-Preparation is made for Pilgrimage to Greece.
-Altered states are described.
-Learn to fly
-Venice -Car accident
-Death of the Sacred King
My desire to go to Greece was still embryonic. At that time, I did not connect it much with the air-born vision of the gray cathedral that I had while flying back from India. There was simply a very strong attrac- tion to a certain part of the Greek Aegean coast.
I resisted this attraction for as long as I could. This whole direction was drawing me away from the mainstream of the seminary training. By that I do not mean just the mediocre “company” mentality with which many stereotype institutional religion. But I was being drawn away even from the highly dedicated, spiritual, orthodox souls that “jus- tify” that whole institutional system. I resisted that pull away. What I was doing was investigation, exploration. I tried to stay as balanced as possible in this context. One could not see around the next corner, much less the end.
I believe that it was around this time of the dream that I decided that I must, without question, go to Greece. But since I had no money, as usual, raising the funds, and simply the energy to do this, required major commitment. So, one night I constructed a ritual. During that nightlong ritual, I heated a ritual knife that I had used symbolically for slaying evil Very Hot. The knife had been given me by the Tibetans (along with such a concept as ‘slaying evil’). I held the knife to the backs of my hands. I did this “scarification” to mark the place of focus on the body for major healing energies. It was a gesture of purification and commitment to complete this “way” that I have chosen, this ritual pilgrimage.
The third event that prepared for Greece happened as follows: I had been elected by the student body of the Seminary as the student repre- sentative on what was the faculty policy-making body for the seminary, the General Seminary Committee. We were having meetings just after the end of the semester. During a meeting in a very warm and drowsy room, I slipped spontaneously into an altered state of consciousness. I was in that circle of white light, seated in meditation. I did not call the light this time as in the past. It summoned itself. It carried me up in a hammock of white light, up, up, until there was nothing but light and infinity. However, the tower of light was capped somehow. It needed my permission to let go. I knew that this was about the trip to Greece and all the pilgrimages. I hesitated for I intuited what it meant. Total com- mitment. This occurred a couple of months after the “scarification” ritual. Sometimes it takes months for these things to “kick in.” It was also several months after I first used the circle of light to protect Kathy and myself from the Shivalilas!
After a moment, I said “yes.” The tower of light, released from any constraint, reached up to infinity. I had kept track of the meeting while this was going on. I returned to the meeting energized, with clear, prac- tical comments about the subject of discussion. For weeks after, when- ever I told anyone about this experience, my hands would start to radiate a warm, strong energy that others could feel. I would fill with delight. Around this time, I did my first healing. It was only of a severe headache. But it was followed by the patient having a prescient dream in conjunction with some other paranormal phenomena described else- where. The two of us shared a powerful exchange of energy. (This sce- nario also provides the “other world” location of salvific power for development of this story in a later trip to India! But, for now, let me not venture too far into the swamp of traumatic coincidence. I will describe that when the time comes, as necessary.)
Thus began the first Greek pilgrimage.
I hitchhiked across the country after attending an ordination in Tucson, Arizona of some schoolmates. I flew from N.Y. to London. Crossing the Atlantic, I had a terrible migraine. (I kept thinking of Puck from “A Midsummer’s Night’s Dream” attending the flight.)
I started hitchhiking on arrival at 7:00 A.M. and arrived at Stonehenge by evening twilight. It was the night after the solstice, after Midsummer’s Night. I camped that evening on some Celtic burial mounds down from the “Stones” so that lithic monument was arrayed across the horizon above me against the night sky, in that season when it never really gets dark. I didn’t sleep much. I did not bring a sleeping bag, only a small knapsack with a change of clothing and mostly ritual implements otherwise.
I got up early and walked towards the highway. As I walked away from the mounds towards the “Stones,” a clear communication came to me. “We also seek (need) completion.”
Bishop, for a Christian, the completion is the Omega represented by the Christ. That is but one vocabulary in which to describe the ineffable.
The point here is that the “powers” represented there at Stonehenge are part of creation and thus the proper subject for my priestly, pastoral, salvific concern.
I started hitchhiking. The first car to come along picked me up. He had just left a Tibetan Buddhist Center in Scotland where he was a stu- dent and was headed to his home in the south.
I walked around Landsend in Cornwall, just to see it, then took a ship from Plymouth to France. By the end of my first day, I was walking through a small village out in the country of central France. Belloch, I believe is the name of the town. I walked through that village and a couple of miles further. I had a strong sense that there was a place for me to stay further up ahead. I walked a little further. On a hill to my left, behind some berry vines and trees, was an abandoned farmhouse. There was a water well with a hand pump, fruit trees and a place out of the weather. I stayed there. I made an offering of some almond cookies to the local spirit and animals. I was fasting. It was a pleasant place. Night came on. I tried to sleep. Too cold. I meditated and did certain breathing exercises taught by the Tibetans to produce yogic warmth. That worked for a while, but the concentration that it requires was harder than the cold. Then ‘something’ came for the offering. I was ter- rified. A terrible storm hit. The lightening seemed to be hitting so close all around. I had a vision of the Great Old Man. I fell asleep. I dreamt of the Great Old Man. He made me levitate in the dream. Then he directed me to fly to a huge burnt out old tree. How could I have known at the time that this would be the clue to the solution for the problem of the entire quest?
Morning came. What an awful night. It took days to remember all of it. I am, after this, not quite as strong as before. It was as if I got older somehow…
I was well taken care of by my rides until I got to Venice where I stayed in a friend’s apartment for a week. Most of my time there was spent inside her apartment in meditation. I was alone. In the midst of these meditations, it became clear where I was to go in Greece. I could point to it on a map. Katerini. I discovered later that it is at the foot of Mount Olympus.
After Venice, I went to an island named Krk, off Yugoslavia. What happened there I have recorded elsewhere…
I continued to travel south along the coast of Yugoslavia. I got a ride with some German students taking two ambulance vans to Syria as a gift from the students of their university to aid in the cause against imperialistic Israel. We traveled through Montenegro. It was dawn. Raining. I had a very bad feeling about being there. But this was the most direct route to get where I was going. I removed my seat belt after an eight hour ride.
Twenty minutes later, we hit an oil slick. The car went out of control. It was either the raging river far below or the wall of the mountain. We crashed into the rock wall. I went through the windshield. I hit my head but that didn’t hurt. I cracked my collarbone. Though the injury was not serious, it did hurt very much eventually. It prevented me from much physical exertion except for what was absolutely necessary to the pilgrimage; no tourism, no daredevil exhibitionism, nothing. But the constraint was more in the form of a clarification, a clarity of purpose. I had a vision of the clear intent of the pilgrimage separated from “nor- mal” recreational or educational or professional attitudes. I had been called to “see” something. That was all that was important. At that moment, that was all that I wanted.
At that moment, however, I was hanging out the front window. The windshield wiper was still in full operation and hit me rhythmically as I hung there. I was conscious. The wiper infuriated me. I ripped it off the car. We traveled on, (I in the bed of the ambulance!), to Thessalonika on the Greek coast of the Aegean Sea. They dropped me at the train station. They were tough, student revolutionaries who couldn’t waste time with such minor injuries as mine. The next morning, I caught the train for Katerini, down the coast. Apparently they were right about my recovery, since I made it to my destination.
Katerini is a plain place. There is a small beach suburb with a street of hotels, shops, and cafes. It is a working class resort. I went there after exploring the town. I chose a hotel at random. I was taken to my room. I was struck by the “rightness” of this room. It was not even on the beach side of the hotel. Rather on the ugly street side. But I knew that this was the right place for me to stay. The hotel has big cottonwoods that sing whispers of light reflections and clattering leaves on the beach that sepa- rate the hotel patio restaurant from the sand. It was really lovely there. Even the ugly daytime street was pretty at night with lots of people and lights. I rested there for several days. My shoulder hurts considerably.
After the fourth day, I began to despair that anything should come of being here. At sunset one day, I walked idly down the beach, I looked up and for the first time since my arrival, the clouds had cleared, making Olympus visible.
Magnificent mountain, powerful its effect on me. A wind came up off the Aegean Sea. Blew past me, almost as if it were pushing me towards the mountain. A wand like staff was washed up at my feet on the beach. I picked it up. I only noticed later that is an object of power. My heart opened and I felt the Spirit of that place call, pull me to the mountain. However, it was now almost dark. It was at least 20 km cross- country to the mountain. I would wait until dawn. That night I had powerful dreams. My parents figured importantly in these dreams. My father… My mother did something funny in one of them. I woke laugh- ing loudly. Slept. I woke again before dawn to began my hike to the mountain.
I exhausted myself after several hours of wandering through town, dump, fields, and orchards. My shoulder hurt intensely. I stopped to rest. Finally, I saw a large isolated building in the distance on a hill across a small valley from the foot of Mount Olympus. I approached it. It was a monastery under construction. No one was around. There wasa small cemetery with a tree and a chapel nearby containing wonderful icons. I stayed there for several hours. There, I was taken up in Hecate’s whirlwind. (Epithalamian Union!) Something in me changed. I intuited its importance but I had no rational understanding. There seemed to be, beneath this holy mountain, the presence of the Dragon Lord, the Spirit, showing me directly, darshan fashion, the relationship between God and gods; Power and powers, how magic works in the “grand ulti- mate” (Tai Chi) scheme of things. I was caught up in it. The Holy is awful, yet construed of utter peace. Silence. Peace…
Bishop, somehow, in all of this I gained an understanding of the working relationship between the physio-psychic complex of human personality and the divine. That day concluded when I came down from that hill into a small village. I asked for a drink of water and the young master of the house where I stopped gave me ice water and Ouzo. Great stuff. A little celebration. Then, he showed me an album of photos of his wedding. I was reminded, as he insisted that I look at the photo very carefully, of a word used much in the Renaissance, epithalamian. It refers to marriage, the marriage of opposite things. In the Renaissance, it was the attempted marriage of Greek philosophy and literature with Christian theology. Since the time of Scholastics, at least, Christian the- ology has expressed itself in Aristotelian categories (ala Thomas Aquinas). This characterized at that moment, for me, a marriage of sig- nificantly opposite issues. It was a marriage in my understanding of the things of natural religion with modern, rational religion. (Christianity cannot deny that it has opened the door in the west for both unre- strained science and capitalism! Though, I understand that that was not necessarily its intention.) I understood then, the relationship between the gods and God. With my body first, I understood how magic works, and mysticism. Something in me had “turned.” Intellectual understand- ing would come later, perhaps. This of course was perplexing as well as joyous at the time.
After this, I returned to the hotel. I found in a book stall on the street outside, a copy of Robert Graves’ book, “Greek Myths”, that describes a “Sacred King” who at the end of a set period of adulation, was scourged, sacrificed, and thought somehow to have become immortal or divine after that. Sometimes his flesh was eaten and his blood drunk. It is the heart of mythic structures in many, even most parts of the world. The figure of Heracles (Gk: “Beloved of Hera”) is one such sacred king and is characterized by his relationship with the Great Goddess figure, known as Hera in Greece, for one.
(Connection with dream on island of Krk? If anything, it would be an archetypal form rather than a sociological category!)
This was a shock to me on two levels. One, it was a shock that it seemed to attack the uniqueness of the Christ as the sacred king sacri- ficed to become immortal. I dealt with the realization that the Christ might still be the fulfillment and purification of human longing, not the contradiction of it. That I should have been shocked by this revelation of the Christ’s mythic roots is surprising since I was familiar with T.S. Eliot’s poetic musings, as well as Frazer’s work in this area. But, I had never come across it in such a way that seemed an assault on the iden- tity of Christ as this did. It took me a while to work out the relationship of Christ to the gods and their myths intellectually. Though in that place, I was hit with it—beneath the mountain and in the town—to the core of my being. Eons of mythic development in Europe, and the ancient Near and Far East have been woven into a swaddling cloth onto which is lain the infant Christ, paradigm of hope and humanity, the ful- fillment of the Scriptures and that whole vast, universal pool of mythic intuition.
The second shock was more positive for me. Heroes (like shamans) went through episodes of some trans-sexual nature that was part of their empowerment. This explains something about that mystifying aspect of religion. Confusion (not even activity) in this has brought me much conflict in Religious Life. This is not just a question of being homosexual or heterosexual. Investigation in this area is of central and utmost importance. Our real identity is pre-sexual and pre-personal— or supra personal, rooted only in the non-temporal. This is not an aber- ration. This is central to the religious quest. Such investigation should be free of moral stigma and distinguished from clinical dysfunction. This must be dealt with honestly, if discreetly. This is an important dynamic of all religious vocation and therefore important in human identity since religion melds opposites together from this terrible polar- ity, creating a new reality.
I woke up several days after the Olympus adventure, feeling rested for the first time since the accident. I felt very positive about hitchhiking back across Europe. Hitchhiking would solve money problems, since I had barely enough resources to even hitchhike back. It would reinforce the pilgrim way. In fact, I became excited about doing it. I could visit those Dervishes in southern Yugoslavia, to whom I had earlier been introduced by letter from a friend in the U.S. I remember going past the turn off to their town on the way to Greece. It was very beautiful coun- try. The image of the turn off to their town became again very clear in my mind from when I had first passed by in the ambulance. It is still beautifully attractive to me. At that moment of reverie, I was struck by a fierce headache, a full-blown migraine that lasted fifteen minutes. I ran cold water on my head to cool it down. The icy water was a relief. But I felt sickened and surprisingly weakened by the experience for hours.
“Alright, I won’t go that way.” Was it just a coincidence, the image and the headache? A warning? Perhaps it was the result of the very clear attraction/vision to S. Yugoslavia and the adventure of hitchhiking back, combined with the high energy of the challenge and desire to do it, that sent blood rushing to my head. I have often suspected that my headaches—migraines—were the result of certain high energy flows and the resulting tension which the Tibetan studies suggest are connected to yogic blood and oxygen manipulation. (Once when I was still associated with the psychologist who first taught me about the “energies,” I thought I would challenge my teacher by really “zapping” him with energy during one of our sessions. I asked him to sit in a chair. I stood over him, and tried to direct as much energy as I could into him. I immediately devel- oped full-blown migraine symptoms. I had to run to the bathroom to vomit and relieve myself. When I returned, he had me sit down and stood over me. I could feel tangibly the peace from him lapping against me and passing into me in a way that brought about my rapid, though chagrined recovery.)
If migraines, some forms of sexual re-orientation, depression, and various forms of obsessive behavior are side effects of the shamanic sen- sitivity, are they necessary? Is homosexuality or heterosexuality as iden- tity reference necessary? We have the experience we have – why do we have to categorize it, hang on to it – use it as a life identity. What are such orientations to a self that is “mystery”? Perhaps, they are all neces- sary. Bishop, what is this in Christ? It remains a great struggle for me to resolve these personal and Christological issues.
The story of the Christ rests on the same natal fabric; moves in, pos- tures in, the same garment as all human spirituality, but this is a seamless garment fashioned from threads of white gold, and spun from human mythology and history, binding the two, right brain and left brain, female and male. It is the great “epithalamian” union. The dross lead of our tawdry attitudes towards life is turned to gold at his touch. The Spirit breathes her life through the psychic processes and transforms them into the divine path. This Spirit is inherent in who we are. We move from the “gods” whose identity describes our perception/experience of natural phenomena, and various levels of consciousness of which we are capa- ble, to the infinite absolute. This is God. Sometimes we attempt to describe Godhead with the attributes of our own “gods,” that is our- selves/our world, but cannot. The question centers in this relationship between the physical and the spiritual. Do we have any control; do we take more than a passive part? If we do, what is it? In this regard, I have been fascinated with the realm of the “energies.” The realm Chi, is the aspect of Being wherein the world and the Spirit seem to meet most inti- mately, wherein the most “real” battle is being fought!
After leaving Katerini, I had a dream about my mother planting an orchard of trees; birch, poplar or cottonwood—sacred in many cul- tures. All the trees were very young in the field. She was fashioning images of reindeer or deer in the trees, some kind of tree-tenders craft. I saw several of them. A search for a deer is an ancient icon for the search for wisdom, and freedom, God! I must go home.
I didn’t go to Mt. Athos. The “monastic kingdom.” Citadel of the Hesychasm cloistered on that peninsula off the Greek mainland, though a visit there would have been advisable for my religious studies. I returned home as fast as I could, hitchhiking across Europe and America. (Actually, I went to Istanbul, then by train to Munich to com- mence hitchhiking so as to avoid S. Yugoslavia.) In my room at home where I began this ‘work,’ nine years before, the Great Old Man appeared to me once again. He was seated in my chair next to the win- dow, across the room from me, as I was seated in meditation. The Great Old Man changed into an image of Christ…
Bishop, is all of this mere self-glorification, perhaps of a fragile, even broken ego? Or is it completely unmerited Grace? Or the strivings of a “ordinary to bright” intelligence looking for more than intellectual meaning in life? Perhaps, a combination of all the above, or something else entirely? Who can say at this point? Nor shall I dwell long on such consideration, but continue along the path while I still have any light at all to go by. There is a sense of urgency about it. Telling the story seems to encourage and empower me to continue