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Les Miserables and the Dreamer

Q. What can I do to overcome the force of the antagonist?

A. By now you have to learn how to harmonize the opposites within yourself. One day you will realize that you are the Only One responsible for all and everything, inside and outside of yourself, and only then, without any effort, the antagonist will disappear.

The Antagonist
The Antagonist, the enemy, is a special propellant.
The greater our degree of responsibility,
the more ruthless the Antagonist's attack.

The Antagonist measures us, reveals us, completes us…
The higher our degree of freedom, the more subtle his action.

Fear not the Antagonist!
Behind his apparent ruthlessness hides
your greatest ally, your most faithful servant.

The Antagonist's sole and unique aim
is your victory…

The Antagonist employs every artifice, every strategy,
to achieve his final goal: your integrity.

No one in the world can love you more than the Antagonist.
You are the sole reason for his existence.

Fear not the Antagonist!
Your perfection will grow with his mercilessness.
Your immortality with his apparent immorality.

Your intelligence will grow with his power.
Your power with his intelligence.

Because the Antagonist is you!

“Everything, from the simplest to the most complex, from one man to an entire civilisation, every organism on its evolutionary path meets an ‘apparently’ opposing force, an Antagonist of strength and ability equal to the breadth and scope of its own project. This menace is the motor for his evolution and is indispensable for his growth. The Antagonist grows with us, with our capacity, and is a necessary condition for our evolution. Whatever activity the undertakes, practical or philosophical, tends to develop in man an ability to use the antagonist as a step to rise up on and go beyond. Only a man who has an aim meets with the Antagonist – the fall has no antagonist – falling is painless.”

In time, upon further investigation, all those ideas would reveal the outline of a veritable ‘general theory of friction’, capable of disentangling centuries of history and making sense of the endless series of difficulties and disasters that have vexed humanity ever since its birth. I gazed down on a 360 degree view of the human condition, and saw how painful man’s life had always been. It made me gasp as if on the brink of a bottomless pit.

My notebook came miraculously to hand. I clutched it as if it were my last hope and there, in the open air, I carefully annotated every fragment of that unique lesson. The park bench where we were sitting was sealed in a timeless bubble and it seemed as though the whole of Roosevelt Island had turned into a spaceship ready for lift off at the speed of thought. Manhattan and its swarming life could not have been farther away.

The Dreamer explained that every man is a dreamer, and as a dreamer, he becomes the crucible of good and evil, the creator of his own personal reality and destiny. In time man will see the materialisation of every dream and thought that springs from the depths of his Being.

“The world is an effect… a projection, not only of your ‘dreams’ but also your nightmares. It can be a heaven or a hell. You alone decide.
“In reality, behind the mask of the Antagonist, beyond appearances, lies the face of our greatest ally,” He explained. Then He added: “Contrary to what humanity believes, it is not possible to be opposed by anything whose forces are greater than our own… the antagonist is never stronger than we are!”…..

At the theatre with the Dreamer

I arrived punctually for what would prove to be one of our most extraordinary meetings. The Thames foyer at the Savoy was crowded at that hour. Sitting with a steaming cup of tea before Him, which He was on the point of bringing to His lips, was the Dreamer. The little table was heaped with pastries of every kind, and both the table setting and silver service were immaculate. As usual, He had hardly touched a thing. I greeted Him with the customary deference and quietly took the seat next to Him, trying to stay ‘up’ and keep a smile on my face, despite my burning sense of defeat.

I struggled to let myself be taken in by the Deco atmosphere and the discreet piano, but a recurring thought, more troublesome than the rest, continued to vex me. The hundred justifications which had crowded my mind along the way had now turned into a maelstrom. I was desperate. I knew the Dreamer was not a man to take ‘no’ for an answer and my indecision over how I would tell Him had become an unbearable anxiety. His cool, calm voice intruded into my thoughts and made me start.

“You couldn’t find those tickets!” He said flatly.

His serious tone confirmed my worst fears: the Dreamer considered of vital importance the task He’d assigned me, and in an instant my fear, humiliation and impotence turned into rage and an uncontrollable smirk of arrogance. If He had known I would not have been able to procure them then why had He asked me? I had spent the whole day searching in vain for those two tickets, but Les Misérables was the most successful West End musical in years so it was an impossible quest. I told the Dreamer how my search had begun early that morning with the St James’ Hotel concierge laughing derisively in response to my innocent request that he reserve two seats for that evening’s performance.

“Why, sir, don’t you know?” he chortled, “for tickets to a hit show like that, I’m not even sure that booking three months in advance is enough!”

From that moment on, as the hours passed, my search became increasingly feverish. As I confessed to the Dreamer, I suspected at various moments that He had deliberately set me an impossible task.

He remained silent, His chin resting on His chest. He seemed to be absorbed in listening to the tale of my fruitless mission, and I interpreted this as an invitation to tell the full account of my failed endeavours. I had vainly scoured every box office kiosk and ticket office but, confirming the concierge’s information, from even the most restricted view side seats to the stage boxes, the theatre had been entirely sold out for months. Finding those seats seemed to be the most difficult thing to do in the whole of London. In a confused way, something inside me had known that the challenge went way beyond the apparent futility of the task and this had urged me to redouble my efforts in order not to leave any option untried. As tea time approached, and with it the feared moment of truth with the Dreamer, I had even contacted some influential friends in show business. I told Him about how I had paid a visit to Lady Ellis during an interval between parliamentary votes at Westminster, and how even that had proved unsuccessful. To fill every space, I was dragging out more episodes from my odyssey, expecting an unleashing of His wrath - or worse, His derision - upon me at any moment, when suddenly the Dreamer interrupted me repeating His initial words.

“‘You couldn’t find those tickets!” He said in the same tone, this time laying the emphasis on the ‘you’, with the irritation one feels for those who are being stupid. He brought His face imperceptibly closer and added: “To find them you would have had to derail your own destiny… finding them would have changed you forever!”

He revealed to me that, contrary to my belief, at the very moment when He had asked me to find those tickets, the job was already done. This statement astonished me. Could I possibly have been persuaded that the difficulties I had encountered were not objective?... Who better than myself could know that I had stopped at nothing to try and get those tickets. It was all very well to talk about it there, sitting at a table at the Savoy, but who else could have done better?...

“You are still a man hypnotised by the description of the world… For you the world is the truth!” He hissed while the irritation in His voice emerged with greater force. “When that man told you that it would have taken three months, you were already defeated. From that moment on you no longer looked for the tickets.”

I tried to break in to protest that… But a severe gesture from the Dreamer froze me in my tracks before I could even open my mouth.

“From that moment you did not look for the tickets… but for every way possible to confirm the world’s description… to reinforce your conviction that that was really how things were, that it was impossible to succeed… Every attempt you made was preceded by your resignation… each time, the ‘no’ you were convinced you would hear was already there waiting for you, even before you knocked at the door… to reinforce your prophecy of doom and allow you to honour the promise you had made to yourself.”

“What promise?” I stammered. A little light was making its way through my horrible certainties. A glimmer of humility, and therefore of understanding, made me feel the wretchedness of my long line of excuses.

“The promise of coming before me defeated but with a claim of having done everything possible to succeed,” replied the Dreamer. He allowed a small pause before pronouncing the words I would never forget.

“Believing what that man said is part of your blind obedience to the voice of the world. From the moment you accepted his description, you no longer worked to win but rather to justify your failure. It’s the story of your life… a prophecy of defeat.”

The whole day flashed before me like the final images in the eyes of a dying man. Not the temporal sequence of events, however, but the states of mind, the thoughts and everything I had gone through while trying to find those tickets… Once again I saw my lack of faith in my own abilities, that sensation of inadequacy, the fear of being beaten, the determination to blame the world - which was so inexplicably hostile - and the ‘others’ who seemed to be deliberately withholding those tickets from me, and finally the sense of guilt. I became aware of this mass of unpleasant emotions which had pervaded my Being throughout that day. The Dreamer’s words were making me confront my habitual attitude. That apparently banal undertaking had exposed my innermost wounds and revealed limits which I felt more painfully as I realised their pettiness. The Dreamer’s skill had altered the world and put the universe to work so that I would be able to recognise and overcome them. As I realised the enormous and unique value of that opportunity, my sadness at not having succeeded in my task increased. In the tug of war between reality and its illusory projection, between the Dreamer’s vision and the world as it had always been described to me, illusion and non-existence had won out again.

The world was still reality, its hypnotic power was too strong and the Dreamer’s presence still too faint.

“Yours was not a failure but the result of a failure, the reflection of an internal fault, a condition of your Being. There are no failures in life but only effects.”

“To find those tickets you would have had to change your past!” the Dreamer continued, with a tone reflecting my new attitude. What had seemed to me to be an over-statement now appeared as the clearest of all truths.

“Had you been able to remain faithful to the ‘dream’ you would have changed your destiny,” He said, with pitiless sweetness as though addressing the representative of a permanently defeated humanity.

Then, in a whisper, He added: “The sleeping beauty is the dreamer inside you who knows.”
Whoever He was, I felt that I loved Him more than anything else in the world… I loved the lucidity that I was now experiencing with Him, and I would have held onto it tooth and nail for fear of losing it… The world of integrity and solutions had said to me: “go… it is already done!” The world of division, of conflict and complexity, had told me: “it’s impossible!” And I had obeyed the superficial description of the world, believing and identifying with its lowest and most miserable part.

The Dream is the most real thing there is. But I constantly forgot.

“In order to avoid corruption, you would have had to defeat your scarcity, your victim consciousness and the hypnotic sleep that makes you into a dependent, fearful, doubting and unhappy Being… The unshakable faith men have in the description of the world is the source of their fragility, the ultimate explanation for the events in their lives and the role that each one is assigned in the theatre of existence…”

“Disease is another one of the world’s lies! We fall ill because the disease has been described to us, and so we get old and die, through imitation, without ever questioning the reality of it all” declared the Dreamer. His raised tone of voice and the special emotion that made His words resonate, indicated that they were no longer directed only at me but at an immense and invisible audience.

“The ordinary man does not dream, he blindly obeys a hypnotic tale of existence. He has forgotten his uniqueness, his nature as creator because he does not have access to himself. He does not know himself!… Whatever you dream, happens, and if you begin to know yourself you will understand why the world is as it is. Now you know why the world is as it is!… Because you dream it so!”

Not having enough pages left in my notebook, I wrote these words on the Savoy menu and, for a few minutes, covered it in dense notes using all the available space. I was still writing when I saw Him motion to attract the head waiter’s attention.

“Let’s go,” He instructed bluntly, as He stood up.

Once the crowd had dispersed, only we and this couple remained in the foyer. Our eyes met and I spotted their fleeting look of reverence towards the Dreamer, an almost inward bow, as occurs between men and women who recognise that they belong to different rungs in an invisible hierarchy.

I thought back to all the times when I had seen the world ‘recognise’ the Dreamer and, on each occasion, show signs of respect towards Him, like a plant that senses the presence of and offers gratitude to he who tends and nourishes its roots. These reflections reminded me of an episode which had occurred in New York. I had been with the Dreamer in an elevator which was stopping at the various floors and filling up with people. As we got out, the Dreamer made me note that the real difference between those men and women, their belonging to different levels of Being, could be visible in their attitude, measured by the greater or lesser degree of embarrassment they had experienced during that fragment of eternity elapsing between floors. He explained that in that elevator a hierarchy had formed amongst the individuals, if only for a few seconds, without their being aware of it; an invisible pyramid on the steps of which they had taken up positions corresponding to their level of inner responsibility.

Wherever they meet, for a few seconds or years,
men will arrange themselves
on the different levels of an invisible pyramid
respecting an inner, mathematical order,
like planetary hierarchies made of light,
orbits, mass and distance from their sun.
There are degrees and levels of Being.
It is a universal law.

We struck up a conversation with the American couple and they told us that, curiously, their friends had not yet arrived. As we chatted I noticed that the woman’s expression was changing and I watched her become increasingly relaxed, serene and almost euphoric. The show was about to start and there was no longer any point in waiting. Turning to the Dreamer with a broad smile which revealed how she was not at all unhappy with the change of plan, the woman invited us to go into the theatre with them. They had the best seats in the house, which they had reserved even before leaving the US. All my attempts to offer them the price of the tickets were met with a polite but firm refusal. We were their guests.

I would never get used to that indefinable sense of the miraculous that constantly hovered around the Dreamer. I would have liked to have said something to Him, to apologise for my skepticism, but the Dreamer did not even glance at me, so apparently deep in conversation was He with the woman who was now going into the auditorium with Him, resting her hand lightly upon His arm.

How had it been possible for the tickets to have been there waiting for us? I felt I was losing my mind: had the American couple, their friends’ delay, even their entire trip to Europe, all been created by the Dreamer, materialised by Him at that moment, there, before my very eyes? His mastery was permanently overturning my vision of the world.

When we were comfortably ensconced in our front row seats and as the lights went down, I heard Him whisper in my ear:

“Seeing and believing are one and the same thing. In time you will see everything you believe in and you will realise everything that you dream.”

In the half-light of the theatre, those barely whispered words evoked the magic of an ancient chorus and I felt my soul rise. I sensed the purity and freedom that herald the advent of the healing solution; the alchemy of catharsis which the ancient tragedies elicited in their audiences; the denouement unfolding according to the principles of justice.

“To believe you must be impeccable and whole. The smallest flaw in your Being, the merest shadow of a doubt, will cause you to be cast back among the ranks of the defeated and the mortal, with those billions of beings who have given up their rights as authors of their own destinies, trapped in the hell of those who need to see in order to believe…”

The Dreamer had been preparing me for a long time and yet, a direct experience of the fact that the world is created by us, was making me falter on the edge of a crevasse.

Every man is a creator…
The world is a chewing gum…
Whatever you dream happens…

I understood that humanity suffers because it sees the world upside down. Believing and seeing are one and the same thing; but men perceive them as separate, divided by time, and they wait to see in order to believe. Pain and suffering exist because they are the only ways in which humanity knows how to bridge this illusory gap. When believing and seeing merge in a man, he is then also able to eliminate pain and suffering from his life, banishing them forever from his personal universe.

“Believing in order to see: this is the law of the creator,” continued the Dreamer.

“It is the principle of those who rule; it is the ineluctable law of kings,” He said as the curtain began to rise. “Believing belongs to the Art of Dreaming and is the intimate quality of the Dreamer… In the roots of ‘cre-do’ and ‘cre-ed’, there is ‘cre-ation’… The dream is the most real thing there is…”

His voice became even softer until it was hardly more than a murmur. I had trouble making out

His words but I could distinctly sense the severity of His intimation. Referring to the story of Les Misérables, He said: “Pay attention. Beyond its nineteenth century pathos, this story contains an important lesson about the Antagonist… It is a universal parable applicable to all humanity. It is the story of a man who doesn’t know how to ‘forgive himself inside’… just like you!”
Les Misérables was the musical version of the story of an implacable antagonism: the search carried out over many years by a policeman with an uncompromising sense of duty, the fanatical Javert, to enforce an unjust sentence on the escaped convict Jean Valjean who had been condemned to 20 years in prison and subsequently to life, for having stolen a piece of bread. In the story, the wanted man, Jean Valjean, comes to symbolise generosity, the goodness of the humiliated individual, brutalised by society’s injustice and the mercilessness of its laws. In the background, we see the glorious and desperate epic of an entire nation, the life of the Paris slums, the insurrection of 1832 and the battle of Waterloo.
I knew that story. My father Giuseppe used to tell it to me when I was a child and I still had a vivid recollection of how moved he became every time he reached the part where Jean Valjean finally releases himself from the pursuit of the fanatic Javert, but instead of leaving his tormentor to die, against all reason he saves his life. The generosity of this act so disrupts the policeman’s rigid vision of the world that, once his most deep-rooted beliefs about good and evil have been overthrown, unable to live with his old values he kills himself.
“Javert/Valjean, even the names sound similar… They are the same person,” the Dreamer revealed to me later. “When he finally forgives himself inside… when he saves Javert’s life and thus brings the opposites within himself into harmony, only then is he ready for a more intelligent and powerful Antagonist. Once understood and overcome, the old Antagonist no longer has any reason to exist, so he disappears… he commits suicide. In reality he had never existed except as the materialisation of a shadow, an incompleteness of his Being…”

These words of the Dreamer’s timeless teaching reverberated powerfully and found resonance in every atom of my Being.

“The only enemy is within you! Outside there is no enemy to blame or forgive and no ill that can harm you… Do not fear the Antagonist. He is your greatest ally. He is the one who will show you the shortest path to success. His one and only purpose is your victory.”
When the lights came up again, the Dreamer had gone and I spent the rest of the evening with our new American friends… but my thoughts turned to the Dreamer and His extraordinary lesson. From the darkest ages, since the time when the first spark of thought crossed man's consciousness, there have been seekers of truth and schools of Being, schools of inner preparation. The school of Pythagoras, Plutarch, Plato’s Academy, Aristotle’s Lyceum, early Christianity and all the greatest schools of classical antiquity were forges of the spirit and found their highest expression in the Dreamer, the very reason for their existence and the continuation of their mission.

From “The School for Gods” by Elio D’Anna

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