On my way to Turkey, I stood alone outside Le Vadia,
a country railway station in Greece, and was impressed with a sense of a kindness and simplicity
that is the ambience of all our endeavors. I was on my way to Thessalonika,
then Istanbul via Pythia as it will say on my ticket.
I’ve just left the Pythian oracle at Delphi where visions and dream were kind to me.
The journey continued in kindness across Turkey;
kind- ness in the people I met, the kindness of God who provided the way and at the last moment in the mountains east of Kars, in the kindness of a fellow traveler,
a guide who for the moment was obsessed to show me the
“Akchekale,” the ‘Pale Castle”.
I knew that it was ‘the place’ I was looking for as soon as I saw it.
It was a long way from civilization on a promontory above a deep river canyon…Behind these ancient ruins of a castle, I sat alone in my ritual before the freshly gathered circle of flowers that
sang their pure violet
to the sacred fire within their circle. The devil-chasing bell sang itself to silence, taking my song along with it in that deserted, white castle, behind its dark tower,
between an abandoned water well and a razed church
in that place unvisited much, even by Turks much less tourists, a wind blew up the river-cut chasm so far down,
everything fell away,
whispered across perception…and it seemed at that moment that I had died,
for how could human biology contain such love. It would have been the same for Buddhist, Christian, Moslem, shaman or priest, I believe, for it was the heart of all things.
There, in that place of an ancient wound, the sacred fire invoked the Spirit,
as some beast roared a wailing cry, a terrible sound that tore through the canyon.
joined my need for healing with the healing that I believe is inherent in creation.
I could not look back at the castle when I left, for fear, for respect. I seldom think about it now because when I do, my eyes tear fully, reminded of such fullness.
At that moment, though it was smooth and easy in it’s blessing; pale green, brown rose, yellow,
the light set the land
In which: -A plot thickens. -Ordination -1st Cuernavaca -Control dreams -Migraines -Black Widow Spider -Experiment -4th Dragon -5th Dragon -A successful experiment. -The “problem” of this story is stated (again) and a solution to be tried. -2nd Cuernavaca and the Mexican earthquake, the body-earth con- nection. -Child molestation and Good Friday child. -Mural -Rain Rituals -1st Yemen -5th Dragon -Disasters, disasters, disasters -Martial Arts -Poison and Vision -The Black Widow, my familiar -Winter exercise -Grandmother Spider -Prescience of Egypt and the Golden Light -The mural engages its magic -2nd Yemen.
My return from Greece met two challenges. One was that I had little understanding about what it all meant. Two, I was to be ordained a Catholic priest the following spring. One month before that ordination was to take place, the then current Vocation Director informed me that he had recommended to the Bishop I not be ordained. I believed he had attacked me, under other pretexts, for going to India in the first place. Now, I believe the Greece expedition completely colored his mind and heart against me. I have always had my supporters in the institution and those other “friends” whose task it was to challenge and toughen my resolve. He was one such. I do not believe that he was well intended, perhaps he was.
I had been a friend to the former Vocation Director, but when the new one took over, the ‘bad chemistry’ between us was immediately evident. Because of the nature of institutional operations, such a recom- mendation from someone in his position had much effect, at least for a while. I’m not saying that I’m perfect, but in that situation I was probably not any worse a candidate than most others who were being ordained without question. (Most, if not all, are excellent men.) I had an excellent record at the seminary. In fact, when the Vocation Director made his unfortunate recommendation the seminary faculty had just voted unanimously for my advancement to ordination. The bishop eventually ruled in my favor. But it was too late for me to be ordained with my class. (This is a point of small but poignant significance within the priest caste.)
I was forced into aggressive psychoanalysis. But after these in-depth intrusions, I was pronounced psychologically fit and recommended for ordination to the priesthood of the Roman Catholic Church by the UCLA psychiatrist (a Lutheran) the Vocation Director had recommended for me.
I was ordained in 1984.
The night before my ordination something happened that describes my call to the priesthood and a fundamental characteristic of the priest- hood in general that is usually ignored by contemporary religious insti- tutions. By such ignorance the mission of the church might be missed. I went out into the Mojave Desert to make a nightlong vigil before the ordination. Following morning, I built a little fire of sacred intention (connected with the Paschal mystery, I thought). The air in the desert was completely still. But a strong breeze came up and blew the fire to the west, the east, the north and the south. Then a little whirlwind came up out of the flames and danced around the opposite side of the fire from where I was seated. This, along with a wonderful sensation associ- ated with that place, seemed to be an assent from the powers of the Earth to my ordination, I hoped. Strange but wonderful.
The ordination ritual is a powerful, wonderful liturgy. However, unlike my Diaconate ordination which was joyously light filled, this priestly ordination was strong and dark. It was beautiful, but solemn sobering.
My first parish assignment was in Santa Ana, California, in a partially Hispanic parish. Immediately, my new superior sent me to Mexico to study Spanish. When I went to Mexico I had every intention of learning Spanish. What happened in Mexico was this:
Soon after I had arrived in Cuernavaca, I discovered that handsome city and the nearby village of Tepozlan to be powerful in the ways of the “energies.” Really powerful. Not long after arriving, I had a vision/realization, a “message,” clearly from the Greek pilgrimage! This communication told me that if I stayed, I would be badly hurt or would die, that some great harm would come of it. I refused to believe. I wanted only to fulfill my Church assignment and not cause any more trouble. I cannot emphasize this last point strongly enough. However, in my heart I knew the premonition was true.
My first weeks there were of high energy. During one week I had six dreams of instructive power. The first three were powerful flying dreams, one that I controlled from a waking state. The fourth dream, plus some shamanizing, tried to resolve problems I had with my pastor, my current religious superior. The fifth dream occurred two weeks into my stay, and was about my home and family; my parents were repre- sented as spirit animals, a great Silverback and a mother bear. There were other such animals, but the dream concluded with a large, antlered, deer-like creature coming over the hill. The sensation was wild, really wild. Dangerous. With this I felt that the energies were out of control. I was nearly overcome.
In the sixth dream I was a fledgling eagle. That seemed to complete a sequence of initiation symbolized by a topically related image at my entrance into the seminary: the eagle. My seminary training included not only theology and pastoral training, but also studies in tantra and shamanism—the way of the warrior. The eagle has long been a symbol of the spiritual warrior even before St. John the Evangelist was gifted with this attribute.
(See C.C. Chang’s Tibetan Yoga for Tibetan techniques of dream control in this reference. Also, Casteneda deals with this in Journey to Ixtlan.)
During one exploration of downtown Cuernavaca, I ate some food that made me very ill. I seemed to sense that something unusually psy- chic was happening, although I couldn’t say at that moment that I knew this would eventually allow me to go home before real damage hap- pened. The following Saturday, a week later, I was well enough to visit downtown again. I went into a little chapel that I had seen in passing at the end of a crowded alley, at the top of a flight of stairs. I was delayed from entering by a “sadhu” (or merely a crazy transient) and an immense, white dog, (Cerberus?) with pink eyes. The transient was dancing joyfully to rock music. He frightened me. He looked straight into my eyes, then went away. The dog was quiet until he saw me in the crowd and began to bark wildly. I finally got by and entered the chapel. I sat to pray and then noticed a statue. It was a special statue, subject of much adoration and petition from the faithful. It was a statue seen in a dream, when I was in college, ten year before! I had been having a series of dreams about Christ. That dream was of particular significance and eventually led me to the monastery. I had never been to Cuernavaca before this trip.
By now I was sick every day and had just enough energy for classes. I slept the rest of the time. I decided to take a few days off to go to Oaxaca because I sensed it was a place to rest and to wait. I went there and I waited. A priest I had met and with whom I was traveling at that time shouted several times in his sleep one night, “Here it is!” in Spanish. I believed him and I continued to wait. The priest and I parted the next day. That afternoon I met a young man from the United States in the market place. He described himself as a yogi, a disciple of a guru of good reputation in the U.S. and I described myself as a priest. We hit it off and began a spiritual exchange that went on for several days. We did some energy exchange exercises involving the central nervous system that was accompanied by a sense of great liberation for me. It was cathartic and a great exchange.
I returned to Cuernavaca. I became very sick once again and finally had to return home. I knew/sensed the experience in Oaxaca was the completion of the reason for my being in Mexico. Being there had to do with developing my understanding of what I had inculcated at the foot of Mt. Olympus two years previous. That was quite clear just before I left Mexico. I now understood and could explain what I had only sensed before. But this will not be the last trip to Cuernavaca. Perhaps, unfor- tunately—as you will see.
Over the following year, I had increasing trouble with migraines. In a migraine complex one’s blood vessels in the brain dilate. That can cause debilitating anguish in one’s brain and body. I have had migraines since I was 10 years old, but infrequently. They’d grown worse in recent years. I went through the various neurological and psy- chological therapies. In fact, I first went to the psychologist who intro- duced me to the study of the “energies” because of migraines. Now, perhaps the conflict between this natural spiritual vocation and an official, too narrowly proscribed role of a Catholic priest produced great stress. The migraines increased to three or four screaming episodes a week. Really deadly. But the medications were more danger- ous than the migraines. During this time, in the midst of full-blown migraines I started to have certain realizations. I began to equate the agony of the migraine experience with suffering of the world, and then to the agony of creation’s mysterious evolution. This seemed more than sympathy, but empathy. Associated often with the agony of the migraine’s physical effects was a sense of clarity and beauty and insights about things. Perhaps this was caused by the blood flooding the brain as suggested in the Katerini episode, I’m not sure.
During this same time, I had two experiences that have character- ized and helped form much of my attitude about religion and human identity. The first has to do with the cure of a man suffering from intense pain. (My second healing) During our healing session he described the “cure” with a mental image of a bubble of pain that passed out of him and up my arm, then disappeared. There were no drugs involved with this cure. The man was relieved of his pain and related symptoms.
The second experience involved a young girl who experienced what could be safely categorized as a spontaneous shamanic initiation. She had no religious background and was from a poorly educated, subur- ban family. It is unlikely that she could have known about such things as “shamanism.” This reinforced my developing belief that shamanism is part of an atemporal, universal human inheritance and not solely the property of Stone Age tribal peoples—or of New Age dilettantes. It remains a vital active force in the modern world, though latent.
At this time, I had the following dream about a black widow spider. In the dream, I was in a room at some kind of party. A young man with blond hair was talking to me. We had some kind of teacher/student relationship. A black widow came out from under his collar, walked around his shoulder, across his chest to the open shirt neck. I moved to brush the beast off. (I have a particular aversion to black widows) I brushed it, down inside his shirt rather than off. Either I am danger- ously clumsy or this was a necessary interiorization of whatever the spider and the boy represent for me.
The scene of the dream shifts to another room where there is a large ark-like box about the size of a small car. It is a dusty, black, wooden box. On one side are many various shelves, windows and doors. Out of one such portal four black widows walk onto one of the adjacent shelves. Three are very healthy. The fourth is somehow spas- motic. The three healthy spiders raise themselves up on their back legs and from a black telescope like appendage spray me with light. The dream ends.
Late the next evening I was telling a friend about this dream. While telling the tale I began to dream! I told my friend that I am dreaming while talking to him, rather shocked myself. Then, I continue the con- versation by describing the dream. The four black widow spiders turn to crystal and seem to be some kind of transmitters—mystically—to the contents of the box because the walls of the black box become trans- parent. In fact, they disappear and are replaced with not only a vision of the universe but a sensation of heaven itself. Wonderful.
I still did not suspect anything esoteric about black widows!
The Migraines were terrible. I determined that this migraine prob- lem must be resolved. Months of conventional medical therapy hadn’t worked very well, so I would try spiritual pilgrimage. Suggested during the Greek pilgrimage had been an attraction to places further east.
Over a period of months, in meditation, I located a place along the eastern border of Turkey that held promise. I would make a pilgrimage there. A group of friends would join me part of the way. We were to meet on the island of Corfu to commence a liturgy of healing for the world and empowerment to effect our gifts as ministers.
We met on Corfu to construct a liturgy of healing in the “Game of Being.” It is the game of Love. The divine play of creation; the game of life and death and life. We did it near a place that one among us had described as “vile” with energies. I don’t think it was evil, but a too pow- erful place, not pleasant or easily approached.
This is the third dragon.
Bishop, please remember that the dragon motif represents not only the general reference to “Nature” but a localization of “Grace,” the “Divine Energies.” It is also a “spirit animal” familiar for me. Thus, it represents the comparison of motifs of divine or spiritual intervention.
I parted with the last of the “Corfu Company.”
Shortly after, I stood alone outside Le Vadia, a country railway station in Greece, and was impressed with a sense of kind simplicity that is the ambiance of all our endeavors.
I was on my way to Thessalonika, then Turkey via Pythia as it will say on my ticket. I’d just left the Pythian oracle at Delphi where visions and dream were kind to me. The journey continued in kindness across Turkey—kindness in the people I met, kindness of the God who pro- vided the way, and at the last moment in the mountains east of Kars, the kindness of a fellow traveler, a guide who for the moment was obsessed to show me the “Akchekale”—the “White Castle.” I knew that it was the place. It was a long way from civilization on a promontory above a deep river canyon… Behind these ancient ruins of a castle, I sat alone in my ritual before the gathered flowers that sang their pure violet to the sacred fire and the devil-chasing bell that sang to silence, taking my song along with it. In that deserted, white castle, outside its dark tower, between an abandoned well and razed church, in that place unvisited much, even byTurks much less tourists, a wind blew up the river-cut chasm thousands of feet down, then everything fell away, fell away—
The Word, Christ, whispered across perception… (Not the name but the substance of the name) and it seemed at that moment that I had died, for how could human biology contain such love. It would have been the something for Buddhist, Christian, Moslem, shaman or priest, I believe, for it was the heart of creation whispering.
There, in that place of an ancient wound, the sacred fire was invoked and some creature roared its cry. A terrible sound tore through the canyon. The fourth dragon.
This travel joined my need for healing; the healing that I believe is inherent in creation.
I could not look back at the castle when I left, for fear, for respect. I seldom think about it now because when I do, my eyes tear fully remembering such fullness. At that moment though it was smooth and easy in its blessing; pale green, brown rose, yellow—light set the land dancing.
Now that some time has passed, I still have a deep sense of satisfac- tion about this pilgrimage, unlike any of the other. It is as if the pilgrim- age finished something successfully. This is an important juncture. It is true that since then my migraines have stopped almost completely. But there is more. Perhaps the satisfaction lies in the fact that, somehow, the whole approach works. It can resolve personal problems of significance and there is indication that it is a viable means, an empowerment, to address and resolve some problems of the world community, that is by this working with the gods, the psychic structures of creation.
If that is the case, as now I clearly believe it to be, I anticipate the next event in this evolution with both fear and excitement.
Bishop, here is the Problem: In the pilgrimage to Turkey, there was, as you know, a personal problem to be solved, migraines that were hit- ting me three or four times a week. Blinding, screaming, floor pound- ing migraines. During one of these the previous spring, I had the sense that this agony was in some way analogous to the suffering of the world. Somehow it was linked to the painful evolution of human con- sciousness and the natural processes of the world. In particular, I believed this natural condition of suffering in the world to be ampli- fied to the point of self-destruction by the recent revolution in technological progress. 1,000,000,000 people at starvation level, millions in concentration camps, 5,000 acres of rain forests destroyed per day, not to speak of unprecedented numbers of animal species eradicated, for example. This is the product of human genius, which has also recently proved its capacity to destroy the world—perhaps this is what the seers of the Old Testament intuited and feared so deeply. Any “reasonable” solution to this problem is going to be self-defeating since the sole use of human reason, which produces all these technological wonders, is the unavoidable problem. I’ve sensed this to one degree or another for 20 years and have sought alternative means to resolve this problem. That is the battle for which I am trained. This is a war secreted within the very structure of human personality. The battlefield is the human and world soul.
SOLUTION: Since I was able to effect the migraine of my own body, the microcosm, using the techniques of pilgrimage, etc., the next thought was to apply the same general techniques to the body of cre- ation, the macrocosm. The first step might be to identify one’s person- ality completely with the processes of creation, then begin to “adjust” the various elements of one’s “self ” as one might in psycho-, medical or religious therapy to see if it is possible to identify so much as to effect the larger “self.”
This is an exploration that curiosity, intuition and need encouraged me to perform. The point is to alleviate the suffering of the world and/or to facilitate this poignantly dangerous moment in our evolution. The Helping Spirit, the familiar, that I have called upon to work this magic is the Holy Spirit and the method is a modified form of Tantric, Christian, geomantic thurgery!
This following section of this chapter, MexQuake, is what happened immediately. But the processes set in motion here have continued and will continue, until the end…
After returning from Turkey, I was sent, for the second time, to Cuernavaca in Mexico to study Spanish. The mountains above the city are powerful indeed, and nearby is a village, as I mentioned before, known to be a center of Mexican witchcraft. I went there one day and visited an old Aztec temple in the strangely formed rocks above the village. I felt in that visit a strong, psychic companionship with the place, perhaps with some of the population. I started a “ritual” there that continued on and off for three days. It included a fierce migraine! This was the first since E. Turkey several months before. Then, the Mexican earthquake hit. It lasted at least five min- utes and devastated Mexico City. 10,000 to 20,000 people died. I don’t think that such “co-incidences” as the ritual and the earthquake are directly related. At least, I hope not. But perhaps the shaman moves in the heart of creation so as to participate in a different way; perhaps loses qualities of normal personality; becomes nature or a force of nature—evokes a personality in nature. There was a connec- tion that I cannot quite describe.
In any case, this is the first of a series of disasters that I associate with what came to be called the Yemen Experiment for reasons that will soon be divulged. The connection is that while in Mexico, I did the drawings of mountains shaking before the earthquake and started drawings for the mural of the Resurrection on the back wall of the Catholic Church in the U.S.. This forty-foot mural was dedicated on Easter Vigil the fol- lowing year. It was dedicated during the formal ritual of fire at the beginning of the vigil. The mural was the iconic heart of the Yemen experiment and it was to gain considerable attention a couple of years later.
There was two other commencement ceremonies in the winter and spring of 1986. Both of these started in the redwoods of northern California. One of them concluded in the Nevada desert. I believe these, along with the other events described just above, began this segment of my grimoire that I call the “Yemen Experiment,” as similar locations will play a part in the conclusion. The story of the two ceremonies is told elsewhere. Suffice it to say for our purposes here, that they were necessary preparation for my going to Yemen.
On Good Friday of that Holy Week that year, my friend Fr. Chris was accused of molesting altar boys and had to flee his parish. Chris had bought one of my paintings and was one of my supporters. He was con- sidered around the Southland to be a great minister. He seemed to have a problem. The interesting thing is that I have long felt fatalistically con- nected to him. Morally I supported him. One cannot cut a person off because of illness or sin. Christ came for sinners not the just. The Good Shepherd leaves the flock and seeks the lost sheep…
Also, I felt this to be a moment of tremendous “power” and “energy.” Considering he was accused of very little really, when compared to real sex offenders, he managed to get his name and the Church involved in nationally broadcast and oft-repeated news stories. I felt that this was a special occasion to which we had to respond in a special way. But my understanding was intuitive and I could not explain to my superiors what I did not yet understand intellectually. They did not respond well to what must have seemed to them my very confusing behavior. Perhaps they would have recognized what was happening if they had followed a different spiritual path. Such esoteric activities, however justified, do not appeal to most institutional managers. Though the bishop, your predecessor, was patient and counseled reconsideration when I finally began to take action.
Before Fr. Chris’ problem broke, there was this disturbing event. I had just begun the mural. The scaffolding was up. The 40-foot drawing was on the wall. But one day, again, I developed a migraine. First since the earthquake in Mexico. The second since Turkey. This was January 1986. I couldn’t work that day. I felt terrible. In the middle of it, in a daze, I got up from my darkened bedroom and went out to look at the mural wall. The whole street next to the mural wall, and the adjacent intersection was cordoned off. I investigated further. A truck going through the intersection had flipped over and killed its driver. There is a little dip there. Even going very fast, the most cars ever did was scrape their fenders. For the truck to flip seemed odd and tragic. I sensed that it had something to do with an ancient dynamic: It was a form of sacri- fice, an offering to empower the ritual that the mural came to repre- sent—with the life energies of the one sacrificed sent to communicate with the gods as a highly favored ambassador from the material, tempo- ral world. That’s the theory, but I found the idea repugnant. I dismissed that from my mind immediately. But it came back. I’ve never been able to think of that incident in any other way.
My rather dogged “support” of our “fallen” brother, who had that problem with the altar boys, earned me a leave of absence from my dio- cese. Without my intending it to be so, my friend’s troubles became a means for me to become free to continue work on the rest of this “rit- ual” craft, the next pilgrimage. I wanted both that freedom and to stay in the diocese as I was and to be a “good priest.”
Whatever I wanted I was removed from my parish—a traumatic experience, since my first two years there had been sucessful and instructive—and given three months leave that summer of 1986, “to cool off.” I then continued the ritual without distraction.
I sensed, along with others, that the next destination would be Yemen and that I was to start in the wild lands of Montana(!) There, I was to test some of the meteorological aspects of how this spell was developing. When I had done certain rituals, there were closely timed changes in weather that surprised and frightened me. I wanted to see for sure, if I could make it rain. In fact, invoking rainstorms was a part of that summer’s work. I wanted to test my talent for such things. The place of “pri- mary ignition” was the wilds of western Montana. The state was in its second year of a drought. However, west of the mountains it was green and I found a place of great power near cliffs above a river. Here I did a rain ritual. A bit of drizzle did fall, but it was not impressive at all! So I traveled on toward the eastern part of the state to test the ritual further.
I was hitchhiking and was given a ride by a young couple in a new car. We drove across a land nearly empty of the Twentieth Century but for us. I was surprised that they picked me up. They looked affluent in the mid-western way of middling wealth. They were well-groomed, clean, in summer whites with spots of pale color. We passed quickly the usual information of where from, and going to, and why. Then we were silent for a while.
The wife turned to me and said, “I just feel like talking to you about the Lord.”
“Oh,” I said. My first, and several other rides on this trip had been with born-again Christians or ex-Catholics that told me about their religious experience.
“I want to ask you if you know the Lord.” she continued.
I didn’t want to say that I was into rain-making and raising elemental powers of nature at the moment. So I talked about ‘the Lord’ for a while, somewhat professionally. We, all three it turned out, were professional evangelists. I, a Catholic priest on leave; while they worked with a Protestant guru in Michigan and were on their summer break from the mission.
They planned to start a new mission in a rich Virginia suburb at the end of the summer. I told them that they should avoid being a pseudo- Gospel stamp of approval to the values of the rich and powerful as so many other Christian apologists had been. I felt pretentious about say- ing such things, but what did I have to lose? I’d be back on the road soon anyway.
When we got past that, they told me about their plan to found a chain of houses for unwed, pregnant, teenage girls. That seemed to be a good idea as well as being profitable. In the midst of this conversation I found out that their summer was being spent driving recreational vehi- cles and new cars from coast to coast for dealers who wanted to help them through financial rough spots of their lives in ministry. They were apparently in just such a rough spot until they were to start this new mission in Virginia. All they owned was in the trunk of that new car. The wife was enthusiastic about the spiritual value of fasting and hard- ship. The husband was less enthused and generally seemed to resent the experience, if not the idea, of poverty.
They dropped me off near a town as the sunset illumined a silhouette of a roadside landscape. We were now in a part of the state that seldom, if ever, got rain this time of the year, I was told. It was drought, so dry— from the parched sheaves of wild oats along the road, to the cracked earth where I chose to rest. I could not rest for long. Some physically irritating, strange and disturbing energy urged me on. I walked along a precarious path through a freeway construction zone. Speeding trucks passed, seemingly, just inches from me, threatening… But at certain moments, at least, I have been determined to follow this path to its end, no matter what. After what seemed long hours of walking through the night I found a place of refuge near a hill that seemed at the moment to be special, that seemed to have strong geomantic energy about it. Although it had not been treated with the reverence I thought it deserved. On one side, the freeway cut through it, while on the other side was set a huge water tank.
The sky was clear. I called on the rain and then I rested and waited. By morning the storm came. It was a torrential downpour, with wind, deep bellowing thunder, and lightning that struck nearby. There seemed to be a definite relationship between the ritual and the rain. It seemed like a confirmation. Something larger than my intention. There was a tangible connection I cannot describe.
I had not liked the way the couple used language when they talked about ‘the Lord.’ It seemed artificial. Each word, it seemed to me, stepped away from the vital experience of a spiritually enlivened being. Yet, I liked them somehow. The surprising point that I want to make is that they helped me effect the rain ritual. They might be chagrined to know that. But the expression of their real aspirations, added to mine, empowered the ritual and now has left me with a sense of quiet, washed clean, enchantment.
This was the third rain ritual of the season. There seemed to be a def- inite relationship between the rituals and the rain. It seemed like an assent from God. Something larger than my intention is building. I am priest to this harsh love. It is the way of the priestly care. The Great Old Man, guide, travels with me in all this, in the “other” realm of the psyche.
I arrived in New York, and called home to find out that my parents’ ranch home, where I had been raised, had burned down and that the bishop who ordained me had died!! All just after the rain in Montana! I felt dazed and frightened by the news.
Now Yemen. I arrive there on the plain of Sanaa. Immediately, I felt a powerful sense of revulsion. There was a foreboding from the sur- rounding mountains. Opposition? Then, I almost had a sexual encounter. High arousal but no real contact. Terrible regret followed. But thus humiliated, I was free for a while from the usual ego delusions of being superior and in control. Perhaps that was required to accom- plish the larger ritual. The energies were up. I began a small ritual at twilight. I felt completely lost, completely off balance. I wanted out. Instead of staying two weeks I wanted to leave immediately. As in the earlier rain ritual, I laid out pictures of the Resurrection mural, burned incense, experienced fierce anger fired by the sexual arousal and frustra- tion, a challenge is sent. All the elements of the spell were present but I was barely conscious of them. They work on their own with a deeper than conscious assent.
Since I’d arrived in Yemen, I had had a series of spontaneous visions. In these, I have a staff of iron now equipped with ‘throwing’ straps of leather with which I strike the earth, again and again. The vision came to me repeatedly. I strike the earth with the staff again and again. At one point I am exhausted by this action. Two saint bishops come to my aid. One is St. Augustine. I’m not sure of the other. St. Francis? Other? The last vision as I board a plane to leave that place, is of planting the iron staff in the field of battle. Yemen is very disconcerting.
If this is the dragon, it is the strongest, the darkest.
That day, I believe it was the first day of the ritual in Yemen, a lake in Africa exploded! A deadly gas cloud from beneath the water bursts from the lake. Then descends the sides of that mountain to kill everything for miles around. Other disasters follow. I fly to Paris. Take a train to the fron- tier, then hitchhike into Spain. I wait in Spain to visit my spiritual direc- tor, Professor Panikkar. While I wait, there is a re-dedication of my life to the Heart of Creation, the Christ. I am in a hotel in Ripoll. I am lying in bed, feel my subtle body being engulfed by brown arms of a curious entity. At first I want to be absorbed by this brown comfort, but I sud- denly realize that I must resist it. I grasp the staff of iron, strike the ground but hit a rock hard surface. The staff vibrates painfully against such resist- ance. I send a white fire into the staff. It sears into the rock. I am free of brown comfort. I travel next to Panikkar’s home. When Panikkar and I meet, a drought of several months in northern Spain breaks with a big rain. (Fires surround the Spanish monastery at Mt. Serrat and my favorite Californian monastery at Big Sur simultaneously.) I tell Panikkar the story of my day in Yemen, curiously, coincidentally, on St. Augustine’s feastday. I receive a letter from my diocese advising me strongly to come home. I also want to go. Panikkar thinks as well that I should return.
The day I return home, as my plane is landing, my father had a heart attack. There is an airliner crash in the town just north of where I was to stay that same day. It destroyed whole neighborhoods. There is a riot involving thousands of people on the beach just south of my house.
Quite a welcome home. My father is dying. It is obvious that I must stay here for a while. My diocese asks what I intend to do. I take a parish assignment. I intend to stay. I am (reluctantly) given a car and time to deal with my family situation. Not long after that, the Church car’s engine bursts into flames while I am driving it into a parking lot. My father dies amidst very beautiful shamanistic signs. These are terrible, poignant moments.
My parish assignment is with one of the worst pastors in the Southland. I know him well enough, but I thought that I could handle it. However, when, a month into the assignment, I discovered him screaming, over some inconsequential matter, at the high school boys who answered phones in the rectory in the evening. I couldn’t sleep that night. This happened several times. I began to understand more fully why the four previous priests in this assignment left before the comple- tion of their assignment.
I had decided that I would keep the year’s silence I had promised to myself but I would compose a letter to you, Bishop, describing my view of the Church, why I’m still loyal to it and why I think it is dysfunc- tional. No holds barred. I should thank that pastor whose abuse prod- ded me on to writing this letter. This was to be my best effort. It took four months to write. Both of my spiritual directors thought that this was a good letter. In response, you offered me a new parish or the old one. Or, freedom…
That summer, Bishop, you will recall, you released me from my parochial duties giving me leave to pursue other, more esoteric interests for a time. You said that you would leave me in the “gray” and that if I found another bishop who wanted to go along with the requests of my letter you wouldn’t stand in the way. So, why, a year later, did you change your mind 180 degrees? Why are you now so hostile? Well, that is another question… dealt with it earlier… Excuse me for being obses- sive about it…
Soon after, as I was preparing to leave on pilgrimage to balance the effects (disasters) of last summer, while visiting my mother near San Francisco, she and I drove to Mendocino on the Northern California Coast. Before we left on this drive I sensed that I should take certain magical objects with me; something of the ritual was happening. That day an earthquake struck nearby on the northern coast and a giant tor- nado, one-half mile wide, swept across the plains of Canada. With this the pilgrimage kicked in. That was clearly the sense of it.
As I said, the purpose of this pilgrimage was to balance last year’s journey that involved raising a dangerous “dragon” in Yemen. This year’s pilgrimage is dedicated to and placed under the patronage of the Blessed Mother, she reportedly being rather good for dragons, purity (of intentions), and refuge.
Unusual storms and other such phenomenon seem to be associated with the rituals of this process. (At least three such storms last summer.) I don’t believe that the rituals caused them but somehow were intu- itively synchronized to creatively take part in them in a way that re- defines our humanity and shapes the future. I can only describe this re-definition as “shamanistic.” But even that is not sufficient, since I believe that we are involved in a “re-e-volution” of what human person- ality is.
The destination of this pilgrimage is the holy precinct of Denali Mountain in Alaska. (Mt. McKinley) The purpose is purification and balance; to energize the projects that will occupy this period of freedom given me by you, my superior.
Since this story is told in another part of the larger structure of this work, let me say simply that this difficult, but powerful and beautiful pilgrimage began coincident with a small earthquake in Mendocino where I was driving with my mother, a huge half-mile wide tornado in Canada where I was headed, and later concludes in L.A. following an all-night vigil there. Just minutes after completing the ritual, another earthquake, 6.1 in magnitude, struck Southern California.
Thus the pilgrimage ended as it began, though I never reached the destination, Denali still looms in my imagination.
POISON AND VISION: I had met two young martial arts adepts earlier in the same summer
as this last pilgrimage. I had earlier befriended their instructor (sifu) and with his introduction moved rapidly into an easy acquaintance with these seemingly uninhibited gentlemen. In fact, the timing was such that they were of great help at a significant moment of tension regarding my priestly vocation and my bishop.
One of these, John, invited me to a ‘4th of July’ celebration with his family at the beach. It was a pleasant day. However, the following night I ended up in the hospital emergency room with an as yet undiagnosed illness. In the fall during the journey mentioned just above, I had dis- covered that there was in New Mexico, a type of medicine man who could heal a serious sparring injury to John’s back. As soon as I left the pueblo in New Mexico, I was struck with what became exhaustion and something like a terrible cold. When I delivered the information about the healers to John in Northern California, I contracted a terrible case of poison oak. Later in the same autumn, I went hiking with two other martial friends. I walked through a patch of nettles. I had a terrible reac- tion to this. Next day my legs became a mass of running sores, one eye became swollen as the systemic infection continued to spread in the same areas as the previous case of poison oak, though the nettles had not touched those places. There was a painful genital aspect to this infection, as they swelled to three times their normal size and when they shrank back down, the singular member shrank to considerably less than before. So humorous!
This nettle infection and consequent allergic reaction was resolved like this. These heretofore “friendly” meetings with these martial artists followed by illnesses struck me as a pattern. In realizing this I deter- mined to enact a ritual of healing and protection, part of which involved a ceremony in honor of the Blessed Mother. (She still being good with dragons.) I did the ritual and the next morning three of the important and strong women in my life called to order me to go to a doctor. One even came up with a doctor who wouldn’t charge this impoverished priest for medical services. This doctor was Irish, a bit odd, very nice, and terribly Catholic, with a major devotion to Our Lady. He quickly set about a cure that had me healed in a couple of days. The wounds as they healed looked like burn wounds.
Given all this, I had to consider the possible inappropriateness of this “martial connection” in my life. Perhaps the sifu as he initiated these young men into the mysteries of Chinese occult and martial arts had set “wards” about them that affected me thus. (Perhaps this is just all more mere coincidence.) My Christian friends found in this an opportunity to warn me away from these martial arts acquaintances. Perhaps I was barging into areas for which I was not yet well enough prepared. So, my exposure to both Japanese Zen and esoteric Chinese Martial Arts initi- ated very strong reaction in me; black widow spider, poison oak and other attacks on me. On the other hand, maybe the energies are just powerful and I have to develop strength and tolerance for it. In the midst of all this, another realization occurred to me. As we were driving out for the hike that included the nettle episode, I related the story about having been bitten by a black widow to my two martial hiking companions. Bishop, as you remember from the earlier discussion about spirit animals and my subsequent run-in with a black widow spi- der, this story that I told to my hiking buddies started when I was in a Zendo on a Zen meditation retreat. During one long meditation I had a vision of a black claw piercing my back. The next day I was discovered to have five open wounds in my back that a doctor later attributed to a black widow spider. No spider was ever seen or other wise felt. I conva- lesced for two weeks, developed a staph infection and blood poisoning, convalesced another week. During that time I had moments of wonder- ful heightened consciousness. I also told the story of a dream that I had one night, which started up again and continued next day, while I was awake, as I recounted the dream to a friend. In this dream four black widows were not only something frightening but seemed to infuse me with a kind of light, then themselves became crystals on an ark-like box that transformed into a vision of eternity.
As I was telling this story about an event that occurred five years before, I realized that this had been a kind of shamanic initiation; that one of my helping animal spirits was this black widow spider, a reclu- sive, but poignantly poisonous beast. A beast who’s poison also brought visions of eternity!
I am repulsed by spiders, poisonous snakes and plants, but see them as also part of God’s creation and somehow, I seem perhaps chosen by them. Certainly I have been affected by them. The trick is to turn poison into catharsis and creative vision. It seems to require remarkable, per- haps tragic, sacrifice. It can entrap or liberate.
Not long after returning from that mid-winter “exercise “ of hitching across the country, with that final stop over in Zuni, I once again went on a hiking expedition with two of these martial arts adepts. They planned a three-day period of mostly silence and little or no food. It was in a particularly rugged part of the Mojave Desert. I led a little journey over those rocky hills and arroyos until we came to a small plateau. It was a moonless night. We did some “energy” exchange exercises. One fellow was opaque. But the other, another Chris, the more advanced one, produced this experience. As I moved in the dark from the first subject to Chris, a spontaneous prayer occurred in me. “Lord, show me what I need to know about this man.” What was shown to me was a vision of wonderful yellow light. A realm of wonderful golden light. It was somehow specifically located in Egypt. It was striking and delight- ful to me in the deepest way. It was the heart of peace and attraction.
I was planning a return to Yemen the following summer. This to face whatever it was that drove me away the first time. I was at a loss as to what else to do to advance the “Yemen Experiment.” Egypt would once again be on the way to Yemen. The experience described above seemed to bolster this intention to return to the Middle East.
Simon was somehow to be involved.
Later in that spring, I was planning an exhibition of paintings, to conclude my stay as artist-in-residence at an Episcopal parish in Long Beach. The month before the event, the invitations had been sent, while there was to be a certain amount of press coverage, another related story broke. A woman, who lived just across from the mural that I had painted on the back of a church in California, took the church to court to have the mural removed or altered. She felt offended that the figure of the resurrected Christ was not only nude but also seemed to be sexu- ally excited. The deep blue background also offended her. I certainly did paint the figure of Christ nude and there is an abstract suggestion of genitals. That is orthodox, necessary and not unusual in the history of Christian art. But it is so abstract that few would be likely to find any- thing sexually arousing in it. It is rather a “Rorschach” test. The image reflects much about those who are looking at it by their reaction. The fact that there are two 12-foot mirrors at the bottom of it indicates that theme very clearly. I thought that the figure should be nude because the resurrected Lord is the absolutely innocent paradigm of humanity who no longer needs to suffer the embarrassment of clothing. Clothing, it should be remembered, is associated with Original Sin and the Fall. The resurrection is the resolution of that problem. The sexual excitement seems to me to be a natural part of a normal, healthy, human response to what has to be the most exciting of total human/divine experiences, (the resurrection)—mundane/divine intercourse.
Though, when I actually painted it, I did not think of the attitude of that part as inappropriate. I don’t mind that others do. It’s quite natural. The level of public reaction to this controversy was amazing. According to the newspapers, this lady spent thousands in lawyer’s fees trying to get the mural removed. The local paper ran a front-page article, with full color picture. Several other papers picked it up. A national wire service did as well. There were stories on national TV and caravans of people began filing past the church.
All this attention came just two weeks before my exhibition— first in fifteen years and a major turning point in the pilgrimage. The newspa- per reporters began calling me just as I was planting a prayer pole and lighting incense at its base in front of the Episcopal Church compound where I was to have this exhibition. These were times of high magic. The mural was the icon of the Yemen Experiment and was the image that answered a prescient call to the service of culture and the world that brought me off the road 10 years earlier. From there I had entered the seminary and ministry in that diocese where the mural was eventually painted. What the mural represents as an object of power, depicting true human identity in the Resurrected Christ, is a response to the dis- astrous side of human technological genius. This is at the heart of the Yemen Experiment. If there has been any effect in the character of Being, it is already happening. But, who can really tell. In some spiritual way these happenings are connected with the tantric energies that have been building for these concluding moments of the Yemen Experiment. I am not proposing another cerebral theology here, except in so far as this combines study, prayer and appropriate action.
Bishop, is it this publicity about my exhibition, mural and my com- ments about priesthood and shamanism in those newspaper’s articles that caused your change of heart toward me? Perhaps none of us will ever know in this world, even yourself, if it was the Spirit that engineered your original kindness that allowed my freedom to effect this “ritual.” You are right when you say that a priest is not the same as a shaman. Potentially, a Catholic priest, (in the order of Melquizedek!), is the fulfillment of the shamanistic intuition and Buddhist silence as well. But they are also right who say that a priest is more than an ecclesiasti- cal bureaucrat manipulating programs, monies, people—a manager in an organization thereby reduced from the Mystical Body of Christ to a multi-national corporation.
In any case, soon after, Simon and I constructed a ritual of energy and protection for the Yemen Experiment. It involved the use of all two trunks of my own ritual objects. He created a energy circle of great duration and clarity around the sacred space in which I operated. That was in my studio. (This was still radiant with clear light when I returned months later.) Then, I left for Europe and the Middle East. Simon was to join me later in Yemen.