Session 726 - The Island Analogy
Imagine that you are a small sandy island with softly graded shores, some palm trees, and a haven
for traveling birds. Pretend further that you are quite content, though sometimes lonely. A fine
fog encircles you, though it does not prevent the sun from shining directly down. You feel quite
independent, and you think of the fog as a kind of cocoon that gently shields you from the great
expanse of an endless sea.
Then, however, you begin to wonder about the other islands that you know exist beyond your vision.
Are they like you? Your wondering forms a tiny window in the fog, and you look through.
Astonished, you discover that a small coral path unites you with the next island that is
glimpsed, shimmering now through the ever-growing window in the mist. Who is to say where you
end and the other island begins?
As you wonder, more astonished still, you discover other coral paths extending from you in all
directions. These lead to further islands. "They are all me," you think, though each is very
different. One may have no trees at all, and another be the home of a volcano. Some may be
filled with soft grasses, innocent of sand.
Now this first island is very clever indeed, and so it sends its spirit wandering to the closest
counterpart, and says: "You are myself, but without sand or palm trees." Its neighbor responds:
"I know. You are me without my towering volcano, ignorant of the thundering magic of flowing
lava, and rather stupid (emphatically), if the truth be known."
The spirits of the two islands join for a journey to a third one, and there they discover a
top-heavy land filled to the brim with strange birds and insects and animals that neither knew
at home. The first island says to the third: "You are myself, only unbearably social. How can
you stand to nurture so many different kinds of life?"
The second island-spirit says, also to the third: "You are myself, only my excitement, my joy
and beauty, are concentrated in the magic of my volcano, and you instead stand for the
twittering excitement of diverse species-birds and animals and insects-that flow in far
less grandiose fashion across the slopes of your uneasy land.
The third island, startled,'replies: "I am myself, and you must be imperfect versions
of my reality. I would no more be a dull island of only sand and palm's, or a neurotic
landscape of burning lava, any more than I would be a snail. My life is far the better, and
you two are only poor shadowy counterparts of me."
The first island responds, in our hypothetical dialogue: "I suspect that each of us is quite
correct And more, I wonder if we are really islands at all."
The second island says: "Suppose my spirit visits your island for a while, to discover what it is
like to possess palm trees, a few birds, and a tranquil shore. I will give up my volcano for a
while, and try to make an honest evaluation, if you will in turn come to my land and promise to
view it without prejudice. Perhaps then you will understand the great majesty and explosive
power of my exotic world."
The third island says: "I am myself too busy for such nonsense. The many species that roam my
domain demand my attention, and if you two want to exchange your realities that is fine but leave
me out of it, please."
The spirit of the first island visits the second one, and finds itself amazed. it feels an
ever-thrusting power, rushing up from beneath, that erupts in always-changing form. Yet it
is always itself, comparing its experience to what it has known. When the volcano itself,
ceaselessly erupting, wishes for peace, the spirit of the first island thinks of its own quiet
home shores. The volcano learns a new lesson: It can direct its power in whatever way it chooses,
shooting upward or lying quietly. It can indeed be dormant and dream for centuries. It can,
if it chooses, allow soft sands to he gracefully upon its cooling expanse.
In the meantime, the spirit of that volcanic island is visiting the first island, and finds
itself enchanted by the still waters that lap against the shore, the gentle birds, and the few
palm trees. However, it seems that the palm trees, and the birds and the sand, have dreamed
One day a bird flies out further from that first island than ever before, to another one, and
comes back with a strange seed that falls from its beak. The seed grows. From it springs a
completely new and unknown species of plant, as far as the island is concerned; and the plant
in turn brings forth flowers with pollen, fruits, and scents (Spelled) that have a different
kind of creativity that is still its own. The spirit of the second island, then, brings forth
elements in the first island that were not active earlier, but it becomes homesick, and so it
finally returns to its own land.
What a transformation! Its volcano, it finds, now gives birth to soil and pollen, its excitement
roused in a million different ways. it meets the spirit of the first island that has been living
there, and says: "What a change! I would like a still more spectacular display. The flowers
are not nearly colorful or wild enough. It is, if you will forgive me, too well-tamed-yet all
in all you've done wonders. Now, however, I'd like a cultural interchange with others still
unknown; and if you don't mind I wish you to go home. This is, after all, me, and my land."
The spirit of Island One says: "I quite enjoyed my aventure, and I've learned that the great
explosive thrusts of creativity are good-but, oh, I yearn for my own quiet, undisturbed shores;
and so if you don't care I think I'll return there." And so it does-to find a land in some
ways transformed. The sands still lie glittering, but the fog and mists are gone. The beloved
birds have multiplied, and there is in the old familiar saneness a new, muted, but delightful
refrain, colon: new species in keeping with the old, but more vigorous. The spirit of Island
One realizes that it would find the old conditions quite boring now, and the new alterations
fill it with pleasing excitement and challenge. What a delightful interchange. For the spirit
is convinced that it definitely improved the condition of Island Two, and there is no doubt that
the spirit of the second island improved Island One beyond degree.
In the meantime, Island Threes spirit has been thinking. The spirits of island one and Two did
not appeal to it (or to him or her in any of these cases, if you prefer) at all. It was
determined to retain its own identity. Yet it too has become lonely, and it has seen endless
coral paths reaching out from itself
Its spirit followed one such path and came upon a desert island upon which nothing grew.
Figuratively, its image was appalled. "How can you stand such barrenness?" it calls to the
spirit of this fourth island.
That island spirit responds: "Even the vigor of your questions
sickens me. I sense that you come from a land so overcrowded and tumultuous that it makes my
sands blanch even further, and the knuckles of my rocks turn white."
Island Three's spirit says: "You are myself, utterly devoid of feeling-dead and barren." The spirit
of the desert island replies: "I am myself. You must be some counterpart, drunken with sensation,
not realizing the purity of my own stripped-down nothingness." The two confront each other
sideways, for neither can look in the others eyes. What opposites, what contrasts, what
fascinations! So they strike a bargain. The spirit of the desert island says: "You are
all wrong. I will go to your land and prove it, and you can stay here and partake of the joys
of 'my peaceful existence-and, I hope, learn the value of austerity."
So the spirit of Island Four journeys to that other reality, where all kinds of life swarm over
shore and mountain, and the spirit of the third island visits a world of such peace that all
motion seems stilled.
What peace! Yet in the peace, what power! And so little by little cacti grow where there were
none, delicate buds opening, filled with water. The spirit of the third island immediately
begins to transform the desert island. Great changes appear, and showers of power-quick bursts
of rain, explosive inundations of energy.
in the meantime, the spirit of the desert island is almost overwhelmed by the teeming life forms
on island Three, so next it visits the volcanic one; and when the volcano becomes frightened of
its own energy the spirit of the desert island says: "Peace. It is all right to sleep, all right
to dream. You do not need to be so worried for your energy. it can flow swiftly, or slowly, in
surges of dreams that take ages. Do as you will."
So the volcano throws its energy into the formation of still more new species, while the desert
spirit sings its calmness through their tissues. But this new life confounds it also, and it
yearns to return home to its old quietude. There the spirit of the third island has quickened
the deserts abilities so that it blooms with muted flowers not present before. The two spirits
meet. Each island is changed. "We are counterparts, each of the other, yet inviolate."
And the spirit of the volcanic island says to the spirit of the first island. "My volcano
knows, now, how best to use its energy. it can shoot into the heavens in great displays, or
creep into the tiny crevices of earth, equally powerful."
And the spirit of the first island responds: "You have taught my island that life is not
something to be afraid of, though still it is translated in my own familiar gentle terms."
This is the end of our analogy. The spirit of each of the four islands was itself intact,
and the interchanges were chosen. You are not islands unto yourselves, except when you
choose to be. Each counterpart views reality from its own viewpoint, and there is never
Session 726 from The "Unknown" Reality, Volume 2