The Dream Boy

My grandmother and her sister—Gunhild and Helga—were what were once known as ‘witches’, and now known more aptly as psychics. However, they would have both had a conniption fit if they were referred to with either of those phrases, for they were both devoutly religious. My grandmother was a strong influence on my life, and I’m surprised I haven’t written much about her here before—perhaps because she is so close to my heart and upbringing that I don’t even think to speak in a detached manner about her. She left behind a lot of materials, both written and spoken, that I want to sift through when I finally get my stuff out of storage, and I will then write in detail about her amazing life and stories, as I think it’s about time.

But right now I wanted to introduce you to a story that she loved to tell, because it is all about me, and after all, that’s what this blog is mostly about, right?

When my father excitedly called his mother with the good news that another baby was on the way–two girls had already been born–my grandmother said, “Oh, I already knew about that.”
“And how did you know that?” my father inquired, bewildered.
“Helga has seen it in a dream, and she’s not sure, but she thinks that it is going to be a little boy.”

Yes, indeed, a full year before I was born, my great-aunt Helga had had a dream in which she foresaw my birth. She had not seen it fit to announce this dream to my parents, but she obviously believed enough in its veracity that she called and shared it with her sister Gunhild.

Sure enough, soon along came little Manderson, his peepee a-flapping in the florescent hospital lighting, popped out on the exact day, as a matter of fact, that his sister had come out two years prior.

So I was henceforth referred to by my grandmother as “the dream boy,” and she was so impressed with her sister Helga’s prescience that she felt the need to share this story about me to complete strangers. She would wrap up the story by pointing her finger at me and dramatically stating, “And there he is!” I was an extremely shy child and this always made me feel mortified, though perhaps vaguely proud, as if I’d somehow done anything other than just be birthed. She even felt the need to reiterate this story at Helga’s memorial, and as she wrapped up the story with her standard climactic finale, leveling her wobbly finger at me, all the random nursing home folk that had come by for cookies and gossip at the advent of another death turned around in their seats to get a peep of this mystery “dream boy.” I smiled weakly and hesitantly waved my hand at them, feeling that perhaps I was a disappointing sort of child to have been predicted. This trauma, perhaps, may explain my prior hesitancy in bringing up the story on these pages.

Gunhild’s sister Helga was a quiet lady who lived on her own in Los Angeles, and she tended to speak to my grandmother in Swedish and keep to herself, so I don’t know what other psychic events may have transpired in her life. But my grandmother had bucketloads of stories that could either be termed psychic events, or manifestations of God, depending on your inclination. I will re-tell some of these stories as time goes on, as they are simply too priceless to not be shared.

My grandmother has been on my mind some lately, so I had been remembering some of these stories, and I figured that I might as well share my little “dream boy” snippet. As you can perhaps imagine, having this story told about me constantly tainted me for some time with a slight insecure messianic complex, as I felt the need to somehow live up to that sense of promise and prophecy. I felt that I had to have some kind of purpose, that I should have been announced telepathically before even forming within my mama’s fallopian tubes. Now, however, the story is simply one of humor to me, in remembrance of my grandmother and her sister’s playful psychic abilities.

Confidence To Intuition

How do we descend into the thick of it, the thickened, coagulated density of emotion necessary to destroy illusions like a bird descendant upon its prey? By what authority, by what necessary quality, trait, experience do we find the strength to proceed intact through the cutting throng of desire and anger? How can we sever through doubt and despair, conveying truth and beauty to their highest destination point of divinity, through vehicles so dumb, so shredded by toxic interference, as our bodies?

There would seem to be two fundamental points of answer: possession of the confidence (point 1) to proceed beyond the superficial and into intuition (point 2). There are many other outlying tenets, no doubt, such as focus, humility, devastating life experiences and/or the ability to attune oneself so finely to pain that it becomes akin to bliss. But if we allow the complexities of circumstance and personality to fall to the side for the moment, these two points become apparent. Point one, confidence, being the conveyor, the arrow through the surface worlds, penetrating within. Without confidence, belief, conviction, knowledge, there is no means of fulfillment, no facility to proceed progressively to inner sanctums beyond surface tangents of perversion. Point two, intuition, being the explosive fruit onto the scene, the fecund address of the potential needs of future and present. The voice that speaks beyond oneself within oneself that knows exactly what must be done to preserve the delicate balance of life and death, of space and form.

How difficult to possess these jewels in tact, in full, in every moment of everyday, to reach across the void of ourselves true to form eternity. Our world crumbles out of balance all around us, within and without, flying apart at the handle that we hold so blithely, so close to our hearts. Do we possess the strength to listen? Do we have the faith for empathy? Do we have the knowledge to learn?

Clarify Butter

 Sitting

There’s a certain fear that resides in clarity. It is easier, perhaps, to allow things to slide by in undefined, habitual complacency. It takes hard work and effort, concentration and integrity of thought and character, applied skill and artful intelligence, to root down to the sources of a comprehensive and connective vision. To examine beyond the defined object encapsulated by the word “tree”, for example, to see it for what it is: everything, itself, an infinite god descendant in form, ascending towards the sky, forging networks across subterranean subconscient intuition.

There is a part of us that wishes to avoid confrontation, a groundless hope that atrocity will end simply through inattention and withdrawal. Until that moment when the terror of our darkest indifference makes itself heard, seen, and known forcefully and immediately enough to shatter our somnolent mediocrity. All things hidden, all things suppressed, all things buried become manifest in a thousand different tragedies until you unearth them with shuddering laughter, you expel them with suffering love, you exorcise them with whatever conscious, unforced form of acceptance and embrace that can make them yours. Words, music, dance, images, rituals. There is no escape from the invasive and totalitarian ardor of the universe. It must be channeled, it must be ridden, it must be sown.

The forms that the unknown will take already lie at the end and the beginning of our awareness—we just have to live our lives according to our inherent shape, allow our trajectories to occur, willfully, selfless, and hungry. The road to mastery mirrors the diminution of self-importance. The seeking path to god mimics the descent of science’s studies to the smallest of particles. Outward down, inward up, all roads lead to home. Clearly, the concern here lies with clarifying the weakest link within ourselves.

Stillness in the Eye of the Beheld

At every stage in the evolution of the human species, when we develop tools with greater and greater capabilities of empowerment, we also gain the capability of greater destruction, and vice versa. Every sword is double-sided, every tool a weapon. An airplane as the most accurate of guided missiles. Misguided youth and passion strapped with shrapnel, the stealthiest of dirty bombs. Every versatile development of intelligence bends alternately to creation or destruction—the greater the power, the greater the atrocity.

Yet in order to develop, we must chance our ultimate demise. There is no advancement without struggle. There is no progress upward without the danger of falling. This applies to all of mankind, as well as to the individual existence. The alternate threat and promise of extinction is what drives us to create. To distinguish ourselves from inconscient matter, to approach the flame of divinity, to grasp at it with groveling, greedy fingers of competing awarenesses, until we discover, the hard way, that we are all of each other, all of the light that we seek, all of the matter that we shed.

So on the way to this discovery we slaughter, we suffer, we sear our desperate imperfections across the face of the earth, spreading the disease of despair and hollow complacency with a missionary zeal that results only in complementary rage and anger, in blind lashing-outs by voices bound by their own inarticulate tongues of selfishness. This sickening beauty of humanity, the terrible power of our destiny. Killing ourselves to know of ourselves, so that we may better live alongside of our silences. The way Miles Davis kills everything around him for that solid punch of harmony in the midst of chaos. Creating the space for momentary beauty to shine out of its darkened backdrop of everything.

Not every flower will find the outward sun. But every form of life, whether fallen to the earth for sustenance to the hunger of the future, or rooted into the highest of heights, holds within the seed of bliss, the joyful dance of incomplete perfection. For not any one thing could ever exist without the other.

Evil as Good

In an experience with a shaman in Cuzco 2 years ago, one of the insights I gained from that little glimpse into the great unknown was that there is nothing to fear in all of the vast, seemingly demonic forces arrayed beyond our understanding in the cosmos. That all is of the light, a part of the entire. I’ve been kind of sleeping on that window of intuition, but I re-remembered it the other day as I was reading a section in The Life Divine, wherein Aurobindo is grappling with the question of the existence of evil and suffering in the world. And I then realized that this little insight I had was perhaps deeper in significance than I had originally thought. For me, personally, the recognition that everything in existence is a part of a greater whole, including the “bad” and evil things, was a stepping beyond my upbringing. I was raised as a Protestant Christian, and as everyone knows, the Christian theology, in a nutshell, is arranged around the concepts of good and evil as represented by God and Satan. The presence of evil and suffering is explained as the meddlings of the fallen angel in our material world, allowed by a distant God to challenge and torture us in our den of sin. But there is, of course, a strange paradox in such an explanation of evil, for it renders a supposedly omnipotent, omnipresent, and omniscient God as suddenly reticent and detached from humanity and their suffering. This means either that this God is cruel, or that he is not in fact all-powerful, or both.

I’m quite certain that Christian scholars and mystics have grappled with this question throughout the ages, and have more than likely come up with some insightful answers based within the Christian dogma. As I no longer adhere to any religion myself, I am not all that interested in theological answers, but rather in a unitary spiritual, metaphysical vision. The deeper mystic, in any religion, recognizes the unity of all existences as an extension of God. For if God is omni-everything, if it is Brahman, if it is all-powerful, all-seeing, all-knowing, then it must necessarily include all of what we perceive as bad, in addition to all of the good.

This has led me to the idea that the very concept of “evil” is a necessarily human construct. After all, animals and plants do not create religions, laws, and codes of ethics for their behavior. If you agree with the principle of evolution, then you necessarily regard human life as an evolved form of life with a level of consciousness which goes beyond that which it has evolved from. As such, we have evolved into this perception of suffering and evil, and it is thus a mental construct, a product of our evolved mentality. And therefore, our conceptions of evil, though formed from fear and ignorance, are in fact an essential recognition of that which we must defend ourselves against, and ultimately transcend, in the effort to evolve. What we perceive and regard as evil are in fact powers beyond ourselves that threaten to overwhelm or lead us astray in our aspiration towards divinity. But in the bigger picture, these forces, so seemingly arrayed against us, are in fact a form of cosmic devil’s advocates that push us and nudge us and batter us towards perfection, honing us, challenging us. And when we recognize this greater truth, when we overcome our fear and ignorance, we get that much closer to transcending the existence and persistence of evil in our lives. In the light of this greater awareness, what was once perceived as evil and in opposition to ourselves transmutes into something with broader implication and potential, even a deeper good. All of this suffering, all of this evil, could be seen as teachers, bearers of painful lessons that we must learn. We must answer and overcome their challenges, and realize them as a part of the whole of existence. Both negative and positive, united, represent the entire picture. There is, therefore, nothing to fear. All is of the light, for all comes from the light and returns to the light, and has always been and will always be the light within itself, and of itself, and beyond itself. This is not to explain away your suffering. This is to say that perhaps you suffer because how else will you recognize delight? And this is not to explain away evil, and give it reason to perpetuate, but instead to say, for what other cause and purpose will we battle for what is right, and thus find our eventual, stumbling way into higher modes of existence, where evil is no longer what it was to our fractured, self-embattled minds?

Pure Essential Joy of Being

“The malady of the world is that the individual cannot find his real soul, and the root-cause of this malady is again that he cannot meet in his embrace of things outward the real soul of the world in which he lives. He seeks to find there the essence of being . . . but receives instead a crowd of contradictory touches and impressions. If he could find that essence, he would find also the one universal being, power, conscious existence and delight even in this throng of touches and impressions; the contradictions of what seems would be reconciled in the unity and harmony of the Truth that reaches out to us in these contacts. At the same time he would find his own true soul and through it his Self, because . . . his self and the self of the world are one. But this he cannot do because of the egoistic ignorance in the mind of thought, the heart of emotion, the sense which responds to the touch of things not by a courageous and whole-hearted embrace of the world, but by a flux of reachings and shrinkings, cautious approaches or eager rushes and sullen or discontented or panic or angry recoils according as the touch pleases or displeases, comforts or alarms, satisfies or dissatisfies. It is the desire-soul that by its wrong reception of life becomes the cause of a triple misinterpretation of the rasa, the delight in things, so that, instead of figuring the pure essential joy of being, it comes rendered unequally into the three terms of pleasure, pain and indifference.”

—Sri Aurobindo, The Life Divine

Death as Subservient to Life

“. . . the natural opposition we make between death and life is an error of our mentality, one of those false oppositions—false to inner truth though valid in surface practical experience—which, deceived by appearances, it is constantly bringing into universal unity. Death has no reality except as a process of life. Disintegration of substance and renewal of substance, maintenance of form and change of form are the constant process of life; death is merely a rapid disinitegration subservient to life’s necessity of change and variation of formal experience. Even in the death of the body there is no cessation of Life, only the material of one form of life is broken up to serve as material for other forms of life. Similarly we may be sure, in the uniform law of Nature, that if there is in the bodily form a mental or psychic energy, that also is not destroyed but only breaks out from one form to assume others by some process of metempsychosis or new ensouling of  body. All renews itself, nothing perishes.”

—Sri Aurobindo, The Life Divine