'SAROS!' By Harry Patel

Chapter 8: The Crystal Boy

Extract from an unpublished manuscript called 'SAROS!' By Harry Patel, carried in the Saros Autumn 1997 Newsletter

Sometimes I'm a hammer
and sometimes I'm a nail,
sometimes I'm an angel bright
and sometimes I'm in hell.

Extract from The Crimson Lattice

I am Harry Patel, but this is not my story, for I never met the Crystal Boy, yet I feel a curious sympathy with him. He was a thief, a liar, treacherous yet charming, bright and generous. By all accounts, he was loved by everybody who knew him. I have compiled his story from scraps and writings that I found among the uncatalogued mess of papers and articles in the Saros library, and, more importantly, from talking to the handful of people still around who knew him, who loved him, who put up with him.

He disappeared nearly twenty years ago but whenever I mention his name to his old friends a certain look appears in their eyes (especially the ladies), perhaps with a slight smile of disapproving admiration. I have shown this story to some of them and their reaction ranges from telling me that it's 'all rubbish and fiction' to 'yes, that is an accurate retelling of what happened.'

But one person refused to comment at all. That was Vince, who was the Crystal Boy's closest friend, and actually witnessed most of the events in the following story. Many evenings I plied Vince with expensive malt whisky to get him talking. When he did, I wrote down everything. But I remember Jan describing Vince as:

Vince, Vince,
the friendly Prince
with a heart of steel

So why am I so interested in the Crystal Boy, this figure long gone from the scene - perhaps dead? It started at the time I was banned from Jan's group for a year, for reasons still a little painful to think about. Let's just say I was young and stupid. But I wasn't abandoned by Jan. In fact she had given me a job to do and, as I had a sabbatical from the university, there was plenty of time to travel and research. The job was to discover the hidden and secret meaning of the Constructors, which were my obsession at the time.

Anybody who studies Saros Philosophy will be familiar enough with the concept of the Constructors. As the Book of Jubilee states (the Book of Jubilee was a prime source of study at that time), 'the Constructors are six in number' and are described as 'Artisans of Creation'. The Constructors are the active forces behind phenomena; when they combine in various ways, they create existence as we see it.

Each of the six is different in power, and they are sometimes defined as Initiation, Reception, Expansion, Contraction, Repetition and Transformation. But be cautious, for in Saros we are taught not to be beguiled by words and labels.

Jan, the philosopher, the breaker of superstition and indulgence, saw them as objective and impersonal forces. But to me they were Gods, powers that ruled people's lives, blowing us this way and that. With the right inner eye they could be seen, contacted, known - or so it seemed to me.

I first became interested in the Crystal Boy when I read a transcript called 'An Appointment with Knowledge' which described him as 'the Master of Disguise and Transformation'. This was a prime document in my hunt for the Constructors. Years ago, before the term Saros was ever used, six people, including the Crystal Boy, spent three months in a remote cottage near Maenaddwyn on the island of Anglesey. Their job was to understand the nature of the Constructors, and they did so in ways unspecified in the document. What seemed to happen was that each of the six 'became' one of the Constructors and at the end of the three months each gave a presentation of their findings.

Apparently the Crystal Boy's contribution was mostly delivered in dance, song and ritual, but the following was written down:

You want to know about the Work? I'll tell you about the Work. My God is the God of Dance, whose true form can never be seen because it changes all the time. His clothes are flashy, with wings on his feet, he never stays still and his laugh is tricky. 'Tricky Dicky' I call him because he changes base metal into gold and then when he gives it away (for he is a generous God), it is fool's gold. Round his neck is a necklace of the finest crystals you have ever seen and with them he listens to every whisper, then repeats the secrets to others, sometimes the truth, sometimes better than the truth. He is the God of joy, of laughter, of healing the human spirit. He is a guide of wayfarers, the living ones and the dead. He has talked to me in my dance and I know that as we train hard to accomplish the art of living in the moment, so the moment is always gone if we try to catch it, and that is the foolishness and the joy of it. What more can there be?

Vince said, 'The Crystal Boy was an extraordinary dancer and created many brilliant sets of movements. These dances were full of power and grace - they enchanted. Merely watching them could change your inner state. Yet curiously, the effect ended as soon as his dance ended. He tried to teach movements to others, but though we spent hours learning their forms we were unable to convey their real meaning. When we performed them they were empty, useless and boring.'

So why was he called the Crystal Boy? I have found another paper written by him:

Compress a quartz crystal and it produces a small current of electricity. Apply a current and the crystal expands. Now you have a crystal radio set, a quartz watch and a computer. Silica forms are the most abundant on Earth and as I can communicate through a crystal of the right type, so the world talks to itself through the sands on the seashore, through every pane of glass, even a snowflake. To use a crystal you must enter into it, become it - amethyst for gifts, good and bad; rose-quartz for an under standing of cycles and processes; smoky-quartz for concentration; water sapphire for growth; clear crystal for new beginnings and citrine for change...

I am not a fiction writer - I am an engineer, so I will write down what else I know in a way prosaic.

Profile of the Crystal Boy:

Real name: Keris Iftahk Khan, born in Afghanistan.
Age: indeterminate but boyish.
Other characteristics: bright blue eyes (there is a tradition that blue-eyed children in Afghanistan are a legacy from the army of Alexander the Great).
Occupation: craftsman, especially musical instruments and the setting and cutting of crystals and other stones.
Possessions: a fine collection of crystals.
Family: he had an uncle in England who was the head of an obscure and secretive Sufi order where Keris learnt the art of divining from crystals and much other lore. Possibly he was being groomed as his uncle's successor.

At the time of the events which led up to the Crystal Boy's disappearance, he was sharing a house in Cambridge owned by Vince, and using one room as a bedroom and a workshop. This room was always locked. He and Vince started a club associated with the University called The Society of the Common Life, which in later years had something to do with the formation of Saros itself. I have found a few documents by the SCL, as it was called, mostly of a Cabalistic nature. There was also at the time quite a popular esoteric/magical magazine, several copies of which I have seen. On the title page was a dedication to the SCL. Curiously, my researches uncovered quite a lot of information about a reforming Christian sect based around the Netherlands in the fourteenth to sixteenth centuries called the Brothers and Sisters of the Common Life. I will leave it to others to piece that jigsaw together.

So back to the story. One evening he and Vince were drinking in a pub. Vince told him that he could talk about anything except crystals, but somehow by the end of the evening the conversation went as follows. The Crystal Boy said, 'I have nearly finished an artefact which combines the symbolic and numerological philosophy of our tradition with the knowledge of crystals I learnt from my uncle. In my opinion, when I complete it, I will have something of immense potential power. But I cannot show it to you yet because I am stuck. I need a particular rare form of pyrite crystal as its centrepiece and I cannot get hold of one. So far I have only ever handled one and that is in the collection of my uncle.' Vince replied as follows, 'Keris, as usual I cannot tell if what you are saying is, as our American friends say, "a load of bullshit", and nowadays I take your pronouncements, especially drunken ones, with a grain (perhaps crystal) of salt. Show me your noble Sufi pedigree then!'

Two weeks later, he invited Vince as a special guest to some kind of Sufi ceremony. It was a Sunday afternoon in March and they both took a train to London. The meeting was at a large private house in Ladbroke Grove. Vince said, 'I had always had a rather romantic view of Sufis from reading books, especially their marvellous teaching stories. But Keris told me to expect something different. Indeed, what I witnessed seemed primitive, full of shamanistic practices, with hours of repetitious drumming, wild dancing, chanting and incomprehensible rituals, leading to trances by some of its participants. In this state they would sometimes mutilate themselves, yet feel no pain. Why such things were going on in the middle of London instead of Afghanistan was bizarre and unexplained. I was quite shocked by it all, by the Crystal Boy's fierce uncle, by the blood on the floor, and more than a little surprised at the respect paid to Keris by some of the others Sufis.

'Afterwards we were given refreshments by his uncle, whose name was Aruk. Aruk was a big man with a great black beard. He was polite but cold towards me, though he clearly doted on Keris, Keris the charmer, the bright smiler with the laughing eyes. He begged permission from his uncle to view the cult's special collection of crystals and gemstones. Aruk assented and led us into another room. In the room was a large iron trunk bolted to the floor and elaborately locked. Once opened, I saw dozens of stones carefully displayed on trays lined with black velvet. I am no expert, but I had picked up a bit of knowledge about gemstones from Keris, and I noticed many magnificent stones of obvious value, all in uncut crystal form - ruby, sapphire, heliodor, tourmalin, topaz... Keris pointed to one of many trays with less spectacular crystals. 'There is the cube of pyrite.' It looked and felt pretty ordinary to me, but then I was never really interested in crystals.

'On the train home the Crystal Boy showed me a closed fist. "Behold," he said opening his hand. It was the pyrite crystal. "They'll never miss it." My heart went boom...boom...boom.'

Vince lit another of his small cigars and continued the story. 'The Crystal Boy locked himself away for days, presumably working on his artefact. I was aware of him singing to himself as he worked. Curiosity got the better of me once and I listened outside his door, trying to make out the words; it was some sort of nonsense rhyme repeated over and over:

When the juices flow
That is when I know
Life is just so so
When the juices flow.

'There was a knock at the door. A very loud knock. Aruk and two other large gentlemen pushed me aside and grabbed Keris. "Where is it, you bastard?" In his hand was a large curved knife. "I will kill you even though you are my nephew. You are a thief and you shame your family and all of us!"

'And the Crystal Boy, how magnificent he was! After the briefest moment of shock he said, "O Uncle, how can you think that of me, the one you have chosen as your successor. I did take it but I did not steal it. Look I will show you." They allowed him to go into his room and he returned with his "artefact". It was breathtaking, it was wonderful, it was a work of art, of craft, of power. Imagine a dish about eighteen inches in diameter, with a silver base and the top enamelled in black. The enamel was decorated with other enamels in various patterns, while towards the centre, inlaid in mother of pearl, were the twelve sigils in a circle. Next to each sigil was a crystal and at the centre of it all was the crystal of pyrite.

'Aruk and the others were as amazed as I was. "It is...wonderful," he rasped. "Uncle I made it for you...for us...for God...never for me - I would never do such a thing..."

'Aruk reverentially (but swiftly) took it. He looked at his nephew and he said, "I will deal with you later." But there was a twinkle in his eye, and then he grinned, and then he laughed, and then the three of them left.

'"Did he believe you?" I asked. "Of course not, he's no fool. But I think it's time I did some travelling."

'The next day he had gone, leaving his room in a mess, and neither I nor any of the others have seen or heard from him since. But he did leave me something.' Vince got up and went over to a set of drawers and rummaged around. He pulled out a small box containing a clear rock crystal about an inch in size. 'The Crystal Boy gave this to me. He said that if a large crystal was broken correctly, the smaller crystals that remained would have an affinity to one another. In effect they are private communication devices.' I held the crystal for a few moments trying to 'feel' something and waiting for Vince to continue, but he would say nothing more. In fact he told me it was time to leave.

I have a curious postscript. Years later I had some business to attend to in Russia. There I met a man called Mikhail who had served as an army officer in Afghanistan. Mikhail was particularly interested in Sufism, which we discussed on a number of occasions. He said that he was once stationed in a town called Gulbahar where he witnessed some sort of Sufi ceremony. His description of the robes they wore and the dances they performed seemed remarkably similar to Vince's description of his encounter in Ladbroke Grove. 'But what I remember most clearly,' continued Mikhail, 'was the Mullah in charge. He seemed to be quite a young man and danced in a way that mesmerised and thrilled - although I have no idea why. But the strangest thing was that he had the clearest blue eyes I have ever seen.'

Copyright 1996 Harry Patel