London, Part III

9 Sep

In July, I took a trip to London.  This is the last part in a series about that trip.


That Chair


First, I need to tell you, I’m a spiritual person.  I hate when people say, “I’m not religious, but I’m spiritual.”  To me, it implies new age-flakiness – a love for power and notions of strangeness, but no arduous thinking.

I went to school for – among other things – science.  My mind demands evidence, experience, and radical investigation.

But since my spiritual and philosophical tradition, anthroposophy, is so full of what from the outside looks like hocus-pocus, this isn’t the place to explain why it is not, in fact, a religion (there was even a court case held to prove that).  I just state all this at the outset, because there’s a chair in London, and I was told it was a powerful chair, and I believed it.  And I believed it not because I’m stupid or unscientific.  When you’re an anthroposophist for long enough, you start to weed through the spiritual jokes to find the  truth (often, the truly hilarious.)
The chair, which sits in a little bookstore near the British Museum, was the chair that Aleister Crowley used to sit in.  He’d live his crazy life, put out the noises in his head, and read books in that chair.

Later, Dion Fortune sat in the the very same chair.  She was a better communicator than Crowley.  Dangerous too, but not so unhinged.  These people were real people; they made real use of their time as human beings.  And so the chair that accepted them is reported to have some sort of…residue.

People claimed to have been paralyzed in the chair, and to have stood up from it and into the sun – a new light shining about their heads.  The chair was evil or good or neutral, but always powerful and able, if you were lucky or unlucky, to cause a shift in you.
I found the bookstore.  It’s on a street that looks like London – If someone were to ask you about London’s features, you’d find them there.  The only things missing were the fog and long coats.  It was a small store with a good selection.  It was what you’d think – shelves filled with strange topics; books behind the counter that seemed forbidden; books stacked on the floor that there was no room for; some pictures on the wall of oddly blended colors, charts, planets.  There was even a chubby woman with long, gray hair sitting behind the counter.  And in one corner, that chair.

It’s brown leather and very old.  The seat, with criss-crossing lines, rests like an open palm.  There’s a dent, a welt, a track, of whomever has occupied the little space between arms and back and floor.  It’s beautiful and curving and very old.

I searched around the store for the right thing to read while I sat in it.  I wanted something simple but beautiful – I didn’t want to be distracted from whatever subtle things I might feel as I sat there.

After some deliberation, I settled on a book of Christian fables about animals.  It seemed profound and clean.  I settled into the chair and opened the book.

Then I put it down.

Then I closed my eyes and felt…something.  Happening.

First, I couldn’t move.  My entire body felt heavy.  Then, despite it heaviness, I felt all of it.  I don’t only mean my head, my toes, my eyes; I mean my organs, my cells.  I knew where it all was; my heart of course, but also my liver, my spleen, my veins.  I felt the nuclei in the cells tremble and the mitochondria breathe.  It was a pure feeling, as my body began to feel like it was spilling over into light, into water.  And I envisioned, with my eyes closed, white flames rising from my feet up around my head and into the sky, stretching to touch the sun above the building.  Everything was alive.  My lungs felt full and open.  I felt like I was becoming something.  I couldn’t move.  I sat there for a long time with my eyes closed, still to anyone who saw me but blurring with motion inwardly.

I’m not sure how long it took me, and it was only with tremendous will that I finally moved.

I pulled my back forward from the divot where others had been.  Then my arms, then my legs.  It felt like they were being held, and I had to struggle to stand.  My head was swimming.
I caught my breath and walked slowly toward the woman behind the counter.  She must have seen the whole thing, must have known this happened.  Did it happen to everyone that sat there?  Was it just a chair to some people?

“That chair,” I said to her knowingly, “is really something.”

She smiled.

“Oh that chair.  Yes, it’s great isn’t it?”

I nodded.

“It’s so funny,” she said, and laughed a little.  “Someone started this rumor that Aleister Crowley used to sit in it.  But it was given to me by my mother.”

19 Responses to “London, Part III”

  1. TexasBrian September 9, 2010 at 8:59 pm #

    Amusing anecdote, with a deeper subtext. Always a pleasure to read your writings…

  2. Chris September 9, 2010 at 9:20 pm #

    Excellent! How’d you hear about it?

    • Conner Habib September 10, 2010 at 1:52 am #

      Uh, some guy told me. 😉

      • Chris September 10, 2010 at 8:39 pm #

        He must be very wise, and possibly smoking hot.

  3. Ian September 10, 2010 at 6:40 am #

    I knew you were lying though I still love it!
    Could you write something about the guy or the man something? LOL

    • Conner Habib September 10, 2010 at 2:26 pm #

      I’m not sure what you mean by, “I knew you were lying.” Or “Could you write something about the guy or the man something,” for that matter. I guess what I’m trying to say, Ian, is…HUH?

  4. chriso September 10, 2010 at 5:49 pm #

    This was a fantastic entry and I love the denoument with the shopkeeper. Did you feel that her revealing the truth about the chair made your experience less significant or more so?

    Also, seeing your write about anthroposophy made me flash back to my days in Waldorf school. Did you go to Steiner schools as well? Or did you come upon anthroposophy in other ways?

    • Conner Habib September 11, 2010 at 4:44 am #

      Hey bud – As to your first question – that’s sort of the point of the story, I guess. Both and neither. 🙂

      As to the second – I’ll write about it at some point – but no, no Waldorf for me. If I had gone to Waldorf, who knows what amazing things I’d have done by now. I’m so happy, though, to have found anthroposophy at all. 🙂

  5. Rizzo September 12, 2010 at 4:42 pm #

    Hey A:
    Great writing!

    • Conner Habib September 12, 2010 at 10:08 pm #

      Thanks Brian! I love that you checked it out! Smooch!

  6. Richard September 14, 2010 at 1:47 am #

    Really well written – and thought provoking.

  7. Moe September 15, 2010 at 3:41 am #

    This could be a great monologue!

  8. Barry Simon September 23, 2010 at 6:12 pm #

    I suggest a book by Thomas Kida entitled “Don’t Believe Everything You Think.” He has an excellent explanation for what you felt sitting in that chair. It includes applying Occam’s Razor in order to explain what you experienced.

    • Conner Habib September 24, 2010 at 4:05 am #

      Thanks for the recommendation, I’ve actually picked up that book before (I went to UMASS where Kida teaches) – however: A big point of the story was that it could be many things, all at once. That there's not an "explanation," no matter how excellent. I tend not to think, either, that thought and feeling are reducible to "explanation." I find that sort of one-note version of how things are a bit vulgar (in the true sense of the word). I don't think Kida gets his view on what thinking and thought are quite right, and despite his views on critical thinking, fails to apply his caveats to his own theoretical framework.

  9. Geno February 22, 2011 at 6:50 pm #

    That was so f*cking funny! I laughed aloud!!

  10. Pookie Adams May 2, 2011 at 10:28 pm #

    Nice writing. I really liked this.


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