POOH AND THE ANCIENT MYSTERIES June 14 2002


All right, this one has been mocking me from its corner position in the bookshelf for far too long. Let's get this over with.

When my father's in a hurry, things go wrong. Report due in twelve hours? Laptop crash. The prawn boat leaves ten minutes after work? Wrong amount of prawns. Got to be back from lunch in two minutes when store window displays what seems to be A.A. Milne's Winnie-the-Pooh at a low, low price? Pooh and the Ancient Mysteries by John Tyerman Williams.

My father has no problem with complicated words, as long as they're 'coaxial vertical radiator', 'anamorphic transfer' or 'NTSC-PAL-SECAM-MESECAM converter'. However, when expressions like 'Socratic rethorics', 'argumentum ad populum' or 'how archetypical classes relate to the idea of the collective consciousness' jump up, he's lost. Don't get me wrong, my father's not a shallow man. It's just that whenever he wants to philosophize a bit, he would rather sit on the porch and observe the world than pick up a heavy book called The Heritage of Plato Represented in the Judeo-Christian Denominations.

To make a long story short, he ended up borrowing my copy of Winnie-the-Pooh, and I sit here with a book that hardly represents a honourable funeral for a majestic tree. This book, nay, this abomination, is in fact an attempt to prove that all occult and mystical knowledge is condensed into the bible that we have all come to know as Winnie-the-Pooh.

Before we start: My objections to this book have nothing to do with my attitude towards the occult. I have no problem with the occult, I find it very interesting from a philosophical point of view. What my problem is, is that I absolutely love Winnie-the-Pooh. I love the understated humour, I love the characters, and I love the fact that it's a children's book with more layers than the average adult human is able to perceive. It's a really good book. My dilemma is, how can I not read a book that's based on one of my favorite literary works and includes philosophy of religion? I can't. Oh well, if it's that bad, I can always burn it.

We'll try a new approach here: I'll read the book while I write this article. Whenever something interesting comes along, I'll run to my computer and write a paragraph. This could turn out to be the worst idea I ever had, possibly even worse than that time I tried to reconstruct the Ecto-1 in 75% scale at age eight, using nothing but leftover chipboard pieces and an old TV set. It could also turn out to be an interesting concept. Cover me, I'm going in.

ENTRY #1: POOH THE ALCHEMIST

Hooo boy. After a long foreword in which the author expresses just how important this book is now that the millennium is upon us, we are given an analysis of the different characters and how they corelate to different signs of the zodiac. Rabbit's a Leo, by the way. Then, we are explained how Pooh is an alchemist. Since the letters over his door, reading 'Mr. Sanders', are gold, Pooh is obviously able to create this valuable metal. How?

Well, in chapter four of The House at Pooh Corner, Pooh is sitting in the middle of a river, relaxing in the sun. The alchemic symbol for gold is identical with the one for the sun, and water is sometimes referred to in corelation with Luna, the moon. Both these celestial bodies are central in the theory of alchemy. Plus, he's looking at a dragonfly, and dragons represent the original matter alchemists try to turn into gold. I should mention that this dragonfly is not only the basic ingredient in alchemy, he is also used in the zodiac section, representing the constellation 'The Dragon'. I'd say that's quite an accomplishment for one small dragonfly. So, if the water is the moon, the sun is... the sun, and the dragonfly is the initial substance, what does that make the warm, comfy rock Pooh is sitting on? Why, the Philosopher's Stone, of course.

Done with the physical alchemy, on to the spiritual. Did you think Pooh fell down from the honey tree by accident? Oh no, he was just demonstrating how you can't reach the golden pinnacle without the knowledge of primordial matter, represented by mud. As we all know, Pooh rolled around in a puddle to resemble a rain could, then to fly to the top of the tree and get the honey from the bees. When he got there, the bees were growing pretty furious. Pooh's attitude to this? Well, what do we feel when we're stung by a bee? A burning sensation. Heat. In alchemy, the exact right temperature was required to transfer lead into gold. Pooh concluded that these were the wrong kind of bees, and they must have made the wrong kind of honey.

Up to this point, I've tried to avoid quoting the book. My copy is not in English, and translating something back to its original language is not really a thing you should do. Still, I feel I need to demonstrate just how Mr. Williams presents his evidence. So, with this in mind, read the following bit about Pooh's rescue mission:

Which vessel brought Pooh to Christopher Robin? One of the empty honey jars - i.e. the alchemic vessel, physically empty, but spiritually full; full of the air that is a breath of inspiration (which literally means to breathe in), the divine prana. What could give us a more convincing sign of Pooh's superiority in spiritual as well as physical alchemy?

Indeed.

ENTRY #2: POOH, HERMES, DANTE AND LOTS OF INCOHERENT CLAPTRAP

This chapter is pretty much a long explanation why Pooh is a wizard within the philosophy of Hermes, much too long to be summarized. I'll tell you this, though: When Pooh is introduced, he's at the top of a staircase and is referred to as Edward Bear. When he is taken to the bottom of the staircase, he is known as Winnie-the-Pooh. This is the earthly Pooh, a made-flesh wizard sent here from an escalated world. In the last chapter, Pooh is brought up the stairs again.

While most crazed analysists would think of this as the coming of a messiah, Williams thinks of the stairs as the celestial spheres of the Hermes universe, the spheres in which only the most powerful wizards can travel. Tigger attempted this by climbing a tree, but got stuck. Somehow, these spheres also manage to be the circles of hell from The Divine Comedy.

Pooh is also Orpheus, by the way.

ENTRY #3: POOH AND THE TAROC

Eeyore has lost his tail. What does this tell us? In the taroc deck, the Fool's pants are pulled down by a dog. However, in Crowley's deck, the dog is replaced with a tiger, and it's really hard to tell whether the tiger is pushing his snout into the Fool's crotch or biting his pants. I can only take Williams's word for this, I must admit I've never seen Crowley's cards.

In one chapter, Tigger bumped Eeyore into the river. There you go. Eeyore is the Fool. Only he clearly isn't. Everyone except Williams knows that if Eeyore is an archetype, he's the Hermit. You idiot, Williams. We are also taught that since Rabbit has so many relatives, he's the Universe.

There's also a part about Kanga being an impregnated uterus, but I really don't want to go there. In fact, I'm pretty sick of this whole experience right now. Time to skim.

ENTRY #4: KNIGHTS OF THE TABLE ROUND

When Christopher Robin decided to find the North Pole, he took on the role of king Arthur. I'll give you one chance to guess who Pooh is in the context. Apparently, Christopher's boots are his armour, and the table around which the party is held later is the round table. The fact that the table is nowhere near round, is explained through Eliphas Levi's claim that a great wizard will be able to solve the quadrature of a circle. I must admit that I have no idea what this means, but I still dare to protest, as the table is clearly rectangular. Unless we're talking about two square tables put together. This is a very good solution when your family comes together to eat at holidays, as the persons who claim the ends of the table usually are the old aunts and uncles who blame you for disgracing the family and being a no-good hippie. With a long table, you're guaranteed you only have to deal with one of them. If this is the solution, it makes Pooh twice the wizard Merlin ever was. I aced in math.

Further evidence that Winnie-the-Pooh is Merlin: he also goes by the names Winnie-ther-Pooh, Edward Bear, Pooh and Pooh Bear. Merlin is also called Lailoken, Laloecen, Lallogan and Myrddin. From now on, you can refer to me by one of the following: Dave, Mumm-Ra or Bonkarakka. There. Now I too am Merlin. Still not convinced? Then let me tell you about my kitchen table. It's square, but you can pull it out to make it rectangular. I'm a goddamned sorcerer, I am.

To really put meat on the bone, Williams teaches us just how the incubal birth of Merlin is connected to the sign outside Piglet's door. I have no idea how this was supposed to be convincing. In fact, there's no connection between the claim, the premise and the conclusion, and the worst thing about it is that the author admits that he hasn't had the time to think this out fully. If I told you the dog from Full House is Loki from Norse mythology because our local hospital changed its name recently and there's still no change in the cafeteria's menu, I would make much more sense. But hey, I'm a sorcerer, what's to expect?

So, what about the Holy Grail? First we are given the obvious option: the North Pole. Then, after assuring us he wouldn't dare to speculate excessively by assuming wood lice joined in on the expedition, Williams concludes that the Grail must be something quite different: Pooh's honey jars. Don't worry, I won't elaborate.

Before we go on, I must say I needed a break, and caught Sling Blade on TV. Very good film. Sweet and brutal. Ever wondered where John Ritter disappeared to? Yup.

ENTRY #5: THE KABBALAH

Now Williams is reaching like nobody's business. While planning his search for the North Pole, Christopher Robin emphasized that 'expedition' is spelled with an 'x'. This is not only the symbol meaning 'unknown amount' in mathematics, it's also the Roman digit for the number ten. In the Kabbalah, the number ten refers to the Earth. Further, by using numeral magic found in this denomination, he tells us that the sum of the letters in 'Pooh' is computed thus: heh, oin, oin, peh = 5+70+70+80 = 225. Do the same thing with 'Noah', and you get 126. In both cases, the sums of digits is 9. Conclusion: Pooh = Noah.

Hold your horses, Williams. If Milne was the arch mage you claim him to be, would he use the version of Noah's name found in the King Charles Bible? That's like saying Robinson Crusoe's name is 'Bob'. Noah's ancient Hebrew name (or at least the earliest version recorded) is Utnapishtim, and while I can't tell you the sum of that name's digits, I can tell you there's an 89% percent chance it's not nine.

Our dear author goes on with this with pretty much every single word in the entire Winnie-the-Pooh, so I'll spare you all and get on to the next chapter. Hmmm... You know what, I'll just tell you that the next and last chapter concludes that the Hundred Acre Wood is Shambalah, paradise. I think I've proven my point, and I'm sick of that stupid book.

CONCLUSION

Off the top of my head, I can't think of anyone who's been raped in the ear more times than Pooh. Disney has made a pretty good animated feature with his name attached, and they followed it by an animated series and a part-puppet-part-cgi children's program that completely kills the original spirit of the material. Furthermore, they produced a feature-length sequel that destroys the point of the book's ending, and they have made countless illustrated books that retell chapters as faithfully as neo-nazis would present World War 2.

Disney (the company, not old Walt) is not the only source of quasi-Pooh: Because of the philosophical and psychological depth of the material, everyone with an evening class in literature feels they have to analyze the bile out of the book. Winnie-the-Pooh is perfectly self-contained, and doesn't need further analysis. It needs to explored with an open mind. I must admit that the webpage I made when I was thirteen had a Pooh section with pretty misguided interpretations, but I was young and void of publishing plans. Note to self: remember to put old homepage in password protected zip file and hide it in a system folder.

As for the book this article is about, I can think of two possible motives: William's goal was either to introduce the reader to ancient mysteries by using Milne's works as a point of reference, or he honestly means he has unlocked secret knowledge in a children's book. If he wanted to make arcane knowledge accessible to the public by filtering it through familiar material, he fails utterly. 90% of the book is wasted trying to make links between the two worlds, and the rest is random information that confuses more than it informs.

If he honestly means he's on to something, Williams is yet further misguided. As I said earlier, we're not talking about an ordinary children's book. Still, you find no ground whatsoever to base these theories on, and the argumentation used couldn't convince a doomsday cult member on ritalin. I'll tell you once and for all what Winnie-the-Pooh is about: it's a book about small and naive thoughts and feelings that reflect larger ones. It doesn't have to be made more complicated than that. It just has to be well-written.