IN AND OF: memoirs of a mystic journey, opening chapters
excerpted from IN AND OF: memoirs of a mystic journey, by Jack Haas
Once you have eaten of the flesh, so to speak, you must ride it out completely.
Of course everyoneís journey is different, but if you give yourself away to life, things cannot avoid falling implausibly into place around you, and an existence you never thought possible eventually swells instinctively up from within, and devours you whole.
Itís all so subtle, unexpected, absurd, and indisputable, that when an epoch ends- when the drama of Ďbeingí comes to one of its cyclic, fabulous crescendos- and the spirit fully emerges, the whole holocaust and rapture of life dissolves back into itself, into you, and you into it, the two sides blend into one, the universe is fulfilled for an instant, time evaporates, distance vanishes, the light mingles and ...we are gone.
I am speaking of nexus points, unifications, grand synchronicities, and convergences in the hidden patterns of the cosmos, from which sublime realities become conspicuously manifest in the lives of persons chosen or willing to act out the universeís karmic evolution; momentary windows of a deeper vision, leaps of understanding, and etheric mutations in the blueprint of our chimerical beings, such that there are profound times and places in the somnambulistic imagination of the great and dancing Imaginer, when the veil of causality lifts blatantly away to reveal its eternal marriage with effect, the continuum becomes apparent, the Creator finally awakens within and as the Creation, and yet still no one, not even the Maker, can understand how the marvelous making is made.
It is all very strange, obscure and ineffable, as it were. But to be sure- it happens. Every now and then, due, as it were, to the course of our forgotten, sublime affinities, a cohesion of disparate forces fuse into One, life takes on mythical proportions, the Gods awaken from their slumber, the devil gets his due, and the lone individual, bent awkwardly upon the fulfillment of his or her impossible and unavoidable destiny, breaks loose from the worldís hold, resuscitates the old breath, finds the living Life, curses the anguish, weeps for the children, drinks, dances, goes mad with love, and then vanishes into the sky with all those brave or free enough to follow.
Let me tell you, it happens. Rarely, perhaps very rarely, but by god it comes about. And when it does, the Heavens float down like a warm deluge through the frost of Hell, the veneer of our horrid separation lifts for a blessed instant, the I in each one of us untangles itself, and all those ready, strong, innocent, or bored enough, slip quietly away, out into the gentle flow, merging with eternity, and then drifting off into God without going anywhere; they simply float away without leaving; they stand still and fall apart into everything. That is what happens.
But perhaps I am starting off here too fast. Let me sum it all up, so as to be done with the story, and then we can get on with the meat of this text. It goes like this: when you are born you are not yet born- first you must descend, die, rise from the ashes, forget every idea of right and wrong, lose yourself completely, gain yourself again, and become the All. There you have it, in brief synoptic fashion. What follows are merely the details.
I canít say precisely when understandings such as these began to smolder within me. It was sometime in my mid twenties, after I had begun to awaken to the folly and immaturity of mankindís ways; after I had finally broken free from the futility and indoctrination of the whole education fiasco; after the collapse of a corrupt business I had owned and operated with one of the devilís own minions; after I had traveled aimlessly in the world for a while, had become disillusioned and confused from the apparent meaninglessness of it all, and had moved away from Ontario, where I was raised, heading west, penniless, possessionless, notionless, and finally free to begin again on my own, to forget all that I had learned, experienced, and lost, and to start again from square one.
I needed a new beginning, a complete change, a resurrection.
Indeed there is little in life of more value to the transformation of the self than to one day uproot your whole existence, cut away the gnarled mass that has grown in and around you, scythe the wheat that has grown from your soil, and take up the rhizome of your soul, away from its homeland, away from all it has known of sunlight and season, away from the forces which watered and fed it and pruned it along, and go to another place, find another patch of earth, and then lay down your tuber in the mud and watch it blossom and grow.
To change dramatic sets is to change roles. New buds grow on old branches, but it is a different fruit which comes forth. The old skin of identity molts away, and the nouvelle vintage is poured within.
I understand now why so many ancient epics are filled with tales of exile, exploration, destiny, and destination, because the inevitable tests and trials which beset a personís existence are quickened when the flow of life bursts through the encumbering form, and the individual breaks away from their old and worn out norm.
Had Odysseus never left Ithaca, Homer would have been forced to write cookbooks. Had Moses not walked out of Egypt and wandered forty years in the desert, the reign of Babylon would never have been broken. Had Lao Tzu not turned away from his homeland in disgust and scorn, the gatekeeper would never have heard his wisdom, and the Tao would never have been born.
It is the breaking away from the confines of context which first liberate the spirit into the subtle life, where all that shifts and moves is hidden from all that stands still.
When I took up my tunic and sack, and walked into the sunset without any idea of what lay ahead, I had, without realizing it, joined in with the great dance of creation, and I was now creating what lay ahead of me.
Knowing nothing of such things back then, I ended up falling to earth on the hallowed soil of Canadaís westernmost city-state, Vancouver.
Settling in British Columbia, and this gem of a west-coast city, at the age of twenty-three, was like finding a new set of lungs which I did not know I possessed, but into which I was soon inhaling a whole new type of air- an ethereal air which, unlike the profane atmosphere of the east, I could breathe in through the subtle pores of my broken spirit, and slowly regain consciousness from years of suffocation.
To be sure, Ontario has its many charms, but at that time I was unable to see the roses through the thorns, and I needed to be hit with a monstrous blow of beauty and wonder, the magnitude of which can only be found in the grandiose brilliance of the west coastís mountains, forests, and sea, the likes of which have earned this blessed area of the earth the charmed soubriquet of Lotus-land.
Like a man awoken in an unknown flower garden, in an unknown world, for an unknown reason, at first I could do naught but inhale the intoxicating perfumes of this new lifeís beauty and splendor. Good god did I breathe. Thatís all I did. Thatís all I could do. Nothing more was needed.
I can still revisit the swelling sense of well being which often befell me during those first few years in the vibrant city and land which has never ceased to overwhelm and astonish me. Living in a perpetual state of daze and disbelief, I was seized often enough by an intoxicating sense of awe over what were largely overlooked trifles to the tenured residents of this Valhalla: the megalithic size of a neighborís verdant hedge, the thickly perfumed air of the early spring blossoming season, the balmy, inviting, animated summer nights on the coast, or the sight of an eagle or heron gliding on wing across a city beach- these types of things were enough to drive me mad with joy, enough to invigorate and sustain me, because they were so unlike the experiences and settings in which I had been reared and to which I had said goodbye, heading off to my new life in a new land with new promise, new adventure, and, to be sure, new trials, upheavals, and agonies.
I had arrived to find myself ensconced within a wholly novel feeling, a new vibe, so to speak, which quickly filtered in through my skin, washing away the other life I had been living- the other life I had been dying- and began the germination and fertilization of a seed I had not imagined I was carrying.
In the beginning there were days in which I would walk around in a state of profound amazement and relief, delirious with thankfulness that I had been led to find and live in such a place. I recall riding across the Burrard Street bridge one evening, heading home after a soiree with some new friends, and all of the sudden, without any effort or expectation, I was as if lifted up by the breastbone and a wave of gratitude washed over me the likes of which I have rarely felt since. It was the type of gratitude that arises out of nowhere, for no specific reason, and goes off in no conscious direction. I have no clue to whom or for what I felt this surge of grateful acceptance, I can only say that it was directed at existence itself, and the explosion of thankfulness had arisen out from somewhere behind my mind, and it grabbed hold of me, and possessed me, and the grace of appreciation swelled and wholly consumed me for a spell; I was grabbed by a hook from the sky, lifted off of the earth for a moment, where I watched from above the glorious gift Iíd been given, without purpose or reason, and was let back down to the mundane and the tolerable world. The feeling then eased away slowly, and I rode home with the scent of joy and magnanimity trailing out behind me.
It was the regular experiences of such upliftment that carried me through for a while as a citizen of this western metropolis.
And yet, not many years later, although I was still hopelessly smitten with Vancouver- with its new stage, new sights, feelings, inspirations, friends, and wonders- the exuberance and lightness which I had found would begin to dim and fade. In fact, even in this city of God, the insidious aspect of mankind en masse would soon turn foul within me and would drive me away from my habitation and comfort again, forcing me apart from my familiars, out into yet another world altogether- an even mightier and more magical world- a world where I would again experience wonder and gratitude for the privilege of this unimaginable earthly existence of ours. Oh and much more, much, much more. I would discover the true spirit and true earth, all feverishly served up on the wild and untamed coast of British Columbia and Alaska, and my affinity for civilization and its tortured constructs would be finished for good.
I speak of the years of departure; the times when I left my place of welcome, to wander lonely in the void without another- to lift up and stay there, to float on the splendid confusion of disorientation, far above the thorns of context; these are the chapters of life when the soul sets out on an uncharted course, perhaps never again to return- when the spirit finds again that lost fluidity, unbound nor gathered in a name, and the hard parts crumble from the eternal stream gushing free now from within. That is when the spirit relearns its passion dance, and chooses never again to tangle in the game.
Itís what you canít see coming that truly belongs to life. And life, if not a great adventure, is at least a fabulous misadventure.
Most things that happen are much different than they appear, existing beyond the borders of conception and reason. These are the inexplicable, the immense, the evanescent doorways and portholes into the essence; the blinding core of impossible conditions, of realms and layers stacked upon each other, within each other, through and all around each other; the convulsive pandemonium of surprise and imagination; the real and implausible, the recognizable and the nebulous; the presence and absence of the unexpected conglomerations, residues, and idiosyncrasies; the outright exquisiteness and brilliance of the whole trembling edifice, held together by nothing, heading towards nowhere, beyond meaning and purpose, out and in and tossed into a heap of wriggling preposterousnesses all oozing and biting and thrashing about in the calm and tireless ubiquity.
Given this, I was lucky during those first few years in Vancouver- a time when I was still capable of living with others, a time which did not last very long and was followed by many years in which I would either need to be out in the free and open expanse of the wilds, or furtively locked away behind four impenetrable walls in some dingy apartment, alone and in perfect silence except for the ever present cacophony of untamed voices ringing out in grand disharmony within my perplexed cranium- but I was lucky, as I said, in the beginning, when I was still somewhat of a social creature, and not yet burdened with the solitary life, in that I took up neophytic residence with a young man who would help me break a few of the chains which bound and hindered me from expanding the dimensions of my formative self. And he would do that simply by living as an example, right before me, of a way of surviving in the world without being driven mad by it.
I was lucky- or perhaps blessed is a more accurate adjective- because prior to arriving in Vancouver, I had been acquainted with mostly beer-guzzling buffoons and thoughtless toadstools, and had not met a single soul who had prioritized the spirit over the world, and so I was on an uncertain path, barely caring for the way I lived, because somewhere deep inside I knew that something was wrong, horribly wrong, and yet I had no idea of another way to exist, and so I had been doing what everyone else did who was caught in a life which didnít belong to them- I drank and partied, chased women, and talked about nothing in particular. Oh, I was already irrevocably immersed in the esoteric and recondite texts of antiquity, but for all the effect these had on me I might as well have been reading fantasy novels, for what had eternal, cosmic truths to do with food, drink, and rent, anyways? I was born of substance and had no idea of how to live without it as my mainstay.
And so my new roommate shifted my paradigm, as it were, for I realized soon enough that he spoke in a language which I had never heard before, and yet one which I understood instantly upon listening to it; a language which came before mankindís superfluous conventions took charge; a language which sang in my ears of another song, another rhythm, another aspect of existence which indeed I could sense beyond the inharmonious pitch of societyís discord, but which I had not isolated nor paid proper attention to until it came and laid itself before me in the living form of Glen.
Even to this day Glen has a way of standing in the midst of the tumult, like the eye of the hurricane, and being unaffected by the hysteria and chaos all around. He is a classic adept, with all the equanimity and poise of a master such as Nagarjuna or Dogen, hovering effortlessly above the mire of endless troubles and their repair. It was from his example that I realized no one need commit themselves to a lifetime of toil and struggle simply to exist; one needed merely decide to exist in the magic and beauty of the day, and the universe would take care of its own, for this is an inalienable right of ours- which is, simply ...to be. And that means to live without the futility of the daily grind hampering our exaltations.
This was a recognition which dawned upon me slowly over the time Glen and I roomed together, during which period it was a regular occurrence for me to awaken to the insult of the clock, jam down a couple of Tylenol in an attempt to quickly counterbalance the previous nightís excesses, gobble down a frantic, unsatisfying breakfast, and speed off on my bike to sell my soul in return for my humble daily keep; while Glen, on the other hand, would arise gently and only when his body was good and rested, would partake of a calm and peaceful breakfast, would go out for an easy stroll along the beaches and parks nearby, would perhaps read some poetry or a spiritual tract, and then he would sit down to the typewriter and pour out his own voice, his own vision, his own understandings, experiences, and delights at the privileged glory of existence. He was a master, I was a slave.
Each evening I would return from work, worn and shell-shocked and a beaten man, driven mad like a whipped beast from the continued onslaught of drudgery and repetition- a yoke I had convinced myself was the necessary addendum to being alive on this earth. And there Glen would be, sitting quietly, perhaps listening to jazz or classical music, enjoying the relaxed cadence of life which comes from living at oneís own pace. And I would burst into the apartment, contaminated by the disruptive vibrations of the false round to which I had been willingly shackled, and head straight for the refrigerator and crack a beer and begin anaesthetizing away the disharmony within me and the chorus of harangued and tormented ghouls which I was only able to still, at that time, with enough booze and dope to kill an elephant, pouring down draught after draught so as to forget how wrong it was for me to every morning spit at the sky and cast away the cherished gift of life I had been benevolently vouchsafed just so as to serve my wallet.
The night of drinking, accompanied by the ongoing conversations Glen and I would engage in, would be followed by another disquieting departure, and another day of tedious torture, all the while holding in the back of my mind a vision of my buddy, free and relaxing, because he had forsaken all of it, and had learned to live on little, need little, and do little, and so had beaten the world at its own game and returned himself to his own way of life and the passionate living of it.
This manís living example, during the precarious years of my so called work-ethic development, was incredibly important to me, because my whole life I had heard that one must go to school, do well, graduate with honors, strive to be somebody, and sign on for a tour of duty in the hallowed halls of money and make-believe existence which would not end until the spirit collapsed and the flesh gave it up to the wind. And I certainly was not fit for such a life.
And so Glenís presence was incredibly important for me to witness. And yet it wasnít until I myself broke away- it wasnít until I made the decision to live my own life, regardless of the status quo- that I began to cherish the gift I had been, up until that point, taking horribly for granted and abusing. As such I began to turn the tables and work far less, so as to live more fully, rather than to work hard and not live at all.
I soon recognized with the detached eye of one who has gone a certain distance away from an event in which they were once wholly bemused and ensconced, that the system had grown sick with greed and stupidity, and that it was only from myself, and for myself, that I would begin to nourish the seed within which had been lying dormant and dying and would need some tender care to get it to sprout and thrive, but which would end up growing strong and fecund and would itself choke out the weeds which had been planted in me by the collective confusion of society since day one.
And it was Glen who catalyzed this reaction within me; it was his own personal force which I recognized and which then stirred the tepid stew within me into a fomenting cauldron of intention and drive which would in the end provide the escape-velocity necessary for me to leave the gravity of our cultureís torpid conventions behind.
I would not call my life a conversion, merely a version, for there are truths I would not come to understand until after many years ahead of confused digression, false intent, debauchery, idleness, unfaith, and agony.
For me it began as a wild and manic ride of booze and anguish, dope and euphoria, destiny and freedom, psychedelia, mushrooms, madness, humility, and wonder. I would not come to the nothingness that is everything until all the blood had been letted from my putrid corpse, until I had mapped out all the blind alleys within myself, until the heavens had murdered me without pity or concern, until I loved and cursed and followed God, and then was broken from the mold of the manifest, and inhaled back to the Source, like a creature caught in the throat of a Creator who had just begun to breathe.
It was a troubling and euphoric period for me. Life was as bewildering as it was grand. I couldnít get a hold of it, and I couldnít get away. I couldnít get lost because I was always lost. I created it and was created by it. I was caught inside, and trapped outside. I was bored and amazed and worn thin by the background exaltation tapped into the electric din. I tried my best and didnít give a damn either. I piled it up, and let it crumble. It all fell away and went nowhere. It came back but never quite got to me. The mayhem and order blended in and disproved each other. My senses betrayed my mind, my mind betrayed my heart, my heart betrayed my spirit, and my spirit betrayed them all. It was a witchís brew of laughter and tears and the nonsense which excited them both. I never really started nor finished and the path went on without direction, goal, nor demand. My self both dissolved and remained, though I could never see anything but that which obstructed it. The vortex tightened, the way widened, the show of consciousness broke open, permeated, shrank and congealed, and all the while the dream-host existence ran on and on without boundary, property, method, nor time.
Had I known then what I was in for, I would perhaps never have chosen to walk down that tunnel. Or perhaps I would have had no other tunnel to choose. No matter. The best thing to do when caught in a whirlpool is to quit struggling toward the vanishing surface, to give your energy to the vortex, and to dive as deep as possible, waiting until you hit bottom and are torn away by the river, at which point you can prepare for your return to the surface.
That is when you come out of it. You come out wild and crazy. You come out hard and ambivalent, finished and yet hardly begun. You come out through the threshold of indifference, of care, of suffering, of life, of death, of meaning, of meaninglessness, of noise, and of silence. You come out from nowhere, out from a person you never were, to a person you no longer are. You run free at these moments when what always mattered finally ends, when life breaks stride with the current of its own disbelief. Out and out you come, all the while falling inward. Falling into the self beyond the self, into the centerless happening where nothing and everything occurs. You come out into it all, broken away from the tether of purpose, the chains of need, the bonds of striving, the shackles of the trapped and abandoned. You come out and the wind licks your wounds through the blood of your losses. There is no need to haunt the world ever again, nor find yourself simple comforts or worth. You belong to no one and nothing, not even yourself. Beyond salvation and damnation, nothing can stop nor hold you now. You are free. And it doesnít matter. And that is why you are free.
by Jack Haas
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