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The following is an extract from pages 96-97 of Doris Lessing's amazing book "Shikasta":

Before the Catastrophe, in the Time of the Giants, who had been the Natives' friends and mentors, and who had taught them everything, Shikasta had been an easy pleasant world, where there was little danger or threat. Canopus was able to feed Shikasta with a rich and vigorous air, which kept everyone safe and healthy, and above all, made them love each other. But because of an accident, this substance-of-life could not reach here as it had, could reach this place only in pitifully small quantities. This supply of finer air had a name. It was called SOWF - the substance-of-we-feeling [...] The little trickle of SOWF that reached this place was the most precious thing they had, and would keep them falling back to animal level. I said there was a gulf between them and the other animals of Shikasta, and what made them higher was their knowledge of SOWF. SOWF would protect and preserve them. They must reverence SOWF.

For they could waste it, spend it, use it in the wrong way. It was for this reason that they must never pervert themselves in the ruins of the old cities or dance among the Stones. This was why they must never, if they came on sources of intoxication, allow themselves intoxication. But coming from Canopus to Shikasta was a small steady trickle of this substance, and continue to come, always. This was a promise from Canopus to Shikasta. In due time - I did not say thousands upon thousands of years! - this trickle would become a flood. And their descendants could bathe in it as they played now in the crystal rivers. But there would not be any descendants if they did not take care to preserve themselves. If they [..] did not guard themselves they would become worse than animals. They must not spoil themselves by taking too much of the substance of Shikasta. They must not use others. They must not let themselves become animals who lived only to eat and to sleep and to eat again - no, a part of their lives must be set aside for the remembrance of Canopus, memory of the substance-of-we-feeling, which was all they had.

And there was more, and worse. On Shikasta there were enemies, wicked people, enemies of Canopus, who were stealing the SOWF. These enemies enslaved Shikastans, when they could. They did this by encouraging those qualities that Canopus hated. They thrived when they hurt each other, or used each other - they delighted in any manifestation of the absence of substance-of-we-feeling. To outwit their enemies, Shikastans must love each other, help each other, always be equals with each other, and never take each other's goods or substance.

This energy, while misunderstood by Western science, is essential for life. It is the fire that drives our inner organs, the momentum that keeps our chakras spinning. It is nourished by peak experiences, music, art, even ideas can spark off its magical powers. It is that tingling sensation that rushes up the spine, the caress of angels on our shoulder, that comes with knowing in your soul that what you are doing is The Right ThingTM. It is the joy shared by people experiencing beauty, beholding a wondrous sight in nature or a breathtaking performance. All of these things top up our spiritual machinery, revitalise our zest for life, which can become so drained in our modern existence. Be grateful for what you receive, and pass it on :-)

© Doris Lessing - Page created by Malcolm Smith 2002-07-10 - last updated 2007-04-30