You are here: Home Searching for the White Elephant

Searching for the White Elephant

E-mail Print PDF



The Symbol of the White Road

There comes a time for all parents when they run out of the fairy tales they know by heart and, like story-tellers, begin to make up their own stories to put their children to sleep in their half-lit bedrooms. Sometimes, it’s so dark there that it is not even possible to read from the children’s story books, maybe so diligently collected in libraries.

A tale I kept on telling for several weeks was that of "Oliva", a bottle of mineral water kept in a closet under the kitchen sink. She was madly in love with a wine bottle, that she had briefly seen on the kitchen cupboard and nicknamed "The ripped Gingerhead " because of a deep cut on the red casing of the bottle cap.

This is how I managed to put my little girl to sleep and sometimes myself, in which case I would wake up with a start, pounded by my daughter. Ever wakeful, she would force me to continue the story. By the way, she is almost 30 and , she is still pleading me to write and publish it.

However, there was another story she liked most, that has also struck the imagination of all the children I have told it to over the years. It is about a character I created, who had quite an unusual flaw..
It was a child who, when moving his face, made a “gling” sound, when moving his belly made a ”glong” sound, and when moving his bottom, made a “glung” sound.

This is why that boy, who lived in a small village on the slopes of Monte Bianco, had been nicknamed "Gling, Glong, Glung". As is often the case with people who are different, he soon became everybody’s laughing stock and was progressively marginalized, not so much by his peers - kids do not see these differences -, but by their parents. His mother realized that he was miserable and lonely and decided to send him to stay with her old father, who was a shepherd living in the high mountains with his sheep.

Gling was happy there and started smiling again. Actually, unlike the people in the village, sheep were paying attention to the sounds his body made, and were moving left or right depending on the sound they heard: glink, glong, or glung.

When he grew up, Gling enjoyed wandering from village to village in the valley with his herd, to sell milk and cheese.
He had just turned 18, when one day he met a beautiful girl. To his great surprise, he realized that she had his very same flaw, and consequently she had also been marginalized and was living secluded from her small alpine community.

When Brin – this was the girl’s name- was moving her face, belly and bottom, she would also make strange sounds, just like Gling. In her case, however, these sounds were "Brin, Bron, Brun".
Brin, too, was miserable and lonely and had shut herself at home for weeks.
That very day, she heard a sound so similar to her own that she decided to go out and meet him. It was a flash of light, love at first sight. They fell madly in love with each other and they did not want to be separated.

It was easily for Brin to convince her parents to let her go with Gling, since they knew that no one in the village would ever marry her, because of her unbearable handicap. For many years, the young couple wandered in the valleys at the rhythmic sounds of Gling, Bron, Glung, Brin, Gling, Brun.

They got married and had two kids: a boy, who made a Frin, Fron, Frun sound and a girl whose sounds were Drin, Dron, Drun. When the family was walking in the valleys with their herd, an unmistakable Gling, Bron, Frin, Drun symphony could be heard.

They then started to travel the world around. One day, they arrived in India at the court of a Maharaja, who had a beautiful and very rare white elephant and who told them the story of the "
Valley of the White Elephants".


This legend
, whispered by grandfathers and grandmothers during full moon nights, tells the story of a valley called Shamballà in a far away country at the feet of the Himalayas. Here live some White Elephants, who have reached wisdom and enlightenment. They have become so pure that during full moon nights their coats reflect the ivory moon light...

Eleonora, my daughter, grew up, began to play with Barbie dolls, and to make up her own tales like Gling and the The White Elephant.

Every now and then, when I happen to be with friends with little kids, I become a "story-teller" again. Children are so enthralled that they would never let me go. It happened also in 2003, during my trip to India with Eddy, at Christmas time.

We were welcome by a friendly Italian lady, Francesca Drago, who had booked a bungalow for us, near Metramendir. We used to spend the evenings at a bar near a small lake covered with lotus flowers. There was a white gazebo, with a big globe in the middle. On top of the globe, there was a statue of a seated woman watching the starry sky. Pressed by Francesca, who had already heard and translated my stories, I began to tell my tales to Brin (Lotus Flower) and Drin (Little Orchid), as the two girls liked to be called.


The sky above us had different colors every evening: it looked as if it was sending messages with blue, red, and golden rays and, at night, it was filled with an infinity of shining stars.

One evening, I happened to be alone with Little Orchid, who asked me a strange question:
"On which star is Shiva, your white elephant?".
Surprised, I replied: “White elephants are not in the sky but in Shamballà”.

Little Orchid smiled at me, and, exchanging our roles, she began to tell me her story.

"Yes –she said – every now and then the white elephant shows up to us; we worship it in Temples and on the streets where you can find votive statuettes with its portrait . We usually give it offerings of flowers and food. They appear to us as elephants and we Indians worship them as such. When they die, however, they return to the sky as little stars.

We all choose a star, which is our white elephant that will follow us all our life. It’s our
Shiva, which sends us messages and gives us advice. Choose your own star and talk to the little white elephant hiding in your heart. Learn to speak with your heart rather than with your mind, and you’ll immediately fly to your star in the sky, to your little white elephant."


The sky was full of stars and “bubbles” of light. I chose my star and my white elephant.

Our holiday was over and we went back to Rome. A few years have passed by since then. When I look at young people today, I have the feeling I see a garden full of brushwood and parched plants, and flowers that bloom only for one day..

As a matter of fact, the "Net or Ipod Generation" is characterized by a sort of techno-identity that is catching and exhausting at the same time. Our youth have got rid of paper , and are more and more entering into a world far away from geographic reality and physical-sensory relations. It is an atomized, "bit-linked" society that is becoming ever more linear and less circular, with no links to the past that is quickly forgotten or destroyed.

They youth of today are increasingly aseptic and apolitical and watch the world of adults from a distance. Young people cannot identify themselves with this world, nor with its consumeristic, alienating society that destroys values and all principles of coexistence and mutual respect. Facing increasing difficulties to get included and compete, they delegate their affections and emotions to a virtual world (e.g. Facebook) , where old relations and new values have been reset.

The young people of today live in an imaginary, fantastic world. They daydream and make efforts to perceive "the invisible in the visible". They are aware that reality is not objective and unchangeable, but that it changes depending on how you look at it.

It is thus worth recalling the deep insight of a Master talking to his disciple:

"Who am I?" asked the young disciple to his spiritual Master.
"You are what you think you are" replied the wise man. "I’ll explain it with a short story".
One day at sunset, from the city walls, two people could be seen hugging in the distance, near the horizon.
"They are a mother a and father", thought an innocent girl.
"They are two friends meeting after many years", thought a lonely man.
"They are two merchants closing a good deal", thought a greedy man.
"It’s a father hugging his son who is coming back from the war", thought a woman with a tender soul.
" It’s a daughter hugging her father who’s coming back from a trip ", thought a man grieving the death of his daughter.
"They are two lovers", thought a young woman dreaming about love.
"They are two men fighting to death", thought a murderer.
"I wonder why they are hugging", thought a man with a cold heart.
"How great to see two people hugging each other!", thought a man of God.
"Every thought, concluded the Master, reveals to you what you are".


Since they are dreamers, they can see what the others refuse to see. But, above all, they understand that the real world is different and become aware of ongoing changes earlier than the others.

Young people have since long detached themselves from this reality, and looked for new ways and accesses. During this continuing work in progress, endless new portals have been opened, all closely interconnected and constantly updated with new and thorough information.

There are no more filters, nor selfish or exploited discriminations. Thoughts come and go at the speed of light. You have to be always ahead of your times, using your own "search engine". With an open mind and heart, you have to resort to your own "white elephant", which ensures to those who have learnt how to use it, that their contents are always valuable, updated, and understandable.

Our young people have become skilled "Formula 1 pilots", on this intergalactic motor-racing track. And yet, they are unable to enter the crowded roads of our ordinary life, because they do not have the license needed to drive on the Earth. They are like astronauts, who come back after a cataclysm and have to start from scratch. They are no longer able to pass the driving test, and are ignorant of road signs, which they consider to be absurd and incomprehensible. These signs tell you not to turn right, but everybody turns right. In a no entry road, there is always a smart guy driving in the wrong direction at maximum speed. All rules have been broken and the ethics of the strongest applies.

There is no more respect either for the Earth where we live, or for human beings, who act under the command of the Shepherd of the day, another Gling, Glong, Gliung grazing all the grass, depleting our pasture land and turning it into waste land.

Religions are no more helpful, because they fail to teach us to talk to our own little white elephant. They only fight each other and divide mankind, rather than uniting our hearts in the starry sky.
I recall the words pronounced by Baghavan Sri Sathya Sai Baba in a speech he held at an inter-religious conference organized in Rome back in 1983. During my stay in India in 2003, Little Orchid gave me a booklet with his speeches with the Italian translation, that I often read.

Twenty years later, some of his thoughts are still relevant:
"The whole mankind belongs only to one religion: the religion of man. God is the Father of all men. All men are brothers because they are the children of the same God who pervades the infinite sky and manifests himself through the stars, as he pervades all stars and manifests himself through the men who inhabit them. We cannot reduce the Divine into fragments and divide it into silos, nor can we divide society and groups - which is equally wrong - by imprisoning human beings through differences based on caste, colour, nation, race, and religion. Religions should always proclaim the Unity of God and preach universal love, without considering one’s faith, country, or colour. We should all respect other people’s faiths and the ways they relate to the divine. A person without religious tolerance is like counterfeit money, or a flower without fragrance. We must get rid of every religious conflict. Dividing men by religion is a crime against Humanity. Too many crimes have been committed on behalf of a Religion deemed to be the Only one and Better than the Others."

These are the words of a White Elephant, blowing in the wind like those of one of Joyce’s characters, already quoted by me in the chapter "Not in Our Name”.

Namely, when the soul of a man is born, nets are cast to prevent it from flying. People talk about nationalities, languages, and religions.
But we must try and fly through these nets.


Our young people are like colourful kites, that have broken the strings linking them to the earth. Currently, they are wandering in the sky like stars, but they know that sooner or later the wind will stop and they will have to land back on this sick world, where all forms of life are endangered.

They are the new Knights of the Light, the "Rainbow Warriors", whose task is to bring the Earth back to its previous beauty, as claimed by Green Peace. All living beings must be allowed to coexist in harmony, without distinction as to race, colour or religion.

They are potential "Warriors for Peace", the new "Knights of the Third Millennium". Like Saint Francis and Celestine V, they can ferry us toward a new age, with new values and rules, that are accepted and shared by all the women and men of this Global Village. This "cyberspace" is reproducing previous dynamics, including dreams and fears that have characterized the various ages, and the way we perceive the world around us, that looks ever sicker and more insensitive, with no rules and no values.

One thing is sure: they have started to dismantle their tepees and are on their way to let our parched and sick earth breathe again.



However, not all roads lead to Aquila. Only the "white" one does, the one traveled by the Knights of the Light, which is short but inaccessible, because, as goes the Templar saying:

"The path to Light is 35 cm long, namely the distance between the brain and the heart".




It took this distant message 1000 years to reach my heart, just like those from Little Orchid and the White Elephants I was lucky enough to meet.


The words of St. Francis, Celestine, Baghavsn Sri Sathya Sai Baba, and, above all, the story Little Orchid had told me have touched my heart. Therefore, I decided to create > a symbol < uniting the East and the West: it features a little white elephant (the symbol of Buddha) replacing the rose at the centre of the Templar cross (the emblem of the highest Masonry levels).

This is also the reason why in the Hermetic tradition the "heart is represented by "a rose", which, at the centre of the "Ansated Cross", indicated a Rosicrucian Knight. It was also the easiest way to indicate a " man on the move", searching for the Light, trying to find his "third eye", the one hidden in our heart, through which we can figure out the invisible from the visible.


This symbol is dedicated to the young people who, once again, are the new players bound to step on the stage of life, in spite of all those who doubt that this new “digital-born” generation has the strength and the skills to do so.

It is a timeless "present", a gift offered by an old elephant to the young and less young elephants, for them to realize that the choice between good and evil (white or black) is always and exclusively an individual choice.

Wearing a "white elephant" pin means that your are telling everybody that you have made a commitment to yourself and only to yourself to follow the "white road" as much as possible; that at least once a week you do a serious self-examination. If you realize that you are on the wrong path, you beg your wise SELF – hidden inside your "heart"- for pardon. The white elephant "symbol" should then be left aside for one week.

It is no easy commitment. I assure you that many times I had to turn back, take the pin off my lapel, and start all over again. Perhaps, this is the reason why - paraphrasing the story “Searching for the White Elephant"- my skin has always remained dark during full moon nights, nor has any double rainb

ow ever appeared, unlike in this story.




Your Little Black Elephant

Giovanni Salvati

A man cannot change the world

but he can spread a
message
that can change the world