On William Mistele: Travel Notes by Richard Grossinger, publisher of North Atlantic Books.   


July 19


Our author William Mistele flew over from Oahu for an evening visit and chat— first, our eggplant-squash-papaya-spinach dinner, then a walk to the moonlit ocean.   His book Undines came out this month; it is a treatise on elemental water in nature and human personalities, the mermaid.  He talked about tracking down undines among men and women, mostly women, and interviewing them—human mermen and mermaids.  He was collecting their back stories and past lives in other bodies.  He considered the undine a previously undiscovered psychological type, missed by Jungians as well as Freudians. 

I asked him why just water elementals, and he said because the other elements (earth, air, fire) are fully expressed and present in the contemporary world, but the water element with its timelessness, empathy, and neutrality has been pretty much lost.  Fire and electricity dominate the planet and its casino-capitalist culture, so water—the undine and mermaid vibrations—is needed to balance it. 

Bill is a quirky, mellow, story-telling dude, a notch younger than us.  What was most fascinating was his own autobio.  He was born and raised in a super-prominent, wealthy (and evangelical) Detroit family whose fortune was based on the conversion of the main twentieth-century elemental—the salamander: oil and gas ("Everywhere I looked in Detroit during my childhood I saw trucks with my name 'Mistele' on the side").  His parents socialized with the Fords and Kresges.  He raced sailboats in his youth, was brought up to be the family lawyer or financier.  His mother pulled off a triple major, geology, economics, and meteorology, at Michigan, plus she had many later accomplishments—she was present when the Wright Brothers tested their plane.  Bill feels that he has spent his life fleeing and honoring his past.  He has been in Oahu since 1982, married to a Chinese lady, his empress and queen in previous lifetimes, and he raised his kids there.

He has both a highly educated air and a completely funky air, so it was as though I was being addressed on Berkeley's Telegraph Avenue by a professor of philosophy and a gabby street person in one oscillation. 

Over the years he has trained himself esoterically, first in Hopi shamanism (he learned the Hopi language, something I tried and failed to do in graduate school in 1967); then he mastered Fritz Bardon's system of magic.  A legendary Czech psychic and evoker of elementals, Bardon, according to Bill, chose explicitly to be born at a particular time and place, after World War I, to help confused and aimless humanity, to teach dissatisfied souls who felt they had been robbed of their divine birthrights.  To accomplish that mission, he walked out of the aether into some kid's body, inherited his karma because that's the way cosmic law works.  You take a body, you owe that body's karma.  He taught his magic system from within the karma of the "stolen" body (he made other arrangements for the kid), so all the bad things—chain-smoking, illness, imprisonment—that were going to happen to that body happened to him.  But at least he got his teaching done.  Again, that's the story.

          Just another back story on a day of back stories and fairy tales: undines back stories, Bill's personal narratives and his past lives of mermaids, my own lingering shadows.  Such stories are not about whether they are real or make-believe; their point is only to be heard and experienced and to reveal things that wouldn't be known otherwise.

          This being our last morning in the South, I decided first thing to go into the water.  Bathing suit, towel…stroll down the street, narrow alley…beach.  The little stretch of ocean on Hoona Street is a gem in that a rocky breakwater catches and dampens the waves, turning the last two hundred feet into almost a wading pool.  One can still watch the explosion of ocean on the rocks beyond. 

How big a medicine the combination of light, waves, sound, and elemental energy is I didn't realize (nor need to realize) in my childhood.  I just drank it in with bottomless attention and capacity.  Now each oceanic encounter seems sacred, requiring modulation, care, restraint, or I stay too open and get more than I can ingest.  That is why lying in the waves is an internalizing practice more than a joyride.  That's also why it's good to think about mermaids.

          Bill came by at nine for an hour-plus of mainly undine talk; a few things stand out:

Undines are denizens of the Astral realm but, being water, they can shape-shift into any motif they choose.  They ramble all over the Etheric realm too, and they likewise can step down further, take on physical form, and become human, though they never lose their undine quality.  When undines flow into human shape, they retain their undine values and belief systems.  They become physical and seem to take on male or female personae, but they are merely play-acting at human traits and motives, under social pressure or by mimesis.  That is, they cultivate human behavior but not based on human phenomenology.  Bill plans his next book to be a series of biographies and photographs of human undines.

Elemental energy has no morality, no contrition, no sympathy for the human plight.  It just wants to be, to frolic and flow, forever.  Any personality container for the energy is more or less incidental and carried by affect rather than sincerity. 

Undines don't empathize; they are empathy.  They have no conscience, no purpose or meaning.  They do not ask the question, what they are here for; it is meaningless to them; they are just here and have always been here and will always be here. 

They extend unlimited love, but they do not love individually or commit to partnership.  What is exclusivity of love or marriage to an elemental?

          Undine women, though telepathic and sensual and often exotically beautiful, do not want to get trapped in bonding or partnering.  Their wave nature wants to flow.  Their disinterest in commitment frustrates men who fall in love with mermaids who have taken on human form.

Do not become infatuated with a mermaid or, if you do, understand who she is.  Her flow is not personal; it is water, elemental liquid.

The human race will not always be here.  Undines are aware of that situation and in regular communication with those who will follow us.  They see our mischief and coming demise, so do not take our imperious reign on their planet all that seriously.  Our successors feel about the same in regard to our sojourn.

          Undines have tails, yes, but—a key point usually misunderstood—not in their physical state.  In their physical state they look like other women (or men).  When they appear with tails, your hand will pass right through them.  Fishermen don't always report that detail.  If you are a fish, you need a tail more than feet, even in the Astral.

          When I presented Bill with the criticism that he is mainly interested in what we can get from nature rather than what we can give back or co-create with her, he responded that his is a magical system as per Bardon, a flagrant body-snatching walk-in; it is not an ethical or moral system. 

The elementals as a group (including gnomes, sylphs, faeries, salamanders, etc.) have no qualms or any notion of what responsibility is.  They simply attract, as a magnet attracts loose metal.  If you approach them without a goal or a plan, they will suck you in and use you for whatever momentarily engages them.  They will turn you into them.  In that sense, they are very, very dangerous beings and it is foolhardy to invoke them and ask what they want of you because they will let you know in spades and bind you into their service.  You have to approach them with a definite agenda and let them know right away what you require of them.  Many humans have become possessed or hexed by elementals without even realizing it because they treated them as rational beings with a scintilla of decency, fairness, and compassion.

          Many spiritual teachers, Bill continued, pick up a version of the same sort of elemental magnetic energy.  They don't think about whether their practice (their Buddhism, their ritual magic, their aikido, their yoga, their asceticism, their guru-dom) is a good match for someone else's vibration.  They don't engage in psychological or psychic transference or real transmission.  They simply attract, proselytize, entrap people in their system and personality; they are psychic magnets.  

Before Bill left, he shook hands with me outside our cottage, and he solemnly passed on a transmission.  It rang true and also startled me for how clearly he was seeing Lindy and me.  He had an internal picture of our meeting and the forces at work.  Beneath our surface propriety and intellects, he said that he saw the many different fires burning in both of us and wished us godspeed in containing them.

It's always a gift to have a teacher open truth lines behind the face of the world.