This is my hitch-hikers guide to the galaxy from a personal point of view. It is a view of the apocalyptic unveiling seen through my life history and the greater crisis of diversity. It may be a yin experience for those expecting the rapture of cosmic rupture, but you can't always get what you want, sometimes just what you need. A verdant climacteric is sufficient unto the day.
Under the skin of the Existential Dilemma
We live from birth to death conscious sentient beings. All our experiences of reality, indeed the only means by which we are aware of existence or the universe at all, is through our subjective experience. Alongside this awesome mystery, the physical world view although, common sense and everyday common ground, is more remote and indirect, a story conscious beings tell about the reality we share, not the veridicial actual reality of subjective experience. I will try to give you a running account of the universe as it manifests itself to me. Some aspects of this may seem unusual, almost too alive, but everything is bound to fall into place in the end.
Although we are intimately familiar with the idea that the physical world exists as a common material framework, in which we bleed of cut and pass out if knocked on the head, this framework is accessed only through our conscious experience. Without subjective experience we would not know there was an objective physical world or even that we existed at all. When we move to the finer details of the scientific description, such as molecules and photons, we have to deal with entities which can no longer be experienced directly through the senses, but can only be understood indirectly through experimental phenomena such as absorption spectra, and complex theoretical descriptions which come close to becoming articles of belief in the manner of religious faith. Nevertheless we still ultimately validate this description consciously and subjectively by checking our experimental apparatus and by personally validating it through our reading and exchange of ideas.
Science differs from religion in two important ways. Firstly it is sceptical, so it tests its theories, secondly its description is immensely self-consistent in all its intricacies. As mythological descriptions go, it is fabulously imaginative, utterly ornate and remains quite mysterious in its foundations in wave-particle duality. However science has one Achilles heel. Because it deals only with objective reality, it has no means to come to terms with the subjective experience which is the foundation of our existence.
This is the so-called 'hard problem' in consciousness research - the fact that subjective experience is simply too qualitatively different from the objective attributes of the physical world description, and in particular one's brain state, to be able to be described in physical terms. No model of brain function, or objective brain state, however exotic, can be equated with the subjective experience of knowing. Many scientific and philosophical descriptions of reality ignore subjective consciousness, identify it with brain function, or assign it to a passive epiphenomenal role, reflecting but not acting upon, our brain dynamics. This picture is made comfortable and consistent for the mechanistically-minded by assuming that the subjective impression of free-will is an illusion and that we are de facto automata. However, denying the 'principle of intent' implicit in free-will fells in one swoop our entire social edifice of accountability for our actions under the law.
Notice there is a deep contradiction here, which may be the key to the whole enigma - the conscious observer can describe the world but the world cannot describe the conscious observer. Somehow subjective consciousness is fundamental to objective reality. This is something that is hard for us to realize, now that we have discovered through science how fragile and ephemeral life is on the scale of the violent energies of the universe as a whole. Just the temporary quirk of an unstable molecular process on an out of the way planet dwarfed to insignificance and seared to extinction by the action on even the smallest star. This perspective however is quite misleading. There is a basic respect in which the human brain has a cosmological significance and that is in terms of interactive quantum complexity.
In a sense the human brain is the most elaborate and synergistic quantum interaction in the known universe. An interaction resulting ultimately from the cosmological symmetry-breaking into the four wave-particle forces (electromagnetism, gravity and two nuclear forces) as the primordial comic inflationary phase collapsed in a shower of hot particles. It is the pinnacle of supra-molecular aggregation to form a single interacting dynamical system. The brain's quantum-chaotic properties may be central to its capacity to evoke subjective consciousness. Now it is in this sense that the brain may be manifesting a deep cosmological principle out of which the subjective state emerges as a dual aspect to objective reality. This is not a separated Cartesian dualism, but a deep, intimate complementarity, similar to wave-particle duality.
What would it mean to our understanding of the universe, if our subjective impression of free-will - that we can actually make a conscious decision which effects the physical world - is actually correct? If we can consciously influence the course of the physical universe, even by so menial an act as flexing a muscle, where can we draw the line with such 'psychokinesis'? Would the universe still merely be the concatenation of mechanical determinism and blind randomness - the nihilistic abyss of randomness and heat-death that Bertrand Russell lamented? Or is it perhaps less random, more chaotic and more alive than the mechanistic scenario would have us believe? Does reality somehow manifest in a unique way to each of us, yet interconnected in a greater web in our collective interaction, so as to give our lives active meaning and a real capacity to participate creatively and formatively in the watersheds of history? Let's see what this might mean ...
Each of us has experiences stretching back to early childhood, some of us also may claim to have pre-natal experiences or even knowledge of past lives, but we will postpone these more exotic possibilities for later enticement. I don't remember being born, but I can recall going to be weighed and checked as an infant and everyone being so big and hairy, they were grotesque giants.
I can also recall things which came from out of the continuum. I pricked my finger, the blood spurted. I was told with great gravity by my small playmates that this was an example of 'sin'. If you have done something wrong, you may have ill-fortune and prick yourself to the quick, as in the 13th fairy's curse, and as I discovered much later in the ancient Indian law of karma. My parents denied that sin was any such thing, but the awareness of cosmic feedback was sewn in my mind.
Destiny can appear to shape one's life in unforeseen ways, sometimes in dreams. One was a dream in which I was stuck with poison barbs in my hands. My flesh melting like orange jelly. I was dying in the searing sun, lying arms spread-eagled in a cruciform. I'm no flagellant. It was not a religious dream of Christ, it was me myself there wasting away - "My heart melts like wax". I was deep in the last throes of death. Morning was an uncanny reprieve - a second life.
A very disquieting intense nightmare foretold the death of nature, long before I realized anything about biodiversity. It was the uncanny intensity of the dream, the lion looking at me with utterly disapproving, sad eyes that know I am one of the genocide species. The dry grass. The hawk crying above in echo of this awful truth. They both know. We all know. I slunk away to join a queue of my fellow humans in bondage underground on a dark polluted factory floor.
Some causal influences later become pivotal to the very meaning of existence. My father and older brother were both doctors, 'therapeutae' if you will. I felt being able to cure illness, especially the 'physician healing himself', was something no one could afford to be without. However my father was also a scientist who wanted to understand the ultimate workings of the universe and particularly loved mathematics. He spent a few evenings showing me the mysteries of calculus so he could understand them himself. The quiet joy with which explained these passages made shivers run up my spine. I felt so good I could hardly bring myself to listen to what he was saying. What started out as his two pages of handwritten notes became an accidental life career.
I left school early for university a year early and consequently omitted to take biology and missing out once and for all on the prospect of a medical degree I became funnelled instead into the physical sciences, and finally by reductio ad absurdum, mathematics. Ever since, I have been trying to stitch together the frayed edges of this biological abyss using mathematics as a linguistic 'keyboard' to fathom the symphony of nature. To cope with the new environment of university in the capital I discarded my unusual childhood name Kester for my better known birth name of Chris - an alien name because of its Christian connotations. The name stuck irreversibly.
Just as I graduated, I met an exceptionally wise and graceful American girl, the ephemeral 'beat generation love' who speaks like silence, and fell irresistibly in love. The first meeting happened against all odds, because the phone number had been changed and I caught her pater there by chance on a Sunday. The first week, many strange things happened. We became lost in the hills above the capital. We were nearly swept away by a 20 foot tidal wave while standing on a long breakwater. For a second we were hundreds of yards out in the ocean standing waist deep in an oceanic torrent. Five weeks later we were married.
My partner came from an unusual quaker family who had left the US to avoid the perils of nuclear confrontation.The marriage document was a beautiful quaker one signed by everyone present. It still lies rolled up on the ship's cabinet, and we remain legally married and a very close-knit extended family, despite long ago moving on to other partners. The first three years were an idyll of two hearts entwined on European hiking tours, long canal voyages, the awe and mystery of fertility - a charming baby daughter while studying mathematics in England.
We lived on a narrow boat named Taniwha the mythical Maori leviathan and plied the locks, tunnels, aqueducts and dock-side pubs of England's ancient canal system. On one of the quiet days on the canal boat, I experienced my first pre-cognitive dream, after reading J W Dunne's "An Experiment with Time". It was doubly powerful because it was a repeated nightmare that I was being stung and I spoke about it early in the morning, a good hour before it came true as I was painfully stung wide awake. This experience set a fundamental challenge to the precept of mechanism. If I can dream about this beforehand some aspect of reality is already partially formed. The die may not be cast but it is at least partially so in a quantum sense. It's no use taking the line that we patch together such correspondences by ignoring the many negative cases and that the whole phenomenon is chance probabilities. The nature of randomness remains occult in quantum terms anyway. Such experiences have happened too often in my life since and Dunne himself used a double-blind.
Almost immediately I reached the level of graduate maths I began to get a passion for biology, particularly the burgeoning field of molecular biology. It was as if the subject area I had failed to take in missing my chance to be a therapeutic was working in me to compensate.
On our return to 'god's own' country Aotearoa we joined with a circle of acquaintances and purchased together a stunning peninsula overlooked by the mountain which gave our country its original name 'land-of-the-long-white-cloud'. Ever since, we have spent the tumbling years living there on and off, backs straining to keep the access road open and to provide adequate food, arguing spiritedly and sometimes devastatingly over the future of the land and watching many of our children grow up in a community rooted in the wilderness and a personal relationship with the land, as gather-hunter societies have done since time immemorial.
There are many powerful experiences have happened on this land. Every person is touched by its gnarled wind-swept beauty. Somehow we have all been possessed by this spirit even in our sometimes troubled relations. When we threw the I Ching over the meeting house we built together it said "preponderance of the great, the ridge pole sags to the breaking point", so we returned to the burned forest, and collected one twisted Totara to form the centre pole. A creeper had shaped it into a buttock-like spiral and a chance branch between the upper fork cut off to become a veritable penis. The I Ching very auspiciously came out "wooing" and so our centre pole is genuinely our fertility pole - the wooing post.
Some people will find it preposterous to throw a 'chance' reading to seek an oracle of some future event, but this is a tradition which spans all culture and raises deep questions about the nature of randomness and ultimately the connections underlying quantum reality. In undecided matters the ancient Jews also had an oracle to declare divine judgement called the urim and thummim. The philosophy behind the Ching is that chance, nature and consciousness are three basic manifestations of the cosmic creative principle underlying the Tao or Way of complementation between Yin and Yang the female and male principles. Just as evolution is transformed by mutational change, so consciousness may be transformed by chaotic instabilities, both sourcing in the apparent 'randomness' of quantum uncertainty. Likewise a coin toss. So all these three could be manifestations of quantum non-locality. We will chase this shadow further.
To live with the land both as a social community with no boundaries, and with the ongoing process of nature is a deepening life-long journey. Many of my most puzzling shamanistic experiences have taken place here.
Athirat and Anath
My marriage had come with another less formal but heavily portentous contract assented to in private under the pervasive influence of my father-in-law, which ran uncannily true to the rites of Ishtar: "I will marry you so long as I have the right to have lovers as I choose". Being head-over-heels in love, I was in no state to refuse.
I now came to experience a situation which has many peculiar analogies to Adam in Eve and Lillith, to El in Anath and Athirat, to Abraham in Sarah and Hagar, and even to Jesus in Mary and Martha. It was a common custom among Old Testament Jews to take a Jewish wife and have also a Gentile concubine, both options covered, so to speak. It's a cliche that every man wants to spread his wild oats and that the sixties and seventies were times when our hair hung down, but this was a happening which took me by surprise from alien territory. It was contrary to my conservative upbringing and to my natural shyness as an introverted outsider and maternal only-child.
The Ishtar contract came to maturity. My partner fell in love with my closest friend and co-founder of our wilderness community. I was inexperienced and became dependent and unstable, alternately anxious and devoted and argumentative and threatening. I was a virgin unto by wife, while she had enjoyed many strange affairs. Eventually things broke down in fear and a desperate unintentional death threat. I was banished by the in-laws, just as I coincidentally struck up my first extra-marital relationship. That would have probably been the end of the marriage if the patriarch had not consorted with the princess - aha the Ishtar connection realized!. Which is better, a paranoid partner or a perverted patriarch? In this cut the partner came up trumps. I scraped back into tentative acceptance, a sanctuary from a darker fate. After a short separation, the three of us set up as a menage-a-trois to spend a year together under the same roof.
I became more confident sexually and we began a rather crazy existence as an extended family of two women, one man and two small children. All the adult parties held court to other relationships while keeping home together, often partying quietly in the evenings with our loves of the day. We had sexual trysts with many of our friends. For a short period my wife and I came together again as a nuclear couple. She plaintively said she wanted just to be Mrs. King again, but her two heady affairs over the summer and my compensating discovery of a new partner on my part drove us back into a second longer-lasting menage and another child with my new namesake.
This transitional state, Kazantzakis's crucifixion dream of Jesus, Mary and Martha, continued for four or five years. Never once did the two women argue, although I had my impetuous spats with both of them. There was an unremitting air of civility and frank cooperation between the two mothers. This situation is quite different from a man having a clandestine affair, where it is a case of separate worlds where the twain (hopefully) never meet. The open dynamics are beyond the male's control unless he is a despot. It all comes down to the queenly or filial grace of the 'first wife' whether polygyny is bliss or forty miles of bad road, whatever she may actually feel about the situation. It is essential for women in a polygynous 'marriage' to be willing to embrace living together, otherwise the situation will lead to resentment or deceit. The hopes and sexual designs of the male are secondary.
Our house became well-known for its libertarian tradition. We all slept together in a triple bed, often along with our small children. We had another more discrete room for private love-making. We also had a meditation room with a huge twelve-foot bed for occasional love-trysts with our friends, or for evenings of psychic adventure. There was never sex for sex's sake, no hard core sex, nor any with strangers, just the 'love is all you need' ethic, making 'love not war' even though anarchy may rule in the end.
Somewhere in this too-ing and fro-ing the partners spent some time in the wilderness while I remained at work. In a flash I had my first and most uncanny lucid dream while trying to look at my hands as I dreamed. My experience was split in three parallel strands: One was rushing upwards with an ever-accelerating velocity - flying become the unbearable lightness of being. The second was an intense lucid dream, lost on a brilliant promenade with the sea spray hitting my shirt. I marvelled at being able to sense every single droplet, but I was anguished, lost in the other, with no way back to earth. A woman approached and I rushed to her and grabbing her by the shoulders, stared deep into her dilated, dark eyes asking "Where is the way back?" She just shook her head and smiled the Giaconda's smile. The third strand was an insane sensation bumping gently on the ceiling watching my body in the bed below, realizing in contrast that everything was just fine down there. I became possessed by the vision. I will never find my way back from this reality. It has shattered the narrow aqueduct of day and night.
It's not so easy keeping relations with two 'free' partners either of whom at any time may fall in love with their current fancy and find it much more endearing to set up a new private nest, possibly taking some of 'our' offspring along with them. It's one thing to be Abraham with a clear wife Sarai and her servant concubine Hagar, or a polygamous patriarch of the male reproductive imperative who can erect flaming barricades to surround ten thousand nubile virgins. It is something different again to be the mortal spouse of two 'sister goddesses', trying endlessly to please, appease, protest, or crow at the break of day like the little red rooster. Things remained light-hearted as long as it was party-party, but when romance became serious, the old insecurity, mistrust and tensions would emerge.
In the end the whole situation came apart in one sweeping gesture of poetic irony. I had an unrequited passion to wander through the East and to discover its mysteries of enlightenment which had never been sated by hiking tours in Europe or brief air stops in Isfahan, Katmandu and Phom Penh. I finally got my first sabbatical leave, and having set up facilities for the partners in our chaotic threesome on the land, I set off alone for South East Asia and India, kissing the partners and kids goodbye at the dusty local bus-stop. Both partners promptly found other companions and I was left doubly alone, travelling from hotel to hotel through the bowels of Asia.
Truth and Consequences
The evolutionary game-theoretic facts of life are that, while everyone expects the ideal of faithfulness, adultery is endemic to human society. The 'silent electorate' are busy having clandestine affairs, or going from one partner to another in a serial journey of convenience. Dishonesty comes from not being able to tell a partner about a sexual relationship, because it will cause an irresolvable personal crisis. I much prefer the ideal of honesty and cooperation.
In mammals and colonising birds, the principle barrier to the natural male reproductive tendency to polygyny appears to be reproductive resource competition between females. This results in overt monogamy, with frequent clandestine adultery on the part of both sexes. In birds and humans which are both overtly monogamous, a full twenty percent of offspring are not the children of the ostensible father, because of covert female infidelity to optimize both genes and family support, cooperating with clandestine male sowing of wild seed. This is the source of the fear and sexual violence against female indfidelity of the patriarchs.
Polygynous partnership is a cliche of the chauvinistic power structure of patriarchal societies, such as those of Islam, however the labrys cuts both ways - the tables are turned if the family ethic is a democracy in which females are in the majority. This sometimes happens too in a patriarchal society because of the mutual support the women provide one another. In the polyandry of Tibet a woman marries all the brothers of the husband, who have to wait their occasional turn for a conjugal visit. Brothers probably have enough common vested interest to make this work, particularly in the tough climate of Tibet, but most people, male and female alike, prefer a partner all to themselves 'to have and to hold' and resent sharing them in a variety of ways. Sexual jealousy is a very natural defence, but it can be overcome if people decide by free choice they can achieve more by cooperating honestly.
After travelling through the East and West, I drifted into a third 'Mary and Martha trope' which lasted for a full fifteen years on and off. At first we all lived together in the country, but there was never the same degree of acceptance of the women for one another that had blessed the previous relationships. We accomodated to a situation where one partner lived in the city and one in the country and I would commute between, working in the city and raising children in the folksy country environment.
I have always been committed to my children. Children are the living manifestation of gender and sexuality. They are the immortal ongoing process of life, which has brought each of us in an unbroken web all the way from when life first began 3800 million years ago. Sexual death is the deepest act of genetic altruism - to communicate only half our genetic identity in symbiosis with the loved one. Cloning by comparison is mechanistic hubris. Homosexual love, however personally fulfilling, is a vine without stamens and anthers.
In reproduction, sex gains its biological fulfillment. In the endless variation of sex, the immortal web of life continues. Tantra does not just worship the sexual act but the immortal path. As individuals, we have some three score years and ten, but as evolutionary beings, as the germ line, we are as old as life itself. We should cherish our offspring and care for them with sacred devotion and educate them dispassionately with living wisdom as well as analytic knowledge. Not to clutter the world with humans is essential, but it is equally important to ensure those which live on know peace and love, and enjoy as abundant good health as our medical arts can provide. I have always loved my children with commitment and devotion and treated them as equals and as cherished friends even when the going is tough. They in turn become true beings.
The world of ideas, discovery and vision is also a great immortalizing endowment. We are culturally creative in amazing transformative ways which transcend genetic procreation. This very communication contains an immortal vision of life, as infectious as a living organism, but respect for our biological nature is the first step to respecting nature as a whole.
The city-country split was a strangely divided life. I used to feel I was only my real self when I passed through the anonymous country town that lay half-way from one life to the other in the middle of the night. Gradually our entwined relationships moved from reluctant toleration to resentment, because however much I tried to care for both partners, they were reluctant co-travellers. The situation became territorial and painful.
The progenitive situation became a telling watershed. I arrived from the country one Sunday night to be told by my city partner she was accidentally pregnant, after confidently pursuing the rhythm method to a two-day nemesis in a gynecological awareness initiative. When I suggested we should all talk together about the future, she initiated a precipitate termination with her women friends early next morning to avoid any hint of extended-family entanglement. When my country partner, from our previous partnership, with whom I already had a child, then became intentionally pregnant and came to have a second birth in our communal city house, the die became cast. We were 'not supposed' to make love for territorial reasons, even though we we were having a child together. The birth nearly became compromised by the divided loyalties, causing righteous outrage. We split up shortly after. I stayed true to the partner with whom I had fathered children.
After a few years, the former 'city' partner and I again began a more casual relationship which smouldered on for several more years. I'm very constant for a chaos child. The flame of old affection dies hard. Its not that I was being unfaithful by continuing to partner with a companion I had already been living with for some ten years in an open relationship, but she had rejected the situation and I had committed myself to the existing family. Given the choice of continual tension and a clandestine peace, I chose peace. For several years this continued quietly, as clandestine sexual 'love' affairs often do. But it compromised the 'casual' relationship to protect the ongoing 'family' relationship. This is the paradox of covert adultery throughout human and avian society.
A Moth to the Flame of Enlightenment
For a noble savage to find one's roots, it is essential to wander from culture to culture, to leave behind the heritage of your childhood, and to merge with the essence of humanity. One needs to be able to be as much at home with the Shipibo, the Lisu, and the Tibetans, to be able to live in Jakarta, Lima or New York. Such a yearning is especially strong in one who hails from a sequestered antipodean colonial outpost. You feel an urge and at the same time an incompleteness.
From the Buddhist temples of South East Asia I travelled to Nepal and then to India where I wandered as a sadhu, learned to accept leprous beggars naturally as my friends, followed the sacred Ganga, the divine plant of Shiva, from its sources in the Himalayan foothills to ancient cities such as Varanasi. India was full of lessons and psychic experiences. When I had my fortune told, it was said that I was destined to be a very great man, but somehow I had gone right off the beam. Hold your breath!
The free-wheeling condition, when you travel alone is very mysterious and pregnant. By erasing your personal history and throwing yourself on the winds of fate, all manner of surprising things happen. A given day you wake up you simply have no idea where you will be at the end of it. You need to keep an eye over your shoulder. Live like a jaguar. It's a major learning experience how to get the knack of the accidental, to plan for nothing and find the unexpectable. There is also a major component of risk. You may find yourself locked in a strange house, or mugged, but you may also discover treasures of existence.
In Varanasi, I was besieged with rickshaw drivers. I took a very hard and careful look at them all, and struck up a close personal friendship with one of them because of his urgent sincerity. He led me into a labyrinthine community down on the Ghats where families had lived for centuries. People of great character and heart. Varanasi temporarily took over my life. I lived in a traditional Indian house and smoked opium ghoulies each evening on the roof with the proprietor as a courtesy, a wrestler in fine condition. We all slept on the roof. I would go for dinner with the local boat-builder. Sometimes on the hot nights I would lock my cell with a padlock, carry nothing but the key around my neck and go and sleep with the boatmen in the cool on the Ganges. It gave a spectacular experience of the pilgrims arriving at dawn to bathe, the chants echoing on through a night lit up here and there by sacred and funeral flames. Bathing in the Ganges is a must. The steps are very slippery. Later the sitar I bought was to take me right across the Middle East.
India was a place I could never really feel lonely. Companions were everywhere. In the streets, in the fields. Flitting in and out were a heart-string of haunting travelling affairs, accidental meetings of two minds, as people on an endless journey through a mesmerizing desert wilderness, who have been through heaven, earth and the abyss, meet at a water hole, and together in one solitary night, their whole life experience, through the trackless wastes of time, passes between, in the sultry glance of an eye, in the passion of a lingering embrace. To fall in love many times over is very precious. Each person is a unique gateway to the deepest mystery - a brief mutual sanctuary from loneliness in Katmandu, a feisty Tantric love affair through Kashmir and Ladarkh, a delicate tryst with an adolescent Junkie passing through the dreaded Iran-Afghanistan border - a summary firing-squad cheated by the banner of love. By the time I reached the western hemisphere I had become something exotic, woven with the scent of far-distant horizons. It didn't matter whether I was in New Mexico, New York or even Guatemala. Love was around every corner.
I spent a good deal of the time in the East seeking the meditative samadhi. I visited Sai Baba because of his kitcsh reputation for cheap miracles, although I found the posters which rumour had it Indian sweet meats would ooze out of grotesque and the rumours of ash-dropping devices disquieting. The women did shriek when he sprinkled ashes on them in my presence and he did give a striking sermon on the Gita in which man without god was destitute, dead, with no hope and no future! Devastating stuff.
I got as much of my spiritual discovery from street people as from gurus. India is full of temples and pilgrimage places. There are spiritual people every step of the way from little babas sharing a chillum in the remote paths to the great Himalayan pilgrimage spots to the sadhus weaving the winding alleys of Varanasi with their tridents. Everyone who devotes themselves to the divine is a divine presence. I am Yogindra Baba. I was given the name by a hotel proprietor in Puri, the pilgrimage town of the Jaggernath or Juggernaut, under whose wheels people traditionally threw themselves. He said that every sadhu needed a name and it was his duty to pronounce mine. It combines the ancient yogic Kali aspect of the Indus Valley civilizations with the Aryan factor of Indra.
Richard Alpert - Baba Ram Dass - in "Be Here Now" related an influential story of taking lysergide to one Maharaj-ji who completely blissed him out and swallowed acid like it was chick peas with apparently no effect. He noted certain psychic happenings such as Maharaji telling him to visit Lama Govinda when he was already contemplating it. For Ram Dass this was evidence of the much deeper penetration of insight of the Indian sage than the fractious day tripper. At Varanasi, Chai Baba the tea-shop sadhu carried a picture of Maharaj-ji, along with many others. When I mentioned Ram Dass's assessment of Mahara, he was equivocal. "Nothing exceptional".
The argument that the psychic trance of power plants is inferior to meditative samadhi is misguided. Many American Indian shamans and shamanesses display awesome psychic capacities and particularly in the midst of 'intoxication'. A group of Amazonian Jivaro shamans may declare your relative has died, or that a contending war party from an adjoing country is on the way. These will turn out to be correct. A Mexican Huichol may dream you are lost in the desert and send helpers to find you. A Mazatec shamaness may have a vision on the 'little things' that you are about to arrive, and three weeks later you do.
Ram Dass was a novice with no such tradition. Maharaj-ji was an accomplished baba in the Eastern tradition. The principal methods in shamanism involve the use of power plants, contrary to Mercia Eliade's naive prejudice. Drumming and sensory and physical deprivation are of secondary significance by comparison. Ganja has likewise had a central role in the Indian meditative tradition. Bom Shankar.
Really we have two alternative approaches, one from order, training the mind through mantra, visualization and breathing, and the other based more on chaos, chanting or staring your way through the vortices of a power plant, drumming or deprivation induced trance state. These two can also be complementary. The meditative condition is a natural means to yoke the visionary state and by so doing to enter it more deeply and completely. Traditional power plant shamans generally chant their way through such experiences, their song becoming a personification of their spirit journey. I prefer silent prajnayama - yogic breathing designed to induce a deeply-'transcendent' meditation - silent like zazen.
This is not to suggest that all or any people should be taking the power sacraments, or expect to gain instant enlightenment this way, but simply to respect that the opportunity is there if they at some time wish to take it as a natural expression of the biosphere, evoking the totality of mind. It is a natural heritage which can change our consciousness, perhaps teach us to live in closer harmony with nature, and provide a democratic endowment for visionary experience. Perhaps only a very small number of people will ever choose this mystery path, or experience it more than a few times during their lifetime. Many people only take a full initiatory dose of iboga once. But the fact that nature has provided these opportunities ensures the grass-roots of vision is available for all who choose to seek it.
We are thus dealing with a symbiotic fertility principle and a visionary democratic principle. These are auspicious and worthy. The divine sacrament has always been central to Christianity, but only as a metaphorical experience of union with the flesh and blood of Christ in a most macabre celebration of blood sacrifice which the Aztecs themselves understood to be in cultural attunement with their own bloodthirsty tradition. The genuine tradition of the living sacraments is union, not sacrifice.
Neither is this to suggest you will experience instant nirvana from a 'trip' as even Maria Sabina called it, although you may experience anything from doom-filled anxiety to blissful wonder. Shamans will of course tell you that you should undertake a rigorous training, in some ways as severe as that of any meditative training, but at least there is a fundamental principle of visionary democracy. Just like dreaming, we can all access the visionary state by partaking of the sacrament. We do not have a situation where the mysteries of existence are held by an elite priesthood which no one can access without the divine grace of the avatar, or the Logos. Indeed a traditional shaman may be initiated into their role by an illness or other incident which just comes upon them spontaneously. This very important principle - visionary democracy - is essential for the ongoing future of the world as we enter an epoch in which humanity has become the guardian of evolutionary creation and the future of life on earth. It is a democracy that Jesus personally acknowledged, despite his unilateral deification, in saying from Psalm 82 "Ye are gods".
The principle of visionary democracy says that the subjective experience of the least of us is as valid as the greatest - that each and every one of us naturally supports the visionary essence of creation. Some of us may possess wisdom in great measure, but we should convince the others of our ideas democratically and in a way which is subject to peer criticism and not by attempting to stand as a guru or priesthood to make divine edicts, especially ones such as the Anathema maranatha or the fatwah which spell death to the unbeliever or the dissenter. This ground-breaking principle has been violated throughout history by just about every established religion, in infallible papal edicts, shariat and its dire enforcement, the idolatrous idea that the word is sacred, setting the Bible, Qur'an, Gita and even the Dharmapada above and over other books of visionary poetry, as edicts and commands from (a male) God.
There is another caution about the spiritual approach of following a religious authority which becomes particularly steamy in India. The ideal of submitting to a guru, as if they were a divine manifestation, may help release the follower from their egotism, but it breeds corruption and contempt. Buddhism is full of good methods to help crush your wanton ego, including guru devotion. But this is fundamentally non-democratic. It invites abuse of power. Tibet was racked with monastic infighting at the very time China invaded.
Raj Nish is a good example. Coming form an academic background in Indian religious philosophy, he was ideally placed to touch the pulse-beat of Western infatuation. His style of rhetoric was eclectic, spanning Taoism, Sufism and Buddhism in its orbit. It emphasized Tantric sex and a 'New Age" vision of spirituality. But it is all too easy to become a spiritual entrepreneur. Is this enlightenment or just adroit marketing? The proof tends to come much later when we discover Rolls Royces, helicopter gunships and attempted mass-poisonings.
The real fallacy here is that enlightenment is something you only find in the most supreme realized beings on earth - that there is some secret inner cabal who know the inner workings of the universe - this is rubbish. Enlightenment is a shedding of superstructure to return to our natural roots. All people dream naturally and in the same way we can all reach naturally to enlightenment, because it is a deep expression of the nature of the existential condition. It is something democratic we all share, not something only 'God' can show us through the one way trip "Jesus is Lord" or that Raj Nish or the Reverend Moon can show us by waving a torch at a mass gathering, or concentrating his mind on us in secret from afar. One reason to stand by nature shamanism is that it is the ground roots which we all share.
In the East there is a wholesome emphasis on empowerment through self-realization, but this is compromised by a hero-worshipping devotion to the guru. In the West, democracy is denied by having a religious hierarchy and edicts which are claimed to be infallible declarations of God. Everyone is supposed to submit to God's will and to be fallible mortals with no discriminating wisdom. Inquisition is used to destroy religious opposition. Vast movements are built in Christianity and Islam on a simple fundamentalist doctrine of affirming commitment to God and joining an evangelical body which uses inter-personal support and repression of the other to grow at explosive rates. None of this has anything whatever to do with the divine. It is about indoctrination and reducing the verdant complexity of the real world to an unshakeable simplistic conviction. The Fall arising from the knowledge of good and evil.
Absolutely the worst case of inflated spiritual de-humanization is Jesus. You have this very unusual controversial genius who transforms the cultural zeitgeist by becoming the Bridegroom of Isaiah 61 in quite a blasphemous way, which later looks half way between the religious practices of Israel and it's Hellenistic nemesis Nabataea in Arabia. He gains hysterical popularity as a faith healer and notoriety as a charismatic possessed by Ba'al Zebul, the Lord of Flies. The people from his own home town of Nazareth disown him. His family say he is beside himself. Finally when he is brought to account in the flesh, the miracles evaporate and he is crucified as a common criminal. Bewailed by a devoted following of females.
Then a cult emerges claiming to have seen him rise on the third day like all the dying and reborn Gods of the ancient Near East. Suddenly it takes a new twist of fire in the name of Paul, a typical born-again Christian with a very dubious background, who never set eyes on Jesus, and within a short space of time we have a religion claiming Christ, the anointed, was the only man-god in the whole of history - He whom God sent as his only begotten son, who shall end the entire universe, the lamb become Armageddon, judging the quick and the dead for all time. Whose death we continue to celebrate by drinking his blood and eating his flesh as was done to Dionysus and Dumuzzi before him.
We can no longer appreciate him as a shaman or a prophet with a very creative paradigm shift or enjoy his penetrating insights as a human who could be emulated in our own gnostic realization, for now, since the burial of the gnostic Gospel of Thomas, everything he said or is claimed to have said comes straight from the mouth of God. Almost immediately Paul pronounced the Anathema and we have the death curse if you don't believe it too. Ever since, despite the myth of the second-coming, Jesus, just like Mary, has been in bondage, an institution of the church, calculated to prevent any other prophet, even the returning Christ, creating another paradigm shift to bring this archaic caravan of dreams into the living world of evolution. That's why it is my sacred duty to free these bonds of religious tyranny, to put back the human element of spontaneous creative vision and to bring back the spirit of democracy to the prophetic tradition.
Two Tibetan lamas entered my life in a surprising and telling way. I walked in front of Karmapa as he was arriving at Bodhnath to give a ceremony. I thought nothing about it. When I went trekking, the people of the Tibetan refugee village on the way to Anapurna implored me to wait to see his puja. When I returned to Katmandu a German approached me and told me lightning struck when he raised his thunderbolt. I felt mortified. What was I doing travelling on a spiritual quest to miss this experience? It wasn't until I arrived in New York months later that I had another chance. But chance had it I was studying lucid dreaming at Maimonedes on the same day and I couldn't get back to Manhattan on time. I thought it was useless. I decided on the off chance to run the block to find out. As I arrived there was a climactic blast of Tibetan trumpets. I ran for the door, seeing someone still entering, but just as I came, it slammed violently shut. Later I saw the same ceremony, and had an audience with Karmapa. He blessed a mala of Tibetan bone beads I had. He did it with alarming energy, smashing it together and laughing naughtily as he did it. A couple of years later the mala was explosively torn apart when I was assaulted at a function, sending the beads flying into the windows in all directions. The next time I returned to the US, a mysterious letter arrived saying Karmapa was at Woodstock NY. I made it up to see him with a Buddhist tennis pro. We both bowed to him. He laughed and grabbed each of us by our bearded goatees and gave our heads a yank like cattle. I was told he was not well, despite his apparent vigour. A short time afterwards he died. Now he has an appointed reincarnation.
Yeshe Dorje was another kettle of fish. He was living in a kerosine tin shack with his wife and seven children. I went to visit him with Maya, my Californian travelling partner through Kashmir and Ladarkh. She fancied he was into all sorts of sexual empowerments, as he had a wife and seven children unlike the monastic orders. He was consulted by builders who wanted a break in the monsoons to put on a roof, pushed clouds away from Dalai Lama's path, and was regarded as a shaman healer who could draw out spirits of possession from epileptics and deranged people. He was very serious about his ancient Ningmapa form of Buddhism and warned against the ideas put forward in the Tibetan library at Dharmsala. Like Karmapa, he appeared at odd times when I was travelling. At Santa Fe he appeared again and gave a seven hour exorcism ceremony, rich with immolated messages, and flour imprints of our hands, long and complex chants and drumming in the middle of which he fell sound asleep without warning as a consequence of his meditative vigils in the late hours. When I asked for a video he gave me a mischevious salute of revolutionary defiance. When he held up the dorje thunderbolt a torrential desert downpour burst forth, but when he held the final immolation the weather broke into a rainbow. This weather is common in the desert at nightfall, and even adorns the New Mexico coat of arms, but still.
I find the concept of reincarnation difficult to accept at face value, particularly the idea that bad men are reborn as flys or spiders. It's also in conflict with the natural order. A species which lives by killing doesn't get worse karma than a herbivore. It doesn't make sense and it doesn't happen. But then who am I to argue with the millennium either? Aren't I a walking example? Am I a reincarnation of Jesus? Would you want to be someone else's shadow? Don't you have any creative life of your own? No it's infinitely more difficult than that.
Part of me is an ancient spirit from the beginning of creation. Another part is the biological, emotional individual Chris. Nagual and tonal if you like. The eternal part incarnates into the mortal coil to perform its creative unfolding in the universe. Life then becomes an extraordinary synchronicity - the very fabric of being is a mandala - a space-time fractal of free-will.
Sometime away back in the seventies on a sacramental velada I had this awful vision. Surely I was the Christ of cosmic evolution sent back by the creatrix to liberate the verdant Earth from wanton destruction, but somehow an ancient sacrifice of evolution was imminently foreshadowed to fulfil the atonement. The vision unfolded like a fugue. Somehow it involved my firstborn daughter Arwen Evenstar and her fertility. Twenty years later she gave birth in our home. The child was small, the birth was easy, but the first cries were strangely chirpy. The little boy was so floppy. A day later they told us that he had Down, syndrome, an extra copy of chromosome 21. We were all devastated. My head was spinning. What was that vision I had twenty years ago? So its all come to pass! So the universe did send me back! Taena is growing up a spark. But it is all very strange. He is floppy and has needed careful physio. He is a sacred king in the ancient mold. Dedicated to God. Down males are generally infertile. He learned to walk groggily, like the lamed sacred consort of Mari of the buckled post, who staggered along in buskins, the high-heeled boots of Dionysian passion drama.
All those things Buddha had to find out by being sequestered inside his palace and to come on life and death hard, starkly witnessing transience and suffering were Buddha's egg-shell of karma. Long before Buddha had his maha-samadhi the universe was shaping his karma in poetic irony right out of the prophetic tradition. This is the nature of quantum transaction.When he finally comes to terms with the middle way, after denying himself to starvation this karmic backdrop which made the very fabric of meaning of Buddha's life matured. Even without insisting on God, there is an eternal part of us that lies beyond the cycle of birth and death beyond time itself.
A lot of seekers spend a great deal of their lives trying to come to a state of spiritual knowledge to heal their mortal transience. They seek to discover a greater truth beyond which will compete the picture and given them peace. However there is another way of looking which turns this situation inside out. We are also the eternal gypsy spirit of the universe that visits incarnations , not fragile but eternal, donning incarnation, as beads on a string, as a bridegroom decketh himself with ornaments, or as a bride decketh herself with her jewels. It is older than the big bang and for it, the 'heat death' is just phase of the totality. So I guess you could say that part of me is the reincarnation, even of Christ. But maybe you too can share this thread. Maybe the whole fabric is a weave of the one conscious spirit into its myriad forms just as the Tantric creation myth says. Maybe we are each a bundle of reeds, which become loosened in vision and finally unravelled as we pass away back to the oceanic self-aware totality. From this disembodied perspective, as if looking back at ourselves, incarnation is like becoming bound tightly, so you cannot see yourself as a whole. The death state is the unravelling, but also the reintegration.
Whatever the situation, the incarnational perspective heals the mortal quest. Instead of being a mortal looking for enlightenment, you become an immortal spirit embodied to help realize the unfolding conscious reality. Although the incarnation will pass, by living your life out to its conclusion, you are the very spirit of deity or the void abyss totality, the Tao, manifest in physical form. This is the sanctuary, the solace, the meaning of existence, the umbilical cord and the 'mysterious grand design of nature'.
So am I a Buddhist? Well I've taken Buddhist vows, just like I'm a confirmed Anglican too, but how can the noble savage be anything other than an abysmal primitive. Buddhism, particularly the Tibetan form has a very complex regime of meditations, prostrations and retreats and a very particular description of reality. Tibetan Buddhism is founded also on the more ancient Bön shamanism. But why does a true understanding of reality have to come from such a complex regime of order? Why isn't it just a natural ground-swell like dreaming, shared by all of us? Well lucid-dreaming is certainly a difficult technique to learn and I only manage it occasionally. Also the mind is a bit like a monkey and needs some training to be able to concentrate and calm itself enough to experience samadhi. But many of the techniques and realizations of Buddhism actually source from older practices in shamanism and the yoga of the ancient Indus valley cultures.
My innate preference is for the formless path. One in which you attain realization in the midst of the natural dis-order, possibly by pushing yourself to near-death or ego-death experiences, from meditating on graveyards, to Tantric sex, to power plants.
Many of my life discoveries have happened only when my back was to the wall. This is the nature of the formless path. To go travelling I had to forsake not just one partner but two in double irony. When I made it to Ladarkh, I stood in the ruined lamasery that stands over the town in direct echo of the Potala at Lhasa and vowed to stop short at nothing. I walked to an outlying village. My sandals broke. I was embraced by a Ladarkhi woman in sheer curiosity and immediately bitten on the left foot by a dog.
This began a series of episodes where I had to make it down to the casualty department of each general hospital in India I came to to get another horrendous shot of rabies toxin in the abdomen. It was considered too dangerous to be given by a general practitioner. There was a one percent mortality rate from allergic brain swelling. Each innoculation was murder. Swollen glands and intense allergy. The needles were never properly sterilized and all the diseased of India were queueing there, eaten away by horrific sores, blindness and dysentery. I would walk down to the front of the line and demand my shot.
Each city I came to presented a new and gripping Tantric dilemma. At Srinagar a male nurse like a wrestler dropped the syringe and squirted out the residue from the floor beside a boy who was vomiting into a bucket with a green choleric face. When I said to sterilize the syringe he said "I see you are an educated man". But the serum had been used many times before in this way. Eventually in Delhi there was a bright young nurse playing Russian roulette with fifty needles. The queue stretched forever. Instead of injecting the serum under the skin of my abdomen, she deftly plunged it right into my internal organs. Within a day or so, I succumbed to hepatitis and had to stagger weakly for the cool of the hills. The train was simply overflowing. People hanging out every door. I crawled into a first class carriage and lay in near faint on the floor. When the guards tried to throw me out, I moaned "Sick sick" like a leper until they left me in uncertainty as what they might catch by moving me. Hare Kali. Hare Kali-ma. Om nama Shivai-ay. Om nama Shivai.
Everywhere I went in India, I lugged a sitar with me, like the torso of a loved one. It wasn't the best of sitars. I bought it from my music teacher. The bowl fell off almost immediately. When I complained, he said "I wouldn't deceive you uncle!" and picked it up and played such a haunting raga that I burst into tears. He said "It's God, it's God" and handed it back to me. I never played it well but I put this supreme effort into trying to guard and protect it in the raging heat that precedes the monsoons. I had to argue vehemently with bus drivers who wanted me to put it on the roof with the chickens and cling to it in my seat. When I arrived in Afghanistan I had all my money and passport stolen. The jewellry I was carrying from Thailand proved fake. I had only $3 to get me to Europe. Incomprehensibly a man came up to me and pleaded to buy my sitar. The money got me on to a bus to Istanbul. I had to play every trick to feed myself in Iran, staging photo diversions to escape from restaurants, but the sitar I had nurtured so faithfully proved to be my karmic saving grace.
Indira Ghandi instituted the Indian emergency when the legitimacy of her rule was challenged by the courts, over-ruling democracy. This provided for ninety days in jail without trial. Eventually she was shot by a Sikh after she had played a clandestine role in setting up the militant priest who inflamed the Sikh crisis which led to the storming of the Golden Temple at Amritsar. Thousands were slaughtered in the aftermath. Let's not be naive about the idea that all women are beneficent. The Golden Temple was for me a sea of peace, but this was shattered when I was stopped by a drunken customs official who was hunting down a drug-dealer who had entered illegally from Pakistan. When I had entered India from Nepal the border guard demanded "backsheesh!" I told him where to put it and he then had unknown to me stamped my passport maliciously.
This man was trying to arrest me during the emergency. No writ of habeas corpus. Indian jails are no place in the heat of the summer, or any other time. I knew Indian people are often embarrassed when a European person displays distraught emotion, so I did something which would never work in a Western country. I got down in the gutter at his feet and began to wail piteously to passers by that this man was trying to abduct me. Very quickly a large crowd gathered pushing against one another and arguing volubly about whether he was abducting me or arresting me, and who was he? And who was I? I began to try to crawl out, but he had me by the shirt. I put up one last desperate fuss and he became embroiled in an argument with a railway official. He relaxed his grip and I crawled away. The Amritsar chillies were the hottest on earth. My guts turned to water. Could they be the cause of all the violence? The next day I set out for Pakistan. The countries were technically at war over Kashmir. There was a no man's land. You had to walk across a field and through some trees to another post. I walked out alone and just as I was about to step out of India, there he was the last thing I wanted to see, sitting there in uniform. I stepped up to him very cautiously and said "You were drunk!" He said "You see! I have waited here for you just so that I would know." He let me pass by. I was free.
There are a lot of good things about Buddhism. It stresses peace and non-violence, that the perfection within is innate and can be experienced through meditative equanimity. It is a do-it-yourself path of attainment, empowerment and enlightenment, rather than sin and fixed mortal fallibility. However it is manifestly patriarchal, despite the protestations of its followers about the many feminine buddhist deities in this 'Godless' religion. Yab-yum tells the basic story - a super-powerful enlightened male with a hundred arms holding a rather limp consort with only about ten to his torso. Tantric sex, by contrast, has Kali squatting ascendant over the lifeless corpse of Shiva. Only put together do they begin to give a complete picture.
God, Science and the Immortal Sex
Am I an atheist like Buddha? Well that is complicated. I can't accept moral causality is intrinsic to evolution nor that the ignorant reincarnate as insects, so it is necessary to look deeper for the connecting principle. The key seems to be consciousness and perhaps the transactional interpretation of quantum mechanics. But that is no reason to posit some additional principle we have no direct evidence for at all as the omnipotent creator. Why not simply a self-consistent description of the universe? Gautama Buddha and Stephen Hawking both have very astute reasons for not including God in their cosmology.
The question really is what IS God? To Judeo-Christians, God is an omnipotent creator principle which, however transcendentalized to an abstract unrepresentable entity, as is al-Llah in Islam, still carries the dimensions of personality and emotion, and when pushed to it, the male figure of the 'ancient of days' - father sperm. The existence of the big bang is evidence for an origin in time but not necessarily a creator God. A theory of everything based on symmetries and symmerty-breaking might be more apt. Christian thinkers tend to define God in an initial creation of a universe which is then forever after running down like a clock-work toy. The second law of thermodynamics does mandate increasing entropy. However life is negentropic. It's complexity unfolds with time. Quantum uncertainty is ongoing. Evolution unfolds new diversity. Free-will is an expression of the creative act. Assigning only one creative act to the past does not solve the problem cosmologically nor evolutionarily. Some modern Christian thinkers try to preserve the order by giving God a meta-cosmological status outside time. Now it is true that Augustine and Einstein would probably agree that space-time is created in cosmogenesis, but this doesn't mean there is this classical entity 'God' sitting outside the universe, creating it from another time dimension either. Having got hold of God, such thinkers strive endlessly to find a key place to fit him in. Really it is the hard problem revisited. Using God to explain consciousness. That may involve a process outside time - the transactional interpretation.
A different way of looking at this whole situation is that the totality of the Tao is intrinsically self-complementary as wave-particle, female-male body-mind etc. Within this complementarity, space-time and the dimensions of experience emerge. If we take the point of view that the brain is evolving towards a kind of cosmic correspondence, by generalizing its functions towards the quantum limit, it is conceivable that the dimensions of mind somehow reflect a deep cosmic reality. However in such a reality, as in both the Tantric and Taoistic description, the totality is a complementation between female and male aspects, not merely a male God become so transcendental that He can pretend he is beyond form and void. If anything, He is imposing form and She is void and chaos - tohu wabohu. Lurking behind the apparent formless transcendence of al-Llah and the abstract God of Christian theology is a definably male personality who emphasizes transcendence over immanence, the heavenly cosmos over the verdant earth, the eternal over the transformative and dominion over nature and woman alike.
So although the ancient Goddess may seem a primitive blood-curdling, infant-killing, promiscuity-inviting anachronism, she is carrying essential features of reality into the modern world, without which our description of the totality could become tragically flawed. Both Taoism and Tantra stress this deep gender complementation. Taoism also notes the way that can be told is not the countless Way, echoing the Buddha state and the indescribability of al-Llah, but with due reverence for the feminine Way of the Valley as well. Even Buddha, in reaching to the unchanging still point, rejected the turning world of life and death which Queen Maya, the mother of appearance and diversity, represents. The concealed feminine aspect can also present in a host of very disquieting post-modern ways as dynamical chaos, quantum-uncertainty, synchronicity, emergence, as we shall see. The feminine aspect is not confined only to women and can be an aspect of the experience of both sexes.
God alone is incomplete - a distorted image in a chauvinistic mirror - a shaker on the table cloth of divine order, surrounded by pregnant chaos. The divine causality of Buddha is also incomplete because illusion is substance - mind without body is merely the bardo. The Tao, Tantra, the eny-weeny God/dess is unspeakable, an undecidable proposition, a paradox of reality, which our conscious free-will is here to reveal the nature of, even as we communicate this instant.
If we are talking seriously about a 'journey into Egypt' as the cultural shamanic quest, the modern journey is vast and not just a matter of spiritual or cultural wandering. It is also an adventure across the universe from the big bang to the biosphere. It extends from quantum physics to brain dynamics. What is the creative thread that runs from the simplest molecules to the most complex structures associated with memory and experience? It is pointless have a visionary idea of reality if its physical basis is naive and erroneous.
Traditional religions are archaic descriptions of reality which have to contort science to fit in their perspectives. This causes all manner of inconsistencies. Christian descriptions fall wraith to the long shadow of Augustine and cast genetic defects and even kin altruism in the light of original sin. The rule of divine order is imposed on a fluid universe full of chaos and wave-particle complementarity. Creation tends to be forced into the first moments producing a world which is running down like God's clockwork toy - a Newtonian spectre graced only by the degradation of entropy. Some Biblical fundamentalists, who do not understand the nature and purpose of visionary mytho-poetry, attempt to deny biological evolution and insist the universe was created only six thousand years ago in a literalist interpretation of Genesis. But the view of dominion over nature portrayed in the 'older' Eden account of Genesis is a serious danger to biodiversity and our sustainability.
Buddhism faces similar difficulties. Complete moral karma would have to violate the diversity of the natural world and shackle it to a moral law which would hamper diversity lead to the over-multiplication of herbivores, or even if taken to its natural conclusion - only plants - no animals at all.
Even Islam which is the youngest, a mere adolescent by comparison with Buddhism, was still invented 1400 years ago and since 1500 has held to an unflinching view that all components of the law are complete, although the creative process, especially in Sufism is ongoing.
In Afghanistan I was called a Sufi on sight. This was somewhat of an honour, since I do have an affection for the mystical aspects of Sufism and its visionary tradition to use all means available to get to the unspeakable core of experience. Although the outer garment of Sufism is Islam, founding Sufis were made martyrs to their cause by conventional Islam, so the inner garment contains a wilder more blasphemous tradition at source. However there are Islamists who stand in the name of Sufi for who the inner garment is a convenience. While Sufism is reputed to have an inner 'Tantric' feminism uncharacteristic of Islam as a whole, the Sufi sage Taslima Nasrin feared in her childhood, shows the evil of sexual dominion and the fatwah.
I'm afraid I find the gender expression of Islam offensive and destructive to trust and freedom between woman and man wherever it is emphasized. Every woman who is not shrouded becomes fair game for pestering and harassment. It is only poetic irony that some Islamic women prefer the veil because of the seclusion it brings. Women suffer stoning and the sunna, and are frequently denied education and equality of opportunity. The men suffer too, because, when women are sequestered, it isolates men from their good influence and the joy of their presence. Single men can only know womankind through their mother and close relatives. Out in public is a distorted male world full of sexually-excitable men leading ever more fervent speeches about the fundaments of Islam. In this environment it is easy to see how women come to be regarded as so enticing as to exert an uncontrollable influence over mankind which has to be repressed (for the women's own protection) by cloaking them in drapes and keeping them in the family compound. When I was in Afghanistan, some women wore western dress, but now all must wear the Burqah and cannot even venture forth without a male family member present. If this is not genocide, it is certainly a life-sentence for the female sex.
There is no way the more liberal defenders of Islam can claim this is not a fundamental aspect of the religion. I applaud statements from Islamic leaders rejecting terrorist violence and claiming Islam is a religion of Sakina. However it is clear the Algerian rebels are Islamic fundamentalists. They rape and torture women and even disembowel the pregnant. They use them as sex slaves and then slit their throats for good measure. They do this in the 'holy' month of Ramadan because it is jihad - religious war. The Taleban take similarly repressive actions against women, again because it is part of the fabric of Islam to repress, sequester and control the female. While Iran is currently enjoying a moderating influence, the advent of Shi'ite fundamentalism has heralded similar abuses in which women receive the lash for not observing the veil and many people have been put to death in the name of religion, including innocent members of the Bahai faith. In Pakistan women are stoned and set on fire, not even for adultery, just marrying against parental will.
The root source of this problem is fundamental. It goes back to the overthrow of the feminine principle in the 'satanic verses' and the smashing of the 360 idols in the Ka'aba. Strict adherence to the linguistic image of the divine word is as much a form of idolatry as is worshipping a graphic image. Muhammad was a great prophet, but he was also a human prophet, just as he correctly declared Jesus (Isa - Esau of Edom as the Jews called him) was before him. Anything more is male hubris. In this sense, the current satanic verses in the Qur'an disclaiming al-Uzza, al-Lat and Manat were shaitan-inspired, and will remain evil until rescinded in asking forgiveness from the feminine. A similar apology is owing from Christian patriarchal fundamentalists, and from the Catholic church for offering Mary but excluding women from the priesthood and from Jewish tradition for the rape of the sanctuaries and for setting the violent tradition of stoning for adultery.
Newspapers and TV depend on both words and pictures to convey a representation of the truth. However beautiful the Arabesques and mosaics of Islam, to prescribe the death sentence for representing the image of God, while holding the word, particularly medieval laws of Shariat, which were not uttered by the prophet but by institutional clerics, as divinely inspired is corrupt to the core. To use the death penalty to inspire conformity to any dogma is totalitarian. Muhammad did not enter Mecca through jihad but through the Sakina of Hudaybiyah. No prophet's words should be taken literally as the Bible and Qur'an has been, because the essence of prophecy is visionary poetry. The poetic licence which expresses mystical union is liberating, not prescriptive. As Lao Tsu said 1200 years before Muhammad met his patroness in Khadja, "The way that can be told is not the countless way."
I am now going to talk about one of the most taboo areas of Western society. Discrete but honest. Why is it that every power plant discovered by humanity has become the subject of religious veneration in each and every society it has been used from pre-historic times to the twentiath century, and yet all are classed as dangerous drugs in our culture, where use of such prohibited substances is punishable by long imprisonment or sometimes even death? Yet why is it that all three of the most potent true hallucinogens, peyote, teonanactl and ayahuasca are each in our century used in the name of Christ as sacramental celebrations? Why is the Eucharist itself the flesh and blood of Christ, just as teonanactl is the 'flesh of the Gods'?
Towards the end of my undergraduate studies I was transfixed by a newspaper report about a new substance called lysergide which could mimic the states of insanity attributed to schizophrenics. I had read Huxley's Doors of Perception, some of R D Laing's books and saw the schizophrenic vision as a possible way to enlightenment, or at least to liberate from the shackles of normality. From Brave New World I picked up a deep affection for the plight of the noble savage, and vowed never to become civilized, to retain all my rough edges and with them the primal mystery of nature with which I was born into this world, whatever the demands of civility, social expectation or indoctrination.
I first met hallucinogenics during our student sojurn in England. The experiences were quite shattering. The second experience was a double-whammy. I knew that I had died and was left with reverberating phosphenes for weeks afterwards, just as the news came out that it was supposed to shatter your chromosomes. I felt like a radiation victim. Much later it proved to be bad science with political undertones.
Many people never realize the immense scope of their subjective realities, nor how thin the veil of illusion of the real world is. We all know we dream vividly without the external world being there in the dream. Although nightmares can be bizarre, for many people everyday reality is closely identified with the physical world and its status symbols. They scarcely realize their entire experience of reality is nothing but a subjective model constructed by the mind to keep track, which could literally disintegrate into a kaleidoscope of teeth and claws, a shower of interlocking Eiffel towers, or a mad alienated reality where nothing makes emotional sense and it is impossible to figure out who you are or what the hell is going on as the immense well of subjective reality unravels. It can be literally maddening to discover that all your sense of companionship, the meaning of life, everything you have strived to achieve has simply come apart in front of you and that you are completely alone. This is truly Dionysian madness, but it doesn't mean things are all bad. It is the first point of a discovery process about just how magical our subjective consciousness is and how alive the universe may be.
It wasn't until years later that I again plucked up the courage. I was so anxious about it that I broke the window I was gazing out of with my forehead in a fit of indecision. At that point I gave in. The smashing glass was a signal for an endless romance with nature. Immediately I realized that all my ideas of life, god, and creation were figments of our cultural construct, imposed to keep us century after century in the rule of divine order - the long shadow of Augustine - a vision as mechanistic as Newton's universe. The reality underlying our sensory experience is so different that none of the categories god, soul, spirit, or any of the components of our traditional description are anything more than a subterfuge. The truth is totally wild and exotic, and beyond the table-cloth of order, just as Casteneda insisted in his shamanistic 'allegories'. This became a repeated ticket to the edge of samadhi, echoing with kundalini bursts, incomprehensible visions and curling white lights that made every hair in your skin stand on end
Several of our friends had bad reactions. One woman had a prolonged episode of amnesia and had to be hospitalized. She could only recognise the community dog. She recovered and had her first child on a 'trip'. Another girl had a major psychotic break after picking up a tiny piece of newspaper on the beach with the letter "U" on it. This cosmic gesture of recognition proved too much for her to handle. A week later she was putting staples in the soup and a month later setting fire to her bedroom. She recovered completely. Another friend flipped out, smashed the guitar he was playing so awfully, and the bed he was sitting on bouncing higher and higher in demented confusion. He tried to jump off the balustrade and bit and flailed everyone in sight who was trying to restrain him, before passing into deep unconsciousness for several hours. He remembered nothing about the incident next day except for a major rebirth experience. This is a commonly reported feature. Lysergide remains an artificial substance which has unstable characteristics. It may be visually very powerful, but my deepest experiences have all come from natural sacraments, which also appear to be much more trustworthy allies.
A major part of the purpose of my 'journey into Egypt' was to visit the natural habitats of each of the power plants. It may seem strange to many religious people to travel to the Golden Triangle to investigate opium or even its semi-synthetic analogue heroin, as a path of spiritual discovery, but that is a prejudiced view. Papaver somniferum is an ancient medicinal plant and one of the earliest plants cultivated by humankind. Slit poppies crown the heads of ancient Greek and Cretan Goddesses in cameos and on statues. My father swore by the Brompton reprieve, a mixture containing opium and cocaine, as the lifeline to the doorway for terminal patients, because it gave both release from suffering and renewed vitality. Another doctor Abraham Verghese (New Yorker Sept 22 97) calls morphine "a truly holy drug" in the similar context of terminal pneumonia.
Modern culture in its gross misunderstanding has tabooed these ancient sacraments, which are universally attested to in the archaelogical record. By reducing them to the status of street drugs, they lose their sacred function, their ritual sanctuary of 'responsible use' is destroyed and they become another mechanistic nightmare of disintegration in the modern alienated world, driven by criminal profits and accompanied by violence. For every child born on crack, there is a peasant in the Andes quietly chewing coca leaves as a medicinal stimulant. Coca has been recently discovered to stimulate the immune system.
My first port of call on my journey to the East was the hill country between Burma and Thailand, where I travelled north to Chiang Mai and took a canoe up river from Fang to the hill country bordering Burma and Laos. I wandered through the opium fields and experienced the modern social and pharmaceutical manifestations of this central and ancient herb. The forested hills were beautiful and remote and the village folk barely in contact with civilization. Everything was overhung with the smell and haze of smoke. The undergrowth was ablaze. I had to run for my life from one forest fire.
My second port of call was of course the Ganges and the Himalayan river of the sadhu, Ganga, charis, Shankar's Cannabis chillum - the 'nectar of delight' - shared by all babas of the Shivaic tradition. This extends of course far and wide in cultural terms to the hashish of the Islamic world, named after the Old Man of the Mountain and his mythical garden of paradisical delights, running from Atja in Sumatra, through Kashmir and Afghanistan and across the ancient Near East and in Yahwisitc tradition to the Rastafarians of Jamaica. It is, alongside opium, one of the oldest sacred herbs in human cultivation, as attested by neolithic braziers from Er Lannic containing hemp seed.
I've always balanced the spiritual journey to the East with a complementary deep respect for the diverse shamanistic traditions of the West. It is as if the secrets of the human samadhi are scattered between the Himalayas and the Andes and that only by a truly eclectic cultural journey can the totality become realized. The East has a profoundly ancient tradition of meditative merging, but the majority of the significant power plants are native to the Western hemisphere. Mexico alone has a far greater diversity of existing power plants and fungi than the entire Eastern tradition.
To make a pilgrimage to the West entails visiting each the places where these sacraments naturally exist and discovering as much as possible about the traditions which underlie their sacred use. We are very fortunate that evolution, despite its idiosyncratic mutational journey, has managed to produce at least some pearls of wisdom which stand the test against the synthetic pharmacopeia. Many of the sacred species have somewhat odious side effects such as nausea or are frankly toxic and produce their effects by taking the body to similar limits to the potentially destructive practices of severe deprivation or even cause potential damage to the brain.
Even the true hallucinogens are still often accompanied by intestinal discomfort: The mescaline-containing peyote and San Pedro, teonanactl 'flesh of the gods' or magic psilocybe mushroom, and ayahuasca or yaje, the harmine-containing 'vine of the soul' with its associated dimethyl tryptamine-bearing chacruna, and iboga of the Bwiti and Mbiri cults of Africa are the only species which I would regard as true wisdom sacraments. Peyote is, even according to its adherents, a 'hard road' because of its bitterness and tendency to nausea and ayahuasca the 'vine of the soul' is almost ritually associated with vomiting. Harmine may slightly increase mutation rates in high doses and ibogaine may be toxic to cerebellal neurones, but otherwise these substances have a good reputation in terms of frank toxicity, particularly in relation to alcohol and tobacco.
My ritual association with peyote has been entirely within the Native American Church of the US. I have made repeated pilgrimages to take part in traditional Native American peyote ceremonies. These are always devoted spiritual affairs with punctilious ritual which must be religiously observed: An endless round of energetic chanting and water-drumming interspersed with ritual smokes to cure illness of the body and of the heart. If you sit back, even for a second, you are fiercely told "No lounging about!' Meetings are performed in a teepee which is illuminated by a central fire. The 'road man' and the fire keeper maintain a tight ship. This is critical to ensuring that no one who is 'tripping' becomes a problem for others or wanders off and hurts themselves. No one is allowed to leave, except by permission to relieve themselves. Everyone must observe the form. The oldest celebrant was 93. He had lost an eye and broken a hip but was eagerly chanting the whole night through.
The ceremonies I attended had both men and women and were crowned by a dawn speech by the 'mother waters' to let everyone know that, whatever the troubles the world faced, mother nature was a hefty mistress who can look after things and would bring everything to her own conclusion whether it suited mankind or not. She told me that one time she threw the remains of the peyote drum water over her husband in jest and it rained non-stop until she swore never again to take the water in jest. The peyote church has had a tortuous history trying to keep itself a legal spiritual and sometimes frankly Christian movement because it uses mescaline as its holy ritual. The Menomini peyote cult actually have a myth that Jesus arrived to give them peyote as the holy eucharist as a special concession before arriving in 2000 for the millennium. That's an eagle feather of prophecy.
To complete this peyote quest I journeyed years later, with a stone given me from the peyote fields back to Wirikuta, the sacred mountain of the Mexican Huichols, who revere peyote as a founding spirit and make a 500 mile pilgrimage each year to this spot. I travelled myself far into the peyote fields. I had been told that the peyote would find me and this was certainly true. The desert heat was very severe. I wandered for miles finding nothing but lizards, desert twisters and barrel cacti. The hills of El Catorce receded into a distant blue haze. Suddenly I spied a low mound with a few bushes and for no particular reason made straight for the spot. Almost hidden from sight in the undergrowth and leaf litter at ground level, like small green lakes, were a host of mature peyote plants. That night my jaw was shaking with the impact. I vomited piteously on Wirikuta and had the most potent peyote experience of my life. As things were, it was a bit of a radiation disaster. It would have been awesome if I hadn't become hideously sun-burned in the process.
Within days of attending my first peyote ceremony I had discovered the gentle spirit of teonanactl. One of the people nearby showed me the essentials of mycoculture and I partook of the sacrament Gordon Wasson was given by Maria Sabina in 1952, revealing to the world a tradition that had been hidden since the arrival of the Spanish. Maria led an all night vigil and chanted her way through, invoking both the traditional deities like Chicon Nindal (the mountain God of moisture) and Mary and Christ. Wasson called it 'holy communion' and equated it to the experience of Pentecost. She had had a vision of western visitors on the sacrament a few weeks before he arrived. Apparently in retaliation for breaking this secret withheld from the Spanish for 500 years, her house was burned down and her son killed. Maria was a true virgin, forgoing sex to live with the sacrament as a curandero after her last husband died.
This began for me a courtship and continuing relationship. Until that moment, I thought the 'little things' were rare and endemic only to the mountains of Oaxaca, but the truth is more like this. Psilocybes have a delicate multi-species and almost world-wide distribution. They may have been used by the ancient Celtic peoples and they could have also been a part of the rites of Eleusis. Cyanescens is widespread in Europe and there is at least one relief of Persephone handing a sacrament to Demeter which strongly resembles the liberty-bell shape of Ps. semilanceata. Teonanactl has been revered as a sacrament in Mayan mushroom stones dating back to 1500 BC in the Americas and is associated with the blood falling from the Christ-like figure of Quetzalcoatl in whose second-coming Moctezuma saw Cortez. As time has gone by, the distribution of some psilocybes has become almost worldwide. Ps. cubensis, which may have originated with 'Brahmin' cattle in Cambodia, have now spread to India, Mexico and the Andes, and even Australia along with the cattle. They are resplendent at Palenque. The popularity of bark-mulched gardens has led to an explosion of temperate, wood-decomposing species.
Mycoculture is a subtle art which can support almost any species of fungus alive. For several years I partook of the sacrament, but then decided to abandon the path. For seven years I spurned the living sacrament altogether, but as time went by I had repeated dreams of hallucinogenic intensity, and in each one there were different species of mushroom popping up out of the ground, or even under the benches of outhouses. They were always surprising and each time they gave me in dreams a re-experience of the eucharistic state. Finally the sacrament called me back to itself. I rediscovered the mycological art and collected diverse species from across New Zealand, even discovering one putative new species of Psilocybe, aucklandii.
I have only benign contempt for recreational drug users who relate only to rave parties, flashing lights, loud music and a hammer-blow on the head from synthetic drugs. For me the quintessence is a moonlit night, with grasshoppers, owls and a light sea breeze shivering in the long grass. Sometimes there is a deafening rush at the beginning, full of pulsating sounds, tearing visions and impossible memories. I will lie alone for hours in a hammock or on a lonely hillside slowly letting my mind run through the obsessions of the day until finally, often late in the velada, almost when dreaming begins, it falls finally into quiescence and the visionary state unfolds its wings.
Only in the quiescence of trance can one drop through into the 'other reality' to witness unfettered whatever the ally has to show. One can stand for an instant outside one's incarnation and perhaps see things from outside the loosened bundle of life. One can have a pre-vision of the the living totality yet to manifest in the far-distant future, as the universe comes to its culmination. One may witness uncanny synchronicities in the eddies in the wind which shimmers on the grass, woven instantaneously with the shocking hoot of the hunting owl, or become enveloped in an electrifying illumination of great depth which evaporates the moment you try to make objective sense of it.
Because the sacrament is a living organism, this relationship doesn't end in a 'come down' but persists from day to day as a living tradition, just like our deep ongoing relationship with our food plants, without which life would be impossible. You could say it is food for the mind. Besides showing us from the inside something about how the brain evokes conscious experience, it also teaches us a deeper relationship with and respect for nature. To declare the only true vision is the human mind supreme without such 'chemical' nuances of the immortal is male hubris of dominion over nature. Sacred plants were naturally the domain of the Goddess. Even in the male-chauvanistic Yurupari cult of the Amazon, the origin myth has ayahuasca coming from men stealing and dismembering the offspring of the primal woman.
Perhaps we will only find our true meaning in evolutionary terms in such a deeper visionary symbiosis with nature. It is hard to explain the evolutionary niche of the mushroom except in so far as it may elicit animal ingestion to spread its spores.
This is not to rule out that even designer drugs act as molecules on the same neuro-receptors and may also be catalytic quantum-mechanical configurations. Indeed the amine neurotransmitters share an exceedingly ancient origin common to almost all animal cells. Nor is it to deny that someone might make them 'natural' by genetically modifying Ergot or the Ipomea to make a genuine lysergide tree, or nutmeg to make ecstasy, but the solace is that evolution has provided us with very potent sacraments capable of safe divine inspiration. Alongside the long traditions of shamanic use, these synthetic variants remain to be proven beneficent. Lysergide is unstable in its effects and there is already some evidence that ecstasy kills brain cells.
Later I journeyed to South America in search of the fabled jungle vine Banisteriopsis caapi 'rope of the dead', or 'vine of the soul' and its drink ayahuasca or yaje, which is compounded of the harmine-containing vine and other plants such as Psychotria viridis which contain dimethyl tryptamine. I travelled in some haste from Guatemala by air to Colombia and by bus through Ecuador to Peru. All along the way I inquired of those I met where would be the best place to find the potion. The place I chose was Yarinacocha lagoon on the outskirts of Pucallpa, a muddy port on the Ucayali, accessible by land, unlike Iquitos. The road winds over the three cordilleras of the Andes, through Tingo Maria, notorious as the largest coca producing area on earth. Coca leaf is legal over 3000 feet and is sold in all the Quechua bazaars. Chewed with slaked lime, it is a tonic which has recently been found to boost immunity. From there, the road descends out of the cooler cloud forest into the rain forest of the flood plain. Everywhere smoke was rising from fires of burning off to build plantations or farm paddocks. The only way to see the unspoiled forest was to go up river and take a tributary.
You can take ayahuasca sessions with remote village shamans, but time was running very short. The urban slum tradition is also a strong one and a form of ayahuasca tea has also become the central sacrament of the Union Vegetale, a nominally Christian movement in Brazil which holds large ayahuasca tea ceremonies in its own well-established churches. While on a short journey down the Ucayali, I managed to secure a promise from the boatman to take me to an ayahuasca curandero in the outskirts of Yarinacocha. I even had to forgo a dugout journey clean through to Manaus. Sometimes you just get what you need.
My curandero was a truly exceptional shamanic figure. He was a leper who had no toes, so he could not walk. He had no fingers, so he could'nt grasp either. He held court sitting, spitting volubly on the floor all around himself. When I asked him for the potion, he had to crawl across the floor of his thatch hut, kneel before the bottle, grab it in his fingerless palms, and pull the cork out with his teeth, tipping it carefully between his hands into my cup. I took one and then later two full drafts to make sure I had fully captured the experience I had just spent a gruelling two weeks of travelling to fathom. He very lovingly tucked a young boy into his mosquito net and continued to conversing with his friends amid bouts of spitting. I returned to the Mystic Lodge to contemplate the sachamama the great water snake of the Amazon.
Ayahuasca is very potent. The more you try to pull back from it the stronger it becomes. For this reason it is traditional to take it under the guidance of a shaman. All my previous experiences seemed to stack up and fall over shallow and two-dimensional, like a deck of cards. I was standing outside them all, beyond them, beyond everything. The bed was running with zig-zag patterns of Shipibo weaving. The room was stacked with their urns, all rippling with the rich waves of the potion. As I became helplessly nauseous I turned to vomit and all the Shipibo urns leaned forward. They seemed to have been waiting for this very moment to receive my offering. I spewed gratefully into the nearest and sank into a disembodied state where the inner processes of my consciousness were all spilled out before me. It is easy to see from the art of Pablo Amaringo why ayahuasca is associated with visions of snakes and jaguars. The phosphenes are perhaps the brightest and the visions the most intense in the pharmacopeia.
The agents in ayahuasca are distributed in other species. The beta-carbolines harmine and harmaline were first discovered in Peganum harmala or Syrian Rue, which grows on Mt. Sinai. Dimethyl tryptamine is widely distributed in certain Acacia species and even grasses. Moses burning bush has been described as an Acacia, possibly the parasitic species of the Jordanian desert. The alkaloid content of Near Eastern Acacias remains to be elucidated, but the point remains that the prophetic tradition may have had a psychotropic origin which was later lost in fundamentalism - the retreat of God from the sight of humanity. Muhammad himself was said to recommend isfand, believed to be Syrian Rue.
Just as the witches combined datura-like tropane-containing herbs with tryptamine-containing toads, to make their sabbath flying-broomstick salve, so it is possible to integrate the ayahuasca components with teonanactl. A vanishing quantity of harmaline will augment psilocybin. Dimethyl-tryptamine can alternatively be ingested by inhaling the alkaloid or even traditional snuffing. Tetrahydro-cannabinol is also synergetic. The experience is very profound without physical discomfort. A caveat: beta-carbolines must never be used with mescaline.
A Prophet in the Quantum Tradition
The first rule for a modern 'prophet' is to be scientifically sound. Accept the sceptical principle. Try to understand the mysteries of existence in ways which are consistent with the physical universe. Try to avoid descriptions of reality which have no sensible relation to, or jar with, the physical description and particularly the quantum picture. For this reason I have trouble with astrology, because of its Newtonian determinism and lack of plausible relationship to the physical natures of the planets, but have little problem with chance oracles like the I Ching, because they may be revealing aspects of quantum uncertainty in a novel way.
But there is far more to it - genesis. Science has discovered so many exciting things about how we got here and these have to radically change our ideas of spirituality too. So a major theme of the journey, which I pursued often on my study leaves was the universe, life and and everything - namely cosmogenesis, biogenesis and the conscious mind. Rather than study some branch of mathematics, I have tried to use maths as the linguistic keyboard of science to understand diverse areas fundamental physics to neurodynamics. Traditionally the 'theory of everything' is regarded as a 10 to 12-dimensional superstring theory of how gravitation might be united with the other forces of nature, electromagnetism and the weak and strong nuclear forces. However what I am going to tell you is far more a theory of everything in the sense that it is trying to see how such a founding theory gives rise to this awesome conscious universe we find ourselves in, consistent with the founding TOE, but giving expression to the all the fronds and feathers of biogenesis.
The first thing we have to come to terms with is that we are living in a quantum universe, not a classical one. The correspondence principle by which the quantum world is supposed to fade into the classical world never works out for a host of reasons. Chaotic, self-critical and certain other processes may inflate quantum effects in unforeseen ways to the macroscopic level. The physics underlying conscious interaction with the physical world may likewise depend both on quantum effects, criticality and chaos in its functioning. The entire universe itself may be a self-consistent interconnected whole which has emerged from a single quantum wave function, therefore it is non-classical in its entire description.
Quantum reality has a basic uncertainty about it because of the strange complementarity between the wave and particle aspects of reality. This means that whenever the particle aspect manifests from within the wave, it does so with a probability proportional to the amplitude of the wave. The theory doesn't seem to be able to tell us where it will end up, but when we examine it in each case, it has turned up in one of the possible places. This mystery is called reduction of the wave packet.
Quantum uncertainty is not just a quirk of the theory because particles emerging from and disappearing into the vacuum by uncertainty are responsible for the four natural forces, electromagnetism, the two nuclear forces and gravity. In fact the universe itself may have emerged from uncertainty as a quantum fluctuation.
I spent several years researching the process of biological cosmology - the scientific Genesis myth of the living universe. This took me from the quantum, through pre-biotic chemistry to the complexities of neurodynamics. Much of it has just gradually fallen into place with the march of scientific discovery, but part of the non-linear perspective is my own idea.
In certain forms of the inflationary big-bang, the whole universe begins essentially as a quantum fluctuation. Because this tiny universe is below the unification temperature of the four natural forces, but is still symmetrical an unusual situation ensues in which the universe inflates catastrophically. Just as it reaches gargantuan proportions, this anti-gravity regime collapses leaving a hot shower of matter and a universe flying apart against gravity. Energy has not been conserved. Everything has been created from nothing by a quantum fluctuation. From this point galaxies and stars begin to form.
The great secret of the universe is how it arrived at the very peculiar twisted laws of nature it possesses. These laws are most unusual and make for the existence of very complex organisms and ultimately we conscious observers. In fact some theories of the universe explain basic features, from the arrow of time to the strengths of the forces, as arising 'anthropically' because only under such conditions could observers aware of such a universe exist.
This asymmetry is immediately completely obvious when we examine matter and find the atomic nucleus is full of positively charged and neutral particles, while the orbitals are entirely filled with negative electrons. Although the roles are reversed in anti-matter, both matter and anti-matter display this asymmetry. The asymmetry actually runs deeper than this, because the protons and neutrons congregate in a significantly different way from electrons, in that the force has three components or colours instead of the single polarity of +/- of electric charge.
Now the end result of this peculiar asymmetric arrangement is twofold. Firstly there is a long sequence of at least a hundred stable atomic nuclei because the attractive strength of the nuclear forces is much greater than the repulsive electromagnetic forces between the protons. Secondly these nuclei form atoms with an almost unlimited variety of properties, because of the interaction of the wave properties of the orbitals and the non-linear quadratic energies of the negatively charged electrons. The properties of atoms are non-linear and never fully resolved by the resulting process of chemical bond formation. We find that atoms form strong and then weaker bonds and finally very weak interactions. The same non-linearity gives rise to exceedingly complex structures all with global feedback, quite unlike the classical world of simple building blocks.
Really what has happened is that the non-linear laws of chemistry have created a complex dynamical system with many of the diversity characteristics of the Mandelbrot fractal. There is bound to be some domain of this system in which template replication can occur. In fact, it appears that RNA is precisely the molecule. Abundant primal syntheses have now been found for all the RNA bases and the ribose sugar backbone also has a specific route via phosphorylated sugars. Clays are even able to stabilize RNAs enough to make them grow and become selective at performing simple catalytic processes including facilitating their own formation.
When we come to the ever increasing complexity of proteins, cell organelles, cells and finally organisms the emergent properties of biology all follow from this basic non-linearity in the laws of nature. Emergentism and reductionism are thus consistent. Moreover, far from being a meaningless and fragile entity in a terrifying universe of annihilating black holes and supernovas, the development of organisms and ultimately the brain represents the quintessence of the interactive emergence of this non-linear system. In this sense, the human brain represents a cosmological pinnacle of the interactive process that began with the divergence of the four forces in the big bang.
Thus when looking at ourselves, we should learn to take responsibility for our situation. We are the universes best known shot at realizing itself consciously. We are its discovery fountainhead in this sense. We should accept this role with a sense of divine insight. If we see that we are making fundamental genetic, nuclear and cybernetic discoveries, having irreversible impacts on the planet which have never before occurred this way in the 3800 million years since life began, and which unless we destroy ourselves in the process can never be repeated in the same qualitative way again, we should pause and consider very very carefully and learn to take responsibility for the future of all life with impeccable care so that we don't inadvertently, through some equally non-linear genetic or environmental catastrophe, destroy our own and the universes long-incubated heritage in the very process of discovering it.
Uncertainty, Consciousness and Free-will
This brings us back to the thorny question of the subjectively conscious mind and how the elegant processes of brain dynamics somehow evoke the existential condition in which we come to make decisions by a mysterious process of free-will. This might seem at first sight to be logically contradictory to scientific causality, but which can find a loop-hole in chaotic processes which amplify quantum uncertainty and thus lead to the possibility that free-will is the inner-face of uncertainty itself.
In many considerations people try to pass the effects of quantum uncertainty away on the basis that in the large real processes we witness in the macroscopic world, individual quantum uncertainties cancel in the law of averages of large numbers of particles. However history is a unique process out of many at each stage of the process. Critical decisions we make become watersheds. History and evolution are both processes littered with unique idiosyncratic acts in counterpoint to the major influences in play. Chaotic processes are potentially able to inflate arbitrarily small fluctuations, so molecular chaos may inflate the fluctuations associated with quantum uncertainty.
Some people think all the possibilities happen and there is a probability universe for each case. This is called the many-worlds interpretation. However, all the experience we have suggests just one possibility is chosen. One idea that falls right into the middle between these two extremes is the transactional interpretation. This says that each particle is a connection between its emitter and absorber that results from a hand-shaking decision across space-time. This means that when you watch a distant star the photons in effect know your eye exists when they were emitted many years before. I first thought of this idea in relation to my experiences of pre-cognitive dreaming. I had spent several years trying to think of valid physical ways such a thing could happen. I fantasized about the properties of tachyons and suddenly realized all the conventional particles like photons had a split-personality because of the dual energy solutions of special relativity.
This is the same phenomenon that gave Dirac the anti-electron as an electron travelling backwards in time. It is also a powerful idea which neatly explains the faster-than-light correlations of pair-splitting experiments.
Then I realized that this same physical phenomenon may also explain subjective consciousness itself. A key role of consciousness is its capacity to anticipate events in the field of awareness, such as for example a tiger about to jump out and eat you. An uncanny prescience has far more survival value than a program trying to calculate survival odds in the complexities of the forest. Perhaps consciousness uses the transactional principle to form a model of reality over a space-time interval by exchanging reverberating excitations within the brain waves. It also explains that free-will, far from being a false shadow of causal brain dynamics is the manifestation of the loop-hole of quantum uncertainty in operation, manifested as chaotic instability.
Dynamical chaos has been one of the most exciting mathematical discoveries of the last few decades because it begins to explain a host of unpredictable, complex, or erratic dynamics which fall at the centre of understanding everything from the weather, through the heartbeat and the stock-market to the brain. Associated with chaotic dynamics are delicate snowflake-like patterns called fractals. Because chaos amplifies arbitrarily small fluctuations into global changes, it is possible for the molecular chaotic systems of brain physiology to amplify quantum fluctuation which may begin in critically-poised synaptic junctions or ion-channels. Free-will may thus be a manifestation of quantum non-locality, affecting the determinism of brain dynamics at every point where computation reaches critical impasse. This ties chaos and intuition tigether in the proverbial 'bundle of life'.
No one knows if this happens or not. It is an idea almost too difficult to test, because we have no clear idea of how the transactional principle works, except that it returns over repeated situations results which converge to the probability interpretation. This behaviour is shared by a variety of complex systems besides plain randomness.
One thing we can confirm however is that transition in and out of chaos does form a good model both of complex systems and of the actual details of sensory recognition physiologically. It is also clear both individual nerve cells in situ and the gross dynamics of the electroencephalogram does display all the characteristics of chaos and dynamical attractors. A critically-poised neurosystem could easily become capable of amplifying quantum fluctuations and using these to generate chaos and ultimately the aspect of choice which has those same idiosyncratic attributes of the single photon, which given an infinity of options, chooses on crystal on the photographic emulsion to become absorbed and let us know where it went.
Indeed the same chaotic excitation linking to this quantum-nonlocality as it is called may have operated in the very first excitable cells as a generalized electrochemical sense organ, giving conscious in principle and entry almost as soon as the cell came into existence. At the other extreme our sense, far from being limited by our physiology run close to the quantum limit. A frogs eye rod cells for example respond to a single photon.
We may thus be a walking gateway into the sub-quantum world in a manner which also displays its most exotic features. All of the paradoxes of free-will, subjective awareness, anticipation and pre-cognitive dreaming may be manifestations of the connectedness of the sub-quantum realm.
Miracle and Vision
Then what about miracles, especially for a 'Christ' figure? Did Jesus really perform miracles?
Jesus had a very good reputation as a shamanic healer in the same type of tradition as many Amazonian and Mexican curanderos such as Maria Sabina and even Yeshe Dorje. There are a variety of conditions including certain skin lesions, hysterical paralyses, epilepsy and possession and even coma near death, in which the restorative power of a good shaman is miraculous to the integrated health of the patient. Jesus was regarded by his family as crazy and by his townsfolk in Nazareth as an impostor. The nature miracles vary from the commonly performed communion ritual and sermon - feeding the five thousand, conventional nature shamanism - calming the waters - to the dreamtime - walking on the waters. Several miracles such as touching the hem and water into wine are derivative mythical acts of Aesclepius and Dionysus. Frightening demented pigs over a precipice was a common hunting method of the American Indians for Buffalo, very wasteful, but powerful therapeutically to the possessed to witness, and excellent for notoriety.
Where does miracle end and myth-making begin? Are miracles a test of divinity? Should I also stoop to karmic tricks on behalf of the Shekhinah? Do we expect the enlightened to be able to call the winds at our command or bring people back form the dead just to prove we are for real? To separate the 'reed' sea, whatever separating a coastal Egyptian swamp might involve? Shouldn't we be rather inquiring as to the wisdom of the vision, the fertility of the conception? A path with heart as the peyote takers say. Does it evoke truth, love and sustainable diversity? Will it lead to world peace and particularly to the sanctuary - life immortal?
Miraculous nature is diverse and perverse. Coincidences like Yeshe Dorje's rainbows or my birthdate, which are chance events of uncertainty are always capable of happening without contradicting the laws of physics. It is also possible that several people will think they saw the same thing happen when you ask them later. They all say they saw a white light hovering above the bush. Was it a real light, hypnotic suggestion, or something in-between? If we can dream we are flying over the desert, there is nothing physically impossible about three people seeing the same vision either, particularly if they are all taking part in an initiation.
Dreamtime may be the real ground of the miraculous. I have dreamed many times of levitating with a tremendous concentrated focussing of kundalini energy which, ever so gently, lifts me off the ground. I have spent ages in the dream plane levitating and endeavouring to communicate this condition to other dream participants. But usually I have become invisible - a disembodied spirit. No matter how hard I try to communicate, they stare emptily through me as if I didn't exist. 'Time to be a ghost'. The trick is stitching the two realities together. Waking is a special case of a wider totality which incudes dreaming.
At other times I fly like an soaring bird. Last week I had the following lucid dream: The whole landscape was truly evil. It was like black ashes or more like black feathers. Everywhere I stepped, I could feel the ground was giving way beneath my feet - free-fall into the blackness. So I dug my claws in and sprang with all my might and as I sprang I felt myself crossing a great divide from a very high altitude and below me was a verdant valley cast into a precipitous ravine with high cliffs on either side. A sanctuary, full of teeming forest. I woke up drifting down as would an eagle upon it.
What IS difficult is to claim to regularly violate the odds, or causality itself, completely. I have often used the I Ching as an oracle with prophetic results and sometimes tossed uncanny runs of heads or tails just for fun. Miraculous coincidences happen with the frequency of pre-cognitive dreams. They also appear to form larger and larger formations, indeed whole histories within the stream of consciousness. Vision and circumstance have an attractive coherence. They both correlate and interact in complex ways.
This is what Carl Jung referred to as synchronicity. Synchronicity is fractal. It is capable of congregating in larger and larger formations in space-time, so although you sense some of it, you may not realize all of the details. It is thus unwise to try to stake your credibility on a trick, if you want to carry the situation through all the way to the apocalyptic denoument. Reality is even capable of staging a massive synchronicity involving everyone, the collective stream of consciousness (or unconscious), the prophetic tradition, the book of Revelation, the millennium, ecocrisis, biodiversit6 holocaust, the nuclear coming of age and the works. Even the reappearance of the 'Christ figure' in history can make perfectly good quantum mechanical sense.
None of this involves astrology, crystal gazing, UFOs, or any other of the fringe aspects of the occult which a scientific sceptic would shy away from. I'm not ruling these out, but neither are they necessary to support Parousia - the 'immortal age' of conscious evolutionary unfolding. The apocalyptic climacteric of life is straight quantum non-locality in action.
Evolution and Genetic Technology
Moreover this visionary potential is there to meet an appointment with destiny. Each of us are here to fulfil in our part the conscious unfolding of life in the immortal evolutionary process. Now that humans are mastering genetic technology, our capacity to tamper with our own genetic future and the future diversity of life itself requires us to learn to have a visionary foresight for evolutionary potential, to preserve those aspects of living diversity which may become the unforeseen fronds of further creative radiations. This is a deep quest full of unrealized potential, a deeply ethical, artistic and holy task whose realization is the flowering of conscious life - the ultimate process of universal self-realization. We can use all the objective scientific information in the book, but maintaining evlutionary diversity is as much a creative visionary art as a logical scientific quest. In a sense science accepts all outcomes. We can use the principles of ecology to sustain diversity but the future still remains one of watershed choices, particularly concerning the impact of genetic technology on the natural environment. These involve diversity ethics and a visionary sense of relationship with life as a whole, rather than dominion over it.
When we examine evolution in quantum-mechanical terms we see the same combination of causality and uncertainty operating. Even some of the most complex and awe-inspiring organs such as the eye are so fundamentally advantageous that it is easy to appreciate that selection has 'inevitably' led to their existence. Even though all eyes may share the same underlying homeotic developmental genes, suggesting a common origin, they have certainly been invented in many diverse types and possibly many times. At the other extreme, plants abound with idiosyncratic alkaloids and other complex molecules, such as vincristine and taxol, which occur only in one or a few species and may cure cancer of have some other equally unusual effect. We thus have both causal and historical processes - the same deterimism and uncertainty we find in the wave equation and reduction of the wave packet.
Evolution is also something which operates on many levels: the gene, the organism, the society and the ecosystem. It may also depend on transposable elements and viruses as much as by simple mutations. Viewed from the gene it always seeks to further its own replication , although in the process, it may indulge kin and reciprocal altruism and even frankly symbiotic relationships. While this genetic interplay is in a sense selfish, all surviving genes and organisms in the biosphere exist from an unbroken web that must in every case run back in replicative continuum all the way to the beginning of life. There is never a broken link. The test of survival is thus not the short-term truly selfish competition we see in our economic free-market model but the long-term genetic rule of survival over time - sustainable survival.
The game of evolution is played out in higher organisms principally through sex. Indeed sex and gender may even be seen to be expression of the deepest wave-particle duality of physics because of the very significant asymmetry which has developed between a single egg fertilized by its own global electrochemical reactions to a multiplicity of particulate sperms, the sole winner of which is in the process stripped bare to pure and simple DNA molecules.
This asymmetry of gender has led throughout evolution to a Tantric interplay in which the male reproductive strategy is competitive high risk, high gain venture capital exploitation and the female is a massive sustainable investment with relative reproductive equivalence. These differences not only follow through but evoke the birth of culture and run to this very day exacerbated by a history of gender inequality, so that the very instabilities we witness in terms of human impact, population explosion, resource exploitation, biodiversity holocaust, short-term exponential economic boom and bust, competitive free-market without sustainability principles, and environmental overshoot are all traceable to culture's failure to understand and correct gender inequity and its expression in dominion over nature.
The Nemesis of the Patriarchy
The 'apocalypse' of the Goddess didn't happen in my life until almost the last minute. It is steeped in all the gender contradictions of society in microcosm. You are welcome to laugh at my ignorance, or even sentence me to early sacrifice as yet another benighted male dragged kicking and screaming from the slumbers of chauvinism and dominion. All of it is true in a sense, but then you have to realize that such things are the very stuff of myth in the making. If Buddha hadn't been sheltered within palace walls, he wouldn't have experienced suffering and achieved samadhi and the Dharma. If the writer of the I Ching had not been imprisoned for twenty years, the oracle would not have been written. Whatever it's Confucian male bias it remains the oracle of the Tao - the feminine Way of the Valley. In the same way this situation has catapulted me into awareness of the repression of the feminine - the bowstring to the cupidic arrow of gender reunion in the battle ground of patriarchal hegemony and its feminist nemesis.
This theme of 'the wound of gender' still weeps in patriarchal religions every time Easter comes and every time a woman is stoned for adultery or mere 'disobedience', killed at birth, circumcised, forcibly married or denied freedom or education in the name of God or the 'male principle'. It also weeps paradoxically in the environment movement, where there is a philosophical divide between Deep Ecologists, who are frequently men with a Buddhist or Taoist bent, and Ecofeminists who lean to the Goddess. Carolyn Merchant's criticisms of Fritjof Capra's Taoist ecology capture the paradox well.
I don't apologise for this episode, because it is an abject lesson from all sides about credibility and making the world-transition to embrace the repressed feminine aspect of reality. If you look at the picture closely, you will see that I, like many others, have been hoodwinked by the myth of monotheistic transcendence. The pattern goes as follows: You start out nominally Christian and mature into 'scientific' atheism. Then you find different ways through the transcendent web. One for me was the Eastern path of meditative mysticism - full of the aura of deep samadhi, another was the shaman's route, which, despite the medieval witch potions of flying broomsticks has flowered most deeply in the biodiversity of the West - a route transfigured by a Mazatec shamaness and her gift to humanity.
Because of the monotheistic trick of abstract transcendence, one is looking for a deep cosmic principle, not the imminent and biological feminine of physical biodiversity or 'cytoplasmic' inheritance, neither do you seek an idolatrous neolithic Goddess wading to her thighs in blood. In chasing reality to its roots in aspects of the Dharma, and even the sexual dance of the Tao and Tantra, one has still failed to come to terms with the full impact of the repressed feminine, because we have been sold this myth of cosmic transcendence. Chaos, uncertainty and the verdancy of living diversity are condemned to the diabolical, condescended to the bestial, or finessed up into the mystical. But the repressed feminine is calling to us in ever pore - in evolutionary ecocrisis, in the gender dilemma and especially, climacterically in the millennium and its apocalyptic bridal 'unveiling'.
Our wilderness land community has throughout most of its twenty eight years had a couple of company directors who have done their best to look after its ongoing legal affairs and to ensure that any transfers of shares and negotiations about the dwellings on the land, proceed to conclusion without impasse or litigation. However, its strength and power ultimately lies in the personal relationships among its members. It is the fractious general meetings which struggle to reach consensus which ultimately determine our fate. The politics are eccentric and emotional - prone to the feuding that besets small village communities. Through this cautious process the land may come to last like its Puriri trees, despite the gradual disappearance of the kiwi and the passage each generation of the human guard.
You have to understand just how the land is held in our minds. It is a proverbial 'power spot' - a great wild headland, gnarled by the wind, echoing with native birds and soaked in history. We are the guardians of it, our children have grown up there and ashes have been scattered there too. We are all in a living long boat together. Our lives are entwined, whether we like it or not. Although some have bought and sold, it remains for many of us 'The Land' forever in perpetuity in the tribal sense. Because we hold to the wilderness principle with a spiritual passion, it is not easy for any other energy to stake its claim. When Tibetan Buddhist lamas were invited to consecrate a stupa on its remote rocky summit, there were howls of protest that a male chauvinist religion was dominating nature with cumbersome religious icons. All that remains is a little wooden seed stupa balanced on one of the rocks we call 'stonehenge'.
Several years ago, a few of our female members invited a visiting American Indian healer to come and give sessions in our meeting house, a place we regard as common 'open ground' for our members to meet. Some people said that when she came, she performed an empowerment to found a new focus of women's energy on our land. We never knew because we weren't invited. Afterwards a small movement from the wider community began holding exclusive women's covens there in the full-moon. They were not alone. Others of us also have great affection to shamanize the full moon in and around our meeting house and the hill top.
Friction sparked. When a notice appeared mysteriously in the local store publicly announcing 'witches night full-moon' at our meeting house, some shareholders protested. Among the movement were women from a neighbouring lesbian community from which men are banned. The story goes that boys are exiled too as soon as they are old enough to set foot on the ground, although they do play some good music. As a parent, this rings some sort of alarm bell about sexual discrimination of minors. What is evil about a boy of two? Should a girl of the same age be initiated into what her brother is forbidden to see? My son, who had grown up on our land, was confronted in the local restaurant by a woman from up the coast for wandering up the hill to see the moon and was told to keep away from the top of the hill we had traditionally visited in the full moon since his childhood.
There was a rather gruff meeting where the members who hadn't been told about this wider happening complained that the movement might be taking over. We reluctantly conceded to go with one more monthly meet but asked that the movement share its focus round the local communities, rather than concentrating exclusively on our home ground. This caused outrage among our feminist advocates who felt we should be more generous in supporting women's community initiatives. It set in motion a polarization of our politics into demarked gender camps. The males became running dogs of the hegemony, the male directors especially. The females who felt likewise became 'female eunuchs' despite being also committed feminists. Already a macho figure for my twin-partner history, I now matured to the status of living pariah.
Simultaneously I began working on the idea of the Genesis from a religious-historical perspective. I began for the first time to research the Old Testament and to trace the life of the female aspect of reality through the feminist and Goddess literature. Immediately I realized both that the Goddess was obviously alive and well in the twentieth century and that she had been treated genocidally by the patriarchs of the Old Testament, sinfully by Jesus and virtually annihilated from existence by Muhammad's militant abstract vision of al-Llah. I could see that the whole breadth and scope of modern human society was also somehow built on a foundation of repression of the feminine as much as on dominion of nature. It was not just religious, in fact it was largely sociobiological, rooted in male reproductive insecurities abut fatherhood. It pervaded the entire environmental crisis in the venture-risk strategy of winner-take-all market economics, exponentiating GNP, resource and biodiversity exploitation, ecocrisis, and the population explosion.
Superficial respite came a year or two later when we affirmatively appointed two of our most politically active feminists as company directors. We nominated on a hair-trigger and the vote went through in one second, without any discussion of what was involved. This 'two-on-two' of male 'tradition' and female 'revolution' was the horns of the gender dilemma, with no cranium to hold them together. The female directors wanted to abolish the past and start with a blank sheet, while the males were trying to preserve the precedents which guarded our legal stability. We fell into impasse before we even began discussion.
One of our female shareholders decided to sell out for an asking price which was double any previous consideration. She then withdrew the offer, 'rented' her house to the woman who was interested and then consented to sell out, but only for a higher sum. We are a conservation reserve, not a residential holiday resort. We have precedents and rules to avoid price inflation. The company owns the houses. Any consideration is strictly informal, to keep profit motives from dominating conservation of the land and to preserve the identity of our predominantly working-class community. If we allow market forces to drive the prices, it will become money and not personal ties which determine the membership and we will become just another holiday development. By following precedent, the male directors were holding a woman back from getting her 'asking price', despite the fact she was a rental property developer with substantial properties elsewhere and the purchaser was likewise female. This raises a paradox - feminism versus conservation. It's a very good foil to the dilemma Deep Ecology faces.
Events rapidly moved to the brink. The company had two horns and now two skulls of adversarial party politics as well. The female directors issued their 'minutes' and the male directors theirs. The female directors then launched a frontal attack on the new conservation-oriented constitution only recently unanimously approved, and the company itself, espousing instead a tenancy in common, where the assets can be easily divided in the event of conflict. The trouble was that these constitutional critiques only considered how often the term 'director' appeared, not the content. Most of the clauses were there specifically to limit the powers of directors and to empower the general meeting to 'direct' the directors, who should have been acting as humble servants.
The whole mess fell to a company meeting to sort out. The female directors declared they would resign unless the males did and called for all directors to resign and be re-elected, as they couldn't continue to work with abusive chauvinists. Somehow our meetings are at Easter which always adds a sacrificial tinge. I invited all the directors to a 'last supper' of reconciliation on Good Friday night and received polite letters explaining why they wanted to press ahead with the division.
As things turned out, a dissenting shareholder brought legal counter-claim and a heap of law books to the meeting and called on the female directors to resign as per their own divisive ultimatum. The male directors rejected the informal stand-down call because it was an unnotified dislocation of the legal management. An adversarial clean-sweep of the entire board is very uncommon in company practice, except in hostile takeover. My calls for reconciliation went unheeded in a babble of outrage. "The male directors are refusing to stand down"! "Democracy is dead!" Everyone walked out of the meeting in disarray.
When the dust finally settled, one of the female directors did resign and the other stayed on in protest. In our company, any shareholder can call for a general meeting to remove a director from office at any time, provided everyone is notified first. We don't have to wait for a general election. Every shareholder can vote on any serious issue at a general meeting which is fully-empowered to direct the directors, so we simply don't need an adversarial parliamentary system over our heads.
For the last two years there has been an unholy quiet. The dissenters challenged the grass roots democracy by withdrawing their support from the next AGM, and made noises about not contributing financially, but the meeting proceeded without conflict. To seek common ground for resolution and avoid retrenchment, I have proposed the equitable ethic of inviting every shareholder who is willing and able to help look after the company to become a director. This would dissolve the elite in the grass-roots. A substantial majority of the shareholders are female, so it could resolve the gender crisis cooperatively, in love not war. Don't expect miracles.
The Return of the Goddess
What has this rambling tale to do with the Goddess, or the environment, or anything other than parochial gender politics? Well shortly after this meeting, on the tail feathers of a sacramental encounter, I decided to commit myself to Eve as the archaic feminine principle of the sustainable biosphere, especially the immortal principle of the germ-line or biosphere germ-web, something we are about to drastically alter by genetic technology.
I decided to look very closely at Robert Graves' works and particularly "The White Goddess", which I had neglected in my Goddess studies. What I discovered was chilling. Firstly I found that Colin Wilson's dark "Occult" was dedicated to Graves because of the uncanny circumstances surrounding the writing and publishing of "The White Goddess". Elements of the book's theme appeared through uncanny synchronicities. The first two publishers who rejected it died bizarrely and T S Elliot, who accepted it, promptly rode to the glory of a Nobel. Then I realized "The White Goddess" in 1945 had already written the mythopoetic plot of the end of the patriarchal epoch in the millennial environmental crisis. Here in "The White Goddess" was the precise nemesis: - "the longer her hour is postponed, and therefore the more exhausted by man's irreligious improvidence the natural resources of the soil and sea become, the less merciful her five-fold mask will be, and the narrower the scope of action she grants to whichever demi-god she chooses to take as her temporary consort".
I had had a powerful sacramental vision of becoming the 'millennial Christogenesis' in the 1970s after writing a paper on cosmological biogenesis. I had struggled through the latter days of the Cold War in anxious incognito. I was holding on to the living eucharist with a sense of duty to take it back into the mainstream prophetic tradition to fulfil the transmission that had begun with María Sabina and Gordon Wasson's 'holy communion' to heal nature. I had written the beginnings of the Genesis thinking of Teihlard de Chardin's vision and planned to follow the millennium to its conclusion, but the dimensions of the Goddess were missing.
How had this neurotic poet with an obsession for feminine muses captured the existential climacteric right back at the end of the Second World War, when ecocrisis hadn't even been invented? And what of the demi-god? I delved into Graves' biographies. His annotated letters were uncanny. He completed the "White Goddess" six days after my birth on the Epiphany. The same month, he declared to Eliot that two books were his "twin kettle drums" two parts of a comprehensive whole.
One was "The White Goddess", the other "King Jesus". How was the historical Christ related to this nemesis of the millennium in "The White Goddess"? Well, you find the answer in the final Crucifixion scene of "King Jesus" when Magdalen declares - "the female abides and cannot be hastened". The poet's vision was that Jesus, patriarch that he was, by declaring war on the female for the sins of Eve had pushed the hour of doom two thousand years too soon. "I the Lord will hasten it in his time" was the very passage preceding Jesus' messiah reading from Isaiah 61 at Nazareth.
Those were apocalyptic times. Some say Jerusalem fell because Jesus' very straight Essene brother was murdered on the steps of the Temple for not renouncing his name. When Jerusalem did fall to the Romans, over a million people were supposed to have died across Israel. Given the world population of the day of something like fifty million, this was holocaust. The Sea of Galilee was red with the blood of slaughter all along the shore. Eventually Rome became Christian and the transfer or appropriation of messianic power was complete.
This new situation is a living Christ archetype, a synchronicity evolving over time from the collective stream of consciousness, which would have made Carl Jung smile with joy, perhaps even off-setting his deathbed vision of "vast stretches of the earth devastated".
This synchronicity runs so deeply into the Bible that you can find the looking-glass world to the second-coming. The 'Bible code' if you like. The End of Days, Parousia or immortal epoch is represented by the return of the Tree of Life. This is the return that spans the entire epoch from the Fall from nature in Eden to the Apocalypse or unveiling of the bride. The entire Bible is strung upon nature and the feminine as a bow. Christ represents the central collision point of this bow, the arrow of sacrifice. The end is as in the beginning, a hinge with nature. These are the hinges of the goddess. The key hinge is the Parousia abided unto by the Goddess, both because the male epoch of monotheistic God repressed her and because she 'cannot be hastened' by the Essene agenda until the real nitty-gritty the time of need, evolutionary holocaust, arises.
Notice the Bible has one 'satanic verse', Isaiah 61. Saul, David and Cyrus the Mede were anointed as messianic kings and then you have this very mysterious verse in which the speaker says directly "The Lord hath anointed me ... to proclaim the acceptable year". Now that's the demi-god alright! In Luke, Jesus reads it says "This scripture is fulfilled" and is run out of town.
The 'messiah' or 'christ' is the 'anointed'. There are very few verses about messianic anointing in the Bible. I found this out synchronistically. I became curious to make contact with the local liberal synagogue after reading Isaiah 61. The rabbi invited me to the next Bible reading specifically because he was talking about the messiah. Voila! He then gave a brilliant run down on the Jewish view of mashach - real social redemption and long-term future goodness, not slick miracles.
By claiming to be the Bridegroom, Jesus was accused of being devil-possessed. It is this very life-death controversy which is woven right into his every act, from the raising of Lazarus to the Crucifixion, and soaks the New Testament with satanic imagery.
But wait a minute, this verse is also overflowing with the most prophetic visions of environmental catastrophe and verdant environmental restoration. "they shall build the old wastes, raise up the former desolations, ... of many generations ... that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord ... as the earth bringeth forth her bud, and as the garden causeth the things that are sewn in it to spring forth".
And what about the gender situation? My God, it's the sacred marriage, the gender reunion, the two becoming one "as a bridegroom decketh himself with ornaments and as a bride adorneth herself with her jewels". So Jesus was the bridegroom of fertility. Orthodox Christianity has repressed feminine at its core. Every gospel mentions three women at Jesus side. Magdalen, out of whom went the seven gallas of Inanna is the priestess who pronounces the exaltation. The absolute genius of Jesus was to celebrate all the existential strands of mythopoetic reality simultaneously. He knew intimately and fulfilled the staunch vision of the Essenes, but also lived out the immensely fertile Dionysian identity of neighbouring Edom. He was thus both the Paschal lamb and the true vine cut down as Dionysus was before him. His sayings in Thomas are paradoxical, singularly powerful, uniquely democratic shamanistic parables.
Revelation chimes in with miraculous Dionysian dread. When the heavens open and the Parousia figure of the second coming arrives, his clothes are 'dipped in blood' and he 'treadeth the winepress'. This is Dhu Shara echoing Isaiah 63: "Who is this that comes from Edom ... in the greatness of his strength ... art thou red in thy apparel and thy garments like him that treadeth the winefat?" The eucharistic Dionysus. In consummation, the Tree of Life yieldeth her fruit every month and the leaves are for the healing of the nations. The healing sacraments! Sock it to me! The Bible just sprouted fronds right through the prophetic stream. To heal the patriarch's own ecocrisis? Whose prophecy? The Shekhinah's wings which bear the travail goddess who stands on the moon to safety in the wilderness? And the harps and the twelve fruit, and the Tree?
Even the cryptic number 666 turns out to be Solomon's reward for the Wisdom of giving the Queen 'all she desired', the two becoming one, and the name of the beast given us by a faithful Linneus is Homo sapiens - wisdom. Wisdom crieth "I was set up from everlasting or ever the Earth was!" She was, is and ever shall be. Sapientia is her name.
Now Graves reveals that the whole history of Christianity, even Christ's mission, is somehow just a last hurrah of the patriarchal epoch, a premature orgasm, "The Lord will hasten it in his time", causing its own paradox of violence and apparent forgiveness - a mere prophetic forerunner to the return of the Goddess in the evolutionary ecocrisis of the biosphere - the feminine bridal 'apocalypsia' unveiling fertility, when 'the two become one' as Jesus declared in the Gospel of Thomas, when the female tramples the garment of shame and dons the garments of salvation as a bride adorneth herself. And of course Kazantzakis shows Christ discovering the truth only on the Cross, in his last pre-cognitive dream of natural apocalypse, of Mary and Martha. So the dream was the next lesson, and the millennium the ultimate climacteric.
Hades! I was in a tight-spot with the company, but this was positively dangerous. What does it mean to be caught freeze-frame in the mythopoetic denoument of all time? Why is Chris King, cognomen 'Christus Rex' born on the triple Epiphany - Manifestation, Baptism and the Cana water-into-wine, the festival of that miraculous purveyor of the passion drama, the true vine Dionysus? Whence the Eucharistic 'flesh of the Gods'? Whence this offspring of a mad poetic prophet beating the kettle drums of an ancient Goddess abiding to bring in her next demi-god, herald of the climacteric of all evolving life, or ever the earth was? For indeed this millennium stands naturally at our great extinction of evolutionary time and it is prophetically the reckoning of all that fell from Eden in the restoration of the Tree of Life.
Is this cliché or exaltation? And what of the 'Christ child', El Niño, at once natural and chaotic, ancient and yet bursting with a new and devastating force upon the forests of Sumatra, and the Amazon, sapping the food production of Africa and causing starvation in New Guinea? Whose millennial ally is this? What cyclonic diablo of oceanic dimensions is this for a chaos researcher to ponder?
How do you stand up and take this 'medicine'? How do you convey such a possibility to anyone else? Will they believe it, or laugh at your hubris and turn their back on you, or spit in your face like they did to Jesus? It's every bit as controversial. And it's not just humanity, or a couple of millennia at stake, but the whole past, present and future of life, upon which we are wrecking a mass-extinction to rival the demise of the dinosaurs 65 million years ago. We can't repeat this process of physical self-discovery - of evolution-transforming gene tech, of nuclear carnal knowledge and cybernetic 'unification'. This is a transition which happens only once in 3800 million years. "Hell's teeth, what is this Wench going to do if I flunk this engagement?" And then what about the patriarchs? They have proven time and again they will commit murder to retain their hegemony of power. How do you pronounce the end of the epoch, of divine order, of shariat, of all the religious edicts which repress, or threaten the female and survive to end this tradition of violence?
I walked to the back door and looked out, feeling the breeze on my face. Far from just being an archaic icon of fertility, somehow this Goddess was in the very fabric of quantum uncertainty, in the chaos of the winds, in every breath I took, the harbinger and orchestrator of some fractal happening beyond all fractals - a nexus of events I could only glimpse, but nevertheless imminent to an intoxicating and possibly devastating degree, not just transcendent in the cosmic design but alive, manifest in every chance happening, in the weather, even in the sound of silence. The shamanistic 'eagle's gift', the Toltec nahualli, and the Kabbalistic Shekhinah rolled into one. The leaves rustled casually in the night, tossing the fragile branches of the camphire tree.
Chris King Jan 31st 1998