Friday, June 6, 2014
PART 2 - "And always Mantis would have a dream", they told me in the desert. "And the dream would show him what to do."
"The key word in this remarkable book is awe. Laurens van der Post is not afflicted by that `certain cowardice' he writes of `in the face of the inexpressible.' Hence he follows a chain of coincidences of a nature far beyond the haphazard arithmetic of chance. Clue after clue assails him; A Mantis Carol resembles a kind of metaphysical-physiological whodunnit
After he had written The Lost World of the Kalahari, his classic account of the Bushmen of southern Africa, Laurens van der Post received a strange letter from an unknown woman in New York. She wanted his advice about, of all things, a recurring dream, the central feature of which was a praying mantis. The woman was a psychoanalyst and knew that we ignore our dreams, particularly our recurring ones, at our peril. . . . The mantis, she felt, was haunting her for a reason.
The analyst was called Martha Jaeger. It struck van der Post as strange that she should have a name which meant `hunter' in German. He was currently writing -- with great difficulty -- a book called The Heart of the Hunter. It too was concerned with the Bushmen -- and the mantis, which for them was god.
Thus begins this account of an episode in van der Post's life which took him to New York and involved his meeting, at one remove, with one of his own Bushmen. Hans Taaibosch, as he was called, had arrived in America via Jamaica, where the little man . . . far from his native Kalahari . . . had become a star circus attraction.
Van der Post's theory is that the almost exterminated Bushmen constitute a crucial link with our own remotest past: `his conscious mind corresponds in some sort to our dreaming selves' and thus is a mirror for some of the imponderables which arise from the modern unconscious, between which Taaibosch himself, a man of the Stone Age working the circus circuit in modern America without loss of dignity, makes a physical connection.
As well as an account of a memorable episode A Mantis Carol is an affirmation of primitive love and meaning, hard to explain except in Jungian terms, but both inspiring and stimulating to read. Van der Post has written a perfect Christmas fable, full of mystery but oddly satisfying."