Interviews by Julian Lee
The Western Sky
Hymn For Dresden
Anthem For The Men Of The West
Interview With Henry Makow, Part 1
"I could drown in your eyes
At least now
How did you get those?
They must be like God's eyes
When I find the true Eyes
Then I'll never suffer
And never wake"
The Autobiography of Julian Lee
COPYRIGHT 2009 JULIAN LEE
I was born Curtis Lee Mickunas on March 23, 1957. Mickunas is a Lithuanian name, and a fellow Lithuanian once told me it means, roughly, "Big fellow from yonder bridge." I was named Lee after my grandfather Amos Lee, who I admire greatly. I came from a broken home but was blessed to have a father with a devout attitude about the Catholic Church who prevailed on my mother to raise us Catholic, and placed us two blocks from the most beautiful church he could find. Although religion was only sketchily delivered to me, I imbibed necessary essences -- even just from the reverence-inspiring interior of St. Augustine's Church building itself. What I imbibed in Catholicism, and around blessed nuns, gave me little stones to walk on that later became big walking stones, along a journey that finally satisfied me well.
Emotionally, my life featured mostly loneliness, loss, and confusion until my search for God yielded fruit. Materially, my life was unimpressive and I struggled or just got by. Creatively, I had a bit of enjoyment with arts. I had a gift for astrology, but it largely served to confirm the predicament of duality, karma, and limits. The one real comfort of my life, that made it worthwhile, was that I had some idealism and principles, and I embarked on a religious quest. My wife was unable to follow along with it, come into its discipline, and enjoy the priceless fruits that could have been hers automatically. But many women make that mistake with their men when they turn to God and away from pointless lust.
That above would be the shortest summation of my life. What follows then is details, hopefully some interesting ones, for any who want to know.
A Seeker's Life
I read "The Imitation of Christ" while staying in an empty, austere room at my dad's house in my teens. It spoke powerfully of penances, detachment from the world, and the love of Christ. At that time I had been considering becoming a priest, and was strongly attracted to that. I was very affected by "The Imitation of Christ." That spirit of renunciation took strong hold of me and I wanted to feel it more and more. I gave away all my possessions at that time, even my old art and love letters from girls. Even my albums and music had been extremely important to me in my teens.
I wanted to wander homeless like an early disciple. Later I did. I started fasting at that time and have done many since then. Two weeks on just water is heaven to me. And even the pain and suffering of that because you then sense your soul. Although now if I fast I come close to death (my heart actually stops) because there's not much more there in my body for the fast to "eat up." I am actually highly inclined to such ascetic practices that do destroy attachment to fleshly comfort, and I wish I could still fast. I highly recommend it for overcoming passions and conquering the flesh. If you came to my house and told me you were a Christian, I would make you fast every Sunday, at least. Thing is, you don't have to do a lot of austerities to get results, and get God to notice. They say that "Shiva is the God who is easily pleased." The image of Shiva is, for me, one of the ideal conceptions of God.
For many years now I've eaten only once a day, in the evening, and then not much. Long ago food lost its interest for me. Fasting helped with that. Despite my spare diet I don't get thin, and have more weight than before, because I have learned how to draw in divine food through meditation. ("Bread that you know not of.") Most of eating is the addiction to the pleasure of it. I simply care very little about food now. I never drank, and I never used any drug but aspirin. My mother said to me: "Don't take drugs." I listened and never did. It sometimes angers me when I hear people say to parents, "No use telling them not to do it. You can't control your kids. And telling them not to do it will just make them want to do it." This is both absurd and grotesque advice, and an abandonment of both your parental power and duty. It would only be true in some cases, with some children, and only for a while. Generally when you love your mother, because she loves you, you listen to what she says. Same with the father. My mother saved me from the damage of drugs simply by telling me, from an early age, how they become addictions and damage you, and telling me it would break her heart if I ever used them. I made that decision young, and stuck to it through all kinds of situations.
I wandered homeless and penniless, by choice, for long periods starting at 19. It gives a great detachment from society, the comforts of home, stature and pride. Once from Des Moines to Seattle, with only my father's wool Marine Corps blanket. Another time to Corpus Christi, which I chose because it had the name of Christ in it. One of the best experiences was walking through the "badlands" part of northern Yellowstone Park, utterly alone under a full moon in one of God's most beautiful places. I owe a debt of gratitude today to the few people who had the faith to pick me up late during that lonely night. One rescuing car contained a young husband and wife who lived in Yellowstone. I also remember a nice white military man in southern Texas and his gentle, trusting, brown-haired wife. I always remember that soldier taking me into his home with his wife, just for a moment, to play me one song from one vinyl record. It was a record of a Christian singer with a beautiful, soaring, and pure voice. He really wanted me to hear that for some reason. I still remember that voice. I loved music, and singing, and that one voice has always been a benchmark in my head, a voice to strive for in my own singing. Then I hitched on. May God protect you. But also a debt of gratitude to God for not letting them stop too often, and leaving me in beautiful lonely, and pure places, places that still live in me today. I've slept many times in culverts and stood in the rain and had to scrounge for food and got used to hunger. It helped me see the world clearly. I highly recommend it, by the way. If you were to come to my house, I would make you do the same.
I grew up both loved and neglected, and learned to be my own person. I was a very ambitious musician and aspiring songwriter by 16. That fame quest got turned on its head by my own logic and I became deeply interested in religion. I married and had four children, and became an astrologer because of deep fascination with the coherence -- soon apparent to me -- that is found in astrology. Then I was strong in it. I uncovered a more accurate and useful form of astrology and it became my profession. My specialty was predicting how life would change in different locations, in great detail. Basically, I discovered that a "relocated natal chart" exists which is grosser and more accurate for everyday use, while other charts exist in us in subtle layers. I discovered we can actually change our astrological charts in truth. My astrology became more accurate and detailed than that which is conventionally practiced in the astrological establishment. I was delighted by this knowledge, which built up in me as an observer/ analyst type, and which seemed to arise as if by instinct. I contradicted the dogmas of established astrology, so I was considered an upsetter or lone wolf among astrologers, an infant terrible. I was fine with that. Astrologers always bored me anyway. When one reduces himself down to "technical factors" and forgets the magic of the divine and of grace, he becomes a boring person, not-to-mention annoying. I always kept aware of the open areas and blank areas of knowledge, the "still mysteries," never biting down to hard on "I know it all." Because knowledge, after all, is endless. As endless as grace.
Later, seeking stout enough material about God to give final confirmation and rest to a questioning mind, I arrived at the Upanishads and Yoga, literature directly addressing the search for God within.
And I met personages on the way who were my great good fortune, unknown at that time. Two of these were my parents.
In a real way it was my mother who cut a clear path, in the growing cultural wilds, that turned me Godward just by giving me clear direction on where I should never go. In my teens drugs, drink, and smokes were becoming rife among my peers. This was the way they escaped into a kind of comfort in the face of their own pains. But my mother had done two things: Made me care about how she felt by being there for me and loving me, and 2) Advised me repeatedly about the stupidity of drugs, drink, and smokes, telling me it would break her heart if I ever did these. I thus determined in my very young mind not to go that way despite all inducements, even with a person right in my own family who offered me those vices. (Once regaling me on the wonders of smoking hash, with pipe and chunk at the ready in his dark and private lair which was a kind of opium den for many young visitors to our back door during the clueless-single-mother-years.) The smell of marijuana and hashish in many homes and establishments was, in fact, a feature of my teens. By the teens many of the popular kids were becoming drunkards and having bacchanals called "keggers," more covertly in the Catholic schools, more shamelessly in the public high schools Merrill and Roosevelt. But I wasn't going to break her heart, or become a wreck with a damaged brain or body, as mother so clearly put it. Neither would I drink, though my respected father did and the refrigerator always contained cans of Budweiser. This mother-direction gave me nowhere to turn for solace, later, but God and my inner self. I was unentangled by those things, and able to concentrate within with fewer addictions or distractions. To my great misfortune neither my mother or my father warned me about the worse pollution and damage that comes from lust, sex, and the male period. (And it was really my father's duty.) Not even the Catholic Church -- woe! -- gave any clear instruction! But for the drugs teaching alone I owe to my mother much that is good in my life. But I owe her as much for providing me with a noble and religious father.
Along with my interest in questions of God, religion, and spirituality I had a concern for society and the moral order that ensures prosperity for the many. Later in life I set out to do a bit for helping the young men, and women, caught in this dark porn age, and lead them to the higher ground of real religious life, which does eternally require an effort at chastity. Chastity combined with devotion are the root of religious knowledge and the real spiritual blood of beneficial religion. This knowledge has now been lost in the churches, thus they decline.
A subtext of my mind, from my teens, was the observation that the technology of White European man never solves the problem it was intended to solve: The elimination of duality, or "problems." Instead it only creates more complex and insidious forms of duality, and more complex problems. Along with the many splendid virtues of the White Europeans, my race that is so much under attack by the Jews, this is their great fault. If they learn the wisdom of their own Aryan sages and their own Aryan yoga, they will learn that duality and problems are destroyed by God and God-search alone, and not by rearranging inert matter. The White Europeans, the masters of technology, must learn true wisdom relative to technology and invention, and return to their moral and mystical, and nature-loving roots.
Mysticism is knowledge of God within, and the techniques and approaches one takes when seeking same. God is not best sought in the sky, in the outer stars, or in things. When a thing is used in religious devotion, such as outer statues or other focci, their purpose is to direct the mind, which then cultivates the inner states, which then dig the inner paths to God-bliss. God is within, and so is the Kingdom of Heaven. This is the knowledge of the Christian saints. Only by retaining the knowledge of the search for his inner divine stars -- from where outer gross matter projects in illusory form -- will White European man retain any mastery over outer stars.
I sought, then, to revivify Christian mystical knowledge and practice to try to help save the great and priceless heritage that is Christianity and our churches, for the sake of the peoples; for the sake of men, women, and children and their happiness. Because all of the great yoga -- the techniques of the God-seeking mystic -- is exists in the Christian faith, just little understood consciously. Finally indeed I came to the realization of how lucky I was born a Christian Catholic, how great is this spiritual heritage of the White Europeans, and how full of yoga it is. The little stones of my inner spiritual path were indeed set in me by the Catholic Church: Stones of just a little faith, just a little reverence, and the tiniest bit of devotion. It was only this that finally made me more fortunate than I believed possible, and gave me a life I would not trade for anybody's. For the seed of "bhakti," or the devotional attitude, was a gift of the Catholic Church to me. God is real, and responds to those who seek Him, in whatever religion.
Christ is a true guru, and Christians need to really make him their guru indeed. God has all kinds of names, being the Lord of All Names, and unconstrained as to place and time, and looks for His children in every valley, desert, and alleyway. The second great blessing in my life, after being born Christian and Catholic, was a true connection to a second true guru, Parahamansa Yogananda, and the knowledge of meditation technique he graciously gave me, and for truly taking me on. He finally gave me an understanding of what the world really is -- a temporary self-projected story -- so that I could stop fearing it no matter what happened in it. Another purpose of religion is to kill all fear.
My last name of Lee was taken later in life, using my original given middle name which was after my grandfather Lee. That's why I go by a surname that is from my mother's side of the family. I did this for convenience, to assist in business, and for esoteric reasons.
As a child
My mother and father had six children, four older boys, and two younger girls. I was third, with two brothers above me.
I was a shy kid. I was more-or-less afraid of people. I didn't deal with many people on the isolated dead-end street where I lived my first 6 years, where there were mostly crotchety old people who stayed inside. I didn't have a chum until about the age of 7, and then it was tenuous and brief. My first friendship was at around the age of 8. I cherished it dearly, capable of a huge affection and regard for a good friend. A boy naturally wants to know other boys, do things with them, find out who he is in context with them, and feel part of something. And my brothers did not, somehow, make the best friends for me. His name was Fred Schissel, the son of a doctor. How I wanted to feel closer to him, and feel confident in our friendship. But he was of a different class, the son of a doctor on the "south side of Grand" where the better-off Whites lived, and my parents did not run with his parents. I didn't even know what he was talking about when he said he "went to camp" last summer. It made me feel so separate.
My experience with my brothers and family did not give me self-confidence. I had a great deal of pride that probably came both my own karmic inheritance, and wounded pride from my early life. If a boy at school insulted me, I was quick to come right back on him, take him to the ground, and go to the brink. Jim W., Pat F., Mike M., Bobbie G. -- we all tasted dust together. (And my salutations to them all.) But my brothers were not to be challenged.
I remembered as an adult seeing an old family movie for the first time. My dad was a camera buff and especially loved photographing his boys and taking movies. In those days, fathers were more morally restrained and decent, thus they liked having sons. (When men become immoral, they distance themselves from male friends, and from their sons.) Dad was proud of his boys. We were all dressed up for church in our suits. We had short-cropped hair. It seemed Dad was directing us to assemble a certain way and I was trying to find my place in the group. We were four. My little brother Joe was in the group, and my two older brothers. I looked about four years old, lamb like, rather dear. My two older brothers were very strong and dominant. And one thing about them in those days: They were not kind.
As I scurried about in my dignified suit-and-tie, blond buzz hair shining in the sun, trying to find my place in the group, suddenly one of them delivered to me a savage slug. The White European races have many splendid virtues including love of beauty, serviceful skill, and humanitarian idealism. Among these many splendid virtues of the White Europeans, a warrior-like, aggressive nature has often acted as a fault rather than a virtue. Especially the fault of warring against each other in great fratricidal wars. I believe that some of the White European male's aggressive, quarreling nature comes from inner pain through the loss of so many fathers in great wars. This includes the emotional loss of fathers who, though still living, were so damaged by their participation in wars that they withdrew emotionally from their sons. My father was like that. In World War II 50 million were killed, mostly men. We have no proper conception of how much the loss of so many future fathers, brothers, and sons affected the White Gentile societies over time, and led to their later direction. Missing fathers and emotionally remote fathers created the seedbed for the "angry White youth" of the 1960's. My brothers were expressing, some kind of anger or fear about pains of their own.
Watching the movie my attention perked up. I observed the boy's behavior. He scrambled away looking fore a safer side, face turned downward but only enough to hide it without being noticeable. He did not cry, and tried to disappear while at the same time, appear, because he seemed to have been eager to appear in a family picture. The Family in this moment had seemed like such a Great Thing. That is how dad had made it seem. So I absorbed this hit as if it had not happened.
Nobody seemed to notice my getting slugged. It did not cause any holdup in the project. I could see my face working hard not to reveal pained humiliation as I scurried for a place among my titan brothers. My face did a good job of hiding it for a boy so young. Looking down at the ground just slightly had helped keep me from crying in front of my Dad and brothers. I had probably already learned that this would only invite razzing or worse from my brothers, or impatience or disappointment in my father. But I could see it, and it was hard to see. Having a certain detachment from the figure in the picture, and now being a father with kids of my own, I looked at the innocent child that I was and thought, "That was a poor, innocent boy!" I found it surprising to see it later, as a full grown adult. I had no memory of that moment. It happened so fast, like the wink of an eye. But I see the same things in the photo below.
My family must have been an emotional hell for me, especially considering that I ran away from home in a serious way four times before adulthood. I think my mother felt my pain through the years, but there was nothing she could do. When I was a toddler and receiving too much persecution from my brothers, her habit was just to snatch me up and let me ride, above the maelstrom, on her hip. Womens' hips are surely designed for her toddler to ride, one arm free for serving the rest. But this she couldn't do forever. Now walking, I was down with the tigers. In general my mother and father were not able to successfully intervene in the steaming cauldron that was life with my brothers, and I've often reflected that my two older brothers affected my personality just as much as my parents did -- or more. They had their own pains and frustrations as sons, but they took them out on me.
Mother is our first introduction to life, and she forms us at the root. So it is right to speak about her first. But to understand her, I have to speak first of her own mother and father, and of Amos Lee.
My Grandfather Lee
I had a vision-dream of my grandfather Lee during one of my fasts. I was sitting with him on the ground, with some other individuals who were more mature or greater than myself. There seemed nothing around. No objects. Only wild nature. It didn't look like him. Despite the utterly different look I knew him instinctively without any doubt. In the past I have seen the true natures of certain family members, and they always look much different than their physical bodies here, yet I always recognize them immediately. He was sitting there on the ground like a yogi in the quiet way he used to sit in big chairs without saying much. A little more soberly than usual.
I looked at his hands, and his fingernails had grown very long, like those of an Indian ascetic. I remarked, feeling impish while saying, that his nails were getting kinda long. He soberly pointed to my own hands and nails, and they were just as long.
It was a strange vision. You get many important visions during fasts. But I was comforted to see my grandfather then. I felt a more real contact with him than ever in those times in his presence during physical life. My interpretation of the vision was that I was seeing his true inner nature, and he was a natural ascetic, and that so was I. For this brief moment I was allowed to be with him in a circle of others like him, though very young.
I never did make him smile or laugh. Everybody else in town did. I always hungered for a deeper contact with him, and to feel that he cared about me and had his mind on me a bit. It was a bit hard to know, with him, what he really had his mind on. He seldom talked about himself.
Notwithstanding his personal reserve, grandfather Lee was a figure both loved and revered in his city. He started as a schoolteacher after the young farm boy impressively put himself through the respected Drake University in Des Moines. Oh, how fine it would be to walk the campus of Drake University in the 1940s and see the type of noble men who walked that campus then! From a caring and energetic schoolteacher he became a caring and involved principal, then finally the Superintendent of Schools over all the other principals, who also loved and revered him. So he was very active in the community life, and he and grandmother Ethyl -- also a schoolteacher -- seemed to know everybody.
The community stature of my grandfather only dawned on me gradually. I never even saw the graphic or facts below until my 50's, such was the impact of divorce on my family's identity and cohesiveness. I remember going to a travelogue at a high school in West Des Moines, and the honorary speaker introducing the movie was my grandfather. Later I went to the opening of a beautiful new high school in West Des Moines, and visited the "Amos Lee Community Room" which had a bronze plaque with the likeness of my grandfather. He had fought as a foot soldier in Europe in the first Great War.
He had four daughters, the Lee girls, and one was my mother Virginia. He loved his daughters and his wife, as evidenced by their devotion for him. Another great love was hunting in the wild.
Whenever we came to their redolent home for Christmas and Thanksgiving, his hunting lodge would be adorned with fresh shot pheasant, ducks, quail, and rabbits hanging in bunches on his office-hunting lodge is the basement. Perhaps there would be 5-10 creatures, enough for a holiday family feast, with a few for the freezer. At this time he would have been out hunting with his son-in-law, my uncle Kenny, and this was what they got. It was a powerful, old-world feeling seeing the fresh game in grandpa's downstairs hermitage, his hunting dog curled on the floor. What beautiful creatures they were, like creatures from some higher world! Sometimes I took home a bird claw, secreted in my pocket, or the beautifully colored feather wing of a pheasant.
Through the years I used to visualize grandfather out in the marshes of upper Minnesota and Ontario where he would go duck hunting, or out in the fields and prairies of Iowa going for rabbit or other game, crouching quietly in some thicket, perhaps lighting a pipe which he smoked very occasionally. How many times he must have done this, and how much of him I never saw! It is easy for me to know that he loved hunting because it brought him back to his youth, but especially because of the purity of God's great nature. In the great and untouched places of nature, one gets to see the world as God made it originally, and one can sense the purity of God and Brahman, as if by physical metaphor. I know that this is why Amos Lee loved to hunt. The higher men in this world come to love being in nature with its wild and pure essence exactly as God alone made it. The getting of game is just one of the elements -- albeit a manly imperative steeped in centuries -- that justifies the outing. The world of men is polluted by comparison to God's untouched open spaces. Because the nature of God is purity itself, men of higher development love the purity of nature.
The hunter also develops the capacity for solitude, and love of it, even with hunting companions, plus love of quiet. Despite Amos Lee's popularity in the community he was actually a quiet man. This is one reason I felt I knew him very little. A man reveals himself by his speech. And Amos Lee spoke little.
Grandpa was very much loved for a smiling warmth towards others, in which it was clear to them he was happy to see them. His quick, wide smile and laugh made them feel at ease. His way with other people was to listen mostly. He interacted with them, but for the sake of them, not himself. When he did speak it was usually about the other person's interests, doings, and happenings. Completely listening and receptive to his constituency, he contributed his own words at briefly at intervals, but spoke so to show interest in them and bring them out. He spoke for others, not for himself. In this way he was quite opposite to my own father, who seemed unable to put his mind on the person he spoke with except indirectly, building perhaps some edifying point finally for their benefit, but talking about himself and his experiences exclusively. People would fairly gush while talking to Amos Lee and Ethyl, who was almost always standing by his side. It was just as if he had fans. Yet he was a recognizably humble man.
It's the mark of a sage that he knows the gravity and power of words, and likes to speak few words, keeping himself to himself, in his own quiet, as much as possible. He has interest in others, because that is a facet of love, but feels no great need to talk about himself, which people do when they are needy. My mother took on the same qualities with the public. Now, my life would have been much stronger had they directed even 1-percent of that people-love and people-interest towards their grandson and son.
The photo of Amos Lee above shows a sensitive and caring mouth. But what I remember most was his smile which was notably wide. He couldn't help breaking out into that big, beaming smile when meeting people, genuinely pleased to see them. I inherited that, and so did my kids. But beneath this beaming face, always available to the group and to people he would meet, was a gravity which I can see clearly in another picture of him as principal. Thinking now about his combination of beaming amiability and sober set-apartness, even aloofness, it astounds me. His smile and listening was directed to non-family. His gravity and aloofness was there for me.
When grandfather retired, the famous political cartoonist Frank Miller, of the Des Moines Register, drew a cartoon to honor his retirement. It showed grandpa stomping off with great vitality on his way to a life of hunting, positively hunkered down with every imaginable type of hunting equipment, from fishing poles to rifles, nets, and a big pack packs. He was grinning and looking up into the sun, like some a manly, energetic Theodore Roosevelt figure. It was a very dear cartoon, and I found it extraordinary that the famous Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist would draw a cartoon about my granddad. Even if I did, myself, hang around Frank Miller in his home while dating his daughter and actually watched him doodle out the cartoons that would appear on the Register's front page in a few days. Still the cartoon came as a revelation about my granddad's stature in the community. Grandpa used to write me letters regularly during my period in Alaska, and he often drew pictures for me of wildlife, such as moose. He drew them very well.
He was one of the youngest of, I believe, eight or ten children and raised in a farm family. His father died while he was young, under the age of ten. Great grandpa Lee was coming back from the Chicago stockyards where he had sold some livestock. He had caught pneumonia there, and died on the train coming back. He married Ethyl Lee, who was a schoolteacher and whose father, great grandfather Hickerson, had hanged himself after losing the family wealth and land in the stock market crash of 1929. She loved her father and was close to him. The story is she heard about it while she was teaching school. I always thought it's why she had a basically sad nature, perceivable under her ready, dimpled smile.
Despite the loss of his father, and grandma Lee's basic sadness lifelong, Grandpa kept up a positive, optimistic nature. He had an extensive garden, full of cabbages, tomatoes, peas, apple trees, baths for the birds, and all kinds of beloved flowers, especially roses. He was very active in it with grandmother. He was also a saver, and saved all manner of small thing for later use. Once my mother was leaving his house in Mount Ayr, Iowa during the winter, with me aboard. There was snow falling, and grandfather was worried that his daughter might get stuck or slip. I remember him bringing out a stack of old phone books, and putting them in the back of her station wagon, under the back wheels. I later understood that this was for better traction. I thought it was interesting that he had saved those old phone books all this time, and had finally then found a great use for them, with no regrets.
The female teachers under him had both respect and affection for him. As superintendent he was clearly a father figure to the female teachers under him, many of whom had grown up under him as their principal. He and grandma kept their wedding vow of "Til Death Do Us Part." I was around occasionally as she sunk into forgetfulness at the end of her life and became like a child. She smiled more than ever then. He took care of her, just like a parent takes care of a helpless baby, in every little way, including doing her hair up the way she liked with his own hands. It must have been hard to see her personality and memory fade before him. He seemed aggrieved at her death, and once I tried to comfort him, right after, about the prospect of her eternal reality as a soul.
My grandfather Lee was a moralist. He didn't drink or smoke cigarettes, and attended church as far as I know. To even be hired as a schoolteacher -- much more a principal -- over youth in those days a strong moral reputation was necessary. The assumption always was, going back to our founding, that school teachers of all grades had to have moral authority; to be examples for the youth. A teacher could not even get the job if they had any blemishes or contrary reputation. He couldn't be disrespected by the students or parents, or incline students to any vice by his example. And in those more cohesive community times, a man's true character was always known. You couldn't hide it as one can in today's anonymous bubble-lives. In truth grandfather was a moral paragon. And he fiercely protected the character of his students, not above administering punishment or consequences himself, even as a principal, to errant boys who need such a tough father figure in their long school-wrought separations from their real fathers.
A full Norwegian, he originally had red hair and the nickname 'Red,' which referenced both his hair and his temper. But I never saw him mad. His temper was obviously saved for instances in which it would do the most good. It was said that he would go down to the river bottoms to apprehend youths who were playing hooky away from school, having drag races, and he would bring them back to school perforce. He was interested in the moral and character development of his students. Once he discovered a supply of rubber prophylactics in the environs of his students. For the protection of their virtue he confiscated the box. The saving Norwegian even kept these, using them for various purposes associated with hunting -- keeping ammo and matches dry, and practical household uses. The box sat in his basement office for years around his lifelong wife and four daughters. There was never any question about why they were there.
As I came to later life I realized that I myself carried some of the same spirit of my grandfather, even though I did not know him well. It is a natural fact that the son carries the essence of his father and grandfather, even when he is distanced from them starting young. One reason this is true, I also learned, is that grandfathers and fathers think of their offspring with love and care, and pray for them. This is one of the prime ways that parents transmit their best qualities to their posterity. Prayer and thought. Because nobody cares about you as much as your own grandfathers and grandmothers. No matter how they act in life, this is the reality of their higher selves. They always love you deeply, in their higher self, no matter what life distractions beset them. For this reason, Communist, Marxist, and Jewish movements will never truly be able to break the parent-child bond for their purposes. Nothing can overcome the thought-love and thought protection a parent or grandparent directs to their young, even from the other side.
My key memory of Grandpa Amos, as if yesterday, was driving with him down main street in West Des Moines. I was four years old, or possibly as young as three, and it is one of my earliest clear memories because it was an unusual event in my humdrum life in the bungalow on Rollins Avenue, Des Moines. At that time, around 1961, not so many people were driving yet. The downtown area of West Des Moines was filled with people on the sidewalks, of all ages.
How fortunate am I that I have even fleeting memories of what American towns felt like before White people foolishly turned their communities into car hells, instead of human towns, with the God-damned, hellish and ignorant thing called the automobile! The few days of my early childhood where I remember those pre-car hell times, are priceless to me. (Among the White Gentile peoples' many noble virtues, "delusion of technological progress" is one of their outstanding faults, and if you love your people, one has permission to also criticize them.)
So there was Grandpa, being a big wheel he was driving a car. What was surprising was that nearly everyone on the street, it seemed to me, was smiling and waving at him. I forgot now about the bottle of Orange Crush he had given me. Old people were waving at him. Teenagers waved at him. Mothers with babies waved. Strong, handsome pre-Porn Age males waved at him. Everybody was waving at my grandpa. He was waving back at each one. As he did, he chuckled with real pleasure. It was true what my mother always said about him: "Your grandpa Amos loves People. So people love him."
This is one of the precious memories of my life, the only time I was ever alone with him. Yet it probably happened by complete chance. Nobody ever said, "You should have some time with your grandfather." Never happened. The truth is, I was basically neglected by grandfather and grandmother Lee, and they favored my other cousins. I believe this is basically because my mom and dad had such a large number of children close together and they were overwhelmed by us. My mother's sisters had far fewer children, and they were more spaced apart, and they included girls at the first whereas my mother kept producing another boy, another boy. One girl, then one boy a few years later, is very engaging and emotionally doable to aging parents. Thus the grandparents were better able to deal with and relate to the other sister's assemblages, and they were very plugged into the other cousins. There simply wasn't enough grandfather to go around.
To make it worse, mother's blond sister Cathy also had a crew of boys, then pulled harder on her father because of her travails and troubles with her husband in California, and perhaps she "sold" her boys better to grandpa with the right sort of visits. So I was, at that precious moment beside him in the car, just one more male from his 2nd daughter in a sea of boys from two directions, and probably almost faceless to him. He did not take any active interest in me as a person until I had a family and moved away to Alaska. Then the naturalist and hunter in him, and perhaps the wiser grandfather in him, became intrigued with me.
Thus at that moment in the car, grandpa seemed hardly aware of me. Everything about him was a cut above, and I felt almost of a lower class. He had given me a bottle of orange crush pop probably to occupy me. Why? This was to be the only moment in my life alone with grandpa! I had never even held a pop bottle. I felt slightly ashamed that I didn't know how to drink out of it. I couldn't conceive of it. Do you open your mouth and cock like a baby starling and dribble it in? I didn't want to ask. Hoping not to spill any in his car, I sucked on it using my full mouth. Feeling a strange suction and alarmed, I pulled it out of my mouth. It made a disconcerting 'pop' and the carbonated beverage spurted all over me. I was ashamed. Blessedly, he did not express clear displeasure or criticize. But then the he arrived at the downtown, people started waving, he started chuckling, and that was forgotten while I stared in awe.
I am sure that the only reason I went with him that day, and have this memory, was that there was there were no Lee women there at the house that moment, and somebody had to watch me. It was not done intentionally. Just an accident. It was just a few moments. But it's how I really know my granddad.
Oh how I wish I could have gone hunting with him once, or fishing, or just gone to stay for a weekend in their home, just me. I am sure had I gone to their home just weekend just once by myself or with a brother, or gone with him to church even once, or gone hunting with him even once -- I would have turned out quite differently than I did and would have suffered less. But then, that suffering is what brought me all good things.
I said that grandma and grandpa's home was "redolent." It was. It had a distinctive smell that you couldn't really identify as any particular thing. A bit of fruit, say ripening apples or bananas, yes. A bit of wood and fabric of the old furnishings, yes. Like flowers, too, though I never saw fresh flowers in there and it was always present. It was was something more, a fragrance like flowers and musk. The musky smell was stronger down in grandpa's office/hunting lodge. It was only later in life that I learned, from the yogic lore of India, that men and women get a particular fragrance from chastity and self-control. For the men, it smells like musk, then finally flowers. This flower-musk fragrance always permeated my grandparents' home, in two locations. I realized, far into my later years, that this was the fragrance of saints.
Virginia was a spirited, affectionate Pisces and one of the four "Lee Girls" of West Des Moines. As grandpa moved up the ladder they were first "the teacher's daughters," then "the principal's daughters," then "daughters of the Superintendent of schools." This made her, in some sense, a dignified society belle with her sisters. It was like being in a political family, but one that was more respected, because my grandfather had a strictly wholesome role in the community, was the surrogate authority figure to everybody's sons, and was popular and even beloved.
He had grown up not welcome at the Chicago parties of the Anglos and other more higher-status ethnic groups. He had oriented himself to break these social barriers. His social rise, now chumming it up with the wife of the Superintendent, was due to sheer ambition, taste, and a personality that combined gravitas with sparkling wit. This charming wit he could turn on when he wanted to. He seemed to know how to talk to women, something his son never did well and which he never taught me how to do. I just didn't see it enough. His real nature at home was quiet and retiring. But as my father he directed that wit to me in the form of good humor and cute witticisms when he was in a good mood, which was reliable if he was simply relaxing with his family.
So now he was right in the middle of things, and charming Ethyl Lee who had come in originally to buy insurance. Perhaps he got himself invited to dinner at the Lees. That would fit. There he probably awed all the Lee girls. He wasn't of her class or the income bracket she grew up in, but they believed he could go anywhere.
But he was not to make that jump, either financially or in terms of breaking through into other social spheres. He had "Virge" now, and his boys, and that was enough. And I believe though unspoken, class was important to mother inside. She didn't like that he smoked. She didn't like that he had a beer. She didn't care about his military stature. Dad had long worked his way up to places he didn't belong by background through talent and brains. Thus he was always occupying places a bit beyond his background or credentials. One of these over-extended victories was as the possessor of Virginia Ione Lee. Now through Victor she was set afield from the circles she knew. Even from her family, who admired my dad for his personal qualities but didn't feel an easy connection with him, if only because he was of a lower background to them, while also intimidating somehow in his excellence.
Socially, mother was truly the daughter of Amos Lee. She came on strong to about everybody she met, verbally. Her chief quality was to be very engaging with others, and very spirited and positive, gay in the correct sense of the word. She seemed to always want to make whoever she met feel good by breaking through their barriers, drawing them out a bit, then affirming them in some way. My father was waaaay more reserved than that. But like her father, she had her mind more on The World and Everybody Out There than on the persons in her family. This was her great fault, in my mind. It did not emerge clearly until later, but even as a very small boy, I sensed where her mind really was. My father, by contrast, had his heart mostly on his family.
But she was a natural, instinctive mother. She had the things that matter most: A mother's warm heart, a full physical presence for us, and a mother's fierce protective spirit that I believe would have killed to keep hers from harm. She evinced, lifelong, an intuition about her kids, often calling just when one was upset, or needed money, or had something to tell her. I used to walk everywhere, and long distances.
Rescued By a Cadillac
I loved walking at night. There was never any fear or danger in Des Moines in the 1960's and 70's. One night coming home late from my restaurant dishwashing job, 45 minutes away from our neighborhood, I was being menaced at a distance by some country boys. The were what we called "new longhairs" or "greaser hippies," one a couple years older that me, one maybe a year younger. They were walking with their bikes, about a block away. This was in my big "rock star" period. I had a band at that time, called "Lear," and I liked to dress the part. They didn't like my style. These fellows had harassed me on other nights and I had evaded them rather than fight, seeing it was two-against-one. And I was a good runner. But this was a sudden appearance in a new place. I did not know the fences or potential hiding spots. They had taken to throwing stones at me whenever they saw me. Fairly large rocks were now whizzing past and hitting near me. And they had bikes. Hey, lobbing rock missiles a great distance, with some accuracy, is a serious sign. I didn't know them, there was nobody around, and I was a little scared. Suddenly they jumped onto their bikes and started coming for me.
I started running for all I was worth, knowing they had the speed advantage, hoping to round the corner before them to spot a nook or cranny. But the corner was too far. They'd reach me first. Just then a golden Cadillac appeared at that corner, careened sharply and roared right at us, all eight pistons. It passed me then intercepted them, giving me a break by making them slow. I kept running but started looking back. It kept after them in the street like the driver was homicidal and going to run them down. They had turned back sharp the other way and were pedaling like mad. Still the Cadillac bore down on them until it was on their butts. It was showing them a thing or two about unfair advantages. Somebody in that car was pissed. They tried to stay on their bikes, but the car wouldn't let them. Like vengeance the driver wanted to force them into the curb.
I looked back again, just in time to see two bikes slam into the curb and fly across the sidewalk, and two figures scurrying into the shadows of nearby houses seeking backyard protection. The Cadillac had rushed them all the way to the curb, just braking there with a squeal and a final lunge. Then I recognized the car. It was just my mom, happening by. I was thinking it might be her straightaway, but couldn't believe the timing. Only her behavior made it sure. It was not the first time my mother had made all the difference at a dire moment in my life.
I took a ride home and asked her, "How did you know they were after me?" She said, "I saw you running, and them coming at you and knew they wanted to hurt you." Split second mother's instinct. They never bothered me again.
Mother is, in fact, your first cosmic protection. My mom did not work a conventional job. Being there for your kids was the norm then, especially with many children. This was a bigger job. Instead she was free, with the run of the town, close to her kids, yet with the whole town and everybody in it available to her, day long. The pathological Marxist culture arising around us wants to normalize motherly abandonment of children so that women can be chickens in office chicken coops trapped by four walls, while missing the best thing in their lives. But she was not from this age. A woman's mere physical presence is perhaps more than half of what a child needs to turn out sane. Her mental presence is also highly significant, and she was weaker for that. But she was always there and near in body, easy to touch and ready to comfort. After years of finding fault with her and analyzing her negatively, I realized she was a primordial mother. And because she was a Primordial Mother, she saved me from both madness and debility despite all.
It would be fair to say that my mother adored her father. It would also be fair to say all four of the Lee girls (my aunts) adored him, which is a testament to his nature, at least as a father. Mom said that her happy times as a girl were being out in the woods and nature with her dad, especially her horse riding, something he arranged for her. One can assume he did the same, or similar things, to his other children. When you are the second of four daughters back then, and yet you end up able to go to college at The University of Iowa, you know the father and mother are trying to be real providers for all four. In fact the youngest sister, Helen, probably received the most boons from her parents because she was born much later and got to be not only the "baby" of the family, but the closest to an only child. This aunt Helen ended up with the closest relationship with Amos and Ethyl.
But it seemed each Lee girl had her own relationship with grandpa, felt like she had his heart and could lean on him in a crisis, such as when money was tight and there were mouths to feed. Grandpa seemed to be ever giving, whether bringing some produce or writing moderate checks. I got the impression that as a girl mom felt she could believe in herself, that he encouraged her to try things and take risks. Whichever parent you feel the most love from, you turn out much like them. At the same time, whichever parent you feel the most need of love from, you take on their nature also, but from a different dynamic. She clearly identified more with him than with her mother, with whom she had a strained relationship. I once saw a very strange photograph of mom standing next to her mother on her wedding day, all decked out in her bridal gown behind a festive wedding table. She had the strangest look on her face at that moment next to her mother. It was probably something that grandma had just said to her before the camera clicked. But I could read it as a dark resentment. She used to say that grandma criticized her, she could never do anything right, from cooking to cleaning. This is probably why mom was a total neat freak. She worked to please her mom, and have her love, lifelong.
But she became like Amos Lee because she loved him, and wanted to be like him. It affected her indeed that others regarded him highly in the community. It made her want to have that same kind of respect and profile in the community. Like him, when driving around town she seemed to know everybody, often smiling and laughing with delight at this person, that person. It was astounding. On her deathbed she was thinking of her father Amos much of the time and actually appeared to become him. She'd cry out, "Daddy!" I looked over one night, and there was Grandpa Amos lying on the bed, so identified was she with him in her final days that she was indistinguishable from him physically. I looked again and again, and couldn't distinguish her from grandpa.
Mom was inclined much towards art: Drawing and painting. She went to the University of Iowa and was an art major. One day father came home to find that she had painted a beautiful fresco on two walls of our little bungalow featuring his four sons. He was bemused. I wish that fresco had been preserved. It was damaged by renters when my parents later rented out the house. I remember it very well. The figures were life sized. Where there was once two blank walls, now you were looking out on a country scene full of four winsome boys. She presented each of us in a loving way. We were all having fun in nature. Mark was stepping onto a horse. Victor was doing something impish with a toy. Little Joe was down on the ground at play. I was up in a tree eating an apple. I remember thinking "How strange mother's imagining me up in an apple tree. How would that ever be?" I realized many years later that she was painting what she desired for her boys. She had grown up that way. Now she was married to a poor man, in a small bungalow in a declining residential area with very small front and back yards, and her children had no place to go such as she knew. This must have weighed on her. She wanted us to be out in nature and able to experience the same things she had as a girl through the grace of her father Amos. Since we couldn't be in real life, she put us there in both her mind and ours, with her painting. Soon after that, she located a great big house in a much nice area, being sold by an M.D., for a steal. It was much larger -- three stories and a basement instead of one story. It had large green yards and was set back well from the street. It had hedges and trees. And guess what? There were two well-developed apple trees in the back yard, one red, the other yellow apples. I grew up climbing those apple trees many a time and eating as many apples as I liked at all stages of ripeness, from green to mellow yellow. I only realized just now writing this, at fifty two, that a caring mother manifested the very vision she had for me.
At our new and larger home in a much better area, she did the same thing. But this fresco was new. It showed a beautiful woman who looked a lot like her reaching up to a handsome man who looked a lot like dad. The woman's hair was done up and back, the way she wore it in the early days and the way it is in the photo here. The colors were done in grays so that they looked like ancient statues. There was a Grecian pillar with its detailed decorative cap. The sense was classic wealth and luxury. And he was holding two chubby babies, one in each arm. They almost floated in his arms like cherubs, and he was postured decorously like some Michaelangelo, looking down on her very tenderly. I think tenderness was what mother always craved from Dad. The woman was well draped and dignified, laying down with a third child while handing a fourth one up to him, offering one more.
Only at the age of 54 did I realize -- and it hit me like a thunderbolt -- why she drew this scene: It was her and dad.
Here she was, married to a Catholic, and producing child-after-child. Her friends, often with more wealth and higher status, had fewer children. There was probably some sniffy unspoken and even overt criticism of her large family among her friends. And this is how she responded: Drawing herself as a horn-of-plenty for my beautiful father. It was right there in the face of every friend of hers who might visit our home. I realize now what these murals say about my mother's rebel soul. The whole thing is grace for me, planted in the past.
She was basically an unconscious woman driven by unconscious drives. Her noble sentiments were rarely presented coherently as a program. It's just what she was. Aside form whatever nobles ideas she could entertain about her family, her chief trait was to be a social gadfly. She used to say to me "You are a people lover like your grandfather." Or, "Like me." She saw herself as an embodiment of her father Amos. It was basically true, but there was more to me than that. More like, I was interested in all people and can, with a humanitarian's eye, appreciate them all. I would say I can find something to like and praise about anybody I meet and I like to cheer any and all. I have the capacity to care about a stranger, which was something my dad lacked or didn't display. On the other hand, there are few people who I really like. I prefer my family first, even when they are painful. Then my church, then my community. And that's the way I think it's supposed to be. The world can't be your family. World is world. Your family is your family. "Family" is not some meaningless word that can be applied to anything.
I was blessed to be taught to read. I thank my father who, even though he was a cheapskate, somehow acquired a Reader's Digest library of children's literature. Through the years I scoured every story. Dad probably didn't think much of it, and the art wasn't very good. But it enriched my mind and kept me reading. I also thank the editors and publishers. It began a long romance with books. It would be fair to say that my life has been pretty uneventful and unglamorous externally, but full internally. Once I read a mythic Grecian tale about the gods. Each of the gods and goddesses were offered any wish for their earthly life, and one god stayed away a bit too long from the meeting. By the time he got there, most of the really cool stuff like -- "great talents, great wealth, great beauty" -- were already taken. One thing was left, though, and that was "A life consisting of mostly undisturbed quiet" in which he could study and learn as fully as he liked. He took this, and considered himself the lucky one. I feel the same way. And most of the really important events in my life were inner events, and most of those developments were associated with the discovery of a new book or text. My mother rarely read to me, and my father never did. But my reading was quickened by indirect events connected to my mother's basic adversity as the wife of a handsome and strong Brahmin-like poor man.
My father never made much money. He was too honest for sales and promotion, and as a 'Virgo sun' was inherently frugal. Mother was different. She was creative, a promoter, and could talk anybody into buying anything just to enjoy a few moments of her smile, voice, and radiant loving nature. To get extra cash she used to collect stacks of used newspapers from the city's apartment buildings by arrangements she made with the managers. She'd say, "Don't throw them away. Tell me where you stack them and I'll come take them away for you." It was actually some rather intrepid doings. What a creative entrepreneur she was. Though from a wealthier Society background and the daughter of a high-status father, she took a pro-active approach to her husband's poverty. Hunkered down with four young boys, she made us handily into her work team for a weekly outing. She drove us to apartments throughout town. Four buzz-headed boys would march into apartment basements and come out bearing stacks of newspapers in our arms that the managers had carefully stacked in laundry rooms for her to pick up.
She made it all seem fun by her attitude. It's one of the feminine powers to make things emotionally survivable for the male no matter how bad the situation, and to encourage him toward greater doings, all with her attitude. As she stood at the back of the station wagon with the swing-down door as her table, tyeing up bundles with twine and adroit fingers, she would effusively praise our hauling efforts. Heartened to see mother happily pleased with me, I would strive to carry ever bigger armloads, till my piles were so high I couldn't see over them. Boys are made strong by their mother's praise, and that growth of ability gave me confidence in myself as a male. Each time she spoke with admiration I grew stronger without and within. She gave me stronger arms and a strong back, and made me unafraid of work. And it was exciting to be out of the house and seeing the town.
After our station wagon was full and sagging to the ground, she would drive to a company on the country-ish outskirts of barely- developed West Des Moines to a quonset hut called The Insul-Wool Company. As she'd slow-drive across bumpy railroad tracks, I'd see and feel the forest mixed with the industrial productions of man. The area smelled of oil, dust, the nearby city dump, and the freshness of the forest. Coal-loaded train cars stood in their sooty glory, and tall cement silos and a concrete company as I recall. But nature was still in force. Insul-Wool ground up old newspapers to make home insulation. I remember the smell inside the corrugated hut: newspaper dust and the sweat of men. It was a break to get out of the car and enter the loud and cool of the long steel hut, and see the workmen's' energetic movements, the young men moving faster, and wizened old ones moving slower. What a strange place! But so were we. Sweat and work-steeped, the men watched bemused as the beautiful young Norwegian stock mother and her toe headed crew offered our paper catch to the manager. Happy in the new cool, we boys would avidly stack mom's bundles on their floor scale, eager to show off our mother-burnished work ethic to the men. (Our father definitely taught us: Work is good.) She would get maybe 10 or 12 dollars for that carload. That was how we had a good dinner that night.
Sometimes she would visit the nearby city dump, where she used to bribe the toothless old junk man in the little gate hut into not asking her if she lived in West Des Moines proper -- by regaling him with her smile and bringing him a cold soda. Maybe he knew she was one of the "Lee girls." She had grown up just blocks away. But she was sure to bring him a cold soda just the same. He was always delighted with it.
Then we'd tool back across the tracks toward civilization. How good it felt to be done with some hard work, our station wagon now empty and perked up. Often as a reward she would drive to the Dairy Queen and spend about 30 cents each getting us ice cream cones. What joy! We never had such a thing as ice cream at home. What grand entitlement for the working man! I was about five. Such a little thing. But in those moments life seemed pretty good after all.
She conveyed to us then that we were not to tell dad. I don't know what she said, but she had her way of "letting on" her hopes without actually asking us to lie. Dad would never have bought us an ice cream cone to reward our labors, even if we had shaken the farthest the trees. Stinginess and failure to reward was one of his great faults! One time Dad even promised an ice cream reward if we did a serious labor for him. He used an exotic word, saying "I'll get you all sundaes at the Howard Johnson's if you finish this job." I asked a brother what that was and was told it was an ice cream treat. This was very exciting to me. Even just the prospect of going somewhere with dad, never mind the exotic "Sundae." The mysterious name "Howard Johnsons" added to the wondrous promise. We duly performed that labor, and it was harder work than I'd ever done. But he somehow forgot about his promise, which I had hoped for with all my heart being very isolated in my home and never having been to a restaurant. I know that, for my part, I tied hard to please my dad, did everything he asked and did not stop until he said we could, even at the tender age of four. I didn't run to mother. But somehow the "sundae" promise was forgotten; he never raised the idea after that.
That was a small devastation. How I detested his reneging on that promise. He was such a father that his 3rd son felt timid to even bring it up. I think this experience helped add to the worldview that "the rules" are not necessarily true. At least they don't work for everybody. Working for promised rewards was, perhaps, delusional. Later this became a foundation of cynicism about ideas like "Go to college and you'll make a lot of money," or "You need to go to a music teacher to learn to play an instrument." I didn't believe in the the rewards society promised, or the things my school peers believed.
However, when collecting papers, Mother always rewarded us for doing good.
My mom even did something else -- she seemed to give us good things undeserved.
God bless mothers. It is mother who teaches her children about the munificence and compassion of the Creator, which becomes later the foundation of religious faith and our sense of the possibilities of God. It is mother who lays the groundwork within for men and women to become either saints or cynical and bitter men. I have to thank my dear mother for giving me faith in the very possibility of a Being who is compassionate, generous, and overlooks my faults. God first shows Himself to men as their mother. And for this reason, all boys and girls truly worship their mothers until the world cuts it short. The more she is there for a child, showing that divine giving, the more he or she loves her and the more they get faith in God.
But that duplicity of mother's, her tendency to be dishonest or conniving, later caused me to respect her less than my scrupulously honest father. Yet here she made our lives worth living, with just 30 cents each, and finally taught us there is some reward for work. Maybe losing respect of her sons, over little unimportant deceptions to an over-austere father, was just one more sacrifice of a mother.
The atmosphere of that place stayed with me lifelong, and the skies, and the dust, and the tar smells of the train cars and tracks. Those days were the the times I was most with her, sitting right beside her and feeling her body close, and learning the most.
My mother would probably view this time as one of the ignoble and unfortunate periods of her life. Later she became semi-famous, and very successful as a portraiture artist, and was surrounded by every opulent and beautiful thing. She was placed in the book "Who's Who" and was featured monthly on a local television variety show, and in occasional newspaper articles. But I don't respect her much for any of that. For me her times as a struggling but noble young mother making her way with her father's loving smile, with her little ones near her arm, were her beautiful times. I love her best in that time. Maybe God, too, loves us best not when we are at the heights, but when we struggle in difficult circumstances yet retain our nobility. I despise the part of her that sought status and popularity. I despised the eventual adulation she had from crowds of idiots as she became a more and more out-of-touch mother. I despise her desire for notoriety -- something my more talented, intelligent, and handsome father never cared one hoot for.
There is something cosmic about a high society woman of class and beauty, tooling around in a paper-loaded old station wagon scraping the ground because she's married to a fellow beneath her class, and ruggedly playing foreman to four boys to make a few dollars. She didn't even have gloves. There is something divine in that scene, and slowly bumping over those railroad tracks, near the city dump, under gathering dusky clouds I saw that divine scene often.
Finally a MacDonald opened up, and we hit that instead of the Dairy Queen. I recall that first MacDonald in Des Moines so vividly. It was staffed exclusively by energetic and efficient young White men. They wore short-sleeved white shirts and actually wore ties, plus very cool white hats shaped like a military sergeant's cap. They radiated energy and ability, and moved very fast, seeming to take pride in the speed which they put burgers and fries in your hands, which seemed about 20 seconds, max.
My family was basically poor. I wasn't really sure about it. It was a realization I came to as I matured. But there was not much around the house of treats or fun-foods. I remember having to scrounge just to find a piece of bread. Then hunting up something creative to make it more than a piece of bread. No butter? Well, aha! Here's some catchup. My brother cut a little hole in the middle of the bread and filled it with catchup. So I tried that. It wasn't much, but it obscured for the moment any thought that I was starving. We didn't have "nothing" -- there was one last piece of bread, and some catchup! Such lives make men resourceful.
But there was much temptation in the stores. Once at the age of four, while my mother was shopping, I stole a "Power House" candy bar from the market. At home mother immediately spotted it. Alarmed, she knew I had stolen it. She put me in the car right that moment and drove me back to the store. We walked in and she handed it unopened to the manager. All was fine. But I sure was on pins and needles. Such actions by parents starting young teach right from wrong and forge the character. But the parent has to take the time, and realize when something big is happening. I honor my mother for that moment, considering she had three other boys on her hands and it was coming up to dinner time -- her busiest time. But she drove me down there without a moment's delay.
Conscience and Sin
Three years later temptation struck again. I had stopped into a little temporary shop, a sort of trailer, that sold sundries. I saw a package of Kool-Aid. That looked pretty good. It was only five cents. I stole it. That night I took the well-hid booty and ate the purple powder. The Kool-Aid powder, though colorful and promising pleasure, was very strong stuff. It was not meant to be eaten. I became immediately sick. I threw up, relieved. But I was tortured for months by my sin. Finally I went in to Catholic confession. I waited my turn then found myself in a dark room. I heard gentle murmuring coming from beyond a shuttered window as the priest spoke with someone else on the other side. Then the shutter slid open and a bit of light shown through some black, sheer cloth, and a voice said something formal to me, asking my name. He was very gentle. I felt I could tell him my sin of stealing the Kool-Aid, and finally did. He asked, "How much was the package of Kool-Aid?" I said, "Five cents." He prescribed that I say some specific repetitions of Catholic prayers. I was happy to have that solution, and I carried it out, unburdened finally by my sin.
Unfortunately, as I grew and the secular world around me became more and more corrupted and disturbed, the question of sin became more confused in my mind. But such is the exquisite conscience and sensitivity of a child's mind, and such was the emptiness of the cupboards in the house where I grew up. When you try to practice self-honesty, you are really creating a relationship to God within, the Divine Watcher within. I remember our nuns doing lectures to us kids -- at very early ages -- about the inner conscience. It is that Divine Watcher within who rewards you or punishes you according to your honesty. The inner conscience is an aspect of inner God. When you work to keep the conscience clear, it is actually working to clear the path to God within. It is an aspect of God's compassion that even when we fail, break promises, or occasionally clutter the path, He is still reaching out to us past the clutter. He rewards his sons and daughters just by seeing them make efforts -- exactly like a human father.
My father was Lithuanian and had grown up on the south side of Chicago. He was very handsome, which came from a combination of being from stout and parents but having the refining influence of Libra Rising. So he was both manly and rugged, and handsome. Dad was tall and had full but supple hands that seemed able to do anything. He had a basic nobility of character despite his notable flaws, and I came to respect him most of my two parents. He loved beauty and family above all. He was also religious, which was his greatest quality, and his greatest gift to me.
He decided: "I'm not doing this any more" and quit fighting in boxing matches from there. He was a good man and didn't ever want to be a fighter that way. Because he was good at it, and fast, he managed to retain a flawless, handsome face.
Father was an affectionate man. He was a toucher. Dad would grab you if you came near him and give you a squeeze. He had big, beautiful and able hands. His hands looked like they could do anything. I wish I had inherited his big, beautiful hands but I partially got my mom's stubbier hands. They're O.K. I can play a fast guitar lick with them. But they are nothing like my dad's beautiful hands. I always notice the hands on a person, particularly on a woman. I feel I can sense a person's real character just by looking at hands. Full yet graceful hands on a woman somehow move me. It seems to represent virtue, good karma and servicefulness.
He had pet names for his kids. Mine was "McGurt." One of his habits was to grab you, press his face to yours and make a "plaaatttt" sound against your cheek. It tickled and was only slightly annoying. We could feel its purpose, which was to transmit fatherly affection. He seemed to do this especially much to me.
When I was very young he'd come home from work on the bus. As mother was fixing dinner, to get us out of her hair, she would sometimes say, "Why don't you go down and greet your dad at the bus stop." The three of us -- Mark, Vick, and I -- would be delighted to oblige. Sometimes we would hide behind some bushes at the nearby apartments so as to ambush him. As he'd step out the bus we'd burst upon him. On seeing us he'd let out a delighted "Ho Hoh!!" and we'd be on him. I still remember him stepping out of the bus in his black suit, so strong and agile. The bus seemed an odd place for him to be. It seemed like a captive tiger in a constrained, small world.
The love of a son for his father is the most natural thing in the world. Seeing his pleasure at our ambush we'd dare our usual thing, which was to beset him. This involved all three tackling him around the feet and actually trying to bring him down. We had learned we couldn't actually do that. He was too big and strong. So there was no harm in trying and it was great fun. It amounted to dad plodding home, in dark suit and briefcase, with three laughing boys fastened around his feet like weights, while he endeavored to break us free with tickling. It occurs to me now how the passengers of that bus must have several times witnessed this scene and smiled. He was always proud of his little sons. He never expressed irritation at our affectionate boyish attacks. After all, he was unconquerable. We felt we could throw all of our best shots at him, throw all of our boyish energies at him, yet he was unfazed. Wrestling and rough housing with my brothers was also a part of my boyhood, one that I still miss sometimes to this day.
Dad was a very careful man. But when there was danger, he was fearless. Once as a Boy Scout I got bored with a campout near home. I hoofed it home around 3 a.m. The doors were always open at our house. The nearby church doors, too. It was early spring, winter thawing. As I crept across the dark living room floor I saw a white shape coming at me fast. "Dad?" I queried. It was him in his T-Shirt. I heard him gasp as he barely stopped in time the blow he was about to deliver. Angry at the near miss on his own son, he said, "I was gonna deck you!" That's what a man is like when protecting his family. He hears the slightest sound downstairs and "Boom!" he's on him, ready to deal with whatever it is. Once later with my own family we lived in a haunted house. On the 1st or 2nd night my wife woke me: "Honey, the lights are on downstairs and there is someone walking around."We had turned out the lights. Boom, I was there. A good fighter appreciates the element of surprise and knows sometimes it's the only chance. Plus, he wants to throw himself into it before giving himself the chance to think and possibly get fear. Nobody was there. A boy becomes, in many ways, like his dad. I myself never shrank from fights. And having a chip on my shoulder from the razzing I took from my brothers, I was quick to get into them.
One thing I noticed is that when you fight a fellow, you usually end up very good friends. Why? Because you saw the truth about that fellow while fighting him. You go right to the brink with him. You hit him and intimidate him, yet this one doesn't back down and comes right at you. He hurts and you hurt. But you see him come at you again, on principle. He's losing, yet he still comes at you and doesn't quit. They're laughing at him, yet he rises again. So you see his valor his courage. You see what he's really made of. You see he has real class. Now you don't want to fight any more. You see he's as great as you. Really, you see his nobility in a way that few ever will see. So you get a special respect. I was a fighter, and I understand fighters.
The guru I ended up choosing, Paramahansa Yogananda, was also a fighter, and he was fearless. Maybe that's part of the reason I was drawn to him. My guru was was the reincarnation of Arjuna, the ideal devotee and warrior, and also William the Conquerer. (Yogananda remembered his life as William the Conquerer.)
It must be an overwhelming feeling of brotherhood and respect that fighting men get for each other, when they fight together. I can also understand how soldiers from two opposing sides also get a respect for each other, one with a human validity that transcends the politics of the situation. I can understand U.S. soldiers from the war getting a profound respect for the German soldiers they were fighting, thinking, "These were really men and they were really fighters." The famous Christmas time peace, where British and German soldiers shared a smoke with each other briefly before resuming shooting at each other, is something I can easily understand. And I can understand how, after fighting with your buddies and seeing their valor and nobility, then seeing them killed and maimed before you, it must enrage your soul and give you a heavy load for the rest of your life. Such was the case, I believe, with my dad.
Dad fought in the brutal Pacific Theater and was on the island of Saipan and there were huge losses for the Marines on those islands. I have often thought that my past life probably involved WWII, in the European theater. This based on my early interests, dreams, and chills I'd get hearing about certain places and aspects of the war. Also because of the father I chose. I assume I was in the European Theater, on either the British or German side, and airplanes were involved. Probably not by flying them, but me jumping out of them. I've never had the slightest interest in flying in airplanes. My father did, making sophisticated flyable motorized planes by hand as a boy, then getting a pilot's license in later life. But I loved the idea of jumping off high things when I was young. I had a strange faith in it, sometimes deliberately precipitating long falls from swingsets or trees with great delight. I'd hit, and it would hurt, but I'd do it again later. I seemed to always want to jump off of things, with some sense "I can surely fly!" I loved hanging off of high tree limbs. One rather high one broke, and I am lucky I was rightside up rather than hanging upside down at the time, or I might not be here to write this. I also loved clambering up and over high walls and fences. No neighbor's yard was ever safe from me.
I did love drawing warplanes by age five or six, and I was very good at drawing. Hearing about wartime France and Germany I could feel what it was like there. From childhood I had a recurring dream where I'm in a shot-up city, a battleground town in Europe, and I am hiding in a the ruin of a building and out of bullets. I have an obsession to find more ammo, or scrounge for another gun, even that of a dead man. The enemy, an ominous presence or thought, is always somewhere nearby, approaching, and I'm hiding, mostly separated from others. The gun and the thought of the gun was the one comfort. 'If I can just find more bullets, things will be fine.'
I never had such an event occur in my real life, or saw it in films. It was probably a scene from a past life, possibly the last scene. But I get emotional hearing about the men of the R.A.F., or the paratroopers who dropped into France and Germany. Once I met a man who was a real paratrooper into France in that war. I wanted him to tell me about it. But he wouldn't. I feel strangely comforted and charmed by the sound of women speaking in German.
Till about age 12 my favorite play with other boys was to "play war." Basically, if you could come up with some passable guns, it involved hiding out and stalking each other, and I guess who ever could make the most realistic machine gun sound with his mouth would think he'd got the other guy. We never really had any clear rules. But it was delightful crouching in hiding, in the middle of a war, with your gun and no soul in the world knowing your mysterious location. So near to danger. So "on the edge" in life. Those moments deep in some neighbor's hedge, or in some shadowy overgrowth, keeping safe but ready to pounce from the silence, were some of the most exquisite of my life. Some years on we discovered that big dirt clods made realistic "grenades." You'd throw it and it would explode in bits that looked just like shrapnel. But some less gnarly boy chickened out and his parents declared it unsafe. The magic began to die. I think we were influenced a little by marketing and the television shows like "Combat," obviously marketed to the huge veteran demographic. On the other hand, some boys didn't seem much interested in this kind of thing.
I don't know how bad the fighting that my Dad saw on Saipan. Those islands were places of great death and butchery for the Marines. I think the war certainly upset him, because he never wanted to talk about it. It seemed to exacerbate a beer drinking habit he'd gotten in the Lithuanian neighborhood of Chicago. After Saipan he was in occupied Japan after the Truman administration dropped the atomic bomb there. Life got more interesting and easy. I heard he had done a bit of work as a hack interpreter there. My impression was that he enjoyed Japan and gained a certain respect for the Japanese culture. He brought back tremendous souvenirs, including a kimono and two beautiful samurai swords that my brothers and I occasionally cut our fingers on checking if the blades were still sharp. Ouch.
Once my dad told me about how the American men in Japan found many Japanese women were easy pickings. (He spoke euphemistically as he set that scene, but that's what he was trying to tell me.) Many had lost their husbands, many were impoverished, and the Marines were a victorious army. He said that a little Japanese woman tried, in fact, to latch on to him. He said many men took advantage of the women. Then he let on to me -- and this was his purpose for the story -- that he did not succumb to that temptation. From such critical decisions throughout life character is built, and karma is piled up, whether good or bad. He told me several stories like this during his life, designed to convey the proper moral direction in life. Once he said that he remembered the precise circumstances of each of the conceptions of his six children. He said, "I remember them all because it was not some random, casual thing." He was conveying that he took sex seriously and did not abuse it. Then he said, "You were conceived when your mother and I were having a little campout, in a tent, in our back yard."
Dad had a big picture book we called "The war book." It was blue. There were many amazing photos of the war in the Pacific and I used to love looking at it. It shows a group of marines surveying the nuclear ruins of Nagasaki from the deck of a ship. You can pick out my dad in a crowd of men on deck just from the back of his head and upper body, easily identifiable by his son, especially since dad kept wearing the same crew cut after the war. He worried occasionally in later years about possible affects from the radiation. He had that Virgo trait of little worries over health. It was never an issue affecting anything. Just something I register about him now in retrospect. It was a sign of his attitude about the war that he never once showed us the book himself or spoke about it. It was something we just regularly pilfered from his library. He also never pointed out to us that he was in one of its pictures. We discovered it ourselves.
My father was voted by his men as 'best marine' of his platoon after the war. I don't know the actually designation, but it relied on certain technical qualifications (such as marksmanship) and the will of the men, who voted. It gave him an option to become a kind of elite, do-nothing sea-going marine wearing a very handsome dark blue uniform and white gloves. But he turned it down, he said, because "I couldn't leave my buddies."I think he saw some of the gruesome scenes of war, and probably the killing of some buddies. So he never talked about the war itself. My older brothers had pulled something out of him before I came along. So sometimes I'd find myself in a chorus saying, "Tell us a war story." But he'd get a irritated and we stopped asking for this. But he could tell other stories, and sometimes did, around the fireplace. He was very good at this and could be sometimes pressed into it. He seemed happiest when a family time was unfolding with his boys.
Mind you, my mother seldom praised my father, and never spoke of any of these things. These are simply the observations of a son.
Around the house he always wore a white T-Shirt and shorts. He kept his hair in a crew cut. But a rather long crew cut. Chestnut brown and thick, it could grow pretty full yet remain a crew cut, still standing up straight. I think it was the hipster in him, possibly, that enjoyed sporting that longer crew cut. He was particular about hair and never let it go. He expected us to be the same way. He taught us how to comb it, and to put a part in it. On the side, not the middle. The discipline of the hair is actually a profound symbol of the discipline and cultivation of the sexual energy, the animal energy. All clothes and ways of dress contain symbolism and transmit values. Cultures that lose moral restraints go for big hair and finally wild hair. Cultures that restrain and cultivate the creative energy restrain and cultivate the hair. When his sons started wanting to grow their hair long, influenced by the '60's media, it bothered my father greatly and there were great battles over it. I know now that he saw it has a collapse of culture and tradition, and a fall from basic discipline. He was actually right. But we had psychological reasons, in our context, for wanting our hair long.
While stationed in occupied Japan father painted tremendous paintings of local scenes, including an exquisitely done portrait of a red-headed woman in a patterned scarf. It had Norman Rockwell quality. (A painter I admired.) I don't exaggerate. I was a pretty good artist myself and was more-or-less flabbergasted that my father, who did not grow up aspiring to art, could have painted those paintings, then never pursued art again or talked about it. But there was his signature, and there was no controversy about it. It seemed he could do anything except music. But he didn't think much of any of this. As a teen he had once worked in a machine shop, a tool-and-die factory. The best old machinist, on retiring, gave him his own box of tools because Dad was so gifted with machines. I saw the box one day and asked, "Where'd you get that." He didn't tell me the "I was so good with machines" part. I just figured it out. He was. A master craftsman only gives you his tools when he sees that in you.
Dad was Virgo-city. He loved figuring out how things worked, fixing them, and making them work better. One of his favorite lines -- and it's really a classic Virgo line -- was "We have things down to a system now." That's what Virgo always wants to do. Improve conditions by systematizing everything. It's from his instinct to better serve. In the Marines he was trained as an aerial mapmaker. Now that's Virgoville. You can't be making maps for military operations and make many mistakes. I think it's how he learned surveying, and learned to love flying. In peacetime with his family he had a surveying scope and would survey our land, and land he once considered buying.
His head was full of so many things I didn't understand. Once while working on improving an electric engine he said to me, "I wish I could take everything that's in here" (gesturing over his head) "and put it in there" (placing his hand over my head). That's how fathers feel. I learned later in life, through mystic knowledge, that this is exactly what fathers do, without fail, simply by thinking of their children.
He loved tools. He had a workshop full of them and hated it when we misplaced one or abused one, which four active boys were wont to do quite regularly. He made impressive architectural drawings in the course of planning his do-it-yourself remodels, and I think what he really wanted to be was an architect. He was a fan of Frank Lloyd Wright. He was always reading something (one of the ways he neglected his kids, too).
Father was also a great dresser with a keen sense of style. This came from his Libra rising. My brothers and I might come up to him dressed in new suits for church, and he'd pull and pinch and move things around like a tailor getting us 'just so.' He would point out how a quality fabric had a nice "hang" to it while a cheaper fabric didn't. He had an amazing long, dark blue cashmere coat that I found in the attic years after the divorce. It was of such quality that it had to have cost a lot of money. I wore it on one of my runaway trips, which had evolved later into a saddhu-like quest for truth, when I left during one of Iowa's worst winters. It was good insulation. I'm sad to say I abandoned it, well-worn, deep in Texas. On another of my runaway trips, his standard issue wool Marine Corps blanket, which was too short to cover yourself without curling up, was all that kept me alive at night. I'm happy to say I gave that to a wandering fellow, near lake Flathead in Montana where I was sleeping in the woods with other cherry pickers. He had less that me for warmth.
Later in life dad became a Little League baseball coach. It seemed that those boys became like his missing "buddies" of the platoon. He was very devoted to teaching the boys how to grow in their game, play fairly, and try to win. I wish he had devoted even 5 percent of that attention on me. Once I was on one of his teams. But he seemed to make a particular effort to ignore me, probably to spare himself any accusations of favoring a son. He never threw ball with me or developed my athletic side. My little brother Joe got that attention. Maybe he just sensed I was the philosopher type, or an arty type. But I was game for it, had he tried. Sons are nurtured just by having their fathers direct attention to them doing anything. But his coaching was clearly an altruistic work and he was a beloved coach by many of the families because he put the boys first, and played fair. He would get emotional about conflicts with other coaches he deemed less ethical. Once he quit an insurance position over an ethical matter, standing up for an associate he felt was being wronged. He had been offered, and refused, to go into the more lucrative side of insurance -- sales -- because he said, "I can't fluff things up and sell people things that they might not really need."
Predictably, he wasn't the best moneymaker and he was a terrible cheapskate. He hated to buy anything new, and he'd build whole additions to houses from parts he'd scrounged and salvaged. He was always salvaging things, then creating beauty and order from them. Yet he would sometimes splurge bizarrely on himself on some elegant fancy, like the day he drove home in a long Cadillac car. Or a Pontiac convertible with leather. He had a lot of pride and liked status symbols. That was one thing that suited my mother well and dad gave her a lifelong addiction to big, quiet, air-conditioned, stereophonic Cadillac car interiors.
Our home was filled with portraits, mostly various ones my mother did. But the most impressive portrait in our home was one of my father. It was done while he was fighting in the Pacific Theater in WWII. Behind him was green tropical island foliage. His shirt was off . He had a beautiful, developed body and was bronzed in the sun, dog tags hanging. His crew cut, medium-long but standing up like a rooster's, shone in the sun with a touch of blond shine. His bearing in the portrait was a blend of ramrod soldierly straightness and poised readiness, and his eyes were fierce. No messing with this guy! The whole feeling was of three things: Manliness, nobility, and warriorship. He was very respected as the platoon sergeant, and protective of his men, and chose to stay with them rather than abandon them for a cushy promotion.
My home was always loaded with portraits that mother had done. This one was actually by a better artist, with better technique. But it had no pride of place in our home. She never seemed to hang it or feature it anywhere. So dad stuck it into whatever corners she would allow, perhaps near his desk. It was finally lost through the complete breakup of our family, probably taken by a burglar, because it was a very fine work, and you couldn't help but be impressed by the man in the painting..
Mom used to say dad was "talented," and that he was "handsome," and a "a good man." But they were incompatible. There seemed to be things about him she disliked. I was never sure what. I actually never heard him criticize her and I never heard them fight. I do remember how they murmured to each other in the bed at night, talking about family things. She'd refer to him being "sarcastic." But sarcasm was actually her forte, not his. I can honestly say I never once even heard my father gossip about another, much less make fun of anybody. He hated what was on the T.V. He detested shows like "Laugh In" and would say, "What a bunch of fakes" etc. Seeing a long-haired rock group he'd say, "Look at those bums." He'd say that for his sons' hearing, to instruct them in values. But when it came to personal relations, and real people, he had high ethics. Those who were his enemies or antagonizers, he'd be silent about them. He and my mother were in various battles and tensions with the Jewish neighbors next door for years, yet I never heard a word about it. I also never heard the word "Jew," not even knowing myself that they were Jewish until I reached the age of fifty. Those of other races, he'd watch them from a distance. If engaging with them, he was friendly and respectful, but just cordial. He wasn't a glad hander like mom. Everything about him was honest. Possibly my father criticized my mother sometimes in private. Once I asked my dad near the end of his life, "Why did you and mother divorce?" and he said, "I don't know." Well, I know. They were incompatible. And the world was changing too fast. And he had a little drinking addiction that got bigger as the world spun out of control and their marriage started to become troubled. The sixties were a crazy time. Everything was changing radically and it bewildered my dad. And he had wanted an old world woman who valued hearth, home and family. She was not that. My mom was not that woman.
Later I became an astrologer and found out that my Father was Libra rising, Virgo sun, with Pluto in the First House. The later item gives one a strong quality of Scorpio, including intuition, fearlessness, and experience dealing with power and with war. My father was always observing and quietly taking things in. He would sit for long hours on his haunches outdoors, surveying some recent work he had done, making plans for the work. He was always building something or improving the house or property. He took on major undertakings. He would be out there as night fell, usually with a beer and a cigarette. You could see the light from his Winston from the distance. And if not on the outs with him, it was fun to sit and chat with him. He would be in a relaxed and pleasant mood at that time, and seemed to enjoy the companionship and conversation of his children.
I found that dad often knew many detailed things about people in the neighborhood. He would know the whole story of some legal matter concerning the land, or what was going on among several families. Later these things would pop out, years later, and I wondered how he knew these things because he didn't visit anybody and was not a gossip. His profession was insurance adjuster. He would go to the site of disasters and determine "what really happened." So he had this penetrating mind, related to the Pluto-is-First.
One strange thing he loved to do was to predict things regarding pregnancies, such as the birth dates or sexes of a child. I caught him doing this with family friends more than once. In most ways an utterly practical Virgo, yet he took an odd pride in some kind of power of cognition, and seemed to consider himself to have a high probability of accuracy, I don't know how. Much later I learned he had dabbled briefly in astrology. But he was basically a very practical, technically-minded Virgo. He always had a well appointed workshop down in the basement full of many tools and materials and I spent happy hours down there learning -- all by my self through sheer interest -- how to make things. I loved Dad's quiet workshop. The smell of sawdust from his latest project. The smell of oil, and all his beautiful tools lined up neatly in their places on a fiberboard wall with hooks. My brother Mark went through a phase of making his own cool belts and leather bracelets using leather working tools, down in dad's shop. Finding my older brother there, I followed him like a pest and soon was haunting the workshop also. One time he showed me a bit of how it was done, happy to have some company while he worked. And I took up the leather-making craft briefly. I made some cool belts.
When I was around four, back in our original bungalow house, I asked my dad. "Why did you give me this name?" I remember where I was, beside the refrigerator. He looked down with a quiet smile saying, "We looked up in a book of saints and there were no saints with that name yet." I remember just being vaguely perplexed. I didn't know at all what he meant. For a moment, I flashed on: "Oh, he thinks all my brothers are to be great, but not me." Then I fled from that thought, and mused, "Well, that was I guess a neat way to pick a name for your kid. Why not?""Neat" was a lingo I picked up by that age. I was always picking up "lingo" from my brothers and school mates. I didn't ask Dad for further explanation of most things. I left it at that and forgot about it until old age.
Later on, my father figured strongly in some of my spiritual experiences, including a series of three "initiation" dreams I had when I discovered my guru in this life.
One last thing I noticed most about my dad: People, especially women, seemed to respect him. I remember being a bit amazed by an almost reverential tone in the way mothers would would talk to, and about, my dad. Just the way they'd even say "Vick." The truth is, he was handsome. But he never flirted with the women. More than that, he had an integrity. It was that tone used by others that first hinted to me that my father was a very good man.
My Mother and Father Compared;
My Chief Pain with my Mother
The importance of family was something my dad understood, and that knowledge later ripened in me, though I and my siblings were psychologically harmed my mom and dad's divorce. People want, and need, to be part of an intimate group first, then groups of decreasing intimacy with more abstract ties. (Town, nation.) The family is meant to naturally serve that purpose. Nobody loves you as much as your own family and is willing to sacrifice as much, and upon that fact rests the true well-being of children. And that's why all children need their own parents and people to get the best in life, and what life has destined for them naturally by karma. Those who want to attack the family and its natural legitimacy are power-trippers and meddlers who want to manage and control the world, weaken human beings, and make them needy and dependent on those who love them far less.
In my view, my mother scattered herself too much among too many people. She always had a smile, a good word, and a laugh for literally everybody and for this reason she was very popular with those outside her family. She seemed to be obsessed with "being elsewhere" or "being with so-and-so" or talking to so-and-so. I have many memories of waiting with my brothers in the station wagon while she visited some friend, inside of some house, for "just a minute." It seem it would always be an eternity before she came out. I do not know. Maybe it was just 20 minutes but felt like an hour. Those were hellish times. I am sure some of the waits were a half hour. She just couldn't talk-talk enough. Likewise, at home she was often on the phone. Here she might talk to someone for a good hour, the whole time me and other siblings hanging around her with one need or another, but unable to get her attention. Those were hellish times, too.
I realized this was partly a function of the bizarre ways that American towns and neighborhoods were set up, especially the suburban model, which basically isolates mothers at home, destroys the everyday social connections that obtained naturally before the unholy automobile proliferated to destroy the natural conditions of human towns and neighborhoods. So she was an absurdly isolated mother because of the unforeseen consequences always associated with western man's technological invention. From that point-of-view, I understand it.
But her mind was more on the world than on her kids. Later, she had the whole world coming through our house daily and my home became a public place as she started a business selling portraits in oil and pastel. All sorts of people would come into our house and sit for a portrait. I grew up like this and this is how she fed us when my father, depressed by the divorce and custody situation, and sinking into alcoholism, became a less fruitful check writer for her. In this house there was no place to hide from strangers. If a room started to become comfortable to me and my brothers, and we started to hang out there and get to know each other, she'd soon break it up by re-arranging the furniture for some other purpose. Rarely did a room remain the same for more than a few months. Never once did she create any sort of "family room" or place intended for the children to feel at home. Family patterns did not develop under her single-mother reign. It was dad who had the family vision. But she was given all the power in the divorce. We all kept to our rooms after dad was gone. She liked it that way I think.
At her funeral memorial, there was a huge houseful of people. They came all day. I didn't go. There was a great big box of letters written about her gushing with admiration. I didn't read them. I read one and the fatuous stupidity of her fans made me ill. All they knew is her outer persona. As a mother, she didn't have my heart because her mind was really not on her kids or her family. What she did have was a basic physical affection for her kids. This made her an emotional anchor in life-saver in my otherwise deprived childhood.
She was basically available, even as a single mother, because she found a way to work out of the home. If I came to her near the state of emotional collapse because of some upset, or because of being out on the deserted island of my family life for too long, she was always a listening ear. She would listen with empathy, would not criticize or judge, and would be strongly comforting. At that times I would always explode into a fount of tears and felt much better afterward. This is something mothers are supposed to, at least, be. And she was that.
She was also very lavish with praise. She would always focus on whatever positives she could think of about you, and was slow to criticize while my father was quick to criticize. She may not have known my mind that well, but what she did know, she praised it to the skies. If I ever asked for anything, really wanting it, she would always get it. Thus when I got interested in music and asked for a guitar, there it was. She would do anything to get me a thing that I really wanted. I did not ask for much, but when I did, it was there. Thus easily commenced a life of music for me.
My father was terribly stingy. But mother was permissive, generous, and lenient. Dad was a hard place in many ways. He had rules and expectations, and was often stern about them. But she was a soft place of safety if you could get her. Though she was on the edge financially all the time, she made our poverty obscure and far away. She put a big grand piano in our home and let me doodle on it for years until I became a pretty good pianist by ear. It was a strange light pastel green with some beautiful hairline cracks in the paint just a bit here and there. Now play me any pop song or carol and I can analyze its structure in seconds, and be playing it's correct bass parts and chords, including some of the right inversions and fingerings. Being a piano player is a great way to create fun at parties. That's because my mother never complained about my years of hammering on the family grand. My brothers put up with it, too.
One of the greatest things my mom did is to counsel me, starting young, to never smoke, never drink, and never do drugs. She emphasized all three to me. I held to that except for much later, in my late forties, I got the notion to smoke a pipe and occasionally do that. I think it was because the smell of the tobacco makes me feel more connected to my dad.
My greatest pain related to my father is that he was a terrible listener. He preferred to be the one doing all the talking, and because he listened so little to my states or my stories, I felt he barely knew me as the big inner and outer life changes unfolded. He was also a T.V. addict and became a serious beer drinker, which put him at odds with mother because of the negative state changes it would create, and was a key cause of their divorce, the family breakup, and the destruction of his own best dreams. In earlier life his T.V. habit destroyed the sense of family in the house. In later life he would stupidly and callously keep watching the tube, loud, even when I visited him after some long absence with important things to tell. How many potential father-son conversations were preempted by that hellish box. How much it must have affected our ultimate relationship! But then, even had he had the basic consideration to turn it off, he would have listened little to me. Once when I came back from Alaska after long years there and with much I hoped to tell, his opening words were: "So you've been in Alaska? I had some dealings once with Alaska back with the insurance company..." And that was the end of my opportunity to speak to him. I had to listen then to a half-hour story about his obscure dealings with Alaska many years ago. Basically he was very self-centered as a listener.
What he ultimately gave me, by that trait, was a tremendous capacity to shut up, to listen, myself, to concentrate long, and to take in a great deal of speech. This later became important in my work and studies as an astrologer.
Why do I still respect and love him? Because I sensed his heart was really with his kids and with the family concept, and because he had inviolate principles for which he would sacrifice himself. Both my mother and father were highly creative people. As a father later in life I found that I was contented with my children and their doings as long as they were creatively engaged with something. Well guess what? I was naturally creatively engaged with something -- whether building a model, or learning to play the guitar, or organizing the basement -- pretty much most of the time. Thus much of the time when I thought they were neglecting or ignoring me, they were really just satisfied that I was creatively engaged, and trying to get done whatever they could under the burden of six children.
My Brother and Sisters
The oldest was tall and brown-haired Mark. I admired him him greatly. To me he was Mr. Cool, the best at everything. He was the best looking (I always considered myself the unfortunate one in looks), the most popular, the most skilled. In his teens he was the manager of a teen dance club in my town that was the "hippest" thing going. As a young teen I went and lurked around my brother's operation, called "The Nowhere," watching bands and watching girls, and trying to stay out of his way because he treated me like a nuisance as big brothers often treat their little brothers, especially in places where he wanted to be as "cool" as possible. Little brothers have a way of spoiling your "cool," because they are always way less cool. This is natural.
Just as with my father, I sensed that many people admired Mark, and I was so proud of him. I also sensed in him, retroactively, a basic insecurity. I realized later that he was never so confident of his "coolness," but was just putting himself out there as best he could. But he was once the student council president of my prestigious high school, Roosevelt High, and I was impressed to see the "campaign posters" of him featuring a hand-painted portrait of himself, done by his girlfriend. He was a flashy dresser, always having the latest thing for men, even working at THE cutting edge clothing store downtown, where you could get the best duds. In the ferment of the 1960's, he was what could be called an "aesthetic hippie" type. They cared about good music, art, and elegance more than politics. I became the same sort. He did develop a bohemian political world view, where I tended to retain a conservative one. He liked weed and wine. I was a teetotaler. One of the best things about my older brothers was ransacking their music collections. His final interests were architecture, design, crafts, and family life. He married a wonderful woman and had five children. I remember him successfully making a beautiful wardrobe, for pay. He had a job for years creating accurate architectural models for architectural firms to use as project displays. I was amazed to see him, in later life, sitting there and sewing himself a white shirt by hand. In later life he took to letting his yard grow wild and became a beekeeper, trying to save the bees in their hour of need, and discomfiting the neighbors with his wilds. My brother Mark is an amazing guy!
Though I deeply admired my oldest brother, he was hard on me in my youth and considered me a pest. He mostly had sharp words for me and not words of encouragement or affirmation. Later, at the death of my mother, we had a talk about that and he softened suddenly, seeming to register everything and adjust his ways. From that time on, we had many excellent and sometimes uproarious conversations. All his children, my nephews, were intelligent and creative like the rest of us.
The next brother down, the blond Victor, was also a very strong personality. He was a strong intellect, an acerbic wit, a scholar of sorts, and later a bohemian type and epicure who was the city's music maven. He had radio shows where he played selections of jazz, or any genre, with intelligent commentary. He always knew a little bit about everything. When young, he seemed to be loaded with historical knowledge of Europe and the wars. He loved to play with hordes of small plastic army soldiers and reenact history battles. He was highly verbal and was a tease. In any conversation he would find some way to give you a little mockery, a little jab. He loved sarcasm. All of my family seemed to be experts in sarcasm, and this apparently came from my mother because I never remember a sarcastic word from my father. Later I noticed that all my mother's sisters, and they were a group of four women, were even more sarcastic than us boys and I realized there was the mother lode from our art had flowed. I have to assume that the original fount was my grandmother on mother's side. Possibly because of these aunts and my own mother, to this day I appreciate a woman who has the capacity for cynicism and clever mockery when directed at those who deserve it. Maybe it's a fault of mine, but a female with a rapier wit can get a guilty laugh out of me, and an uproarious one. I could enjoy the conversation of such a female for hours, whereas others might be put off by it, as long as she herself has some class and some morals. In the movie "Pride and Prejudice" featuring Colin Firth, the rich man Bingham has one such sister, a dark-haired and elegant cynic. Though the character was not that good-looking, and could be described as negative and conspiring, she was one of my favorite persons in the tableau because she was just like my aunts.
But this trait of cynicism and sarcasm in Victor -- the sharpest wit of my brothers -- made him prickly, hard to talk to, and hard to stay close to. In later years it was difficult to get a straight, sincere word out of him. He continued his career in radio and became a noted radio interviewer of authors, and was known for being the best informed interviewer or the author circuit, having usually actually read his guests' books. I always sensed in him a tender heart, and a lot of emotions. But with the later divorce of my parents, all of us became very distant, and he perhaps more than the others.
I was next in the line. Then there was Joe: Witty, funny, exceedingly handsome, a ladies' man, a sporting fellow, one of the guys. He enjoyed baseball, then basketball, then hockey, then hunting, then golf, and even archery. He seemed to do it all. Joe was the most lovable of the group, with emotions closest to the surface. But again, I became distant from all my brothers partly through my solitary nature, and partly through the divorce and the way it was handled (or not handled).
Under Joe was Kathy, the first girl. I felt close to her in childhood and fond of her as the first girl. We ended up increasingly distant with the divorce. She became a very wholesome, noble-minded New England gardener, wife, mother, and Buddhist and will always be a dear sister to me who I am proud of. She has a wise, sensible, and compassionate heart.
Finally came Patty, who was basically raised as an only child though she was closer to Joe and Cathy. By the time she was "on the radar" as a personality, I was distant from the home and family, and was never close to Patty. She became very handy with carpentry, cars, and practical things (a lot like her father) and I have always had a bemused pride and admiration for her because of her abilities. She also has a great wit and sparkling sense of humor (when she's not mad or hurt). She had all of my aunts' trenchant wit and ability to analyze people, and then some. Patty is a dear who I wish I had been closer to and more supportive of, growing up. Basically, the divorce was a kind of explosion and the six strong personalities in our family went into different orbits, far apart from one another. There was great sadness in the story of my family of origin. All of us were intelligent and creative personalities, and we all had a distinctive kind of family quality to our minds and manner of speaking. When I am with my brothers I am always highly entertained and delighted with their wit and way of viewing things. It feels like "me" and I am very at home with it, except when they are being overly negative or putting in knives. The same is true with Patty, she has that family mind that is uniquely ours, and is the most like my mother in terms of sparkle and deft conversation. In fact, if I ever wanted to evoke my own mother and her way of talking, her humor, and her uproarious capacity to deconstruct fools -- all I'd have to do is listen to Patty talk. Nobody was around my mother more than Patty, and she carries much of her spirit.
The Isolation of the "Middle Child,"
A Mother Present but Not Present
As the third I was basically a middle child and had the middle-child experience. That is, I was basically missed, or unnoticed compared to my older brothers and my younger sisters. At least it felt that way. This often creates a child who is in large measure unknown to his family as there is not enough attention to go around. I was aware of it by the age of four, with a strong feeling of being neglected. It also, I believe, creates a strong observer. You tend to back away from the complexities and conflicts of the family, observe, and learn. You don't get listened to a lot, so you become strong at listening. Both of these qualities -- observing and listening -- ended up being at the basis for my strong career as an astrologer that came later.
I run away from home for the first time
My mother's mind was always on housework. She was a neat freak. You couldn't get comfortable or hide a mug of tea anywhere. It seemed she was always washing dishes or cleaning the floor.
I would get to wondering, "If I disappeared, I am not sure anybody would miss me." To test this theory, and also to punish my mother who I sensed had her mind on many other things besides me, I ran away from home at least five times, starting at the age of four. I remember walking out of the house on a winter's day to undertake this. I had seen pictures of hobos and "runaways" having a stick with a cloth sack hanging off the end, a handkerchief stuffed with their belongings, and hoisted over their back. This looked like the way it was done, so I tried to cook that up. It seemed like too much trouble and thought, so I abandoned that and just walked out the door. I ended up crouching beside a neighbor's garage, in a place just outside our yard, and waiting, hoping, that my mother would notice I was not in the house on this cold wintery day. I waited for her to miss me. I was four years old.
The experiment turned out tragically for me. It seem that hours were wearing on, and as they did, my heart sank lower and lower. Soon I was very cold, and night had begun to fall. I had positioned myself by this garage because it was both outside of our property (I never left our property at these hours and I was trying to make a statement) and it was in view of the window where my mother washed the dishes and could look out. I could actually see her face there. I was hoping she would notice me there and at least get curious about why I was crouching in the snow alone by that garage, on such a cold winter, for so long, and with night now falling.
She never looked out at me. She never saw me. I never heard her call out the door. I could have easily heard it. As I got colder and the night got darker, my concept of running away from home got more and more confused. I really didn't want to run away from home or my mom. I just wanted her to know that I existed and to care about it in some way. A little bit would have gone a long way. Look at me. "What have we here? What are you thinking right now?" Right now I was just doing an experiment to see if my hunch was correct or if I was just imagining that she never had her mind no me. The experiment wasn't going well. I didn't even have proper mittens. That was probably one of the saddest moments of my life, there at four in the snow by that garage as the night settled and the bright snow went gray.
Finally, nature and the weakness of a four-year-old boy worked their natural arithmetic and I came into the warm house, beaten and disappointed. It was warmly warm but there was no joy in entering. Maybe it was a mistake. Maybe it was just a vagary of fate. Maybe there was steam on the window and she couldn't actually see me though I could see her and I was just a dark shape stooping in snow against a white painted garage. Maybe she just assumed I was on my latest trip to the planet Mercury with Sage Rastus the Kid Doctor. I had one last hope that she would express some relief or dismay when she saw me again, like "Where have you been??? I have been so worried about you!!? But no cigar. Maybe it was just the way she was that day. I put thoughts in my mind that might enable me to go on living, and tried to forget about it. I vaguely recall she might have said, "Where have you been?" but not overly interested or concerned, just slightly annoyed. Or possibly she did not say a thing and never even noticed. That is probably what actually happened because I seem to have blocked that out.
My family was a hubbub. It seemed that my energetic older brothers, and now the vital young Joe, were plenty enough to occupy my parents' minds. Dad had many hobby interests and constructive projects. During this time he was likely reading about installing stone patios, because he did install one. This was one of the first instances of learning to help my dad with his building projects, and it didn't go very well. He loved to read "how-to" books and much of his weekend was spent reading them. Mother seemed to be heavily pre-occupied with pleasing father in the realm of housework and cooking, and only seemed to turn her attention to me at all when dad was gone. It seemed that dad's very presence made her uptight compared to when she was alone with us. Then when he was gone, her interest turned to reaching out to friends by phone and car, and not to her third son. I have one memory of her getting some library books explicitly with me in mind, and of her taking the time to read to me at around age four. In retrospect, she may have been stimulated by some kind of public service announcement -- about reading to your kids. Or, she was thinking about the fact that she would soon dump me in a kindergarten, and she had heard this might help me cope with that. The one memory I have of mother reading me a book -- I remember it was one of those strange Dr. Seuss things -- is almost sweet to me. I say "almost" because her mind was not really there. She was not enjoying reading to me.
I run away from home the 2nd time
Still at the little bungalow on a dead-end, and a very aware age six, I repeated my statement, this time in a more serious way. Again the thought besieged me: "Do they even know I exist?"
This time I went further. I went to a hiding place behind some bushes at the brick apartments behind our house. I don't know how long I had to crouch there before they noticed I was gone. It might have been an hour. It might have been three hours. Finally I had gone missing for what was, to them, a perceivable strange long time. As the moments ticked on, my heart was breaking again.
Finally I began to hear my name called out. My whole family -- brothers and mother included -- were shouting out my name "Curt!" The world was suddenly right again.
I had never seen my father run, and it was the only time that I was to see it. I heard my dad's call coming nearer. Then I heard the thumping of his bare heels down the concrete driveway to my left and his voice called loud towards the rising walnut-treed hills of the campus of the Smouse School across the street -- a great place for a boy to wander and maybe get lost. But I was right beside him. Seeing and hearing his pained heart, I emerged out of my place, both hot and cool, behind the dark of the bushes.
I feel a some pain to this day when when I recall that vivid image and hear in my ears my father urgently calling my name. He touched my shoulder, claiming me, and I silently went with him as he called "I have him!" I was partly abashed to have frightened my family. Yet I did not make up any story or give any explanation. I thought he might reprove me angrily. But at this moment I have often thought -- in my later years -- that he understood it all. He knew exactly what I had done, and why. It probably gave him pain.
I was to have other moments like that with my mother in my teens. Each time I repeated the same actions, which became bolder and more capable over the years, each time going further.
In later years, when I was a parent, I realized that my mother was aware of me in her own way, and did have part of her mind on me. Later I saw that she would write about me often in her diary, starting young, noting what was going on with me and making observations. I realized that part of her approach was to simply give me a long leash and allow me a lot of freedom. Both of my parents were creative people. Later with my own children I found that I was happy and contented with a child as long as she was at least creatively engaged. I always was. I was always working on one thing or another -- digging for fossils, building a plane model, learning guitar chords. I think it was her habit to be satisfied and leave me alone as long as I was creatively engaged. I think she was aware of me most of the time; she just didn't convey that to me. So I grew up feeling neglected and it was painful. I think this is stronger for the middle child. Parents can give you, usually, only just a bit more than they themselves have been given. And my mother got little attention from her own mother, and likely improved on that with me. One thing she was very good at was praise, acceptance, and positive words. Once she would decide to put her mind or you for a moment, she tried to make up for her long neglect with a surfeit of positive words. It was a lifesaver. More about that later.
But after the pain of it, the middle child becomes his own person. With benign neglect comes freedom, freedom to explore, learn, become anything you can dream of. With lack of attention there is also lack of demands. This may make the child immature since fewer demands and responsibilities are placed on him. But he becomes a unique and intrepid individual unafraid to go his own way, even unsupported. This was me.
So as a middle child I had much freedom. Then even more when my mother became a single mother with sole custody at the age of 13. I was basically unsupervised. At an early stage this freedom saw me exploring music, musical performing, then finally religions. I needed to study religions, because the world had become a very confusing place by the middle 1960's.
Occasionally while paper-collecting with mother people would leave a special treasure: A stack of magazines! Usually my brothers commandeered the magazines and I saw them only briefly. Finally I caught on, and I remember secreting a little stack of Life and Look magazines into the car, away from the eyes of my brothers. I got them safely into a closet in the house. One of the most delicious moments of my life was setting down with a little light in that closet to look at Life and Look. I remember one cover had a beautiful artist's tableau of prehistoric life, which always especially fascinated me as a boy. Then I saw a handsome man and his wife, and learned that he was our president. I was very moved by him. The magazine made it seem that he was important and well-loved. I wanted to be like him. His name was John F. Kennedy. I felt a thrill when I saw him. I was proud that my country had this young and handsome president, with a wife so beautiful and gracious. What a world-revelation was those magazines! To finally view the Big World out there, from my little perch in father's disciplined family, stimulated my mind greatly. Our family never had a T.V. until much later. When we got one and father started watching it (mother never did, unless she was on T.V.) , it profoundly altered the family atmosphere in a negative way.
Family life was sweet before the T.V. appeared, and the simple lack of that glo-box encouraged me to read young. So magazines were my first exposure to "the media." Later I was to see a profound change in "the media," especially in the magazines published out of the city of New York. Magazines became increasingly disturbing and vile. But in those early days, Life and Look magazine presented a wonderful and fascinating world.
Though mother taught me not to smoke, one of my favorite memories is the smell of Saturday and Sunday mornings when I could come out and find my dad relaxing at the kitchen table. My mom would be in the kitchen fixing things. The smell was that of bacon, eggs, sausages, and coffee mixed with the morning newspaper, and most pleasant of all, the first sweet puff from his Winston. My mother hated dad's smoking, I later realized, and considered it low class. But for me it was just part of the smell of my dad.
Then there was the music. It was always on during those mornings and nights. They both loved the radio on KRNT and KSO. And the music that flowed from that little radio from 1957 to 1962 was the greatest magic of my life.
Besides my own inner childhood mind, music was the only transcendental thing, the only real magic in my life till the age of six. My father always had the radio on. I was spiritually fed by the songs I heard. The languid voice of the woman who sang "We'll Sing in the Sunshine" was like a distant aunt or supplementary mother figure to me. This wandering song entered my heart so that I could look to the west as it played and visualize far away places, woods, and wandering people. Then there was "King of the Road." Later I ended up writing a few "wandering" songs. When I listen to some of my own songs, I hear strains and nuances of those late 50's and early 60's "wandering" songs.
There were a lot of happy songs featuring strong male choruses interplayed with female choruses. I realized years later that my dad's generation loved this music because it hearkened to life with the men in the war, how the men would sing marching songs together in strong male voices. The women of America, during the war, were very attuned to their men and supportive. Their voices, in these choruses, evoked their support, and the natural ideals both held for marriage and conjugal happiness. Basically it was the sound of moms and dads happily singing to each other, and great spiritual food for youngsters. I saw a movie where the actor Tom Hanks was playing a manager to an early 60's band. He had himself penned a song that went "I love you lots and lots and lots." When I heard it, I realized that Hanks had grown up with the same kind of music. The song is a worthy attempt to recreate the choral effect, the male-female principle, and the basic innocence of these songs that my mom and dad so loved.
One song that really fanned my imagination was "Downtown" by Petula Clark. We lived on a quiet dead-end street and there was no traffic. But sometimes my mother would pass through more urban areas of Des Moines in the car. I could see and feel in that song the excitement of the city life, and it's lights, as she sang. I would relate it's sophisticated mood to the street scenes I had just seen with my mother and the world became magic. Her voice was so clean, and sincere, and I really registered female empathy as she sang, "And you may find somebody kind to help and understand you. Someone who is just like you and needs a gentle hand to guide them along." The lyrics suggested that the world outside was full of beautiful and sophisticated young men and women who were also kind. In the 1950's and early '60's as I'd see wholesome young men hoofing past me on the way to college in the Drake University, pleasantly smiling at children in a natural, big-brotherly way I think it was true. At least truer than today.
These singers and artists were really playing the role of lesser gods in this world, and had huge impact on the mind and soul, especially for the young. My mom and dad played such good music around the house, and later it gave me a great respect for melody. As I evolved later into a musician, I had a value that melody was the most important and powerful aspect of songwriting, and labored hard to pull from the skies an original melody. The music of my mom and dad, and later the Beatles, placed a very high bar before me.
The Beatles, Rock Music, and the Sixties
I remember the moment that I learned that John F. Kennedy was assassinated. We were still a very innocent nation then, and most can remember exactly where they were when they heard. I was in a new and exciting game of kickball in gym class, around the 2nd grade. I even remember just where I was standing on the gym floor. An upper door flew open and in came Sister Michael Agnes, a nun I'd never had in class who was quite heavy and probably specialized with younger students. She bustled in as only heavy people can do, her white linen flying, and her face was red. Standing above us on a raised platform she cried, almost convulsively and, we suddenly saw, through tears: "Teachers! Children! President Kennedy has been shot! All classes are dismissed."It was the first and only time that happened. So I knew something big had happened. The next few days was a very sad time. The nation was traumatized and violated by that event, as suggested by the Don MacClean song "American Pie," that was the day American innocence died and for him and many, "the day the music died." I remember sitting alone on somebody's sloping yard, while Mom, Dad and the whole nation were inside watching the funeral in the house, and just wondering "Why?"
Other big moments occurred for the young in the 1960's. In the same way, I can recall the exact moment that I heard my first Beatles song. I can remember where I was standing, what the radio looked like, and the very tone of the transmission. And my, what a transmission took place! The moment is fixed in time. My little ears perked up and my consciousness, like an elevator, was suddenly drawn up to a joyful higher floor. The song -- I heard the DJ say -- had the impudent title of "I Wanna Hold Your Hand." I was transfixed by the vocals, the way they soared and cut through the very air. I was jaw-droppingly awed by George Harrison's guitar, the way it jangled and talked to you, reached out and hit you on the head with brash young genius. What IS that? Who ARE they? How do they DO that? Nobody had ever sung like that, or played guitars like that. Change. Later another moment came: The first time The Beatles played on the Ed Sullivan show for all of America to finally see 'face-to-face.' I can remember that moment and place so well I can still smell the air and see my dad watching the set with us, skeptical. With dad there, it felt naughty to watch the Beatles. My heart was in my mouth the whole time fearing he would be disgusted and turn off the set over their long-haired look. I felt like nothing had ever been so important to me in the world, than to simply see them. I remember feeling that if he did that, something inside of me would Die. He let us watch. Because my father was a clever man and he could see that, even though their look and sound annoyed him, they were highly musical and had unmistakable talent. Basically, he was too fascinated himself. It probably also helped that they had the nice dark suits, ties and swashbuckling boots. I didn't know this at the time, but my father had been a bit of a clothes peacock himself earlier on.
And they delivered. They released something in your soul. And what were they? Four creative young men in harmony. Full of life. Being what young men are supposed to be: phenomenons, hyper-new, bold and beautiful, manly and artful, having some kind of knowledge only the young know.
There they were in their nice black tailored suits and white buttoned collars. It's hard to understand, now, how against the backdrop of the plain, conservative, regimented 1950's their slightly longer hair was beyond cheeky and had a talismanic power. Add to it some pointy boots with slightly elevated heels, and now there was a vague sense of menace. But look at their boyish enthusiasm and esprit-de-corps, plus music that was from God's own melody-arbor, and it amounted to a male spiritual phenomenon and cultural revolution. We young people actually did view them as some kind of demigods, and the feeling was overwhelming. Each new Beatles song that came out, in that period, placed unnamed longing into winters, made a springtime feel more spring, changed whole summers of days and nights, and made the future bigger and more alive.
What I was actually hearing, was the sound of male energy, the sound of young men. It was the genius of the young male, along with his sexual energy like a mating call, distilled into music. A young man is full of energy, the creative energy. He does amazing things. He fights. He howls, and sings high. He creates. He tries to impress. In those lyrics, too, I got my first introduction to the idea of male-female attraction: "I want to hold your hand!" Why? a young boy asks. He seems to want to do this very badly. Later it would all be clear. But it's a mark of how innocent was the age that a song could reach such emotional construction simply around the lyric, "I want to hold you hand." May we have innocent ages like that once again. To boys and girls, you couldn't help but love the Beatles for putting so much emotion and drama into the innocent sentiment of holding a girl's hand. It was raw, fun, and beautifully innocent.
Girls screamed over the Beatles and went hysterical. Young men, too, were deeply moved in their masculine hearts. It spoke to your manhood and your own creative nature. Many years later I realized why women screamed. First, there was the backdrop of the 1950's which were very conservative, uniform, and self-controlled. Our parents generation had survived the war and come out on top by being disciplined, regimented, uniformly conformist, and following orders. For them, that's where safety and prosperity had indeed come from. The Beatles represented a break from order and unleashed -- albeit in ignorant ways -- the growing sexual potential of the "baby boom" generation as they matured. Basically the Beatles, and much that came later, stirred up the sexual potential of young men and women and broke the cultural boredom that was setting in, for young people starting to think, late in the 1950's.
But women screamed over the Beatles because they were intrepid young men in harmony. The "in harmony" part is very important. They were doing something new, different, and creative together, and they were doing something brave. (Breaking social conventions.) These are the things young men are supposed to do. So though my father would see the hair and say, "They look like girls," they were in fact acting precisely like men. And they were in harmony, and creating. What does this say to the female bones? They see "young men in harmony" and their bones say:
-- We will have a successful hunt
-- We will get through the winter
-- We will repel the enemy
-- We can procreate.
Thus they screamed, in feminine joy.
Young White European men, if you want your beautiful White European women to come after you that way, and worship you as Gods, and become your wives: Be in harmony with each other. That's what makes you strong, and makes you strong for them. They need this. And only your moral regeneration will put you back in harmony with other men of your kind. One of the greatest faults of the great White race is the tendency of its men to fight amongst each other, and the Jews know this and exploit it, and it only weakens you for your women. Start by being slow to criticize each other and using less demeaning, crude, and insulting language. Then go even further in brotherhood and friendship. Only moral regeneration will make all this clear.
Later at the age of 13 I developed a strong aspiration to become a musician, songwriter, and musical performer like the Beatles and so many of the other groups that had come before and after them. I developed an aspiration to be a songwriter that was so heavy I thought I would break in two if I could not write a Great Melody right there and then at 13. I started playing the guitar, dabbling on my mother's piano. Later at 16 I formed a rock group. And I started trying to write melodies, placing a huge expectation on myself. One melody did floated in at 13, which later became "Anthem For the Men Of The West." I remember the wild back yard I was cutting through when that melody floated into my mind after months of beating the skies within for one "original melody."
When a man is in his higher nature, he gets more than adequate thrills and satisfaction from things like music, good literature, poetry, beautiful buildings, the happiness and purity of children, walks through field and wood, and moonlight on untouched snow. When he is in his lower nature and sinking into ignorance, he starts getting most of his thrills in the form of the sex thrill and its biological and spiritual self-destruction. But I had not sunk to that point yet. At 10 or so, there were still karmic blessings bringing spiritual sweetness in my life.
It seems odd to have a section titled "Hair," but hair was somehow very important to me in my youth and for my generation. Maybe that is an expression of the idleness or emptiness of the successful, ordered lives our parents had achieved -- that something so small would seem so important. But in fact, the way people dress and handle there hair in any age has deep significance. I was part of a generation that used hair as a powerful symbol of creativity and rule-breaking. Astrologically, one can easily point to this as a delightful finding for the "Pluto-in-Leo" generation. The sign of Leo, also, gives a high valuation of the hair, seeing it as an expression of life force, authority, and power. Of course, I didn't think of it that way. For me after I bought my first packet of five-cent "Beatles Cards" (came with bubble gum, but the pictures were the best part) -- I just thought having hair strikingly longer was "cool."
"Cool" was a word we used it a lot. New lingo constantly circulated among me and by male buddies growing up. "Cool" to us really signified "of note," "attractive and also new," "impressive," "intrepid," "cocky," "better," "above the others." Something that was "cool" stunned you a little when you saw it and you felt the other had some power above you. Showing "cool" was an expression of strength, independence, originality, and power. Longer hair just seemed an obvious slam-dunk sure-fire way to be impressive and a cut above. How odd, yet it was so. Youth still pursue the most bizarre things -- even defacing their own natural beautiful bodies -- in search of the "I'm cool" thrill. This obsession is based partly on a lack of more natural self-esteem that comes from parental attention, partly from disconnection with more primal realities of life, and partly from manipulation in the mind-deluge of media, the chief "cool pushers" often being Jewish. In fact, Jews were the biggest "hair mongers" of the 1960's because they had a more powerful and urgent imperative in breaking down the rules and order of Gentile society, and longer hair symbolized that. More on that later. But the Beatles were Gentiles, and the Gentiles of that generation were also stirring with Pluto-in-Leo. Had I had my way, I would have looked like Franz Lizst by the time I was 16.
My parents could not understand one lick of all this. In mother's conditioning, a short butch haircut such as administered to new Marine Corps recruits was how a masculine male should look, no question about it. She was completely repelled by excess length or any uncombed messiness in her boys' hair, and I suppose by the girlishness it implied to both her and dad. She couldn't see it through our eyes. For me, the longer hair was essentially a cocky, masculine show. It was a symbol of wild freedom and rule-breaking that felt powerful against the wonderful, safe, conformist backdrop of the 1950's. (Liberals or progressive do require tearing down what conservatives and traditionalists protect, to ever have any thrills or fun.) Boys tended to do that, not girls. It created a stir and conflict. (I later in fact did get into conflicts and fights over style matters like that, including simply having longer hair.)
But I couldn't see it through my parents' eyes. They saw it as what it was: The breaking of social norms and rules. To them it represented unwholesome and dangerous abandonment of tradition. Their more mature minds naturally thought: What makes these young ones an arrogant Law-Unto-Themselves, that they feel they can throw away conventions of their elders and society? What does it mean? What rules will they break next? The military thinks the same way: If all are conforming to the little rules, the big rules will also be followed and there will be order, chain-of-command. They can get things done, including winning wars. Thus the military is full of very small regulations on dress that seem picayune, but they are signs of the integrity of order and discipline. Each time mom and dad saw me sneak my hair a bit longer they'd only see wildness, rebellion, femininity, and chaos. They did not see that I was trying to express a masculine drive and distinguish myself as somehow "excellent."
So from the age of about 8 -- when I just getting some little bangs made my life worthwhile up to the age of 15 when the Great Commander was no longer in the house and mom didn't have a prayer against us -- I was in a war with my parents over my hair. It sounds funny to say it, but there was great emotion and feeling about it on both sides. They tried everything, and so did I.
Mother even twice sheared off my slow gains while I slept, which I found traumatic when I awoke. There were personal and psychological elements here, too. I was an Aires sun. I had the Sun-Trine-Uranus. I was destined to be different in my context; an upsetter. My looks meant a great deal to my self-esteem, especially since I felt unprepossessing. I just considered butch haircuts to be unnatural, boring, and conformist. They meant you were a nothing. I felt invisible. I had a crying need to feel greater self-esteem through distinguishing myself. I wanted to distinguish myself and call some attention. Mother was not the best haircutter in the first place, but doing it while I slept, tossed and turned, while trying not to wake me -- made it come out even worse. When I awoke butchered just as I had started to feel o.k. about my looks, I would weep. She probably did this under pressure from Dad. One morning in the 7th grade at 13 -- the worst age when I was really starting to care how I looked to the girls, had pimples, and was more insecure than ever -- I woke up with the worst butcher job ever. There was no way to fix it into, say, a moderately short haircut. Only a buzz cut would have fixed it and that was out of the question. Nobody had those any more. I was faced to going to school looking like a retarded toad. Dad heard my early morning moans and sobs in the bathroom and came in to try to reason with me. He asked, "Why is this so important?" I couldn't articulate it at all. Instead, he gave me his best wisdom lecture about how I should try to distinguish myself by other things, be cool in cooler ways. I couldn't relate to any of it.
The deeper significance of the hair war was that restraint of the hair reflects restraint of the animal nature. Restraining, ordering, and cultivating the animal nature of sex along definite channels is what made us human and gave us a well-ordered civilization. My father and mother both knew this by instinct, though I did not. I didn't even know the animal nature yet. So they knew that the stakes were very high indeed. This war was a morally legitimate one that they waged. Wherever there are clear higher rules around sex and its sacredness, the people restrain and cultivate the hair. Wherever hair is wild and undisciplined, the animal nature is also becoming wild and undisciplined. This is demonstrably true with any glance at the changes of the sixties, which involved longer and longer hair, and declining restraint and rules surrounding sex. It was really that loss of sexual restraint that my parents were working against in the hair war. Just as a sergeant who sees his men failing to keep the rules of dress and haircuts fears, legitimately, that his company is going to lose discipline and lose a greater battle.
Everyone has persons in their life who turn out to be important, though you may not register how important they are except with the passage of time. People you wish you could go back and give them something. Tell them how much they meant in your life, and that you love them. When I was around 8 my mother said she wanted to take me to meet a person, "Ruth Christians." I went. I met her. Cool evening was falling, late summer. The memory is vague but I remember the house. It had a feeling of quiet and civilization about it. It was a "coolness" that is hard to describe. I believe I had been seen by Ruth, and she had asked me some things. I believe that one or more of my siblings was along. This would have created a kind of "overwhelm" state in the house, because Ruth was a solitary and stately woman and a child was a big deal to her, one clearly needing much attention, care, and consideration. She could not have imagined the way my mother lived, hauling around her roiling crew of boys.
I say she was "stately." Well, she was. She was a small, birdlike woman physically, just like Sr. Eleanor Therese. But she had an impressive stateliness. She dressed in an elegant, Old World manner, her hair pinned back in a high bun. She always had some sort of jacket on, but a feminine, decorous jacket of another time. She seemed rich and slightly aloof, but I didn't know her yet. Her sober mien could flash into the most delighted smile on the spot, and then her eyes would sparkle with delight, but it only happened when she saw a young person. And I had not seen it yet. I had not arrived yet for that first day of mowing her lawn. Then as she answered my knock, I saw her radiant smile.
Ruth seemed to be from the more monied classes of the east, as transplanted to the midwest. There was a sense that she came from a higher culture. Not a venal one. Not a gratuitous one. She came from a culture that was both religious and austere. They had been a church people. Yet these people were elegant and refined. Katherine Hepburn. Ruth reminded me of that sort of woman, and the sort of eastern society Hepburn hailed from. She also played it in her movies. It was a kind of aristocracy but a moral, Christian rooted aristocracy. What Ruth actually was, was a White Anglo-Saxon Protestant. Sometimes these great people are referred to by the ugly acronym "W.a.s.p" by those who would demean them. But the were a great people.
You could feel it in everything about her. She did not pretend a feminine vulnerability, and in fact used words like "simpery" to refer to false emotionalism or weakness. Yet the very way she moved shed grace. She never hurried. She never rushed. She made every move through her house with utmost care. She moved through her house like an experienced maiden of the woods would move through a forest glade taking care not to upset or startle any creature. She gently glided. It was nothing pretentious. What it was was full consideration. She was considerate of other people, and things, to a degree that could be called heavenly, and she showed it even in the way she moved. Nothing was ever to be done brusquely or crudely. If she handed anything to you, she handed it carefully. It might be wrapped. She'd make sure you grasped it in your hand.
Soon after that mother said that Ruth Christians had sent me a game, called "Schnertz" I believe. It was a kind of card game. I found it touching that this very old woman would bother to send me the card game. The cards were of quality. The game, and her idea that I might sit and play it with comrades, suggested a world of civilized refinement. At some time later I was there again with my mother and Ruth said, "Julian, I want to give you this book, 'The Yearling.' I think you will like it. It's about a boy who finds a small deer..." I was somehow touched that this old woman I didn't know felt it was important to give a boy a great, thick book. There were evocative pictures in it. Seeing how important the book seemed, and how she wanted me to read it, I did. It was difficult reading because it was a bit over my level. But I got a sense from it. I could see through the years why she gave it to me, and what she was wanting to share. It was a book about the innocence of boyhood, the beauty and greatness of nature and God's creation, and the importance of family. The boy had a lot of quiet moments alone in Great Nature. This was what Ruth Christians valued, and this was what she wanted for me, and for me to value. She deeply loved and believed in the innocence of childhood, including the innocence of boyhood. Her attitude toward children, though she had none, was almost reverential.
Later mother said, "Ruth Christians will pay you to go mow her lawn." Mom did not often crack the whip to see me work, but she seemed avid about seeing me do this. I went to her house on my bike, about 7 blocks away. She greeted me with a very warm smile at her door. Over the years, the smile became a great beaming thing whenever I arrived. Thus commenced years of taking care of the yard and house for Ruth Christians, and later working in her at-home art ceramics business. She became my first spiritual friend and mentor.
After I had worked a few hours I would get a call from her door. She'd say, "Julian, are you hungry? I have lunch for you." I had mowed some lawns by then but they never offered lunch. But Ruth was from a civilized culture and she had empathy for me. I'd come in and she would have a beautiful table set with very healthful food, which was one of her little obsessions. We sat in her open air screened sitting room, looking out over her yard and ferns, under her great beloved tree, eating very decorously on a glass topped table. My social crudeness and sweat did not matter. She never looked down on me. We would eat, and she would make conversation.
I was surprised that conversation was not random or hurried. It was according to protocols and gentle rules. I was not used to real conversation an the table. She would ask something. She'd listen to your response. Then she would comment, or ask another thing. And what was touching was that she would ask me things about myself. I was but nine or so. But she seemed to be inquiring into my mind. What I believed. How I viewed things. She was really interested. But there was one main thing Ruth always wanted to talk about with me, and that was God.
She wanted to know what I thought about God. She gently probed, finding out how my faith was developing. She must have liked my answers, because we never had an unpleasant moment in those days. She would always tell me, "I've been reading this book and it says..." And we would talk about what the author was saying. She especially loved books and themes that spoke to faith, to cultivating the faith, and a genuine, felt, relationship with God. These were the books that moved her most, and I could see that she herself was a woman cultivating an active faith in God. I can see now that Ruth had a real, living, relationship with God. He was the thing always on her mind.
The thing about Ruth was that she was pious, faithful, and pure. When she talked about God with me it was both for my benefit, and for herself. Because it was her genuine deepest interest. She believed in the power of faith. She believed that God could be known personally, within. I could feel her own palpable feeling that His nature was all Love and all Power. Every time she did talk about Him, something in me lifted; something in me raised; something in my own spiritual capacities quickened. She was, without realizing it, raising the shakti -- God's quickening holy spirit -- up her own spine, and up mine.
Ruth had married late in life, to a man named Ward. She would mention him now and then. She always spoke to him with a palpable respect and wifely devotion. And yet they had been married only briefly and then he died. That was long ago and she never married again. I found her respectful tone for her departed husband amazing and strange. And as I grew, and continued to work for her in my teens, I came to feel by instinct that the two of them had never crossed the line into the carnal.
She loved all the beautiful things, and the subtle things. Her house was filled with the most beautiful and tasteful ceramic art that used light for its effect. She had made it herself. She specialized in a kind of porcelain panel that looked like nothing much until you placed a light behind it. Then it became a wonderful picture full of variations of tone from light to gentle browns, as the light came through the thinner areas and less the thicker. She called them "lithophanes" and I loved to look through each of her porcelain lithophanes and see the subtle light-revealed picture created by some strange artist somewhere. The effect was very subtle and beautiful. You could get lost in the picture and taken out of this world. She had another kind of ceramic wall plaque that looked like nothing much without light. But a light shining down from above it would catch non-descript ridges, lumps, or depressions in just such a way that an amazing picture would emerge, created by light and shadow as it glanced over the amorphous ceramic features. So something that looked like nothing became, with light, an entrancingly beautiful picture of light and earth. She especially loved art featuring children, and Madonas with child. Her home was a cool spiritual sanctuary. The only place that felt like her home was indeed the sanctuary of our beautiful Catholic Church.
Everywhere she sought beauty, and she always related this beauty, in one way or another, to God. Ruth had a large collection of books. Books with interesting spiritual titles I'd never seen or heard of. She went to church regularly, but her books showed her as a God seeker. I began to ask if I could borrow one now and then. I always returned them! Here I commenced my love of spiritual books. She had one with a faded red binding called "The Inner Splendor." It attracted me and I borrowed it. I still remember being in bed and reading one poem from it, and feeling profound comfort and relief:
The reprise of "every-day care" and "I am aware" -- juxtaposed against the magnificence of the preceding verses, put a subtle thrill to my spine. Ruth Christians understood all this. Her life seemed small, absorbed in her little art business and keeping to her little home. She seldom went anywhere, and then in a very old car. But she felt connected to God, so she contacted the Unlimited. We think the famous have important lives. But big is often little, and little is often big. If women realized what spirituality was, they would realize they could have everything in life whatever their material duties or limits. They could attain the full cosmic life right at home, as mothers, in the midst of the "everyday care." Washing a dish can become a mergence with the deities who send the rains. Caring for one's child puts one in resonance with the cosmic Mother. Showing devotion toward husband puts one in the perfect attitude for connecting to Shiva the Absolute. There is indeed nothing that limits us inwardly, whatever our outer situation, if we know how to delve for God within. Any person, no matter how humble or plain his role in life, can become a saint blazing with infinite knowledge and bliss, and able to impart boons and satisfaction to others. In fact, it is a part of a wife's true stature to cultivate within herself the spiritual fruit of contentment and cosmic awareness, so she can then show that to her husband. She can also go anywhere and do anything, while apparently standing still. After reading "The Inner Splendor" the first time, I was just quiet and felt the slightest bliss. Something inside me knew the verses spoke of something Real, and that life could be all right for me, no matter what, if I would just seek.
When you are attracted to a thing, it's because that thing is in you. And when you "just know" something is true, it's because it evokes your own inner knowledge. And when you feel chills in your spine, this is the early movement of the kundalini force, the occult spiritual power that oversees the distribution of man's spiritual gifts and the evolution of his consciousness toward God-consciousness. I felt that chill go up my spine when I came to the last line of this poem. It was one of the few poems I ever memorized.
I felt I didn't know what "The Inner Splendor" was really about. But I wanted to know. And something in me told me already it was full of truth. How funny that in eight years of religious school, in a religion who's Founder said "The kingdom of heaven (and splendor) is within you" -- not one nun or priest had made any mention of such a thing within us! Another book at Ruth's "There Is a River" about the "sleeping sage" Edgar Cayce. This was also about the knowledge that can be found within ourselves, and what comes to the devout man. These books had a great influence on my mind and stirred my interest in religious and metaphysical knowledge.
As I grew older I began to appreciate what a gem of a woman she was. I began to love our conversations down in her pottery studio. She always played the FM classical music station on the radio, adding to the sense of culture and history that already permeated her space. By 17 a conventional lonely buck I had developed the knack of visualizing what older women might have looked like when they were younger. I realized that Ruth was probably exactly the sort of woman, in her youth, that I would have swooned for. I thought of what an ideal conversation mate she would have been. What an elegant and proper wife. I realized she was probably pretty, as all women are in youth. She never asked me about my personal life. She didn't ever ask, "So, do you have a girl friend?" That was not proper discussion. She was too pure to even broach the possibility. Or, maybe she just didn't want to know. But I recall once I got the chance to say it. We were talking about compatibility of personalities, or some such. She might have averred to the fact that I might be married some day. I slipped it in meekly, "It's too bad for me that I was born so late." I remember her looking down at her work and continuing to brush the ceramic. She made no frown. She made no gasp. But I saw the reaction. In her deep womanly wisdom she gently let it pass.
I learned about piety from Ruth, and about purity. And I learned about devotion. I learned it by conversation, but more by osmosis. The very air of her house had purity about it. The ferns that grew on the edges of her lawn had purity about them. The squirrels that came down from the tree for the food she'd leave them -- they seemed pure. Everything in her environs had a sanctity. I wish I could go back in time and be more serviceful and devoted to Ruth. To visit her in her old age, and tell her she'd been my first true spiritual teacher. She taught me about the reality of a felt, personal relationship with God, in her case through Christ who she spoke of much. She taught me about the ancient validity of a moral life, and how to live in age gently and beautifully. She also taught me about the nature of the higher classes, the true higher classes of people, rooted in Christianity, who have long existed in our European nations.
Sister Eleanor Therese
She was an austere nun, rather old, and the terror of all seventh graders. A funny thing about her was that she was extraordinarily small. A beautiful thing about her was that she had the smell of sanctity about her.
There was no moral matter, even an oblique one, that was not of grave concern to Sister E.T. She demanded the strictest attention and concentration of mind; all attention on her words. Talking in class? Don't even think about it! She had a rule that if our pencil or pen rolled off our desk we were not to stoop and pick it up or take our eyes from her. She would come pick it up for you instead.
My guru Yogananda wrote about how his crew could get their guru, Sri Yukteswar, talking about esoterica and the mysteries of life if they were attentive. He wrote that if his attention wandered while Yukteswar was speaking, the guru would sense it and end his words. Those who have something of true value to impart, and know it, won't speak to the inattentive, or repeat themselves much. They sense inwardly that it is an insult to the power behind their speech, to throw those words on the ground. Sister Eleanor Therese was actually my first introduction to genuine yoga. The essence of yoga, in the Yoga-Sutra, is concentration of the mind, or dharana. The nun was, indeed, the first one who baptized me with the experience of dharana -- continuous focus of the mind -- and real yoga, by demanding that we all place our attention on her words and not wander. I realized all this much later, and how often it is that the odd or seemingly random experiences of early life are in fact the foundations of great inner life constructions to come later. I found at the outset I was not very good at Sister's yoga. I found my mind wanted to wander everywhere at all times. It seemed to want to think of everything but her. But this is what all people find when they first begin to work with their minds, achieve dharana, or meditate. Indeed, I was exactly like any novice meditator in any ashram or monastery. But like a harsh Zen master who gives a whack to the heedless, the fear element in her class helped us achieve, slowly, a bit of that primordially difficult and central spiritual attainment, that of concentration of mind.
I still remember her black garments swooshing past me, like a close encounter with a rare and terrible bird. At one time a fellow named Andy arrived late for class, first class of the day. As he tried to sneak in the door she halted him there and asked, "Why are you late?" "I overslept" he answered. She said "Why did you oversleep?" In the frank, Saggitarian attitude native to him and with a characteristic shrug of the shoulders he answered: "I was tired."
Displeased with his cheeky humor she said, "I want you to go run ten laps around the field" -- a large outdoor field that was our recess area. Then the kicker for the "attitude": "And you're to do it every morning before you come in, for the rest of the year, and be on time for class."
Andy did it, the rest of the year. And there was a rule for us to go with it: Nobody was to turn their heads to look out at Andy running laps. She said "Even if you hear a bomb explode out there, you are to keep your attention firmly on me and what I'm saying."
My guru, Yogananda, used to say: "Stand unshaken amidst the crash of breaking worlds." I didn't know it then, but Sr. was teaching us mental discipline and steadiness of concentration, which is the essence of yogic discipline, which in turn gives the laser-like steadiness of the mind by which saints are able to finally uncover God within, in the form of sat-chit-ananda, or "pure being, pure consciousness, and bliss." The Catholic disciplines are in fact full of genuine yoga, while most modern 'yoga studios' -- are not. Kneeling long periods in church is, in fact, is a yogic activity that gives as much value as most yogic asanas in the books, breaking our petulant dependence on bodily comfort, making our minds free, and giving us "freedom from the pairs of opposites." Oh! How great have been our European ancestors who performed this yoga long centuries in their churches.
Sr. Therese even took issue with the way we boys and girls stood in the hall or outside! Once she gave us a genuine lecture and exposition on the subject of slouching. I had seen fellows in upper grades slouching, their hips jutting out as if they didn't care about a thing. The casual look seemed "cool." I remember deliberately standing with a slouch because I thought it looked cool. Funny to think that in that atmosphere of rectitude even a boy putting his weight on just one leg stood out as something catchy. She gave us a fiery lecture one day against slouching. She said we should always stand with our weight balanced evenly atop both legs. She linked it to a negative medical outcome in which our hips would sooner wear out, and we'd become crippled. She said, moreover, that it puts the spine in a slight curve and we could develop troubles of the spine, to boot. But there was a profounder purpose here. Her real motive was that in women, slouching with a hip thrown out is slutty and provocative. In men, it is a lazy and dissolute attitude which evokes lazy and dissolute mind. It's also feminine in a man. Maybe she didn't want to say these things, but I know she felt them by instinct. Slouching is not the yogic attitude!!
The fact is, this teaching comported fully with occult laws of the body and of yoga. The way we posture our body impacts our own mental state. This is one of the secrets of yogic asanas and mudras. They create occult impact on our own mind. On the everyday level, the man who stands erect gets an inner attitude of moral rectitude to match it. For the same reason the discipline-hungry army life teaches men to stand ramrod straight. Same with women. A straight standing female transmits rectitude and purity to the mind. In the entire Yoga-Sutra, ancient manual for God-realization, there is only one instruction regarding the body: "The spine should be settled but erect [when practicing meditation]."
A meditating yogi needs to learn to sit for long hours with his spine erect. The prana and kundalini-shakti is hampered and misdirected if he doesn't. In fact, the straightness of the spine attracts the kundalini-shakti into an upward flow, feeding the intellect and cutting channels to bliss later. Every boy growing up making an effort not to slouch is preparing himself for this. So here Sr. Eleanor Therese was preparing us all for the path of yoga and ultimate bliss by teaching us to keep, not only our spine, but our entire bodies, erect! Om.
With Sr. Eleanor Therese we had to use different "spiritual muscles" than we were used to using. These were the faculties of detachment, concentration, and renunciation. She was teaching us the saint's faculties of austerity, renunciation, and concentration of mind! But who would know? She was the only nun I ever heard make an issue of the creeping decadence seen in the young women as they matured. Though the girls wore uniform outfits -- dull green tweed skirts, white shirts, and dark green jackets -- they had begun sporting makeup, hose, and sexy girl things like jewelry. It was never an issue with anybody else, but the diminutive Sr. Eleanor Therese was not going to stand for the slutification of her girls. She'd berate some girls when they came into class and send them to the bathroom to wash it off. When they'd come back in, some had been crying. But the girls looked more wholesome -- and more approachable and honestly beautiful -- under Eleanor Therese's rule that year.
In her mind, this was all so that we would have the way clear to know God through the saintly principles of self-control, austerity, and strong mind.
Sr. Eleanor Therese never joked, never laughed, never smiled. She was all business. To relieve the stress, we joked. A certain wit -- the only one who I'd ever heard actually impressed this nun with is mind -- had coined an underground nickname for her: Mighty Mo after the formidable Navy battleship. This wit was a WWII aficionado. Actually, it was my brother Victor who coined it.
But you never heard "Mighty Mo" anywhere within three blocks of this nun. You simply didn't mess with Sr. Eleanor Therese. She didn't have any "pets" among the students. Well, there was said to be one. That was my brother Victor himself, the only kid rumored to be even close to that status with her. See, Victor had literary brilliance. Apparently, this moved her.
I was made of lesser academic stuff. My experiences with her were all painful. Once she pulled my sideburns hard with strong, bony fingers, a trick I'd never heard tell of. Pain like blood and fire! She spoke sternly to me all year long. Once she made me stand humiliated in he middle of the class until I crashed on the floor in a cold faint. My crimes were typical adolescent stuff: asking dumb questions, goofing merrily out in the hall past the bell, or turning to joke with a pal about a girl we liked to mock, deliberately in earshot of the target. This was the un-confident and friendless Helen R. (May God comfort her soul always.) I was in a phase of trying to be the class clown in the realms of the other teachers, and had unwisely brought that into her hour. Sr. somehow never missed much, and straight after my whispered aside to my pal, the terrible white-and-black bird was swooshing straight towards me as I went cold. Never wanting to interrupt her lecture, and knowing well how to punish, she just came to my side and curtly said "Stand up." I stood. Briskly, she said: "You're to stand for the rest of the hour" and continued on with her lecture without missing a beat. (You don't turn your head for an explosion, nor do you look at the hapless Curtis now standing like a fool in a sea of heads, black, brown, and blond.)
Like a scarecrow in a field I had to stand idiot-like amidst the assemblage -- which included every girl I'd ever hoped to impress and every boy who liked to gun for me. This with my covert jerk-i-tude towards Helen newly exposed. And it was 20 minutes before the bell. I turned to stone. Losing consciousness I collapsed face-first into the hapless kid in front of me, John C. I don't remember anything about what my body did. He later told me, "I thought you were trying to pull some funny stunt of pushing my chair forward with your nose."All I remember is her black gown and shoes stepping briskly away as I was coming to. She had swiftly folded me into a sitting position with her own hands, then lifted me and stuffed my head between my legs in a flash, then again went on with her lecture. (I was giving Sr. a bit of a challenge commanding all concentration that day. As I saw her feet stepping away and heard her say: "There is nothing to be alarmed about. He will be fine." I had the slightest sense that Sr. was ever so slightly shaken herself, but only the slightest impression.
This sounds like extreme discipline, but I deserved that. It was perfect karma. I was indeed making fun of a female who had low self-esteem already and deserved protection. Sr. Eleanor was the only one who ever really nailed me for being mean to a vulnerable female, fought for her female dignity, and gave me proper payback and instant karma. And there's a funny thing about spiritual people and divine masters: Instant karma takes place in their proximity.
When it came to academics, I had no better luck with her. At one time I handed her a hand-written assignment. She took one look at it, ripped it in two, and handed it back. Referring to my penmanship, she said tersely, "You made no effort to write well." That hurt! This was not to mention the "F" grade she'd given on another paper, with a caustic remark about the level of my effort. It was true, I was lazy. Who knew? But there was one more thing she said after she shredded my work, one saving grace. She said: "You can do better than this, Curtis."
She even said my name. Now I wanted to measure up.
We learned to respect this woman and make efforts. One day late in the year I got a hard-won decent grade on a paper. I think it was a B-plus. I had made an effort, and now seeing her grade I was on Cloud Nine! I felt expanded before God in His cosmic imperium. Occasionally I saw our makeup-free female peers now even tarrying after class to get instruction about lessons and papers from the Sr. Rarely the boys! But the girls seemed to be blossoming academically and getting a certain maturity under her. The girls were seeming to become better than us. She was tougher on us because we were to be men. Boys avoided her like the plague.
It's a spiritual mystery that if a holy person even looks at you, pays attention to you, or especially speaks to you -- they transmit shakti to you. However, if they get angry at you -- they transmit even more, and more surely. The great yogi Swami Muktananda never got many words from his guru Nityananda, though he craved for them and kept cultivating his devotional attitude. However, one time Nityananda yelled at Muktananda and chased him out of his ashram with a stick. Muktananda became the chief beneficiary of his guru's astounding shakti, and the main lineage carrier. I never knew if the aloof Sr. Eleanor Therese was even aware of my existence. As the years wore on, I reflected on the fact that this terrible, remote creature of God had actually touched me. Not just touched me, but lifted my torso with thin arms and old hands, in nun's vestments, then shoved my crude head between my legs to save my brain. That was personal. As I became old and realized more, I felt a strange honor and elevation from that fact.
She seemed always aloof from me. But perhaps she kept her finger on me after all. Many years later, the great guru Karunamayi seemed to react to my moods and thoughts as she would give lectures, once interrupting her lecture and exiting the hall just after I felt a blaze of anger at something she said. I was at a weekend silent retreat with her in a hotel, with many disciples. I had started seeing a strong aura of light around her during the retreat, a phenomenon I had never seen, and I was having a blissful time. I had felt very close to this saint, had once been invited to sit right at her feet by her people, and would crumble into tears whenever I approached her in the reception line. She had granted me a samadhi. She always called me her "Son."
Then in passing she made a little teasing joke that women might be more spiritually advanced than the men, as there were more women there than men. My thought was, "Oh no, not American feminism." And "Quality, not quantity." I felt it was an insult to most of the noble and satvic American bhaktas I knew among the men. It did not tally with my observation. (The men in the group were a saintly group, while the women would rather swish around in sexy Indian clothes, get parties going, and flirt.) She said it with a giggle, but I was enraged and my mood was gone. I was some distance from her. I wrote my feelings on a piece of paper, steaming. She immediately shifted to talking about anger, saying one can have much knowledge and spiritual advancement, but if he has anger, he still has a serious spiritual flaw. I was not impressed. I completely closed off to her. Just then one of her staff came in and said, "There's been a sudden change with the hotel administration. They tell all conference participants have to go to their rooms now and clear out their things, instead of at noon. So we have to take an unscheduled break right now." As everybody stirred to leave I saw Karunamayi get up from her little throne and walk quickly down her flower strewn path through through the stirring group. She completely dispensed with the slow "royal progress" and greetings she would usually make when passing through the devotees. I took my opportunity to leave, observing as I did that this was her cosmic doings. She had both released me, and gotten rid of me, not accepting my anger before her or in that group. As she stepped hurriedly through the group, almost ignored by all, she had a pained look on her face, a thing had never seen.
We get from religion according to our attitude. The universal omniscient God stands back of every religious symbol that denotes Him. When we have the right attitude toward any religious symbol of God -- be it a thing or a person -- God takes notice and gives us something back. I had a close connection with Karunamayi and received some boons from her (described later), because of 1) what she was, and 2) my attitude toward her. And the wiser Catholics cultivate the right attitude toward those symbols of God who are the priests and nuns. They act indeed as guru figures to the students, and through them God is trying to lead us to Him. There was an odd thing about Sister Eleanor's spontaneous lecture on slouching I only realized years later: Just a few days before I had taken up the conscious practice of slouching in the schoolyard to look careless and cool. I remember thinking of it at the time and thinking, "Other boys must be slouching. She couldn't be doing this whole lecture because of me."
Now with my B grade and feeling I had some legitimacy before her, I saw her abandoned by the more cautious students as usual at the end of the day as she was soon to leave the school. I tarried unobtrusively nearby as the others left, waiting for every last one to go. Then I entered the room bravely and asked: "Sister, would you let me carry your briefcase?" I had seen other kids do it over the years with kinder nuns. I had heard one brave soul, a girl, had even requested and been allowed by Sr. Therese.
I understood something, and that was: What this nun represented on earth. None of this was personal. She was a nun, and on this earth she represented purity and devotion to God, and God was standing behind that purity and devotion. She answered soberly without the slightest smile or embellishment: "Yes, you may, Curtis."
I owe that nun -- and the Catholic Church -- a debt of gratitude today for having the guru-principle alive. She understood why a Catholic boy asks to carry a nun's briefcase, and the religious and spiritual development of young men was what this one cared about. Thus she consented.
So it is that one of the best memories of my life is 2 or 3 minutes carrying Sister Eleanor Therese's black briefcase. She walked wordlessly beside me. I remember the clean smell of her full Dominican linen, her smooth, cool presence. Though she was exceedingly diminutive, I felt she was a mysterious giant walking beside me. I wondered about the nature of such a person, the nun. I had seen the little chapel in their convent containing kneeling furniture where nuns would kneel and pray and it amazed me. A life devoted to God! What a mystery is a nun! She had a solitary quality even among the other nuns. I never saw her chatting with another nun except rarely, in a strictly businesslike fashion. As I walked beside her she "smelled" like wisdom. I "felt" that she had an interior that showed on the surface only as sobriety and silence. Now arrived at the steps to their convent, she gave me a thanks that was proper and courteous and no more. But as I walked home I felt sublimely elevated, righteous, decent.
See, she consented to be served for my sake, not hers. The yogic adept Swami Muktananda points out, quite archly, that the real beneficiary of religious devotion is one's self -- not the object of that devotion. This is because the attitude of devotion is a higher spiritual state, and one step away from bliss. The deeper spiritual mystery is that God Himself is of the nature of devotion. Thus when one puts himself into the devotional state, he makes himself right for God.
As I walked along carrying Sr.'s briefcase I didn't understand any of this. But the 12-year-old kid who walked home afterwards had a bit more pep in his step and a little more love of life, thanks to a nun who said "yes" when asked, was profoundly silent while I walked beside her, and knew that this was enough; that nothing should be said to add even one thing to what it was. No small talk. No effort to make me feel good. Talk would have diminished the effect. She knew that I was serving the divinity by carrying her case, and that that was all and everything.
And funny thing about Andy, the one who had to run endurance laps around the big outer field each morning before he could enter the classroom: He was the one who made the most of himself. Everybody was amazed at a reunion I helped stimulate when we were in our 40's, that Andy had become an M.D. And what a delightful, affable M.D. he would be. Becoming a doctor is hard. But Sister Eleanor Therese accustomed me to sitting with a straight spine, and Andy to getting up early and doing hard work.
I still remember moments when I found myself listening to Sr. Eleanor Therese, experiencing moments of concentration. I remember realizing "I'm on it. I'm following her. I'm with her. I'm understanding." By the end of that year I was having moments of mature mind and clarity while concentrating on whatever she said. I felt relieved to have moments freed of the roiling monkey mind that besets all undisciplined youth and men. The experience of concentration on Sr. Eleanor's words was a feeling of cool power.
Indeed, mental mastery -- yoga -- is that.
Sex and Girls
After long years here I can say there are two important things in this world: Sex and God. And they are actually opposed to each other, though many can't hear this today. And it's a part of the cosmic symmetry of these two -- sex and God -- that they are quite like each other. Yet they are not the same thing. By having the proper understanding of sex, you can get God. With no religious understanding about sex, all you get is sex and a disturbed life and world. I had to come into this knowledge on my own. My religion was little help at first. I am going to talk frankly about sex here, because in this burgeoning porn age that is what is required to throw back evil and ignorance and take this subject out of the hands of vile pornographers: Frank talk for the right purpose. And because along with God, sex is the other most important subject in the world. It should not be left to pornographers, but to honest and religious men.
Entering my classroom on the first day of 2nd Grade I glanced down the hall in time to catch a glimpse of a delightful creature. She was entering her own classroom at the other end of the hall, under another nun. I was stunned. She had on a skirt and uniform as all our Catholic girls wore, and beautiful long chestnut hair. Having grown up with brothers, I was unprepared to see that vision. I was astounded by her beauty and charm. Her name was Mary, as many Catholic girls were named, but I didn't even know her name for months later. I was so moved by her that I had her on my mind all day. Though not sexual at all at that age, I was agitated by the sight of her and the thought "She must be mine." I had heard from a brother that "If you make a promise to God you cannot break it." I decided to view that idea in reverse. That night a 7-year-old spoke out loud a solemn oath to God. I said: "God, I am will marry that girl I saw today." Just a glimpse of a face, her tresses, and her winsome feminine ways and I felt: If I couldn't have her in my life, life suddenly didn't seem worth living. I think I said it three times just to be sure He got it.
When I finally began to have closer encounters with girls -- little conversation possibilities -- I found I was completely flustered and tongue-tied around them. Later as we grew and personalities began to develop, and social status showed, and cliques of friends formed -- the idea of marrying the beautiful Mary seemed a far cry. Soon after seeing my first unaccountable crush, I took to what all young boys love best, and that is other male friends. As I grew and developed the boyish interests -- launching bottle rockets, constructing car models, playing "war" games -- it seemed girls were just boring creatures who were not interested in "cool things." The emotional complexity of facing them and learning how to talk to them was a disturbing mystery, and boys were cooler anyway for friends, so girls receded from my mind as it should be with boys. It's natural and right for boys to prefer other boys for friends, not girls, until the sexual feelings develop. Even then if he does not become raging sex addict, he'll still prefer the friendship of other males in certain important ways. It's not good for boys to be too involved with girls at an early age, and vice-versa. This was all understood by the culture and the church, and there were many natural separations between the two groups. Growing up is complicated enough without the confusion of male-female dynamics except in small controlled doses.
I basically didn't worry myself over mysterious girls up to about the age of 12 or so, except as aesthetic eye candy from a distance. Then around the 7th grade some of the girls in our class began to get busts, wear hose, and some makeup, and things started to change. Because sex was not discussed by my parents, or any other wholesome place in society, I was not even sure what the change meant. All I knew is that our formerly boring female classmates were taking on a compelling power, almost like talismans. We would be drawn to tease them just to have some kind of interaction with them. May God forgive me for lobbing a too-well-aimed pear at the buxom Katie H. (God cherish and guide her delightful soul) and especially for putting burrs in her hair. (A thing I deeply regret doing, and which brought my first visit to the office of the principal, who was a severe and rather intimidating nun with Nordic blond hair just like Katie's.) I did not understand at the time how that instinct to direct missiles at her was a cosmic masculine imperative roiling in my loins.
Then one day my brothers went and visited the basement bedroom of our next door neighbor. This family was Jewish, though I did not know that for many years later. One of my brothers had crawled into an upper crawl space and was looking at something in there with a flashlight. Then another brother went in and traded places with him. I became curious and asked the Jewish fellow what they were looking at in there. He said: "Do you want to go and look." I agreed and climbed up there. They were looking at a magazine. It showed naked women, with big breasts. The boy apparently pilfered his father's Playboy Magazines, a magazine I'd never heard of. Immediately my penis began to grow and get long, and I felt a rush of feelings. Excitement, prickly feelings, a sense this was something bad, and dismay at what had happened to my penis. I looked for a few moments, but my conscience told me there was something wrong with this. Uncomfortable, I crawled out of the insulation-smelling crawlspace.
So this was my first introduction to sex, and it was an improper introduction, with nothing explained about the significance of sex, or the higher understandings we had in our culture or religion, which would let me make some sense of the experience or any firm resolutions about it. Mother had warned me about drugs and alcohol, but neither parent had ever said a word about sex. Thus I was like a lamb to the slaughter.
Later it happened that me, or my friends and I, would occasionally stumble on pages torn from Playboy magazine in gulches, or in forests in Greenwood park. Somebody would find a torn page, or maybe two or three, and they would share their find with others. The same experience happened again. The rush feeling. The pricklies. The heart speeding up. The generative organ growing.
As these little finds would turn up around our town and this experience would repeat now and then, I began to get addicted to the thrill of it, the the rush of the feeling. I began to really enjoy and desire to see the naked female body.
This is natural for a male. But I was not learning about sex in the right way, with the right moral or religious content included. It was pornographers who were teaching the young men about sex in those times, as also today, and those are the last ones who should be doing that. It should be fathers, moralists, and religious men who teach men about sex. This was one of the first major failings of the Catholic Church for me, though I don't blame the Catholic religion per se. It's just the state it was in at that time. However, an addiction to seeing these pictures occasionally grew in me, as with others I am sure, though there was still a great deal to know and learn about what sex was.
But this immediately changed, for me and other boys, the way we viewed our female classmates and their developing female bodies. They became highly distracting objects of interest for us, though I for one still did not understand sex or why that attraction was there. I just knew they started to be on my mind a lot, and physically. Boys would talk, too. Pretty soon some of the more "worldly" boys would tell me things about what sex is, only half-knowing themselves. At one point one told me that "in sex, the male inserts his penis in the lower thing of the woman." That seemed like an odd and unseemly thing to do. However, in times of picture-fed lust it suddenly didn't seem utterly and completely disgusting, yet what was the point?
Much later some boys found some "full nude" pictures in some culvert or gulch -- playboy did not show the lower organ of the women. At that time the arousal was so great that completely changed the consciousness and that feeling gradually became something I wanted to return to, and return to.
This is the way with all men. We are visually affected by the female. A sane and wise society puts filters and baffles over the female body so that young men are not so affected. These still existed from the cultural heritage, but the pornographers were now punching through them. And a wise society would give wisdom guidance to young men about sex feeling, and both rationale and means for restraining it and not willfully inflaming it. But there was none of this. All I knew was that periodically I just wanted to see the female body again, and feel those feelings. Meanwhile, our relationships with the girls in class, which should have had more development at the social, mind, and heart levels -- became thoroughly sexualized for me and the other boys. We would begin to obsess on them sexually. How big were the boobs on one vs. another, etc. Then I would hear more about sex acts. One boy explained to me there's "first base" (kissing), "second base" (touching a breast), "third base" (which I'd rather not write), and then "fourth base" -- which was again explained to me. This seemed to me a crass and opportunistic way to think about girls, at least the beautiful and noble White girls of our classes. But I was always able to accept differences in personality of the many fellows I knew and take their various murmerings with a grain of salt. But still, I didn't see why such a thing should be done (the "fourth base") and it seemed incredibly, well, intimate to imagine it with any of our noble and cultivated girls. I suppose I was around 11 at the time of that conversation.
One day now around 13 years old I read some "edgy" magazine -- something sold in all the grocery stores -- that was an "explanation of sex." It was couched as a science article. At this time, many of these "edgy" publications were starting to come out, such as "The Happy Hooker," which I did not read because it seemed vile on its face. Well, later I was tempted to peek at a few paragraphs in the grocery store. It seemed the whole culture was suddenly becoming sexualized. In this article, it talked about the orgasm, which is something I'd never heard of. It also said there is a "post-ejaculatory depression" for the male, which didn't sound too good. But it was all interesting. From this edge I fell into a spontaneous masturbation event. I felt horrible after it. Changed in some terrible way. However, I was amazed by the blissful feeling it gave to me for fleeting moments. Again, nothing intelligent, moral, or religious was ever spoken to me to help me get my head around this experience and where I should go with it, or not go. Instead, I found myself later wanting to revisit that experience. Because ignorance and darkness immediately enshrouded me within after losing the pure creative essence -- once spread throughout my body but now condensing in lower regions -- I did not understand for many years that this was the male period, and that the depression, regret, and weakness immediately after was the corollary to the female's depressed state at her period.
Thus my health, personality, inner confidence, and life conditions -- and my whole life -- began to be damaged. From then on, too, I saw all mature women sexually and reacted to them sexually. There was no guidance around me whatsoever -- even where it should have surely been -- for life's most difficult and important challenge for a male. In ancient Vedic society they call the teens the period of "brahmacharya." The word means celibacy, and the idea was that the urgent need of that life period was for the young man to develop sexual continence; self control. But there was no such cultural wisdom around me. No talk from my father. Not even a teaching from the priests or Church, even as we teen boys began to become rife with sexual feeling. What sorrow! The news-of-the-world began to change and grow negative. I didn't realize it, but I was a young Adam, and I was now bringing about my further expulsion from The Garden. The world, projection of my own body-mind, collapsed further and further with each passing month. By the 8th grade it was Silent Spring, The Population Bomb, and big-bellied African children starving in Biafra. The prospect of expulsion from the Garden of Eden had been presented to me before by a nun in the Second Grade, but without adequate explanation.
The Fame Bug
For some reason I dreamed of fame starting young. Well, I know the reason: My own karmic tendencies coming in, the emotional hunger that develops in an unseen, 'unimportant' child, and the mass culture which made the famous seem important and desirable. Now it seems that fame mania has afflicted a great many of the youth who are coming up in this newly distorted and degraded culture. It was important in my life, and is worthwhile to talk about for others' sake.
First it was the idea of being an actor. Then later, rock musicians seemed to be more culturally important and weighty, having a creative product, the power to preach, and present ideas in lyrics.
In a strange way my very pursuit of fame, strong in my teens, led me to cognize a great disillusionment with it. First, I began to be analytical about what creates great fame. I wanted to be strategic about it. So I began to study histories and commentaries about the great bands. I especially loved the analyses that linked a band's rise to historical conditions. The fame of the Beatles, it seemed, was partly an exploitation of social conditions as they were in the post-war period, such as the turn-away from a long-standing conformity. The long-standing conformity that preceded them was partly what set them up to be "magic." So it seemed that really great fame had to link itself to great historic social currents. Thus I needed to identify what the social trends were presently. It occurred to me that the greatest trends in music -- and society -- were toward moral decadence; that this was the key element in new fame for the bands and artists coming out and a long identifiable trend. From this p-o-v I could analyze, say, the long hair of the Beatles, their involvement in drugs etc. -- as the perceivable arc of that moral decline. Taking something like the Rolling Stones, the analysis was even easier. Now we had things coming on like David Bowie and Alice Cooper, simply ratcheting up a taboo breaking process which was synonymous with moral decline.
My conditioning and nature had taken hold enough to recognize the moral decadence as repugnant, but in the freshly roiling, complexifying cultural climate I did not have much conscious understanding to prove or articulate why. I came to the conclusion that the "next big thing" -- i.e. the next truly great artist -- would be the one who starts a great reverse of the decadent trends so evident in music now in the 1970s. He would be the opposite of them. Some kind of rock 'n' roll preacher. I decided if I wanted to set my sights really high, I should try to be such a person or at least prepared to go surf that trend once it was ready to turn. Something in my nature dictated that only fame that big could really interest me. It had to be "bigger than the Beatles" or I was nothing. It seems absurd to say. But these are the extremes of a teenage mind when he is emotionally neglected and unfulfilled.
Then like a great light it occurred to me that I did not truly know religious or moral truth. I did not truly know the conscious, rational basis underlying whatever ideas of "right and wrong" I could identify. On a conscious and rational level, I could not explain what was "true" or "false," "good or bad." I didn't really have religious or moral knowledge upon which one could make compelling judgments. For example, though raised religiously I had never heard even one clear teaching on the right or wrong of masturbation, which is a subject every young man needs to have clearly presented. There were innumerable blank areas in the Jew-fomented storm of media on the horizon whose sole purpose seemed to trash every value and taboo known to western man. I had not been properly religiously or morally taught, at least not for a vigorous young questioning mind.
So in a funny twist of mind I determined that if I was going to be a truly great musician and songwriter, I would first have to study religions and moral systems. Such turns of mind, based on rational thought, are the benchmarks of my life.
Once much later I chatted with a Jewish fellow at a coffee shop who had been a psychiatrist. He said that this desire was a normal part of the youthful mind and an expression of youthful potential and power.
Later this thought snuck back in here and there, as if lurking, and one thinks of "bigger and better" ways to "be important." Along with a dawning religious search, the thought still lurked: "Well, the really important people are the ones who truly help the world," even after getting a sense of religious knowledge. So the complex of fame-and-importance-through-saving-the-world was there. One only really loses the desire for fame -- and other desires -- when he feels God within, because only that fulfillment can overwhelm and preempt the need for other fulfillments. I have looked at politicians and other personalities through this lens ever since: I take them to be people with this psychological problem, along with a misunderstanding that they can save the world through standing and gesticulating, etc.
Through long study of religious scriptures, and meditation, I grew out of the fame bug. People might think I seek fame by having my website celibacy.info, or posting on a few web boards, or producing a few videos of my doings about town. However, my motive there is to help; to teach. And the motive to teach is, again, only to help. I was indeed not happy to make myself known as a recovered sex addict or any such thing. It is utterly embarrassing. It is much more ego-boosting to be famous for a song, or for writing a book others declaim as brilliant. I am a private person and prefer a quiet, anonymous life. At the same time, I would have failed my people and mankind if I had not endeavored to teach elements of what I learned, and in their time of great need.
In any case I put myself out there, by this time with the celibacy, from caring and service. I saw how dark and corrupt the world had become, and how morally confused young men had become. I saw that an evil porn age had befallen us, and no man was raising a message contrary to lust; throwing a lifeline to young men left to the pornographer dogs.
I knew that a message about continence or celibacy would have little credibility or weight without a fellow signing his name, and fleshing out a real human being to go with the message. It was for that same reason that I later encouraged other men to speak personally at the celibacy website, to allow their pictures, etc. It gives more weight to the message. So finally in the end, I allowed the possibility of fame for the sake of service. I wrote a hasty little book, "Bliss of the Celibate," and put my name and picture there, and acquired the domain www.celibacy.org. I also began to create daily audio messages at the site, to give further personal credibility to the message. It worked. Men around the world were affected. Many began writing me. Taking up the quest for purity, some of them I invited to make audios as well, to add even more credibility to a message that was never heard with any vigor anywhere else.
But I love privacy, anonymity, and obscurity most. Fame often comes unasked to high and low. All kinds of characters have fame thrust upon them for reasons great or silly. I have often felt powerfully protected and blessed to see that preserved in my life when it could have been so easily been taken away.
I recognized early on that man's fundamental problem is seeking lower thrills because he lost his God-thrill and even their inner contentment, and this was why men pursued drugs, women, and fame. I realized that fame was just one of the Cadillac thrills and Cadillac addictions, but still a lesser thrill compared to God. And of all the fame and power thrills, what could be more premium than being a Guru? So I was too educated by then to take the "fame-through-guruhood" bait, that so many fools were pursuing in the 70's onward. So many people went to India, became sort of ersatz pundits only, and were quickly elevated to guruhood by the naive and spiritually hungry young White westerners. I saw through all this, and could soon tell who were the real God-men and women and who were only pundits or posers. I did not want to be one of them, or even accused as one of them.
If someone claims you as their guru or experiences you as such, that is God's doing. My goodness, even morally repugnant rock stars, rich men teaching wealth seminars, and Hollywood actors get made into gurus by the various peoples! Who can stop that? But seeking to be "a guru" is ignorant and can only come from a lack of one's own inner bliss which fully satisfies. A guru's burden and distractions are great! On the other hand, refusing to be a guru when you are requested when the signs are all there, selfish and petty. If you find a true guru, that is God's doing. If you help others through your teaching and they claim you as their guru, that is also God's doing.
But at the beginning the fame bug was what turned my mind against the fame bug. God always leads you back to Him. So I began for the first time to study the Bible with my own interest and motives. This only created more questions for me. Thus I enlarged my studies to commentaries and finally other scriptures from other religions. As I did this, my religious and moral questions just became bigger and more complex. And one other extraordinary thing happened: It occurred to me from this religious reading that perhaps the desire for fame was itself not a "good," and not the posture of a genuinely religious man. So I came to the conclusion that this desire was an unspiritual and perhaps neurotic impulse in myself. This cut off my interest in music and performing immediately. It was dead in the water now.
Now instead, because I had become exposed to real scriptures and lofty and great religious ideas in their many-faceted glory, such knowledge itself became my true interest. For the first time in my life I became a religious seeker. It was a strange trick God played on my mind to invalidate my desire for fame by that very desire for fame, such as the way Ramakrishna says God uses a thorn to remove another thorn.
It would be fair to say much of my mind, even starting young, has been taken up with observing and coping with the religious, cultural, and racial collapse that has beset the White European peoples. As I grew up, my neighborhood, city, and nation was indeed a White European place. It was also a predominantly Christian environment. Much of my teens involved a process of watching the assumptions and values of White European culture -- and especially it's moral and religious underpinnings -- come unraveled. I remember walking into bookstores and magazine stands and always coming out shocked and disturbed. It seemed every time I went in and scanned the magazines or books, there was a host of new disturbances. Some new taboo was being broken. Some new envelope was being pushed. Some new "revolution" fomented. Even as a boy of 13 I found it disturbing. It took me many years to understand that my own sin was creating this situation. Then it took many years more to perceive that, externally, these changes were being fomented by a particular race, the Jews, who had a centuries-long hatred for Christianity and Gentile culture. They lived among us unnoticed, blending in, while always feeling themselves profoundly different and inimical to us. They had created for themselves the advantage of psychological invisibility. It was, in fact, these very same Jews who were behind most of the disturbing taboo-breaking literature I was constantly seeing in the magazine stores, most of it published from out of New York City. I didn't understand that then, but I see it now.
I would say that the predominant thought of my human mind, from the teens on up, has been grappling with this cultural and religious collapse, trying to find its true cause and conceive of valid and effective solutions for it. It boils down to the Gentile Christian peoples being told many lies. Lies about themselves and their own history. Lies about their ancestors, lies about their religions, and lies about the Jews. The lies told about the Jews are such as to make it psychologically difficult or impossible to even talk about them, giving them psychological invisibility in the culture so that they can act unhampered with full force. In my later years, about 40's on, I came to see how important it was for Gentiles to become aware of Jews, their motivations, their cultural agenda, their influence on the Gentile societies, and their power. This was a very difficult step for me. But as I saw the extent of their influence, I found I had no moral option to remain silent. Their terrible creation, Communism, must also be spotlighted and it's many new forms and guises thoroughly understood. In my teens, however, I did not even have a clear concept of right-and-wrong, moral understanding, much less spiritual understanding. This was because religions naturally become moribund over time. Thus I had to quest for that knowledge before I could understand society.
My father and I cheated by a no-custody divorce
In retrospect I can see that my father was royally screwed in the divorce. She went to a lawyer friend of the family for the "formalities," and my father probably trusted him, but the end was treachery. They were more friends to my mother than to him. Citing his drinking, she had been granted a "full custody" decree. That was more common in those days, but of course the injustice of it and the separation he had from his children worked its damage on his state. Starting from the separation, in which he moved into the old Rollins home, mother never spoke as if there was any plan or need for us to be with our father on any systematic basis. She regularly criticized him, too. She had a few repeated memes regarding him. I would hear her on occasion saying them to one of her friends in a low voice. I always had the feeling that mother might not approve if I visited my dad; that I might lose her affection.
I heard that Dad stopped working, and sunk into debt and poverty. I think mother's conscience worked on her after a few years, because she suddenly began saying things like, "Maybe you should go visit your dad. It would probably cheer him up." Nothing had ever felt right about my NOT seeing my dad, and his isolation seven blocks away, so the prospect immediately felt good. When I began visit him I found a very dark, gloomy man. At this point the once hard-working man had not worked for maybe three years, and he radiated gloom and despair. Instead of the warm embrace, I got a one-armed, lame response to my hug. As I noticed his living state and saw little notes around the house that he had written to himself, I realized that he was at a suicidal low.
I was not well aware of the concept of "custody" in family law. But I had a son's basic compassion for him and, seeing his state, knew by instinct that something wasn't right about this divorce and the situation I'd lived for the past three years. It began to add some meaning, some rightness, to my life to stop in and see dad starting around age of 16. It also worked a magic on him, and he began to be in a more normal state when I would visit, and would even be delightfully happy. It became clear that a visit by his son gave him joy, and his hugs -- now more robust and warm -- gave me comfort. Robert Bly wrote that a kind of "food" passes from the father to the son through their physical proximity and also by working together as the father teaches him skills. There was an emotional food in my fathers' hugs.
Still, it was all at my discretion. There was no "understanding" or rule that any of his children had to spend time with him. This was, no doubt, part of the injustice and pain that my father suffered as a "non-custodial" parent. I became aware that my older brothers Mark and Victor were also visiting on their own impulses. But it was all random or according to our mood. If my young obsessions happened to distract me for a few months, I might not think to visit him for many weeks. Then at times I would return to gloom again.
The Aesthetic Hippie
My father's hellish separation from his sons and daughters, and now the relief of a return, made him more forgiving toward my counter-cultural tendencies. Overjoyed just to see his son, he no longer made issues about my long hair. Up to the time of the divorce the cultural divergence he was seeing in his sons had been a cause of some conflicts between us. He stood helpless before a sea of media that affected his children, offering up continuous cultural challenges and different moral directions. In me it mainly came out in the way I wanted to dress, and the kind of music I wanted to listen to. He didn't approve of either, but especially my obsessions about having the most "cutting edge" hair and clothes. His instinct that the breakage of hair norms represented a rebellion against traditions and self-restraint made him frequently roiled by his sons as we connived to grow it longer. When the Beatles came out they roiled and provoked by what were essentially feminine gestures. That is certainly how my father saw it. Their longer hair was feminine. Their high-singing vocals, sans male resonance, were also feminine. Their pointy-toed books with raised heels -- there it is again. When men of my fathers' generation would say "He looks like a girl," they meant it, and saw these developing trends as gender confusion. He couldn't understand how, based on the family and cultural mileau I was growing up in, these were actually ways to be macho: To show courage, creativity, originality. Implicit in his viewpoint was, I am sure, the fear of one's sons coming out homosexual or turning homosexual. Thus every style or fashion I might have tried -- were it to have any connection to a feminine lexicon -- would have terrorized my father. Is my son OK?
In my mentality all of this was about getting attention, standing out, being the one with the most breaking fashion. Thus I and my friend Bill Reilly were the first to wear bell-bottomed pants in our school, and we were very proud of the fact. In generally we were influenced by the English rock stars. If we saw some rock musicians, such as the Moody Blues, wearing puffed sleeves like an English lord, we would avidly buy them as soon as we found them available anywhere. This brings me to an analysis of the different kinds of "hippies" that developed from the 1960s. Now, I was really too young to be a "hippie" technically. So I use the term loosely. I would term my friends and I as simply "longhairs," and English-influenced. My impression is that there were several types of longhairs or hippies:
-- Political hippies
-- Drug hippies
-- Sex hippies
-- Aesthetic hippies
Most of the types combined more than one. For example Abbie Hoffman, the Jew who became famous as an icon of hippiedom, was in the first three categories, though probably the 2nd not so much. Later two other saner categories emerged:
-- Natural Living hippies
-- Religious hippies
The last category was a later development, and included those attracted to India and gurus, and a neo-Christian type that were sometimes called "Jesus freaks." The Natural Living Hippies loved groups like Crosby, Stills & Nash and that album where they are sitting on an old couch. Their song "Our House" expresses the inner instinct of this type: To return to naturalness and wholeness. These types were the ones who gardened, formed agrarian communities, or founded health food stores which were a new cultural development. Or at least they frequented health food stores.
As for me -- and this also went for my brothers -- we were aesthetic hippies, to be sure. This type loved the musical developments of these times, perhaps above all, and loved to dress in new and beautiful ways. The phenomenon of the Renaissance Fair is good symbol for their values.
So a favorite activity of our youth was to get together and listen to the new album just released by one of our favorite groups. Whoever bought the album first might invite a few others over and we'd experience it together. It's charming to remember how big such events were to us, and how enjoyable it was to share the experience of the music. Comments as the music played might include: "I love the double guitar leads" or "Listen to this piano part," "He's playing that guitar part through a Leslie" or in the case of a Genesis song (to come later): "This thing is in 5/8 time. Isn't Buford amazing." In particular we liked the bands out of England that were not yet known or popular in the U.S. One of these, very popular with my crowd, was called "Yes." We had been listening to them for a while before they were heard in the U.S. Bands like Jethro Tull, with their combination of acoustical Troubadour-like guitar, a creative flute, early Goth-like metal riffs, cynical and intellectual-sounding lyrics -- also attracted our type. We loved the cerebral quality of the developing music, as well as the richness of the European musical lexicon that it mined.
And then there were the fashions. An aesthetic hippie was a kind of dandy. My mother had called me a "clothes horse" already by kindergarten. I made her press my pants just so, and went through suffering over my hair amiss or my collar not quite right. My brother Mark was the master of clothes, and I had influences from him. He even worked at THE "hip" clothing store, a place called "Marcovis'" in downtown Des Moines, and he had all the latest duds. He was a veritable Paul McCartney. I had less taste, and was easily swayed by crass things. Once I saw a bright purple tank top shirt in the men's clothing section of Yonkers, made of net. I thought it was very edgy and different. When my father saw me in that thing he became agitated. I am sure at this point that he thought: "Is my son turning into a homosexual?" I didn't have those kinds of associations with fishnetting, I just thought the thing was interesting and different. He began to speak harshly to me throughout the day. He was enraged by the strange shirt. I was washing dishes in the kitchen -- ever the helpful son to my mother or maybe trying to win some points with dad -- when he came in at me with some critical words. I said something cheeky to buck him. He had probably been drinking. This enraged him and he came at me.
I soon evolved toward the Natural Living and Religious side of it. I liked to eat at a wonderful "hippie" eatery called "The Soup Kitchen," and experimented with diets like the Macrobiotic Diet and also fasting, which was a passion with some of my 17-year-old male friends. I recognize this now as an ascetic streak in both myself and my peers which resonates with our White European and Aryan ancestors.
Finally I evolved toward the Religious side of hippiedom, the choicest part. But by that time, the "hippiness" of it all was gone. Already by the 1970s society was too broken up to find anything shocking about any of these types.
I remember around 1969, going into a so-called "head shop" in the campus section of Des Moines on University Avenue. They sometimes called themselves "emporiums." This one had the fascinating name of "Elysian Fields." There was also a wonderful one on Cottage Grove Avenue called Dottie Dumpling's Dowry. Here you could find the exotic totems of hippiedom -- fluorescent posters of Jimi Hendrix, Asian incense, strange "underground" magazines, hash pipes, artful posters featuring sexual positions -- all the necessary paraphernalia of the self-important "hippie." My heart raced in that dark lair. There was a heady philosophical atmosphere to make me feel vaguely noble. But I felt I was in a naughty place -- like a dirty book store. But it was there in that "head shop" that I first saw a picture of the great guru Paramahansa Yogananda, and his mystical book "Autobiography of a Yogi." There was also a copy of the arcane Bhagavad-Gita. Heady stuff. (That's why they called them "head shops.") At the time I didn't know how out-of-place that book was. Yogananda, like all Hindu yogis, was a celibate and gave no quarter to drugs.
The dark-haired and mustacheod purveyor of hipness on University Avenue could not be bothered about what was actually inside of that little book. It was just agreeably subversive, and sufficient to give a start to "Mom and Dad" and their "empty" Christianity. For the merchants of "progressivism," it is all about "being cutting edge." It doesn't matter what is being cut and shredded, just as long as something is being cut. Progressives are a little like termites that way. Or like a boy who delights in popping all the bubbles in a sheet of postal packing. They just get a rise out of breaking things. Then again, some may have found some interest in that little book.
My father could only get glimpses of all my interests as a distant observer, picking up snippets of news about me. Or maybe now and then hearing about it from my own lips, whatever I felt was safe to talk about, should he rarely give ear to me more than 30 seconds. For indeed, most of my visits to dad developed into the sort of conversation as times past, in which he did all the talking and told me stories about his past. But he was my dad, and it felt better to visit him and have a father-son relationship than the crazy feeling of the past three years. Visits to my father made life make some sense again, and I could see the possibility of meaning in it. Yet I was still living in a meaningless void.
The Meaningless Void of My Single-Mother Home
After graduation at 18 I spent a year haphazardly pursing a music career by being a lead guitarist in a rock group called "Dancer." I quit that group over competitions with the leader, a much older blond fellow who played a Les Paul and sang most of the songs. At that point I moved up to the college town of Ames, Iowa to join a rock band consisting of three brothers, as their lead guitarist. I lived with my old organist friend Rick Siberall, with whom I'd been a member of 2-3 different groups in high school. That was a bust, as I didn't like the group or the sort of music they liked to play, and they were not very skilled. I moved back to Des Moines, to my home, where my mother was, pretty lost and directionless. But up in Ames, some things had gelled in my mind.
Just prior to Ames, while in the aforementioned group and still living at my mother's, I had read the autobiography of Benjamin Franklin. After reading that book I felt as if possessed by Franklin's attitude for some time -- all of his practical earnestness and his application to "virtue." It set me on a track of trying to think more like a businessman about my musical ambitions. In the greater solitude of Ames I did a lot of contemplation about the dynamics of fame, analyzing all the factors that went into the success of the biggest musical groups. It occurred to me that the greatest musical sensations hooked into some kind of great historical trend or change; some new current in the culture brought about by forces well beyond the particular artist such as the Beatles, Elvis, etc. It might be a war. It might be a great change in religion or society. The biggest groups, it seemed, rode the crest of some social wave.
This led me to the question: "What is the big social trend now, and what is the next big trend likely to be?"
I felt I could easily answer both of these for myself: The great new social trend in rock music was moral decadence, and this was already well underway. The Big New trend, then, would be moral regeneration. I saw in my mind that after the whole western world became corrupt enjoying it's decadent rock groups -- with men wearing makeup, celebrating violence and depravity -- some new rock star would arise who would reject thee things and be a moral reformer, and maybe even a literal saint. This seemed clear to me. Only involvement in such a massive cultural development could engage my interest. But now I had a problem: I really didn't know, myself, what "good" was and what "evil" was. I myself truly didn't know what was right and wrong. I literally decided at that point that in order to pursue my developing fame strategy I would first have to study the questions of good/evil, right/wrong -- as well as religion -- so that I could have some certitude about these questions and come from a place of conviction. At that time I began checking out religious books from the Ames University Library. These included the Bible, the Bhagavad-Gita, and others.
Another fundamental event had taken place in the group "Dancer" some months before. We were in a break in the room that served as our dressing room, in some big bar and raving house called "Jolly's Place" in Ames. Lou Scorpinini, the synthesizer player and a ladies' man, came in and said that there was a table of women who were crazy about me and were hoping to meet me. He was inviting me out there to meet them during the break. This was my first experience of "fans."
I went cold. I was terrified. In that moment I realized that the fame I had always dreamed of would not make me happy. It perhaps helped that I was basically shy and had no confidence with women. Part of my problem was that I didn't want to disappoint them and was pretty certain that I would. I had had girlfriends, and I could be witty and hold the floor with those I was already comfortable with. But this business of meeting strange women who cut the pattern of groupies was a bit over my head. But the worst part was this: I immediately regarded them as stupid. They were entranced with my act and my image. But that wasn't the real me, and I realized they were stupid for buying it, or possibly even degenerate. They were immediately, in my mind, not the sort of women I would want to meet.
The Young Pursuit of Fame Leads Me into a Mental Dead End
From that point on my pursuit of musical success as a rock performer was blunted. But now there was a deeper problem: My best fame strategy would only work if I could learn what Good and Evil were. As I began to read these religious books, I realized that the answers were not so easily found and the questions only multiplied. I was aware immediately of the multiplicity of religious and moral viewpoints. But I WAS getting an inkling of one thing: Very likely, the very pursuit of fame, itself, may not be virtuous. This came from the texts' various statements about humility and self-abnegation. My own honesty informed me immediately that I couldn't be a true purveyor of Goodness by any means that was itself unvirtuous or evil. I was in a conundrum.
Now at nineteen and back in Des Moines I was drowning in what can only be called a meaningless void. Other young men seemed to be induced to work by their parents. My mother seemed to consider it acceptable for me to do whatever I liked, now and then only grousing that I might take the initiative occasionally to mow the lawn. Everything about the way my mother raised us, subsequent to the divorce she initiated, led up to this.
In retrospect I can see that my mother, whether from default or as an emotional strategy of hers, raised her sons to be weak. It also became clear later that she had a strategy to raise us in isolation; to keep us compartmentalized. We were all strong males. One type of mother with one sort of conditioning might have realized the advantage of having four strong sons who were close, in harmony, and could get things done. By directing them she could get a great deal done, build a lot, and have a lot of protection. This is the traditional power-point of the female in human life:
As the satvic or wisdom-element that guides a group of men, like the mahut astride the head of a great, powerful, but stupider elephant. Mothers of the past, indeed, would delight in having sons and the more in harmony they were, the better for her and the family. But my mother was different. I believe that she felt threatened by her males as they matured, and saw them as a potential powerful block that could have too much influence in her life, coerce her, or maybe even criticize her. Thus her strategy with us was to keep us separate, in our own little worlds.
An expression of this was that mother never created a room in the house that was a "family room." I remember visiting the homes of some of my friends and being amazed when young Danny or Jim would say: "Hey, let's go down to the family room." Wow. What was that? Yet as I asked it I already knew, and the sound was just like being kicked in the gut. We'd go down to a basement perhaps, with a tile floor, and there would be a pool table, a stereo, some sporting equipment, a sofa. One friend, son of a doctor, had newfangled things like a foozball table and I played my first foozball. But as I did I remember not really enjoying it because I was in deep grief. This family was different from us. Though I came from a large family, we had nothing like a "family room" at our house. I felt there must be something wrong with us. I felt suddenly embarrassed to be in this home. I was not from such a good family.
The matter stands out because we had a large house. It had four floors, a full basement, and a rather large attic containing three substantial and almost mystical rooms. All-told there were nine rooms in our house fully adequate as bedrooms, and in my life on Ingersoll every single one of those rooms did see such use in time. Yet there was never any room designated as a place where my family might gather and enjoy each others' company.
This was all the more absurd considering that my mother had basically opened the house to the public as part of her burgeoning portraiture art career. Every single day there would be strangers in the house. By my teens I might be coming down to the kitchen hunting for some breakfast and encounter some woman dressed to the nines confronting me in our kitchen passageways, all gaseous with perfume. She would be embarrassed, I in my pajamas would be embarrassed, and I would scurry away. It seemed it would have been a sane and decent move for my mother to make one part of the house that was not a "public" and open part, so that her sons and daughters could get some sense of privacy and family. But she probably viewed the home as her showpiece and way of impressing prospective clients with her success.
Yet nature tried to create a community out of my brothers and I just the same. There were times when we brothers would start to gather in Victor's bedroom, or Mark's. But we were all cultivated to enjoy privacy, and these rooms were a bit small to handle 3+ boys while keeping the decorative order of that brother's personal environment. Then the vagaries of fights and spats would easily end any room-visiting phase. There needed to be a more spacious and more neutral zone, and mother needed to have this as a value; to make an effort to draw us together.
I remember phases -- in which my brothers and I began to gather in some certain part of the house, and then were scattered. It would come about usually by the presence of a sofa and maybe a table suitable for board games. If the room was not getting some other major use. Just as forest creatures will start to gather in a place if man stays away from it long enough, my brothers and I would start to appear in one of these type of rooms. But within a week of beginning any pattern of brotherly gathering, mother would completely re-arrange the rooms. The sofa would be gone. Perhaps a big table would be placed in the middle of the room adorned with decorative things, the stereo removed, the little card table folded up and hidden. We would be dispersed again. It would be clear that she did not want us to gather in this room, to play games, or to disturb it's newly-designed "elegant living" aura.
I came to believe in my adulthood that this was an expression of an actual fear in my mother that her sons might grow up to be close, a block, and strong. She managed our masculine energies by keeping us isolated, weak, and dependent. Another way she did this was by dropping negative news and criticism about some brother, something about their troubles or something she was displeased about. She might say, "That Vic, he's in trouble over...such-and-such." Or, "That Joe, he's always broke." You would end up feeling you had a secret about that brother, something you maybe were not supposed to know, and it created distance between myself and he. In future I realized she was likely sharing similar things with them about me: "That Curt, he's really a do-nothing." This became crystal clear to me at the time of her death, in a dying hospice, as the pain of her cancer plus her age lowered her guard and caution and I saw her clearly play these little political games among my brothers. When I first came into her death room, she acted as if she didn't know me. She was completely pretending. She had apparently been enraged that I didn't come sooner. A nurse came in and she made a great show of gushing over the nurse, at how much care she gave, at how wonderful the nurse was 5 minutes later. As she warmed up to me she started giving me critical thoughts about my oldest brother Mark, who I thought had been behaving as a saint at this time. When Mark came in later, she began informing him of the faults of Joe, etc. It was very plain to see, and it was clear how it this private negative news service from mom would have created distance between us growing up. One dynamic was that it made you feel that you were "in with mother" and that she was making you her confidante. Because of the general distance always there due to her work schedule and social ambitions, the small comfort of this, plus lack of felt solidarity with my brothers, would keep me from confronting her over it.
I haves seen in my sunshine thoughts how wonderful and powerful a group of brothers can be. Sometimes I have visualized myself in some future life with several brothers who are raised by a wiser mother. We have a band. We are masters of our instruments. We are singing an incredible song together. We are all vocalizing at an outdoor concert in the sun and blowing them away with both our music and our brother-ness. Both family and brothers can be a powerful and constructive thing. But my mother didn't have that vision.
My father, he did. He continually referenced an inner vision he had, while raising us, that spoke of the power of family and the power of working together. Towards the end of the real family he began to build a new addition onto the house. In his mind he intended it partly as a place where mother could do her parting and art with better light, plus a family room. The outer half was all windows and light, with the close presence of one of our apple trees on a little outdoor balcony. The other half was to be a family area.
An occult note: In Feng-Shui ba-gua theory our house had been a square with a "fame node." This means a little protuberance at the back middle. The fame node was a small outdoor balcony-porch. Thus mother developed strong fame aspirations in this house. Until dad tore off this porch to build the new addition, things were fine between he and mother. His design for the new addition, much larger than the porch, changed the basic shape of the house so now that it was a larger square but with a missing corner at the back right. That is the corner, in ba-gua theory, called the "marriage" corner. So he re-built the house to have a missing marriage corner. The noticeable troubles between he and mother commenced with the tear-down of the porch and the building of his well-intentioned new addition. Just as it was nearing completion mother divorced him. From then on both areas were used for her business, one half for painting her clients and the other for her "desk" and papers. The "desk," also, was a long table that dad had constructed to be the family dinner table. While mother had her own special space for her public and her office, plus her own bedroom (she chose the larger bedrooms), plus 3 or 4 "show rooms" for her public to pass through -- four brothers and two sisters never once had a room they could call theirs, that mythical sacred space known by all children on the South Side of Grand -- the "family room." And one started to get going, she would quickly break it up.
Thus there was a profound isolation in my home despite the fact that it was a large family. And I was at the youthful and vital age of maximum energies. I needed to be engaged with something and with people. I didn't understand my situation objectively at the time. I only knew that I was extremely agitated by a lack of meaning in my life, and by a lack of any understanding of the world. Now in adulthood it is easy to see why I was at such a pass. When your father is not involved with your life, life seems meaningless. Likewise when he is treated as a "non-entity" and a non-issue by the mother, life becomes meaningless. The radical social trends taking place since the 1960s, with old religious and moral standards questioned and then broken, added to the confusion. When you are never asked "What are your grades?" or "How are you doing in school," one thinks: "Why am I even going to school?" Nobody ever told me, in fact, why I went to a public school or what it was supposed to lead to. Yet every day I was warehoused there, and placed under various pressures.
The only thing that was giving my life meaning, by my teens, was my love of music and the quest for musical fame that I shared with a few friends. Being appreciated and praised seemed, still, like it might be meaningful. But as my mind developed and I studied religion in pursuit of my elegant strategy, I was beginning to fear that this was nothing but a childish obsession, an absurd fantasy, even corruption. The corruption trends in the popular music groups served to exacerbate meaninglessness and make me doubt the validity of the path I was pursuing. I remember attending a concert in Minneapolis by the shock-rock group Alice Cooper, whose guitar compositions I admired but whose image and apparent message gave me confusion and ambivalence. There was a program there among the seats, and some Rolling Stone writer's review was printed in it. As a critique he said that the group presented all the problems, but none of the answers. This was indeed true, not only of that outfit but others, and it only seemed to add confusion to a guidance-less young mind.
But there was a worse and more central factor helping to create this hell, and that was my sexual incontinence. Immediately upon having the male period, a man sees the world as void and the meaning leaves it until he recovers. This self-emptying, combined with my mother's laissez-faire approach to parenting, produced anxiety in me to the point that I feared I was not mentally sound. In fact, the bleeding male does become mentally unsound, as his creative substance is the foundation of his mental strength. Nobody ever brought this up either before I came into manhood or during, yet it is the most fundamental education that all young men need. Certainly my mother never told me, "Don't masturbate. It weakens you within." She didn't even know.
The Saddhu's Impulse: The Urge to Know
It was the lack of any understanding and any convictions that was the worst. What is this world? What is life for? What is true? What is false? What is Good, really? What is Bad or evil? I didn't know any of this. In this void an impulse rose up to get away from all of it. I felt that if I could leave my mother's environment, I could somehow get a clear view of truth and the world.
At this same time I had a friend, Rick Siberall, who was working the summer in western Montana, in a little town called Polson. We had played together in a few bands. He was a keyboardist and had always coveted his authentic Hammond B-3 organ. I had lived with him in Ames when he was attending his first school there and I tried to "make it" in rock music. Rick had been continuously changing. In high school he had become a partaker of marijuana. Next he had become a big fan of Psyillicibin mushrooms, and was always enthusing about the experiences he had. Well established in my mother-wrought decision to never used drugs, it was no issue for me, but I found his accounts of floating heads that spoke his name to be mildly entertaining. During senior year of high school Rick had taken to drawing ink drawings and even prints that featured the strange floating heads he said he saw during his mushroom trips, which called out "Rick! Rick! Hey Rick." His apartment in Ames was also adorned with them. That went bust, and now I was back in Des Moines and he was on summer vacation. He was writing me letters about how much he enjoyed it in Montana, the big skies, the mountains, the Glacier National Park, and his job at a health food store working for a long-haired couple. He had become one of those nature-lovers. He had the best mountain shoes, laced with thick and bright red laces. He also had become a fanatic about the Macrobiotic Diet and was continually fixing brown rice with Tamari sauce. In his letters to me he suggested I come visit him in Montana. He seemed to want to share his experience with someone. I don't think he thought I would take it seriously. But it was just what I needed.
My meaningless void, fatherless, life in mother's home felt like it was suffocating my mind and my soul. Just before I left I went to visit my dad. He was depressed again, worse than before. I could sense he was, in fact, suicidal. He himself seemed to be trying to tell me, by subtle means, that this was how bad he felt. It seemed all of my family had continued to abandon him, and visits from my brothers were not frequent enough. I didn't have a plan to leave home the last time I visited him, or I might have told him.
I Become a Seeker
I run away from home for the fourth time
Back at my mother's, I was desperate. The world made no sense. I had no direction. I had to get away from this place, step back from the world, and look at it. I had seen advertisements in the back of Rolling Stone magazine for jobs with the Merchant Marine, in which you could travel on ships. Earlier in my teens I had had a fantasy and passion about traveling old Europe, such as France, and had been very stirred by books like "Europe on a Dollar a Day." But I had not been mature enough, or prosperous enough, to act on it. Now I felt that I needed to travel, no matter what. I remembered the the letter from Rick. The west sounded free, pure, and spacious. I decided I would surprise Rick in Montana.
I had hitchhiked a few times in Des Moines. I knew it was possible, that people stop, and you can get places. All of a sudden one day I pulled my Boy Scout rack backpack out of the attic, and began putting a few things into it -- whatever mother had around for food. At that time there was not much in the house, and I had no money. I remember that I packed a stalk of celery, a can of Brewers' Yeast, and a little bread, and a cabbage. Because that was all that was there. Then I stuffed my father's old Marine Corps regulation issue wool blanket to sleep in, and I left the house. I didn't say a word to mother. She was not around anyway, off cavorting with her friends probably down at "Poppin' Fresh Pies."
I still remember the very moment I went out the door and began hoofing it eastward on Ingersoll Avenue, crossing our ample front yard, getting to the sidewalk, then passing the mysterious and cold neighbors' homes to my left. It was broad daylight, about 4:00 pm or so, towards dinner time. Not that mother was really having "dinners" for us by then.
There was a sense of profundity about it because of the radical thing I was doing. I remember walking at a faster pace than I usually wood. Maybe I didn't want to lose my nerve and change my mind. More than that, I think: I didn't want any family members to see this pain. So many times while walking up and down Ingersoll Avenue over the years, my mother might happen by in her golden Cadillac, slow down, and call out something like "Where you going?" At other times she wouldn't ask. She rarely knew when I was at any given time, day or night. But at these happenstance meetings on the street it was as if she became suddenly aware of her 3rd son as an individual. The power windows would silently open up and move down, and I would get to have an opportunistic Conference with my mother. At these times she might learn where I was going. Or from a distance she would zip down the windows and yell: "I'll be making dinner around 6!" or "I'll see you at home."
At my escape moment I hoped that my mother would not happen by on her return to the house and see me hoofing it away from home with my fully-packed backpack and a bedroll, and get some clue where her son had gone.
I think I didn't want her to be able to know the pain of that moment or that scene. On the other hand, I wanted her to suffer. I wanted to be gone without a trace and without a clue about where I went. Maybe I didn't want to see my mother then so as not to comprehend the ugliness of it all. Divorce and broken families are ugly. But why should I have to think about that now. All I could think of was the prospect of tearing myself away from this false reality so that I could see reality. However, the pained thought was also there to justify this act: "Why should I think you'd even notice if I left?"
Thus I did hurry away up Ingersoll at a fast pace and was relieved when I at least turned left up at 42nd street, heading for the Freeway Entrance, where a drive by from anybody-who-knows-me became increasingly unlikely. Only 3 blocks up 42nd was the Freeway Entrance going west. Only when I pulled down my first helpful driver would I truly be free. I was soon there, standing where the drivers are still going slow with my thumb out, and I was soon picked up.
I don't remember who the first driver was, but I vaguely recall it was a 30-ish or 40-ish male. I told him I was trying to get to the Interstate 35 turnoff heading North, which was on the edge of town. I may have gotten there in one ride, or there may have been a second driver. My mind must have been a blur at this time. But I do remember first being out on the freeway edge the first time, and feeling the fresh open air and being more aware of the sky.
At that time along the freeway pullover strip I already felt freed. I was really gone. Already and immediately the freeway grasses, the Crown Vetch, and every distant hill, and every little expanse of green that White man built around his freeways became a comfort to me, and delicious. Somehow already the blue sky seemed bigger. The green expanses of highway landscaping in the vistas of West Des Moines seemed somehow more blessed. I immediately felt the purity and spaciousness of homelessness and disconnection from the world and from the past. I didn't realize it, but I had become a young saddhu.
I had been dropped off only vaguely near the I-35 North exit. There was a sense of exposure there on the fast-moving main freeway, and a vague sense of menace in the thought of the Iowa State Highway Patrol. Never slackers, the Iowa Highway Patrol had already snagged the young driver several times over slight infractions and they were one of the most efficient and able Highway Patrols in America. I didn't know, really, how they viewed hitchhikers. But I did realize that a hitchhiker presented less danger if standing where going slowly before they hit the open highway. I wanted to be on an on-ramp again. I began to hoof it toward the next freeway entrance.
There was no problem getting rides, and I was soon penetrating North and Northwest into Iowa, into territories I had never driven before in my old '69 Impala. Oh, the fields of Iowa. Even though decimated by agribusiness and monoculture, one still saw charming things in farm and field. Some drivers took me for short stretches, some for longer ones. What a delight it would have been to be a wanderer in the Iowa just 50 years earlier, when every small road was graced by family farms no bigger than a few acres, each one a family of wholesome Whites largely self-sufficient. I wasn't to know that Iowa. But the fields and skies themselves and the old remnants of the farming life gave the heart comfort to see.
Most drivers were male, but occasionally a woman would stop. I remember the first woman took me to a truck stop on the border of Iowa. She was maybe 5 years older than me. She had questioned me gently as she drove and had a kind of bemused expression on her face. Looking back, she could probably tell that I did not fit the profile of the average vagrant or hard traveler. I probably looked well-washed, well fed, and fresh from a comfortable home. Even at that time I could sense that she was in some manner attracted to me and was ambivalent and wistful when she let me go. I went into the truck stop and looked at what they had, basically just curious. Because I didn't really have any money to spend: I had left home with a dollar and some change.
Years later as a more mature adult I would look back at this event and think: "You were a very messed up young man! This was basically a crazy act." Then again I would analyze the spiritual and emotional situation my mother raised me in, and think, "You had to do this. It was a matter of mental survival. You were, really, losing your mind in her meaningless and un-directed environment." Later I read the writings of Robert Bly in "Iron John" where he spoke of an archetypal mother-leaving that a young fellow must achieve in order to become a man. It is easy to see that act in my leaving. Still later through the years I longed for the moments that I had during this and other wandering trips -- moments of purity in lonely, pure places where it was just God and me. And I developed the strong desire to go back to it, at least in later life. Even to end my life as a wandering homeless man. Such was the purity and delight of the wandering, homeless states.
I had bought a map of the U.S. before leaving -- one of the few intelligent things I packed. But I was not especially interested in it. My view was that if a driver was heading "generally west" or "generally north" -- I would take the ride. For my first sleeping place I chose a culvert near the highway that was well surrounded with overgrown highway weeds and ground cover. It was near a bridge, down beneath it. Though nearer to the highway that I liked, it provided good cover. Plus, it started to drizzle rain. I hadn't even thought to bring along a plastic tarp or piece of polyethylene plastic. So the overgrown weeds, as they closed over me, helped keep the raindrops off and, well tired, I was able to fall asleep on the concrete with my backpack as a pillow. It was all strange. But it was also pure. I was making it on my own. Not a soul knew where I was, only God, nature, and the sky. My only goal each day was to arrive in some place, by dark, where I might sleep unperceived and unmolested by passing eyes. Though I ended up sleeping in some odd places, that turned out to be pretty easy.
Hitchhiking in America circa 1970
The first time I hitchhiked was around the age of 13, in my city of Des Moines. It happened because I was with my friend Kevin R., a very light blond Irish fellow who I'd gone to St. Augustine's school with 8 years. We were both very influenced by the counter-cultural currents in media and society. We learned the guitar together and were to play together in several loud bands before the end of high school. He was more influenced in political directions than I was. He had an older brother named Dennis who somehow ended up a long-haired, problematic, avowed rough-and-ready genuine Communist. I mean his brother continually espoused literal Communism and attacked everything about the established society. Kevin was a rather mild fellow most of the time, always making jokes and quips. But even at 13, if anything like a political subject arose, he became fire and razors.
At one time we were riding our banana-seat stingrays up 46th street and there were some young men up on a roof shingling. Seeing our unusually long hair, both of them -- likely from the country or the working class side of town -- made a wolf whistle to mock us (as in "look at the pretty girls.") Kevin, only 12 but Irish temper flaring, immediately began yelling "Fascists!"and "Rednecks!" at them. I didn't even know what a fascist was, and wasn't sure what Kevin was getting us into here.
We had just turned the corner and were hidden by tall trees, and I was relieved. But his anger growing, Kevin doubled back toward the house. I followed. Cruising by again he started in with more more political insults and contumely shouted at the suddenly empty roof.
Out from the bushes burst the two guys to our back-left. From their high perch they had seen us double back and were already on the ground from two stories up, to ambush us. Knowing full well who was the problem, they ignored me and a tall, muscular redhead went right for Kevin. He grabbed him by his shirt, bringing his bike to an abrupt halt. "Don't you be calling people 'fascist' you punk!" he firmly admonished. Kevin was right back at him, in his face with stentorian political condemnations. The two couldn't conceive what his stream of words had to do with anything at all, and neither could I. In a more moderate lecture mode Kevin had dissembled just enough to wrest loose from his grip. We then pedaled away like mad. He yelled back one more insult at the bemused "rednecks roofers" from the Iowa country turned back to their fruitful labors.
They were burnished by the sun and in the prime of manhood. I see now that these fellows were the cream of the crop for men, strapping young men from the working class part of town astounded to see our young degeneracy and arrogance. Looking back on it, I see they were right and we were wrong. They were closer to their fathers and had more of a grip on reality and natural truth. They knew that long hair on young men was a sign of degeneracy.
They might not have bothered. They might have just let the two young blond longhairs ride by without a sound or motion. But they cared too much, and about where it all was going. For they were our racial brothers.
Because of my own fights with my father I sometimes believe that a man only grasps the values of another man by fighting with him over those values. Kevin later became much more conservative in later life, with a wife, good job, child, house, and a treasured guitar collection.
If I lived again I would rather have been more like one of these working class fellows. I had been to their houses before on the edge of town, part settlement and part country, and I envied their lives. The only fault they had, this type of man, was that their naivete made them the most likely types to become cannon fodder for Jews in their various manipulated wars, and to end up crippled and dead, not passing on themselves to wives and children. That was the only fault of these men, in truth, and Kevin was full of it.
So my best friend Kevin tended to spout edgy political talk. I gradually came to be aware that he was channeling his brother Dennis, bane of his father's heart and avowed Communist and beer drinker.
So one day Kevin and I had been making a trip downtown to Des Moines Music where we loved to ogle electric guitars and amps, and perhaps buy some guitar strings and picks, or other paraphernalia of the musician. Kevin had picked up on the idea of embracing aspects of a vagrant's life, living as a kind of fringe-dweller, as both a gesture of rebellion against established society plus a way to practically get on with life. One of the gestures he was pursuing was to see how long he could go without washing his clothes. I had joined in and I remember during this walk we each reported how long we'd gone without laundering our pants. I am not making this up. Well, this was one of my early saddhu impulses let's say, my 13-year-old version of "matted locks." At this point my father had been banished from my life, so anything could happen. He certainly would not have approved of my dark, oily looking filthy jeans and I would not have been caught walking past him in them in normal times. By contrast, the single mother was barely aware of anything.
Then at some point in our journey to or from the Music Store, while traversing some intersection, Kevin had stuck out his thumb and said "Let's hitchhike." Under his leadership and confidence I was comfortable joining in. I am not even sure if he'd done it before, or whether it was walking with me that gave him the confidence to try. But we must have been picked up and made it home, because I had a basic assumption by age 19 that hitchhiking was a serviceable technique that basically worked.
Off-and-on since then, whether for going on a long shopping jaunt or getting home from work, I had occasionally hitchhiked. The only time there was any trouble was when the driver, or other car occupants, were smoking marijuana. They would have been confident I was their type because I wore my hair fairly long. When I declined to also smoke it they would sometimes get nervous or vaguely offended. I became adept at blandly passing it up without much ado, or even pretending to smoke his reefer in the case of a very stoned driver. Throughout the 1930s and 50s hitchhiking was a common practice in America for young men trying to make it, or coming home from the military on leave, or even returning home from college. It got a resurgence in the 1960s as young people embraced an various simplicity ideals plus, as with all men, began trying to get a start in life. In only occasional places was it outlawed. During this journey I was told by a State Trooper that he didn't mind my hitchhiking if I stayed on an off- or on-ramp and not on the open highway. In another town, it was not banned on the city streets, but was banned on the on- and off-ramps. Thus one would need to stand a bit away from the ramps, perhaps carrying a sign indicating the intended direction. I am glad that I was able to touch, at least, that simpler time when people were that kind and that safe to a young traveler. The racial homogeneity of America was another factor that made it possible. People are more trusting of their own, and more willing to look after their own natural people. It was safe enough that you would often see young women doing it accompanied by males, or even by themselves. There were only just beginning to be horror stories, in the 1960s, about murderous drivers or murderous hitchhikers. As I set out that day I was in the embrace of a long-developing culture that was basically moral and sane. I could easily start riding the human currents of our nation towards the land of mountains, Montana.
Thus God, you could say, decided my route rather than me. The next night I found a hedge near the highway with several rows. I maneuvered a few times to locate myself such that turning headlights at-a-distance did not unnervingly pass across my body. I ended up needing to penetrate deeper onto this land, and happy found tall grasses there. Simply lying down I was utterly hidden from the world, ensconced wonderfully by the quiet grasses. Getting up in the morning light, I would begin my hitching stand again. A letter that I wrote to my father during the trip states that I rarely could stand out there more than 5-10 minutes before getting a ride. I do remember some longer stands than that. But those long stands in lonely places, all quiet, with a vast view of the sky and the land -- are now among my exquisite memories.
It ended up that I went through Nebraska, then Wyoming. Around Casper Wyoming I was snagged by a brown-haired fellow with medium long hair and a mustache. He was on a long journey to a new work site in northwest Wyoming. He had picked me up, in part, to help him drive because he was trying to do a marathon drive and stay awake. He had even told me that he was trying to stay awake and that it would help if I talked with him. I obliged. He himself was not very talkative, but I knew how to make conversation, having read Dale Carnegie's "How to Win Friends and Influence People" in Ames. You just ask people to tell you about themselves. It turned out he had been the original drummer for one of my favorite rock groups, which made the conversation all the more interesting. As I informed him of how successful the group had become later (without him), and he was heading for some dreary construction job, it seemed to make him sad. After a while he had me drive a long stretch of highway, and I was to inform him when we reached a certain lake.
During that long ride through Wyoming I saw my first mountains. I was immediately enraptured. In retrospect they were not large mountains, but to me they were mountain magic. I had never seen any mountain up to then except in pictures. Astrological lore states that those with Capricorn planets appreciate mountains. I can attest to this in my case. I thrilled to them.
We drove on and now it was now dark. He drove onto a smooth, sandy beach of this lake, the stars above it in the fresh air. He simply laid down on the sand and went to sleep, not even a pillow. This was apparently a place he had slept before. I did the same, feeling pretty safe sleeping beside his station wagon and him. I remember how he woke me up. He just kicked me gently with his boot, and we were back in the car. Looking at a map now, this had to be the Boyson Reservoir at the Boysen State Park in central Wyoming. His destination was Cody, Wyoming. Thus he wanted to head up the 20. I wanted to continue west on the 26, so dropped me at the changing roads, and I continued on my way under the Wyoming sky. Unbenownst to me, I was now on the Wind River Indian reservation. What I remember about this next stand was the untouched quality of the land, the great spreading fields, the white clouds in the sky, and the utter quiet. All these places where I stood, where there was no other soul or house in sight and no sound of any car, still live in my memory as pure places, where it was just me, God, and the world I wanted to learn about. Around this place I remember standing also on rising road, a little hill. Beside me were some trees, and a ravine. Down the ravine was a rushing stream. Now and then someone would drive by. I was aware that all the people who drove by here barely noticed this place, and they couldn't look down and see what I saw. These pure and wild places still live in my today; I can go back there in my mind and be standing there again. Since that time I have often thought of the wandering saddhus of India like Nityananda, as they wandered through a more natural and ancient India, and all the magical places they must have seen and loved -- the groves of trees, the secret places in the mountains, the village outskirts.
Jesus was a Wanderer -- The American Saddhu Ideal
Two Canadian Sisters
My next ride was two White sisters in a van. Of course, every person who picked me up on this trip was a White person. But I wanted to point it out just the same. When they stopped, rolled down their windows, and asked where I was headed I said "Montana." They said "We are going to Yellowstone Park." That was in the right direction, so got into the sliding door of their panel van.
They were maybe a couple of years older than me, and were doing a camping adventure through the U.S. They were brown-haired, a couple of years apart, and what some might call plain in looks. I was happy to be with somebody who was obviously safe, but also well-aware of the threat all women feel from strange men. Who knows their motive? Sizing me up, they probably also could see I was a babe-in-the-woods and not a hardened type. They may have felt greater comfort having a man of their race with them. Plus compassion, or curiosity. In any case, I tried to speak just enough to make them comfortable and not be too mysterious, but not so much that it might tire them or seem to pry. We went by the Grand Teton mountains and I was awed by their majesty. Soon we had crossed the line into Yellowstone Park. They had planned to camp that night there.
I was in a quandary about how to behave and how long to stay with these women. On one hand I was glad to have such a safe and comfortable ride. I didn't find the women particularly attractive in that romantic sense that always dominates the minds of the young, but this was all the better because it avoided complexity. My chief occupation with them was keeping a comfort level there. I actually found them rather boring. They combined an edgy trust in a young fellow they picked up on the road with a certain prissy reserve that was probably the natural female distancing mechanism. They didn't ask me much, yet I could tell they were curious about me. At one point I broached some mildly political topics. The general sense I got from them at these times was that they had both a curiosity about America and a contempt for Americans. I remember it made me feel a little abashed, like they viewed me as some lesser fellow. But theses were very plain women, and their attitude, I could sense then, was really just posturing, bluster, and a distancing mechanism employed on a young male. As they spoke of their plan to camp in Yellowstone, I was roiling with how to proceed. They were not saying, "You must go when we make camp." On the other hand, they did not say, "You are welcome to camp with us." The situation was strange. I knew that it would be an extraordinary thing for a young male stranger to encamp for the night with two young women in Yellowstone. One one hand I was enjoying the comfort and security that these women provided to me. They were vaguely like sister or mother figures at this point, having they panel van, the heating system, the radio/stereo, and a full tank of gas. A bit of comfort along these lines was not unwelcome. Not that they were very forward in giving comfort. I didn't tell them how little I had eaten in the past few days, and they didn't ask. Or that I had only a dollar and change. But some basic elements of comfort were there. On the other hand I reasoned that after their initial dalliance and adventure of experimenting with a male American hitchhiker, a strain might develop. Whether or not they truly would accept me spending the night in their camp was the question.
Having entered Yellowstone Park I was now in a very different environment. It no longer seemed easy to steal off to some byway and find a sleeping spot. Things were more regulated and controlled here. Rangers ranged. Camping spots were explicitly delineated. You didn't just camp anywhere it seemed. There was much forest, and I didn't know what it was like to enter those. Even the specter of bears arose in my mind as I pondered this. For me, the most convenient thing would be to simply spend at least one night with the sisters. At morning, I plotted, I could bid them adieu with thanks and be on my way. Yellowstone Park bordered Montana at the upper Northwest corner of Wyoming. It should be an easy step to get out of Yellowstone then, and across the line into Montana. I think at some point, as they occasionally discussed the plan for that night, and perhaps speaking in terms of "we" -- as if they had no intention of my leaving -- I may have broached the matter with something like "If you don't mind my camping with you tonight." And as I recall they answered affirmatively like it was no big deal to them. What probably worked for me was that I was a rather mild-looking, doe-like young man. They could probably sense, with women's instinct, that I was no threat to them and that I represented actual protection. Indeed, it probably made them feel safer to have at least one male who they knew even a little bit; had vetted a bit and one from their own race -- to even sleep the night in Yellowstone. There is no question, now that I think of it, that had either one of them been attacked by any man -- I would have jumped into the fray on their behalf. But at this time I didn't really comprehend the elemental things going on here, and the things they felt that I didn't understand. I just did not want them to be frightened.
To give them optimum sense of safety I stated that I would sleep out in the trees near the van. Thus I did. They probably thought it remarkable that all I had to sleep with was one woolen Marine Corps blanket that did not cover my length. With this blanket if I curled up a bit worked at it, tucking it edges beneath me, I could get it to enclose me and cut the cool breezes. But that was all. It was the barest of coverings. I have sometimes thought in the past how thoughtless it was that I took a family heirloom on this trip to serve a practical and rugged purpose. My father's Marine Corp blanket was one of the icons always present among his collection of WWII souvenirs, medals, and prizes like his two Samauri swords. One might have thought there would be some other blanket I might have grabbed, a better and bigger one. But I took this with me without a thought. Was I trying to get closer to my father by taking his blanket and sleeping with it in dangerous fields? I think his blanket had a certain mojo for me. My dad had been through Saipan. Certainly this blanket could get me through anything. I noticed now that there was a terrible crop of mosquitoes about. Sleep was very restless and disturbed because of these buzzing bugs. The women had it much better and more bug-free, no doubt, in their van.
I woke up the next morning on the ground in the Yellowstone sunlight with the two sisters out brushing their teeth and doing womanly things, getting ready for their next leg. I stirred out of my place and approached, saying they could drop me off on the main highway once we got underway. They wordlessly received this.
On thinking now of that night and morning there is a charm to it, the fact that I slept the night in Yellowstone park with two White European racial sisters of Canada, as their unwitting sentry and man-post as they intrepidly explored America. There is a certain purity about the whole thing, and I hope they have had happy lives.
Now commenced a hitchhike through Yellowstone, and one of the most extraordinary days -- and nights -- of my life.
It was difficult to get a ride! There were very few cars, and they were not inclined to stop. Not enjoying to stand so long, I decided I should start to at least make my way up the highway and began a steady walk. I came past a little mom-and-pop quick market. I went in to see what it was about. You never know, sometimes there is free food, or samples, or maybe I could do some work or chore for a few dollars. I was very hungry by now, having eaten only a celery stalk, a half-can of Brewers' Yeast, and a can of soup since leaving home to days before. In the store I saw a cooler full of meats. The clerk was non-engaging, and the only person in the store. At this time I was tempted to steal for the 3rd time of my life. My energy was failing and I worried about my fundamental health, fearing starvation. At that time I did pilfer a package of sliced Oscar Meyer luncheon meats priced at $1.69. I felt terrible as I spirited it away and then got down the road. I didn't even like eating the meat. I was dispirited about the lack of friendliness and approachability of the clerk and the general lack of people in this area while I was feeling my hunger. Life seemed cruel now. I remembered my dad decrying theft as I grew up, and he would alway say: "It's one thing when you are starving, it's another when you just steal." I had rationalized there was a certain legitimacy to my taking the meat in my situation. However, I didn't like the way that stealing made me feel, and this act at 19 was the last time I ever stole a thing in my life.
Now Yellowstone began to be more interesting. There were forests on both sides. I came to the place where people watch the geyser. They sit and wait for it to spout. I walked into the area where a group of people were sitting on split log benches, waiting for its on-the-clock showing. What fascinated me was the people. I was in the 2nd row. I vividly remember a certain woman, grandma-aged woman, who was sitting with a young girl. She kept turning to the child and hugging her and kissing her with delight. It was clear to me that this woman loved the child very, very much. She was probably the grandmother, and had not been with her granddaughter in some time, and this was one of the events they'd planned for a family outing. But the geyser was nothing to the happy old woman. All she could think of was lavishing affection on the contented child. How lucky are children when they have the interest and affection of grandparents, as well as from uncles and aunts. I think that the White European Gentiles could learn a lot from the Jews in this respect. They have smaller families and the grandparents are usually highly involved with the grandchildren, supportively. It is common, too, for Jewish men and women to be interested in their nieces and nephews. As I watched the 4-year-old child receive so much affection from a grandmother, I saw the great beauty and wonder of it and also felt sorrow about my comparatively empty and loveless life up to then.
I kept on walking, the few cars kept driving by. Now I was in some raised areas, heavily forested. I was very tired. As it grew towards evening I turned off the road into the forest. I tried to sleep there. The forest floor was covered with itchy, dry pine needles. Mosquitoes gathered around me in a ravenous could. I could not clear them from my little inner wool blanket bubble. I was hot and sweaty. I soon saw it was no use trying to sleep. Best thing to do would be to press on, though after dark. This resulted in the longest, strangest, most spectral and beautiful night walks I have ever had.
Night had come and the stars came out. The moon was also out, so I could see things. The landscape now changed in the northern part of Yellowstone. It was land of strange rock formations. All I could think of was "badlands." It was like the environment of some moody, austere western movie. I couldn't help imagining outlaws hiding in some of the rocky formations, or Indian shamans secreted there, or even the spirits of the peoples of the past. It was as if I was on another planet, where few souls had ever been. The cool of the night was now refreshing and I had a second wind. To my right I could hear a rushing stream as I walked along. The water was very loud.
Eventually I heard the sound of voices. Up ahead where the road turned left I could see human figures in a whitewater stream. They were laughing and playing in the water. They were naked. Their car was parked nearby. Apparently the stream I been hearing, which now came into view, was a hot sulfur springs and it was the habit of some locals to come her and enjoy them at night. I passed on by, comforted to at least see other humans though I did not morally approve of their naked cavorting. Soon I got my first Yellowstone ride.
I will always remember this couple. They were a young newly married White couple. Through conversation I learned that they were on a summer job together, working for Yellowstone and that they lived in some cabin provided to them by the Park. The fellow was decent, mature, and kind. The woman was very attuned to me in some way, very much reading me. She was a dear, brown headed young wife. Sometimes if the male decides he'd like to pick up a hitchhiker, his wife or girlfriend may not approve and you can tell this from her behavior during the ride. I think it happens that sometimes, being with a man or with her husband, it becomes the wife who desires to exercise compassion and take the risk of picking up a hitchhiker should he seem safe and intriguing. I think this may have been such a case. I think they both had wanted to pick me up and help me out. I have sometimes thought back to this couple, and how much they meant to me in my life with that small gesture when I was in one of life's strange bardos and transitions. I wonder if they remember me? I certainly remember them.
Though transported by the natural surroundings, I was growing desperate a ride and this trip through the Yellowstone badlands late at night had now become a kind of ordeal. I was very relieved to get the ride and to be making progress out of Yellowstone Park. They took me some ways, and I may have gotten a 2nd ride which took me out of the park and into Montana, though I didn't know this. All I knew was that a familiar site was ahead and now strangely welcome: An interstate highway bridge. I recognized it as a perfect place to finally sleep. I climbed up the sloping abutment to the top where there is often a broad ledge. There I slept happily until light and the noise of cars woke me up. I could see then across the way that there were other travelers, too, just waking up on the ledge at the other side. It was a good feeling to see fellow travelers sleeping in a similar way. I began my walk.
Now I was walking into a wonderful land, a land of true mountains. As the morning sun came up I found my self walking through the deep shadows cast by mountains. The environment was luminous, clear, and clean. This was southern Montana. Some kind of Yellowstone Tourist hex was now lifted, and more normative people were driving by, inclined to pick up a young man to help him out. I got a long ride from a brown-haired man who seemed very intelligent, thoughtful, and pensive. I found it hard to read him, but it seemed that he was working hard to read me. I sensed that he was a basically good fellow but that there were probably political differences between us. Keeping the conversation light, I made it up to Missoula. Hoofing past Missoula I got one final ride up to Polson, where Rick lived.
Then finally I burst into Montana's morning sunlight and saw for the first time the long shadows that the mountains throw when basked in the sun's morning light.
Religion, The Path
I asked my father if I could move in with him. He readily consented. At this point through the influence of Ruth Christians I had spiritual inklings in me. In my austere bedroom I read "The Imitation of Christ" and very attracted to the asceticism ideal. The book spoke movingly about what re called in Hinduism tapas (austerities/concentration) and bhakti (devotion). Its Christian lexicon used words like penances, piety, and love.
Dad didn't bother much to fix up my bedroom, give me furnishings, etc. The room I took was the one they'd kept me in as a newborn, where mom and dad kept a cradle to receive their string of boy and girls. There was a problem with the roof; it leaked. In dad's normal Virgoan mindset he would have fixed a leaking roof at the slightest sign of moisture. But he had let the leak go on for years, and the ceiling was starting to cave in. The outer wall, too, showed signs of water damage. The wallpaper was peeling off, there were cracks, and the characteristic brown staining that appears or white plaster when seeped-and-dried repeatedly with rain water filtered through lathe wood. The wooden floor had long since lost its protective varnish. There was no chair, bed stand, or table. But there was a single bed with a metal piping bedstead, and I could find some sheets. There was no source of music such as a radio or tape player, and I had brought all that I now owned, which fit into a small backpack. The room was fine with me. It was warm for the winter and out of the rain. And I was used to cobbling together a life in the various rooms I inhabited at Ingersoll, and this austere environment suited me fine. In fact, it made the ascetical paeon of "The Imitation of Christ" all the more delicious to me. In that room at my Dad's I felt I was already entering into a renunciate's existence. I did, at least, peel off some of the loose, hanging sheets of wallpaper so that the wall didn't look so hairy. I also swept up the floor. The Jupiter-in-Virgo and my basic improver nature couldn't resist.
Living with dad for the first time without mom, I began to learn about what he was really like. I found out he was tender. One moment stuck in my mind. I had come home from somewhere, probably some work, tired out and had fallen half-asleep on the bed with my clothes on. Then I felt something messing with my feet. It was my dad, untying the shoelaces of his 19-year-old so he would be comfortable sleeping. it was unbelievable to me. But it was such a surprising and sweet moment that I did not rouse myself from my somnambulent state but rather, completely took it in. I realized that my father had had nurturing instincts for his sons all along, but that during former times he didn't have as much opportunity to express them,locked in the chemistry of chemistry of my mother's and his relationship. It this small half-awake moment gave me to know that he was fond of me and glad I was there.
When I moved in with Dad it revolutionized his life. He soon said, "How would you like to take a trip to Chicago?" He put us on a plane and we went to stay with his cousin, Aunt Jean in a Chicago suburb. He wanted to visit the old home town. He didn't show me much. At one point he left me at the Art Museum while he went away for a bit. He was gone far too long and I had to be very patient waiting. I didn't like art museums as much as he thought I might. When he finally arrived I realized he had been visiting an old favorite bar, and I could tell he had been drinking. Years later I thought it would have been much finer if he'd taken me along and I could have met his old friends, seen him in his old ways, and maybe heard him speak Lithuanian. But father knew I was dead set against drinking.
He probably would have gladly taken Victor or Mark along. In fact, he probably would have liked to take me along and show me off. It was only years later that I realized: He didn't want to corrupt me. I also realized the reason for his sudden avidness to travel with a son and uncharacteristically paying for something as pricey as a plane fare: He wanted to show me off to his relations back in Chicago. Before this, he didn't "have me." He didn't have his sons any more. But now I was living with him; I was his again. There was probably an element of self-redemption in it. He had likely been humiliated by the divorce and ashamed in the face of his relatives back home. Taking me along it was like a statement: "See, I'm still a father. Look, my son loves me. He even lives with me." My move-in to my father's house was a very powerful redemptive influence on his life indeed, which would be repeated. Some time after that we had an argument. It was over politics. I told him I had voted for the Communist candidate Gus Hall. I didn't even know what Communism was -- but that was dad's fault for not telling me. He blew up. He had been drinking down at a bar down the street. He was very harsh on me when I told him that, such that I decided I had to leave there. I moved back in to the big house on Ingersoll Avenue. My mother raised no objection. We had the kind of house that was open -- all doors -- night and day, winter and summer.
Religion, The Path
I cultivated musical ambitions long. At the same time I was rotting and self-destructing within through lust and immorality. By my teens I was mostly confused, deeply lacking fatherly interest and support, hemorrhaging my life force and disturbing myself inwardly, and becoming deeply confused about a confusing world. I covered up the maw of my growing inner pain with lust, and and obsession with fame through music. Now in my later teens, religion became a dead subject to me.
Though I grew up Catholic and went to a Catholic school for eight years, the truth of that religion was never really presented cogently or convincingly by the nuns or priests. They seemed to be running on automatic and possibly didn't even conceive of the kinds of questions that could arise in a young man's mind in the roiling 1960's. The big ones were about sex. And it was a sign of the still relatively uncorrupted early '60's that people still had Sex listed as a Big Question. They were a more intelligent people, because it is. But I was more affected by the ever more degenerate mass media than by any religious teachings on moral matters. Frankly, I never did receive any explicit religious teaching on moral matters, notwithstanding my Catholic upbringing. As I collapsed within, my culture and world collapsed outside.
Religion was a given in my life, thanks to my father. But it was poorly presented, thanks to cultural entropy and time, and thanks to my own flawed karma. When you have better karma, religion is better presented to you in these dualistic lives.
In the Catholic faith, the best things I received were all indirectly imparted by the vastness of the great tradition itself, rather than directly imparted in cogent teachings. Starting young, I had the great good fortune to be taken into the beautiful Catholic Church called Saint Augustines. There, the very building and it's interior transmitted the inner posture of reverence. The great vastness of the church sanctuary itself, including the reverberations of its stone walls and surfaces, conveyed to my mind the vastness of God. But it was only conveyed subconsciously. Indeed, the Hindus teach that one of the very first creations of God is the akasa or "space." After first creating space and the directions, in some cosmic moment God fills it with his other forms of creation, starting with air, fire, water, and finally earth. Then the other creatures. But space was the start, and space itself evokes God. Thus I sensed an important quality of God's creation in the great and beautiful sanctuary and it affected me spiritually, but this was never explained in any conscious way.
I would see 'holy cards' showing saints kneeling, their hands together in the devotional mudra known in India, but there was no explanation of what "hands together" was for, what it signified, or the kind of inner state that simple yogic action evokes within the mind. This transmitted to me information about the "attitude of devotion" which I later learned is very important for inner God-seeking. In India Yoga, "devotion" or bhakti is a whole science, as it were, for experiencing the divinity within. Yet never in all these years was the significance of "devotion" per se extrapolated or presented to my rational mind.
This lack of explicit spiritual teaching in my church experience led to my mind failing to consciously value the things it was exposed to only indirectly.
Religion seemed to have provided the world, and my family, with much good. It seemed to have ordered life, created systems, laws and rules by which the European peoples had grown and prospered. It certainly created great edifices where one could step in and feel a sanctified space and time for thinking of God. Most European Christian churches are created in such a beautiful way that you can't be in them and not think about God. (May God bless and preserve our people.) That was, alone, enough fruit and substance to validate the beauty of Christianity. It created great music, great art, stable families, abundant children, and culture itself.
But at the same time, my religion seemed to have many empty or confusing areas. I was never really sure what "heaven" really was, or where. But I was told that we would go either to heaven or hell upon death, depending upon how we were here. This seemed to be what "salvation" meant -- having the ticket away from hell and into heaven upon death. There was a list of "good actions" (with much missing from it) and a short list of "bad actions" (with much missing from it) to prevent the hell path upon death. But there was not much motivation here in the present world for pursuing the good actions. Only the hope of avoiding hellfire upon death. For most persons, if they had the slightest doubt about the scenario, there was not enough inducement to perform good actions and avoid sinful ones. The sinful ones seemed too fun.
Basically, my religion, though old and elaborate, did not explain very much for a roiling young mind to get settled down. It did not tell me what to do with the developing sexual feelings I had starting in my teens. There was a sense that they were "dirty" and that there were sins attached to these feelings, but it was not explained why, or what to do about them. Later I started finding out that there were other religions, and even different varieties of Christianity. My mind wondered why there were other versions. Were some more right or less right? Different congregations seemed to have different attitudes about life. I began to doubt whether I had the "one true religion" because I had never really evaluated it against the others. Perhaps my religion failed to answer many question because it didn't have all the answers? This is how a young man thinks. In reality, Catholicism did have all necessary answers secreted in the spiritual practices of its saints. However, these were not being offered to me, and I was not ready for them anyway.
One thing that hurt was that some of the most religious people around me seemed unhappy. Here I speak primarily of the nuns. It is my belief now that the best and most fitting religious teachers have joy on their faces when they teach religion, especially to little children. This was seldom seen in my Catholic school. The priests, too, seemed dry and dull as they delivered sermons. Rarely animated with joy or spiritual enthusiasm. There was not much affectionate love from either nuns or priests, ever for these little dear children they had in their custody every day. The head priest at my Church, Monsignor Walker, had a distant, cold demeanor. I believe that in eight years he never once laid eyes upon me or acknowledged my existence. He certainly never called me by name. Some of the young priests seemed slightly depressed or insecure (God bless poor Father Lindsay), or they bullied rather than impressed us with character and male brilliance (God bless poor father Terry). The clergy was not attracting the best of the men, which is what young men need to be around.
It occurs to me now that many of these nuns were unhappy women. In many cases they were a very sad or ever terrifying thing for young children to be around. They had perhaps entered the convent because of disappointing or embittered lives. Now, their spiritual culture had failed to impart to them a compensating spirit-born bliss that might have made them a pleasure to be around despite it all. It's my belief now that the best religious "fathers" are men who really HAVE been fathers in real life. This would be the way of the Orthodox churches. They truly appreciate children and the value of a son. In like manner, the best female teachers -- especially for young ages -- are the women who have been mothers. They have a natural nurturing softness around which children thrive.
The one thing my Catholic school did right was choosing the softer, more motherly nuns for the 1st and 2nd grades. Thank God in heaven for that. My first two nuns were young and basically warm towards children, reducing the trauma inherent in school for such young children. Simply her ability to smile sweetly now and then throughout the perversely long day away from mother helped keep our life force from completely ebbing away by 3 p.m.
Yet in all this was a spiritual culture and my soul imbibed it. The austerity of some of the nuns was itself a kind of elixir that deepened my own sense of the seriousness of life, and perhaps even the inherent unhappiness of life. Why do you enter a convent, indeed? Because you give up on the idea of happiness from the conventional worldly life. So though I was not around women with little capacity to addict me to motherly softness, I was around women steeped in wisdom. The truth is, some of these nuns and priests were true God-seekers. And that made proximity to them a blessing whatever the emotional impact on a child.
Sometimes their wisdom was harsh, but it was still wise. Sometimes they reserved their softness only as reward for your effort and firm character. I had been a natural artist and illustrator from childhood. I was always receiving praise for it, such that I had learned to hide my work from most people. I often fest bad feelings when being praised for my drawing, because I felt sorry for those who could not draw as well. I also feared their jealous feelings, which I could sometimes feel. It happened that in that time, at that age, to be able to draw well was considered a Big Thing. I didn't understand why this was so, but it was. People would gush at me. Girls would talk to me.
Once in 4th Grade Sister Bernadette brought to me 5 drawings of bears. They were cartoonish, fun, pastel decorations of 5 bear heads. They were commercial decorations you would buy from the store. She wanted to use these to decorate her room for Christmas, but could only borrow them from another nun for a bit. She wanted them duplicated, and she wanted me to do it. She said, "Take these home and reproduce these for me." I was amazed at the request, that she assumed I could do it, because they were very well done drawings. But I was proud to be asked. I did it, and brought back my five versions. She was very pleased and posted them on the walls of the room. One of the children asked her, "Sister, who drew those bears on the wall?" She said, "I did." That was that.
At the time, I thought, "Wow. Amazing. That seems unfair." But now in my age it's easy to see that the nun was practicing wisdom and protecting me. She knew that if she said "Julian did them" it would hurt me. It would have done two things: First, it would have made me cocky and superior feeling. I was just entering the age where I was looking for things to distinguish and elevate myself. The ego and competitive pride was stirring. I already had cocky enough tendencies. Second, it would have stirred jealousy in others and they would have taken it out by distancing themselves from me, and harassing me unaccountably. This nun saved me all that, though it seemed "unjust" and cruel at the time to deprive me of credit. She did a third wonderful thing, and that was she prevented me from taking a path to become an artist. I was so good at art this could have easily happened. But I was destined for different things, different pursuits, than making pretty pictures. If I had gotten much "play" out of that project, I would have done it again, and learned what it could get me in terms of prestige and later, money. I might have gone down that road. Instead I expanded into other directions. Behind the austerity of the nuns, there was much character-building wisdom.
But not enough. They couldn't tell me what do do about Playboy magazine. They couldn't explain why our town was turning into 4-lanes full of strangers driving too fast in four-wheeled dangerous isolation units. Or why technology was taking over our world with no resistance. They couldn't explain why my mother and father were no longer speaking and now mother was talking to me on my morning paper route about divorcing dad. They couldn't explain why I was so drawn to long-haired rock and roll musicians and why I shouldn't be. They couldn't even explain to me why or why not I should smoke marijuana or take pills. Thank God I had a mother who explained that, because they certainly didn't help. They could not explain if it was wise or unwise to spend hours in front of a television set watching whatever the New York and L.A.-based media interests felt like cranking out. My religion was lacking much explanation and guidance. Not adequately warned about the nature of sin, especially the new and sophisticated forms of sin our culture was spawning, I began to burn up in it. I damaged myself long and hard in sin.
The foundation of religion comes in several layers. The first layer is human unhappiness. If we did not experience human unhappiness, there would be no need to think of religion, seek religion, or manifest religion. When we sleep we often feel sublimely happy. Thus in sleep we don't seek religion. If we were in a wakeful state of constantly new happiness we would have no occasion to seek religion in the waking state. This is because religion is happiness. Reversed, happiness is religion. Thus, those who are happy don't seek religion because they already have it.
Yet every human being in the normal waking state encounters, finally, profound unhappiness. The recognition of life's unsatisfactory aspects is what engenders the quest for religious knowledge. All of the great religious founders spoke to this fact. Christ said, "You have the poor with you always," i.e. the world is inherently flawed and dualistic. He also said "Sufficient to the day is the evil there of," meaning every day of our lives has flaws and sorrows, plenty enough. The "First Noble Truth" of Buddha is simply, "Life is suffering." What a stark thing! Yet that's what he says. The beginning of religious wisdom, for the Buddha, was the recognition of the unsatisfactory and unhappy nature of life and world. The Yoga-Sutra, which is a profound, terse manual on how to return to God, has a similar saying: "To the wise, all is suffering, because of the reality of duality and the impressions we receive of the dualistic experience which can only engender more dualistic experiences." In the Yoga-Vasistha the prince Rama starts acting depressed. They call the sage Vasistha to analyze the problem and Rama laments to the sage, having realized the samsaric and pointless nature of material existence. Vasistha says, 'Ah, this is auspicious. Now this boy is ready to receive religious knowledge." So the beginning of religious knowledge, and religion, is in fact sorrow and frustration with this world.
Religion is, in fact, an instinctively manifested program for regaining our lost happiness. I say it is instinctively manifested because everyone "manifests" outer religion and religious knowledge, based on his karmic conditioning and the depth of his soul cry in his unhappiness.
The true way to God is within. To find this path within, you have to cultivate your own pathways to God within. This leads to experiences, sensations, and knowingness in which you then become more and more established. The simple formula is here:
-- Hear and read about the lives of God-men and saints.
-- Cultivate your faith. If you have good parents and a good mother, she will give you the capacity for faith naturally.
-- The stories and faith awaken the sense of religious piety
-- Piety increases the tendency to right living and morality. This in turn makes one inwardly capable of sustaining inner God-feeling, more pleasing to God, and more capable of pursuing God undistracted because of a less complicated and less afflicted life. Real piety also should awaken interest in the techniques of religious development and worship, which are inner techniques of mind and soul.
-- From piety a man or woman develops the attitude, and feeling, of devotion which is higher still than piety
-- From the attitude and feeling of devotion, one begins to experience God more and more within, because God Himself is of the nature of devotion, and
-- He experiences the bliss of God within.
-- Finally one experiences true worship. True worship involves the feelings of bliss, gratitude, rapture, and merging with the Beloved within.
-- All this is attended by the ability to truly help others and help the world, by leading them to find their own inner bliss-God, which is the only thing that will satisfy man and solve his hungers and problems.
-- One gets the ability, also, to help the world in a myriad of ways should one desire to play that game. But generally, the world will start to improve and upgrade on its own, as his outer world-dream, projected in the first place by his own body, becomes improved by his own growing purity and bliss.
This salvation, this is real religion, this is the path of the saints and the one we all must take, and these are the important things to remember and develop in Christianity. If Christianity fails to rediscover these and develop their knowledge for the people, Christianity and our great churches will fail. With a proper understanding of Christianity, you should know that the "kingdom of heaven" is an attainment you were meant to attain here, now and this is what God wants. When you attain it here, you attain it there. And this world is the literal anvil, the driving block, upon which we are able to pound out the inner obstructions to that Kingdom of Heaven within.
In my teens and twenties the Bible became important to me. Though growing up Catholic, I had never really known it. It was spiritual food, yet intellectually, it raised as many questions as it answered. So along came Baha'i books, especially "The Hidden Words of Baha'u'llah" and their beautiful bhakti-oriented Baha'i prayers. Later, I was powerfully influenced by "Autobiography Of A Yogi." Moving on, I finally discovered the Bhagavad-Gita, in many translations. Finally ready, I came upon the sweet and golden "The Gospel Of Ramakrishna." I also perplexed myself over an extraordinary book called "The Yoga-Sutras of Patanjali." Writings by the Sikh masters were discovered, speaking elaborately about inner divine sound.
After many years of reading my favorite books became the Yoga-Sutra, the Yoga-Vasistha, and finally the "Non-Dualistic Vedanta" of Shankara and Upanishads, and any accounts of yogic or Christian saints. But the bhakti oriented writings, that is, the writings explaining and augmenting religious devotion, were the best.
The Yoga-Sutra is an acquired taste. But when you are really interested in the ultimate truth and how to get there, this is where you end up. It is lean reading, and covert. I have many translations of it. It states that "yoga" is contact with, and merging with, God within. It describes God as fundamental bliss and Pure Consciousness which creates all, is obscured by the ego-mind, and also as fundamental Identity that is personal. It states that the first "action of Yoga" is austerities, or self-mortification. One minor, peripheral thing it mentions is the idea of holding a posture for a long time for the purpose of becoming "free from the pairs of opposites," i.e. unaffected by sensory states of heat, cold, etc. (Christian saints and mystics figured this one out, too.) It states that the most effective austerity is meditation, which draws the mind away from the world, and the life force away from the carnal senses. Because the mind is the source of all sensory entanglements, and actually is the world. So setting aside the mind is finally setting aside the world and choosing God, who is obscured behind the ripples of the constantly moving mind. So I started meditation at 28.
Sadly, the whole word "yoga" has become dumbed-down, subverted, besmirched, distorted, corrupted, waylaid, glamorized, sideswiped, side-tracked, circus-ized, corporatized, Hollywood-ized, fame-o-tized, grotesqued, sexualized, materialized, monetized, and feminized, American-womanized. If that run-on sentence gives you the impression that I consider the western/feminine subversion of yoga to be a horrible misfortune, that was the point. It is part of my mission in life to stand for what Yoga actually was, and is, and especially to admonish those who think that it in any way mixes with lust, moral corruption, or material and bodily goals. Yoga is not about making yourself healthy. That's a mere side benefit of seeking God and it requires no postures whatever. It is not about making your butt smaller so you have a good female self image, or to get a boyfriend, or to chat with your lady friends. It's not about posing for pictures and playing Buddha, and having cool yoga clothes. It's not about getting tattoos, piercing your body like some savage who hates what God made, doing calisthenics on the floor, grappling with a sexy partner, climbing up jagged peaks, being a rock star, being a feminist, or sitting on the beach. It's not about endless sexual lust. It's not about health food. It's not a cool profession for you, so that you can "help" anybody who gives you a 30 buck monthly tuition. It's not about pranaming like a devotee when you are not devoted to anybody.
All these are debasements of yoga. You don't even start in yoga until you want to renounce the world and sensual enjoyments. Yoga is about purifying yourself and knowing God. It is entirely about the mind and its direction and subjugation. And it doesn't live in the same house as lust.
Yoga is: Cessation of the fluctuations of the mind. (The 2nd sutra.)
And it is most facilitated by meditation on God combined with chastity and bhakti.
Then the Seer is established in his own real and fundamental nature. (The 3rd sutra.)
Purity lets you do it.
Austerities are how you purify, and are the "basic action of yoga." (Another of the sutras.)
The most important austerities are celibacy, meditation itself, and fasting. Then you get to contact the Great God within.
And that's it.
And that's religion.
The most important things about my spiritual life I have left out and shall, as one should. I gave up the passion for fame in my 20s and only write this to to help other young men, and because in these politically treacherous times it is prudent to write one's own biography than to let others do it.
I have a guru, Paramahansa Yogananda. After tearfully requesting that he accept me as his disciple, though I was unworthy, I had a series of dreams that were powerful initiation dreams. After that time I began to have spontaneous bodily movements, many of them the classic yoga postures and poses. I had a number of other strange events and manifestations after that also. I did not understand the movements of my body at first. But I was soon led to a book called "Play of Consciousness" by Swami Muktananda that explained them and I understood all was well.
The guru and the guru principle is the most powerful and precious thing in my life. Most people don't understand the guru principle. And even those who do often don't understand that you must ask. You have to ask him to accept you, take you on, and make you his disciple after preparing yourself a bit. The luckiest thing about my life is that I intuited that was true, and I really asked.
Yet all these are small things compared to God. Because this was only done by grace, and grace is what I still need to do that.
I encourage all young men to be religious, austere, free of sense-addictions, and to seek God according to their lights. I want to see Christianity great, vital, and strong again. I am hoping to provide young Christians with vital things they may be missing from their own tradition. Or simply things that are forgotten. Especially I want to awaken them to the ideals of "guru bhakti" as applied to Christ by Christian saints of old, and to the understanding of meditation technique. Again, many of these meditation techniques were uncovered by Christian saints of old.
I am writing this autobiography to help others understand me and my work, and some of my message, after I am gone. I also find myself to be a political dissident in these times, the sort that has many natural and powerful enemies. It is always good to write one's own biography rather than letting one's enemies do it for him. This is the truth about my life and my views.
The Divine Incarnation
Then comes the next plank or foundation of religion, which is the being or person who comes along and shows, somehow, that we can be free of this sorrow and limitation. He often manifests miracles and freedom from ordinary laws, and at the better level, a joyful consciousness impervious to outer conditions. If there was not such a person, there would be no hope for most of mankind. But this person gives us faith that we can have some escape from the unhappiness of the natural world, or in the case of a happy life, from the uncertainty and fear of death. We may meet this person, or hear of him or her, or simply read about a figure from history who manifested some kind of freedom from life's sorrows and limitations. He usually passes on to others this same ability for freedom. It may show as miraculous feats by these others, or simply as an inner freedom that gives a happiness impervious to any outer conditions -- the better of the two. Religions forms around such persons. A great and mighty religion formed around the figure recorded as Jesus Christ and I was born into a family that had embraced, however awkwardly, his religion as the solution to life's sorrows. Through performing miracles Christ showed the simpler minded that there is a higher law and that we do not have to be bound by life's dualistic sorrows. The principle by which we could be free of sorrows and limitations came to be called grace. This person shows himself to be free of the limitations and laws by which we strike against sorrow, and proclaims that we can have similar freedom if we follow his prescribed path.
The Guru Principle
Being born a Christian, I was introduced to the guru principle, though nobody called it that. Christian conceptions of Christ, I found later on, can be seen as elaborations (or sometimes distractions from) the guru principle. In the guru principle, you make you guru your one-and-only. You see him as the representative of God for you. You meditate on your guru as God. This is very beneficial. The Catholics have a tradition of devotion, which the Hindus call bhakti yoga. When I was very young I saw holy cards depicting angels and saints. The saints were expressing the attitude of piety and devotion. As a child I understood it. I saw that attitude of reverence and devotion, depicted in the cards. The Catholics did not have a good lexicon for talking about this. Later, when I read about the tradition of bhakti-yoga, I understood that I was first exposed to bhakti-yoga in those Catholic holy cards as a child.
I saw pictures of saints and pious Christians with their hands together, pointing upward, heads bowed down. In India this posture is called a mudra, a mudra expressing devotion for God or guru. As a child in Catholic life I also adopted this mudra when talking to God, not knowing what it was. That common Christian mudra puts you into an inner posture of devotion right away. How lucky I was to be born into a Catholic family, with it's tradition of saints, unconscious bhakti-yoga, and devotional mudras!
A child is more pure and innocent. He has a great capacity for faith. Early in life I accepted that there was a God, and that He always heard your prayers. Somebody told me this. I don't know if it was a nun, or who. But when I heard it, I believed it, in faith. A child sitting in the devotional mudra, hands together, and praying to a God he believes in without question, is one of the fortunate ones on the planet. It is a very auspicious state! In Hindu terms, I was an unconscious bhakti-yogi from an early age. And every young Christian child, praying to God in faith, hands together, is that and more. It is very good for children to be around men and women of faith from an early age, and to be taught faith, and trust in God, from an early age. It sets them off right, on the deepest path.
My prayers often didn't work. But it was the posture and attitude that was auspicious and later attracted blessings. I also made "promises to God," which I didn't keep. My first was at the age of seven on the first day of school. I saw a little girl walk into the other 2nd grade class down the hall. One look at her and I thought she was the most beautiful creature that could ever walk the earth. I thought of her all day, agitated by her great beauty. I had been told that if you made a promise to God, you could never break it. I later learned the girl's name was Martha, but on that day, I didn't know her name. That night I made a solemn "Promise to God" that "I would marry that girl!"
Such is the mind of the young person as he approaches God. He asks for all sorts of things he doesn't need, or things that will be bad for him. Just like a wise and benign parent, God sorts things out and gives him what really benefits him, and ignores the silliness. I never married Martha, and it was probably for the best. That was just the first of many crushes and infatuations that torture a boy's soul during a lifetime.
World Problems and "Saving The World"
-- My views on race
I grew up in the typical American middle class media-dominated life. My views were shaped by the messages received from television, movies, and school just as much as from my parents. In fact, my folks actually failed to talk about a great many things and to pass on their views. Possibly they themselves had uncertain views in flux. That has been one of the characteristics of our age.
In the media message, whether television, movies, or schoolbooks, the sins or wrongs of Whites, especially with regard to blacks, were over-represented. The textbooks, and later television programming, made much of the story of slavery and made it clear there were brutal slave owners. The matter of black civil rights, and the "Jim Crow" era, and the behavior of southerners as the federal government invaded states and forced whites to "integrate" with blacks -- this was also constantly presented to me as a youth. Forced integration of whites with blacks was presented as victorious moral progress.
This propaganda presented to my young mind a schema of what "world problems" were. Later I realized that the real "world problems" were things like lust, lack of spiritual search, weakness of family, anger, addictions, and inner emptiness. More basic things. But growing up as a kid, the all-surrounding message made me believe that world problems were all about Whites not going around enough patting blacks on the back, or being their friends, or blacks facing so-called "prejudice," or blacks not getting jobs because of the "prejudice" of whites, etc. etc. This was my concept of 'world problems' as a youth.
Idealistic white youth are naturally stung and distressed by these images and concepts of his ancestors, and he gets a certain urgency and even militancy about righting these 'wrongs.'
The world was always being presented to me as a place where everybody was in conflict. It wasn't the deadliness of the Great Wars that were the focus, but the idea of everyday social conflict, the whole idea that "people just don't get along." That everywhere there is a problem of racial, religious, or class "division." In reality, as I understood later, division is as natural in society as cell division and organ division in the body. People feel most happy and comfortable belonging to particular groups, groups of increasing intimacy, down to the family finally. We don't want to just belong to this huge mass, some kind of Wal-Mart Worldwide Wombat Community. We want to belong to different special groups that are our own.
But in media, and in school, these differences were always presented as though they were dire flaws in the human condition, and that there were always unhappy outsiders to the "white world." I realized much later that a certain group in our society was quietly presenting this view of the world.
So a young man you get to thinking how to "fix the world" and "save the world." That is natural to young men and women, especially the Europeans I think. That evangelistic and White impulse to improve everywhere and make justice everywhere. This is related to our Christian heritage, too.
So the mind starts working, and trying to figure out, based on the "information" I had, what would "improve the world." The logic ends up being, "If everybody would renounce racial division, and also religious division, everybody would then be happy."
Writing that line, I now see how absurd it is. But that was how I thought as a young man, and how many young men and women think think today. My point is that this "solution" was a response to a particular set of "world problems" that had been constantly presented: racial and religious division. Now after analyzing it 50 years, I think that these are the true "world problems":
-- Your own lust
-- Your own lack of interest in God
-- Your other addictions and impurities
-- Your lack of service and attentiveness to your own family, clan, village, and people.
In that order! These are the "world problems" really worth worrying about! Everything else, should you worry about it or try to fix it, is just a distraction. Since the outer world is your own personal dream in the first place, attending to these first three, alone, will eventually eradicate all other apparent problems in the world-dream, from their very root. All "world problems," including many serious personal ones unique to you, dry up and blow away by attending to the first three. World problems are a function of your own impurity and nothing more. This is especially and spectacularly true in connection sexual lust and incontinence. And this knowledge is from the grace of the Lord.
My Attraction To, and Involvement With,
The Baha'i Faith
I was developing interest in what could be called the "mystical," the idea of saints. But this was vague.
Because of this mental setup I had been provided by mass media I ended up joining the Baha'i Faith around the age of 18. It teaches that there should be "one religion" and that "humanity is one." They also teach that there should be "one government" over all. The logical young mind reasons that if one entity, that had assured positive values, could control and dominate everything, then all major problems and sorrows and troubles in the world would disappear. I now see how naive this is. But then I thought the Baha'i Faith was the thing that was going to make all human troubles disappear. They also had a scripturally based ostensible posture towards mysticism. There was a "spiritual" atmosphere to some of them that came from its basically Sufi devotional elements. Only later did I realize what this was so as to describe that way. It comported well with the existing sense of "piety" that was a gift of the Catholic Church, helping to further develop the sense of "devotion," which I learned later is basic to religious development.
Since that time, long ago, I became a lot wiser and and saw how my Baha'i interest stemmed from that particular view "world problems" I'd been presented. I joined them and became active and hard-working for it. I rose to some positions of responsibility, such as becoming an elected member of a "Local Spiritual Assembly," and the "Secretary of the District Teaching Committee" which was a state committee, and being a "traveling teacher" and performing music at Baha'i events, writing songs for them, and many things.
I grew intellectually though, and gradually realized things that made me pull away. I had been attracted to it for two main reasons: 1) My programming on internal setup thinking "religious division is a problem," and 2) mystical elements in the Baha'i Faith, which were attractive to my soul and a true enlargement of my religious understanding. At this time also another saintly woman came into my life.
Another Female Mentor
I attended a public meeting given by Baha'is at the Des Moines YMCA around 1977 around at age 20. I remember my excitement. I found out later Bahia's had a word for "non-Baha'is" who came to their meetings: I was a "seeker." I liked that word. Indeed, it was what I was, a seeker of truth!
The great question that roiled in my mind was "Why are there so many religions? Which one was true?" That is a natural and honest question for a thinking young man. Religion seemed like an important thing bearing on great questions of personal destiny and world condition. It seemed one of those matters a thinking person should try to get right. I was on a quest to learn what is really true and false, and boldly embrace only the true no matter the cost. That's how young men are.
What a great thing to be. It was a heady feeling to be among those others who had also been seekers of truth, people free enough in mind to involve themselves with something new and heterogeneous. And all for Truth! To destroy confusion! And bravely save the world!
Sorting them out, it seemed there were not many of the faithful, perhaps ten, and not many "seekers" either. That just made me more special. I learned later I was a phenomenon of weight to them: A young fellow coming sight-unseen to one of their meetings in a religion that had a dire time getting and keeping members. "Seekers" like me were rare. In retrospect I see the Baha'is at that meeting were not even sure how to act with me. That was just one of many scenes of Baha'is "not knowing how to act." An inordinate focus on rules, along with a mystifying confusion about culture and rules -- like, how to treat a new visitor to your recruiting meeting -- is a basic of Baha'i life. They find themselves without a culture, always trying to invent one, and nothing ever sticks.
But I was unphased, joyful at the imminent prospect of religious discovery. One of their books was called "Some Answered Questions." I liked that title! They showed a short slide show with audio in which a small black man with a high-pitched voice was holding forth. He was in a suit, speaking in a certain lofty, ornate style characteristic to Baha'i "administrative" bodies. On the personal level he was not especially appealing. I found him rather odd. I wondered what was supposed to be so important about him. But I was a big-minded Gentile, eager to consider the worth of all. I learned later his name was Glenford Mitchell, and he was one of the Baha'is' "affirmative action" blacks. That sounds insulting, I know. But the religion placed great covert importance on racial "tokens" in high places -- having always "a black," a "native American," an "Asian" on every body and board. That's just the truth. Any fulfillment of a "racial diversity" fetish makes their day. Baha'is practically get an orgasm if they can concoct a photo op containing a black, an Indian, a Jew, and a few Whites. Writing this now I say it with some cynicism and disgust for its materialism, unnaturalness, and absurdity. But at the time, I thought it was cool! Progressive. Enlightened. Big hearted. All of humankind must be United! When people become bored, they want to relieve their monotony with "diversity." And Whites have gotten, well, bored.
Though the alien fellow had no appeal to me and I found his voice annoying, I was a young man of spacious mind, and with my media upbringing, eager to be large-minded and embrace all peoples. The "alien" breaks the monotony for young people. And even if this guy was boring and bombastic, as a Mars-in-Gemini I knew how to "scan." You scan the many features of a situation, sorting out minor points from critical, gradually building the largest possible picture of thing. I sensed the little black fellow was just a small player in something much larger, and nobody seemed to have much real regard for him anyway. They just thought it was cool that he was black. So did I, because I was raised in the noble Gentile spirit, and as a young man I was eager to 'fix the world.'
I was more impressed by the group itself, which was made mostly idealistic, interesting White folks. Maybe there was one token, uncomfortable "other race" sitting there. There was an old man, bearded and balding and with 1950's Allen Ginsburg glasses. Later I learned he was a hippie-turned-gray, had lived at the commune called "The Farm," done things like LSD, and into things like the "channeler" called "Seth." It turned out later he was a real philosopher and metaphysician capable of solving abstruse theological problems. But here he was was being "the man in the house" and bumbling with the filmstrip equipment best he could. There were some other older people, which impressed me. There was a smart and dashing young handshaking fellow named Richard. He had a mobile pager hanging from his hip. These were new and advanced at the time, the precursors of cell phones. I recall his pager going off "beep beep" at the end of the meeting, a new sound to me. Impressive! Only important people had pagers then. These people are the top of their fields! And then I saw a very amazing old woman.
Like news of the JFK assassination, or seeing John and Paul's beaming faces sing "I Wanna Hold Your Hand" the first time, the moment I laid eyes on her is etched in my mind. She was bird-sized and exceedingly old, elegantly turned out, but not in that crass way some elderly women do. She was a cultured woman of the old east coast, like Ruth Christians. A true Victorian holdover, I had never seen such an ancient creature. I learned later she was 98. She seemed to have difficulty just getting up and moving. She had no cane and no walker. Instead she had a couple of attendants close by, holding her arm caringly to be keep from falling as she moved with difficulty. I saw that her hands were gnarled like the burls of the aged tree in Mrs. Allen's back yard. I learned later she had much advanced arthritis and was in constant pain. This just made the contrast between her body and face all the more striking. But even with her advanced age, infirmity and other these details, there was not one thing ugly or repulsive about her. In fact, she was the one magnet in the room. Because what stood out was this: She radiated divine bliss.
Later I heard some of the Bahai's covertly using the term "radiant" for certain Bahai's, a term found in their texts. When Baha'is say "radiant" they often aren't sure what they mean. But every now and then they like to use terms they see in their books, as long as nobody analyzes them too deeply. However, a few of the deeper Baha'is I met later used it to refer to a shining attractive quality that comes from having a real inner spiritual life and felt connection with God within. The Hindus call it tejas or effulgence and it is especially associated, in Hinduism, with chastity and austerities. It comes from one's own inner bliss, and divine love which is only one aspect of bliss.
Much later I learned Baha'is had little interest in what the term "radiant" means or implies. And many of their words. If they looked into Sufism a bit they'd understand it more, but they tend to not like looking into such things. I later learned they are, in practice, anti-mystical and minimize the personal God-realization ideas in their own sacred literature. But at this moment I didn't know any of that. At this moment all there was was This Woman! In that sterile YMCA assembly room I saw my second spiritually radiant being in my life, a new Ruth named Ruth Moffett.
She was moving with assistance from a tall, quiet man in his late 20's with unusually long brown hair and a beard. His movement was smooth, quiet, and strong. He had soulful blue eyes and was the very picture of the artist-hippie flowering in the 1970s. He was attending her dutifully, but unobtrusively. He matched her turtle-slow pace, seeming one with her as he gently held her arm to keep her from falling down. I learned his name was Paul. Right now all I saw was a shining face wreathed in furs as Ruth beamingly greeted a few participants. Though nearly 100, she still had dark reddish hair. Not dyed, but real color. But it was the face that got you. She combined great age with a pure and joyful childlike quality. The only face that compared was the face of Ruth Christians who, years ago, greeted with delight a 12-year-old boy arrived to mow and clip.
Only in retrospect did I realize how special was Ruth Christians. But I knew this Ruth -- the Baha'i Ruth Moffet -- was special as soon as I saw her. She had something the others in the room didn't. Something to do with spirituality. Something to do with authentic religion. Something to do with God. Ruth Moffett had the personal charisma that comes to all, reliably and without fail, who really love God.
Certain people were avid to come near her. I saw she greeted all with the same radiant attitude, which felt to me like love. She had a particular thing she did, which was to affectionately press the side of her face against the other's face. She was short, but whatever person she met or greeted, she would raise her face and press her cheek against theirs. I wondered if this was some charming old Baha'i practice. Those who knew her would do the face press. She'd keep keening up with her other cheek until they pressed that one. She'd giggle and say in a low voice that was not quite hoarse, but crunchy: "To keep the balance!"
I thought: "I have to meet this woman." I wondered if it would be o.k.. Would she care to meet me? Was it appropriate? Do you have to know her first? I vaguely questioned if I was worthy. But something about her manner was utterly welcoming, the same way they say God is when people have near-death experiences. I stole a chance to insert myself into her little crowd, and somehow made contact.
It's all a blur. I'm pretty sure I reciprocated her face-pressing rituals, which seems odd to me now. Not that I didn't like the idea, but I didn't know her. I don't know if I shook her hand, but I think I did because I remember the hands so well. I do remember clearly her delight and personal acceptance. She said something to me. When I left the building I felt better about myself, more elevated, and accepted by someone important. I think she invited me to come to her house that night.
Because of Ruth Moffett at that meeting my heart transmitted, "This thing really has something. There's something in this religion." The others seemed inept and mediocre compared to her. But I understood the concept of saints, and that saints are special. Thus began a romance with the Baha'i Faith, then a marriage. It took many turns. It really started when I arrived at her home that night, very near my own neighborhood, on beautiful Cottage Grove, an avenue of old homes divided by tree-planted median.
It was only with years and understanding that I comprehended how amazing that moment really was. I came to understand that Ruth seldom went to the official Baha'i functions in town at that time. I also didn't realize it at the time, but there were certain Baha'is in the room, especially the more important functionaries of the meeting, who ignored Ruth and kept their distance. They didn't speak the tall longhair at all. I came to realize within a few months that this radiant creature was among enemies at that moment. A few in the room actively hated her.
But all I sensed then was the dawn of new knowledge and the mysteries of the universe whispering from beautiful, distant, heights. I was in Baha'i action that very night. Her house was easy to get to. So close! Throughout life I had ridden my bike, walked, and driven my car past her home many times. It was quite near a very seasoned late-night hippie deli I frequented called "The Blind Munchies." Yet I never knew such a person lived near me. It goes to show that one never really needs to move. All things can be provided to you right where you are, given time and transits. When one is ready a door is opened, a portal. The new is revealed right in your own domain. When we travel for the sake of God or realization, it's only an exercise to demonstrate to God your willingness and desire. But the travel itself is not really necessary. Because when you are ready, God can reach you wherever you are.
So I was inside her yellow two-story house -- the color of knowledge -- as night fell. What a place and what a time! Ruth had traveled the world in search of religious knowledge and her house felt like it. It had pleasingly clean wooden floors, a few exotic rugs here and there, and was over-furnished in that elegant old Victorian style, full of old things. Especially it was loaded with books and mystical artifacts. Photos of saints. I remember a picture of the Sikh guru, Guru Nanak. There was an arrangement of a few chairs next to an old floor lamp, and a little table with Baha'i prayer books, a candle, and rosaries. Ruth was never married. I learned that she was a writer and had two published books sold through Baha'i agencies. One was called "New Keys to the Book of Revelation," the other, a more popular one, was about prayer: "Doah on the Wings of Prayer." Ruth was from a time when being a virgin was not uncommon, and the story was that she was one.
I found that it was a little community. There were other Baha'is living there, including her attendant Paul, his wife Josha (pronounced yosha), and a talkative fellow named Henry. Her home was in the university district and was frequented by various and sundry seekers, decades-mutated beatniks, young idealistic freshly-married Sikhs in White (usually pretty White Europeans), mystics and quasi-mystics, many coming from afar to visit a personage. I had entered a kind of spiritual Bohemia that everyone longs for an some time in life, and only a few ever attain. It was a a heady feeling. I was hearing new words. There was so much to learn.
It turned out that Ruth Moffett was a "pioneer" figure in the Baha'i Faith, having gone to Palestine, where its center had become located, and met one of its important founders. This was Shoghi Effendi, the grandson of 'Abdu'l-Baha who was the son of the Baha'i Faith's iconic founder. Shoghi Effendi was considered one of the three "founders of the faith" and its lineal authority during his lifetime. His writings are somewhere in the category of scriptures to Baha'is. Ruth had met him more than once, talked with him, sat at dinner with him, and corresponded with him. This, and her historical life stretching back through cultural periods long-gone gave her a definite nimbus. She was so connected to the founding of the Baha'i Faith that one thing we found in her house, after her death, was a glass disc containing a hair from the head of Baha'u'llah himself, who was the Baha'i Faith's lofty, mysterious prophet-founder.
Ruth was strong in two things: She was a compendium of knowledge, and she was a bhakta -- a practitioner of religious devotion. Baha'is don't know what words like "bhakti" and "bhava" mean, but their scriptures are dripping with bhakti! And Ruth Moffet was capable of getting into genuine bhavas. I didn't know the words either at the time, or what was in Baha'i books. However, I didn't need to. Because I had Ruth Moffett in front of me. Bhakti is an emotional devotional feeling when thinking of God or guru, and bhava is a full identification with one's guru or spiritual teacher, giving a great bliss and sense of oneness with them. A prayer meeting commenced with Ruth at the center of it. Then I got to experience first-hand both bhakti and bhava, as well as the power to transmit that.
Thus commenced one of the higher spiritual idylls of my life: Attending Ruth's 10 p.m. prayer gathering. Ruth introduced me to two fundamentals of religion: meditation, and guru-devotion. This was not discussed as such. It's one of the peculiar features of Baha'is that they labor in an amorphous intellectual fog, often unwilling to discuss religious concepts outside of their narrow proprietary lexicon. They couldn't talk about meditation. They didn't talk about devotion. But this was what Ruth was about: Meditation and guru-devotion. Baha'is called it "prayer," but Ruth went beyond that. And Baha'is never used the word "guru," or even "devotion." This is odd considering the guru idea is strong in so many other religions and Baha'is purport to embrace and reconcile many religions. The lack of a working lexicon dealing with "devotion" is also odd given their literature is brimming with devotional attitudes and language. There inability to absorb the word "guru" is also strange, since that's what their founders, in fact, are supposed to be for them.
But Ruth was the sort of intelligent woman who had figured things out. She had found the meat. She had gotten to the essence of the Baha'i faith's highest good: God communion and guru-devotion. The truth was, Shoghi Effendi had become -- in the best classical yogic sense -- her guru. She also had the the devotee-guru attitude to the other founders, 'Abdu'l-Baha and Baha'ullah himself. But it was Shoghi Effendi who she had known personally and this had caused her attitude of devotion to flower. This was not about romance. Not being attracted to a man of power. Ruth related to him as a religious figure, a God-man. She was the devotee; he was the representative of God. This is the guru principle.
Then when she prayed, she really showed you how to pray. Baha'is have developed some narrow, truncated conceptions of prayer, seeming to believe that the height of prayer is to recite the published "Baha'i prayers" from memory. I had grown up understanding that prayer was finally between you and God, a conversation you had with Him as with a friend. This is the Christian understanding. When I saw the Baha'i prayers, I understood them for what they are: Lessons in how to pray, what attitude to take. The Baha'i prayers contain attitudes of supplication, of humility, and surrender. They are filled with high, beautiful words of aspiration, as one should use when trying to address the deity. They awaken the feeling of bhakti, in fact. But each one of the prayers was originally a spontaneous effusion from a founder's heart. They were not intended to be the limiting template for human prayer, but guides to attitude. I memorized prayers. Such memorization was given high value among Baha'is. And I found it inspiring to hear others recite those beautiful thoughts and words. But the best prayers to God are the words from your own heart.
Think of it: If you have a friend you love, and you're hoping they communicate with you, do you want them reading something to you that somebody else wrote? Or do you want them to speak their own words to you? Of course, this is what God wants from his children: Their authentic words from their own heart. This was all a small matter to me; it never became big in my mind. But I was saddened in later years that Baha'is had as if forgotten how to pray, and some Baha'i children actually grow up without this simple, natural, concept taught to them: Talk to God. Say what you want. Say what you really feel, just like a friend.
So I understood what the Baha'i prayers were for: To show you the nature of the bhakti attitude; the attitude of devotion. They are beautiful and lofty expressions that often sweep you away. If one studies them, his own manner of prayer becomes informed and elevated. However, and this is sort of funny: If you are in a Baha'i prayer group and speak original words from your heart in the old manner of so many churches -- you will be considered very naughty. It just isn't done. That would be too individual! Individual initiative! Personality! Too dangerous! You might say something that's Not Approved! (God has personality, but Baha'is are deathly afraid of personality.) These are among the many absurdities, flaws, and weaknesses in the Baha'i Faith as a religion. Baha'is are nothing if not conformist, with a rigid power structure that only goes from the top down!
But fortunately I had happened onto Ruth Moffett, and she was apparently immune to all of this. Because when she prayed, she really prayed. She spoke from her own heart. Sometimes she would recite a Baha'i prayer, or have others do it. Other times it was her own orison, but imbued with that lofty language and longing spirit that is so evident in the Baha'i prayers. To hear a noble person's real devotional thoughts in the moment, addressed to God, is a transforming experience. So both these kinds of prayer went on at Ruth's prayer circle.
What was happening was that Ruth was using prayer as prayer was meant to be used -- to put you into a divine state. As she would close her eyes and speak to God -- whether from her own heart or repeating formal words -- she would go into a bhava. I did not know this at the time, but that's what it was. And you would go into it. The state of bhava is a smooth, relaxed condition in which you become deeply identified, in mind, with the object of one's prayer. That can be "God," but God is abstract. Thus it works better when you address yourself to one of God's representatives who you can visualize, relate to humanly, and feel connected to: The Guru. This is what Ruth was doing, and it was very affecting. Bhava is very blissful. It is definitely a different state. Well guess what? According to the Hindus and yogis, God is of the nature of bliss. So whenever you are getting bliss, you are getting close to the Goal.
At those 10 p.m. prayer meetings at Ruth's I got my first conscious experience of religious devotion and ananda, or bliss, which is a universal religious phenomenon and perhaps the essential important aspect of religion. God comes and creates his religions so that we can know his bliss, and be freed of this world's sorrow and limitation. And religious practices show the way to this bliss. Though the Baha'is have very undeveloped concepts about meditation, Ruth was using the prayers -- sometimes very short, mantra-like repetitions -- to put herself and others into meditation states. I didn't know it, but I had stumbled into a Baha'i household where the atmosphere of devotional mysticism was alive and well, though this was dying out and covertly suppressed in the broader Baha'i community.
Ruth had a quality of gravitas and a serious mind. Religion and morality were serious matters for her. I remember her sitting at her kitchen table all day studying texts, magazines, references, her own manuscripts -- all with a very grave look on her face. She was basically a scholar who had gone to Oberlin college in an era when few women attended college. But she was also the ideal moralist and pedagogue. There was a seeker who started coming around to Ruth's house. She she was a freckled redhead who I remembered being in many plays in my high school. Now she appeared to be mentally disturbed. Soon we heard she was in the mental ward at Methodist Hospital . We visited her there, and she was smoking a cigarette. I had never smoked, and with my newfound "Baha'i evangelism and charity" impulse, I was wanting to connect with her and make her feel as comfortable as possible. I was aware of my own judging thoughts about smoking, and I wanted to keep myself from having them. So I also picked up a cigarette and smoked along with her, without inhaling. Ruth was a de facto guru authority to the more thoughtful Baha'is, and back at the house she was informed about it. Apparently avid about my own moral development she became very grave, said it was terrible, wrong, unwise. She said that I would encourage that girl to smoke too and I had to set an example. (Though I think she had been long addicted.) So I didn't do that again.
Despite Ruth's natural gravity, two things were set against it so that anybody with a heart found her immediately endearing: 1) Her spiritual life had brought out an effusive, joyful nature, and 2) her age and weakness gave her a vulnerable, truly childlike quality. This combined with her gravity and earnestness made most people, especially the real spiritual men and women, adore her.
I didn't realize it at the time, but I was also getting exposed to the guru principle. My first exposure to the guru-principle was hearing about Christ. And the apostles, too! Then seeing holy cards with saints praying to Christ. Then hearing about praying to saints themselves. Kneeling in a dim church before a statue of Mary, or Joseph, and praying to her for a boon. This was all activation of the guru principle.
The guru-principle is present in most religions, but it is often not enunciated or laid out as an essential religious power. It is particularly sketchy in the Baha'i Faith. But it lives there anyway for the perceptive. Now I see it clearly. It was always there, developing in my life. One of the ways you enter into it is thinking of the guru a lot. Or, reading his words. Later, thinking of the guru in devotional ways, and talking to him in the same manner. Another powerful way is actually serving the guru. I had once done for my Christian guru's proxy, Sr. Eleanor Therese.
Guru-Bhakti Through Service
Ruth Christians was also an early guru figure. And I served her. So was Sr. Eleanor Therese, and just for one brave moment, I served her. Now I was visiting this mystical historical Baha'i personage Ruth Moffett. By God's grace I fell into serving her, too.
Others around her were doing this too. It appeared to me, by some instinct, that this is just what the wise do with a spiritual figure like Ruth. The quiet attentiveness of Paul, her walking assistant, was wordlessly instructive to me. The fact his wife was attending to her personal needs like a maid, too, cooking, cleaning, and helping her get dressed and undressed. It was all for religion. These people were a kind of devotee, serving a woman they considered spiritually great.
My God idyll was short-lived. It turned out that Ruth and her household were shunned by the general Des Moines Baha'i group. Her and her household were considered forbidden. Many of them had constricted spiritual concepts as well as petty social jealousies of Ruth. She was an old eastern aristocrat. Even though she was 98 years old, could not function on her own, had no family, and was an historic religious personage, they didn't like that people were serving her. There was an ethos in the Baha'i Faith, a kind of communist ethos, that nobody should be regarded as special. I began to get into trouble with the rest of the community, and even the impressive nine-member "Local Spiritual Assembly," for my visits to Ruth's house. At one point this "Spiritual Assembly" even intervened by formally directing me to not attend her next "deepening" meeting, a meeting where Baha'is study their scriptures in more depth.
Fortunately I had a kind of protection around me and this was: Being a babe-in-the-woods. I was too new to be awed by the "Spiritual Assembly" diktat, and too broad-minded fail to see this was simply a group of very human beings engaging in silly dramas fueled by jealousy, politics, and power maneuvering. What was happening was they considered me an important "find," a strong potential new "seeker," and they were trying to make sure that I did not get "corrupted" by currents running through the Moffett household they considered to be heretical or off-base. It was all based on absurdities, something about Ruth having once 'thumbed her nose' in some manner to one of the "administrative institutions," or her being "too much of a personality," etc. Just rubbish. God is a Personality, too! In retrospect I see it was the townies who were religiously corrupted or at least retarded. But at the time, I was trying to befriend them all, not wanting to upset anybody, but just learn what the truth is. I was a seeker. So I ignored their command that I not attend her Wednesday meeting. In response, the "Assembly" sent a representative to that meeting to 'monitor' and intimidate. Ruth's classes were long and detailed. She used charts and diagrams, and expected you to concentrate deeply and long. Thankfully, there was a tea service and cookies on the table, and everyone took notes. As our grumpy "LSA monitor" Ernie King -- the former LSD tripper from The Farm -- looked stoicly on, I had too many spiritual stars in my eyes to notice how tense the others were in his presence.
It's all very funny looking back on it. After the visit from Ernie King the household of Baha'is ritually walked around Ruth's house late at night carrying incense and chanting the mystical Baha'i phrase, "Allah-u-Abha." They said they were trying to protect Ruth and her work from the negative energy of the Baha'is in town. Wide-eyed, a true seeker, I just took it all in and joined them. I already felt spiritual devotion for Ruth. It seemed self-evident to me that a God-loving, saintly human being who could transmit divine love and devotion to others -- the saint -- was the highest fruit and purpose of religion. It seemed self-evident that God would want this for all, and that committees and "institutions" composed of petty, dysfunctional individuals (which is often the case is the Baha'i Faith) could not be considered superior to such a person. Plus, I was intrigued by the idea of mystical chants, and making circles around stuff, for protection. At least I was game for it. So I walked around the house too, chanting to protect Ruth Moffett from well-meaning idiots, the Baha'is in town. I also liked them just fine and enjoyed hanging out with them, but this was what we were doing at the moment. I guess it's part of the Gemini nature (I have Mars-in-Gemini) to be able to see all sides of an issue. So I chanted and incensed. It was a delicious austerity in the cold Iowa snow.
The upshot is I ended up serving Ruth Moffett. The "Assembly" applied so much pressure and social ostracism to these people they ended up fleeing town. It may have had something to do with my arrival. Because suddenly many things fell to me, and my presence seemed to have released them. I started standing in to serve this devotional God-loving bhakta, Ruth Moffett.
Once I had simply carried a nun's briefcase, lit candles before St. Mary, and delivered sacred items in ancient choreography, in white linen, for priests at morning mass. Now I did practically everything for an abandoned Ruth Moffett. I walked her to the car, helped her get in, then helped her back into her home. I drove her around town. I even drove this 98-year-old out to little Iowa towns in my funky car, in snowstorms, so she could do one more Baha'i teaching lecture. I was unemployed at the time. What a grace! I began showing up every late morning just to be sure she was all right.
Finally I took over everything, including the duties of the woman Josha, who had fled. She had very little food around, but she seemed to always direct me to something or other. She told me to find some "summer squash" down in her cellar, and I found it. She told me how to cook it, and I started cooking for Ruth, though I was no cook. She had me make tea and set out cookies for deepenings she was planning. But though the house had often had people around, more and more I was the only one around. The Assembly had begun directing people to avoid her house.
One day she asked me to help her get into her downstairs trundle bed for her afternoon nap, and to please cover her up. I felt very honored. That was my attitude. Finally it evolved into my getting her to bed nights. I didn't live there, but I started coming to get her into bed, because she couldn't do it herself. I even ended up rubbing her gnarled, arthritic limbs each night with oil so she could sleep. This is what Josha had been doing, it turned out. This was her routine. We had a method to get it done without seeing her body. You'd pull her dress off, top up, and she'd be fully covered in a slip, but arms and lower legs exposed. As an old Victorian era woman from the 1800's, it must have been an indignity for her to be thoroughly abandoned and some 1970's 20-something male undressing you. But she was always humorously charming about it. When I'd pull off her dress, looking away, she'd say, "Skin the cat" and giggle. As I'd rub her gnarled hands, arms, lower legs and feet, she'd close her eyes and express thanks. I never remember her complaining, being negative, worrying, or criticizing anybody over her personal lot. Except when a broad religious or moral principle was at stake she always spoke positively.
It was a little creepy for me as a virile heterosexual to have such contact with an elderly female's body. Though I managed not to see anything I shouldn't, there is naturally an "ick" about it. It's something women should more properly do. However, I learned that Richard -- the fancy young pager company tech -- had been filling in the same way, and with the same ambivalence. There was a spiritual teaching in it.
Hindu saddhus and Buddhist ascetics go to graveyards to be around dead bodies to remind them of impermanence; the falsity of the world; the impermanence of bodily charms. Women do age and lose those physical charms! That became clear. Though there was some sense of "this is not right" to be a male serving a female this way, I kept on. I believed the Bible talk about charity. once I took a homeless old drunk off the street into my home because he'd asked me for money. He said for food, but I thought he'd spend it on booze. I told him I'd feed him, come how with me. He didn't seem interested in food. He was dirty and stunk and his hair overgrown. So I put him in the bathtub in his stupor, then gave him a haircut. I ended up robbed of my tape recorded and and trouble with the landlord, but I believed in the Christian charity idea in any case. And this was Ruth Moffett. Where were the Baha'i women? It was the first time I'd been a "massage artist." Later, I used to rub my kids' feet and shoulders with hands that first learned about this human service on the gnarled, misshapen hands and feet of this Baha'i saint.
When the community learned their new "golden boy" -- the smart new seeker with possibilities -- was undressing Ruth Moffett and putting her to bed, there was a great stir. Special meetings were called. Phone calls were going back and forth. Assembly emissaries were showing up at the house. Some of these, too, were the ugliest people I happened to know in this group, who actually hated Ruth Moffett though unworthy to judge her. There was one ugly character, a brunette on the Assembly, who specialized in helping Latinos and spoke Spanish. She spoke vile things about Ruth, had romantic designs on both me and Richard, and actually saw this 98-year-old as female competition! She regarded her with a bizarre jealousy because we were helping her get undressed, and not a hint of compassion for this elderly creature. But saner heads, seeing the situation through my "new seeker" eyes, realized how absurd and embarrassing it was. They got the idea of acting like a proper community and tried to find a new female, a home health aid worker, to replace the departed Josha. I was soon to be relieved. But until she was found, I soldiered on.
I disliked the strangeness and cultural confusion of the situation, and I learned cultural confusion follows Baha'is around like a cloud. But there was one memory I do cherish without reservation. That was when Ruth, warm and gratefully soothed by the joint massage, would be ready to be put to bed. With the relaxation effect and increased circulation from my unskilled but sincere massage, she glowed all the more. Smelling fragrant from the oils, finally in her night clothes, we'd wend our way across the hall to her room. Now I just had to get her up onto her high Victorian bedstead. I guess Paul had been the one who did this, but I'd had no instruction. At that time I'd just sweep her off her feet and into my arms like the son she never had, and deposit her in her bed. Sometimes I'd do it by surprise for fun and she'd giggle. As she clung to me like a child I'd insert her into her opened bedding then cover her up. I well remember the beaming, childlike face -- the same one I'd seen that first day -- as I carried her. Last thing I'd do is remove her glasses and her hearing aids. Then she looked different, softer. Her hair was very thin. She felt so much a child I began to sing a Baha'i chant I'd heard as a goodnight lullaby sometimes. Leaving, I'd finally put the saint to bed by saying "Alla'u'Abha." She would say it back in a tired croak.
Correctly translated it means "O Though Great God of Glory-Bliss!" I'd heard Baha'is say it. But using it to say "good night" to her was my own idea. So was picking up Ruth Moffett. I still remember her shining moon face as I'd leave.
Soon they had some woman to take care of Ruth, for pay, a sort of hippie-ish, loose woman with frizzy hair. It was the first time, I think, that her help had not been a Baha'i; not been a devotee. Within a month or two Ruth Moffett died.
Only as the years passed did I realize how lucky I was to know Ruth. It was lucky because she modeled the devotional attitude so important in religious life and helped me know meditative states. I knew her in her greatest pain, betrayal, and humiliation yet she was radiantly blissful. So I may have known her during the state of her highest spiritual flowering. The divine incarnation called Krishna says in the text:
"Even a little bit of this yoga gives freedom from great pain."
Life and karma contain a great deal of pain. But if you sincerely seek God -- who is free of pain and dualities -- He gives you the grace of a divine connection that mitigates a great deal of it. The King passes on some of his strength and untouchability to his child. Even by seeking him a little! Ruth was clearly a practitioner of bhakti-yoga -- the highest kind of spiritual practice in the Bhagavad-Gita. And her pain-wracked body with ever-joyful demeanor was a proof of divine grace given by "yoga," or divine union. The mystical Baha'i "Hidden Words" says:
"Look within thyself and thou shalt find me
standing within thee.
Mighty and self-subsistent."
Ruth was curious enough about these words of Baha'u'llah to find out what they mean.
That year there was a video presentation at a Chicago convention that noted great Baha'is who had died that year. There was a picture of Ruth and the audio simply said: "And the indomitable Ruth Moffett."
That was apt. Nobody in that huge convention hall -- including all the pompous big shots and "administrative" snoots who created such presentations -- knew her like I did. Her spirit was indomitable. It was also a sly reference to the fact that Ruth, according to what I'd heard, had bucked a Baha'i administrative body at some point. She was indomitable working on a new manuscript daily right up to her death. She was indomitable keeping teaching activity alive -- her Wednesday deepening -- despite the ill-will and intentional neglect of the established Baha'is. She was indomitable getting into my marginal car and traveling through Iowa snowstorms, just to "teach the Baha'i Faith" to strangers, even in her last months. She was not dominated by poverty, by cynics, or by pain. Because she was a real devotee. As Ramakrishna said, "God protects his devotee. He follows after him like a mother cow follows its calf."
My relationship with her was, though intense, very brief. She was not long for this world, and part of a whirlwind of transition in my life, a transition into a new religion and a new lifestyle that would last over a decade. But there was one more bed I had to carry this woman to. My last "service to guru" was carrying her, with five others, in a heavy casket across the green sod of a graveyard and depositing this child-of-God into His sweet and restful earth.
The pallbearers for Ruth's heavy casket were all Baha'i men, and some of the most avid and devotional Baha'is. I became part of a crew helping to sort through her estate. Central to that crew was a married couple named Jeff and Marian K. Jeff was another one of the truly spiritual Bahai's. Real bhaktas, too! And it was contact with him, as well as the amazing testimony of spiritual life evident in Ruth's house later, that kept me attracted to a basic spiritual core in this religion. In Des Moines a light had gone out. But most of the Baha'is did not realize this. I saw that there were wide varieties of religious understanding among Baha'is. This was fine with me. Because I understood that's just how people are, and I had spiritual inspirations like Jeff and Marian to keep me interested. They even knew about this thing called "meditation." Plus: We needed to Save The World the world by getting everybody to Believe The Same Stuff!!!
Soon I was elected as a member of the "Local Spiritual Assembly," moved to a new town to try create a new assembly, had a Baha'i wife, and Baha'i children.
All things grow and develop in this life. You will find that you sometimes meet people who remind you of someone from before. They will have an uncanny physical resemblance, similar personality traits, and there will be similar issues or dynamics between you. But the new one will be on a higher level, a finer grade, the issues less gross and more civil. They are like "octave" persons, higher octaves of important persons you have known before. This happens because life moves in circular cycles, and because we have conditioning/programming from past experience and people. So, there are particular "characters" who gradually re-emerge as we go through incarnations, evolving with us as we evolve.
These people are like mile markers showing your spiritual progress in life. The more you see of these octaves in your life, the faster you are making spiritual progress. Funny thing: Ruth Moffett looked uncannily like Sister Eleanor Therese. Both were very small. Both were grave and severe. Both were strict moralists. And both had a spiritual life, though Sr.'s was more hidden from me. I can glean from this that Sr. Eleanor Therese -- who praise my brother for his erudition and lifted my slumped back with tiny hands -- was both a scholar and metaphysician. She probably even had red hair underneath that habit.
No effort is ever wasted and God never misses a thing. First a boy carried an austere nun's briefcase down a lane to her convent. Later a man carried the great bhakta Ruth Moffett to her nightly bed.
God love and praise pure nuns! Years later I find that whenever I encounter a Dominican nun with the spirit of womanly purity I get bhakti. That is, I am moved to tears.
Chad and Emma
These were two Baha'is I met who had a great influence on my life. I changed their names at this moment so as to preserve their privacy. But my story would not be complete without mentioning them.
Oh, I was so impressed the first time I saw Emma. She had what she and other Baha'is liked to call "radiance." It was a glow she had from three directions: Her beautiful White European racial inheritance, a healthy and plain living lifestyle, a shine that attended her whenever she was with people because she loved people. Fourth, her genuine spirituality. I remember it was winter and she was in a puffy, camper's style jacket filled with down that you'd see on many practical Iowa women around that time. It was at once frumpy and plain plus smart, stylish, and up-to-date and required money. If I am not mistaken she also had the latest shoes: Comfortable Birkenstocks.
When I saw her one thought was, "Oh, if I could have a wife like that!" It was at a meeting of Bahai's in Des Moines. Somehow they had come through and attended it, getting there road-weary and rather late. I realized soon that they were from out-of-town. Sometime after she arrived, probably because of the parking challenge downtown, her husband showed up. Darn, she was married! But then I was impressed all over again with his nature. He was tall, had dark hair slightly long but not wild, and wore jeans plus a similarly down-packed vest. Even with the Elvis-esque full sideburns he wore, he had a sober, mature nature. As I later met him I noted he had a laconic but thoughtful manner of speaking. The impression he gave was of a man grounded in practical life, and being the capable manager and roadie for their religious activities. Sort of like the practical and strong setting for the jewel that was his wife.
Putting her out of my mind as a wife prospect, I was highly drawn to the couple notwithstanding, as fellow Baha'is and new friends. I found they were extraordinary. As I got to new them I felt that they were most of the things I wanted to have and wanted to be. I wondered if I could become a friend of theirs notwithstanding the protectiveness and territorialism that is natural to any young husband with a pretty wife. But I found Chad was easy to talk to. I found they were both very Serious about being Bahai's and doing the thing Baha'is are most cultivated to do: To Teach The Faith, i.e. spread the religion. This was my desire, too, so they were the perfect inspiring role models for me. The more I got to know them, the more I was delighted. They were the sort of Bahai's we really needed, thought I. I found they lived in a strange little town called Lamoni, Iowa near the southern border right off Interstate 35. Soon I moved to their town to become a "homefront pioneer." This is the term Baha'is give to themselves when they move to a particular town in their own nation for the explicit purpose of shoring up a Baha'i group and promoting "the faith."
These two had a large influence on my life, not the least of which was inducing me to marry the woman that I married. But these paragraphs will be brief for now. I lived in the town of Lamoni doing activism and sharing friendship for around three years. During that time I only fell in love with them all the more, and became very close to Chad. He became one of only a few male friends I've ever felt truly close to this life. We both loved music. I admired his gardening, farming, and practical skills. I admired their very White ideals of living simple, living natural, environmentalism and "saving the world." (Emma had been an activist for the "Law of the Sea" in Washington at one time.)
They were aficionados of all the old home-crafts and skills. At one time, in fact, they had worked as the "1800's farm couple" at the "Living History Farms" outside of Des Moines. They had been used in an advertisement by an oil company at one point. They showed me the magazine page in their album. It showed a handsome and healthy, but sober, couple out in a field. Emma was in a long dress and her rimless wire glasses, Chad soberly standing beside and behind her, I think beside an old plow or an ox. The photo was in old browntones, and it looked like it could really be a couple from long ago. This just added to my sense of admiration and mystique about them. Even the world had somehow registered them as an icon of Old World virtue.
Chad had a wall full of musical instruments, including at least one he had made himself. Though brad had used toothpicks for its frets, I found the thing played in tune and had a riotous time adding a baseline to his guitar strumming what he informed me was a "Tomato Box Bass." We often sang and played together the most random things. He had this odd riff he had made up with lyrics that went "Chicken train, chicken train, laser beams in my brain." It was a gentle fun-poking at the sort of American traditional folk music that they both knew in droves. (They used to actually go into homes for the elderly and sing traditional folk songs to them, dressed in folk clothes, to cheer the old people.)
Chad and I made each other laugh. We frequently broke out in uproarious laughter as we joked, sometimes to the bewilderment or bemusement of the women. We would talk about anything, me and Chad. At some point I could even reveal my thoughts that I considered him lucky for the wife he had, and that she was an ideal wife and most beautiful. He never took offense at this, or felt threatened. Rather, he showed me a compassionate attitude, trying to both accept my praise without denial and gently suggest that everything was mixed. He even pointed out a minor flaw in her, hoping to relieve me of painful idealization. (Her English teeth, which to me were another charm.)
Her father was a religious man. They were Quakers. He and her mother lived in willful rough circumstances on a piece of land they named "Gilead" outside of Iowa City. He was annoyed that she was a Baha'i. I went with them many times to visit their parents. What memories!
Emma was a whole story in herself. She was a social gadfly to beat all. She never stopped being charming and "radiant" during my years around them. Everybody loved her despite her obtuse Baha'i agitating in a small town full of Mormons. (R.L.D.S.) In the end Emma decided to become a Medical Doctor and that took precedence over everything. She also fancied herself a matchmaker. After getting me married off to another Baha'i woman they were suddenly up and leaving for her medical doctor ambitions to Iowa City. From that time on I saw them less and less frequently. Only upon travels to their area we'd sometimes visit.
The Baha'i Faith had this terrible cultural value in which those with PhD's and such were trotted out and given automatic prestige, made to be speakers, featured on television, etc. This was none truer than with Baha'i medical doctors. They were the cream and generally became the high-falootin' "Auxiliary Board Members" and "Continental Counselors." In retrospect I see that an inherent ambition, always present in Emma, was rising and rising. She wanted to be somebody important. I felt that this goal was becoming more important than friendship, and she and Chad were leaving me behind in our lower bracket of money and prestige. Later we visited them in Arizona where they had "homefront pioneered" to "save the Indians." I had changed, and they sensed it. And I saw that they had changed. I do not know if it was rage and disgust that I was now an astrologer, or that they sensed I was no longer so true blue and avid for the Baha'i cause, or if it was just life overtaking them and absorbing their capacity for friendliness. Because now they had children, and quite a few. They seemed to be overwhelmed with this on many levels. There were no pleasant conversations during that visit, or even reminiscences, and in fact Chad seemed to be in a quiet rage which I'd never felt.
I used to go on trips with them in their old Datsun B210 car. The thing was barely held together. I remember once the muffler had fallen off just before they wanted to travel. Chad, always resourceful, had taken a used orange juice can made of tin and put the muffler back together by wiring the can tight around the broken pieces. After he told me, I got down one day to look and see. (I always admired whatever Chad did and liked to learn about doing things.) There it was, a colorful Sunkist orange juice can keeping his muffler quiet and the thing from dragging on the ground. I thought it was charming, but Chad actually detested these little indignities. I didn't realize it, but inside him was ambition for a more respectable life and nicer things. Chad and I had many soulful talks, letting our imaginations run wild, on many long trips about Iowa for the Baha'i Faith.
But the time I shared with them in the strange little town of Lamoni was one of the rich and good times of my life. I have one memory etched in my mind. We were coming close in to Lamoni after a hot summer trip on the road. Along the way was a park nearby called Nine Eagles and it had a nice lake surrounded by trees. We were sweaty, dusty, and hot from our long trip. Chad and Emma said, as they came near, "Shall we go cool off?" It was getting towards dusk. We plunged in. I know Chad and I were in shorts. I have no memory of what Emma wore to swim, probably a T-shirt. We were certainly not so uncultured as to "skinny dip".
Beyond the the tops of the encircling trees the sun was going down. I swam out into the deeper water to follow where they had gone. Though an Iowa lake could only have a snapping turtle for fearing, I had recently seen the movie "Jaws" and an irrational and primordial fear rose up as I swam above the dark unknown. But now I found myself near them.
The light was dusky and the moon was up in a sky was becoming azure blue. In the fading light I saw he had his radiant wife in his arms, even more beautiful now cleansed and freshened by the waters. Manlike, he somehow treaded water to keep the both afloat while making it seem effortless. Womanlike, she just let him do this. For her only part she just clung to him. They had done this before. I kept quiet and there were now only their quiet swishes. It was a divine scene.
I had never seen them be romantic. They were too considerate and civilized to show that side of themselves to others. But I was privileged to see this moment with only us in the middle of this small forest lake. Emma was such an independent, strong, able woman. But she let him carry her like a trusting baby above the depths. Her face was near his and this picture said "This is my husband and I am his wife." I saw clearly that this the way they always had been. They were true blue to their work and true-blue to each other.
I married young (too young), and had a large family for the time. Becoming married and especially having children finally made me grow up and become a man. And there is nothing that humanizes you more, matures you more, or makes you deeper -- than having children. I married a religious woman, when I was part of the Baha'i Faith and so was she. She was sincere and had many virtues both personally and religiously, but we were incompatible. She divorced after 13 years and that was very painful for me. My chief fault was the tendency to criticize too much, too harshly. Her chief fault was disinterest in my need for a moderately organized and neat environment. But more critically, her inability to go along with my newly awakening interest in real spirituality and religious understanding, and my interest in acquiring moral continence which alone makes that fruitful. In fact, she told me that her primary reason for divorcing me was my desire to attain celibacy. Had she come along, she could have entered into the same knowledge that was given to me. But that was not her destiny. The story called "The Sage in the Rock" in the Yoga-Vasistha tells all about this problem that exists, quite fundamentally, between men and women and how the wise woman will respond to it. However, for my critical nature, with sometimes too much angry tone, it was legitimate for her to divorce me. One of her greatest gifts to me was showing me the wonder and lovability of children, modeling fondness and affection for them. Another gift was leading me to my interest in astrology, and a 3rd was the children we created together. We were both very sincere, well-meaning, idealistic, and sacrificing young couple. When I look back on our years and see us objectively I am able to say, even with all our confusion and stupidity: There were two really Good People.
The religion lost it's hold on me because I found out:
1) The true nature of the religion and its origins had been suppressed and distorted by the organization, and
2) The Baha'is actually had little interest in the mystical or spiritual life, actually rejected that part of their own literature and were mystic-phobic. They were a shallow people afraid of the inner life and moribund with an overemphasis on a faceless, rigidly authoritative and distant "administrative order."
3) Baha'is had, in actuality, a very materialistic, outward-focused world view and impulse.
4) My ideas that "race is a major problem" diminished simply through my own maturity and better understanding of the world.
5) I realized that agreement about a few intellectual ideas was not a guarantee of this vague (and now boring-sounding) thing the Bahai's were always calling "unity."
6) Finally, I had been exposed to the rich religious literature and spiritual practices of India and books like the Bhagavad-Gita and Yoga Sutras. The Baha'i literature, wonderful as it is, simply couldn't compare. There were many deficits that this Indian literature revealed in 'Baha'i', but a real and vital understanding of the "guru principle" was among them.
My Yogananda's meditation techniques, and the very most important one, are given out freely in "lessons" that you can request from the administrative organization he left behind, Self Realization Fellowship. This easy availability of the lessons and that technique, I would offer, tends to fool people. It fools some people into not realizing the preciousness of the gift, or its efficacy. Over a long span of time it has occurred to me that attitude is everything in the spiritual life. The attitude with which you approach the guru, and any information he gives you through any channel, is of great importance. I think I was fortunate to be in the right attitude. My early Catholic upbringing had instilled in me some sense of devotion, which the Hindus call "bhakti." I had the idea of reverence. This is something that the Catholic Church is very good at. The whole thrust of Catholic Churches and icons; the way they are built, serves to evoke feelings of reverence. Reverence is, in fact, one of the great components of bhakti and perhaps one of it's greatest components. With full devotion one feels reverence for the object of his devotion. Rapture is not far away. Truly, you get from a guru, and from a technique, according to your attitude first, and according to your assiduity in practicing it, second.
I have met people, including many people deeply into the SRF movement, and many avid followers of Yogananda, and chatted with them. Many times I have been surprised and confused by how little they seemed to have derived from those lessons or the technique. I often had the impression that they did not really view the lessons as being important. More amazingly, it seemed they did not view that technique as important, which is sometimes called "the first kriya." They seemed to be always interested in "higher initiations," especially what they called "the second kriya."
What happened with me is I was never interested in any "higher initiation" because I became so engrossed in the first one, freely given by mail in the lessons. I was getting so much bliss in that, and finding so many depths, that it never occurred to me to seek out any "higher initiation." It was all I wanted and all I needed. What happens is that if you love and value that first initiation, you get everything.
Seek And Ye Shall Find
In my teens I studied becoming a priest. My dad seemed to be quietly happy about that, which surprised me. Then I found that priests had no answers to my questions about religion, Christ, and God. At least the priest who came to my house. The one my mother invited me into her studio to meet. I guess they had responded to my letter to some of the orders. My mother shepherded me into the room to "meet Father so-and-so." But they stupidly didn't say what it was about. I would have been delighted if he had come out with it and acknowledged that he knew I was interested in being a priest. What's to be ashamed of? It was the 70's. Priests had lost confidence. The times were raising questions that they were not answering well. (This was just my own sin manifesting as world confusion.) So it was a lame meeting and a lame conversation. I didn't know why that fellow had become a priest. He did not seem to have been interested in any of life's big questions, because he had not even the semblance of an answer for any. Then I spent my young life trying to sort out what was essential to Christianity and what wasn't. I made many mistakes. But as Christ said, "Seek, and you shall find." So the quest was not without fruit.
My nose is now noticeably red from meditation, which draws the life force up to higher bodily centers and away from lower, and reduces my sense awareness. You may not have heard of this phenomenon. Well, by the grace of my guru I can report about a number of phenomenon such as this, things only known in remote corners of India. My extremities are somewhat numb from this practice of withdrawing energy from the senses. I can feel my feet just enough to walk. I also developed two long, vertical indentations up my skull. Fruit of meditation which makes you more intuitive. Indian yogis, saddhus, and meditators represent these by painting two long parallel lines up their foreheads with chalk.
These are not "Catholic" things. But then again, some of them are.
I hear the blissful inner sound of Aum, and feel it's vibration in my body, at all times except when in traffic outdoors. This has been true for many years and came after long practicing Yogananda's first two kriyas. I never had to make effort to do the second kriya (listening for aum), because I did the first one so assiduously that I was soon hearing Aum with open ears. For some time I did not know what it was and was asking other persons, "Do you hear a sound like this...?" So the 2nd kriya came easy to me by doing the first one well, and with devotion for the guru.
Going to India Within
If I concentrate on it, I come so close to truly "falling in" that I pull away. It is truly the Comforter. Just a bit of it is enough, and I hear more than that. I see the divine light of bindu usually several times a day.
One day I asked a saint, Karunamayi, to give me the experience of the highest samadhi. I had written my request on a card in the clearest, most beautiful handwriting I could manage. I specifically asked for a kind of samadhi called "nirvikalpa samadhi." The card said, "Oh Thou Great Shiva! Please grant me nirvikalpa samadhi." And it asked for one more wish. I said all this because I knew it was true, that she was a nirvikalpa guru. I had never seen one, nor handed a card to anybody. I just knew it.
Karunamayi was a wish-fulfilling guru. Any great God-merged guru is "the wish-fulfilling tree." If such a guru says a thing will happen, it happens. You simply have to get them to say it. This is one of the siddhis or spiritual powers of those merged in God. It was actually how Christ did much of what He did. By saying it. A God-merged person creates reality with his speech, as God is described as doing in the first Book of the Bible. Then for devotees God makes everything true through speech, starting with His primordial divine sound. As she looked at the card her little hand tenderly stroked my head as she said, "My son, this will very soon come true." She normally handed back the card to those who approached her with one. But my card she kept, and she did this on more than one occasion. I thought it was a good sign.
In 21 days it descended on me and went on for two nights and a day. It took hold of me like a beast and I found that I fought it off, in concern and some fear. As the process appeared it just brushed up against me as from behind and I felt the welling up of never-known Greatest Bliss. I had been tipped back in my chair as it came on. Fearing I would fall back I straightened and tried to shake it off, trying to focus on my room. I had been like a small bliss fish up to then, and I thought I knew joy. But now I found I was a very small bliss fish indeed. It would be as if a minnow thought he was the biggest fish of the pond, lifelong. Then suddenly he feels something brush up against his little minnow spine: the touch of the inconceivably large Blue Whale. That was how this bliss seemed compared to my usual bliss: vast, immeasurable, and all-fulfilling. This bliss was very emotional. By immediate instinct I knew it was taking my mind. I knew I would fall backwards onto the floor in my wooden chair. So I wrested away from it.
Immediately as it came, my breath was removed from my lungs utterly. I didn't exhale it. Everything in my lungs just noticeably disappeared, vacated. As if a great, calm hand pressed down on my chest, pressing me down. But it was loving and safe. I was aware that my heart was not beating. I knew both feelings because I had gone through them in semi-sleep states. The chest cavity feels strangely vacant, cool, and immense. I knew the feeling from before in sleep and semi-sleep states, and understood it. But I'd never had it so clearly in the fully conscious state. It is a strange state and only assiduous yogis get comfortable with it. I found I wasn't yet.
I stood up, but the state kept coming on, including the cessation of heartbeat. That oceanic emotional bliss was gone now. Instead my consciousness was aware of nothing but "I exist," and now a very fine, very keen or "high pitched" bliss instead. I found I could walk around in this state, touch things, and do things -- but the world seemed a phantasm. Now there was a tug-of-war in me, between the "above" uncreated realm and this world. The samadhi kept trying to take my mind away from "world," to make the world disappear, and I kept struggling to keep aware and connected to this life below. I laid down to sleep, hoping to escape into the dream world. In sleep I was in-and-out of this pure "I am" state, dreams, and awareness of my body. My heart remained shut down.
When I woke I felt the samadhi come for my mind again and again throughout the day, like a great pull that wanted me to turn to the transcendental and make the world dissolve. And I kept shaking it off and trying to anchor in the world. By now I had sensed the power and profundity of what was happening and had begun to have an emotional reaction to it. I knew that if I gave myself over to it I could never be the same person after. I feared I would not be able to carry on with my life, my duties, my bills, my clients, or my children's needs. This was all delusive ego talking, of course, because the Divine would have taken care of everything. But I felt I was attached to the limited, dualistic life I had always known. But the samadhi had me in its jaws and kept taking my mind with force. I began to beg to God:
"God, I still like the idea of setting a child on my knee, and pointing out a star, and speaking to her as if it is a distant thing, and separate from us. I'm not done with all the experiences and stories this dualistic life, this world of separateness, can offer." I wasn't ready to be a Nityananda, a blissed out avadhut, laying like a log in the street, incompetent for this world but a beacon of divinity to all. I was too used to this karma and this game.
A clear vision came to me of what was happening and the decision I was making. It was like a family that had spent its life traveling, like gypsies. Lifelong they had journeyed in quest of the Holy City. All their fathers and mothers had been traveling, too. And the grandfathers before that. All they had known was traveling, traveling -- trying to get to the Holy City. Everything was organized around it, all their relationships, and this was the life they knew well. Suddenly they come over the crest of a highland and, Lo! The Holy City! It sparkles. It's immense. It's a sight they've never seen. They know it's full of good things. They know it's full of many living beings, most greater and different from them. What would be the psychology of such a family? Such a caravan? How would they really react upon coming over that crest? First joy, wonderment, thanks. Then some fear. Because they would know that their entire way of life was about to end. They were about to enter the Divine, but it was the divine Unknown to their minds. What they would do, most of them, would be to set up camp there near the city, on the crest of the hill. Then they'd begin to make expeditions into its fringes. Get to know some of its lesser inhabitants, and get used to the idea of ending the life they'd known for so long. This was the decision I was making: To set up camp near the edge of the Great Holy City, to remain close, but to not fully enter.
So I turned away from the final attainment of yogis, though I learned what it was like, and was well comforted by this event in my life, knowing that my austerities, meditation, and spiritual search had not been without fruit. But I was never bereaved about it, because I already had two things that were full well enough, and one was my devotion for guru, and the other was Om. These are full well enough for my life.
And this was the fulfillment of a prophetic indicator in my original initiation dreams. In those dreams I decided that I was not ready to merge with the light yet and end "the game." But I also constructed this -- during the dreams -- as a concept that not doing so would allow me to benefit "others" still in the game. This is the Bodhisattva illusion. There's really nobody "out there" to save. All exterior flaws are projections of your own impurity. But it is fun to think there is and stay in "the game." This so-called "Bodhisattva vow" is nothing but a decision by those who still are enjoying the dualistic game and don't want to end it yet. That's all it is. It is supposedly made because the yogi is deciding not to get enlightenment until "all others are enlightened." But true knowers know there is nobody really "out there" to save. All "unenlightened external people" in your world-dream are nothing but the projections of one's own dualistic impurities and karmas. As you purify yourself, the world gets purified or "saved" on it's own. Then when in the dualistic world, one tries to do his duty to the people. But always keeping in the back of his mind: "All this is just me." The Bhagavad-Gita states that the yogic sages attains an awareness that "there is no longer any [external] work to be done."
After a second night in this fight with the great tiger of samadhi, I woke up in a normal state.
One fascinating fact is what I was doing at the time the samadhi came on. There was something in particular that I was reading, and I can't help but believe, know -- that there was a definite connection between the timing of samadhi and what I was reading. It was an article about the natural noble instincts of males to do anything for the protection of their women and children, all the way up to total self-sacrifice.
The article described a terrible event in California. An angry employee had entered an office building with a shotgun, and was stalking through the building blasting whoever he could find. It told of a couple who worked there, a young husband and wife. People were trying to barricade themselves in their offices, but the killer was shooting through locks and murdering them anyway. The young man had been separated from his wife in the building. When he realized what was happening he went directly to find her knowing the shooter was coming that way. He got to her office just in time to place his body over her as the gunman burst through the door. One more shotgun blast later, the killer was taken down by S.W.A.T. But the young man, laying over his wife, was dead. His wife and mother of his child survived unharmed.
It was as I read that sentence that my nirvikalpa samadhi came on.
The Warrior's Yoga
He did it without a second thought, because she was her wife and mother of his children, and he was a man.
The Bhagavad-Gita is one of the richest and most abstruse religious scriptures in the world. It's entire theme is the quest to re-unite with God through various techniques called "yogas." It is like an enumeration and explication of the various yogas that the great Vedantic culture of India evolved for effecting the Divine reunion. So it ranges all over -- from the detached and God-focused attitude of the "karma yogi" (not 'doing good deeds,' but doing whatever is duty with detachment and thought of the guru or deity) -- to the "bhakti" or devotional attitude, to arcane verses about breathing techniques and discussions of the various lower gods. But the outstanding theme is that the whole conversation takes place in the midst of a battle, on a battlefield, and is given to a warrior undergoing stress over the war.
The truth is that warriors, always doing their duty, and always facing death, get close to God automatically. They are the ultimate karma yogis, doing duty alone with no thought of self and with detachment from outcomes. The warrior is surrendering himself and his ego for duty. Surrendering the self and the ego is the very goal of the highest spiritual practices of yoga. It is because warriors, in fact, have a transcendental experience on the battlefield with their fellows that the ordinary world always seems dull and empty ever after. They learn to ignore the frightening "wrathful deities" of the battlefield and hew to one focus, duty alone. This is yoga. Then by doing their duty with no selfishness or clinging to security, they attract a divine blessing. So this is one form of yoga that is not explicitly named in the great Bhagavad-Gita. But it did not need to be, because this warrior yoga is being described in the book from start to finish. It is the very substrate of the book. The warrior knows he could die at any moment, or lose his worldly station, and looks right in the face of death. In doing this, he necessarily comes into his "self" -- the self that abides through all changes and conditions. Trauma and emotional disturbance come more for a warrior when he is filled with fear, disconnected from divine faith, and overcome with emotion. That is, when he is not spiritually prepared for war.
As with most tales, myths, and folk legends -- they contain truth and are founded on reality. Such is true of the tales and scriptures about the reward of a warrior. I have found in my life that the more I do my duty, regardless of the consequences -- the more divine and occult blessings come to me such as inner divine sound, and miraculous solutions. When you do your duty with no thought of self -- even unto death -- your own soul rewards you in the next state because your soul knows the truth about what you did.
Thus it was that while reading about the detached yoga of a young warrior in a California office building, who laid over his cowering wife as a powerful shotgun drew upon him -- that I was given the gift of samadhi.
As time passed this experience -- along my initiation dreams and experiences I've had in meditation and sleep -- gave me much to think about and ponder. It gave me awareness of the kinds of experiences, sensations, and soul situations we experience in the death process, and how long conditioning and clarity of purpose are required to make the higher use of them. I have been able to write about the death process for the minds of my White European people, perhaps in a more accessible and critically-focused way than is in available in such texts as the Tibetan Book of the Dead. Because of the samadhi experience and others, I think about the coming death event -- and the huge opportunities of it -- on a daily basis.
One day I noticed I was hearing a sound. I started asking people about it. I was saying to those around me, "Do you hear a low hum"? Nobody heard it. There is a story from the Oglala Sioux called the "Story of Jumping Mouse" and I played the role of the mouse then, humorously so now I can see. It took some time before I realized what that story was about. I understood it much later. This came about when I had been left all alone in a farmhouse in southern Missouri, in the Missouri Ozarks. The house was owned by devotees of the Syda Yoga lineage, which started with Nityananda, then Muktananda, and then Gurumayi. They always had Syda yoga chants on, and the house had a tremendously spiritual atmosphere. I want to say that I realize in retrospect that this family was Jewish, or at least the father was. He was a very big devotee of the gurus of Syda yoga. Whe