Tuesday, May 3, 2011

How Did a Nice Suburban White Boy End Up Worshiping Kali? Part 4

I'm reading Cosmic Trigger: The Final Secret of the Illuminati yet again, this time with my Spiritual Autobiography students, who are the age I was when I first read it. I don't have to tell you it's a different book now; I'm not 21 or 31, I'm close to 50; I have my own Angel (in the day, I could only read of Wilson's and Crowley's with puzzlement or cautious envy); I have my own family, my own history, my own map of the world, made with my own hands. What also makes this very formative book different is I have to explain it to people who wouldn't have chosen to read it, which means I have to understand it in 4D: Leary and the field of psychology, Crowley and the Western magical tradition, quantum mechanics, Fortean phenomena, conspiracies, the 1960s and 70s, where it all came from and how it all fits together...

and the big Venn diagram of all these ideas and happenings links with my personal oval, and my oval links with others and others in a braid that adds up to Kalibhakta's cultural DNA. Cosmic Trigger and the work of Wilson and Leary and Crowley have been part of my genome for so long, yet still cast such long shadows, they're like the Age of Reptiles. [Right now, in fact, I feel I should apologize to the Shade of Wilson for not writing this in E Prime.] My more recent DNA comes from from Andrew Harvey, Shree Maa, and from my Angel (are those last two different? I'm not sure--). I've evolved from a confused vision-haver into a neurologician and now into a devotee, a child in the lap of Kali. Wilson's mind trip, on my evolutionary branch, has become Ramakrishna's heart trip, stirred with rock n' roll and splashed over ice from Walden Pond.

I wrote to Wilson in the late 1990s, at a low point, codependent and scared and trying to keep the earth turning on its axis, asking him how to do the Sufi heart chakra exercise that saved his life when he lived in the slums, on welfare, trying to feed his kids and keep his Sirius-struck head. He didn't write back and, having heard of his generosity, I wonder(ed) if his silence wasn't, at least tangentially, on purpose-- the kind of "correct mistake" sages make. Had I got the Word from The Master, I might not have pursued my own tantric experiments or joined Al-Anon, might not have had to jimmy the heart-lock myself ...I might not have been pushed into the arms of Shree Maa, and Kali-- unthinkable! --but then again all it took for me to end up in Her cremation ground was one book and one month of experimental mantra-saying. Had Wilson written me back, I could well be a Sufi now, writing a blog called On Tenement Roofs Illuminated... not that there's anything wrong with that...wherever you go, there you are.

Where I was, in the 1980s, the first time I read Cosmic Trigger, was in the rayon depths of the Reagan years, 2 a.m. and three hits of acid, on a roof staring down at trees morphing into Chinese dragons-- solemn, twisting parade dragons breathing gold fire-- well, not for the whole decade. Many nights I worked at my best-ever McJob, night watchman all alone in university buildings reading books, snooping in labs, bread-crumbing my way through forgotten passages and basements, a Columbus of derelict worlds. One day in the 1980s I agonized, so poor was I, over whether to buy a used paperback of Rimbaud someone had used as a joint-rolling aid, pages filled with enough pot to stuff a bowl to accompany my reading once I came to my senses and bought it. In college, out of college, always trying to learn and always confused; in relationships, then free and happy but wanting validation of being owned; tripping, drinking, wake n' bakin', early a.m. scrub-the-sink speedin'; up four days on post-shroom high, Burroughsian arcana in the Rare Books Room, green hair, SST Records, slam-dancing, Milwaukee's Best, Lake Country Red, combat boots and flannel shirt, junkie friends, friends straight out of Demian up talking 'til 6:00 in cherished trust, soft shadows in candle light and street glare; lusting always, though laughably repressed, wanting, wanting what I didn't know, save it was knowledge and sex and sustenance and derangement all fried into one grilled cheese... envying the confident, the "together," mistaking their projected selves for their lived realities, which I could have known no better than a random ice lump from the rings of Saturn.

Myself I saw as deformed, always awkward and wrong, yet a friend later said, "You were intimidating. You were the bohemian ideal." What?? All that altered perception and I couldn't see how altered my own self-perception was, couldn't imagine there was something of worth in me besides "potential" that would ever sleep beneath cold tundra. I wouldn't live long enough to be who I was supposed to be, or some disaster would overtake me, or They wouldn't let me. Some nights in the 1980s I was high and afraid because the chemicals that let me peer into Canaan also sunk me into rodential fear, taping construction paper over the windows in the door so They couldn't see in, sensing demons at my back about to scalp me with three-inch claws.

Back in my twentysomething Dreamtime, I was afraid of everything. I was afraid of failure, afraid of girls, afraid of pain, afraid of pleasure, afraid of Reagan, afraid of flunking out of college, afraid of germs, afraid of the future, afraid of commitment, afraid of being alone, afraid of the Religious Right, afraid of normal people whose nonchalant gliding through life pointed to my ill-at-ease incompetence, afraid of money, afraid of violence (but less afraid after I was violently mugged one night), afraid of the police, afraid of my parents, afraid of clinging out there on the last branch in the stormwinds of mind as the dark chews me into dust, scattered like Osiris by mad thunder... afraid of the loss of self I sought in acid, in reefer, in pain pills crushed and snorted while knocking back red wine... afraid but I pressed on like a fool, like The Fool, not knowing what I was doing until one night a much-accustomed hit of weed and the same old chaser of nitrous oxide took me past all experience and memory, a place so far out of normal highs and normal normals that now, 25 years later, I am still on the path that began that night.

Fear maps onto the axis of ego like the arc of a Stinger missile, and until you have a perspective on who are you and what you are, you will likely spend much of your time afraid, worried, or manifesting fear and worry as cruel tangents, taking them out on other sentient beings or on yourself. My neurotic fears and basic confusion persisted for a decade after what happened; it's not like I was "cured" or even "converted" that night-- far from it. I did, however, catch a glimpse through a Window out of those negative minds, which I won't call God or Kali, though Kali is the name I now see over the window. What I saw that night was a window out of all the ways I'd ever known a person could experience the world; I was pushed out the window, really, having looked through it once or twice before, in my teens and on LSD in my 20s-- but this was so far beyond those experiences I was blasted out of myself and this reality completely, for one brief, eternal gnostic instant.

I wasn't looking for gnosis. I'd lit up and done whippets a hundred times and it was fun and mildly obliterating, very predictably so. This night, in August, 1986, it was like I lit a firecracker and leveled a whole city. I breathed in the cold nitrous and shot up into black space, looking down on Earth, and-- Earth-- She was alive, wobbling in ecstasy, floating in consciousness. She was alive, She was aware, if on a scale so vast it made me an atom, and it seemed She wanted me to see Her as I floated there, Her little satellite. I stared, I almost gasped but had no breath, I tried to breathe, to form a thought, but -- whap! slammed back to the floor, to the waking world, to Reagan and the "Papa Don't Preach" and the scared, inadequate life that was already changing because Something had broken through, alien as horses in the New World yet more real than the floor I was sitting on.

But if I went to bed that night buzzed and confused, jittering with mystery, it was nothing compared to what happened next. For a week, the world turned all gauzy, another world quite visibly shimmering just beneath it. On the second or third day, I got an intuition to work with anther plant spirit, morning glory, and took about 60 seeds. It was similar to LSD but milder and more "organic"-- the trip was more centered on the world around me and not my flanged and phase-shifted thoughts about that world. Incredibly, I began to hear the voices of two female spirits, one of whom did most of the talking and said, "We're going to show you some things that will make sense now, and some things that won't make sense until later." These girls took my hand and waltzed me through the gauzy world billowing around me and showed me It was alive, It is Her, and all women reflect Her, and everything is alive and nothing dies. I didn't learn until years later that the Aztecs believe that eaters of morning glory seeds are visited by two female spirits...

The girls initiated me: into what, I didn't know. Some kind of ageless cult where one worships God through every act, including-- especially-- deliciously-- but so, so difficultly-- sex. And just as hard, eating and drinking and, hardest of all, working, coping, doing things you don't want to do... though at the time they presented it a little more glamorously. At the end of my week in the astral girls' care I was reset to zero, and then naturally spent years running away from the experience and years making sense of it, in turn as an atheist, a Catholic, an amateur Buddhist, a pagan, an agnostic experimental philosopher who had to admit he had come face to face, tongue to tongue with the Infinite and could not deny it or reason it away and had no idea what to do with it. Every box I tried putting Her in-- box of hope, box of Mary, box of Goddess, box of Brain Is -- Wider than the Sky -- every box was a little bigger and explained a little more, but none was adequate, none served, none made sense in Light of what She was and what She had burned into my heart. But I kept looking, kept after Her, even, eventually, when all hope was lost.

I wasn't looking for gnosis, but I'd seen good claims that it was possible. I have to thank Robert Anton Wilson, Aleister Crowley, et al., for that, for the fact that when the universe broke open I had another way of understanding it besides "I'm crazy" or "I'm possessed." People who lead us out of ourselves to better selves are called guru-- in the words of the Upanishads, one who leads from dark to light. Maybe in English there's no better term than Illuminati.