BEFORE THIS POINT IS SINCERE RESEARCH WHILE LIVING A RELIGIOUS TRADITION- WHAT FOLLOWS IS SPECULATION AND EXPERIMENT THAT EXTRAPOLATES FROM THE PREVIOUS EXPERIENCE- With influences from Shamanism, Buddhist Tantra, and Secular Altruism.
It’s allegory, sorry- and there be monsters…
-The “problem” of this story is stated (again) and a solution to be tried.
-2nd Cuernavaca and the Mexican earthquake, the body-earth connection.
-Child molestation and Good Friday child.
-Mural -Rain Rituals
-Disasters, disasters, disasters
-Poison and Vision
-The Black Widow, my familiar
-Prescience of Egypt and the Golden Light
-The mural engages its magic
Bishop, if nothing else, this shows some of my thinking around nearly impossible topics. Early on I was told: “Believe and see what happens.” I did. I’m only half sure about the approach described here, but there have been enough occasions of extraordinary coincidence- to the point of the paranormal, and more- so that I opted to continue. The very energy, intelligence, and vigor that is required for ‘success’ in this Age, also has a dark side- Even in the lives of the well-intended. Here is the Problem as I see it:
In the pilgrimage to Turkey, there was, as you know, a personal problem to be solved, migraines that were hitting me three or four times a week. Blinding, screaming, floor pounding 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. Self-glorification? Maybe. But somehow it seemed linked to the painful evolution of human consciousness and the natural processes of the world. In particular, I believed this natural condition of suffering in the world to be amplified to the point of self-destruction by the recent revolution in technological progress. (1,000,000,000 people at or near 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- the 6th Extinction!) This is the product of human genius which has only recently proved its capacity to destroy the world. 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.
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 creation, the macrocosm. The first step was to identify one’s personality completely with the processes of creation, then begin to “adjust” the various elements of this larger “self” as one might in psychic, medical or religious therapy. Micro-Macro comparison is foundational in many Schools of Mysticism. One views the human body as one views the universe, for instance.
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 geomantic thurgery.
This is what happened:
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 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. The first since E. Turkey months before. Then, the Mexican earthquake hit. It lasted at least five minutes 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 lose qualities of normal personality; becomes nature or a force of nature. There was a connection that I cannot quite describe.
In any case, this is the first of a series of disasters that I associate with the Yemen experiment. 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. This forty foot mural on the back wall of St. Joseph Church in Santa Ana was dedicated on Easter Vigil. 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. It was to gain considerable attention a couple of years later.
There were 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 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. However, he seemed to have a problem. The interesting thing is that I have felt fatalistically connected to him for a time. Morally I supported him. One should not 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 sexual predators, 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 usually appeal to institutional managers. Though the bishop, your predecessor, was patient and counseled reconsideration when I finally began to take action.
Before 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, I developed a headache, 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, but the most cars going very fast 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: a sacrifice, to empower the ritual that the mural came to represent with the life energies of the one sacrificed and/or to communicate with the gods by sending such a person as a highly favored ambassador from the material, temporal 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, among several like issues, earned me a leave of absence from my diocese. 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 “ritual” craft, the next pilgrimage. I wanted both that freedom and to stay in the diocese as I was, to be a “good priest.”
Whatever I wanted, I was removed from my parish — a traumatic experience — 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 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 “primary ignition” was the wilds of western Montana. The state was in its second year of 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 come down. Disappointing! So I traveled on toward the dry 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 who 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 the (dragon) 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 saying 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 vehicles and new cars from coast to coast for car 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 value of fasting and hardship. The husband was less enthused and generally resented 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 dry–from the parched sheaves of wild oats along the road to the cracked earth where I chose to lie down for 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 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 several hours of walking through the night, I found a place of refuge near a special hill that seemed in the moment to be special, that seemed to have a strong geomantic energy about it, although it had not been treated with the reverence it deserved. On one side was the freeway while near the top was a 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, great 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 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 definite relationship between the ritual and the rain. It seemed like an assent from God. Something larger than my intention is building. I am a priest to this harsh love. It is the way of the warrior’s care. The Great Old Man, guide, travels with me in all this, in the “other” realm.
I arrive in New York, and call home to find out that my parents’ ranch home, where I was raised, had burned and that the bishop who ordained me has died!! I mention this here in particular because for a time there is a series of such destructive coincidences attached to ritual/pilgrimage methodology of my quest- even a long list of deaths.
Now Yemen. I arrive there on the plain of Sanaa. Immediately, I felt a powerful sense of revulsion. There was a powerful foreboding from the surrounding mountains. Opposition?
Then, I almost had a sexual encounter. High arousal but no physical contact. Terrible regret followed. But thus humiliated by deviation from my vows, I was free for a while from the usual ego delusions of being superior and in control. Perhaps that was required to accomplish 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 frustration, 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 arrived in Sanaa, I had had a series of spontaneous visions. In these, I have a staff of iron now with throwing strap of leather that I use to 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’s identity. 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. TAKE NOTE. This is the fifth dragon– the strongest, the darkest.
Around that time, it was the day I was in Yemen, a lake in Africa explodes. A gas cloud from beneath the water rises then descends the sides of that mountain to kill everything for miles around. Other disasters follow. (The newspapers are full of unusual disasters around the world.) I fly to Paris. Take a train to the Pyrenees, then hitch-hike to Spain. I wait in Spain for Panikkar. While I wait, there is a re-dedication of my life to the Heart of Creation we call the Christ. I am in a hotel in Ripoll. I am laying 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 suddenly realize that I must resist it. I grasp the staff of iron, strike the ground but it hit a rock hard surface. The staff vibrates painfully against such resistance. I send the white fire into the staff. It sears into the rock. I am free of brown comfort. I travel next to Tavertet. When Panikkar and I meet, a drought of several months breaks with a big rain. (Fires around the Benedictine monastery at Mt. Serrat and the Californian monastery at Big Sur where I stayed for two months.) I tell him the story of my days in Yemen, curiously, on St. Augustine’s feast day.
I receive a letter from my diocese advising me strongly to come home. I also am ready to return.
Panikkar offered me employment as his assistant. This would have opened to me the high world of intellect and culture in Europe, India, and America because of the exalted regard in which he was held in those circles. But since I feel that I should return to the place where I made vows, he agrees.
The day I return home, my father had a heart attack. There is an airliner crash in the town just north of where I am staying. 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) loaned a car and time to deal with my family situation. Not long after that, the car’s engine bursts into flames while I am driving it into a parking lot. My father dies amidst very beautiful shamanistic signs. But these are terrible, poignant moments.
My parish assignment is with one of the worst pastors in the Southland. I knew him well enough, but I thought that I could handle it. A month into the assignment, I discovered him screaming, over some inconsequential matter, at the high school boys who answered phones evenings in the rectory. I couldn’t sleep that night. This happened several times. I began to understand more fully why all the previous priests in this assignment left before the completion of their assignment under this pastor.
I had decided that I would keep the year’s silence I had promised to myself but I would compose a letter to the Bishop, describing my view of the Church, why I’m still loyal to it and why I think it is dysfunctional. No holds barred. I should thank that pastor whose abuse prodded me on to writing this letter.1
This letter 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, the Ph.D. program in Berkeley but would not pay for it. I chose the latter.
That summer, Bishop, 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? Well, that is another question… dealt with it earlier… Excuse me if I digress…
Later, as I was preparing to leave on pilgrimage to balance the effects (disasters) of last summer in Yemen and the world 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 tornado, 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 which 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 intuitively 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 personality 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 Nepsis. Let me say simply here 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. when just minutes after an all-night vigil, another earthquake, 6.1 in magnitude, struck Southern California.
Thus the pilgrimage ended as it began, though 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.2
(Perhaps my interpretations of some of these minor events and sequences seem ‘flaky’ but they lead to experiences that are solid and confirmed, though at times para-rational…)
One of these martial artists, 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 discovered 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 reaction 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, shrank to considerably less than before- So humorous! This changes over the years. But it was disconcerting at the time.
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 discovered 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 reaction 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, shrank to considerably less than before- So humorous! This changes over the years. But it was disconcerting at the time.
This nettle infection and consequent allergic reaction were resolved like this. These heretofore “friendly” meetings with these martial artists followed by illnesses struck me as a pattern. In realizing this I determined 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, 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 all more mere coincidence.) My Christian friends found in this an opportunity to warn me away from these martial acquaintances. Perhaps I was barging into areas for which I was not yet well enough prepared. So, my exposure to both Japanese Zen and Chinese Esoteric Martial Arts initiated a very strong reaction in me: Black Widow spider, Poison Oak and other attacks. 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 nettles 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 spider, 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 otherwise felt. I convalesced for two weeks, developed a staph infection and blood poisoning, convalesced another week. During that time I had moments of wonderful 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 reclusive, but a poignantly poisonous beast.
Soon after, I hitch-hiked across the country. This is December 1987. On the way back, I stopped in Zuni. I was shown a picture painted by that Indian artist of a spider-like insect standing over an island. It is the mythic grandmother spider standing over the island of existence mentioned in American Indian legends. My friend (Cathy of the India pilgrimage) whom I visited on the other side of the country, gave me a book for Christmas on Tantra in Tibet. I had read the book years ago. I opened it to a page and read a paragraph of which I had no memory. It defined Tantra as the “web.” So the spider image is not so negative after all. She will have a major influence in the development of this story.
I am afraid of 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, perhaps tragic, sacrifice in that it can entrap or set free.3
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 delightful 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. Chris 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 altered. She felt offended that the figure of the resurrected Christ was not only nude but seemed to be sexually aroused. She was also offended by the deep blue background. 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 anything 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. I don’t mind that others find that part as being sexually excited. It’s quite natural.
The level of public reaction to this controversy was amazing. According to the newspapers, this lady spent $20,000 in lawyer’s fees trying to get the mural removed. The local newspaper 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 T.V. and caravans of people began filing past the church. (Nobody had paid any attention at the dedication of the work three years earlier.) All this attention came just two weeks before my exhibition; first in fifteen years and a major turning point in the pilgrimage. The newspaper 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, shamanistic technique depicting true human identity in the Resurrected Christ, is the answer to the disastrous 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. 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. This is catholic action.
Bishop, is it this publicity about my exhibition, mural and my comments about priesthood and shamanism in those newspaper 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 priesthood, (in the order of Melquizedek!), is the fulfills for us the shamanistic intuition and Buddhist silence4 as well.
But they are also right who say that a priest is more than an ecclesiastical bureaucrat manipulating programs, monies, people; a manager in what would be thereby reduced from the Mystical Body of Christ to a multi-national corporation. In any case, soon after, Chris 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 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.) But, then I was off to Europe and the Middle East. He was to join me later in Yemen.
91  ‘Cosmic Crucifixion’
Oil on Panal 5.5′ x 3′ 1983
…this picture that tries to express a sense of the cosmic dimension of kenosis and sacrifice.