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Books and Free Excerpts

What's Beyond That StarWhat's Beyond That Star. A Chronicle of Geomythic Adventure ( London: Clairview Books, 2002).

The first thing I learned on the Quest is that you need a gnome.

Funny little guys. Gnomes haven't gotten much attention for the last couple of centuries, since around the time of the Industrial Revolution. They didn't care for the noise of the new machinery, and they retreated further into the wilds of Ireland, Scotland, Scandinavia, and the deep old North. Of course the men with machines never gave the gnomes another thought, and forgot all the odd tales of their grandparents. The tales may be odd, but they're true.

Before I came to England to look for traces of King Arthur, I didn't think I knew anything about gnomes. Never seen one, talked to one, or even thought about one, or so I thought. But I had this recurring dream as a child. It was about two secret rooms in my parent's house. The first was in the attic. You climb the stairs, go around to the back, then open a door that you hadn't realized was there. It was a private chamber - mine, of course - full of amazing books. Much later I understood this was a veiled dream memory for going into the Blaise gazebo on the top of the roof, the books being all the great things Blaise told me.

The second secret room was in the basement. You go down the stairs, pad across the cold linoleum floor to the boiler room, open the door, and go left. Normally there is a woodpile there, but in the dream there is a door, known only to me. On the other side it another marvelous library. As a boy I was crazy for books, so this was a most excellent carrot to get me into these arcane rooms. This one - again, it took decades before I got it - was actually a gnome den.


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No, there wasn't a gang of gnomes squatting in my parent's basement dependent on my tact to keep them shielded from unsympathetic human eyes. Somehow I had left the world of my parents and their notions of reality and what's possible in it, and went off with the gnomes into their world. Naturally I told nobody about these outings; why should I have anyway? I thought they were dreams.

So what's a gnome? They're players; they're needed; they have a God-appointed job. They have a tendency to be goof-offs; they can be mischievous, playful, even deceitful, but they are wonderfully loyal and unarguably helpful for the Grail Knight out in the field staggering around without a clue. Blaise on occasion has tactfully pointed out that the gnomes sometimes need a little discipline to keep their eyes on the target. Rip van Winkle and his unexpected twenty year's sleep up in the gnomefied Catskill Mountains is a good example of what happens when you don't give these boys a little discipline and focus.

In the Grail stories, the Knights had gnomes but the chroniclers called them dwarves; so did Tolkien. Yes, they're short, something like three feet tall from our point of view. When you're with them, though, it seems you're the same height as they. There are female gnomes, but it's mostly the male gnomes who have to do with humans, especially Grail Knights. Celtic lore describes them as short in stature, rotund, jolly, bearded, capped, waist-coated, high-booted, wearing late eighteenth century garb. Frankly, you could just as well dress them up in L.L. Bean gear, or even Armani, if you like.

For the most part, the visuals are optional. You make contact with their energy; your brain forms some kind of reasonable image, and you leave it at that. Once I saw a gnome's face close-up, especially the eyes. They were utterly foreign, nonhuman, different. I was probably registering them a little more clearly than usual that time. The fact of the matter is this: I really like gnomes, they're a lot of fun, and I need them for my work, and so will you if you get a notion to go on the Grail Quest.

There was a place about a twenty minute's walk from the house along a muddy track and across two open fields. The locals called it the Fairy Dell, or maybe it was just Russell and Berenice who called it that. It was a good pick-up place for fairies, gnomes, elves, sylphs, even the great god Pan, all of whom I encountered on this queer little round hill edging up to a patch of blackberry bushes and a small copse.

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You walk across the field, avoiding the tussocks and cow splats so you don't twist your ankle and stain your sneakers until you cross the tiniest trickle of a stream. Stepping across this inconsequential streamlet, it feels like you've just entered a different world, like you parted the curtains of a sybaritic grotto in the Venusberg and you are now in foreign but intoxicating territory, a little devic paradise.

Don't think I could see gnomes right off the bat. No, it took some time to acclimate myself to their vibration, to let their energy congeal into a negotiated image of their form. First you feel them, and here I had Russell's help. He had been seeing gnomes, fairies, angels, and lots of supersensible beings for years. We'd perch on the brow of the Fairy Dell, be as still as possible like we were waiting for rabbitts to come sit in our laps, and sense the gnomes as they gathered around us. Russell would tell me what was happening. A couple of gnomes are sitting in front of you; one's smoking a pipe, the other is squinching up his face, trying to figure you out. A couple dozen more are sitting in a half circle about fifteen feet away from you. This one says its name is Battingley.

Once I matched the energy sensation to the concept, an image of a gnome formed in my brain and Battingley was there before me, puffy-cheeked, a bit wrinkled, and merry. He wanted to show me something. Granted, it took me a couple of weeks to see it, coming to the Fairy Dell every day, sharpening my vision and confidence so I could see Battingley and some of his world without much effort and with a great deal of amusement and interest. He and his buddies seemed to enjoy my company as well, so we got on fine. I gathered they hadn't had many visitors in recent years. One time Blaise commented with just a touch of regal detachment: "We are aware the gnomes like you."

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The thing Battingley wanted to show me doesn't seem to have a name in myth or folklore, so I call it a gnome egg. It basically looks like one, and it does hatch something. Imagine a hollow golf ball about fifty feet high and wide, set somewhat into the ground, and made of misty white light. It's like a golf ball in that its white surface is pockmarked with numerous shallow depressions. Inside the gnome egg are innumerable chambers or cells and in these dozens, maybe hundreds, of gnomes are busy with activities.

The gnome egg is a kind of district headquarters for the gnomes of a region. They always come back to the egg, touch base, get assignments, and set forth again into the great outdoors. The gnome egg, as I would soon learn, is also a kind of skylight for what could be described as a vast underground citadel.

Battingley offers me his hand and we enter the gnome egg. No longer is it an elliptical white mist set halfway into the Fairy Dell; on the inside, the gnome egg is a multicolored spherical palace of huge dimensions. Actually that's what I see after I get there, but the way there is a little breathtaking as well. I went down a long gently sloping tunnel passageway with Battingley, walking, running, floating, flying - it's hard to be precise about the kind of movement. It seemed like we traveled in this tunnel for several hundreds yards, maybe even a few miles. Then we got to the palace….

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