a recognition that it is in this relatively innocent country of Australia that the answers to the human condition would finally be found—it is a description of my vision, hence my emotional identification with it. The poem describes how eventually a ‘stripling’ boy (the embodiment of innocence) goes beyond where the rest of the horsemen (the alienated adults) dare go, and follows the brumbies down the ‘terrible descent’ of a steep mountain where (if you weren’t sound) ‘any slip was death’ (to confront the unconfrontable issue of the human condition) and recapture the thoroughbred from the impenetrable mountains (retrieve the escaped truth from the depths of denial). The poem describes how the boy ‘ran them [the brumbies] single-handed till their sides were white with foam / He followed like a bloodhound on their track / Till they halted, cowed and beaten—then he turned their heads for home / And alone and unassisted brought them back’ (he fought all the alienation and its denial that has been enslaving this world to a standstill until it finally gave up the truth). The story of David and Goliath is the same recognition of innocence eventually slaying the giant, the giant being our species’ alienated state of denial. In the great European legend of King Arthur, the wounded (alienated) Fisher King whose realm was devastated (humans unavoidably made their world an expression of their own madnesses) could only have his wound healed, and his realm restored, by the arrival in his kingdom of a simple, naive boy. In the legend the boy’s name is Parsifal, which, according to the legend, means ‘guileless fool’. To the alienated only a naive, ‘guileless’ fool would dare approach and grapple with the confronting truths about our divisive, corrupted condition. Hans Christian Andersen’s 1837 fable the Emperor’s New Clothes contains the same resonating truth that it would take a small boy to break the spell of the denial that has captured humanity. While these other mythologies have recognised the truth about innocence leading humanity home from its lost state of alienation, they were not the central mythology of their civilisations like The Man From Snowy River has been in Australia’s mythology. Australia was where the great breakthrough would occur.
As I mentioned in Part 3:12, in my mid-twenties I also wrote this poem which clearly describes the excitement of the time of humanity’s liberation that my vision anticipated: ‘This is a story you see, just a story—but for you / Um—I remember a long time ago in the distant future a timeless day / a sunlit cloudless day when all things were fine / when we all slow-danced our way to breakfast in the sun // You see the day awoke with music / Can you imagine one thousand horses slow galloping towards you across a vast plain / and we loved that day so much / We all danced like Isadora Duncan through the morning light // We skipped and twirled and spun about / Fairies were there like dragonflies over a pool / Little girls with wings they hovered and flew about / their small voices you could hear / You see it was that kind of morning // When the afternoon arrived it was big and bold and beautiful / In worn out jeans and bouncing breasts we began / to fight—our way—into another day / into something new—to jive our way into the night / from sunshine into a thunderstorm // We all took our place, rank upon rank we came / as an army with Hendrix out in front / and the music busted the horizon into shreds / By God we broke the world apart / The pieces were of different colours and there were so many people / We danced in coloured dust, we left in sweat no room at all / We had a ball in gowns of grey and red / There were things that happened that nobody knew / Bigger and better, I had written on my sweater / Where there was sky there was music, huge clouds of it / and there were storms of gold with coloured lights / It was so good we cried tears into our eyes / In a tug of war of love we had no strength left at all / Dear God we cried but he only sighed and / whispered strength through leaves of laughter // On and on we came in bold ranks of silvered gold / to lead a world that didn’t know to somewhere it didn’t care / It couldn’t last, it had to end and yet it had an endless end / We were so happy in balloons of coloured bubbles that wouldn’t bust / and we couldn’t, couldn’t quench our lust / There we were all together for ever and ever / and tomorrow had better beware because / when we’ve wept and slept we will be there to shake its bloody neck.’
The imagery of an army of galloping horses that appeared in my 1972 letter to my girlfriend and in the drawing attached to it, and in my poem above, and in Banjo Paterson’s epic story, appears in many anticipations of the incredible excitement and rapidly gathering support the liberating and transforming understanding of the human condition will receive when it arrives.
In the Bible the prophets Joel and Isaiah described the same event using similar imagery. Joel said: ‘Blow the trumpet in Zion; sound the alarm on my holy hill. Let all who live in the land tremble, for the day of the Lord [the liberating but at the same time all-exposing denial-free understanding of the human condition] is coming…Like dawn spreading across the mountains a large and mighty army comes, such as never was of old nor ever will be in ages to come. Before them fire devours, behind them a flame blazes. Before them the land is like the garden of Eden, behind them, a desert waste—nothing escapes them. They have the appearance of horses; they gallop along like cavalry. With a noise like that of chariots…like a mighty army drawn up for battle. At the sight of them, nations are in anguish; every face turns pale. They charge like warriors; they scale walls like soldiers. They all march in line, not swerving from their course. They do not jostle each other…For the day of the Lord is near in the valley of decision. The sun and moon will be darkened, and the stars no longer shine. The Lord will roar from Zion and thunder from Jerusalem; the earth and the sky will tremble…“In that day the mountains will drip new wine, and the hills will flow with milk; all the ravines of Judah will run with water…Their bloodguilt, which I have not pardoned, I will pardon [the dignifying understanding of humans’ corrupted state is finally found]”’ (Joel 2,3).
Isaiah said: ‘He lifts up a banner for the distant nations, he whistles for those at the ends of the earth. Here they come, swiftly and speedily! Not one of them grows tired or stumbles, not one slumbers or sleeps; not a belt is loosened at the waist, not a sandal thong is broken. Their arrows are sharp, all their bows are strung; their horses’ hoofs seem like flint, their chariot wheels like a whirlwind. Their roar is like that of the lion, they roar like young lions; they growl as they seize their prey and carry it off with no-one to rescue. In that day they will roar over it like the roaring of the sea. And if one looks at the land, he will see darkness and distress; even the light will be darkened by the clouds’ (Isa. 5:26–30).
While it doesn’t contain the imagery of horses, the immensely popular 1993 song Holy Grail, written and sung by Mark Seymour of the Australian rock band Hunters and Collectors, represents another anticipation in Australia’s mythology of the arrival of the all-exciting and all-cleansing dignifying understanding of the human condition occurring in Australia: ‘Woke up this morning from the strangest dream / I was in the biggest army the world had ever seen / We were marching as one on the road to the Holy Grail // Started out seeking fortune and glory / It’s a short song but it’s a hell of a story / When you spend your lifetime trying to get your hands / on the Holy Grail // Well have you heard about the Great Crusade? / We ran into millions but nobody got paid / Yeah we razed four corners of the globe for the Holy Grail // All the locals scattered, they were hiding in the snow / We were so far from home, so how were we to know? / There’d be nothing left to plunder / When we stumbled on the Holy Grail // We were so full of beans but we were dying like flies / And those big black birds, they were circling in the sky / And you know what they say, yeah nobody deserves to die // Oh but I’ve been searching for an easy way / To escape the cold light of day [I’ve lived a life of resigned evasion] / I’ve been high and I’ve been low [suffered the consequences of recurring depression] / But I’ve got nowhere else to go / There’s nowhere else to go! // I followed orders, God knows where I’ve been / but I woke up alone, all my wounds were clean [our psychosis was cleared up] / I’m still here, I’m still a fool for the Holy Grail / I’m a fool for the Holy Grail.’
There are other powerful anticipations in Australian mythology of the emergence of understanding of the human condition in Australia, that are documented in my book A Species In Denial in the section titled ‘Australia’s role in the world’.
So while Sir Laurens’ was an exceptionally Unresigned Prophet, the vision he had was to resurrect the truth of our species’ past innocent state and to do this he used the vehicle of the Bushman people as evidence for that lost innocent state. Again, while Sir Laurens was able to clearly recognise the ‘war’ between our original, innocent, instinctive soulful ‘dark child of nature’ and our newer ‘individual conscious’ intellect or ‘spirit’ he wasn’t able to explain the reason for the ‘war’. His vision, as stated in my Dedication to him, was the ‘hope’ that by ‘reveal[ing]’ the ‘inner life’ of the ‘child’ in ‘man’ he ‘might start the first movement towards a reconciliation’, and that ‘hope’ of ‘reconciliation’ that his work contributed is exactly what was achieved. The Bushmen looked after the soul and its truth in Sir Laurens, and Sir Laurens in turn looked after the soul and its truth in me, and in turn I am now using that soul and its truth to look after humanity, rescue it from the horror of alienated oblivion. Again, as Sir Laurens anticipated: ‘We live in a sunset hour of time. We need to recognize and develop that aspect of ourselves of which the moon bears the image. It is our own shy intuitions of renewal, which walk in our spiritual night as Porcupine walked by the light of the moon, that need helping on the way. It is as if I hear the wind bringing up behind me the voice of Mantis, the infinite in the small, calling from the stone age to an age of men with hearts of stone, commanding us with the authentic voice of eternal renewal: “You must henceforth be the moon. You must shine at night. By your shining shall you lighten the darkness until the sun rises again to light up all things for men”’ (The Heart of the Hunter, 1961, p.233 of 233).
One of my most precious memories was when I met Sir Laurens in London in 1993 and was able to thank him personally for the assistance he had been to my work and life, which is when the above photograph was taken. I wrote to Sir Laurens on a number of occasions and treasure a 20 May 1988 response to my first book Free: The End Of The Human Condition which I had sent him where he said, ‘Could you please send me an extra copy of your book? Yours to me is already out on loan because it was so appreciated, and I shall give it to my publishers to read and see whether they are as interested as we are.’ His publishers didn’t show the interest Sir Laurens hoped for, and in fact all my books, which are about the human condition, have had to be published by our own organisation, the Foundation for Humanity’s Adulthood, now called the WORLD TRANSFORMATION MOVEMENT. Sir Laurens never stopped trying to help promote my books, writing to Tim Macartney-Snape on the 15 August 1989 saying: ‘If I do not do more to help Jeremy Griffith it is simply that the weight and amount of my responsibilities prevent me, short of self-destruction.’ On 6 May 1993, three and half years before his death, Sir Laurens wrote to me saying, ‘I would hope you will always know how we value the examples you set and the work you are doing in Australia.’ Denial-free thinkers can recognise denial-free thinking but for everyone else they are an anathema.
As the quote from Sir Laurens used in my dedication to him states, he hoped his work of acknowledging the relative innocence of the Bushmen would ‘start the first movement towards a reconciliation’. I only wish that Sir Laurens was still alive to tell him how successful his vision of starting such a movement was, but then again I know that he doesn’t really need to know that it was successful because his vision was so clear that he always knew it would be successful.
Appropriately, Sir Laurens’ full-page obituary, which was reproduced in The Australian newspaper from the London Times, was titled ‘A Prophet Out of Africa’ (20 Dec. 1996)—(view van der Post’s obituary that was reproduced in The Australian at <>).