Night Rides

Night Ride in the Desert

Two of my favourite passages, similar in execution and content, are a visual expression of May’s understanding of the ‘connectedness of everything’, including man. No matter what your belief system is, or the terms you use to refer to it, Mays descriptive is as timeless as ever.


Excerpt from: Inn-Nu-Woh To Merhameh,

Desert Ride On A Camel

(Am Jenseits, a philosophical novel set in the orient, Ch. 2, 1899)

Come in spirit with me into the desert, dear reader! You have learnt to minimize the requirements of your body. Hunger no longer challenges you and you have also learnt to control thirst to the recommended degree. You are programmed to fast and will now make the experience that the activities of your spirit will exceed those of your body. That’s the reason why even among partially or non-civilized nations fasting is prescribed before important turning points in both the life of a single person or the whole community. Even Red Indians fast over a prolonged period of time before the ceremony of name-giving or the choosing of the medicine. It is as if the soul has become more liberated and less inhibited than before the fasting. Your spiritual voices seem to have become twice as acute and your thoughts seem to have received wings. You live more internally than externally. You have become used to the gait of the camel; it is no longer intrusive. Sitting in the lofty saddle of the hedjihn, you’re not paying attention to the movements of the animal, the effects of its soft, elastic pace are not reaching up to you. If you ride through the high mountain desert, or the warr, you, as the physical individual, feel so small, so trivial, so lost in this overwhelming rock and rubble ocean; if you ride across the flat sandy ocean you don’t see it vanish behind you, though it spreads farther and farther in front of you. There is no beginning and no end, no boundary here because the horizon has become the union of Heaven with Earth, which knows no more separation between them. You don’t know where the below stops and the above begins, and you have the feeling as if the sun that glows above you keeps drawing the Earth, and you with it, continually up, up and steadily upwards. And just as you can no longer separate Heaven and Earth, you also look outward and inward at the same time. The endlessness before your physical eyes is like the immea- surable space that lies before your spiritual eye. Your body is carried along without you feeling it, and your soul flies. Your body? You no longer have a body; you’re only soul, nothing but soul. Within this limitlessness, the body grows lighter and lighter, more and more trivial, until it vanishes from your thoughts as a nothing in the endlessness. But that your soul exists, must exist and continues to exist, has become so clear to you that not a hint of doubt is possible. You are this soul and cannot end, as there is no end at all! Doubt can only live on Earth, and you are no longer on it. You are now divine and are breathing in the blissful realm of confidence to [the rhythm of] the one who is life eternal and who owns you. You feel it and you know it, from this moment on, there no longer exists a power that could succeed in swaying you from the conviction of your immortality.


Night Ride through the Llano Estacado

Excerpt from: Old Surehand-Book 1,

A night ride through the endless expanse of a moonlit desert! I would love for my readers to experience these sublime sensations whereby the human chest swells and keeps expanding! But the heart must be free of sorrow and everything else that could stifle and oppress it.

I have occasionally dreamt that I could fly; the body is in existence, but has neither form nor weight and seems to have transformed completely into a purely spiritual energy that freely moves in any direction and without hindrance through the vacuum of space. And so I floated high above the Earth, far beyond it, from moon to moon, from star to star, from one endlessness to another, filled with unspeakable bliss. But it wasn’t bliss derived from the pride about my own conquering of that space, but the humble and trusting bliss that all-powerful love carried me and guided me on and on. And after the waking I would lie there for a long time with closed eyes, to slowly recognise that it had only been a dream and that I was a powerless servant of space and time.

Not quite like such a dream, but a similar experience it is when flying over the desert on a light-footed horse or a camel. There’s no disturbance, no hindrance, because the ground is the only obstacle there is, and it disappears behind you and affords merely guidance but no hindrance. The rider’s eyes are focused not on the ground but on the horizon that recreates itself constantly like a visible but untouchable eternity; it draws upwards where, between the shiny lights of the sky more and other lights appear, until the eyes cannot grasp them any longer. And when the optical nerve becomes exhausted from this endlessness, and the eyelids, held open in astonishment, fall shut, then the eternity continues in one’s own inner being, and thoughts emerge that cannot be completed; presentiments rise for which words don’t exist, and wave upon wave of emotions and feelings emerge that cannot be felt or sensed singularly because they form one whole, endless surge upon which one is swept on and on; deeper and deeper into devout amazement and exhilarating trust, into that unfathomable and yet omnipresent love, which the human being, despite the rich vocabulary of all his languages and tongues can only express through one single stammering syllable: … God … God … God …!

If only someone would give me a quill from which the correct words would flow, and permit me to describe this impression upon a human heart, brought about by such a night ride! From the glowing stars of the firmament descends a great, heavenly confirmation upon the soul: you have made the right choice and it shall not be taken away from you! But the one who has lost his God, rides through sand, sand and nothing but sand; he sees nothing but sand; he hears nothing for hour upon hour except the sand under his horse’s hooves, and sees nothing but the desolate repetitive emptiness that lies ahead of him with nothing but sand and again sand, and likewise there is only an unspeakably miserable desert inside of him, hopeless, dead sand that cannot support even a single blade of grass. There is nothing that can be done for such an unfortunate person, except pray.