Name Not Given - The Life of an Ambitious Merchant
The Life of an Ambitious Merchant
The merchant in this life, out of ignorance and ambition, entered into an open-ended agreement with a criminal relative who was also a magician. The merchant realized too late that he had given up his freedom in exchange for social success and the manipulative advice of his uncle.
This life is a lesson in avoiding partnerships with the wrong people. When the merchant's uncle was blocked from punishing him materially, he turned to psychic methods of cursing his enemy. The lesson is to be very careful when getting involved with people who have psychic skills since there is great danger should such an individual become vindictive, and direct such anger using these psychic methods.
Section One - The Bhariava Comments on the Merchant's Life
In this new life, you abused your authority over others.
This fragment of soul is also in isolation, as was your last. A certain degree of spiritual development precludes the hell and purgatorial worlds. You get an upgraded 'solitary confinement', in which to contemplate the past. However, there is also the potential for dreaming and many souls trapped this way live in dreams, and do not realize they are trapped. It is perhaps a subtle distinction between souls trapped in non-material worlds, and souls dreaming in non-material worlds. But it is an important distinction for spiritual evolution.
I have spoken with this soul fragment, and he is willing to speak with you.
Section Two: Blue Cape
I am trapped in a world of dreams. It is the last thing that I would have guessed would happen after death. Hell, probably, heaven, maybe, but endless sleep and dreams? It is a total waste.
I do not know if you are a dream. I was contacted by a warrior angel, who appeared before me full of light and weapons. It was not like any dream that I had ever had. He said that I must speak with you, and tell you of my life. Then I would be liberated from the land of dreams into the land of reality. You are a later life?
In life I was a merchant, and I traveled by boat to sell my goods. I traveled the Adriatic, and visited many ports. I did not stay at them long, but I had comrades from my soldier days who became my partners.
I was born in North Africa, and my parents were farmers. But my uncle was a scholar of medicine, and he wanted me to be educated. So I went to several schools, and spent the most time in Alexandria. I liked Egypt, with its soldiers sweating in the hot sun, and its dark-eyed gypsy women who danced among the tents at night. I was no scholar at heart - I wanted action, excitement, and conflict. I wanted to test myself against what was out there.
So I left school before I was twenty, and volunteered for military training. We took many oaths of loyalty, and accepted the revenge of many gods if we ever were to betray our commanders, and our troops. We learned to fight with two swords, the heavy two-edged one, and the dagger. We could fight with staffs, throw spears, shoot arrows, wrestle, and administer poison to the drinking skins and (if necessary) to the ponds of our enemies. It was months of misery - thrust, exhaustion, even delirium as we marched for miles without water. Our skin became dark and leathery, and our sandals wore out. We got such calluses on our hands and feet that we could walk on jagged rocks or hot sand barefoot, without flinching.
I was good at wrestling, and rose in the army ranks.
I was respected among the troops - strong but controlled. I developed a spear with long etchings that flew straight and true, and claws like an eagles that could help in climbing trees, and mountainsides. I could plot ambushes, dividing the troops into sections, and hiding them in places that the enemy would not expect. I made tents of goatskin that were almost flat, but could keep soldiers warm on cold nights because the leather was lined with wool. My troops were feared, and I was feared.
But my uncle was dissatisfied. He wanted me to have an important career – if not a doctor, then a politician. I put him off for a long time, but my strength waned, and I was not as strong in my forties as I had been in my twenties. And because my family was not a noble one, I never reached the highest ranks.
So I determined to gain money, and become a merchant soldier. My troops would follow me, for victory or for money, and we traded wine and honey and cloth, and tea and strange animals for nobles to keep as pets. I brought bright dyes, and metalwork from faraway lands. I always looked for magical objects, to please my uncle, but I never found any that I thought were real. I made money, bought land, and a large house, with small houses for my relatives. I married a younger woman, one of the dark eyed gypsy women of the tribes, but she was a bad wife, and I found that she was unfaithful to me. So I went to talk with my uncle.
He said that our talk was long overdue. I had insisted on taking the path of virtue, the path of ignorance, and where had it gotten me? Years of toil and struggle, and in the end, [I had only] a house with some land, and a slut for a wife. When was I going to listen to him?
He was right. I had worked incredibly hard, and gotten nowhere. I told him that for one year, I would follow his advice. If it got me no further than my own, I would cease to follow it.
He though that this was fine - he was planning my career for years. First he said I must get rid of the gypsy, and plan a more political marriage. I knew about poisons, and I knew she loved wine. I left a skin of poisoned wine but smelling so sweet I almost drank it myself. I hid it so she would not find it immediately, and went to the capital to meet people my uncle thought were important, and to invest money in some worthwhile ventures. One was a shipping venture, and I hired several members of my old crew. Some of them had fallen on hard times, and needed the work. But I knew them, and they were honest men. I stayed two weeks.
When I returned to my house, it was in mourning, and the servants lamented, and tore the curtains. Several days after I had left, my wife had taken ill and died, along with a man who was visiting her. They looked away when I asked if he were a relative or her lover, so the answer was clear. I placed a memorial to her on the city wall, thus declaring myself available [for remarriage].
My uncle suggested that I spend money freely. I went to the races, gave money to city feasts and temple statues, and planted trees, and made a pond in a dry area on the edge of my land where landless people camped. The water was important to them. I also gave them work to build gardens, and rock walls on my land. They came cheap because they were desperate, but it looked as if I was charitable to the poor. And to some extent, I was.
I also gave money to the political candidates, in exchange for treaties with lands with which I wished to trade. When one of the candidates I supported got in, I got exclusive trading rights to a land rich in fruits, animals, and craftwork. I made much money.
Such support could only go so far - kings could not be bought, and emperors could whisk you away with the blink of an eye. But at the intermediate level, money could accomplish much. My uncle's investment suggestions were wise ones.
He said that now that I had political friends, I must become friends with bankers and treasurers for the noblemen. I had feasts in honor of the gods, and invited them along with musicians, and dancers. They invited me back, and I got to meet many nobles and military leaders. I could discuss strategy with the generals, and trading wealth with the nobles, and I became part of a different circle of people.
As my wealth grew, I expanded my land and houses. My uncle got his own property at a place of his choosing, a villa with a beautiful view. He chose to stay in the background, though I would have been glad to introduce him to the people I knew. I found out later that he was known as a criminal and as a murderer, and that while I had been a soldier, he had been involved in the black arts.
But I did not know this for a long time - he always told me never to mention him, and I never did. He sought to enrich himself through me, but I think he also cared for me, the only friend or relative who cared for him.
When I became sufficiently well known, my uncle said that it was time to marry. I had been seeing many women in the houses by the water, but he said I needed a wife of noble blood to cement an alliance. He said that marriage would not prevent me visiting other women - it would only give my house legitimacy.
He had a list of candidates, with advantages and disadvantages of each. None were beautiful, but I was not noble myself, and could not command a wife beautiful as well as connected. Each candidate had relatives who could give either trading concessions, or useful land holdings. We went over their ancestry, names, fortunes, and personal reports on character from servants who were paid as spies. We narrowed it down to a few best choices, and finally one - young enough to bear an heir, enough royal blood to be able to exert favors from distant relatives, good land, and a passive personality. Here friends were all married, and she stayed at home hoping for an early death.
She worshiped the goddess of the forests. So I had a celebration for the goddess, and offered a prize for the best cloth design in the goddess' honor. We had three prizes, and I made sure to give her one - she actually did have some artistic ability. I invited the three winners to a special dinner at the goddess' shrine, and told them to wear golden sandals in honor of the goddess fleet of foot. They all came and my choice wore not only golden sandals, but golden cords around her veils and robes, and she made a little golden bear within the week to take to the dinner. I paid special attention, and she was so excited that she could hardly speak.
I soon heard from her brother, who had despaired of her ever getting married, and was resigned to having her underfoot in his house, fighting with his own wife, and mother-in-law. He was a sharp politician and businessman, but beneath it all, one could see that he was pathetically eager to get rid of this woman. He said that she never really fought outright, but was stubborn, and to make up for this, he would give her a dowry I could not refuse. Well, I refused for a while, but ended up getting everything I wanted.
I took her out to picnics, and to plays, and to temple festivals. I told her of my days as a soldier, and only exaggerated the dangers a little. When my ships came in from other lands, I gave her veils and pet animals that none of her friends had ever seen. She pronounced herself the luckiest women in the world. Of course, she had a point.
We married grandly, and had a civil marriage. I had no desire to fight unnecessarily, and I made an effort to periodically bring her gifts. I was discreet in visiting other women, and she chose to believe my excuses of work. I spoke well of her before her relatives, and gave her new jewelry when she went to visit them. As far as her brother was concerned, things could not be better.
The year of following my uncle's advice was almost up. He asked if his advice had been good, and if I had prospered. Obviously, I answered yes.
Then he said that I must do other things, if I was to fulfill my vow [to follow his advice]. He told me people who had betrayed him, and who must be killed. He bound me to my promise to ruin men. I did not know the strangers who had harmed him. And he said I must gain enough political power to lift the curse of exile and imprisonment that lay upon his head.
I was not aware of any of this. He was the brother of my father's first wife, who died early, and almost nobody knew of our relationship. But now I had to repay the advice he had given me. I had to become a thief, a poisoner, a betrayer of confidences, and a murderer of innocent people. I told him I would do everything in my power to restore his good name, and to help him.
But he was merciless. I was bound by my vow and there was no turning back.
I was trapped, and had no idea where to turn. I had not vowed to promise to follow his advise before any god of the city, but I had given my word. To break my word was a horror to me, destroying all the honor I had gained for my family name and lineage. On the other hand, to obey meant to become as much of a criminal as my uncle had apparently been.
I didn't really believe in gods, but I didn't know where to turn. No noble, no merchant, no soldier could ever be told of this, or my reputation would be ruined. So would that of my relatives, and even that of my wife, though she was not the brightest or most beautiful of women, she was loyal and defended me before all, and she had given me a son who looked almost like me from the time he was born. Not that I was much of a father, but I did enjoy his company and he was well brought-up and respectful. My wife had done a good job with him, and ran the household well. I suppose I did have some obligations to them as well as my ancestors, who may have finally been proud of me after all these years.
I told my uncle of a vital trading mission that I must take – but I would be back within a month or two to follow his rules and wishes. He agreed and I took off for Egypt. There was one teacher that I had had in Alexandria, a man of impeccable virtue, and I knew that I would shame myself before him, and grovel like a worm. But I had long ago shown him my worst side, and he had forgiven me. He was to only person to whom I could speak – if he were still alive.
I sailed and went overland to see him. We had good weather and traveled fast. I made up some medicines to get from Alexandria, and monkeys, and jewelry. But really, I went to see him. He was very old, but still alive.
I brought him valuable gifts, and told him of my successes, but he was not fooled. He listened carefully, and then asked for the real reason for my visit. I told him everything, and about the quandary in which I found myself. I did not try to make myself superior or wise or even moral. – I was as honest and direct as I could be. And I had been a soldier.
He thought carefully. He said,You are bound on one side by your promise, and on the other side by your morality. I know that you don't think you have a morality but you do. It is a difficult situation. If you disobeyed your uncle's demands, which is a lesser violation than following them, would he kill you?
I said, "I think he would eventually lose his property if he did." When he demanded that I kill these strangers, the first thing I did was change my will. If I die, he is without money and property, except for the house which I put in his name.
He responded,Your uncle is a very cunning man – he will not kill you if he finds out about the inheritance – and I can guarantee you that he already knows, as I am sure that both your house and your banking are full of paid spies. You did not swear a binding oath, but he did have you in front of a temple when you promised to obey him, and it could be argued that makes it an oath before the god of the temple. Both paths have problems – but you know I taught you ethics, and you were not such a bad student. Go to bed now – we will speak tomorrow.
I retired to his house, which was small but clean, comfortable, and full of scrolls. I saw him the next morning, and he was tired and haggard.
He said,I called upon Hermes, lord of messengers, knower of life and death. I told him of the situation. I know what the city gods would have said, for they value family obligations over all else. So I wanted his view.
Hermes said,There are two choices. If he follows his uncle's orders, he will become so steeped in sin and evil that he will never escape the lowest rungs of the underworld. And the uncle has only just begun his demands - he will continue with blackmail, and threats on the life of his family.I said that there is no choice then. I do not even believe in future lives, and if I did, at least only I would be harmed, and not my wife and child. It is my responsibility, and only I must pay. To break my word is a horrible thing, but strangely enough, I am glad that I will do it and be punished for that. No military man should break his word and get away with it freely – including myself. I will disobey him (the uncle), protect my family, and be cursed in the future!
If his does not follow his uncle's advice, he will be cursed. He must therefore place in writing that his uncle's past will be exposed if any harm comes to his person, family, or property. Now his uncle's curse cannot therefore occur in this life, but must occur in future lives. His curse will doubtless be a horrible one, and difficult or impossible to avert. Your soldier must choose between two hostile encounters.
The teacher said,Child, I know you are a man, but I always see you as a headstrong boy who wanted to make his mark on the world. You have helped others though you do not realize it, and I do not want to see you suffer.
I am not a priest, but I know some gods and their assistants. When you have been cursed, come to me and I will limit it as much as I can. You have given your uncle all he had legitimately asked, freely and without guile. He oversteps his bounds!
Section FiveI agreed with him, and told him that I would return later. I concluded my trading and got some very good deals on tables with mosaic tops, including some rare woods, and semi-precious stones. I would give one to my wife as a gift. I also got a hammered sword with many metals, to carry when I next saw my uncle.
The return trip was uneventful, and the first thing that I did was to go and see my treasurer. I drew up a will dividing my goods, and put in contingencies. If my uncle made any threat against myself, my family, or my land, his past would be exposed, and he would lose all land and money, except for his house. If he did any indirect harm through any third or fourth agency, he would suffer the same loss. If any of my family died under mysterious circumstances, which could not be linked to him, or any other harm came, he would still be exposed and lose everything.
I wrote up on a scroll what I had found out about his past, and gave one to the treasurer, and one to the council of elders of the city, to be opened upon my death. I figured that either the treasurer or the scribe was a spy, and I let them report back to my uncle before I went to see him.
I put it off a few days but eventually I had to go and see him. As I suspected, he was furious.
He said,I see that you have decided to be a lying, dishonorable, ungrateful, wretch of a nephew. After all I have done for you! How do you have the nerve to even look at me?I said that I had not announced my decision to anyone here. This can only mean that you have spies in my household, and at my work, and why are there spies?
He said hurriedly:To protect you of course, but now you need no protecting, nor do you deserve any. May I ask what changed your mind - when you left, you had agreed to perform the small favors that I had asked for. Really they are nothing considering all I have done [for you].I said that murder is not nothing. As a soldier, I will kill for my country, but you are not my commander. You are a poor relative, a criminal, who has enriched himself through me, and now hopes to control me as a slave. If I kill for you, will you not then blackmail me with the information? By forcing me into dishonor, you hope to take everything that I have earned. This even though I have given you presents freely, and never spoke against you. I am not even a person to you – I am just part of some evil plan.
His eyes glared like coals. He said, "And you have ruined that plan, you fool. I could have gotten revenge, and you would have only gotten richer. But no, ungrateful fool, you suddenly claim morality. No trader or soldier is ever a moral wonder – you are an idiot, a fool."
He ranted on, but eventually got to the point. He said,So you have blocked me in every direction. Very well. I am a magician, and I know many spirits of the underworld. Your luck will ebb, but it will not be my doing, and nobody will ever prove that I have anything to do with it. And in your future lives, I give you the most appropriate curse of all – that you will be betrayed by the people you trusted, who should have helped you. Parent, relative, priest, boss – all will betray you and prove selfish in the end, as you have proved selfish to me. All in authority, over you, will betray you, all who you look up to will reject you, all your strivings will come to nothing. Nobody of importance will ever listen to you. You will be totally disgraced.I asked if he were finished, and he said "Yes I am finished. Go and never return. You will never get back this house and land from me, and the money is gone, beyond your reach. Go before I add another curse."
So that nobody can reverse this spell, I will place in it an exception. You will not necessarily be betrayed by poor, unimportant, or marginal people – they can choose whether or not to betray you. But anyone of status, power or wealth, he will look upon you as a pariah. Your family name will have no honor – you will be ashamed of it. There will be nobody of importance in your lineage. You will have no ancestral land or wealth. Your words will be ignored by those in authority.
I left without threatening him - all the threats were legal and financial, and known to him already. To have no land, no name, and no wealth, to be betrayed by all in authority - this was indeed a horrible curse. I would go to the priests of the city, and then visit my old teacher to find out what to do.
I didn't really believe in supernatural powers and other lives – but on the other hand, you never know. It never hurts to be ready for an attack, even if you are not sure that it will ever happen. So I asked around to see which priests were reliable, and told them something of the story (but not who was involved – a man who gave me good advice now wants me to repay it with murder, and cursed me). One priest, an honest man said, "Well in a sense you did betray him, and he is within his rights to curse you. There isn't much I can do except pray to the gods that when this curse comes to fruition, you will become aware of it. I thought this sounded reasonable, and paid him for his ritual.
The other priest didn't seem as honest. He said, "Oh, no problem, we lift curses all the time. Just pay me a lot of money." I asked how he would lift it, and he got angry, and said his techniques were secret. I left him - I have never trusted secretive people.
I got together another expedition to Alexandria, ostensibly for more of the tables, but really to see my old teacher. We had good winds and fair weather, and ran into fur-traders with hats and boots of strange materials. We had gems to barter, and both sides were happy.
I told my old teacher what had happened, and his brow furrowed. He said,This is a burrowing curse, like a worm. It will just look like bad luck until you realize that there has been a whole host of betrayals. Who knows how many lives that will take? However, until you realize it, I think they will be minor betrayals, because really, your sins are pretty minor. I will invoke Hermes again tonight, and hear his words.I slept there and spoke with him the next day.
He said,The spell cast by your uncle is to the god Hades, and his servant, Lycourgos of the one eye, a spirit often called by black magicians. Hades is a fair god and will protect you against too much damage. But when the realization comes to you, you will remember this life and then be able to lift the spell.I they asked how I should lift the spell.
He said,Hermes said that you already have had many spiritual adventures, though you have been cursed to forget them, and by that time you will know many powerful beings. One of them will be able to lift the spell once you recognize its origins, and can pinpoint it.I asked if there was nothing else I could do, and were there really past lives?
He said,You can travel the world looking for powerful magicians, but who ever knows who to trust as far as magicians are concerned? As for many lives, yes, I believe that we live many times, in many bodies, in many places. Sometimes, lives are happy ones, and sometimes, full of pain and suffering, and one life can be affected by another. Eventually, we become wise, and no longer humans but gods. By then, we have cast off the greed and fear and envy of our lives here, and we come to live to create new worlds, and to help other beings who suffer. But that is a long time down the road. For now, we wander blindly trying to do the right thing, and sometimes succeeding.I asked my teacher what I should do.
He said,Live your life as if you had never known this man, but do not forget him. Have spies keep an eye on him. But there is little that he can do now - he values his property, and his anonymity. Eat, drink, and be merry - that's my advice.
Section Seven - The Bhariava Discusses the Curse of This Past Life
The 'ignoring by authority' curse has followed you through many lives. This is why in this life, some of your ideas have been dismissed, and in other lives, your status, and family, and contributions have been dismissed. In a way, it is a good curse - it keeps you from the sin of pride, which is the downfall of many people. However, you have had your own downfalls, notably anger.
Pulling out this strand of curse through lives is like pulling a thorny vine from a thousand strands of yarn, feathers, sequined ribbon, and the tentacles of jellyfish and sea anemones. It is the tentacle with poisoned spines, cleverly disguised amid a thousand innocent ones.
I called upon Hecate for aid as the curse was generated amid her sphere of influence. She did not originate it, but could help in finding its origins. Additionally, she has a certain degree of power over Hades, who generated the curse.
The curse hides, but its thorns are full of clotted blood. It has done much damage.
As we pulled it out, it became a great propeller with saw-tooth blades, rotating at great speed. We could see its swath of destruction - shreds of what might have been clung to. With greater status, your artistic streak would have shown in the patronage of artists, architects, and musicians. One life had the potential for a very beautiful temple complex, with the sponsorship of sculptors and dancers.
But the hatred of others is a dangerous thing, especially the hatred of powerful others. You have been cursed by beings of great power.
But we pulled out the mass of thorns, and with it came several minor sub-curses that had become attached to it. There was the curse of marred beauty, of a voice that could not command attention, of a fear of responsibility for large projects, and a fear of noise and machines. This last curse was wedged in fairly tightly - it was bound and exaggerated by your mother's fear of your death, so that she could gain sympathy, and do less work. Your ex-friend Tom, who said that your mother laid a curse on you in relation to cars was correct. She cursed you to die while driving (in the form of a threat), and this tied into the fear of machines and death.
We took the curse, and its subaspects to the lake of nothingness - a part of the underworld in Hecate's realm, beyond the regions of Hades. As this was its origin area, this is where it needed to be destroyed.
A curse must first be dismantled. It must be taken apart piece by piece, and disconnected from any lingering karmic strands. Imagine taking out a ship that had been sunk to the bottom of the ocean, full of coral and seaweed. To be put away, all things clinging to it must be cleaned and put away separately. In the case of the curse, the seaweed is still alive and part of your karma. To leave it would disrupt future lives.
We cleaned the curse, and it changed its form into a set of daggers, and then into an octopus trying to hold on to anything in sight. It had a lot of power. But we stripped it of its attachments, and threw it into the lake of nothingness. It grabbed frenetically, but in that lake there is nothing to hold on to. It disintegrated and merged into the lake.
You may not be able to perceive its loss - you could not perceive its presence. But eventually it will allow those deeper parts of you which have been rejected and hated to expand and move freely into love and creativity. You have been battered in many ways. It was not just your mother.
Hecate sends her congratulations.
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