I’d heard Jack Rudloe talk about the strange ability of octopus to connect psychically with humans. In describing his octopus encounters, Jack had used words like sinister and disturbing, a feeling that when the octopus wraps its tentacles around your hand, it’s somehow attempting to “suck your soul.”
I was skeptical. Not because I don’t believe in the psychic abilities of animals. In fact, I do believe, and that’s why I was skeptical of Jack’s story. As a professional telepathic animal communicator, I have communicated with many species of animals. Most are incredibly similar to humans in their thought processes, their dreams, and their daily concerns. They care about the people and animals they love and think of as family. They care about their environment and their home. They have hopes and wishes and worries. Many have lofty life missions, while others are more concerned with comfort and enrichment.
How could an octopus be so different?
Admittedly, most of my communications have been with animals who live with people. I converse with mammals, birds, and the occasional reptile. I help out when an animal companion is misbehaving, or when a big cat in a conservation center decides to stop eating. There hasn’t been much need for my services in the ocean environment. So when Jack offered me the opportunity to experience the octopus’ sinister way of sucking your soul, I pounced!
At the Marine Lab, I dipped my hand into the cold water of the octopus tank and connected telepathically with the closest octopus. I initiated the communication in the way I always do, sending a thought-message of greeting. It’s just like saying, “Hi, hello,” except you only think the words instead of saying them. The octopus didn’t answer, but she blushed, just a little, before coyly sliding away from me and settling in a different area of the tank. Her telepathic message: “I don’t know you. You smell funny.”
Jack and I talked a bit about the ability of an octopus to smell underwater. I greeted another octopus in the tank, one who was still feeling uncomfortable in his new environment, and sent some healing energy to help him acclimate. Then I tried again with the shy girl who’d spurned my advances. This time, when I dangled my hand in the water, she reached up with one tentacle and walked it gently up my wrist. Accustomed to my funny smell by then, she wrapped her tentacle around my arm. Then, she began exploring with a second tentacle. With each little suction cup, she tugged insistently, pulling my arm farther into the tank with surprising force.
“What do you want?” I asked.
“More,” she answered. “Come in.” She wanted me to come into the water, not just my arm, but my whole self. She showed an image of what she wanted to do: explore my human form with her tentacles so she could learn more about humans in general, and me in particular.
I have been lucky enough to commune with many different animals. I’ve stared into an ocelot’s eyes in a way that felt like mutual meditation, receiving a silent download of ancient information, deeper than words, deeper even than feeling and emotion. I’ve been thoroughly sniffed by dogs and cats who wanted to know more about me and where I’ve been. But this octopus wanted more than just to know me. She wanted to become me. She wanted to devour the essence of my humanness and take it into herself. Like the Borg from Start Trek, she wanted to assimilate me.
I understood now what Jack meant about an octopus sucking your soul. This was no mutual meditation. This was purely about her taking something of me into herself, with no plan of giving anything in return.
While she held my arm, I felt a definite flow of information energy being funneled into her consciousness. With all those voracious little suction cups, she was probing my mind through my skin, doing her own version of the Vulcan mind-meld. I felt like a human subject who’d been beamed into an alien mother ship. Perhaps octopus aren’t animals, after all. Maybe they’re little aliens sent down here to learn about the human race. For what purpose? I don’t know. Maybe nothing sinister after all, but it is a little unnerving to have one’s inner landscape explored with such intensity.
When she had dragged my arm so far into the water that the short sleeve of my shirt was getting wet, I pulled back, allowing her a less intense connection, just giving her my fingers. With only a few of her suction cups gently massaging my fingers, I asked her telepathically if there was anything she wanted to tell me. She showed me an image of a hideaway under a shelf rock— the home she remembered from the open sea. When I told this to Jack, he immediately gave instructions for one of the interns to find a flat rock and construct a shelter for her as it had been described.
I asked the octopus if she had a name. Her tentacles probed my hand (and my mind) for a moment, then came up with the name of a character in a book I’m writing. Olivia.
I asked Olivia if she had any questions for me. She wanted to know why she had been brought to the Marine Lab, and how long she would be staying. I explained that she would stay for the rest of her life so that she could learn about people, and people could learn about her. Her suction cups pulsed against my fingers for a moment, as if she was thinking about the idea. She let me understand that her intellectual mode is one of exploration, not exposition. Of learning, not teaching. Of receiving, not giving.
“But Olivia,” I thought to her. “You are giving, even though you don’t realize it. You’ve given me the experience of your touch. You aren’t as reticent as you think. You’ve let me into your mind, too, if only a little. What if you decided to do it consciously? You could be a great teacher, if you wanted to.”
“I’ll think about it,” she replied. Then she released my fingers and gently pushed my hand away.
An octopus has a short life. Olivia will mate and lay eggs, then she will die. Jack says she has another six months of life in which to live and learn and teach. I hope I get the chance to come back to the Marine Lab and see Olivia again. I’d like to know what she decides about becoming a purposeful teacher, instead of an accidental one.
Will she, or won’t she? I like to think she will.