The occasional ramblings of the author of Quantum Shaman: Diary of a Nagual Woman, and the site author of QuantumShaman.com. Is life worth living? Is death worth dying for? Is the world a nuthouse and the lunatics are running the asylum? If you answered yes or no to any of these questions, you are seriously disturbed and this blog will most likely make you smile or laugh or cry or throw expensive objects at the wall. Come on in!
words above come to me as I am trying to fall asleep on the summer solstice of
1998. We had just learned of the death
of Carlos Castaneda, though just as his life was a mystery, so is his reputed
“death”. It happened on April 27 at his
home in LA. According to the LA TIMES,
the body was cremated immediately & the ashes taken to Mexico. No funeral, no body. Just the word of the doctor & his
agent. Did he really die at all, or has
he merely broken ties with this world completely in order to be utterly “free”
of consensual constraints?
don’t realize how bound we are to this society just by virtue of being alive,
being human. We are expected to behave
in certain ways because we are human, & so we do. If we live, we are
expected to age, to become sick & finally die – and so we do. Merely by virtue of being alive we are already condemned to death
by the programmed belief system of the entire world – a belief system that has
nothing to do with religion or culture, but the belief system which is the
foundation of Man himself. If one person knows you are alive, you are then
bound to this belief system through all 7 billion people on earth – i.e., you
do not need to be seen as Jack or Jill or Carlos, but only as human to be trapped & condemned by
the energetic constructs of those (false) belief systems.
I see this as a higher truth that can’t be
ignored if we really do intend to evolve beyond the social hive, beyond human,
beyond the eagle's reach.
I see a man on the street, a stranger – I automatically
make certain assumptions that do not even require conscious thought, that are
literally a part of the foundational belief system of the entire human
race. For example, I automatically
assume that the man is human, going thru a life that is “normal” to him. I assume he was once a baby, then a boy, then
a man – and all of these assumptions lead to the belief that he is a creature
living inside of time – he was born, he grew up, he will grow old, & he
will one day die. Without knowing
anything at all about this stranger, I know his entire history, his entire
future. And just as I believe these
things about this man, so does everyone else who sees him. Indeed, the man
believes these things about himself, and even accepts the beliefs as
irrefutably valid, so no attempt can be made to even try to refute what is seen, known &
accepted as irrefutable. This stranger
on the street is a victim of all of mankind’s belief system just by virtue of
being human & recognized as such by me when I see him passing by me on the
the only way to be truly free of such belief systems is to be already dead – or
at least to be perceived by your
fellow man as already dead. If I see a
man on the street who looks like Carlos, but it has already been “irrefutably
written” that Carlos is dead, then I automatically
assume that the man is not Carlos,
but a different man who might look
like him. I “condemn” that man, perhaps, but at the same
instant, I free Carlos, allowing him to be “dead”, & therefore automatically consigned to those
realms of thought & speculations which exist beyond human consciousness.
IOW, I “trap” the stranger on the street in the web of consensual
beliefs, but at the same exact moment, I say to myself, “It’s not Carlos, for
he is already dead, and I hope he made it past the eagle.” In short, because I do not know what happens to a man after death,
I cannot trap him into any consensual belief system. Only after the man is perceived as “already
dead” do we stop making automatic
assumptions as to his past, present & future.
his books, don Juan teaches Carlos about the damage done to a man merely by
virtue of existing inside the hive of any social structure. But how can any man be truly free of it.
is… if Carlos found himself in a position to program the hive to already
believe him “dead”, perhaps he has truly slipped past the eagle – that strange
& inexplicable “entity” which seems to exist merely to devour human
consciousness at the moment of death. If the eagle believes/accepts/knows that
it’s already devoured a man, then it believes/accepts/knows it can’t devour
that same man a second time. But if the eagle has been tricked by a master
shaman, is the shaman not then free even of death itself, or at the very least,
free of the expectations placed upon all mortal men?
his ultimate fate, whether he is dead or alive or both simultaneously, I
have to congratulate Carlos for making even his supposed “death” an ongoing
part of the story, fodder for speculation, mulch for mystery &
mysticism. In the tradition of the true
shaman, he has made us wonder about ourselves and the nature of reality, right
down to the question of Death itself.
"Reality is a progressive belief."
Copyright 2014, by Della Van Hise All Rights Reserved
The following ramble is a
compilation of several posts made to my old group, The Sorcerer's World, and
explored to some extent on my website, www.quantumshaman.com
. I realize some of it is complex and
repetitive, but rather than try to distill it down to 50 words or less, it
seems reasonable to present it more or less as it was written – in fits and
starts of passion, and long nights in the womb of silent knowing. (DVH)
it has been said by don Juan that no one really knows why Naguals are born with
4 compartments of energy rather than the traditional two, I think I might have
a vague inkling of why this is so. As a
warrior creates her double and projects that energetic self into the infinite,
it is given the agenda (at least in the case of my own double – who calls
himself "Orlando") of teaching us how to live, but even more so, it
teaches us how to EVOLVE, how to
reconjoin with the double so that the warrior may inhabit the totality of
OneSelf. Literally One. Self.
double has always said that the only way he can leave me is if I were to turn
my back on the path and fragment myself back into phantomhood. Should that happen, the result would be that
when I face the eagle, the "Della-self" would not survive, and would
fragment back into the component parts of energy of which all things are
made. I would return to the
"all", but not in any cohesive manner. BUT... as I have come to understand it, the
energy body which is the cohesive double would continue... (because it is already Whole within the
indestructible hologram). IOW, what would be lost would be my mortal self
with all her life-experiences, not necessarily the part of me that is already
whole outside of time. But the whole
purpose of this two-part migration of the soul is to bring the mortal self and
the double into cohesion, so as to
inhabit a single assemblage point into the infinite. The double has been given the agenda to
teach/create/make the warrior an integrated Whole being through an ongoing
series of lessons, information, Knowledge & experience. There is no limit to this, and that agenda is
an eternal one, perhaps expressed in the words:
“I give you the will & the wisdom to be whatever you need to be in
order to teach me how to be Whole.” (For "whole" you could substitute
the words "evolved," "cohesive," "eternal," or
even "im-mortal" (i.e., not-mortal).
here's where it gets into an area Orlando
calls "the ghost train”. If we look at our mortal lives like a train trip,
and we get to the end of the line (the eagle, death, transformation), our
Intent is to step off the train, embrace the energetic double, and conjoin into
our Totality (literally the combined assemblage points of every experience the
self and double have ever experienced – both in and outside of
"time"). BUT... if for some
reason the mortal self fails in its bid for cohesion, my theory is that the
double actually goes "back in time" (as it were) to within the
time-frame of the mortal lifespan... and begins the whole procedure again. Orlando
says he and I have ridden the ghost train a few times (not a pleasant idea),
but not surprising, considering everything I now know. It's like that scene in THE MATRIX where Neo
first jumps off the building. One of the
others remarks, "Everybody falls the first time." I think that's true here, too, which may
account for why the idea of "past lives" is so popular. Some of those "past lives" may well
be our individual journeys on the ghost train.
It is the double’s journey toward Totality, toward fulfilling the agenda
with which the mortal created it through free will.
it boils down to is that the universe is holographic in nature. So once something is created as
"real", it can never be destroyed.
If your double is real NOW, even if you develop Alzheimer's, go insane,
or simply fail to get past the eagle, the
double is nonetheless real within the hologram... and because its agenda is
its own evolution and conjoining with its mortal self, it will continue to slip
back into that small segment of eternity known as the mortal lifespan in an attempt to teach the mortal self how to
SUCCEED in getting past the eagle "next time". This may also account
for some instances of deja vu. We think
we've done this before because we HAVE done this before.
that bit of background, I have begun to seriously wonder if so-called
"Naguals" or double beings are born that way because they are the
ones who HAVE ridden that ghost train at least once or twice, and so they
essentially come into THIS life with the energetic double more or less already
fully formed – lying dormant until such time as there is an opening, or window
of opportunity for the teachings to begin again – or more precisely, until such
time as the mortal’s free will awakens and issues the command. In my case, that command is remembered as an
11-year-old girl shaking her fist at the sky and proclaiming, “If I can’t come
to you, I’ll bring you to me."
is, because the double is an eternal part of the hologram once created, even
when/if the mortal self fails in her bid for evolution past the eagle, that
which is eternal within the hologram (the double) has the ability to
essentially step back inside the finite span of that mortal lifespan – because
the double is not constrained or limited to a linear-experience of time, and exists ubiquitously throughout the
space-time continuum. So, it begins
to appear that those who have created
their double, but for whatever reason perhaps do not fulfill their evolution
“the first time around”, may be those who are born double-beings, or naguals. What is happening in actuality is that the
agenda given to the double kicks in if the mortal self fails in her bid for
evolution, and by virtue of re-entering the mortal timeframe (rather like
stepping into a re-run on television), the being who is born Now is born with
the double already “attached” – four energy compartments instead of only two.
Any warrior can create their double
- though ultimately it isn't as much a matter of "choice" as it is a
matter of Intent. And there is definitely a difference. I might
choose to go light a candle as part of a ritual, for example, but that isn't
what will create the double. It is the ache/hurt/want/need in the pit of
the stomach that provides the Intent that would make me feel a need to perform some meaningless ritual
in the first place. The ritual has no real power and is a choice; but the
the ritual has ultimate power in creation, and the ritual is only a tool for
focus. Over a period of time (no one can say how long), the double is
brought into being by the intent of the warrior - not the intent to create the
double, but the intent to seek knowledge, the intent to create, the intent to
find the answer to that gnawing ache/hurt/want/need in the pit of the
stomach. In short, the double is created through dreaming in the sense
that the energy of that ache/hurt/want/need goes into manifesting the
"cure" - and that cure is the
double, which may be described as the vessel of the singularity of
consciousness which emerges when all is said and done and the warrior leaves
this earth. Double beings are another matter -
and yet, at the very heart and soul and source
of WHY they are double beings, it may be exactly the same thing, but
something that is being seen
from another point on the time-map. I have a theory that Naguals such as
myself are the fuck-ups of the sorcerer's equation. The theory is perhaps
slightly complicated, but I need to work through it on cyberpaper, so bear with
me, or go smoke a joint and come back later. If I start from point A, and take
the premise - I am an ordinary warrior who has now managed to create my
double. The double is now the indestructible vessel of energy which will
become the assemblage point of my Totality beyond this physical life.
Because it appears that the universe is holographic in nature, what this means
is that both the double and the immortal self are part of that hologram.
And as most already know, the nature of a hologram is that as long as one has
even a tiny piece, one possesses the whole. In other words, the whole of
the hologram exists within each component of itself, so even if it is
fragmented, as long as one piece can be recovered, the hologram can be
reconstructed in its entirety.
Okay... so I've created my double
and I'm bopping along through life, and get hit on the head by a meteor one day,
and kaputz, I'm a goner. The eagle grabs my Della-awareness, and I am
absorbed back into the black velvet fabric of the Nothing - obliterated.
But let's further say that because I was an impeccable warrior (except for
failing to note the meteor coming), I had given my double the agenda:
"Go out into the All and bring back whatever knowledge is required to
teach me everything I need to know in order to become a singularity.
Dream me as I have Dreamed you - no matter what. And do not stop until the singularity is manifested." In giving the double such an
agenda, one is acting in the realm of sorcery to defeat the eagle, at least at
a certain level. Because of the holographic nature of the universe, once
the double is created as an independent component with free will, it cannot be
destroyed even if the awareness of the mortal self is eaten by the eagle.
Now - an aside - this would require an extremely
cohesive double, so this would probably only happen if a warrior were extremely
advanced on the path when s/he was hit by that meteor - but for whatever reason, the
component that is the mortal self "failed" in her bid to get past the
eagle in order to conjoin with the double. So, let's assume, just for the
sake of argument, that the eagle stands "between" self and
double. May or may not be true, but works for the sake of this
explanation. So - here's the game plan so
far. Warrior created her double, gave that double the agenda to teach her
"no matter what it takes" (a matter of intent); and then gets splattered
by a meteor and eaten by the eagle. It's a shitty day, to be sure. Okay - so the awareness of the
mortal self is swallowed up by the eagle, but because the
double was created already BEYOND the eagle, that
energy still exists as part of the hologram. But, it
recognizes that even it is not "complete" because the component
which was the mortal self (its own source) was just eaten by the eagle. So
the double is having a bad day, too. What to do? Without the
awareness of the mortal self, the double knows it is not "whole" -
not a singularity, but only a component, no matter how powerful. And as
such, it knows it is vulnerable to the ravages of infinity. Without both halves, the
dis-integration is not only inevitable, but has already begun. Since the double is not limited to
the confines of the linear human lifetime, and moves freely outside the box of
time itself, the double can just as easily step back inside the framework of the mortal self.
I've used the analogy in the past that the double could very easily "climb
inside" the mortal self while that mortal self was still in the womb of
her mother - and, indeed, this would make a lot of sense, because only then would the
double-being exist in the first place. Why do this? Because the
double is fighting for his/her own survival, too. And the only way to be sure it will
survive would be to exist in such a position as to be able to exert influence
over its mortal source from before the moment of birth. So, the double
wriggles down comfortably inside his mortal self who is still in the womb, and
when the infant is born, it would appear to a seer as having 4 compartments of
energy instead of only two. But - the problem is that the seer
is still a being of linear time, and may think - "Oh, my, what a special
child!" Er - not really. Sure, the nagual has extra energy and
all of that seemingly fun stuff, but we're the fuck-ups who got hit on the head
with the meteor in the moebius loop of the time/space continuum, and so the
double has had to take control and "re-dream" its way into mortal
existence so the whole process can be redone, this time with the double having
more influence from the start.
the eye of the seer, a Nagual man or Nagual woman appears as a luminous egg
with four compartments. Unlike the average human being, who has two sides
only, a left and a right, the Nagual has a left side divided into two long
sections, and a right side equally divided in two." (Carlos Castsaneda)
The reason it is seen in this manner is
because the seer is seeing
only the object, and not the outside-of-time retroactive enchantment
that object as it exists. And so - ultimately
- Naguals may be just another warrior who created their double, got hit on the
head with a meteor, and had a double who was smart enough to operate outside of
time so as to salvage his own pathway to the Infinite by climbing back into his
"source" so as to better guide the play the second time around. The upside to all of this is that
it does tend to give a Nagual that extra reserve of energy, and it certainly
provides one with a sense of urgency and focus and sheer determination to make
it to freedom that is unparalleled. I am going to make it, no matter what - because if I
don't, not only do I "lose" Orlando,
but I will have to go through Gretta Young's fourth grade class again. That alone
is a powerful medicine of motivation. Okay - with everything I've just said,
it's important to note that NONE of this frees the Nagual from the responsibility
of "creating the double through dreaming" in the first place, in the
Now. Because even though the double may
come into this life with the mortal infant, with the ability to exert powerful
influence over that child from even before the moment of birth, it is still the mortal self who must exert
free will and force the double to go through the motions of actually occurring. I've known a couple of naguals who
felt they were somehow "special" just by virtue of being born a
double being, and even felt that they didn't have to create their double
because s/he already existed. One even
referred to it as "a waste of energy to create what already exists." That, again, is a case of a seer
seeing only the finished product and failing to take into account that
something had to happen to create that reality in the first place. IOW, the conclusions are erroneous, just as
it would be an erroneous conclusion to stand in front of a city dump and
proclaim, "Flies caused all this garbage!" So - lest anyone should think
Naguals have it easier or are in any way special - please allow me to disabuse
you of that notion. :) I haven't found
it to be any different for myself than for any of the other warriors I've known
and worked with over the years. We still
have to create our double and go through the hard work of the path, so that the
double will exist in the first place. Nothing is a given. Not one
thing. No one is going to do it for
me - not even my double, Orlando.
At best, he is a safety net of sorts - but only because that is what I created
him to be. And so it goes... ____________ Copyright 2014, by Della Van Hise
All Rights Reserved
1 Retroactive Enchantment – a term used by Peter J.
Carroll and defined as an action in the Now which may be seen to also
significantly alter the past.
theory: All things exist within the realm of possibility, but only some things
will be forced to go through the motions of actually occurring.
It began as a meditation. I often sit on the bed at night and gaze out through the open door. Since we live on a 5 acre parcel in the desert, I have a magnificent view of distant mountains covered by snow, and a closer vista of Joshua trees, pinon pines and yucca plants. The desert is not the barren wasteland so many envision. Instead, it is full of life in all its many manifestations.
So I sat on the bed and leaned back, enjoying the last vestiges of light splashed along the horizon. It had rained in the morning, and the scent of wet chaparral brush lay heavy in the air. A cold breeze was blowing in. The sky was a pale shade of winter night.
I drifted. And then I slept. Just sitting there at the edge of the desert, on the edge of the nagual. Last thing I recalled, I had glanced at the clock to see that it was about 5:45. Quite some time later, I awakened to the sound of footsteps, and a man's voice. Very clearly, he said, "It's time to get up."
Opening my eyes, I discovered a naked man standing just inside my door, less than 5 feet from me. Silhouetted against the open door, there was no mistake, and yet I was completely without fear. It isn't that I am fearless. It was simply that there was nothing to fear, and in that state between sleep and waking, I Knew this on a level of awareness that transcends all logic.
I gazed at this man for approximately 5 seconds - quite a long time if one is holding one's hand in flame or looking at a naked man standing next to one's bed. As I gazed at him, he began to morph much like a special effect in a movie, and as I watched with utter fascination, he turned into a large golden dog who has been frequenting our land for several weeks - a stray whom we've fed from time to time, but who has always shied away from physical contact.
In the sorcerer's world, nothing is as it seems. All things are only transient manifestations of energy. After the man had become the dog, I got up and went out into the yard, where he was sitting on an old grass mat, gazing at me with one upright ear and one bent ear, and a funny smile that was far more human than not. Laughing at me, I suspect. So I laughed, too.
What does it mean? Who's to say? It is known in the shaman's world that brujos can take on the shape of animals if that is their Will, so I cannot possibly know if the dog is really a sorcerer in his own right, or if a sorcerer chose to manifest as the dog. All I know is that a brujo with a sense of humor wandered naked into my house while I lay sleeping, and told me it was time to get up.
Is this some allegorical tale? Nope. Every word of it is true. Such is life in the sorcerer's world. Trying to wrap human comprehension around it is like trying to contain the nagual in a teacup. The experience is the journey, and the journey is the cumulative experiences that go to form a foundation of Knowledge. I was honored by a visit from a brujo, and after we played together for awhile in the open desert, he simply disappeared into the night, a shadow running along the road.
The crack between the worlds stands open. Sometimes, if we are blessed, something from the other side slips through to remind us of our own limitless power, and the unbounded wonder that is Life.
Excerpt from... Quantum Shaman: Diary of a Nagual Woman (by Della Van Hise)
THE RIGHT WAY TO LIVE What does it really mean? In the books of Carlos Castaneda, Don Juan said mescalito teaches "the right way to live," but what is really meant by those words? Many heated debates have ensued on my previous forums as a result of this simple question. What IS the right way to live? To start the ball rolling, here are some of my thoughts... The whole idea of karma has never rung true with me - largely because it implies some sense of "fairness" within the universe which I simply have never observed. There is balance (impeccable balance, actually), but "fairness"? Nada. That's why, when I hear someone say of a murderer or a child molester, "Oh, his karma will catch up to him..." My instant reaction is more likely a private sigh rather than any nod of agreement - even though it would make me feel better to think karma is alive and well. Because there is no "fairness", my feeling with regard to cruelty is that it is always an entirely human choice. In the animal kingdom, even when dealing with predator/prey situations, I don't sense any cruelty from it. The coyote doesn't hunt for sport, but for dinner. The serpent doesn't torture the mouse. The peregrin doesn't dull her talons to make the rat suffer before it dies. The mountain lion doesn't hunt the jackrabbit to extinction just to feel the power of killing. Only humans seem to torture one another and run rampant through their environment to the point that they begin to threaten even their own survival. As a result, I can only surmise that humans are completely out of balance - not only out of balance with nature, but within themselves. Don Juan might say they have lost touch with "the right way to live", and so they have lost any sense of empathy. They have forgotten how to look out through the eyes of the other creatures on this planet, and so their world is narrow, limited, and altogether unjust. In my experience, "the right way to live" has nothing to do with morality, social standards, religion, or even the law. It has to do with knowing right from wrong within yourself - which I personally believe is an attribute most humans are born with, or learn quickly. Is there a "right way to live?" I believe there is. _________________ For additional reading on this subject... Quantum Shaman: Diary of a Nagual Woman Scrawls On the Walls of the Soul Quantum Shaman Website
Recently at an online event I hosted, the inevitable discussion arose: did Castaneda invent the whole thing? Did he make it up? What is the Truth? This was my response.
As for whether or not Castaneda "invented" the whole thing, it really doesn't matter in the least, for one simple reason. Whether or not don Juan existed, the truths being explored in the books of CC stand up. My personal suspicion is that Castaneda did indeed "invent" don Juan as a "vehicle" through which to dispense the Knowledge he himself had discovered through whatever method. In other words, Castaneda WAS don Juan - whether consciously, unconsciously, or even if don Juan may indeed have been Carlos's double.
Many people have been dissuaded from the path of heart when they come to this realization, but for me it makes no difference WHO said it as long as "IT" holds up. For myself, after many, many years of experimentation and exploration, the Knowledge reported in CC's books still holds up, and, indeed, I have been able to take most of it one-step-further -- which means that it is indeed a valid foundation that can be built upon by those with Intent.
So, in response to your statement that "only the truth can set us free" -- absolutely, 100% true. That's why I am a seeker of Truth and not a blind follower of Castaneda, who himself admitted to being a trickster. So the question then becomes - what is truth? Seems to me don Juan exists (present tense) as a living construct of energy and Knowledge, regardless of who breathed him into life. What is... simply IS.
During the course of this discussion, the comment was made that "Truth matters! If it's not true, how can it have any real power?" Well... I know a lot of people who have had life-altering awakenings as a result of a movie - I'm thinking in particular of "Avatar." At least 2 people I know were profoundly changed after seeing the movie, and in essence it led them onto the path because there are elements of truth woven into the "fiction." Writers often call this technique "fact-ion." Part fact, part fiction. Obviously "Avatar" wasn't a true story, and don Juan may not be pure truth either. But if the truths contained WITHIN the fiction are sufficiently powerful to shake someone out of their human stupor, that's good enough (for a start). Truth is subjective anyway (at least IMO). Everything begins with a thought, and in quantum perspective, anything that can be imagined also exists. It's how reality is created.
Ultimately, it comes down to this: we can hear the message or shoot the messengers. Most true shamans (seers) are not always saints and priests by human standards. Visionaries are not necessarily visions of virtue. This seems to be part of the riddle - that nature selects what some would call "frauds" to deliver the message about the path toward freedom (which may vary from culture to culture, but which is always the same at its core). Maybe it's because it's our various "cultures" are the real lie, and the so-called "liars" are the real truthsayers. The universe seems to appreciate irony like that.
Something my mentor/double stressed repeatedly to me over the years: "This is a solitary path, and you will eventually lose everything and everyone." At the time these words were communicated, I altered between thinking they were meant literally as opposed to metaphorically. Over the years, I've come to realize it's a bit of both. I've watched others who started out on this path slowly but inevitably fall back into the allure of the consensus for one reason or another. Oh, some of them still give lip service to the path, but actions speak louder than words. So while these people aren't "lost" to me, they are, in effect, phantoms on the road to Nowhere, even when they might appear to be walking at my side. And lest someone hop in to say that is me being judgmental, let me assure you I have no judgment whatsoever. I am simply an observer, a scribe of random events, a being who long ago lost sight of "the world" when my assemblage point shifted permanently to the Infinite. Such is life. It can perhaps be argued in the form of semantics, but at the end of the day, it cannot be denied by anyone who truly *sees*.
As for losing every *thing*, that has turned out to be interesting as well. What's been lost isn't necessarily physical things, but absolutely ANY importance or value attached to physical things. Clearly, that's a good thing, right? No debate there. But it makes for an interesting journey through what Madonna called "the material world." Particularly here in the West, so much value is placed on status symbols and material gain - cars, houses, jewelry, clothes. And yet, to the warrior, these things are only tools, or even less than that. They are objects in an inventory. An inventory in a warehouse of Chaos.
As a result, part of a "warrior's sadness" comes from the Knowledge that s/he is essentially an island of awareness in a sea of madness. Looking at old friends, we see the shell of abandoned potential, the husk that has been drained of all Spirit, and now has reattached itself to the teat of that material world. And in the material world, the warrior sees the play in full swing, and realizes it is a paradoxically circular script written by madmen and madwomen, acted out by zombies who were once vibrant, beautiful children. And in many ways, it is that "sadness" which gives a warrior her strength - the long-term observations and unshakable Knowledge that she, too, runs the high risk of returning to phantom status if she doesn't remain awake and simply continue to put one foot in front of the other while the world and all its lost souls and meaningless trinkets lie in ruins in the rear-view mirror of time.