Voice of the Turtle, The Screwloose Letters, Vol 1, #7
Perfect Mind, perfect rest.
Look, the winter is past;
the rains are over and gone.
Blossoms appear through all the land.
The time has come to sing;
And the voice of the turtle is heard in our land… Song of Songs 2:11,12
Yes, it’s spring again, dear fans, time to sing a new song… And here it is, something to boggle your mind. My guess is, you’ve never read anything quite like it. Read it with an open (if not yet quite perfect) mind, see if you’re ready to hazard a guess. Can you identify this piece of ancient prose? Whose voice are we hearing? Read it again. Who might this be? Let it simmer in your head for a while. Can you handle it? Make a guess, just give me your impressions, entered below in the Comments section. We’ll talk more about it next time, promise.
(...and no, it’s not from the Gospel of Thomas).
I was sent out from the power and have come to you who study me and am found by you who seek me. Look at me, you who study me, and you who hear, hear me. You waiting for me, take me into yourselves. Don’t banish me from your vision. Don’t let hatred enter your voice against me or let anger enter your hearing. In no place, in no time, be unknowing of me. Be alert. Don’t be ignorant of me.
I am the first and the last. I am the honored and scorned. I am the whore and holy. I am the wife and the virgin. I am the mother and daughter. I am the members of my mother and the barren one with many sons. I have had a grand wedding and have not found a husband. I am a midwife and do not give birth. I am the solace of my labor pains. I am bride and groom, and my husband produced me. I am the mother of my father and sister of my husband, and he is my offspring. I am a slave of him who prepared me and ruler of my offspring. He produced me earlier yet on my birthday. He is my offspring to come, and from him is my power. I am the staff of his power in his youth and he the rod of my old age, and whatever he wants happens to me. I am a silence incomprehensible and an idea remembered often. I am the voice whose sound is manifold and word whose appearance is multiple. I am the utterance of my name.
Why do you who hate me love me and hate those who love me? You who deny me confess me, and you who confess me deny me. You who tell the truth about me lie about me, and you who lie tell the truth. You who know me, be ignorant of me, and those who have not known me, let them know me.
I am knowledge and ignorance. I am shame and fearlessness. I am shameless and ashamed. I am strength and fear. I am war and peace. Hear what I say. I am the disgraced and the grand being. Consider my poverty and wealth. Don’t be arrogant when I am cast down on the earth, and you will find me in those who are to come. Don’t stare at me lying on a dung heap. Don’t run off and cast me away. In the kingdoms you will find me. Don’t stare when I am cast with the disgraced in the most sordid places or laugh at me. Don’t throw me out among those violently slaughtered. I am compassionate and cruel.
Be careful. Don’t hate my obedience or love my self-control. When I am weak, don’t forsake me or fear my power. Why do you despise my fear and curse my pride? I am a woman existing in every fear and in my strength when I tremble. I am a woman, weak, and carefree in a pleasant place. I am senseless and wise.
Why have you hated me in your counsels? I will be silent among the silent and appear and speak. Greeks, why do you hate me? Because I am a barbarian among the barbarians? I am the wisdom of Greeks and knowledge of barbarians. I am the judgment of Greeks and barbarians. My image is great in Egypt, and I have no image among the barbarians. I am hated everywhere and loved everywhere. I am called life and you have called me death. I am called law and you have called me lawlessness. I am one you pursued and seized. I am one you scattered and gathered together. I am one before whom you are ashamed, and to me you are shameless. I am the woman who attends no festival and whose festivals are many. I am godless and one whose god is great. I am one you studied and you scorn me. I am unlettered and you learn from me. I am one you despise and you study me. I am one you hide from and you appear to me. When you hide I show. When you appear I hide. . . .
Come to childhood and don’t despise it, because it is small and tiny. Don’t turn away the great in parts from the small, for the small is known from the great. Why do you curse and honor me? You wound me and have mercy. Don’t separate me from the first you have known. Don’t cast out or turn away, turn away and not know. . . . I know the first ones, and those after them know me. I am perfect mind and rest. . . . I am the knowledge of my search, the finding of those who look for me, the command of those who ask about me, the power of powers in my knowledge of angels sent at my word, and of gods in their seasons sent by my counsel, and of spirits of all who exist with me and of women who live in me.
I am one who is honored, praised, and scornfully despised. I am peace, and war has come because of me. I am alien and citizen. I am the substance and one without substance.
Those unconnected to me are unfamiliar with me, and those in my substance know me. Those close to me are ignorant of me, and those far away have known me. On the day I am close to you, you are far, and on the day I am far, I am close to you.
I am . . . within. I am . . . of natures. I am . . . of created spirits, the request of souls. I am control and the uncontrollable. I am union and dissolution. I abide and dissolve. I am below and they come up to me. I am judgment and acquittal. I am sinless, and the root of sin comes from me. I am lust outwardly, yet within me is control. I am hearing for all, and my speech is indecipherable. I am an unspeaking mute and enormous in my many words.
Hear me in gentleness and discover me in roughness. I am the woman crying out and cast upon the face of the earth. I prepare bread and my mind within. I am the knowledge of my name. I am the one who cries out and I listen. I appear . . . walk in . . . I am . . . the defense. I am called truth and iniquity. . . .
You honor me and whisper against me. You, the vanquished, judge those who vanquish you before they judge you, because in you the judge and partiality exist. If you are condemned by one, who will acquit you? If acquitted by him, who will arrest you? What is in you is outside, and one who fashions you on the outside shapes you inside. What you see outside you see within you. It is visible and your garment. Hear me, hearers, and find out about my words, you who know me. I am the hearing all can reach; I am speech undecipherable. I am the name of the sound and the sound of the name. I am the sign of the letter and the designation of the division. I . . . light . . . great power . . . will not move the name . . . to the one who created me. I will speak his name.
Look at his words and all the writings completed. Be alert, hearers and angels and those sent and you spirits arisen from the dead. I alone exist and have no one to judge me. Many pleasures exist in many sins, uncontrolled passions and disgraceful desires and brief pleasures embraced by people until they sober up and float up to their place of rest. There they will find me and live, and they will not die again.