Honor and Magic

Scientific Heretic Rupert Sheldrake on Morphic Fields, Psychic Dogs and Other Mysteries

by John Horgan
SOURCE: Scientific American

For decades, I’ve been only dimly aware of Rupert Sheldrake as a renegade British biologist who argues that telepathy and other paranormal phenomena (sometimes lumped under the term psi) should be taken more seriously by the scientific establishment. Since I’m one of those fuddy-duddy establishment doubters of psi, I never bothered to examine Sheldrake’s work closely. But I was intrigued, and amused, by the vehemence of his critics, notably John Maddox, the long-time editor of Nature, who once called Sheldrake’s views “heresy” that deserved to be “condemned.”

Rupert Sheldrake believes the "materialist worldview," rather than being abandoned, can be expanded to accommodate his work.

Rupert Sheldrake believes the "materialist worldview," rather than being abandoned, can be expanded to accommodate his work.

Sheldrake probably provokes such strong reactions in part because he is a product of the scientific establishment—more specifically, of Cambridge University. He earned his doctorate in biochemistry there in 1967 and became a fellow and director of studies in biochemistry and cell biology. He gradually became dissatisfied with current theories of biology. He presented an alternative framework—involving his theory of morphic resonance (explained below)–in his 1981 book A New Science of Life, which Maddox, in a now-famous Nature editorial, called “the best candidate for burning there has been for many years.”

Sheldrake, undaunted, went on to write more popular books, including Dogs That Know When Their Owners Are Coming Home (1999), The Sense of Being Stared At (2003), Seven Experiments That Could Change the World (1994) and, most recently, Science Set Free (2013). The latter calls on modern science to shed its restrictive materialism and reductionism, advancing some of the same arguments that philosopher Thomas Nagel does in his recent book Mind and Cosmos (which I reviewed here).

The reason I’m telling you about Sheldrake is that less than two months ago, we were both speakers at a festival in Hay-on-Wye, England, and were put up in the same boarding house. (I participated in several sessions at the festival, including one about Big Data that I reported on here.) I spent lots of time talking to Sheldrake during the festival and after it, when we spent an afternoon tramping around a heath near his home. (I also met Sheldrake in 1997 at a scientific reception in London, but we only spoke briefly.)

Sheldrake is terrific company. He is smart, articulate and funny. He does a hilarious imitation of the late psychedelic scholar Terence McKenna, his friend and co-author, whom I met in 1999 and profiled here. There is an appealing reasonableness and gentleness in Sheldrake’s manner, even when he is complaining about the unfairness of his many critics.

He possesses, moreover, a deep knowledge of science, including its history and philosophy (which he studied at Harvard in the 1960s). This knowledge—along with his ability to cite detailed experimental evidence for his claims–make Sheldrake a formidable defender of his outlook. (For more on Sheldrake’s career and views, see his website, http://www.sheldrake.org.)

At one point Sheldrake, alluding to my 1996 book The End of Science, said that his science begins where mine ends. When I asked him to elaborate he said, “We both agree that science is at present limited by assumptions that restrict enquiry, and we agree that there are major unsolved problems about consciousness, cosmology and other areas of science… I am proposing testable hypotheses that could take us forward and open up new frontiers of scientific enquiry.”

For the full article, click here.

In Search of the Miraculous, by P.D. Ouspensky


Since its original publication in 1949, In Search of the Miraculous has been hailed as the most valuable and reliable documentation of G. I. Gurdjieff's thoughts and universal view. This historic and influential work is considered by many to be a primer of mystical thought as expressed through the Work, a combination of Eastern philosophies that had for centuries been passed on orally from teacher to student. Gurdjieff's goal, to introduce the Work to the West, attracted many students, among them Ouspensky, an established mathematician, journalist, and, with the publication of In Search of the Miraculous, an eloquent and persuasive proselyte.

Ouspensky describes Gurdjieff's teachings in fascinating and accessible detail, providing what has proven to be a stellar introduction to the universal view of both student and teacher. It goes without saying that In Search of the Miraculous has inspired great thinkers and writers of ensuing spiritual movements, including Marianne Williamson, the highly acclaimed author of A Return to Love and Illuminata. In a new and never-before-published foreword, Williamson shares the influence of Ouspensky's book and Gurdjieff's teachings on the New Thought movement and her own life, providing a contemporary look at an already timeless classic.

Wikipedia info:

In Search of the Miraculous

Pyotr Demianovich Ouspensky

David Lynch explains Consciousness, Creativity and benefits of Transcendental Meditation

One of the greatest American filmmakers, television director, visual artist and musician is David Lynch. Lynch is an advocate of the use of Transcendental Meditation (TM) in bringing peace to the world. His passion to help students learn the TM techniques has launched the David Lynch Foundation For Consciousness-Based Education and Peace. In this video, David Lynch answers a couple of questions on his understanding of how TM can affect creativity and overall learning and expansion of the human mind.

The Parthian Battery - a 2200 year old electric battery from Ancient Iran

Parthian Battery

Parthian Battery

In June, 1936, while a new railway was being constructed near the city of Baghdad workers uncovered an ancient tomb. In the excavation that followed it was determined that the tomb was built during the Parthian period which ranged from 250 BCE to 250 CE (+/-).

According to most texts the "voltic pile," or electric battery, was invented in 1800 by the Count Alassandro Volta. Volta had observed that when two dissimilar metal probes were placed against frog tissue, a weak electric current was generated. Volta discovered he could reproduce this current outside of living tissue by placing the metals in certain chemical solutions. For this, and his other work with electricity, we commemorate his name in the measurement of electric potential called the volt.

The little Parthian jar found in ancient Western Iranian territories of Greater Iran (now Iraq), suggests that Volta didn't invent the battery, but reinvented it. The jar was first described by German archaeologist Wilhelm Konig in 1938. The jar was found in Khujut Rabu just outside modern Baghdad and is composed of a clay jar with a stopper made of asphalt. Sticking through the asphalt is an iron rod surrounded by a copper cylinder. When filled with vinegar - orany other electrolytic solution - the jar produces about 1.5 to 2.0 volts.


The jars are believed to be about 2000 years old from the Parthian period (The third Iranian dynasty ruled roughly 248 BCE to 28 April CE 224), and consist of an earthenware shell, with a stopper composed of asphalt. Sticking through the top of the stopper is an iron rod. Inside the jar the rod is surrounded by a cylinder of copper. Konig thought these things looked like electric batteries and published a paper on the subject in 1940.

World War II prevented immediate follow-up on the jars, but after hostilities ceased, an American, Willard F. M. Gray of the General Electric High Voltage Laboratory in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, built some reproductions. When filled with an electrolyte like grape juice, the devices produced about two volts.
- See more at: http://www.iranchamber.com/history/articles/parthian_battery.php#sthash.rhDwkDA2.dpuf

For the full article, click here.

13,000-year-old girl's tooth sheds light on Native American origins


Divers Alberto Nava and Susan Bird transport the Hoyo Negro skull to an underwater turntable so that it can be photographed in order to create a 3-D model. Image courtesy of Paul Nicklen/National Geographic

Divers Alberto Nava and Susan Bird transport the Hoyo Negro skull to an underwater turntable so that it can be photographed in order to create a 3-D model. Image courtesy of Paul Nicklen/National Geographic

The skeletal remains of a 13,000-year-old teenage girl pulled from an underwater cave below Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula provides fossil evidence for a persistent, but mostly resolved question on the descendants of early Americans.

Native Americans and the earliest American skeletons, known as paleoamericans, have markedly different faces, skulls and teeth, which has raised questions about their origins, and whether their ancestors traveled along separate migration routes. But most geneticists agree that Native Americans descended from Siberians who traveled to America via a land bridge over the Bering Strait toward the end of the last glacial period. This study supports that. An alternative theory suggests they had different ancestral origins, possibly in southeast Asia, Europe or Australia.

By studying the mitochondrial DNA from the girl’s wisdom tooth — that’s genetic material inherited from the mother — researchers have determined that she derives from the same genetic lineage as early Native Americans, and likely descended from those who crossed the Bering Strait.

The girl, along with at least 26 animals, many of them now extinct, including Saber Tooth tigers, giant ground sloths and cave bears, were found in the cave, after possibly plunging down the 100-foot trap to their death. It’s like a tar pit without the tar, said Jim Chatters, an archaeologist and paleontologist and lead author of the paper. Researchers believe her broken pelvis is a result of that the fall.

For the full article, click here.

Mathematical Model Finds That Human Consciousness Is Noncomputable

"One of the most profound advances in science in recent years is the way researchers from a variety of fields are beginning to formulate the problem of consciousness in mathematical terms, in particular using information theory. That's largely thanks to a relatively new theory that consciousness is a phenomenon which integrates information in the brain in a way that cannot be broken down. Now a group of researchers has taken this idea further using algorithmic theory to study whether this kind of integrated information is computable. They say that the process of integrating information is equivalent to compressing it. That allows memories to be retrieved but it also loses information in the process. But they point out that this cannot be how real memory works; otherwise, retrieving memories repeatedly would cause them to gradually decay. By assuming that the process of memory is non-lossy, they use algorithmic theory to show that the process of integrating information must noncomputable. In other words, your PC can never be conscious in the way you are. That's likely to be a controversial finding but the bigger picture is that the problem of consciousness is finally opening up to mathematical scrutiny for the first time."

8 Bit Philosophy: The Allegory of the Cave

The Plato’s Cave allegory explained using graphics from The Legend of Zelda.

Ancient Greek philosopher Plato’s Allegory of the Cave explains human perception with a hypothetical of man living in a dark cave and only experiencing shadows of the real world.

From Wikipedia:

The Allegory of the Cave, compares “…the effect of education (παιδεία) and the lack of it on our nature”…
Plato has Socrates describe a gathering of people who have lived chained to the wall of a cave all of their lives, facing a blank wall. The people watch shadows projected on the wall by things passing in front of a fire behind them, and begin to designate names to these shadows. The shadows are as close as the prisoners get to viewing reality. He then explains how the philosopher is like a prisoner who is freed from the cave and comes to understand that the shadows on the wall do not make up reality at all, as he can perceive the true form of reality rather than the mere shadows seen by the prisoners.

Queens, Empresses, Warriors, and Other Powerful Women of Persia

Mandana, Median princess and mother of Cyrus the Great of Persia

Mandana, Median princess and mother of Cyrus the Great of Persia

This section is dedicated to all the brave Persian women that were wisely running the country for thousands of years. In Persia, women enjoyed a level of gender equality unmatched even to this day! Female emperors ruled over the many dynasties of the Persian Empire. Many ancient Persian cities and states were ruled by women and had their army totally under control of female commanders. The significant role of women in Ancient Persia both horrified and fascinated the ancient Greek and Roman male-dominated societies. Women in Persia were very honored and revered, they often had important positions in the Courthouse, Ministries, Military, State and Treasury Department, and other official administrations. Persian queens had large private estates and personal armies. Recent works on the role of women in ancient Persia show great participation by women in all facets of life beyond imagination, indicating not only their autonomy and independence, but the existence of an equal social system which accepted the authority and independence of women. The fortification tablets at the Ruins of Persepolis also reveals that men and women were represented in identical professions and that they received equal payments as skilled laborers and that gender was not a criterion at all (unlike our modern world). New mothers and pregnant women even received wages far above those of their male co-workers as gratitude. There is much evidence that the principles of Zoroastrianism lay the core foundation to the first Declaration of Human Rights in the Persian Empire set by Cyrus the Great since the rulers of Persia were Zoroastrians and relatively liberal and progressive.

Shahbanu, Queen of Media

Shahbanu, Queen of Media

It is essential for Women to know and understand their glorious history of the past, because without it, they will not be able to plant their place in the future. Our so called civilized modern world still has a long way to go in terms of gender equality. Freedom & Equality does not come free and no one will ever deliver it to us in a silver platter. We must build relationships that are unimpeded by gender-based distinctions and discrimination.

Most scholars today agree that women internationally step by step became second rate citizens and lost all their power, autonomy, independence, rights and consistently assigned a passive role in the society as soon as Abrahamic religions (Judaism, Christianity, and especially Islam) became widespread. The gendering of those religions is oppressively male . The creator in Genesis is presented as an Old Male Sovereign Outsider who relate to the world by way of command. It is a male story of power, a story of hierarchical command and control. Religious discrimination against women is still alive and thriving! The texts of the Torah, Bible and Quran preach discrimination against women, degradation and subjugation of women, and even violence against women! They teach that women are not only inferior, but also must obey men, because “God” tells us that men are their masters (justifying all manner of religion-justified nastiness directed against them). In other words, the texts of these so-called “holy books” systematically ensure a second-class status for women . (Mothers of Creation, who make up a little over half of the world’s population).

Music for your edification: Andre Obin - Soft Rain

Artist: Andre Obin
Track: Soft Rain

Boston based producer André Obin made some ripples with the release of his The Arsonist album. He returned with another collection of eclectic electronic tunes called Ways Of Escape; the first track form which is Loaded Soul, and EBM lite Germanic opus that should have him nervous that Goths might like him, ‘cos then his career will be over.

A lot of people are throwing around the word ‘Darkwave’, and whilst those word throwers have probably never heard of Black Tape For A Blue Girl, Project Pitchfork or Das Ich they do have a point. The simplistic, growling synth bassline and whispered vocals are loaded with Teutonic, mascara fuelled, connotations. There’s a little House flavour in there too, and a surprising funk, amidst the synthesizer swirls and Loaded Soul turns-in a confident and engrossing SynthPop soundtrack.

Mysticism, by Annie Besant



There is no doubt, for any observant person, that what is sometimes called a ‘wave’ of mysticism is passing over the world at the present time. It matters not whether you travel in the East or in the West; it matters not whether you look at the churches or at the many bodies outside the recognised churches in Christendom; wherever you look you see the same fact emerging - that men and women are turning away from external proof towards inner realisation; that they are beginning to feel that not the authority from outside but the authority from within ought to be the guiding force of life; that they are beginning to feel that scriptures, however sacred, authority, however venerable, is not [1] the final word of religion for man. And so on all sides you see a searching, a desire, a long­ing, to replace faith by knowledge, speculation by certainty.

You may remember, looking over the last year or two, that that which is called Mysticism has met with expositions in this country, and you may remember, perhaps with some feeling of slight amusement, that it was the pro­nouncement of the Dean of S. Paul’s which induced the Times newspaper to change its attitude to Mysticism. “We had thought,” said the Times, “that Mysticism was an exploded superstition”. It is true that Lord Rosebery had spoken of Cromwell as a practi­cal mystic, and had stated in various ways that the practical mystic was a very terrible person, that he was a man apt to carry everything before him, a man to be reckoned  with in the outer world as well as in the inner; but then you would agree with me that a man like Cromwell is not exactly the kind of man that the Times would approve of, unless he lived some centuries ago, and did not cause unrest and disturbance in the eminently respectable society in which the Times desires to live and move. But when a Dean, and not only a Dean, but a Dean of the Metropolis of the Empire, a Dean of S. Paul’s - surely the most respectable of all ecclesiastical dignitaries - when a man like that came out  with the statement that “Mysticism is the [2] most scientific form of religion”, you cannot  wonder that under those conditions the Times began to reconsider its view, and perhaps began  to think, with some inner disturbance, that Mysticism was rather an explosive superstition  than the exploded superstition, the burst and dead shell, which it had hitherto hoped that it was. It had belonged to cranks like Theo­sophists, to foolish people; but when a Dean pronounced it scientific, then, like mesmerism rebaptised as hypnotism, it could be accepted in respectable society and brought within the purview of the ordinary respectable man.

And so now we can deal with Mysticism without fear of being called superstitious for the dealing, and we may perhaps begin by asking: Why did the Dean of S. Paul’s declare that Mysticism was the most scientific form of religion, why did he remove it from the world of dreams and place it in the broad light of intellect, in the scientific world of fact? For a very clear and definite reason; because Mysticism, like all science, depends on the testimony of consciousness, the only sure testimony that we possess as to the existence of facts without us, as to the exist­ence of an external world at all. It is only from the testimony of consciousness that we can argue that anything exists outside our­selves. Because, when certain impacts are made upon us, consciousness answers to those in various ways, therefore we conclude that

[3] there is an external world. We do not know that world; we only know the response of consciousness to impressions made upon us from what we presume to be an external world. Many people, because they do not think closely, do not realise that all that they know is the impressions made upon their consciousness, they presume by something outside it; they know the impressions; they are conscious of them. That which we call our­selves makes answer to something from without, and according to the nature of the answer, the part of our consciousness which responds to the impression, we classify the various external objects, label them and place them in a certain division corresponding to a division in our own consciousness. We find, for instance, that external objects, producing a certain effect upon the consciousness through the senses, are classified as the phenomena which give the basis for science, and the observations are put aside as dealing with the facts with which science is concerned. We find that another class of impressions from without arouses in us what we call feeling, a feeling of pleasure or of pain and so of attraction or repulsion, and that these gradu­ally develop into what we know as emotions; we place them in their own category in turn and realise the emotional nature that responds in us to the impacts giving rise to those feelings and emotions. Then we find that [4] another set of impressions appeals to a different part of our consciousness and we have what we call thoughts, ideas. Percepts derived through the senses become gradu­ally manipulated by our consciousness into thoughts, ideas, concepts, and we put them into a class by themselves. So we have three classes of impressions - the sensuous, the emotional, the mental, - and these we realise as the answers of our consciousness to certain classes of impressions made upon us by the external world.

Then we begin to ask: is this all? do these three classes include everything to which con­sciousness responds? is there any other part of our consciousness which does not belong to the body, or the emotions, or the mind, which will respond to certain impressions from without, a class of impressions that cannot be included in one of the three that I have named, and yet impressions that we recognise, and to which we find our consciousness respond? Hence, when the question is asked: have we exhausted all impressions in the sensuous, the emotional, the mental? The normal consciousness of humanity in all times, in all countries, in all stages of civilisation answers distinctly: No; there is something more.

For the full book, click here.

Music for your edification: Grimes - Genesis (album: Visions)

From Last.fm

Grimes is the alias of the electronic musician Claire Boucher (born in 17 March 1988 in Vancouver, Canada and based in Montreal). Her music is an eclectic mix of styles which she described herself as “ADD music”, because it shifts frequently and dramatically. She fuses contemporary instrumentation with classical vocal practices.

Boucher was born and raised in Vancouver, British Columbia. She graduated from Lord Byng Secondary School and studied ballet for 11 years. In 2006, she moved to Montreal, Canada to attend Montreal’s McGill University, studying Russian literature and later, neuroscience. During her studies, she began to record and perform under the name Grimes. While in Montreal, she began attending concerts put on by local experimental musicians at Lab Synthèse, a performance space located in an abandoned textile factory.

Her first release was the album Geidi Primes, issued on cassette in 2010 by Arbutus Records. It was followed in the same year by the sophomore album Halfaxa, through Arbutus Records. In 2011, Grimes released a split album with d’Eon titled Darkbloom.

In January 2012, she had signed with record label 4AD. In February 2012, Grimes released her third studio album, Visions. The album incorporates influences as wide as Enya, TLC and Aphex Twin, drawing from genres like new jack swing, idm, new age, k-pop, industrial and glitch.

Visions was met with critical acclaim and featured on many Best Albums of 2012 lists. The Guardian named Visions the second best album of 2012, calling it “a masterpiece in gonzo pop that is weird, original and derivative at the same time”. The NME ranked the album at number two on its 50 Best Albums of 2012 list, while naming her best known songs “Oblivion” and “Genesis” the sixth and sixteenth best tracks of 2012, respectively.

Grimes herself cited various musicians as influences, including Skinny Puppy, Nine Inch Nails, Cocteau Twins, How to Dress Well, Swans, OutKast, k-pop, medieval music, industrial music.

The History and Philosophy of the Metaphysical Movements in America

Hermetic Library fellow T Polyphilus reviews The History and Philosophy of the Metaphysical Movements in America by J Stillson Judah.


Writing in the 1990s, Wouter Hanegraaff refers to this book as a “standard work” on the topic, and notes that Judah coined the term “metaphysical movements.” (See Judah, p. 7) The volume treats a set of “religious philosophies” in the United States, beginning in the 1840s, and progressing up until the date that the book was written. Although Judah provided no evidence for the claim, he asserted that these religions were growing in popularity at the time of his writing. (p. 12) He characterized these metaphysical movements by family resemblance, with a set of fifteen chief features, including: gnostic anthropology, divine monism, pragmatism, psychological interpretation, optimism, mental or spiritual healing, and preferring “principles” to creed. Even when explicitly Christian, these groups tended to view Jesus as a teacher, rather than as the unique human incarnation of God.

Judah’s first chapter is devoted to inventorying some aspects of the germinal milieu of the American metaphysical movements. Besides the transcendentalist school and its effects, which he remarks as their foremost precedent and influence, he observes the importance of American religious pluralism, revivalism, deism, Swedenborgianism, Puritan utilitarianism, and occultism (i.e. hermeticism and kabbalah). He then goes on to provide historical sketches, with representations of doctrines and practices, for each of the following metaphysical movements: Spiritualism (with its various institutions and sects), Theosophy “and its allies” (i.e. the Arcane School and the Astara Foundation), New Thought (with the precedent teachings of Quimby and Evans, and the progeny of the Divine Science Church and the Church of Religious Science), the Unity School of Christianity, and Christian Science. A closing chapter treats the effect of the metaphysical movements on Protestantism, especially through the avenue of notions of health and mental healing.

Judah repeatedly cites Frank Podmore’s history of Spiritualism, Charles J. Ryan on Theosophy, Horatio Dresser on New Thought, and several secondary sources on Christian Science. For all of the movements surveyed, he makes extensive use of their own doctrinal literature, and in several cases he has interviewed key leaders or their families. Perhaps it is significant that no secondary sources appear in different sections of the book, since Judah appears to have been the first to tie these various groups and teachings into a coherent tradition.

Short Story: Apotheosis

by Rosamund Hodge
SOURCE: Lightspeed Magazine

The people of Ipu needed a god.

Of course they already had one. His name was Kuromasai, and he had ended three droughts, cured seven plagues, and defended them from an army of Heccan raiders. But he was also old, and each morning when he appeared for his offering of praise, he had grown a little bit fainter. Soon he would disappear completely, and what is a city without a god?

So the seven Elders of Ipu met to discuss the matter. It had been over two hundred years since they had needed a new god, and though the scrolls said that the Iputians had once made their own, the method was lost.

“The Nimbagi seek their gods in the desert,” said the Second Eldest.

“Yes, and their gods smite them for the least offense,” said the Fourth Eldest.

“The Sornese gods last millennia,” said the Fifth Eldest.

“But what do they ever do?” asked the Third Eldest. “Sit on a pillar and give them ethical advice. That’s not our kind of god.”

Indeed it was not. Theirs were not the leather tents and warrior ways of the Nimbagi, nor the marble temples of the Sornese and their pursuit of virtue. Ipu was a small city of wood and sandstone, and its people were practical and loving; and they prided themselves that their gods protected and loved them.

The solution was obvious. “We must purchase a god from Tsubarime’s factory,” said the Eldest. “Nothing else will do.”

They consulted the oracle, and she told them to send the three sons of the Seventh Eldest. So the Elders gave them advice and a map, along with a diamond, a bag of gold, and a chicken’s tooth. With the faded blessing of Kuromasai they set out, and they walked all day until at sunset they made camp on the shore of the Commotionless Sea, which lies still across half the world.

The next morning they gazed at the water, dazzled golden by the rising sun, which they would have to cross; for Tsubarime’s factory lay beyond the curved horizon, at the eastern end of the world.

“Stupid oracle,” said the eldest son.

“But just think of how we’ll help our city,” said the youngest.

The eldest son snorted. “By walking halfway across the world!” He turned to the middle son. “Come on, don’t you think this quest is crazy?”

The middle son smiled and shrugged.

“Hell,” muttered the eldest son, wading into the clear water.

The youngest son followed him. “Dulce et decorum est.

It was easy going, for the Commotionless Sea is never more than knee-deep and its bed is of sand and rounded pebbles. So they walked eastwards all day, until the land was gone and they waded through a circular infinity of blue, until sunset turned the water silver and gold and left it darkest cobalt. And still they kept walking deep into the night, for they could not lie down without drowning.

“Damn water,” said the eldest son.

“It’s nothing to what our people will bear if we don’t bring a god back quickly,” said the youngest son.

“There are fish sniffing my toes,” said the middle son.

Suddenly a mighty wind buffeted them—though the water barely rippled—and a great serpent with three horns and a pearl on its forehead descended from the sky. It circled them three times and then hovered before them, its iridescent scales gleaming in the moonlight.

“I am the great serpent ferryman of the west,” it said. “I bear travelers across the Commotionless Sea. Would you care to avail yourselves of my services?”

“Gladly,” said the eldest son, leaping onto the serpent’s back.

“What of my fee?” asked the serpent.

“Do you take gold?” asked the eldest, raising the bag.

“Certainly,” said the serpent.

“But if you give it the gold, how shall we pay for our god?” demanded the youngest.

“Easy,” said the eldest. “I still have the diamond. Coming?”

Neither of his brothers moved, and after a few moments the serpent said, “In that case, we’ll be off. Good night.” With a flick of its tail, it rose into the air and bore the eldest son to the land of Jorongheer, where it devoured him and took both gold and diamond. Serpents are not the most honest of creatures.