The séance continues as the spirit Nil reveals further forbidden secrets gleaned from a thousand incarnations.
‘Feet on sun-baked rock / A hand clasping mine / The scent of new-baked bread / The blessing of wine.’
What the hell is that? Are you in training for an incarnation in the greetings-card trade?
No, I was just singing along. The most popular tunes out here in the ether are all along those lines. Somehow when you’ve not been incarnated for a while, you forget that having a human body involves pain – from the torture of childbirth to the sheer hell of a heavy-metal concert. You only remember the wonder of having five senses.
So eternal life is over-rated?
No, it’s just different. We’re never as alone as you are, all locked up inside one body. But there are obvious compensations to the corporeal state – there are some wild and tender nights that loom very large in my memory.
And were you male or female on those wild and tender nights?
Sometimes one, sometimes the other, of course. Your culture’s obsession with the difference between them is a constant source of amusement out here.
Really? We’re sure women in Afghanistan under the Taliban – who can’t go to work or go out of the house without being completely covered – will be pleased to know they’re providing you with entertainment.
Hoity-toity. The trouble with you readers of the New Internationalist is that you can’t help being earnest. You have to keep reminding people of the iniquity and inequality of the world.
That may be so. But we’ve got a point, haven’t we? If spirits like you have been incarnated many times as both men and women, how come people don’t learn over time to treat each other as equals and meet in the middle? Instead what we end up with is ‘men from Mars’ and ‘women from Venus’.
You think you’ve got problems. You should see what a nightmare it is on the third planet out from Alpha Centauri, which has nine different sexes.
And have you been incarnated there too?
No, I’m pretty much an Earth specialist. I can’t abide these planets which have five moons; there’s something unnatural about them. Give me the wind in my sails on the Brahmaputra or the cool, clear air of the High Andes, any day.
But you still haven’t answered our point about women and men.
Oracles don’t give answers, they just hedge their bets. I could say you’re actually making progress on that front: look at New Zealand...
You mean Aotearoa...
If you want to be pedantic. There, male politicians are so passé that they have to be foisted on to international organizations to earn a crust [Ed: see Worldbeaters]. But on the other hand I have to say we never had any of these Taliban-type problems in the good old days three millennia ago when we all believed in a Great Goddess. Still, you may yet end up with a Great Goddess of your own: in a world where a phoney spot of tongue-kissing turns Al Gore from Clark Kent into Superman, it can be only a matter of time before Madonna launches her own bid for global leadership.
Next month: the greatest king in history makes an entrance.