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Peter was sitting outside a youth club totally demoralized when a spirit descended. ‘What’s wrong?’ the spirit enquired.
‘I’m lonely,’ Peter replied. ‘I haven’t got the confidence to go inside and mix with the others.’
The spirit promptly informed him that if he went into the garden and stood under the Banyan tree he’d be granted anything he desired.
Somewhat sceptically, Peter trudged into the garden and stood under the huge tree. Having heard that alcohol was the antidote to all life’s problems, he wished for some beer. In a flash, a crate appeared. He took it to a secluded part of the garden and began to drink. Within a short space of time his confidence rose and his mood began to lighten. He entered the youth club and mingled easily with his peers. ‘This is it!’ he exclaimed. ‘Alcohol’s what I’ve been looking for all my life. Let’s have another beer!’
Next morning, Peter’s mood was sombre once again. The liberating effects of alcohol had worn off and he felt rough. After some quiet deliberation, he concluded that the desired effects hadn’t lasted because the alcohol was in short supply and the beer wasn’t strong enough.
Returning to the Banyan tree, he wished for a larger supply of stronger alcohol. In a flash, twelve bottles of wine appeared before him. Again, he began drinking and within an hour he was frivolous and carefree.
For the next few months the cyclic pattern of feeling rough, drinking, and socializing continued. The downs were rough, but Peter realized that if he drank in the mornings the adverse effects subsided and he soon pepped up. So he began to top himself up regularly.
With his confidence riding high and his inhibitions at bay, he started dating a pretty young girl named Laura. Life was good and, so long as he had a permanent supply of alcohol, there was no reason it shouldn’t remain that way.
The liberating effects of the wine remained for a few months, but he found himself having to gradually increase his consumption to sustain them. After a few months, his tolerance became so high that it had very little effect. Even after drinking several bottles he failed to rise above his problems and insecurities. His self-esteem and confidence began to plummet and he found it difficult to maintain his social persona. He needed a new plan: urgently!
‘Maybe wine is too weak, but spirits are sure to work,’ he deliberated.
Optimistically, he ventured back to the Banyan tree. Wish. Flash! A crate of whisky appeared. As he drank it, his problems and insecurities were quickly suppressed and he felt liberated once again.
The years elapsed and the pattern perpetuated: drinking whisky, forgetting his problems, withdrawing, wishing for more whisky, and getting high again. During this time Peter’s personality started to decline. Continuous drinking not only caused his problems to disappear, but his morals, values, ethics, and standards vanished too: the placid Doctor Jekyll frequently changed into the menacing Mister Hyde. One minute he was an amicable, sociable person, the next, an unpredictable menace. During black-out he argued and fought with his friends and family, leaving a trail of destruction in his wake. On emerging from these drunken escapades he had no recollection of what had happened. He was mortified when told of his bizarre and destructive antics.
Filled with guilt, remorse, and paranoia, he rushed back to the Banyan tree. The only way to escape this unbearable life was to drink himself into oblivion, he deduced. Flash! The whisky appeared. After gulping it down, sure enough, he crashed out. But rather than slumber in a silent sanctuary, he kicked, punched and screamed as his inner turmoil manifested as horrendous nightmares.
Desperate and beaten, he traipsed back to the tree and wished for a supply of alcohol that would alleviate the sweats, shakes, nightmares, paranoia, unpredictability, aggression and persecuted sleep. Flash! An array of spirits promptly appeared: whisky, brandy, gin and vodka. Peter started to drink, but this time, rather than his problems abating, all hell broke loose. His mind became a battleground in which every thought was a weapon of mass destruction.
His destructive habit continued for years, during which time he deteriorated drastically. He experienced family dysfunction, divorce, imprisonment, sectioning, delirium tremens, hallucinations, liver damage, loss of bladder and bowel control, premature aging, homelessness and poverty: drink relieved him of his friends, his family, and his dignity.
Destitute and suicidal, he returned to the wish fulfilling tree. Death was surely his only option now. Standing dispassionately under the verdant canopy, he made a wish for a deathly cocktail of alcohol and painkillers. Whoosh! It appeared. As he gulped it down, a haze descended and he slipped into a dark abyss.
On crossing to the other side a spirit appeared to greet him. ‘Remember me?’ he asked.
‘Yes,’ Peter replied, somewhat agitatedly. ‘Why did you allow me to destroy my life?’
‘I simply offered you a choice, dear one. You are in sole control of your life. The faculty of choice is the greatest gift bestowed on the human race; without it they would be merely slaves. Your mind is a wish fulfilling tree filled with infinite opportunities. Every choice you make is a wish which will be granted.
‘Somewhat misguidedly you chose alcohol, deeming it to be the magical panacea for all life’s problems…but it isn’t. Alcohol doesn’t cure anything; it simply dulls your conscience and renders your memory inactive. So you temporarily forget about your problems or simply don’t care. But using alcohol to suppress your problems is self-defeating. They don’t disappear when you discard them – they build up in your unconscious mind until the pressure gets to such a magnitude that they blow. When this eruption occurs, you and alcohol become incompatible for life. Every subsequent bout leads to dysfunction – a downward spiral to destruction.’
‘So what was the solution? What was I supposed to do about my problems?’
‘You came here in search of Heaven, did you not?’
‘Well, Heaven is not a place, my friend; it is a state of mind. By transforming your emotional and mental debris into the treasures of insight, inspiration, fulfilment, and enlightenment you will enter the kingdom of heaven and access the infinite possibilities it beholds. To succeed in life you must become like fire. Consume any obstacles that stand in your way and utilize them as fuel for yourself.
‘….You have a mission, my friend. Abusive alcohol consumption has now reached pandemic levels on Earth 1. Your mission is to help alleviate it. Life is precious, Peter. Embrace it. Leave your impression on the world. Go and help these people back to dry land where they can embrace the wonderful gift of life.’
Peter looked perplexed. ‘How am I supposed to do that now: I’m dead?’ he retorted.
‘Every death is simply a rebirth, my friend.’
As these words reverberated through Peter’s mind, the surroundings took on an iridescent glow. The spirit evaporated into the ether and a bright light permeated the air.
First light pierced the dorm of the rehabilitation centre. One bleary-eyed occupant yawned and stretched, before walking over to the window. Starring ruminatively at the huge tree in the garden, he contemplated a strange dream he’d had during the night. The veil of darkness that shrouded his internal world had seemingly lifted. He was infused with a renewed sense of optimism. He felt as though his old self had died and given rise to a new one – and so it had: the Spirit of Alchemy had arisen from the depths of his psyche and his life was about to change forever.