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THE MEANING OF LIFE
To gather experience over countless lifetimes.

We Realize who and what we really are, and come to behave like That.

Ignorance of That and associated bad habits result in mistakes and consequential suffering.

The accumulation of experience eventually brings us to realize that we are not separate from others, which forms habitual devotion to the ultimate welfare of all.
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Posts Tagged ‘wicca’

As described in another article on this blog site, Janus-Mithras established the first Isis Urania coven from his Spanish family tradition of witchcraft, and expressed some of that family tradition in English through Gardnerian elements.

The Isis Urania covens are unusual among Wicca traditions in that they do not draw solely on a British heritage, but also on a much older European heritage.  While the language and many of the wordings are distinctly Gardnerian, there are slight differences in accord with an underlying meaning and core teaching.  This old underlying teaching stresses meditation and realizing one’s true nature.  It shows forth and celebrates its profound message through the Gardnerian rituals and prayers, as well as others translated from the Spanish, where nothing equivalent could be found in the Gardnerian.

This web site is all about that underlying teaching, the message that is the “traditional” part in traditional Wicca, as embodied in the Isis Urania system and other Mystery Traditions.  Many people will recognize that this underlying message is similar to that of other ancient wisdom traditions, including Qabalism as well as Hinduism and Buddhism.  This is because the Spanish roots of the tradition originate before the Inquisition, including a time when the city of Toledo (Spain) was a great center of magical and mystical training in the medieval world.  Here one could study from a great assortment of masters from Europe, the Near East, and from the Orient.  It could be said that Toledo was a university of philosophy, magic and spirituality, the likes of which Europe had never seen before or since.

Elements of that eclectic time are still present in the roots of the Spanish tradition that is the basis for the Isis Urania covens.  While Isis Urania is especially Wiccan, the study of Qabalah is a foundation for the student.  As in the glory times of Toledo, a formalized study curriculum in magic and spirituality is used in Isis Urania training (though the exact content of that curriculum varies from coven to coven).  There are elements of ancient European, Greco-Roman, Qabalistic, Egyptian, and Gypsy teachings found sprinkled throughout the system.  As Janus-Mithras once explained, “An approach was taken over the centuries of, ‘If it works, use it.’”  Of course, our ancestors worked these additions into what already was, and remains a distinct belief system that is today in English called “Wiccan.”  That distinct system includes a set of elements such as specific wording (with special meaning), specific style, practices and celebrations that are unmistakably Wiccan and are designed to produce illumination, often through theurgy. (These originate well before 1940, when Gerald Gardner is believed by many to have invented Wicca.  Perhaps he did invent the word “Wicca”, but not the tradition.  In Spanish, the much older word for a witch is “Bruja” for a female, or “Brujo” for a male, and the word for “Wicca” is Brujeria.  Gerald Gardner did not invent these words or what they mean.)

The name Isis Urania has several implications, and comes to us from a period in history just after Alexander the Great conquered Egypt.  His conquest triggered a spread of the Isis cult throughout the Greco-Roman world, eventually reaching to the farthest edges of the Roman Empire, before paganism was suppressed at the Christianization of the Roman Empire.  Each of the temples that sprang up throughout this ancient world combined the worship of Isis with the worship of a local goddess.  In this manner, goddess worship throughout all of Europe became imbued with the wisdom teachings, the magic and spirituality of the Isis cult.

And what was this teaching?  It is that of the journey of the goddess throughout the world (or underworld) to find the God of Death (Osiris in this case), for the answer to the suffering in the world.  She learned everything she could about magic and meditation to carry out this goal.  Upon meeting Death and thus Realizing who and what we really are, she returned to teach all her children that magic, and what she learned about each and every one of us from the god of Death.  (In another perspective, you and I, and every one of us, is a piece of Osiris that Isis is forever working to gather and bring home, to restore our rightful place in the Universe.)  This is the same theme as the story of Aradia, the goddess of the witches, as well as countless other ancient goddesses including Sumerian Inanna and Babylonian Ishtar, who were the predecessors for the Egyptian Isis.  It is through this link with ancient goddess worship that the Isis Urania covens follow an ancient tradition, even though the first Isis Urania coven of Wicca was founded in 1960.  It is through the partially traceable lineage of teachers, reaching back through medieval Toledo, that the Isis Urania covens define their heritage and tradition.

As is the practice with traditional Wiccan covens, students that reach or complete the second degree training may choose to “hive-off”, to form a new coven on their own.  Following the tradition of Isis cult in Greco-Roman times, each newly established temple or Isis Urania coven often takes the name of Isis and of another goddess who works with her.  (Urania was a Greek muse of magic and astrology among other things, and the Isis Urania temple was a stronghold and starting point for many other temples of the Isis cult in the Greco-Roman era.)

Here is a list of covens known by me to have hived-off from Isis Urania, or from its daughter covens by 1988, all of which carry the lineage of Isis Urania:

  • Isis Augusta – New Zealand
  • Three covens hived off from the first Toronto Isis Urania coven (names unknown – one in Willowdale, Canada)
  • Isis Invictus – Ottawa, Canada
  • Isis Sothis – Toronto, Canada
  • Isis Maut – Hamilton, Canada
  • Isis Faria – Toronto, Canada
  • Isis Artemis – Montreal, Canada
  • Isis Astarte – Montreal, Canada
  • Isis Hathor – Montreal, Canada
  • Isis Sophia – Montreal, Canada

While traditional Wicca covens share a lineage, teachings and style, and each honors their ancestors at the beginning of every ritual, they are autonomous and self-governing.  There is no over-arching formal association or formal “Wiccan Church” that organizes them in any way.  This is an essential quality of traditional Wicca.  Autonomy was not only necessary for reasons of security during times of persecution, it also divorced the religion from politics and allowed members to practice their religion in secrecy.  It allows each coven the freedom to govern themselves according to their particular “group personality,” building a group mind of their own and leveraging the benefits inherent in that.  Secrecy in traditional Wicca has many advantages besides safety in times of persecution.  It also allows members to focus on their practice and spiritual growth without pressure, interference or distraction by outside elements such as political organizations, family, friends, co-workers and neighbors.  “Isis Urania” therefore does not refer to a governing body or uniting organization.  Besides being the name of a coven, Isis Urania is only a term of lineage, common ancestry and style.  With this ancient practice of secret autonomy, there is typically little communication between covens.  As a result, the above shown list of covens sharing the Isis Urania lineage is most certainly incomplete because there are probably other covens that have grown from these since the 1980s that I am naturally not aware of.  There are also countless traditional Wicca covens throughout the world that are not part of the Isis Urania lineage, some operating in complete secrecy, that have never heard of each-other.

While there are certainly other covens descendant from the list shown above, all but the last two on this particular list are probably not operating at the present.  The last two on the list, Isis Hathor and Isis Sophia, are the only Isis Urania covens that I know of that are currently operating.  They are teaching covens, accepting serious students, and involve a formalized training curriculum for those students.  The High Priest of the Isis Hathor coven is Apollonius-Mithras, who is a student of my own teacher, Janus-Mithras.  Apollonius-Mithras is one of the most intelligent, well-read and well-informed people I have ever met.  If you wish to read more about the Isis Hathor coven, you will find a link to their web site at the left of this page, in the box entitled “Covens.” The Isis Sophia coven has newly hived-off from the Isis Hathor coven, and is headed-up by two of Apollonius-Mithras’ students, both of whom I regard with the highest esteem as being so very kind, loving and wise at the same time.

An example of a traditional Wicca coven with no known connection to Isis Urania, is “The Wicca of the Ancient Harmony,” based in Oshawa, Canada.  This is both a “working coven” and also “teaching coven.”  They accept a few students each year for training in an extensive and very well organized curriculum of study, possibly leading to initiation and further training.  Training in this coven includes both written and oral instruction for up to 7 years, and similar to most traditional Wiccan covens, demands serious commitment, study, practice, meditation and research by the student.  The coven Elder there is Mr. Ron Weroski who has a very similar training background to myself.  He expresses, sometimes in the very same words, the same sentiments, emphasis, and values as we were taught in Isis Urania.  He has published on his web site a wonderful article about traditional Wicca and its philosophy.  The article is called “The Philosophy of Traditional Wicca” and can be seen by clicking on “Wicca of the Ancient Harmony” at the left of this web page, in the box entitled “Covens.”

Mer-Amun MerAmun

Nearly all of the material on this site is about, or mentions “Who and What we Really Are,” and learning to behave like That.

But Who and What is referred to here?

A very important passage from the Book of Shadows begins to explain:

“In the beginning – which was not long ago but NOW and EVER, was and is Consciousness, the One Being.  Everyone knows this Consciousness, because everyone is it, but no one can truly describe it for the same reason that the eye sees but does not see itself.  Moreover, this Consciousness is what there is and all there is, so that no name can be really given to it.  It is neither shaped nor shapeless, but both.”

(Book of Shadows)

The chapter goes on to describe what the God and the Goddess really are, but what does this particular passage mean?  What are the implications of this definition of Who and What we really are?  How do we learn to behave like That?

The answer to these questions is what a Mystery Tradition is all about.  Discovering and exploring the implications is an infinite adventure of discovery.  Learning to behave like That is at the same time ridiculous, and of supreme importance because you cannot act any other way, and yet, your behavior may or may not be celebrating or demonstrating the fact that you are that One Being.

This web site is all about trying to bring Remembrance to what has (for many) been forgotten: what traditional Wicca and Western Mystery traditions are all about.  It is all about why we study and practice what we do.  It’s about why we learn to meditate, and why we learn to perform magic.  The idea is that if you know why you’re doing what you are doing, you can do it more effectively, and reap the benefits intended in the design of the traditional Wiccan and Western Mystery systems.  Future posts on this web site will examine specific meditations, magical practices and magical studies, from the perspective of Who and What you really are, and how they relate to That.

So, what does that mean, to be the shaped and shapeless, nameless Consciousness that is all there is?  There are three qualities that describe That:

  1. Empty or Void, Nothingness: That Consciousness, as a thing, is indescribable is mentioned in the Book of Shadows, including the passage quoted above.
  2. Aware: That Consciousness is Aware, is probably the most evident quality of all. How are you reading these words?
  3. Responsive: That Consciousness is Responsive is what makes up the illusion of a whole universe around you, and a whole life inside you. Whether or not it’s all an illusion, and whether or not you have an absolute name for it, you have to admit, that something is going on, that this One Being is appearing in a vast manner. That’s supreme responsiveness.

In Consciousness, you cannot have any of these three qualities without the others.  Any two of these qualities defines and describes the third.  If you take the perspective of any of these qualities, the other two qualities define and describe the God and the Goddess, and your chosen perspective is described and defined by their union. 

These are the secret keys to understanding the meaning and method behind all of the meditations and magical practices in traditional Wicca and other Western Mystery systems.  The better you understand, meditate on, and explore these three qualities, the better you will understand the hidden meaning in those systems.

It is the nature of a Western Mystery tradition, like traditional Wicca, to use cleverly designed mystery plays and initiations to help you experience for yourself these three qualities of who and what you really are.  If I were qualified and able to perform these for you, I could not do such things through a web site.  But I can help you to some degree through your reading.

If you haven’t already, I invite you to start your adventure of exploration (of who and what you really are) by reading two essays.  There are links to both of them at the left side of this web page, in the box entitled: “Books”.  The essays are called:

  • Nothingness by Alan Watts
  • Cosmic Drama by Alan Watts  (It helps you understand the Responsive quality of Consciousness, and how that’s You.)

If you haven’t read them yet, please do so, starting with Nothingness, and then moving on to Cosmic Drama.  They’re not long: only 4 and 5 pages respectively.

Always remember these three qualities of Consciousness, and that these describe who and what you really are.  Do all of the meditations and practices in traditional Wicca and other Western Mystery systems, do them all as acts of Remembrance and Celebration of Who and What you really are, of these three qualities.  If you haven’t already been doing this, you will be astounded by the profound meaning that suddenly “jumps out at you” from even the simplest of exercises. 

If your practice involves worship of a god or goddess, Remember that it is this real You that you are describing and talking to, with these three qualities, and that they (the gods) are divine examples of how you could behave like Who you really are.  If you do this, they will help you act like them, like who you really are, like an incarnation of these three qualities, of That One Being.  And how will you behave, knowing that all beings are One Being and that there is One Consciousness?  Like the Goddess herself, you cannot help but feel what others are feeling, and care for them as though they were aspects of your very self.  Because they are.

Mer-Amun MerAmun

Someone recently said and asked of me on Facebook, “He must not live in the real world or have a real job.  How do you cope? Do you walk the talk in your daily life?”

I do live in the real world, and I do have a wife and son and a career in Information Technologies.  As with all of my spiritual friends, there might be a constant balancing act between spending time on my ordinary everyday life and on my spiritual life.  Sometimes I am at work, and sometimes in my temple.  Sometimes I am meditating, and sometimes watching TV.  Sometimes I am deep in prayer, and sometimes I sit on the toilet.

But here’s the whole point to being a witch or occult practitioner.  The purpose of systematic occult training is to give you meditations, practices and perspectives to remember.  These create a network of reminders of whom and what we really are, with a repertoire of ways to express, celebrate, and act like That.  Use of these reminders in daily life is the purpose of their design.

Armed with this training, while in ordinary everyday life I always have the opportunity to use those reminders to explore more about whom and what we really are (the subject is infinitely deep).  Through these reminders, it is in my daily life that I always find new and different ways of expressing and celebrating That (the ways are infinite). 

In the beginning – which was not long ago, but NOW and EVER,
was and is Consciousness, the One Being.

Moreover, this Consciousness is what there is and all there is, so that no name can really be given to it.
                                                                – Book of Shadows

In my daily life, the important difference that training in these Reminders has given me is this: there is always in the background of my life the unwavering Presence of Awareness behind everything I do and everything I experience.  That statement is true of everyone, but the training has brought this fact into my understanding of whom and what we are.  It has given me an identity with that Presence of Awareness, that Consciousness, instead of identifying with this individual.  While I still often forget both who I really am, and forget to use my reminders, slowly I’m learning to do as the Goddess teaches, to make every experience a Reminder of That.  Constant awareness of That Presence is of course, the supreme practice and I endeavor to make sure that I never lose sight of it no matter what I’m doing.  The idea is to, in this ordinary everyday life, make that Remembrance and that self-identification such a habit that it will never leave my being.  The idea is to perfect a balancing act, to always Remember, whether I am at work or in meditation, eating or chanting, watching TV or astral traveling, awake or asleep, alive or dead.  Further, I hope that my magical practice will become just as much of a constant habit, so every thought, act or experience is part of a “ritual” or a sacrament to “Remembrance.”   

Of course, that’s the idea.  That’s the balancing act.  The reality is that my habits present constant challenges to that Remembrance.  I often forget, when there are extremes of experience that are engrossing.  There are times of anger or disappointment or fear, of bliss or amazement or hilarity when it’s easy to forget that Perspective.  At those times, the training comes in handy, because there’s always a reminder in the tradition that I can use to regain that Perspective when it’s lost.  But it’s a constant exercise in mindfulness that I sometimes lose.  The better I know the tradition, the more of a habit practicing it becomes, the more readily available those reminders are, in my ordinary everyday life. 

The tradition is intended to be used in daily life.  We practice in our Circle or Temple, but we use the system in ordinary everyday life.

Now it is my life I must shape, as a carpenter shapes wood,
and the thing to be formed is a union with the gods
and the Ecstasy of the Spirit,
as Nothing is to me this body,
as Nothing the parts thereof.

                                                – Book of Shadows

What using the system in ordinary everyday life comes down to, is the moment to moment choice that existence always presents us with.  It is possible to experience for yourself that the passage of time is an illusion and that there never has been, and never will be any other moment than Now.  The illusion of a “passing” of time is simply the string of choices we make: choices in what to pay attention to, how to interpret what we perceive, and how to act and react.  Certain moment-to-moment choices can take you to other universes of experience, other “times”, and other states of being.  A belief system that’s designed to bring you to that Ultimate Perspective of who and what you are, offers a system of carefully selected choices that you can make right now.  You can make them in this Eternal Moment, and they lead to a particular state of being.  But sometimes it’s hard, playing the balancing act, being skillful at applying those choices in the face of life’s challenges.  It comes down to a moment to moment choice of whom you’re going to think you are, and what you’re going to do about it.

Here ye O my People,
of the Power which is within you
and the Help the Gods may give you.

You are Immortal, without Birth and without Death,
for the Soul of the Universe is your Soul

                                                – Book of Shadows

Through the daily hard work of trying to make the right moment to moment choices, I’m slowly changing my Perspective.  Despite the constant mistakes I make, thanks to my training in a carefully designed system of reminders, I’m slowly building a habit in my ordinary everyday life.  I’m building a habit where it is not this individual thinking, acting or experiencing.  Slowly the habit is forming that it is That ever present Consciousness that is expressing itself in my every act, thought, and experience. 

A profound Wiccan spell:  “It is not my hand that does this deed, but the hand of Cernunnos, the Horned One.” – a female would end with “… the hand of Aradia, the Great Mother.

Single is the race, single of men and of Gods, from a Single Source we both draw breath, for the Universe is One Thing and that One Thing is Consciousness and Consciousness is the True and Only Deity, and that Ancient Holy One sleeps in the stones, dreams in the plants, wakes up in animals and becomes self-conscious in Man.  Learn, therefore, that everything is Holy and everything is Divine.  That all things are basically God and Beautiful and evil is only ignorance and the shadows of the One Light.
                                                – Book of Shadows

It is important to keep this in mind: Everyone is the god or goddess whether they know it or not.  All that’s new and different because of occult training is that one is now identifying with that Consciousness, in each moment to moment choice.  By ceasing to identify with an individual human being, and instead identify with that core Consciousness that is the inherent nature of Existence itself, I am learning to think and express myself as That.  Despite the persistent mistakes, I am slowly learning in my ordinary everyday life to stop thinking, acting, and interpreting experiences as a human being and instead do as the Goddess asks: be like the Gods.

Yet we can in greatness of mind and of Soul, be like the Gods.
                                                – Book of Shadows

When I first started my occult studies and practices so many years ago, the difference between my spiritual and ordinary everyday lives seemed vast.  Through my training, I realized that this has never been the case.  I have been shown and realized that it is exactly in our ordinary everyday life that we are most holy, that we are closest to the gods.  We just don’t know it.  We need to come to know it. 

We need to know that we have never been anything else but that core quality of Existence: Consciousness.   We will never be anything other than That.  We cannot, and have never acted in any other way. 

… and bless my feet,
that have always walked in Thy ways.

                                                – Book of Shadows,
                                                blessing of the Third Degree.

What does this mean, “we have never acted in any other way?”  It is simply this: as the Consciousness that constantly emanates the illusion of something to be aware of, we are all supreme magicians.  Our every conviction becomes tangible reality.  Reality is our own eternal invention.  When we “try” to do something contrary to the way everything already is, we fail only because deep down, we have a stronger habitual conviction that we are only human and cannot really change reality.  While being all-powerful, we are also our own worst all-powerful opponents, by habit.  If we have the deep-seated conviction, the habit of countless lifetimes, that we are insignificant humans in the larger scheme of the Universe, So Mote It Be – that will be our reality.  Like the witch on Sleeping Beauty, we have cast on ourselves an incredibly powerful, long-lasting spell of sleep and dream and illusion.  It is the kiss of Death and of suffering that slowly brings us to waken.  But Death and Suffering is only part of the dream.  Death and Suffering, as the Great Awakener, the bringer of Light (the meaning of the word “Lucifer”) and life and freedom, is actually the Prince of our hearts desire in disguise.

If we realize, explore, test, and see for ourselves that we are the authors of reality, so we will act.  Because we are the authors of reality, we experience what we believe deep down in the roots of our being, not merely what we might “wish” or say.  (The mere words of a spell will not work, unless we are deeply convinced that they will.  Magic is a deliberate, controlled, intentional “self-fulfilling prophecy.”)  So learning to act like who and what we really are means: learning to act like the authors of reality, like the gods, not mere human animals.

Imagine identifying with Consciousness itself, the Supreme Author of all there is to be aware of.  Imagine building the habit of acting like That, instead of acting like a limited human being.  In that state we cannot help realizing, as the Goddess did, that everything we experience is an illusion of our own device.  We cannot help “waking up” from our self-imposed sleep of ages (the word “Buddha” means “Awake”).

We are, underneath it all, Consciousness itself, the same One Consciousness that all creatures in the Universe share, and as That, we are the authors of our own illusory experience.  Think about the implications of this.  One could write volumes about these implications.  This gives an intimate understanding of, to name a tiny few: psychology, physiology, magic, psychism, physics, history and sociology.  But the most important implication is this: we need not take the illusion for being real.  We need not change anything.  We might appreciate the incredible drama of it all, just as it is, with all the seeming joy and all the seeming horror.  What book or movie could possibly compete with such widespread and varied drama?  What activity could compete with this incredibly convincing presentation?  In creating this continuing drama for ourselves, since the beginning of time, how could we possibly act more like whom and what we really are?

So, there would be no pressure, no urgency to act more like That or celebrate That more, because you know that you never could and never will do anything else.  There would be no pressure to do anything other than you already do.  That is, except for one overpowering observation: one becomes chronically aware of the suffering and the needs of others who are still caught up in the illusion.  One becomes aware of those who seem to experience their suffering and need as something painfully real.  You know how horrible the drama can be, and how totally convincing it can be, because you’ve been there yourself!  In fact, there you are there right now!  When, in your own personal experience you know yourself as the One Consciousness, you realize that it really is You over there, so terrified, and in so much pain. 

So, here again is a constant balancing act.  On one hand, everything is a self-created illusion: the emanated Responsiveness of Consciousness Itself.  On the other hand, so many beings of all kinds, all aspects of Yourself, do not know this, and they (you) experience suffering as something very real indeed. 

So, knowing the nature of reality and of the True Self is one thing.  Dealing with the ordinary everyday reality of it is a constant balancing act.  One must learn to understand, and act like the beneficent author of the cosmic drama.  One must find ways to, in daily life, contribute to the relief of those (yourselves) who suffer.

So in the face of the need of others, looking for the most effective way I can help, I examining my own characteristics and gifts. I know that I have an understanding of whom and what we really are.  I understand that we are the authors of our own realities.  I understand that we are the authors of a huge illusion that we constantly create for ourselves.  I understand that we convince ourselves the illusion is real.  I know that some Western mystery and mystical traditions are systems, cleverly designed, that can help us realize that we are the authors of this illusion.  I know that such systems offer tools to help with the hard work of remembering this fact, and of learning to act like it.  I realize that this understanding is something that I could pass on to others, in the hope that they stop taking their own suffering so seriously, and see the illusion for themselves.  I also find that my teacher blessed me with the gift of some articulateness. 

So I put these together and spend some of my time each day trying to explain what I have learned.  I try to explain who and what we really are, and try to explain what the design of some magical systems is for.  The hope is that at some point, someone, perhaps even one single person, will understand what I’m trying to pass on, and catch on to what’s really going on, which is ultimately Nothing at all.  My hope is that a practitioner of the occult will realize what that practice is for, and with this knowledge, become the quality of magician or witch the Goddess intended.  I hope that if I don’t have the right skills or am not the right person to explain these principles, perhaps I might at least make the job a little easier for someone else more skilled and qualified.

On this blog, in the coming weeks and months, I hope you will see more about the subject of whom and what we really are, and how Wicca and Western Mysticism are designed to help us to Remember.  But I have to be careful.  I must be careful because yes, it may be true to say “everything is perfect and OK just as it is,” and “you are the author of your own illusory life and everything in it.” Yes, it might be true but those are also heartless statements.  They are heartless to say to someone who has just lost their parent or a child, or who is themselves enduring slow years of a lingering and painful death.  It is heartless if they don’t see for themselves that it’s all a deeply engrossing movie that they have literally “dreamed up,” and convinced themselves to be so real.  Saying something like “it’s all a dream, an illusion, or a movie” can make other people heartless too.  Other people could take that statement to heart without understanding that they are One with those who experience the Dream as a terrible nightmare instead of the Supreme Adventure, and thinking “oh it doesn’t really matter,” abandon them.

So, for witches, I try to point out what the Goddess herself has tried to point out.  She teaches us the nature of the Dream, having learned from Death Himself (Cernunnos, Hades) that She is the master of The Illusion.  No one, including Death, is more of an expert of the dream than She.  She is our example of the perfect balancing act.  She is at the same time, the supreme sorceress, and the Supreme Mother, caring for all creatures as Her own children, as parts of her very Self.  In that perfect balancing act, no one knows more clearly than She, it’s all an illusion of our own device, yet no one knows more clearly than She, exactly how convincing that illusion can be. 

The gods are here to help man, but they need the help of man to do so.  One way they are here to help is to be an example to us, but we are the ones that must take on the hard work and the moment-to-moment choices involved in following their example.  It is we that must take responsibility for bringing ourselves back to their example each time we falter and forget.  It is we that must make that balancing act a deeply ingrained habit, our core character, our absolute conviction.  (And believe me, it is a constant practice, bringing my perspective back to The Perspective again and again whenever I forget, which is more often that I’d like to admit.)

The balancing act is finding the perfect union between these two perspectives:

  1. Everything is a self-created illusion. Nothing is really happening. All Experience is an incredible Adventure, the perfect movie, utterly convincing in seeming reality. This is both a snap of realization, and an eternal discovery.
  2.  There are so many (all aspects of Ourselves) who don’t know this, who are completely convinced, and cry in a dream that seems a horrible nightmare. There are so many that cannot find joy or ecstasy, who even wish they had never been born and curse the gods for creation and such heartless evil. But Remember. These wretched souls are part of your illusion. They are part of you and your experience. Like the Goddess, they are your children, parts of yourself. If you but cast your attention on them, how can you not feel their pain as though it were your own, since it is your own after all?

This is the nature of the Great Work: in every moment-to-moment choice, to keep the balancing act: never lose sight of suffering around you, and never lose sight that it’s all an illusion.  You are not facing reality if you forget those that suffer.  Yet, you cannot really help them, if you lose sight that it is all an illusion. 

In the myth of the witches, it was the Great Mother that felt such anguish for all Her children.  It was Death (Cernunnos, Hades) who taught that it’s all an illusion.  Too much of either perspective is horribly wrong.  The key is to always remember the Goddess and the God are One (what witches call “The Ancient Harmony”), and inseparable in Primordial Awareness.  They are one, just as the illusion and the Awareness from which it arises are one and the same.  Thus, to cease to behave like a human, and begin to behave like the gods, means never losing either of two automatic impulses.  It means never losing a helpless, permanent commitment to helping others, and never losing a perfectly comfortable awareness that the whole illusion doesn’t matter in the end.

It’s a balancing act.  Too much of either view will make you mad and destroy your life.   Too much sympathy for the pain of others will drown you in the infinite ocean of need and hopelessness.  Too much aloofness that it’s all an allusion will make one drift away from humanity, from the gods, from acting like who you really are, and away from everything that makes you wonderful.

It’s a balancing act.  Too little of either view will make you a monster.  Too little sympathy for the pain of others will make you cold and heartless and eventually numb to life and withdrawn, unable to enjoy life.  Too little awareness that it’s all an illusion will make the challenges in life insurmountable, and again, you will be unable to enjoy life.

It’s a balancing act.  While one can never balance perfectly, one has to make the effort of the Great Work, to help in any way one can with what seems to be terrible suffering, never losing sight that it only seems to be real.  I know it’s not easy.  I constantly falter in my balance, sometimes not caring, and other times in anguish.  But as in the practice of meditation, I always eventually remember to bring my mind and my perspective gently back to that balance again, each time I forget.  That’s life.  That’s the ordinary everyday life of a real magician or witch.

One of my favorite tools of Remembrance is the Goddess herself.  I use Her example as a Reminder of someone who embodies that balancing act.  After all, she is the expert of the self-created illusion, and she also feels the pain of every one of her children.  So, as our Supreme Example of who we really are, and of how to act like and celebrate That, the Goddess is constantly helping us Remember, and helping us wake up from our dream, by making statements like:

Existence is pure joy, all experiences are sacraments, all sorrows are but shadows, they pass and are done, but there is That which remains
                                                                – The Goddess

In this sentence, the Goddess reminds us there is joy, and there is sorrow, and she never forgets either.  However, remembering both, she points out that while joy, experiences and sorrows may seem real, they all pass and are done, so they are, in the end, not real at all.  Yet, after all is said and done, there is Something that does remain.  There is One Thing in all of it that is real.  What exactly is it that remains, beyond joy, experience, sorrows and shadows?  What?  You know the answer.  You are the answer.  It’s the real You, the Consciousness behind Existence itself, that watches the Dream, that experiences everything, that’s reading these very words.

Like the rest of traditional Wicca, this sentence is a gift from the Goddess to help us Remember, and help us to act like Her.  There is true genius in this sentence, that helps me when I’m forgetting.  The genius in this sentence helps me when I’m laughing so hard, or in a blissful state as if I were detached from the whole illusion of experience.  It helps me when I have forgotten how serious things can seem.  The genius in this sentence is in Her pointing out that “all experiences are sacraments.”  I had to look up sacrament in the dictionary.  Then I understood.  Here sacrament means: every experience is a concrete physical proof of the final nature of Reality, a stark Reminder of the way things are, which is: an utterly convincing illusion.  “All experiences are sacraments.”  Remembering this, all I need to do is pay attention to any experience at all, and Who it is that’s Experiencing it, and I have proof.  I have undeniable, immediate, nonconceptual (often physical) proof.  I have tangible proof on one hand: of the blatant presence of the illusion, and how incredibly real it can seem, and on the other hand: a firm Reminder of “That which remains.”

The balancing act.  Every experience is an opportunity for that moment to moment choice of the balancing act.

Mer-Amun MerAmun

I think we can all agree that before 1940, nearly all occult activities, save very few, were performed in complete secrecy, so little of what is published today was available then.

Now, there is a word for “witch” in nearly every language on the planet.  While “Wicca”, as we know it today, did not exist until after 1940, there were certainly “witches” of some sort practicing throughout history, all over the planet, as evidenced in many more sources than the contents of a mysterious room in the Forbidden City, certain initiatory secrets in the ancient Bön religion of Tibet, digs in the Indus valley, and refrences in ancient Egyptian papyri. In Europe, this practice has been heavily affected by a “Burning Time” that no-one can deny occurred during the time of the Inquisition.  This event drove such practitioners into secrecy, and only survived in a significant way in remote mountain regions of Germany, Eastern Europe, Italy, France and Spain. The secretive witchcraft practiced in these remote locations became culturally isolated versions of what we call “Wicca” today.  In these parts of the world, what we today call “Wicca” became a very secret family or community tradition.  Due to the violent forces that created this state of affairs, the tradition that survived in these fragmented and isolated conditions itself became fragmented and differentiated over time.  In most cases, very little of what was a genuine and complete mystery tradition before the Burning Time survived complete and intact.

As a result of all this, a “witch” before 1940 would have been more likely a follower of a “family tradition.”  Such a person would have snatched up whatever occult literature could be found at the time, while hand-copying whatever notes that could be had through family friends and associations. People involved in such family and cultural traditions tended to be attracted to other occult activities that slowly re-emerged over the centuries.  These people were naturally attracted to, and heavily influenced such occult orders as “The Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn”, the Fraternity of the Inner Light and the Ordo Templi Orientis , besides other separate and more secret orders.  It is known that such magical orders influenced Gerald Gardner, and through him, the influence came round full circle into the English version of “witchcraft” that we know today as “Wicca.”

This paints a picture of a pre-1940 European occult practitioner, who may or may not have called himself or herself a “witch”, and probably never heard the word “Wicca”.  After 1940, while Gerald Gardner affected English Wicca, the other “witches” hiding throughout Europe had not been so affected. In many cases these people still do practice in absolute family or community secrecy.

In American History, an interesting example of secret European family traditions surviving through an immigration to the New World, is the story of the “Pennsylvania Dutch”, or rather, “Pennsylvania Deitsch” (“Pennsylvania Germans”). From the Black Forest hexenmeisters (folk magicians, or spell-casters) of Germany, a group of families emigrated to the lands which are now called Romania, near Transylvania. Kaiser Wilhelm promised them land, in return for settling there. These farming families continued their secret traditions, with an outward appearance of Christianity. They might hang a rosary on the wall, for the neighbors to see, but they continued to practice their own faith in secret. As time went on, they mingled their faith with the practices of Romanian healers. In the early 1800s, they came to America, where they settled in Pennsylvania, and became part of the community which came to be known as the Pennsylvania Dutch. Among these Pennsylvania Dutch, to this day there remain extremely secretive practitioners of very old family traditions (not to mention cooks of great food!)

In the “New World”, Janus-Mithras was trained in a different family tradition by his own mother, who was a Spanish “bruja” pronounced “bruha” , male form is “brujo” – the Spanish words for “witch”).  Not surprisingly, due to the cross-influence between family traditions and secret occult orders already described, Janus Mithras also received training in various secret German occult orders through his own father’s papers.  The “traditional” Wicca described on this web site, that of the Isis Urania covens, is a direct confluence of these sources – the family tradition, and the secret European occult orders.  

Living in Vancouver in 1960, Janus-Mithras was called upon to teach what he had learned from his parents.  As the raw European material Janus-Mithras grew up with wasn’t very useful to English speaking Canadians, he received help from a Gardnerian witch in Vancouver that year, and together they adapted the Gardnerian language to the European family tradition.  Thus, in Vancouver, 1960, Janus-Mithras formed the first of the Isis Urania covens.

Of the “traditional” Wicca described here, while the language is new (post-1940), the teaching behind the language is from a far older family tradition.  It is this older tradition of explanation, Initiation and Realization that is referred to with the word “traditional”.

So, while “Wicca” was invented by Gerald Gardner in a sense, at the same time in another sense, it existed long before Gerald Gardner was ever born, and in many more cultures than the English.  The language of “Wicca” has changed around the world for thousands of years.  Gerald Gardner’s writings simply present yet another new cultural expression of the very old tradition.  The essential teachings, the mysteries, the meaning and significance of those, and the central myth behind it are all much older, and more pervasive than what we today call “Wicca”.  Wicca, the Ancient Way, is a very old system of Initiation and Realization, older than the word “Wicca” itself, and far older than the actual prayers and rituals we use in English today.  It is this Ancient Way that we refer to with the word “traditional” as in “traditional Wicca”.

Mer-Amun MerAmun

There are three motivating paths in Occult Arts:  Power, Knowledge, and Love.

Those motivated by power cannot realize their own true nature beyond their individual ability.

Those motivated by knowledge cannot realize their own true nature beyond an idea.

Those motivated by love realize their own true nature in every way, because their motivation includes both knowledge and power, and more besides.  It also includes the power to identify with (sympathize with) anything and everything, including Ultimate Deity, because that’s what we are (with all the power and knowledge implied).  It’s one thing to engage the elementals with stern authoritarian commands, and another to feel as the Ultimate Deity does, and entreat those elementals to help, with tears in your eyes, and sympathy in our heart.  (As an elemental yourself, which would you be more likely to do everything in your power to help?)

Often, the motivation of love is an underestimated principle in Wicca (and I do not refer to love spells here, but to caring and compassion for others).  We have the wiccan rede: “An it harm none, do what thou wilt”, and we have the Law of Threefold Return.  Both of these hint at the importance of caring for others, but don’t quite emphasize the importance and significance of compassion in Wicca.

But it is essential, this emphasis on compassion and love for others.

The most obvious place we find this is in the motivation that Aradia herself had, for studying the occult arts, and for venturing into the Underworld, to find and confront Death himself.  Being immortal, she was tormented by the continual loss of those she loved, all of whom died, every one, every time.  She was tormented by the suffering all of her children endured, helpless to make a lasting difference, all of them dying eventually.  It was caring for others that drove her to study the occult arts.  This caring being foremost, demanded that she gain power and knowledge, but those only in service of her prime motivation: to end the suffering of others.  Wicca itself exists only because of this motivation in Her: she came back from the Underworld with the Secret to the meaning of life, and devoted herself through eternity to easing suffering in others by teaching what she learned.

Suffering.  The great motivator.  People eat, ultimately because they are suffering from hunger.  They work, ultimately because they are suffering from lack.  Suffering of one’s own, or of others is the most common motivation for studying the occult arts (more often, one’s own).

We find hidden on the Wiccan altar a great reminder of the all-important motivation of love.  It is the Scourge.

Attributed to Aradia, it is a whip with 7 knots, symbolic of suffering, ritually administered lightly as possible to prostate participants.

Aradia, motivated by death and suffering, studied the occult and confronted Death, necessarily removing seven prized obscuring veils.

Etymology:  “Sourge” comes form Latin “ex – corrigia” meaning “break attachments”.

The scourge is Aradia breaking attachments, reminding of four things:

  • Alleviation of suffering is the necessary motivation for studying the occult.
  • Attachment to loved ones, health or possessions causes the motivational suffering.
  • Breaking attachment to prized ignorant habits and self-opinions brings necessary suffering.
  • Occult training eases suffering, through emulating Her.

“Art thou willing to suffer in order to learn?”
(Book of Shadows)

Readers primarily motivated by power might ask, how does power arise from love?  The answer is simple.  The Law of Three Fold Return holds the secret.  There is such a principle as cause and effect in this universe.  One only amasses anything by first giving that same thing to others.  Only by doing things for others, and enabling others will things happen for us, and will we be enabled ourselves.  (Obviously, motivation counts.  If you give something solely to get something, you are demonstrating greed, and greed will be demonstrated right back at you, threefold.  You have to really care, to be shown care in return.)

Readers mainly motivated by knowledge might ask: how does knowledge arise from love?  Again, the answer is simple.  Direct personal experience is the quickest and deepest way to learn or know anything.  Love includes sympathy.  If you have considerable love and  sympathy for others (things as well as people), by simply casting your attention on something, to the degree that you really care, you will know what it’s like to actually “be” it or them.  You will learn from personal experience, not books, everything you care to know about anything you turn your attention to.  Sympathy is possible because you are a direct expression of the entire universe.  By turning your attention to anything, you are simply becoming aware, subjectively, of being that thing (to the degree by which you are capable of perfect sympathy).

“I wish to know, in order to Serve”
(Book of Shadows)
 

Love and compassion are the automatic inherent qualities of realizing that you are a direct expression of the entire universe.  If you’re everyone and everything at heart, how can you not feel for every single suffering experienced wherever you turn your attention, feeling for it as though it were you suffering?  After all, it is you that’s suffering.  So, if you’re wondering why it’s important to be a witch, look to Aradia: it’s to help others from their suffering.  If you’re wondering what is the secret to making your spells work, look to Aradia: it’s the Law of Threefold Return.  If you’re wondering how to learn anything, look to Aradia: care enough, and you’ll automatically know what matters.

So, if you want to be a witch, if you want to know the secrets of the universe, and be able to do powerful magic, look to Aradia.  Be like Her, and devote yourself to easing the suffering around you.  The more you do this, the more you’ll be a powerful, wise, and loving witch like Her.

Mer-Amun MerAmun
Mer-Amun MerAmun (January, 1985)

 

 

I was so tired that I felt dizzy, but I couldn’t sleep for excitement.  The 747 was circling Cairo waiting for landing clearance.  I could smell the ancient city.   I could see the haze in the air which was aglow from the city street lights.  That haze was the reason we weren’t landing immediately.  It was a type of sand storm that had engulfed the whole of Northern Egypt, and threatened to shut down the airport.

Hurray!  Ours was the last plane to land before the airport was shut down.  My business partner and his wife, due to land in another hour and a half, was re-directed to Mecca, the closest airport with a strip big enough for a 747, that was also not affected by the storm.  So, I was alone for 4 days, on my first trip outside of North America.

As we drove through the city, I thought everyone must be mad for the disregard of lanes, speed limits, and road courtesy, and the incessant honking of horns that would have been thought maniacal at home.  The Taxi driver and his brother joked about the “City of the Dead” as we passed by the necropolis – a huge graveyard of tombs – alight with the lanterns of homeless people who spent their nights in there.  They joked that the homeless were actually “the Dead” more than the bones that those people sat upon.

I stumbled into my room at the Holiday Inn Pyramids, in the suburb of Cairo called Giza.  I barely had time to glance out the window into the night, and see looming over the horizon, the night-lit pyramids I had always dreamed of visiting.  I fell into what seemed a long deep sleep, filled with fantastic dreams.

Hungry, and needing to pee, I slowly woke, groggily looking around me, and out the window at the same night scene.  I thought I’d slept more than a few hours, but evidently not, as it was still night, and the pyramids were still right there lit up as when I fell asleep.  Then I realized: I had slept a full 24 hours!  Wasted one of my precious days on this fabulous trip!

I rushed down to the lobby, hastily throwing on my 1980’s black leather jacket, grabbed a candy bar for breakfast, and rushed out into the night, determined not to waste another minute.  I could see the giant pyramids right there, seemingly only a few blocks away, and naively assuming that the city streets would be arranged in an orderly grid, set out in the general direction of them, thinking that sooner or later I’d find my way there.  As you can imagine, I quickly got lost, and unfortunately, in a dangerous part of town at that.  Eventually I found my way at a barbed wire fence that bordered the ancient necropolis  that is beside the pyramids themselves.  There was a small tent with a small fire, around which huddled two or three Egyptian soldiers who were part of the guarding of the site from plunder.  They waved their guns at me menacingly, yelling at me in Arabic, gesturing for me to leave the area at once.  Before I could leave, one of them, speaking clear enough English that I could understand, asked what I was doing there.  I asked for directions to the pyramids.  He kept saying that I should simply follow the “street that leads to the pyramids”, and I kept saying “which street is that?”  After we repeated this to each other a few times, we gave up, and I said I’d go back to my hotel.  Why would he tell me to go to the “pyramid street?”  How was I supposed to know which street that is?  Geeze.

Still suffering from jet-lag, I decided to have some food in the hotel.  From years of accompanying my ex-wife to her belly-dance gigs, I was accustomed to good Arabic food.  There was none of that to be found here.  Terrible falafel, and something horrible that was supposed to pass for tabouli.  Oh well, I thought, I’ll hunt for some good food tomorrow.

Again I slept through the entire following day, so that again it was night when I woke.  I had yet to see Cairo in daylight!  Again I set out into the night, determined to see the pyramids, this time taking my camera strapped around my neck, and hidden under my leather jacket.  This time, I followed the main street in a tangent to where I could see the pyramids, and eventually came to: “Pyramid Street”!!  So this is what the soldier was trying to tell me!  The street itself is named “Pyramid Street”.  I felt like a dummy, but excited, followed it up onto the famous plateau, and straight to the foot of the Greet Pyramid!

I was awestruck by the sheer size of it, looming up into the dark sky above me.  The alien landscape with the other pyramids looming in the distance, and the strange noises that filled the night air felt really eerie, and yet extremely exciting.  I started toward walking around the pyramid, when the night lights suddenly switched off.  I guessed they don’t keep the lights burning all night.  Looking at my watch, it was 10:20pm.

An Egyptian wearing a caftan approached.  In broken English he said I wasn’t to be there and asked me to leave.  I looked at him, dressed like a beggar, and figured he was one of the homeless people the taxi driver was joking about.  I ignored the man and pushed past him, determined to be alone.  He followed quite insistently, and when he saw that I wasn’t going to listen to him no matter what he said, he held out his hand and said “Baksheesh!”  Well, the word I didn’t understand, but the outstretched hand was obvious.  I gave him $20 U.S. hoping he’d be satisfied and leave me alone.  Instead, he immediately started offering me a tour, offering to show me the “quick way” to the top, pointing to take me around to a dark place behind the smaller pyramids, where none of the other figures shuffling around the area could see.  Yeah, right.  The “quick way”!  Figuring I was about to get mugged for whatever other $20 bills I might have in my wallet, I started trying to get away from the man again.

I decided to circumambulate the pyramid three times saying prayers before ascending, and began to do so quickly enough that I would stay ahead of this nagging individual.  Eventually, I came upon a construction wall, with a watchman’s cabin.  This watchman wouldn’t let me pass, but mysteriously, the beggar who was still following me, said something to the watchman, and I was allowed to continue.

Now I was between the Great Pyramid, and the seemingly larger (though actually slightly smaller) pyramid of Kephren.  The strange noises in the dark night air echoed really strangely between these pyramids.  I asked the beggar what that noise was.  He explained that college kids from the University of Cairo come there each night to sing and dance in small groups as teen-agers have done for thousands of years.  Then I realized that was what I was hearing: the chanting and very Egyptian clapping, from at least three groups somewhere out in the dark.  I started walking and praying again.  I came across the construction site, that the guard had let me near.  The beggar explained that this was the newly excavated site of the Boat of Ra, and while the boat had been discovered a long time ago, a building to house it was being created, and new discoveries were being made while digging in the area.  I was grateful for the company of the beggar after all, as he had defended me against the construction site watchman, and he was explaining very interesting stuff to me.  When the beggar saw my attitude change, he again began to offer to show me the top of the pyramid, but this time, he said, he wanted to show me the right way to climb the pyramid.  Not wanting this, I ignored him again, and told him I was going to climb by myself.  He said ok, but just stay with the corners, and not to try to get near the middle of a side.  Soon after this, I guess he gave up, because he disappeared into the night, and I finished my subsequent two turns around the pyramid.

Now I was standing at the North-East corner, and began to climb.  At first, I didn’t know how I was going to manage it, the blocks being too large to scale very easily.  Then, squinting in the dark, I saw that the blocks were actually of irregular size and placement, and if I was careful, I could pick out a route that wasn’t so bad.  Soon, I fell into a rhythm, scaling block after block after block, always looking at my next foot-hold, and deliberately not looking up or down.  I didn’t want to know how hopelessly far from the top I was, and I didn’t want to get dizzy from the height.

After a while, I realized that the rhythm had become so engrossing, it took me a while to notice that I had been quite out of breath for some time, and was about to faint, possibly falling all the way down!  Alarmed, I immediately stopped and sat down, struggling to regain my breath, as I surveyed the view.  The night sky

Looking up into the darkness at the climb ahead, from my resting place about two thirds of the way up.

Looking up into the darkness at the climb ahead, from my resting place about two thirds of the way up.

wasn’t completely dark, as the sand-storm was still around the city, and the orange glow of the street lights lent a faint glow to the haze all around.  The storm just have been subsiding, because I could see stars above.  I looked across the Northern slope at the edge to the West.  That edge, while ragged, looked so stark against the night sky, stars and space immediately upon it.  It looked like the very edge of the Earth. In fact, I became alarmed that I was slowly leaning, leaning toward falling, because of an illusion created by the immense size of the rocky side of the pyramid, which seemed more and more like the ground, and “up” seemed more and more like a vertical from that plane… a false illusion of “up” that would have caused me to tumble to my death.  Quickly I became aware of how vulnerable I was on the steep side of this alien plane, and that the wind was so strong, I had to hold on to keep my balance, my leather jacket flapping in the wind.

Quickly, I looked away from that unearthly horizon, and down at the true ground from which had I started my climb.  And as I looked, creeping out of the dark and gloomy necropolis in the near distance, two packs of wild dogs emerged, slowly advancing on the pyramid, at my feet.  The leaders of each pack advanced upon each other, growling and barking menacingly at each other.  When they met, they were right at the very stone I had first set my foot upon, and as they began a ferocious tearing fight right there, all of the other dogs in the packs began a senseless melee all around.  The terrible sound of this war of dog-fights rose and engulfed me, echoing off the pyramids in the distance, and mixing eerily with the sound of the college kids still partying in the distance.  I wondered, what are the chances that these two packs of dogs should meet to war, exactly at the very spot I had set foot on the pyramid.  Surely, this was some kind of very bad omen for my journey.

I watched the dogs fight below my gaze for a few minutes, and then resolved to turn and resume my climb.  I noticed I had already gone two thirds of the way, and if I got back into that rhythm, I would be at the top before I again lost my breath.  I went only about 10 blocks up, and noticed that the dogs had disappeared, dispersed into the darkness from which they crept.

Block after block, level after level, they all passed in the rhythm of my climb. Again, I neither looked up, nor down, always focusing only on the next block , and the next… and then, to my surprise, there was no next block.  In surprise, I stood, gazing at the plateau at the very top of the Great Pyramid of Cheops.  All I have to do, I thought, was  to climb one more block, and I’d be on top… but then, what would I hold on to, to keep my balance against the wind?

And then, what the hell is that?!!!  I suddenly noticed the sound of something else flapping wildly in the wind, besides my jacket.  It was coming from the center of the plateau… a plastic bag of some sort.  Who would litter on the top of the… wait, it’s not a plastic bag.  It’s something wrapped in plastic, something heavy enough to keep the plastic from completely blowing away… judging by the length and width of it, as the plastic flapped around it, the thing looked to be about the same shape and size of a person, lying on the top of the pyramid, wrapped in plastic that flapped wildly in the wind!  What the… ?!!  And is that chanting I hear coming from it, or is that the sound of the wind whistling around the rocks?

My mind raced with possibilities, trying to grasp the situation, and determine what my reaction should be.  On one hand, it could be someone dead.  But who could labor to carry a dead person up here, without being noticed?  Maybe they were noticed, and were somehow allowed!  What would that mean?!  Maybe it isn’t a dead person, but someone who climbed up here just like me.  But then, how could they breath from inside that plastic, and why on earth would they be doing that?  Maybe it’s someone who’s meditating, maybe meditating on death and imagining what it would be like to be dead.  I’ve seen stranger things, and I’ve gone to graveyards myself with that same intention.  But the top of the Great Pyramid?!  I thought of the beggar down below, who might have mugged me earlier.  Maybe this is someone who is lying in waiting for me, to mug me and throw me down to my death!  Oh come on!  How likely is that?  Ok, but how likely is what I see right before my eyes!  How can I explain that?!  Whatever it is, I reasoned, there’s something very wrong here.  That thing is actually lined up exactly North-South, with the “head” to the North, and in the exact center of the plateau!  Something’s not right, whatever it is.  The sense of danger won over me, and I turned, scurrying down the side as quickly as I could, assuming a “crab-walk” to keep all my limbs in contact with the pyramid, while moving as quickly down as I could.

Quickly snapped a picture of the downward journey into the darkness, from near the top.  Note the sand on each level, from which a foothold might easily slip, start a surely fatal tumble.

Quickly snapped a picture of the downward journey into the darkness, from near the top. Note the sand on each level, from which a foothold might easily slip, and start a surely fatal tumble. (click for full size image - note the haze in the air from the sand storm.)

I glanced up at the edge of the plateau above me every few seconds, in case someone were to suddenly appear, and come after me.  My heart was pounding so hard, my croutched body jerked each time with its force. Then, seeing nothing move at all, I stopped, and realized, “wait a minute.”  Just wait a minute.  Think.  Certainly there’s no need to actually endanger myself against the wind by standing up there with nothing to hold on to, and certainly there’s something weird up there… but who on earth would believe this story?  I’m right here, and I’m already starting to doubt what I thought I saw, and what I thought I heard.  I thought, I’ll never forgive myself, if I don’t get my camera ready, and go back up there (gulp), and take a picture of whatever it is.  Then I’ll know that I really did see something up there, and I can show it to others, who might not believe the whole weird story.

So I steeled myself, climbed back up, heart still pounding in my chest, watching my way through the camera view-finder in case something should peer down at me from the edge of the plateau, in which case, I’d quickly go “click!” and run like hell.  But nothing did peer down at me.  So when I got to the top, I carefully aimed, and was about to click, when I realized that the flash in the night was certainly going to draw attention to me where I might have gone luckily unnoticed before!  I decided I had to take my chances… the idea of getting a picture was just too great, so I looked down at my escape route, focused, and snapped the picture.  I scurried down the side of that pyramid like nobody’s business, and upon reaching the bottom, ran all the way down into Pyramid Street, and all the way back to the hotel. 

The next day, I woke in early morning this time.  I befriended a taxi driver who showed me the sights  around Cairo, took me to the perfume shop my Teacher told me to visit, and took me into his home where his wife sheepishly made us a delicious lunch of tomatoes, cheese, and couscous with tea.

I asked the taxi driver, various guards, guides, and officials about my adventure throughout my journey through Egypt in the following weeks.  With one exception, I invariably got one of two responses: a) you’re lying, you didn’t and couldn’t climb the pyramid, especially at night, b) you might have climbed, but you certainly didn’t see that!  (In asking, I discovered that there are signs near the pyramid, warning of the illegality of climbing, and of the certainty of prosecution and probably jail term.  I further found out that the “beggar” was actually a paid guard, whose job it was to keep people like me from going there at night.  I had unwittingly bribed this guard when I gave him the $20 “baksheesh”.)

The exception was on my last day in Egypt.  The Cairo-based travel agent who was in charge of my stay throughout Egypt.  When I told him, his eyes went wide, and he was obviously trying to calm himself for some reason, and he said in a shaky voice at first, “That’s not supposed to be happening anymore.”  When I said “What?” he acted like he never said anything, and simply told me that the “Tourist Police” must be told of my experience, and that they must have a copy of my photograph, as soon as I get it developed.  He wouldn’t say why, and he couldn’t explain what I’d heard him say.  He simply repeated over and over again that I should tell the Tourist Police immediately, and that I should promise to send them a copy of the photograph.

It’s weird that, while I’d been there for more than 56 hours, more than two full days and nights, I never saw daylight in Egypt until after I saw, whatever-that-was, on top of the Great Pyramid.  No matter that I wasn’t believed, those first two days (or rather, nights), in Egypt set a tone or a mood for my entire visit, that lent magic and mystery to everything I did and saw.  

When I returned to Toronto, I had the photo developed, and sure enough, there it is: something roughly man-sized and shaped, inside plastic, that is distorted by its flapping in the wind, lying on the ancient stone blocks that show graffiti from centuries of visits including ancient Romans, Napoleon’s soldiers, etc.  I showed it to a Vietnam veteran, who said it looked exactly like the hundreds of body bags he’d seen.

I showed it to my Teacher.  He said nothing at first.  Then he simply said that it was a warning from the spirit of the Pyramid, and would speak no more about it.

I never did even try to send the photo to the Tourist Police.  I just didn’t want any part of whatever trouble I might be stirring up by doing so.

That’s all I know.  Here’s the picture.  See for yourself.  See what you think.  Maybe it’s nothing and I conjured for myself an adventure out of the sheer excitement of being there, alone, at night, at the top of the Great Pyramid of Cheops.  Still, what on earth is that in the photograph…?  

As you examine the picture, remember, there’s a strong wind blowing up against it from the direction of view, up against the side in view.  Notice the creases in the plastic… it’s a kind of rigid thicker plastic than garbage bags are.  It made a “crackling” sound as it was flapping in the wind.  It’s about 6 feet long, from the “head” (at the right) to the “feet” (at the left).  If you click to look at the larger image, and look closely at the right end, you can’t help wondering what’s inside that the plastic is being blown so strongly against.  Is that really a head inside there?  The “hump” in the middle was only there as the plastic was flapping in the wind, against the weight of whatever is inside.  That “hump” is part of the “flapping”, and between flapps actually lays down flat, even with the top of the left end.  Maybe it’s just a chello, or harp in a plastic bag from the music store.  At almost midnight.  In Giza.  On top of the Great Pyramid.

Top of the Great Pyramid of Cheops near midnight, Jan.11, 1985  (click for larger image)

Top of the Great Pyramid of Cheops near midnight, Sun.Jan.13, 1985 (click for full size image)

(If you’d like to see more pictures from that trip to Egypt, click here.)

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Mer-Amun MerAmun (Summer 1984)

 

 

I had been married to a world-famous belly dancer and because of that I had become a great fan of belly dancing with knowledge of and respect for the best known dancers in Egypt.

Nagua Fouad

Nagua Fouad

One day it was announced that one of the most famous Egyptian belly dancers, Nagua Fouad, would be dancing in Toronto at Seneca College, partly sponsored by the Egyptian Ministry of Tourism. My ex-wife got tickets for me, and our Teacher, and a couple of other mutual friends. We were all excited to see such a famous woman dance, especially since she was still so highly respected, even in her 50’s.

 

 

When the day of the performance arrived, and we were ushered to our seats, we found that the tickets were not in the same row, but that one of us had to sit in a row behind the others. I took that seat, so that I could be closer to our Teacher in case he had anything to say that I wouldn’t want to miss. I sat next to an elderly Canadian couple who had obviously been to Egypt themselves, and who had great respect for the dancer too. I believe my seat was K73 and they were sitting in seats K71 and 72.

Well, the show was billed to start at 8:30, but 8:30 came and went and everyone was wondering: “what was the hold-up?” The audience was getting loud and restless. Our Teacher was studying the Egyptian hieroglyphs that decorated the program card that everyone was handed at the door. He remarked that these hieroglyphs were not randomly chosen simply for decoration, but that someone who understands hieroglyphs had chosen and arranged those particular ones for a specific effect. I was, as always, amazed by the breadth of our Teacher’s knowledge.

When the show still hadn’t started by 9:30, an announcer came on stage to explain that the dancer wouldn’t be ready for another hour, possibly two. This raised uproar from the audience. The announcer went on to say that a tourism office was offering in consolation, as prize for a draw of ticket stubs, a free trip to Egypt. The condition was that we had to be in our seats to qualify for the draw, and that the draw would be held at the end of the show.

We waited another 20 minutes or so for the show to start. During that 20 minutes it was explained by my ex-wife that famous dancers in Egypt don’t normally go on stage until about 3:00am and that the night-clubs where they perform don’t normally even open until 1:00am. This, apparently, was why the dancer was not prepared for an 8:30 show, as no-one had explained to her the different expectations here in the West. While we waited, I saw our Teacher scan the crowd, and at the far section of the audience he pointed out a group of people who knew my ex-wife very well, who were acting quite hostile toward the group of us sitting together where we were. Our Teacher looked at me and motioned for me to come closer. He said, “If anyone in this room deserves that prize, it’s you. I’ll see what I can do,” and he winked at me with a nod as if to say “it’s a sure thing.” I was flattered and deeply touched that he felt so much for me, regarding all the pain I’d been through as a result of my divorce.

Nagua Fouad

Nagua Fouad

The show came on and I completely forgot the incident. The music, the dancers, and Nagua Fouad were all spectacular. Our Teacher mentioned that he was especially impressed with the subtlety of muscular control that Nagua Fouad had, especially considering her age, and I had to agree entirely. None of us could see how she could possibly have been older than 30 or 40.

 

 

I was so involved in the show and the excitement of it that I didn’t notice the elderly couple sitting beside me get up and leave, it evidently getting too late in the evening for them to remain. It was a long show after all, and it ended very late, especially for a show that was billed to have started at 8:30.

After the last encore by Nagua Fouad was finished, and our cheers and applause would not coax her to the stage again, the announcer came on stage and said that it was time for the ticket-stub draw for the free trip to Egypt. I had completely forgotten about it. I remembered what our Teacher had said, and felt deeply warm that he thought of me again, but put that out of my mind, not really expecting anything to come of his promise, feeling unworthy of such attention from him.

The announcer asked a little girl to come on stage to pull a ticket stub out of a hat he had in hand. The little girl must have been 4 years old. She was shy and reluctant, but eventually the announcer got her to reach in and pull out a ticket…… K72! “Would the person in seat K72 please come to the stage to accept your prize! Your free trip to Egypt!”

My mind was reeling. I couldn’t believe how close to me the winner actually was! It was the seat right beside me! It was one of that elderly couple right beside me! “What are the odds?” I thought in excited amazement. I bent down to say to our Teacher: “WOW that was amazing! Right beside me!” But he was already stretching around to speak to me. He was apologizing profusely, saying again and again, “I’m so sorry. I thought for sure it was yours. I thought for sure you were the winner. I’m sorry. I don’t know what went wrong,” he said. I was shocked. I didn’t realize he was so very serious about making sure that I got that prize. I’d never heard our Teacher apologize like that before. I felt so very badly that he was upset about something to do with me. All I could do was to express my amazement that whatever he had done, had landed the prize RIGHT NEXT TO ME!

Then, as people started yelling that the winner wasn’t in his seat, that they had gone home, I realized that there was no-one sitting in that seat anymore. It was only then that I realized that the elderly couple must have gone home. So now what? The announcer confirmed with everyone in the audience that yes, that draw was disqualified because the winner wasn’t in his seat any longer, so another draw must be made.

I thought “Wow, how lucky I was to have been so close to winning, and how lucky I was to have been so close due to the efforts of my teacher!” “What a magician!” I thought. I realized that my chance at winning was granted but that for some reason or other I didn’t get it, and that was that. I thought “I’ll never forget how close my teacher brought the draw to making me the winner!”

So the announcer asked a little boy to come on stage this time. I thought of the impossibility that out of two draws, that they should be adjoining seats, and that the adjoining seat should be mine after my teacher said “I’ll do what I can” with a wink. The impossibility of it made me give up completely the notion that I could possibly be the winner.

The little boy reached into the hat, pulled out a ticket….. K73! My seat! My ticket! Right after the seat just next to me had been pulled! Impossible!

But everyone around me was yelling “congratulations” and “good for you” and our Teacher had turned around to face me and was laughing, and everyone seemed to be laughing, and I realized, Oh my God! I better get down to the stage to get….. I WON! I thanked our Teacher as best as I could amid everyone’s yelling and presented my ticket stub on stage. I actually received a voucher for what turned out to be one of the most spectacular trips of my life, second only to traveling through Katmandu and part of India with our Teacher and friends many years later.

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Mer-Amun MerAmun (Summer 1974)

 

 

It was late one evening in our Teacher’s apartment in Toronto. He had just finished teaching some of his students (including me) a class about Wisdom and Skillful Means. We were all a bit tired from the intense interest peaked throughout his discourse, and as always were closing the day with fascinating discussions generated by his teaching, while sipping tea and munching snacks (which he always provided).

I remarked that I was having trouble with the notion that the study of Skillful Means was merely an intellectual exercise. One of the students asked our Teacher for some tangible proof that Skillful Means really exists and that what we’re studying has a basis in physical reality besides the reality of the imagination. Our Teacher asked what would constitute “proof” of such reality. All at once, students began calling out different effects he could perform in front of us, any of which would be “impossible” without Skillful Means. One called for him to levitate something. Another called for him to make a spirit to appear in physical form before us. Another person mentioned that our Teacher had once (jokingly) promised to create a rainstorm inside the apartment.

To my surprise (and that of others I’m sure) our Teacher agreed to create a rainstorm! But not inside the apartment, though only due to the calamity of getting everything wet. He said the rainstorm would happen outside instead.

I remembered that in another meeting, out Teacher had mentioned that weather magic had always come very easily to him, describing an incident where in his early childhood (6 years old or so), his mother (who was also one his first teachers) had taken him to the top of a hill, overlooking the ocean, and asked him to perform a simple technique for creation of a storm. When he did so, there had immediately appeared in the distance a black rolling cloud moving very quickly, boiling and thundering straight toward them, throwing lightning bolts all along the way. There immediately followed one of those tropical “flash storms” the residents are so accustomed to. Our Teacher mentioned that his mother was very impressed, even shocked at the immediacy and intensity of the reaction to what she thought was her son’s first attempt at creating tangible phenomena. Our Teacher remembered that she tried to hide her amazement, in hopes that our Teacher wouldn’t get a “big head” over it.

As I was thinking of this, I was sitting in a chair right next to the open Western window, laying my arm on its sill. Watching our Teacher get up from his chair, moving to the “meditation” area of the room in front of us, I also looked out the open window. I could easily see the completely clear sky, and the few stars that shone through the city glow of downtown Toronto. I remember thinking that this would be a spectacular trick indeed, as not only was there not even a single cloud in sight, but there wasn’t even a haze in the air, normally so common in the inner city of Toronto.

I watched our Teacher with utter interest and fascination as he began with preparatory prayers of “Remembrance” (which we now call “Recollecting The View”) when lighting a high candle in the nearly complete darkness of the room. I keenly witnessed him perform the same preparatory ritual and mantra that we were all practicing on a daily basis at the time… but he made small adjustments, each accentuating some presence from each of the four Buddha Families, one in each quarter. I savored the sound of his magical sword being dragged on the floor to form a circle around the practice room, which had its Southern wall completely open to us as we sat transfixed in our chairs and couches, our eyes following our Teacher’s every move.

Every few seconds, I would tear my eyes away from the “master at work” before me, whose every movement and utterance was firm, direct, and carefully controlled. I would tear my eyes away to glance out the open window beside me to see if anything was happening outside. To my amazement, as he drew the circle around his place of “working” with the sword, I could see the air thickening before my very eyes into a haze that had not been there before, obscuring the few stars that I had seen only seconds before. The hot night air that was the reason for having the window open in the first place, quickly cooled and a chill ran through me as I thought the window aught now be closed.

Then, our Teacher took a position in the West, facing whatever imagined forces he had summoned there, facing them with a head held high and a look of power and authority that sent shivers up my spine and made the hair on my forearms stand on end. He powerfully thumped his sword into the floor before the West as he mentally addressed those Western entities he faced, making us all jump in our seats with the suddenness and the power in that “Thump!” Quietly then, he stood there, obviously exercising some part of the “operation” inwardly with his irresistible imagination, and I glanced again out the window. To my amazement I saw far off in the Western distance the haze giving way to clouds visible in the partial moonlight, gathering there out of nowhere in the now cool night air.

Suddenly, but smoothly and carefully our Teacher raised his sword, pointing it high toward the top of the Western wall, and he began to trace in the air with the sword a clockwise circle toward the West three times. As he did this, the clouds gathered up and began to move at an incredible speed, directly toward us, forming a dark and undulating ball. By the time he finished tracing the third circle in the air, I could see the clouds were immediately overhead. The timing struck me with awe, and I realized this was no foolish matter I was witnessing. The atmosphere of playfulness we had all been in when chiding our Teacher to perform some visible Skillful Means was wiped completely from my mind.

Immediately upon finishing his tracing the three circles in the air, he powerfully thrust his sword at the top of the Western wall, suddenly and loudly blurting out a word of prayer in a low and resonant voice. I was shocked and frightened for a second, because at the same instant he thrust his sword, and the same instant that he blurted out that word of prayer, a brilliant and deafening thunderbolt of lightning crashed from the sky directly over our heads. I saw the brilliance of the lightening light up the entire sky and the entire Toronto skyline visible from that open window.

His mantra chanting continued slow and low, resonating with authority, and I realized that his sword had been at the top point of an imagined symbol as he moved it in strong lines past all of its parts. Then he once again thrust he sword to trace in the air part of a different symbol chanting a different mantra in a similar low and powerful voice. As he moved his sword around that figure in the air, I was startled again when my arm became immediately soaked before I could pull it away from the open window, for huge raindrops, the largest I have ever seen, began to pour down from the sky, instantly drenching anything caught in the open. I could barely see across to the next house, only 20 feet away, for the thickness of this torrent of rain.

Our Teacher began some closing prayers and mantras, and the rain began to lighten in its downpour. He came back to the part of the room where we were all sitting, and laughing, took his seat again amongst us. All of us were very impressed and a chatter of amazement erupted in the room. “How did you do that?” “Is that difficult to learn?” “Did you do that yourself, or ask a deity to do it for you?” “What were those differences in prayers and mantras from what we practice every day?” “Is it raining everywhere, or in a specific area?” “Were you just helping something along that would have happened anyway?” “Did your work cause the rain, or did the coming rain cause you to do the work?”

Our Teacher explained that the circle he had drawn with his sword on the floor had actually described a specific area in Toronto where it would rain, and there would still be clear skies outside that area. He explained that what we were practicing every day was not an empty intellectual exercise, but that it formed the foundation for all of the practitioner’s powers through minor variations like those we had seen that night. He explained that there was really nothing special about him in his ability to do what he did, but that all of us were capable of such things and much greater things if we simply stuck to our daily meditation and ritual practices. He expressed his worry about having done this for us. He was worried that maybe we’d now be practicing only to impress other people in the way he’d impressed us, instead of practicing in order to help others in need of help. He explained that he thought we needed something to show how serious and truly “real” our practice was, so having weighed the benefits and consequences had decided to do something tangible in front of us.

It continued to rain for only about 15 minutes, after which, through the open window, I saw the clouds dissipate into a haze, and then the haze disappear, leaving only the perfectly clear night sky again.

I feel luckier than the others in the room that night, because I was the only one able to see out the open window into the night sky. I was the only one who saw the instant effect that our Teacher’s every gesture and prayer were having on the real world outside. I’ll never forget the exact timing of the thrust of his sword and the crash of that bolt of lightening. I was the only one to get part of myself soaked because of the suddenness of the torrential downpour of huge raindrops that immediately answered his prayers. For me, since that day, his teachings have never again been “an intellectual exercise.” I know that I was not tempted to continue the study in order to do things that impress others, (I have only once been tempted create the same effect – all alone – and to my amazement, was actually successful to a degree!), but that the effect of this night on me was to “ground” in my being in an irrefutable way the “truth” and “reality” of what our Teacher was offering to teach us. This effect has never left me, and never will.

The next day I was further shocked at the depth of the “reality” of what I had seen when my best friend remarked on the “freak” rainstorm that had soaked him and his girlfriend the night before. I laughed with excitement when I heard that. Again I laughed when I saw a small clip in the Toronto Star newspaper that day in the weather section, describing a “freak” rainstorm that had occurred the night before in only part of Toronto, during what had until then been a completely clear sky, raining for only 15 or 20 minutes, and then abruptly stopping when all the clouds suddenly disappeared.

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Nestled in the valley between two huge mountain ranges just inside the British Columbia border is the town of Golden, where the mighty Columbia River and the wild and rocky Kicking Horse river meet. 

In June 1967, where the Kicking Horse river enters the edge of town along the steep wall of a rocky cliff there was a public campground, and close to that campground were the houses of my friend and I. 

I was 11 years old that year and it was the year of the 1967 International and Universal Exposition, or Expo 67 as we called it.  The fair was held in Montreal, Canada, in honor of that being Canada’s centennial year.  It was considered to be the most successful World’s Fare of the 20th Century with over 50 million visitors and 62 nations participating, and nearly everyone in the country wished to go. 

Every year, the moon’s most powerful solar day of the year is the day that the sun enters the moon’s own sign, the sign of Cancer.  That day, the summer solstice, is the longest day of the year and has been considered for millennia a day of union between the God and Goddess (sun and moon, as the former enters  the latter’s own sign). In 1967, the evening of June 21 was a particularly powerful day for the moon, as it was not only the evening of the summer solstice, but it was also the evening of the Full Moon.

That night, the moon was particularly bright, so much so, that it actually woke up my riend, shining through the window onto his face as he slept.  Creeping out of bed in the silvery moon light, he went to his window to marvel at its brilliance.  He was accustomed to seeing the river just outside his back yard, and the rocky cliff off to his right, but this evening, everything looked anew in the wash of the moonlight. As he gazed at the fantastic light shining off the cliff, something moving caught his eye.  What would someone be doing, climbing that dangerous cliff so late at night?  His interest was peaked.

At first, catching sight of long flowing golden hair, he thought this might be a woman, but in astonishment, he realized that the person climbing was a totally naked man!  Fascinated, he watched the man reach a small outcrop part way up the cliff, stand straight up, face the moon, and lift his arms toward it as if in prayer.  Not 10 minutes passed, when to the further amazement of my friend, from all directions there emerged a cloud of what seemed in the moonlight, and from the distance, what he thought to be silver butterflies, surrounding the man as he stood there with his arms outstretched.  As if that scene weren’t strange enough, lit up so brightly by the powerful light of the moon that night, the silvery creatures actually gathered around close to the man, and all landed upon him, completely covering his body in one shimmering silvery mass.  It was as if the man with the golden hair had turned to silver before my friend’s very eyes. 

A few minutes passed and the man let his arms down.  The silvery creatures dispersed, and the naked man climbed back down the cliff, disappearing into the campground.  My friend didn’t sleep at all that night, with the wonderment of what he’d seen.  What kind of man was this?  What on earth was he doing there on that cliff!  Why had the silver butterflies covered him like that? 

As soon as his parents woke, which was about 7 am that Thursday morning, my friend rushed his breakfast and bolted out the door.  Racing to the campground on his bicycle to see if he could find this amazing man, he spotted the man, who had his hair tied in a pony-tail.  He was with a couple of older women, beside a Volkswagen van. He noticed that they were breaking camp, and would be leaving any minute.  Immediately he turned and rode as fast as he could back to my house, where he began pounding on the door, punching the door-bell, and yelling out my name in frantic desperation.

Groggily I came to the door to see what the fuss was all about.  He was talking so fast I couldn’t understand at first, and didn’t understand why I should change out of my pajamas and go bicycle riding with him so very early in the morning.  In what must have seemed like forever to him, the story of what he had seen came out, and after asking him to repeat that several times, I finally understood the urgency.  There was some kind of “super-human” man in the campground, and I should come and watch immediately because he was about to leave at any second.

Rushing into my clothes and onto my bicycle, we sped to the campground, looking for the Volkswagen van.  To our terrible disappointment, it was gone.  I didn’t know why, but the disappointment was all-consuming.  Over the following weeks I fell into a deep depression, spending much of my time huddled inside a cardboard box in the basement.  My mother and a doctor tried to snap me out of it, but all I could think of was: I had my chance to meet an angel in the flesh, someone like no other being on the planet, and I was unworthy, so I missed my chance.  The sense of loss and unworthiness was overwhelming, far more than I could take.  All I could do was sit in that cardboard box and cry for days and days.

 

Five years passed.

Now I was 16 years old and my younger brother and I had moved to Toronto to stay with our Mother after the divorce, and after our abusive father had once again brutally beaten me, and finally threatened to kill me.  We were listening to our mother in her drunken stupor, explaining that she was moving to Yellowknife with her 17 year-old boyfriend where he would make a lot of money working in mines there, and she would work as a bar maid.  “The rent’s paid to the end of the month, boys.  Have a nice life,” she said.  I had been living in parking garages before our mother had eventually sent for us to join her.  Now, it seemed, it was back to the streets for me, and this time also for my bother.

I burst from the apartment crying, the sense of abandonment cutting so deep into me that I couldn’t think.  I wandered the unfamiliar streets of downtown Toronto tortured with thoughts of uncertainty and fear, of hostility and helplessness.  What was I going to do?  How would I find food?  Where would I live?

I was standing on Bloor Street, under the shelter of a construction walk-way, where the Manu-Life Center was under construction at the time, sheltered from the soft rain that fell that evening.  I stopped, bewildered and lost, as the feelings of betrayal, exposure, and terrible uncertainty washed over my head, far deeper than I could handle.  Tears streaming down my face, I closed my eyes, and shouted in my mind as loud as I could, “If there’s any kind of god or goddess or super-human or alien or anything out there listening, please, please, I need help.  I don’t know what to do.”  I tried desperately to imagine any kind of superior being that might exist, concentrating and focusing my mind as strongly as I could.   I thought of that angel-like “super-human” I had only just missed the chance to meet, five years ago, in Golden B.C.

Immediately, I was bathed from nowhere, within an infinite ocean of rose-pink colored light.  With the pervading light, came an absolute certainty that I was not alone, and that I would be taken care of, that everything was going to be OK.  This particular color of light, I would learn in years to come, was none other than the signature of a particular being, who would be as close to me as my own mind for the rest of my life.

Suddenly calmed and comforted, and even excited with the secret knowledge that everything was going to be taken care of, I opened my eyes, wiped away my tears, and sought our mother’s apartment where I had 2 weeks to live.

 

A year passed.

My brother and I were living on Yonge Street, sometimes sleeping in the storage room of a “head shop” (a shop that sold drug paraphernalia), sometimes sleeping in parks, or parking garages.  We had become accustomed to stealing food, visiting parties where we might find something to eat, and some way to get stoned for free, and sometimes skipping out on restaurants (where the waiters knew us, pitied us, and served us knowing that we had no money). 

We badly needed and wanted jobs, but couldn’t find anything.  It takes money to make money: the only clothes I had were the ones I wore and those wouldn’t get washed for months on end, and we couldn’t pay for transportation to possible job prospects.  My brother was too young to work yet anyway. 

To pass the time, I sometimes spent the day at the University of Toronto, downtown campus, where there was a computer terminal room that was open to the public.  I had been hanging out there after school before our mother left, and had school friends who did the same.  We were trying to learn to be main-frame hackers.  I was trying to learn what I could about computers from my friends, and the older “hackers” that hung around that place.  Eventually I managed to get a part time job there changing the type-writer ribbons in card punch machines.

One day my brother was on his way from hanging out with other street kids, to the Sanford Fleming building at the University, where he was to meet me on pay day.  We were going to celebrate payday by doing to McDonald’s for dinner.  He took the same short-cut he usually did, through a long alley way just off Yonge Street.  He passed the same garages, the same garbage cans, the same fences as he always did, but for some reason, today, he had an impulse to climb into the narrow space between a telephone pole and a fence, and then look up along the height of the telephone pole.  To his surprise, tacked there on the telephone pole, far above the height of his reach, was a bright blue flyer.   “Why on earth would someone deliberately tack a flyer where it could not normally be seen?”   The only way it could possibly be seen would be to wedge oneself between the pole and the fence and look up, exactly as my brother had inexplicably done.  The poster was too high for him to read or reach, so he left, wondering about it, and then forgot about it.

A few weeks later my brother was taking that same route again, when he remembered the curious flyer.  Again he wedged himself between that telephone pole and the fence, and looked.  Still there.  Of course, why would it not, since it was too high to reach, and completely out of sight anyway.

This time, on meeting me, my brother pleaded with me to come with him, because he wanted to show me something strange, though he wouldn’t tell me what.  He thought I wouldn’t come if I knew it was just to look at some dumb flyer tacked to a telephone pole.  He told me to wedge myself against the fence as he had done, and then he said “Ok, now look up.”  At first I was looking at the sky, not knowing what he meant, and then I too noticed the weird bright blue poster deliberately tacked out of sight, and out of reach.  “Why would someone do that?” I asked my brother.  “How would I know?  I was wondering the same thing,” he replied.

I asked my brother to crouch and provide a foot-hold, so that I could climb on top of the fence.  Doing so, I was now within reach of the poster, which I tore off the pole.  Jumping down, we stared at it with excited curiosity at first, and then with a sense of weird apprehension.  The poster said that it was from a group of people that meet each full moon specifically to help people in need.  It said that those in need could receive this help either by writing to a post office box, or by concentrating on the image of the full moon, any month on the night of the full moon.  We both wondered why an advertisement like this would be deliberately placed where it couldn’t be seen.  But then, we had seen it, hadn’t we?  On the night of the next full moon, my brother and I sat quietly, focusing on the image of the full moon, praying in our minds that he might find a job.

The next afternoon, my brother was rushing up Yonge street, just about past Charles Ave., on his way for a meeting with friends, for which he was already late.  As he passed what was then the flagship Coles bookstore, a man with a European accent ran out the front door of the bookstore and literally grabbed my brother by the arm.  The man apologized, and begged my brother for a few moments of his time.  He explained to my brother that they’d just gotten a huge shipment of books and were opening the next day, and needed help stocking the shelves.  The man said he would pay handsomely for my brother’s time, if he would only please help.

Ok., just hours ago, we were doing as this weird poster said: praying to the full moon, asking that my brother find a job. Now someone had literally grabbed him by the arm, and begged him to take a job.  Wow. 

That couple of hours helping out turned into a steady part-time job for my brother.  One of his co-workers at that store was Geoffrey, a young man from New York City.  My brother used to see Geoffrey taking his lunch hour and coffee breaks by sitting alone in a small room in the basement, “meditating” as he put it (though my brother often saw him nod off into a snore).  One day Geoffrey was talking to an older man about an occult subject that my brother and I happened to be reading about the very night before.  My brother surprised them both by chiming in on the conversation, holding his own with knowledge of the particular topic.  More conversations like this eventually led to Geoffrey’s explaining that he belonged to a meditation group, and that my brother and I would be welcome to try to meet his teacher, if we would write a statement about why we wanted to join such a group and learn meditation.  After so writing, our applications would be reviewed by existing members, and a decision would be made as to whether or not we would be invited.  That night we wrote, and my brother gave our letters to Geoffrey and a week later we were invited to meet his teacher.  It was explained to us that while the group normally did not accept members of such a young age, we were accepted because we had specifically mentioned in our desire to learn meditation, the desire to help others in need.

It was Monday (moon-day) October 29, 1973 when we were to meet the “Teacher” and other members of the meditation group.  My brother and I walked fast through the brisk Autumn evening in a state of high excitement.  Wow.  We were actually going to meet Geoffrey’s teacher, and these other people who were into mysticism and meditation.  Then I realized we were a couple of kids, completely alone in the dark, going where no-one else knew, to a meeting that no-one else knew about, to meet a bunch of complete strangers who were bound together by some kind of mystical practice.  I realized that we could completely disappear that night, and no-one would know what happened.  Fear mixed with excitement in the quick pace through the night, but the fear and the doubt were not strong enough to deter me.  I mentioned my doubts to my brother, but he said, “Nooo… Geoffrey would never hurt anybody, nor have anything to do with anyone who would hurt anybody!” I decided to take his word for it and forget about my doubts.

Arriving at the address written on the scrap of paper that we had, we found ourselves standing in front of a two-story apartment building in Cabbage-town (a trendy part of downtown Toronto), just a few doors from the dilapidated Winchester Hotel on Parliament street, and nearly across from an old church that had been converted into a community center.  The building was recessed farther from the street than other buildings, probably because it was older than the rest.  It was dark back there, and we could see no lights in any of the windows.  Cautiously, we approached the huge front door.  The wooden stairs creaked loudly as we climbed to the second floor where we stood at the door to apartment number 3.  We could hear voices inside.  We waited a couple of minutes, shyness and worry overtaking us.  I really didn’t feel confident in meeting a bunch of strangers, but reached out and knocked anyway.  A few seconds later, we could hear the floor creaking as someone approached the door, and then took what seemed forever unlocking what seemed like ten different locks, latches, and chains before opening the door.  To our relief, there stood Geoffrey, his frizzy hair tied back, wearing a meditation robe, and grinning at us with outstretched hand.   He motioned us in, and introduced us to his Teacher, who was now right in front of us.

I looked at him with shocked wonder, noting his side-burns and long golden hair, tied in a neat pony-tail.  He was smiling at us with such warmth, I thought I saw a radiant aura of gold emanating from him that enveloped and pervaded the whole room.  Looking around the room, I saw a group of people I didn’t know, but my brother recognized one of them to be the older man who often visited the book store to talk to Geoffrey and my brother about mysticism.  (His name is Richard.)  That night Geoffrey’s teacher offered to become our Teacher too, on condition that we never partake of street drugs again.  (I immediately agreed, but my brother would not.  My brother and I parted ways not long after.) 

That was the first night of the happiest, most wondrous and magical part of my life.  Sometimes I’d visit our Teacher when he was helping Richard in his bookstore, and often he would say, “Have you eaten today? Because we were just about to get some dinner and would like you to join us.”  (Years later I learned that they had actually usually just finished eating, and said this to me so that they could buy me some food, without embarrassing me about the charity.)   I met with our Teacher, Geoffrey, Richard and others, learning to meditate, and taking long walks in the night discussing and learning philosophy and mysticism from our Teacher.  We learned to meet as a group on the nights of the full moon, to direct prayers to anyone in need who might also be concentrating on the image of the full moon. 

Yes.  This was the very same meditation group mentioned in the weird poster!  It was Geoffrey himself who had deliberately tacked that poster out of reach and out of sight, so that only the person with the right “karma” might see it.  Years later I learned later that my Teacher performs a special practice by himself, where he tries to find people in distress, and bathes them in an ocean of rose-pink light as part of beginning to take care of them, and assure them that everything will be OK.

So here’s how it all fell into place: 

  • I had been in terrible distress, praying for help from anyone or anything that might be listening.
  • I was answered and comforted with an ocean of rose-pink light
  • We took down a poster that had been deliberately hidden for the right person
  • We did as it said, to focus on the full moon when a group would be offering help, praying for a job for my brother
  • The next day my brother was literally grabbed by the arm with offer of a job, and ended up meeting the very same guy who hid the poster, a member of the group that had been offering help through the full moon, the night before (though we didn’t know this at the time)
  • That eventually led to our meeting and joining that very same group
  • The teacher of this group happened to be the same being who helped with the rose-pink light in the first place (though I didn’t know this until several years later)

Twelve years passed.

One evening in 1985, upon learning that I’d lived in Golden B.C. as a child, our Teacher was prompted to telling us a story about a really strange thing that happened to him in that very town.  He said that he was travelling with two older women in a Volkswagen van, headed across the country to attend Expo 67.  They had stopped for the night at this campground in Golden, by a river, near a rocky cliff.  He explained that he had waited until the women were asleep, swam in the river climbed onto the shore (not the cliff as my friend thought he saw) to do some prayers, when suddenly, out of nowhere, these gold and pink moths (not silver butterflies as my friend thought he saw) appeared and covered his whole body!  Very weird experience, he said.

Socked, I said, Oh my gosh!  That was you?!!!!  18 years ago?  You were naked when you did that!  He asked how I knew that, blushing quite red.  I explained what my friend had seen.  He said he really didn’t think anyone would have been watching, so late at night, and so far out in what he thought was wilderness.

So, to add to the chain of events above, is the fact that the very same “super-human” being I had been so close to meeting as a child, actually came to my aid when I was in such desperate need, and even became my life-long Teacher, and guided me through life from then as a new father might.

While I will never shake the terrible feeling of unworthiness I have always felt, even when crying in that cardboard box as a child, to him I owe all of the best parts of my life:

  • Most importantly, whatever training in Life, meditation and mysticism that I’ve been able to take to heart, being such a poor and unworthy recipient of such.
  • The “luck” and encouragement and direction that helped me climb from the streets into a successful life-long career, without formal education.
  • The “chance” meeting of my beautiful and loving wife (who is also one of his students).  Together with our son, of whom I’m so proud, I have a family more wonderful than I ever dreamed I would.
  • The most spectacular adventures of my life, in Egypt and traveling with him through Nepal and India

I wish I could someday make him proud to be my Teacher, as I am proud to be his student.  Some day.

Mer-Amun MerAmun

 

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