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Message robert wolff
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Last night, the night from april 30 to may 1, 2012, had a dream that seemed to stretch between falling asleep and waking up. On a round mountain top, no trees, just green slopes on all sides. It was dusk or dawn, a sort of half light. On that round mountain top people appeared  from all parts of the world, all through the ages. A thousand or more shamans, male and female. in feathers, beads, and colored costumes extravagant and simple. A thousand bishops and cardinals of the different kinds of catholic in red, gold, and white gowns. Ministers and priests in many kinds of attire. A hundred different rabbis with hats and side curls, all in black. Imams and twirling dervish Sufis. The Aga Khan in one of his golden Rolls Royces drove up and evaporated. After the shamans who were male and female all the others male. 

Each one of these holy people spoke in her or his own language, singsong, loud or soft, orating or speaking, praying, shouting. At times the cacophony of many voices, languages, and intentions was unbearable, I had my hands over my ears.

I wondered about all these human expressions of what we call spirituality. How can there be so many voices, with or without unique costumes according to their rank within their own group. Telling, asking, accusing, warning,  praying, expressing conflicting ideas and forms of worship. 

Who did they address? There was no audience. No believers, followers; no enemies. No cathedrals, mosques, no camp fires; nothing but that bare mountain top.

The dream curled up into itself, and I stood on that bare mountain with two other men. On my right was Ahmeed, the man I write about in my book once called What it is to be human, now Original Wisdom. He wore his moldy, almost shredded hat (my friends liked to wear something on their head and almost nothing else). On my left an old San, the people Laurens van der Post, South African writer of the early to mid 20th century called the Bushman of the Kalahari Desert. He wore his tiny apron; his hair that unique kind of hair that only the African pygmies have, round little islands of very tight knots of hair. His islands of hair white. His skin color orange gray; Ahmeed a light gray brown. In the middle I was on my knees, so that I would not tower over these men who were, as all First People (except the Australian Aborigines) about 5 ft tall. I had on a pair of bathing shorts that now would be two sizes too large, loosely hanging from my hip bones. In the dream I was as I am now, a skeleton with a big head (I weigh about 50 kilos, 110 pounds). I am what they call "white, but my skin is not white, it is colorless, shows the blood inside, looks a pinkish pale brown.

The three of us held hands. We did not say anything. We smiled that intense smile that I so miss. We three alone on an empty mountain top.

I woke up full of the dream at 4 am. Did not want to get up in deep dark. Turned on my other side, slept till 5:50 am. Bright sun behind a slight drizzle.  I did not know what to feel. Empty and yet full of feeling; in a dream and awake in an all too real world. Outside as calm as usual, sun and rain, loud roosters, cats whining to be fed. I don't know what to think of this dream but it was very real. What does "real" mean?



At the very end of this day, in bed, very dark outside, suddenly I knew what the dream means. All that cacophony of words and exhortations,, the costumes from feathers to elaborate head gear and robes, silver and gold, temples, cathedrals, mosques -- all that is decoration. A confusingly elaborate wrapping around a simple something inside all of us. The many structures humans add to something so simple: as a drop of water on a leaf, illumined by a ray of sunlight. Whole languages of new words hiding spirit. The divine if you want to use that word pulled down to be made human. We have covered and confused what is so utterly simple. 

The dream my desperate need to get back to simple.  

Spirit is in all of us. We have made it hard to find in the exorbitant imaginations of the structures and systems we have invented around it. Perhaps the essence of spirit can still be found outside what we call the industrial world.  I'm thinking of the few remaining humans who live in, not on the natural world.  Living ON the world cannot be but unsustainable; look around you. Living IN the natural world cannot be but sustainable.


Some think of spirit as in our heart, the pump that pumps the blood of life. For Hawaiians and many others it is a point two fingers below the navel, our center, our balance point. The balance between brain and the earth we stand on. The dream is a reminder of the importance of finding that kind of simple again. The simple of the miraculous reality that I found in a drop of water. That others find in a sunset, birds singing as dusk descends. The simple that unites, the opposite of doctrine, costumes, buildings, words that divide, that make us enemies. In the simplest of simple spirit we are one.

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robert wolff lived on the Big Island, called Hawai'i

his website is He passed away in late 2015. He was born in 1925, was Dutch, spoke, Dutch, Malay, English and spent time living and getting to know Malaysian Aborigines. He authored numerous books including What it Is To Be Human, (more...)

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