That was all so long ago. I eventually went back to India to work with Agnes. A real saint. I gave up magic. I gave up sorcery. Put it all away. The two of us women worked together for years. When Agnes died, I took over. Thus, I have labored here for the last twenty years, among these lepers.
But I often think of those strange experiences long ago and how we were saved in the end. Remarkable things would happen when Chris and I got together…
Chris had gained control of $300,000,000,000 worth of investment accounts. Others want it: the CIA, a reactionary organization in the Catholic Church, Magnum Dei, and other, even more insidious agents. Chris had obtained these financial resources from a devoted follower, Mrs. Shanti. (Chris always could attract people, especially people with money.) She inherited these accounts from her Green Beret son, who was secretly a C.I.A. operative killed as he worked a drugs/guns/money triangle in Southeast Asia. He was also a member of Magnum Dei who had invested some of their funds in his Asian operation. It took years, after his death, for these various forces to find where Mrs. Shanti’s son had hidden the money.
Chris discovered that not only does he have all this money to deal with, but certain arduous travel experiences and the study of mysterious Asian religions have awakened in him unusual powers. Such powers that can effect the weather, destroy his enemies or even cause earthquakes. He struggles to reconcile this with orthodox religion as he knew it before. He fears that his powers are Satanic, since the darkness of their exercise results in much destruction.
Chris’s main nemesis, whose name is Adam, tries to ferret out Chris’s secrets in order to gain control to the treasure. Adam, otherwise charming, helped once upon a time to develop the Vietnam War in order to gain enormous profit for his clients in supply and munitions sales. He operates along the edge of true evil. Though he feels lured by Chris’s way, he is a dark alter-ego to Chris’s search for wholeness, holiness, health, and survival.
Chris is also opposed by the Bishop, a member of that sinister, confused, but very influential organization, Magnum Dei. Some members of the death squads in El Salvador were members of Magnum Dei. The Bishop investigates Chris and sends an inquisitorial priest, Fr. Patrick Mallin, to bring Chris and his money into line. Fr. Pat, however, is quietly independent with his own agenda. He is nearly converted to Chris’s cause through the sometimes sensual efforts of Chris’s assistant— ME—and a “special” relationship with Chris himself that some mistake as sexual.
No, Chris. Please. Move away from me. Don’t touch me.
Even as he resists, Pat’s arms writhe snake-like about Chris in response to Chris advance. But this is not a physical joining. Sexuality is only a guise of deeper unions. This is a union of per- sons. In this embrace, the“two are made one”, their energies merge. What is necessary is the shift of consciousness that reveals ‘original’ energies. The following is the sense of their exchange. But the experience was really a series of sensations, radical states of consciousness rapidly accessed and passed through, indescribable ontological shifts.)
Still Pat and Adam move together to some ontic rhythm only they, still entranced, can hear. Their touch is arousing in a way to which no pornography could ever aspire, more satisfying even to watch than any… Avalanche of ice roars, gravity drawn, crushing the side of a near-by mountain. Wind blows strong enough to level the few trees around these frugal stone buildings, crashes through this high valley, through their beings, Pat and Chris, now one. Pat is finally claimed. In ways that he won’t even remember as he wakes.
Chris nearly succeeds in his task to convert Fr. Pat to his Way. But finally, he renounces compulsion and offers Pat freedom of choice to do what is right.
In the meantime, Adam, thinking that he has discovered the access codes to the money abandons his pursuit of Chris and proceeds to the security control room in a secret Swiss bank. He is nearly killed by the bank’s security system because his code was incomplete. He recovers and returns to the chase on the Tibetan Plateau just as Chris is confronting Fr. Patrick.
Chris is in confrontation with the elements of creation, powerful forces in Religion, as well as that insidious agent of secular power, Adam. Chris is plagued by conscience, doubt, and terror. Yet, in pursuit of his holy intentions, he seems to be protected by the very powers that plague him. He entices Pat with strange power beyond imagining, the force of which simultaneously destroys most of Adam’s hired assassins and rips open a vast chasm thousands of feet deep between Chris and Adam’s confused forces. Adam has just begun to suspect the process of conversion that pursuing Chris has begun in his heart. He recommits himself to obtain access to Mrs. Shanti’s inheritance, (“peace beyond understanding,” according to T.S. Eliot, something that neither Adam, nor the modern heart, is quite ready to substitute for the money). Adam fails this time, but is open to a sequel.
Chris’s quest has climaxed when in a waking dream trance he sets certain forces in motion meant for the salvation and survival of the world. Chris and Stephanie climax when they discover very traditional but little known teachings about the sweet delights of a spiritual friendship as potent as their formerly physical relationship.
…21th Century no longer accepts, so readily, racist, anti-Semitic, sexist, authoritarian, xenophobic attitudes in religion. But some aspects of these involvements in religious history predate even stone-age value systems, even such taboos for or against incest, homosexuality or even bestiality. All in the brain structures, in the central nervous system, in the body itself. Study/practice leads one not only through the positive beauty of other tra- ditions but also into the horror that typifies history.
Stephanie muses widely, then remembers this following encounter with one of Chris’s pursuers:
Fr. Pat opens the unlocked door of Steph’s room. He slips in quietly. Dusk cast shadows obscure his entrance. Steph remains lost in thought as she gazes out the window at a darkening college town. She hears a slight noise and turns.
Who are you? What are you doing in here? I’ll call the guard. What do you want?
No, don’t call out. Don’t call anyone. I just want to talk to you.
Why not just knock?
To talk to you about Chris.
What do you know about them? Who are you?
I’m Fr. Pat, I just want to talk. That’s all. It is important that we talk. …I’m trying to understand Chris. I have been sent by my bishop to find him and to question him about some of his activities and writings. So, I’ve tracked him across the world. And I now have reason to believe that you know where he is. I wanted to talk to you first because I thought that you might be able to help me understand before I have to take action that we all might regret. I have to report to the Bishop. He is ready to recommend to Rome that Chris be censured, condemned and excommunicated. Perhaps more… Before I report to the Bishop I want to be sure that we have not misunderstood Adam’s intention. So, will you talk to me?
I don’t know—I don’t know that I can help you… You might be asking the wrong person. I don’t know that I understand his religious attitudes. But I know him and I trust him. He is a true Catholic. He believes in the Church. And God and Jesus Christ. He is a believer. If that is what you are worried about.
Well, yes, that is what we are worried about. Others would disagree with you. But what we want to know about in particular is more difficult to understand. He claims certain powers and is an expert in com- parative religion. So, we don’t want to make a mistake. I know that you are young to understand such things. You are also very intelligent. You went to one of the best colleges in the world and you had one of the best GPAs. So, at least you might have the capacity to understand. Perhaps you can help me understand him. Then I can help him.
How do you know so much about me? I have to be thorough, or people get hurt. If you want to help him… Maybe… Thank you. Let’s start with shamanism and being Christian and altered states of consciousness in religious experience. And his connection with the theological work of Stephen Sete…, you know, the Native American in New Mexico. Do you know the connection that he sees in all this?
I really don’t. Maybe it is an integration of various cultural, religious and artistic elements, sort of- knowing Chris, maybe aesthetic values, exoteric and esoteric religious principles. I’m just repeating phrases that I’ve heard him talk about.
What about drugs? Doesn’t he do drugs?
What do you mean? What is all this bull shit? You don’t want to help him. You want to catch him.
I do want to help him. I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to imply that he was into anything criminal. I’ve just heard that maybe he did drugs and I wanted to know if there was any connection to you or other young peo- ple; where he got such things. Is he an addict? Who hooked whom? That sort of thing.
You’ve got to be kidding. (She pauses as if reconsidering something.) Do you always approach so directly…?
(Stephanie eyes him warmly, even a little seductively. Pat tries to ignore the atmosphere Stephanie begins to create.) She continues:
Look, the success or failure of Chris’s ‘experiment’, in the context of the volatile effect that contemporary culture has on the potential for such experience can only be understood as one explores techniques and traditions found in such categories as Shamanism, Tantra, and the eastern Christian Hesychasm. If you want to know or ‘understand’ Chris, you have to know those things.
What experience, what do you mean by “volatile effect…” etc.?
Altered state of consciousness. I thought you would know about such things. Since, you are so thorough.
Well, I don’t. So explain it to me. What experiment? (There is an unexpected assertiveness in Fr. Pat’s voice, as if he is quietly fighting for command. Steph has understood this and uses it.)
I bet you always find out what you want to know, don’t you?
What do you mean?
I bet you always get your man… or woman—as the case may be. Well…An underlying element of cohesion for the overall experiment is in the “energies”: Divine Energies (created and Uncreated) of the Hesychasm, Prana and Kundalini of Vedic lore, Tsa (Tibetan), Chi (Chinese), Qi (Korean), etc. This phenomena is related to many reli- gions, opens the door to a discussion about certain techniques for the “shift of consciousness” that seemed extraordinary. Yet, these are secure in the general human inheritance of serious religious practice.
You sound like you are delivering a paper. How do you know this?
Chris and I had a close relationship. Very close. I’ve read everything that he ever wrote. Several times. Listened to him very carefully. Do you want me to go on?
His ‘experiment’ operates within the aesthetic and comparative religious context on several levels: It refers to the frequency with which various forms of altered states of consciousness, even ‘sacred drunkenness’, is found in the history of religion. I personally witnessed this phenom- ena during shamanistic rituals among the Buddhist (and non) people of the Helumbu and Khumbu regions of Nepal and the Christian (and non-) Tarahumara Indians of the Sierra Tarahumara in Mexico. Examples can even be found among the ecstatic sects of Judaism. I do my homework very thoroughly.
Wait. Hold on. What does that mean? I’m not familiar with any of that. Slow down.
Didn’t you study religion?
My concentration was on Catholic theology.
Apparently that is not enough.
Just slow down. Do you mind if I record this? Just for my own use?
Why not? Everybody knows the problem. They want a solution. Not more consciousness raising.
Well… maybe later. Are you sure that you have the time for all this? Is there going to be a later, for us? I mean for our conversation? How much do you want to know?
Everything. Stephanie, I want to know everything that you can tell me.
Well, if you are sure…
I’m very sure. Please continue.
For instance, the first miracle performed by Jesus Christ was to turn water into wine at a wedding for which there is no evidence that he did not participate fully in the celebration. (Though, it is usually assumed that he would not.) The connection here is to the agrarian—pagan and dionysian—experience in shamanistic and agricultural religion. This is contrasted with the apollonian, urban sobriety, Nepsis, that has dominated official Christian practice since the early Fathers of the Church clarified what was and what was not appropriate Christian practice. In this, there is a suspicion that Christ not only understood the “Original” threat in such a move away from the “natural” but recommends a lifestyle more in the direction of our shamanistic origins or even a ‘yogic’ vision rather than the direction of historic urban-based empires as that of Rome and others- military or business. Temporal rule opposed to atemporal consciousness.
Is this what you wanted to know, Fr. Pat?
Among other things. Go on.
I shall. Examples sensational for some, such as sacred inebriation, sacred hallucinogenic substances such as peyote, or San Pedro cactus, are important members of a body of techniques that includes prayer, meditation, music, dance, stories, poetry, icons, mandalas, rituals, other psychedelics, ascetic practice and various other yogas which have been and are still used to alter consciousness for the sake of achieving a mul- titude of spiritual, atemporal states, even absolute realization.
Do you drink, Fr. Pat?
Would you like something? I have…
I’ll put a bottle of wine in the fridge, to chill. (Fr. Pat is uncomfortable with this advance by Stephanie. His body tenses for a moment. His lean, athletic hips shift tightly. But does not protest as Stephanie places a bottle of deep, dark, blood red wine on its side in the refrigerator.)
Perhaps you know that Chris has critiqued his own approach according to the norms of aesthetical theory, especially as that is applied to icons, mandalas, and Abstract Expressionism and traditional theology. It’s all available. Well, the formal critical work is. There are lots of things that he never published.
Last time I talked to him, he was trying to clarify how his work fits into the larger scheme of human knowledge by representing the cos- mologies, beliefs (gods, God, or science), spiritual experience (from kenosis to sunyatta) and psychic experiences (psychokinesis to rain- making) that are the self-identification of people(s) in dramatized rituals. The whole of this is developed and critiqued according to Stephen Setewa’s categories, such as… You sure this is what you want?
Well, I don’t know those terms. Tell me more about Stephen Seteotewah.
Stephen Se-te-wah. Besides being a famous medicine dancer in his Southwest Native American tribe, and a dedicated Catholic, he has an academic expertise in Theology, the History of Religion and the Philosophy of Science. He holds doctorates in Chemistry, Theology, and Philosophy. He has taught at Cambridge, Harvard and the University of California among others and has published more than thirty books and three hundred major articles.
Wow. Well… ah, what is the connection between shamanism and Christ? So much of what you seem to think is this beautiful shamanistic experience, people in the west have considered devil worship and evil.
Well, Father, maybe some of it is! However, follow this if you will. Traditional scholarship connects Christ to the Old Testament prophetic tradition. But it is also undeniable that the Old Testament develops out of the more ancient mythic pool of the Middle East and further out of 40,000 years of universal, shamanistic and agricultural religious evolu- tion. You can check scripture scholars like Noth for such references.
Yes, I read a little of Noth in the Sem.
A little is not enough, is it?
Chris does not suggest that Christ used or didn’t use such techniques but does suggest his sympathy with the flow between the ordinary and the sacred found in such immediacy in archaic, agrarian society. That there is a natural ‘rhythm’ to life that we pervert in the contemporary lifestyle. That perversion is the anti-Christ for Chris.
However, what happened after Christ is more important than Christ maybe since we know so little about him and so much about what Christians have done- good and bad. “Nepsis” is an important concept in all this and in the development of Christianity as you know, no doubt.
Not really. What is “Nepsis?”
It refers, Father, to a state of spiritual attainment that is clear, awake, sober, and watchful for the advent of the Lord. The ten virgins in scripture, half of whom had oil for their lamps and half who did not. Those who had the oil had prepared for the Lord’s coming. Those who did not were not and were left out in the dark and wailing and grinding of teeth!
Chris’s Master’s thesis focused on processes leading to this state of being “Awake” as did a major element in his Ph.D. comprehensives. It is also an important point of connection for understanding the relationship of Christianity to Buddhism, whose goal is to “wake up!”
So, Chris might say that a Christian example of techniques for altering consciousness to more atemporal realization would be 1700 very sober years of Christian monasticism.
Yes, exactly. As Chris would say further, some anthropologists postulate that the story of the Fall (Original Sin) in the Old Testament is really the poetic memory of a major transition from a hunter-gatherer people to the development of agriculture around the top of the Persian Gulf, a garden lush locale at the time. Thus, it results in development of civilization in Mesopotamia. Christ and Genesis perhaps call for a return from the empires of civilization to a less ambitious, less ego- driven mindset that allows for a personally closer relationship with God.
Never heard it explained like that. What were those tongue twisting words you mentioned. Cosmothean.., what …?
Never mind that for now. Cultures and religions are the product of many mutual influences and are not derived from any single, ‘pure’ source.
I don’t understand what you mean by atemporal….
Well, Father, atemporal means non-temporal.
Yes, I know that, but why such heavy emphasis.
You know I did not invent history. It’s what we all have to deal with.
Well, Christ and a few others indicate that we have more to deal with than that.
Yes, of course.
What do you think my life has been about? Why are you being sarcastic? Just because I’m not obsessed with your Chris?
Aren’t you? What do you really want?
Just what I told you. Excuse me for losing my patience. I’m really interested in what you are telling me. What about the atemporal now?
Well, Chris believes that Christ meant that if you approach your life in a certain way you could experience the Parusia, the Kingdom of Heaven, the Resurrection, all now, death is not significant anymore since the temporal and the atemporal are really of one fabric—singular being. Some of the more ancient cultures, such as the shamanistic, seem to be more in touch with this approach than our current mindset. It seems to me that the Church has been saying something like that all along.
Well, then Chris is a true son of the Church. But the so called traditional Church has also been steeped in racist, anti-Semitic, sexist, authoritarian, xenophobic attitudes, typical of world cultures all over. Vatican II tried to change that.
Well, maybe Vatican II threw the baby out with the bath water.
Maybe Chris doesn’t think so. And maybe one of the greatest moments of that council was its openness to the revelation of God in other religions.
Some fear… Satanism, you know.
Some fear it in the Church’s activities as well, the inquisition for instance and the destruction of non-European cultures such as in the New World, or the even more pathetic fundamentalist movements.
Well, anyway let’s go on. What is all this about martial arts. We are supposed to promote peace.
You mean Tai Chi?
Well, maybe the more violent forms.
Tai Chi properly applied is the most lethal.
Well, allright, exactly. Such esoteric martial practice as developed in China reflects not only a mixture of all the great spiritual traditions of the Far East, the physiologies, cosmologies of Asia and most of the world before Science, but as well a discipline that does not allow for slippery cover-ups characteristic of lethargic hearts and minds found in many more pacific religious traditions!
Feel strongly about this, do you?
I don’t like sloppy attitudes.
Does Chris continue to practice?
Chris is an advanced martial artist.
I still don’t see the connection.
Chris believes that we are in an important stage of transition in the battle for sentience in this world. The battle for life on this planet even.
Alright. I can see that. The fighter, the warrior, the medieval knight errant. But what is the connection with shamanism?
Different states of consciousness.
You don’t learn how to get into these states easily. You get pummeled until you learn… You can’t mistake hope or desire for these abilities… There are tremendous powers that can be built up in martial arts. Lot of it is physical but a lot is energy, chi. You can take the evil path, but it will drive you crazy or your body will degenerate. Your body will not be able to handle the energies that flow through you. So you must follow the God path. God will help you handle the energies. The founder of Aikido was a religious ‘enthusiast.’ Shinto and meditation. Harmonize the Universe. Harmonize the other. Tremendously powerful. Lived to a ripe old age. (A sign of success in Martial Arts.)
But altered states…?
Altered states of consciousness. Two attitudes. One, alters consciousness to effect skill in fighting. Or, 2, the fighter alters consciousness to explore the universe ontologically.
…How do you account for the variety of martial artists?
Perhaps some were even evil, certainly some were nasty fellows. Yang Cheng Fu’s older brother, Yang Shao Hou, was a real killer. Became a sour, bitter, old man. But then that was their profession. Its danger. You can go for altered states outside martial context. Maybe martial arts keep you ‘entertained’ while you mature enough to seek deeper things. At least, the discipline is there.
So you think that martial arts might be a spiritual path for someone who is more energetic, physically oriented.
Maybe. Depends on the person. ONE DOES THESE EXERCISES, LIKE WALKING IN A CIRCLE IN PA QUA, UNTIL THE POSTURES AND ENERGIES ARE SECOND NATURE. ONE IS USED TO MOVING IN THAT ALTERED STATE! THEN IN A FIGHT ONE MOVES INTO IT IMMEDIATELY. Eliade’s understanding of Shamanism sees this ability to shift consciousness as mastery of ecstasy and the primary ability of the shaman. I have begun to suspect that this ability is the fundamental and pivotal characteristic of a gestalt vision of human identity, integrated psyche, cosmos and deity. This vision has invaded every aspect of Chris’s perspective. His pilgrimage, his prayer, hell, even his bank account.
What do you mean?
Well, instead of numbers, or magnetic sequence like on a versatellar card, there is an energy pattern produced by certain attitudes and dif- ferent states of consciousness. Those can be detected by certain kinds of special photographic processes.
So… the code to the accounts is somehow contained in the martial arts form!?
You are clever, aren’t you! That’s all you wanted, isn’t it? After all our talk, you liar, all you wanted is the money!
No. Please understand. Our first interest is Chris as a person. But you must understand. We are not the only one’s interested in Chris. There are others. And they are not interested in his personality…
Suffice it to say, that is how I got the clue that led to my disastrous attempt to access those huge investment accounts in Switzerland that Chris controls. But he is much more complicated than I anticipated. I thought him naive, I guess I’m lucky to be alive. Pride goeth before a fall, they say. …and the Seduction???
Stephen laughs from his desert reservation…
Mother and I wander through the family graveyard, pleasant with wild California poppies, golden, and purple lupine…
Chris and Stephanie walk along a warm, misty beach—children play along the shore…
Agnes, gem like, like clear water. She sits on the verandah in her wheel chair, one—legged Agnes. Amidst the lepers. Distant, muted clatter from their little houses as they finish perhaps their evening meal.
Having fought off the final schizophrenic split, of personalities and lives, she sits one, whole. A life of integrity and service. She refuses to have telephones and faxes in her place. Too easy. Destroy communica- tion. Writing and talking is better. So old now. The good fight won. She remembers everything as she gazes over her evening garden. No need for television or radio. She sees all she has seen… and more. Art and knowledge, science and literature, myth and history, all leads/returns to simple, ordinary, atemporal consciousness—All in one great clear light,
as evening’s dark conceals slowly
the garden’s final range of earthly sights
in this night’s tired air
in this night’s
and final light.