Brief Intro: In 1985, fourteen years after I had left the mainstream, to forge for myself an alternative life in the San Francisco Bay Area, I found I was in need of fresh horizons and new challenge. Life had become too comfortable and rather middle-class, in our Berkeley living collective, and I took the prompt of a fresh rise in the rent, together with the prod of a rock-besotted neighbor-kid blasting in on my quietude every day, as a doubled urge to once more hit the road. I had but four more years until Social Security would virtually eliminate the possibility of 'trying myself' as a totally insolvent Innocent on life's (literal) highway. It was a challenge I had always dreamed of taking on, and this appeared to be the most likely moment for it.
Accordingly, I set off on a summer of wandering that eventually, by an impossibly devious route, led me to the Northwest. That footloose summer, however, was more than just a venture into the wilderness of total insecurity; it became a unique experiment, giving me an insider's view of the many ways that an essentially provident Universe will 'do its thing' -- invisibly, except for someone imaginatively alert to the nuances of what is going on. There were other kinds of fulfillment, too, as are best detailed in the report that I sent out to my constituency of old Black Bart readers.
The actual road journal that I kept is scheduled for eventual inclusion on the site. But for now, this pastiche tale will do. I wrote it shortly after the journey, but not as a travelogue nor entirely as an insight journal. I mainly wanted to highlight the incredible way life responds, when approached from a different set of reality premises. Here, then, is an account in brief, of . . .
Well, I have seen the
. . . as was once said of certain great journeys of discovery. I have been, for four months, at full departure from my old Berkeley haunts - hitching my way around the country, an increasingly roadwise "roadie," riding and residing with all kinds of people, tasting the flavor of America, 1985.
My hosts have spread the spectrum: student, farm and construction workers, salesmen and truck drivers, teachers and writers... I've stayed in homes with backyard swimming pools and homes with backyard toilets, ridden with people who needed gas money and others who bought me meals, some who would put the fear of God into me, some whose country-twang language almost called for an interpreter... but one thing had they in common: the willingness to help a stranger on the road or a weary friend at their door.
I have seen, too, the more characteristic side of our times: the steady flow of mainstream isolation that passes a hitch-hiker by. Out of fear, out of an inflated sense of privacy, I could never be sure - but they gaze at me with a bland and indifferent curiosity, as if seeing a strange creature of uncertain classification - as perhaps I am. There are not many such as I on the road today, pleading passage, claiming the alms of roadside charity. It is an unseemly vocation in affluence-driven America, 1985.
Vocation? or vacation! It has been both for me, and much more. Exploration, education, stimulation, fascination ... I tread the ever-anxious tail of conventionality; I trade-in yesterday's me for someone as yet not too clearly defined. But then, such definitions are not to be framed in mere weeks or months. They cannot be declared, only slowly sought and uncertainly created. All I can account for at this midway point of passage is the grist that has gone into the mill. Draw no conclusions just now, for my own are likewise only tentative.
I wanted no definite plan or itinerary for the journey. Yet, such enclosure has a way of erecting itself from a few preliminary commitments. Innocent promises to be in Michigan by June, Minnesota by July, and back in California by August provided my summer's limits and largely determined which friends I would spend time with. It was a counter-clockwise tour: down the California coast, through the southwest, up through the farm belt east of the Mississippi, into the land of sky-blue waters, and back across the Rockies by a pre-arranged ride through the country's midsection. Most of my time was spent between east Texas and Minnesota, the largest single block of it in St. Paul. I had preceded this main run, however, with a brief "warmup" trip (an April joke!) into northern California and southern Oregon.
I've stayed with 32 households, six of them for a week or longer; have spent only about one night in six on the "open road" (not sheltered in a host home) and, in fact, did almost all of my actual hitch-hiking in the first part of the journey.
But facts are barren. They don't even begin to touch the sense of this journey. Where I went, who I met and stayed with, are almost immaterial in themselves. The real thing I want to put across in this accounting is something I probably cannot even capture in words, let alone by facts and statistics. If I can ask your indulgence, I'm going to make something of a collage of this newsletter, paying little attention to proper sequence, maybe even varying the idiom of my approach ... a series of episodes focusing on some invisible point, and let's just see what happens.
Some sequence, of course, has to be respected, for the journey had a beginning that set the tone for much of what followed.
"Trust your instincts," my friend, Donna, told me.
It would seem that I should not need that advice, for I have often enough given it, myself. But I was asking her, in a psychic counseling session a month before the journey, what it was all about? Where was I going ... and most of all, why?
She told me that I could not know any of that, except as each step is taken. That this journey would be, in fact, an introduction to the very art of listening to my own inner voice and coming to trust that it will be there precisely when it is needed. That I must learn to give it precedence over all other plans, and even over my oracles (the I Ching!). The one, after all, is The Real Thing; the other, merely a vehicle for getting to it.
I took it as I take all such counsel: tentatively, and pending some further great clarification as to what it all meant. For the moment, it confirmed me in my several years of search for ways to tap into right-brain awareness. I have wanted to get closer to this source or "receiver" of the spiritual impulse in our lives. I have been hungry for any bit of information, any exercise, that would help clear the roadblock of Words that keeps obstructing Truth.
It came to pass, then, that on the morning after my very first night out of Berkeley, I happened upon an imperfectly formed crystal, about half the size of a forefinger joint, discovered in the yard of a friend. I took this as a positive omen for the journey, for there have been crystals along my way, found or given to me, ever since this decade and this present trail began.
I have found that synchronicities often come in pairs, as a way of emphasis - much as if to say: okay, once can be coincidence, but twice is something else! Eight days after the discovery of this first crystal came my moment of confirmation. I had been lingering among friends in the north bay area, and was ready to take longer strides toward Oregon. But I found myself suddenly stalled at a freeway entry north of Santa Rosa. For three hours, broken by a night's roadside rest, I had been waiting there. It was not a terribly long wait, but the passing traffic was discouragingly bleak.
I played with the idea of walking up a parallel roadway. It seemed, from a hitch-hiker's perspective, a bit foolish - but not, perhaps, for one who was "living on the road." It would erase my boredom and lighten my spirits, and what care had I for time? Yet, there is always an impatience to contend with on the road. I finally had to flip a coin because I couldn't decide.
The coin told me to stay right where I was. I felt an instant pang of disappointment, informing me of what I really wanted to do! But, gee - hadn't the coin always given good advice? Or had it merely released me from the burden of going deeper than my ambivalence! I suddenly remembered Donna's counsel. I smiled at my precious indecisions, shouldered my pack, and headed at once for the walkable highway.
Not a hundred feet on my way, I looked down to see a quite unbelievable second crystal! Big as a fat thumb, perfectly formed and "crystal clear," it was an absolute jewel of personal validation! All that day and the next, I walked - 25 miles, through blistering feet and 90-degree heat, hardly concerned with the discomforts. I gazed, repeatedly, at this marvelous crystal as I lay in soft grasses beneath shade-towering trees; as I cooled my feet in trickling creeks. I was never more sure of being on my path.
If experience is sometimes a stern teacher that we are justifiably wary of, then synchronicity is surely its playful, lively counterpart - but a teacher, all the same. It has followed me all the course of my journey, whispering wordless messages, alerting me many times to things I would otherwise have given scant notice, helping me to frame my own truth. Sometimes it seems only to be "having fun" with me. But I know it doesn't fool with us, it is always saying something.
When I came back through Wisconsin for a second time, on my way to connect with a cross-country return-home ride, I spent the night in the Madison office of Basic Choices, an alternative network center run by John Ohliger. The place is a nest of interesting books, and I picked up one this evening - I'm not even sure, now, of the name of it. Something like The Psychology of Transcendence. It was a thick volume, devoted to the methodical evaluation of paranormal and otherwise out-of-the-ordinary experiences that are generally associated with mystical and altered states of consciousness.
I turned to a section on synchronicity and read about how the rarity of what we call pure chance may not after all be so rare. Coincidence, says the author, may be more ordinary than we think. He describes two experiments that can easily make the point: the common-birthday game, and the small-world phenomenon.
On the birthday game, he notes that in any gathering of more than 23 people, it is statistically likely that at least two will have the same month and day of birth! Twenty-three is the number at which the odds for such a "coincidence" become a 50% possibility - a number far fewer than most of us would expect.
The small-world phenomenon is an exercise that demonstrates how a package may be delivered to someone entirely unknown to the sender, anywhere in the country, in only 5 or 6 person-to-person transfers, if each such transfer is directed toward a person who "might reasonably know" either the addressee or someone who could know him or her.
Concluding these impressive illustrations, the author closes the passage with a quote from one Randall Collins: "Trust the experience, not the interpretation."
Wanting to know something more about Collins and his quote, I followed the footnote reference to find out that it was taken from a book edited in 1977 by John Raphael-Staude. I recognized the name immediately. I was living in Carmel, in 1977, and John Raphael-Staude visited me there! - the only time in my life I have ever had contact with the man.
"Trust only the experience, not the interpretation" - and especially not the interpretation that so easily dismisses such interpretations!
As if someone other than you - anyone other than you - can mediate meaning about anything at all! The history books, the newspapers, the government - do they provide meaning or do you understand things for yourself? How much less likely, then, is the truth of your own world to be found in anyone but you?
And maybe, then, you should consider the extent to which you can establish meaning in your world! But where, you ask, does one find guidelines for establishing meaning, if not in the meaning provided by others?
Well... maybe in the careful cultivation of synchronicity, itself!
In the winter months prior to my Berkeley departure, I became vaguely and almost incredulously aware that the rainfall would cease whenever I really had to go out of my house. It was so unreal that I hesitated saying anything about it - but it seemed to be true, and I wondered if it might be the promise or evolvement of a special kind of Providence that is obviously of great value to someone on the road.
At first, as I wandered through northern California in the still-wet month of April, it seemed to be so: the charm held true. But then in Oregon it failed me. I was thoroughly soaked in a steady downpour, a few miles outside of Roseburg. My presumptions were dashed and I became extra-cautious about rainfall thereafter; but I wondered at the curious reversal, and continued to reflect on it.
The following month, as I headed south and east on the longer leg of my year's journey, I was almost constantly under threat of rainstorm and thunder shower - and the old charm seemed to be working again! Many times, the rain would appear to alternate at the same tempo as my intermittent lifts -- I'd be riding through rainfall, but thumbing on a dry inter-stretch; or I'd have a country tavern on hand at the precise moment I needed cover. Even on those evenings when a rainy night was the sure prospect, some magical roadside shelter would appear. One time it was the covered arcade of a vacant produce stand; another time, the provident appearance of a yacht harbor, with an untended cabin cruiser to crawl into for a perfectly dry night's sleep.
As I thought more about the events of that earlier Oregon occasion, something else that had been happening that day finally entered into the context of my reflections. I had been in repeated proximity to another man who was also hitching into Roseburg, but only because he had been held up and robbed at a coastside Greyhound depot. He was burdened with heavy luggage, had no money at all, and had never hitched before. I gave him ride-priority and a certain amount of encouragement, but I might have provided some real support - like sharing foodstamps or the food I was carrying, or even helping with his luggage (for it was dragging his ability to find the best road spots). We who expect charity from the Universe (and who does not?) must learn to recognize those occasions when it is expected by the Universe of us! I came, finally, to "understand," you see, that because I hadn't, in that instance, done all that I might . . . I was rained upon.
Who's to say whether we discover such uncommon cause/effect relationships or create them - or that there is really any difference? It is interactive creativity with the Universe. We "change our world" in such ways, and become then bound by what we perceive - or conceive. We open a mythic path for ourselves.
So I followed this insight. I considered myself as much an agent of charity, thereafter, as its recipient, and shared as I was able, through six amazingly dry weeks of frequently stormy weather. Day and night, the charm sheltered me. Until I reached the far border of Michigan, where something went wrong again. At Escanaba, near the Wisconsin line, I walked out of town to where there was no possible shelter, and got dumped on by a sudden cloudburst.
Where was my error!? I hadn't been uncharitable in any manner that, I could see. but I did see something! I saw something in synchronicity that had no connection at all with being charitable - and at this point I made a leap of "understanding" that would not be warranted on any connective basis; it can only be accepted within the realm of a mythic path. Earlier that day, I had overstepped a sexual boundary! I don't wish to share the details, but I must mention the point because it is deeply woven in the themes of the journey.
I'd had a roadside "adventure" that morning. I was involved with someone in a way that seemed situationally okay to me at the time; but now, in the bath (the cleansing?) of my first drenching in more than 3000 miles of open-road travel - in the illuminating light of this mythic compact I had made with Spirit and Nature - the only possible conclusion was that I had erred.
What I am saying, you see, is that the world, on an open road (on any "open road"), is capable of being a pathway of messages - of either confirmation or denial - for those who let it be so. I have read, in anthropology texts, that the primitive tribesman lived in constant fear of nature because he had no control over it. Much to the contrary, nature was a bible to the primitive tribesman, and he had need of no other! Its "ten commandments" were written in storm and earthquake, rainbow and eclipse - while we moderns have split this intimate and sacred dialogue into religion and science, and discovered only that we "control" nature to the ultimate end of our own destruction by it!
Yes, you can argue that it was all superstition; that we have "proved" that storm and rainbow are mechanically accountable and have no bearing on Truth or Spirit. But I will argue, in turn, that I have proved (to my own satisfaction) that they are message bearers!
You can say that I have only "invented" messages of convenience to my own morality and values - but I will say, in return, that interpretation has never been anything but a subjective experience - that the world has never had any other meaning than those we've invented and decided to live by! So how can one meaning (the moral one) be put down, in favor of any other (the political, the social, the scientific)? Play the game that your heart feels best with.
This was exactly why I wanted to go on the road, in the first place. To break away from the framework of life that says reality is only as our left-brain insists it is.
Right-brain - where the rules change completely - is no match in persuading us of its Truth, in a world that left-brain has built and daily reinforces. But if we once find a way to break the mold...! And the mold, of course, only exists in our own heads, and only for so long as we continue to play its games (which seem to make such "common sense" that we remain trapped in their endless circle). But now I know...now I know...how easily the circle and the mold can be broken...
Here is another slice of my journey, written for another publication:
Me and Bruce rode out of Tyler, Texas, on Friday the 24th of May. Not together - we didn't even know one another. I was hitch-hiking; he was pulling an extra-long house trailer on what must have been a two-ton pickup, if they make such things. I was four hours ahead of him, because we had to get to Linden, Texas, 90 miles up the road toward Nashville, at the very same time.
Don't ask me how it happened. It just happened. My first 30-mile ride advised me to stay the hell out of Louisiana: weirdos and bad roads. My next ride was going right on into Louisiana, to Shreveport, except that he was short on gas money. I gave him a couple bucks, just enough to get him there, but I didn't go the distance with him. I remembered the other fellow's warning, and dropped off at Marshall, where he stopped for the gas. Still, if I hadn't fed the tank, I'd never have found myself there.
The third ride was easy - it came right out of the gas station, where I drank a coke and thought about the long walk to the other end of town. Makes no sense to hitch, going into a town, only coming out of it. But this dude could see I was a roadie, and took me 40 miles to Linden . . . where I found Bruce gassing up for his next 90 miles of trailer haul.
Actually, Bruce found me. Said he'd had long enough, there, to look this old hitch-hiker over, and realized I might make an interesting passenger. If he'd seen me roadside, he told me, he'd never have stopped for me. Now the really wild part of this is that we'd both arrived back there in Tyler on the very same day, a week earlier, and we'd both left there this same afternoon. And we'd both reached this service station at the same time!
Bruce and me rode halfway through the night and halfway into next day - all the way to Nashville, 500 miles. Like me, he lived on the road, except he was doing it legit. He repaired microwave tower antennae, hauled his home from job to job, one week in Texas, the next in Kentucky, the next... while I was just bumming around, trying to understand what things are all about, these days.
We talked, Bruce and me, all the way into the night - about every damn thing you could think of. Jobs, women, football, guns, hitch-hikers (yeah, Bruce had real loading on hitch-hikers and how dangerous it is to pick them up), money, getting ahead in the world, religion, reality... That's where we finally settled - on the question of reality and what makes things the way they are.
That's when I found out how he and I had been matching pace, into and out of Tyler. But it wasn't so surprising: I've been having things like that happen ever since I left California. I've been watching it - sort of like a hawk watches everything going on in the grass down below, until he knows he can strike for a piece of nourishment. And he gets it!
Yeah, watching reality happen is kind of like looking for my nourishment. There's a lot more going on down there than anyone would believe - both for the hawk and for me. And it isn't so simple or straightforward as the boys with the measuring tools would have you think.
I tell Bruce, outside of Memphis, that reality becomes just about whatever he believes it will be - and that's a hard one for him to handle. He can't quite hack that big a hunk of nourishment. So I feed it to him in smaller pieces.
"Hey, now - you know a guy finds pretty much what he expects to find in the world, right? Things work for him when he's willing to take chances, or they don't if he's too uptight. The ones who are afraid of life are the ones who get beat up by it."
"Yeah, that's for sure."
"And you get just about what you give, right?"
"Can't argue that!"
"Well, where the hell does what you expect, 'n what you put out for it, come from, but out of what you believe?"
Bruce didn't talk for a long while, after that one. Maybe ten minutes of road-rumbling silence while he chewed on it. And he couldn't spit it back at me.
"You know," he finally said, "that just might change a lot of my life around."
Which brings us, I guess, to the most essential tale I have to tell, and possibly the most elusive, and the one I know I'll have most difficulty in finding the right words for. Partly because I'm not fully clear, yet, on what it's all about. But there are other, and more involved reasons for this hesitant opening: I am treading an area that is like a minefield, booby-trapped with internal sensitivities and prejudices that I fear most of us don't even suspect are there.
I wonder if any of you have ever thought about the most hidden face of prejudice.and bigotry in this country - where do you think it is? We're pretty open about our racial and ethnic prejudices, these days, and pretty easy with ideological and political ones - I mean, we argue them, but we acknowledge them. But what about religious prejudice? Not so bad, you say? No problem?
Well, I'm going to stick my neck out and say that every one of us is a religious bigot!
I say it, because I've discovered that I, myself, have been one for years - beneath my liberal/progressive/radical veneer. And I say it because I don't know of anyone,who can openly consider it (of themselves) - yet, I hear it every day, in the flashes of innuendo about born-again Christians, about Catholics, about Rajneeshees, about - yes, even Unitarians, even atheists!
And how do I define religious bigotry? The same as I define any bigotry: it is not a question of acceptance or tolerance, or even "loving thine enemy," it is thinking that one's own way is somehow more enlightened. Because it is this relatively minor bit of pride that results in putting other people down, unless we catch ourselves on it.
This tale is not about the discovery of bigotry - that is only a by-product. Yet, it may be the ultimate meaning of the tale, I'm not sure it isn't. It's a tale of my own deliberate effort to suspend bigotry, to drop my barriers of resistance long enough to see what would come in as a result.
It was only in the few months before my journey began that I copped to the fact that I did, indeed, have barriers of resistance. I have been beset for years (I will not say plagued) by encounters with fundamentalists and born-again Christians - mainly outside of my personal friendships, but they were finally beginning to appear within that:circle - and I consistently regarded them as accidental and meaningless encounters. I finally realized two things: one, that I was making a large and unwarranted exception to my general belief that all things in one's world have personal meaning; two, that I was putting a large amount of energy into warding the input off.
I saw, too, from last year's experience around Rajneeshpuram, the nature of undiscovered bigotry, in almost everyone I know, and did not want that sort of self-poisoning closed mind to be a part of my makeup. It hides, usually, beneath the guise of "critical consideration" - but it is bigotry, pure and simple, when there is no possible room for a positive evaluation.
So I resolved to open myself, on this journey, to whatever, of a religious nature (as opposed to what we New Age separatists call spiritual), might come in on me. Any and all denominations, any and all levels of expression.
The course of exposure was marvelous: a Passover Seder in Santa Rosa, a born-again (and formerly Jewish) hitch-hiker near Cloverdale, A Lutheran service in Boonville, a bible scholar in Cottage Grove, a mystical-Catholic service in Monterey, a Unity lay-preacher (ex) in Sedona, a Pentecostal service in Kokomo, a Unitarian minister in Traverse City ... all over and every where I talked with people of every persuasion, read parts of such books as seemed appropriate, was given Bibles (yes, plural)... I even checked into a tiny wayside chapel in northern Michigan, and bought my foods at Seventh Day Adventist stores along the way.
But again, the facts say nothing. Let me try and share the feeling of my experience.
The Lutheran service in Boonville came shortly after I had embarked from Berkeley, and it cued me in a rather interesting way. It just happened to be my birthday, and the pastor addressed his sermon to Doubting Thomas!! I had pushed myself to be uncritically open, and he was now telling me that skepticism is not such a bad thing after all.
The "motion was seconded" a few weeks later in Monterey. "Father Charlie" is a very special and off-beat Catholic priest. He does an unorthodox Sunday service in his own home, and the small congregation assembles around a magnificent quartz crystal centered in his livingroom! He, too, spoke of Doubting Thomas - and "crystalized" my willingness to maintain skepticism.
But I was finding myself, at the same time, more open to talking with people about Jesus and Christianity than I had ever been before. In the Sedona conversations with Dick Fishback, I came to see that there is no essential difference in the reverence expressed by many toward Jesus, by some toward Rajneesh, and by myself toward what I simply call Spirit! Nor is the apparent effect of this reverence much different in the lives of any of these "devotees", as near as I could tell. There is the same uplift and the same blind submission - the two sides of the devotional coin - in all; even in myself!
It gave me a sharp jolt of self-critical reflection. How could I maintain my own beliefs if I suspect the fallacy in those others? And yet, it makes no sense to move back into atheism, for I have seen and know too much about the reality of Spirit. But ... I can't go on patronizing myself about "that fellow's obsessive devotion" as I turn right around to continue prating my own.
I could see, too, that for all its "failures" in history, the Christian Church has nevertheless provided the sole institutional support (to my knowledge) for an ethic of Love and Charity and Forgiveness. This is not to be lightly dismissed. That its practitioners fall far shy of the vision is a separate matter and does not, in itself, reflect unfavorably on the ideal or its vehicle, nor certainly on its source.
Outside of Albuquerque, I was accosted by what seems to have been the very last of a long line of "bible-belting" Fundamentalists intent on bringing me the Word of the Lord. (The very fact that he was the last, of a fairly steady stream over the years, has me considering, in the light of what subsequently came to pass, that I may have "gotten the message").
I was completely receptive to what he had to say to me, even to the Bible he pressed on me, but afterwards felt more than a little confused at what I should be seeing in all of this. I feel no need to be "saved," feel no inner impulse at any level to become a part of this mass movement toward a Christian heaven - so, what in God's name (so to speak) is it all about? In the futility of that moment, I made a slight, perhaps desperate "offering." I said that I would consider it my message if, at any time in the course of my journey, I should be picked up by a properly ordained minister of any faith or denomination! Because, in l4 years of more and less hitch-hiking, I had never, to my knowledge, received a ride from any such. (Which is interesting in itself.)
A day later, I was rescued from a barren stretch of New Mexico interstate by a young college student who wanted mainly to tell me of his newfound respect for Mormons - because of their wholly charitable act of repairing his automobile, which literally permitted his continued journey across the country. He had suffered an ignition-system failure, and the cost of a garage repair would have forced a choice between leaving the car behind or not getting home. He was ready, himself, to convert to the Latter Day Saints.
In Tyler, Texas, Elihu Edelson provided an interesting model for me of a man who is able to embrace all faiths and linger on none - maintaining his prime focus on a mystically spiritual New Age. Elihu turned me loose, for a week, in a library with much provocative material - including something called The Urantia Book, which I can only reference, not describe.
In Kokomo, Indiana, I went into the Fundamentalist aspect as deeply as I could go. There lives Alison, a longtime correspondent who was "born again" in the years after our friendship began. We have been a thorn in each other's side many times - but the correspondence has somehow been maintained through sometimes long lapses. Now, I bathed myself in two days of nitty-gritty dialogue with her and husband Terry ... along with visits to sundry born-again friends, and a Pentecostal Sunday service.
She first challenged me with the question of whether or not I believed in God. I gave her all of my neat evasions - some of them Unitarian, some of them atheist/agnostic, some of them my very own. In the end, it finally and simply reduced to my discomfort with the word, God, and its suggestion of a heavenly being. I could acknowledge, however, that I don't believe in a mechanical universe, nor in an accidental one... therefore, words and labels and intellectualizations aside, I must certainly believe in something that, with liberal fairness, translates as God - much to my own surprise!
I was particularly curious about the Pentecostal service. I wanted to see what these people were like in their worship. Well, they are like any other denomination, essentially. Reverential, supportive, loving - even reasonable! That is to say, there was very little in the sermon that I could find to challenge. And I was beginning to see something, now, which hit me with a good deal of impact.
All congregations (Jewish, Pentecostal, Unitarian, etc.) express, within their ranks, the same fundamental ideals of love, faith, sharing, charity, mutual support. But outside of their ranks, they engage in a subtle warfare with almost every other faith, over the precise and correct interpretation of the "WORD". And we are right back, again, with the problem of Words being roadblocks to Truth. The Truth, in this case, is what people express as feeling (toward one another, toward their God and their ideals) and as faith. The Word is the rational and intellectual analysis of how it is structured and what it all means. And we wield these Words that distinguish one denomination from another with all the grimness of an apocalyptic battle - completely losing sight of our common grace within Spirit. I think it could be said, fairly, that Jesus brought a basis for spiritual unity to the world, and the Bible has eroded it with words!
With this realization, I could see, finally, why the right-brain need not and cannot speak to us in words - indeed, why it dare not! Words and Spirit are simply of two different realms, as mutually exclusive as church and state. I could also understand why the Old Testament insists that the name of God cannot be written or spoken; and, as well, the injunction in the Tao that "the way that can be described is not The Way."
I found myself confronting a Unitarian minister, a week later in Michigan, with this very challenge: to cease "chasing the mystery." He could agree with me (or I with him) that the mystery cannot be touched by intellect. He, however, upheld the effort to do so, while I, now seeing the mischief of it, would back away.
Outside of Green Bay, Wisconsin, a few days later, came the encounter that I didn't actually believe I was waiting for. A busy stretch of freeway with big trucks pounding by, and a seedy-looking old Cadillac angled through them and stopped for me, way down the line. An unimpressive heavyset man, perhaps my own age, not very communicative, but we exchanged pleasantries and trivia for about 15 minutes until I finally asked him about the big, well-used bible sitting on his dashboard.
"I'm an evangelist preacher," he said, without making any fuss over it.
"....Do you mean ... you're an ordained minister?,"
I had to practically drag it out of him. He was Jim Hyde, fulltime non-denominational evangelist, out of Green Bay, heading right now for a Pentecostal church across the state, to do his thing. He was also founder and president of the Revival Fires Evangelist Association.
I needed to know, then, why he picked me up - and I probed him as thoroughly as I could, trying not to be impertinent. Just an impulse, he insisted. He seldom picked hitch-hikers up, but he saw me and felt he had to pick me up.
"Was it, like...a 'divine' impulse?" I felt silly even asking, but I had to know.
"Well," he lingered on it, "...I really can't tell the difference!"
He took himself so easily, so naturally, that I knew absolutely he was there for me. I told him, now, my own tale (not a word of it before this moment), he seemed only moderately impressed, and we immediately got down to three hours of the most rock-bottom religious and anti-religious discussion that I was capable of finding words for. I laid all of my doubts and skepticism before him, in absolutely plain English.
In retrospect, I can't believe how little of that 3-hour conversation remains with me - except for the impressions. I do know that I felt thoroughly vindicated in my own spiritual path, by this evangelist - and at the same time, fully accepted by him from where he was coming from. Let me quote from my own road-journal, written the following morning:
"He was so beautifully validating of where I'm at, and what I see, that I feel he was really heaven-sent! The entire non-denominational bit, in the first place; his criticism of Pentecostals, their unneccessary `speaking in tongues'; the limitations that each sect imposes on its believers; the accent [so foolishly placed by many] upon wealth as a sign of devoutness, etc. He agreed with me that the focus of any real spirituality is God, not Jesus! And that Jesus, himself, had always maintained this. I told him, quite frankly, that I just cannot speak, or relate to, a Christian vernacular, and he said it made no difference at all - that the temple is inside each of us, and that our own inner light is the ultimately true guideline - that no man can teach [another] outside of that.
"...I spoke of my inability to 'ask Jesus into my heart' - as is always pleaded by the charismatics - that I felt no need for it, and insufficient spiritual freedom in it and he somehow gave me to understand that in this very quest of mine I had, in fact, 'let Jesus in'! The realization both shocked and pleased me."
Apologies for the lack of literary refinement, but that is "raw data." My expressed surprise was not so much at anything he said (except for that last note), but that I should hear these things from an evangelist - and, of course, that it was so clearly a gift on my own quest - asked for and received.
But remember what I said about synchronicities often coming in pairs? Barely a week later, still in Wisconsin, I was picked up by a second minister! This one was a retired Methodist minister, eight years older than I, and he was just as precisely "for me" as Jim Hyde, but in an outrageously different way. This old-timer, as grizzled as I, had just, the week before, hitch-hiked from Tennessee to Wisconsin - even by much the same route as I! I found more of my own nature in him, and it was as though the Universe had thought to balance things out a bit, in giving me the doubled blast of a confirmed synchronicity.
So what does it all add up to, this unlikely sideshow of my journey? Am I being born again? Am I turning into a Jew for Jesus? Am I copping-out on my years of level-headed detachment from all things smacking of fanatic belief? Am I making some new and possibly questionable commitment?
Probably no to all of the above - but I'm not sure that all the data is in yet, or that all the right questions have been asked. It is very clear that something has been happening in my belief-structure, even if I am unable as yet to define it. But let me roam a bit, through some speculations that aren't so black-or-white as the above, and see if I can give you a bit of what I do newly feel, on these matters.
We of this century who have steered clear of religiosity have done so because it had become sterile and hollow - made the more so, perhaps, by a world in which science became enshrined, and money, too - the twin "religions" of our secular age. In the excesses of these two idolatries, a spiritual impulse was bound to re-emerge, as all things seek a condition of balance, sooner or later. And it emerged in a variety of forms: Fundamentalism in the Near East, a surge of eastern mysticism in the West, the "re-birth" of Christianity among those, here, not inclined toward mysticism - very few of us have not felt the impulse in one form or another.
Yet we have failed to recognize its basic underlying commonality; we have begun, once again, the age-old squabbles over who's got the right vision - the very same tensions that have led, all through history, to religious wars, inquisitions, pogroms.
I think my perspective, now, is to move away from this question of who's got the right vision. I think it's time, now, to allow every vision - what's more, to encourage every vision, to respect and even participate in all of them! Isn't this, after all, what we're trying to practice in our civil affairs? In our domestic affairs? Should it be any different in our religious affairs?
And as with all the rest of those, I think it has to start "right here" in each one of us. Yes, I accept Jesus Christ! - even though I'm still a Pantheist! Why not? He and I stand for most of the same things in life! And if Jim Hyde's world can embrace me, mine can embrace Alison - whether she feels that way about me or not. Let's go for it!!
Just as Nature and Spirit provided me with a pair of crystals to certify the start of my journey, I was gifted at its end with one of the rarest phenomena, I'm quite sure, in all of nature. A moonbow!
Pat Nelson and I were coming in toward California from the eastern side of the country, both of us to attend the first national Holyearth/Earthsteward's gathering. It was the night of the second full moon of July - what Pat calls the night of the "blue moon" (because it comes only once in a ...) - and we were on one of the lesser highways, coming out of Nebraska and into Colorado, looking for a campsite.
Actually, the entire evening was a display of natural spectacle: first, an incredible sunset, behind and around towering stormclouds - with horizontal cloudlines so thick and dark that we were sure they were mountains, until they began to distort and fragment like pulled taffy; then the storm itself, and its silently sky-rending lightning flashes; and then, as darkness intensified ahead of us, the full moon rose in a nearly clear sky to our left-rear.
We angled south, now, and suddenly, in the pitch-black of the storm center out my right-side window, I saw a pale white arc - grey would be closer to the truth, grey and ghostly and about 60 degrees of arc. It made no sense to me. It was not the light of anything I could imagine. We parked to look at it, and it finally struck us what it must be! Sure enough, the arc could be vaguely traced all the way across the horizon, and it was exactly opposite the full moon, now an hour's height in the sky. We stood clear of the van, and our own moonshadow neatly bisected the arc - as is true of any rainbow.
This was a moonbow! A sunbow (a true rainbow) is supposed to have been a special covenant sign between God and the Jews, according to the Old Testament; and it strikes my fancy that a moonbow may be one for the present age, where we've had quite enough of the sun's yang influence in the world, and perhaps need a moon-covenant to bring things back into balance.
It was, in all, a lovely summer - too swiftly gone, and yet endlessly present. A kind of time passage I have never known before. Events of the very recent past seemed to be forever ago, and the near future had no reality at all.
It was a summer of infinite presence.
1. Return to the main Staging
area (to go elsewhere within the site)
2. Send response