18 May 2010

No, not Disneyland

During my early adolescence - 13 to 15 - I started having what you might consider "mystical experiences". I can explain this no better than to say that the veil of reality would slip aside occasionally, and I would see - or thought I was - glimpses of another, better world, where everything really was all right. It was this kind of thing that led me to a short dalliance with a Baptist youth group, and a long one with neo-Paganism. More importantly, since they happened at about the same time I was discovering rock music and electronic pop, the Gates of Paradise have always been associated for me with certain artists (one particular artist who mentioned Gurdjieff and the Sufis quite a lot in her early work), and my career path as a musician was more or less settled. Is it also a coincidence that I first became politically active around this time?

It's often said that the "psychic centres", or whatever, kick in at around adolesence (something to do with hormones, I suppose) - which is why poltergeist activity is associated with teenagers. But to a large extent, these brief "openings" were more trouble than they were worth. The Gates of Paradise had closed by the time I was about 16, and I spent ten years blundering about in the dark wondering how the devil I was going to get back there. One might also say that it might have been better never to have a glimpse of the garden, if I was going to be satisfied with life in the basement. It was only after some major life changes that I began to experience anything like that again - about 2001, I think it must have been. Coincidence, that it was at this time that I became politically active again, and made the first steps towards a practical musical career?

As a wise mystic said, when you're up to your ass in alligators it's difficult to remember that you went in to drain the swamp, and I've been up to my ass in alligators much of my life, due to Harrowing Childhood issues which I won't bore you with. My Daily Self - or nafs - endlessly replays the terrible things that happened to me in my childhood and adolescence, trying to give the story a better ending this time. This Doloras is almost pathologically determined not to live in the here-and-now, where actions have consequences and what's done can't be undone. But if I can't do that, I won't be ready the next time the Gates of Paradise open.

I like the idea that "nothing is ever forgotten", that I never lost anything in growing up, that the Magickal Kingdom is here and now always hiding behind every molecule if you know what to look for, that I had to grow up and suffer to learn how to integrate that world with this one of Horrible Jobs. That the magick becomes real when I get my music right; that if I "remember myself" I can finally cease my eternal battle with imaginary things; and that by acting in the name of solidarity and compassion in this $2.99 material world - through socialist activism, spiritual psychology and radical cultural-materialist praxis - I can be part of a current which will change the world to one where people are less lost and afraid and hurt and cold and angry and mean. And then I forget it again, and that's how I get lost and depressed.

"We shall not cease from exploration / And at the end of all our exploring / Will be to arrive where we started / And know it for the first time" - T S Eliot.


  1. Thanks for this post. I can especially relate to your description of the nafs, ultimately this is what everybody's nafs is doing, replaying the same toxic drama(s) encoded in us since childhood (or Original Sin, or the bad karma generated over inumerable kalpas, etc...)

    Don't get lost and depressed. Like you said, the Kingdom is always there, whether we realize it or not. Our most immediate task is just to realize it, moment by moment, whether through the zhikr of the Sufis or the zuowang ("sitting forgetting") of the Taoists or by any other means by which we can open the hand that grasps on to illusion. There can be a lot of backsliding along the spiritual path, the trick is to take it moment by moment...harder than it sounds, of course, but at the same time easier since it gives you something concrete --- this moment! ---- to start with.

  2. My epiphanies come after alcohol binges while I am sifting through the mental drawer where Precious Observations are kept. During these; my disposition shifts from introspective to extrospective (World is grimy and creaky), my simulation-generating esteem-hungry Self Substitute dies, I am set free from anxiety-sickness and dread (fingers uncurl, heartbeat slows, possessed by semi-unwanted desire to hug, nuzzle, stroke, and otherwise sooth everyone.)

    God, I so need one now.

    Instead, Nick Drake, whoop whoop.