My Realizations The Autobiography of Julian Lee  /  COPYRIGHT 2009 JULIAN LEE
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Mrs. Christians

Everyone has persons in their life who turn out to be important, though you may not register how important they are except with the passage of time. People you wish you could go back and give them something. Tell them how much they meant in your life, and that you love them. When I was around 8 my mother said she wanted to take me to meet a person, "Ruth Christians." I went. I met her. Cool evening was falling, late summer. The memory is vague but I remember the house. It had a feeling of quiet and civilization about it. It was a "coolness" that is hard to describe. I believe I had been seen by Ruth, and she had asked me some things. I believe that one or more of my siblings was along. This would have created a kind of "overwhelm" state in the house, because Ruth was a solitary and stately woman and a child was a big deal to her, one clearly needing much attention, care, and consideration. She could not have imagined the way my mother lived, hauling around her roiling crew of boys.

I say she was "stately." Well, she was. 
She was a small, birdlike woman physically, just like Sr. Eleanor Therese. But she had an impressive stateliness. She dressed in an elegant, Old World manner, her hair pulled up pinned back in a high bun while  letting its feminine ampleness and glory show a bit. She always had some sort of jacket on, but a feminine, decorous jacket of another time. She seemed rich and slightly aloof, but I didn't know her yet. Her sober mien could flash into the most delighted smile on the spot, and then her eyes would sparkle with delight, but it only happened when she saw a young person. And I had not seen it yet. I had not arrived yet for that first day of mowing her lawn. Then as she answered my knock, I saw her radiant smile, like a sun. Truly, upon seeing me her face would be transformed into luminous delight.

Ruth seemed to be from the more monied classes of the east, as transplanted to the midwest. There was a sense that she came from a higher culture. Not a venal one. Not a gratuitous one. She came from a culture that was both religious and austere. They had been a church people. Yet these people were elegant and refined. Katherine Hepburn. Ruth reminded me of that sort of woman, and the sort of eastern society Hepburn hailed from. She also played it in her movies. It was a kind of aristocracy but a moral, Christian rooted aristocracy. What Ruth actually was, was a White Anglo-Saxon Protestant. Sometimes these great people are referred to by the ugly acronym "W.a.s.p" by those who would demean them. But they were and are a great people.

You could feel it in everything about her. She did not pretend a feminine vulnerability, and in fact used words like "simpery" to refer to false emotionalism or weakness. Yet the very way she moved shed grace. She never hurried. She never rushed. She made every move through her house with utmost care. She moved through her house like an experienced maiden of the woods would move through a forest glade taking care not to upset or startle any creature. She gently glided. It was nothing pretentious. What it was was full consideration. She was considerate of other people, and things, to a degree that could be called heavenly, and she showed it even in the way she moved. Nothing was ever to be done brusquely or crudely. If she handed anything to you, she handed it carefully. It might be wrapped. She'd make sure you grasped it in your hand.

Soon after that mother said that Ruth Christians had sent me a game, called "Schnertz" I believe. It was a kind of card game. I found it touching that this very old woman would bother to send me the card game. It was as if she was encouraging me to play. I always played anyway, but this was to be in a more heady way perhaps. And she thought play was appropriate for boys. I neven had known where my mother stood on the question exactly. The cards were of quality. The game, and her idea that I might sit and play it with comrades, suggested a world of civilized refinement. At some time later I was there again with my mother and Ruth said, "Curtis, I want to give you this book, 'The Yearling.' I think you will like it. It's about a boy who finds a small deer..." I was somehow touched that this old woman I didn't know felt it was important to give a boy a great, thick book. There were evocative pictures in it. Seeing how important the book seemed, and how she wanted me to read it, I did. It was difficult reading because it was a bit over my level. But I got a sense from it. I could see through the years why she gave it to me, and what she was wanting to share. It was a book about the innocence of boyhood, the beauty and greatness of nature and God's creation, and the importance of family. The boy had a lot of quiet moments alone in Great Nature. This was what Ruth Christians valued, and this was what she wanted for me, and for me to value. She deeply loved and believed in the innocence of childhood, including the innocence of boyhood. "The Yearling" was full of difficult prose for me at that age. Yet I imbibed from it how the author viewed natural, rural peoples and the wild environments of the early days: With a mystical awareness. This was especially developed in the experiences of the young blond boy protagonist. Ruth's attitude toward children, though she had none, was almost reverential. The boy was full of emotions and spiritual perceptions both unique to him and fundamental to boyhood -- and this was how Ruth viewed the Mind of a Boy. I realize now that she gave me the book because it was the inner richness and perceptions that she wanted for me. She wanted my soul to grow. Why?

Later mother said, "Ruth Christians will pay you to go mow her lawn." Mom did not often crack the whip to see me work, but she seemed avid about seeing me do this. It seemed important to her. I rode my bike to her house, about 7 blocks away. She greeted me with a very warm smile at her door. Over the years, the smile became a great beaming thing whenever I arrived. Thus commenced years of taking care of the yard and house for Ruth Christians, and later working in her at-home art ceramics business. She became my first spiritual friend and mentor.

After I had worked a few hours I would get a call from her door. She'd say, "Curtis, are you hungry? I have lunch for you." I had mowed some lawns by then but they never offered lunch. But Ruth was from a civilized culture and she had empathy for the underclass, and for children. I'd come in and she would have a beautiful table set with very healthful food, which was one of her little obsessions. We sat in her open air screened sitting room, looking out over her yard and ferns, under her great beloved tree, eating very decorously on a glass topped table. My social crudeness and sweat did not matter. She never looked down on me. We would eat, and she would make conversation.

I was surprised that conversation was not random or hurried. It was according to protocols and gentle rules. I was not used to real conversation an the table. She would ask something. She'd listen to your response. Then she would comment, or ask another thing.  And what was touching was that she would ask me things about myself. I was but nine or so. But she seemed to be inquiring into my mind. What I believed. How I viewed things. She was really interested. But there was one main thing Ruth always wanted to talk about with me, and that was God.

She wanted to know what I thought about God. She gently probed, finding out how my faith was developing. She must have liked my answers, because we never had an unpleasant moment in those days. She would always tell me, "I've been reading this book and it says..." And we would talk about what the author was saying. She especially loved books and themes that spoke to faith, to cultivating the faith, and a genuine, felt, relationship with God. These were the books that moved her most, and I could see that she herself was a woman cultivating an active faith in God. I can see now that Ruth had a real, living, relationship with God. He was the thing always on her mind.

The thing about Ruth was that she was pious, faithful, and pure. When she talked about  God with me it was both for my benefit, and for herself. Because it was her genuine  deepest interest. She believed in the power of faith. She believed that God could be known personally, within. I could feel her own palpable feeling that His nature was all Love and all Power. Every time she did talk about Him, something in me lifted; something in me raised; something in my own spiritual capacities quickened. She was, without realizing it, raising the shakti -- God's quickening holy spirit -- up her own spine, and up mine.

Ruth had married late in life, to a man named Ward. She would mention him now and then. She always spoke to him with a palpable respect and wifely devotion. And yet they had been married only briefly and then he died. That was long ago and she never married again. I found her respectful tone for her departed husband amazing and strange. And as I grew, and continued to work for her in my teens, I came to feel by instinct that the two of them had never crossed the line into the carnal.

She loved all the beautiful things, and the subtle things. Her house was filled with the most beautiful and tasteful ceramic art that used light for its effect. She had made it herself. She specialized in a kind of porcelain panel that looked like nothing much until you placed a light behind it. Then it became a wonderful picture full of variations of tone from light to gentle browns, as the light came through the thinner areas and less the thicker. She called them "lithophanes" and I loved to look through each of her porcelain lithophanes and see the subtle light-revealed picture created by some strange artist somewhere. The effect was very subtle and beautiful. You could get lost in the picture and taken out of this world. She had another kind of ceramic wall plaque that looked like nothing much without light. But a light shining down from above it would catch non-descript ridges, lumps, or depressions in just such a way that an amazing picture would emerge, created by light and shadow as it glanced over the amorphous ceramic features. So something that looked like nothing became, with light, an entrancingly beautiful picture of light and earth. She especially loved art featuring children, and Madonas with child. Her home was a cool spiritual sanctuary. The only place that felt like her home was indeed the sanctuary of our beautiful Catholic Church.

Everywhere she sought beauty, and she always related this beauty, in one way or another, to God. Ruth had a large collection of books. Books with interesting spiritual titles I'd never seen or heard of. She went to church regularly, but her books showed her as a God seeker. I began to ask if I could borrow one now and then. I always returned them! Here I commenced my love of spiritual books. She had one with a faded red binding called "The Inner Splendor." It attracted me and I borrowed it. I still remember being in bed and reading one poem from it, and feeling profound comfort and relief:


The Inner Splendor

I am aware,

As I go commonly sweeping the stair,

Doing my part of the every-day care

Human and simple my lot and my share
I am aware of a marvelous thing:
Voices that murmur and ethers that ring
In the far stellar spaces where cherubim sing.

I am aware of the passion that pours

Down the channels of fire through Infinity's doors;
Forces terrific, with melody shod,
Music that mates with the pulses of God.

I am aware of the glory that runs

From the core of myself to the core of the suns.
Bound to the stars by invisible chains,
Blaze of eternity now in my veins,
Seeing the rush of ethereal rains

Here in the midst of the every-day air
I am aware.

The reprise of "every-day care" and "I am aware" -- juxtaposed against the magnificence of the preceding verses, put a subtle thrill to my spine. Ruth Christians understood all this. Her life seemed small, absorbed in her little art business and keeping to her little home. She seldom went anywhere, and then in a very old car. But she felt connected to God, so she contacted the Unlimited. We think the famous have important lives. But big is often little, and little is often big. If women realized what spirituality was, they would realize they could have everything in life whatever their material duties or limits. They could attain the full cosmic life right at home, as mothers, in the midst of the "everyday care." Washing a dish can become a mergence with the deities who send the rains. Caring for one's child puts one in resonance with the cosmic Mother. Showing devotion toward husband puts one in the perfect attitude for connecting to Shiva the Absolute. There is indeed nothing that limits us inwardly, whatever our outer situation, if we know how to delve for God within. Any person, no matter how humble or plain his role in life, can become a saint blazing with infinite knowledge and bliss, and able to impart boons and satisfaction to others. In fact, it is a part of a wife's true stature to cultivate within herself the spiritual fruit of contentment and cosmic awareness, so she can then show that to her husband. She can also go anywhere and do anything, while apparently standing still. After reading "The Inner Splendor" the first time, I was just quiet and felt the slightest bliss. Something inside me knew the verses spoke of something Real, and that life could be all right for me, no matter what, if I would just seek.

When you are attracted to a thing, it's because that thing is in you. And when you "just know" something is true, it's because it evokes your own inner knowledge. And when you feel chills in your spine, this is the early movement of the kundalini force, the occult spiritual power that oversees the distribution of man's spiritual gifts and the evolution of his consciousness toward God-consciousness. I felt that chill go up my spine when I came to the last line of this poem. It was one of the few poems I ever memorized.

I felt I didn't know what "The Inner Splendor" was really about. But I wanted to know. And something in me told me already it was full of truth. How funny that in eight years of religious school, in a religion who's Founder said "The kingdom of heaven (and splendor) is within you" -- not one nun or priest had made any mention of such a thing within us! Another book at Ruth's "There Is a River" about the "sleeping sage" Edgar Cayce. This was also about the knowledge that can be found within ourselves, and what comes to the devout man. These books had a great influence on my mind and stirred my interest in religious and metaphysical knowledge.

As I grew older I began to appreciate what a gem of a woman she was. I began to love our conversations down in her pottery studio. She always played the FM classical music station on the radio, adding to the sense of culture and history that already permeated her space. By 17 a conventional lonely buck I had developed the knack of visualizing what older women might have looked like when they were younger. I realized that Ruth was probably exactly the sort of woman, in her youth, that I would have swooned for. I thought of what an ideal conversation mate she would have been. What an elegant and proper wife. I realized she was probably pretty, as all women are in youth. She never asked me about my personal life. She didn't ever ask, "So, do you have a girl friend?" That was not proper discussion. She was too pure to even broach the possibility. Or, maybe she just didn't want to know. But I recall once I got the chance to say it. We were talking about compatibility of personalities, or some such. She might have averred to the fact that I might be married some day. I slipped it in meekly, "It's too bad for me that I was born so late." I remember her looking down at her work and continuing to brush the ceramic. She made no frown. She made no gasp. But I saw the reaction. In her deep  womanly wisdom she gently let it pass.

I learned about piety from Ruth, and about purity. And I learned about devotion. I learned it by conversation, but more by osmosis. The very air of her house had purity about it. The ferns that grew on the edges of her lawn had purity about them. The squirrels that came down from the tree for the food she'd leave them -- they seemed pure. Everything in her environs had a sanctity. I wish I could go back in time and be more serviceful and devoted to Ruth. To visit her in her old age, and tell her she'd been my first true spiritual teacher. She taught me about the reality of a felt, personal relationship with God, in her case through Christ who she spoke of much. She taught me about the ancient validity of a moral life, and how to live in age gently and beautifully. She also taught me about the nature of the higher classes, the true higher classes of people, rooted in Christianity, who have long existed in our European nations.

Sister Eleanor Therese

She was an austere nun, rather old, and the terror of all seventh graders. A funny thing about her was that she was extraordinarily small. A beautiful thing about her was that she had the smell of sanctity about her.

There was no moral matter, even an oblique one, that was not of grave concern to Sister E.T. She demanded the strictest attention and concentration of mind; all attention on her words. Talking in class? Don't even think about it! She had a rule that if our pencil or pen rolled off our desk we were not to stoop and pick it up or take our eyes from her. She would come pick it up for you instead.

My guru Yogananda wrote about how his crew could get their guru, Sri Yukteswar, talking about esoterica and the mysteries of life if they were attentive. He wrote that if his attention wandered while Yukteswar was speaking, the guru would sense it and end his words. Those who have something of true value to impart, and know it, won't speak to the inattentive, or repeat themselves much. They sense inwardly that it is an insult to the power behind their speech, to throw those words on the ground. Sister Eleanor Therese was actually my first introduction to genuine yoga. The essence of yoga, in the Yoga-Sutra, is concentration of the mind, or dharana. The nun was, indeed, the first one who baptized me with the experience of dharana -- continuous focus of the mind -- and real yoga, by demanding that we all place our attention on her words and not wander. I realized all this much later, and how often it is that the odd or seemingly random experiences of early life are in fact the foundations of great inner life constructions to come later. I found at the outset I was not very good at Sister's yoga. I found my mind wanted to wander everywhere at all times.
It seemed to want to think of everything but her. But this is what all people find when they first begin to work with their minds, achieve dharana, or meditate. Indeed, I was exactly like any novice meditator in any ashram or monastery. But like a harsh Zen master who gives a whack to the heedless, the fear element in her class helped us achieve, slowly, a bit of that primordially difficult and central spiritual attainment, that of concentration of mind. Indeed, once I learned what yoga meant -- concentration of mind -- I was astounded to realize that this old, diminutive nun  was, verily, my first guru and first teacher of yoga.

I still remember her black garments swooshing past me, like a close encounter with a rare and terrible bird. Truly, the nun in the nun's garb takes on an otherworldly quality, and mystery, representing something higher. She can command respect. Sister used it. She had no need to be a sweet woman to us. She had a mission with us, something high. At one time a fellow named Andy arrived late for class, first class of the day. As he tried to sneak in the door she halted him there and asked, "Why are you late?"  "I overslept" he answered. She said "Why did you oversleep?" In the frank, Saggitarian attitude native to him and with a characteristic shrug of the shoulders he answered: "I was tired."

Displeased with his frivolous answer she said, "I want you to go run ten laps around the field" -- a large outdoor field that was our recess area. Then the kicker for the "attitude":  "And you're to do it every morning before you come in, for the rest of the year, and be on time for class."

Andy did it, the rest of the year. And there was a rule for us to go with it: Nobody was to turn their heads to look out at Andy running laps. She said "Even if you hear a bomb explode out there, you are to keep your attention firmly on me and what I'm saying."

My guru, Yogananda, used to say: "Stand unshaken amidst the crash of breaking worlds." I didn't know it then, but Sr. was teaching us mental discipline and steadiness of concentration, which is the essence of yogic discipline, which in turn gives the laser-like steadiness of the mind by which saints are able to finally uncover God within, in the form of sat-chit-ananda, or "pure being, pure consciousness, and bliss." The Catholic disciplines are in fact full of genuine yoga, while most modern 'yoga studios' -- are not. Kneeling long periods in church is, in fact, is a yogic activity that gives as much value as most yogic asanas in the books, breaking our petulant dependence on bodily comfort, making our minds free, and giving us "freedom from the pairs of opposites." Oh! How great have been our European ancestors who performed this yoga long centuries in their churches.

Sr. Therese even took issue with the way we boys and girls stood in the hall or outside! Once she gave us a genuine lecture and exposition on the subject of slouching. I had seen fellows in upper grades slouching, their hips jutting out as if they didn't care about a thing. The casual look seemed "cool." I remember deliberately standing with a slouch because I thought it looked cool. Funny to think that in that atmosphere of rectitude even a boy putting his weight on just one leg stood out as something catchy. She gave us a fiery lecture one day against slouching. She said we should always stand with our weight balanced evenly atop both legs. She linked it to a negative medical outcome in which our hips would sooner wear out, and we'd become crippled. She said, moreover, that it puts the spine in a slight curve and we could develop troubles of the spine, to boot. But there was a profounder purpose here. Her real motive was that in women, slouching with a hip thrown out is slutty and provocative. In men, it is a lazy and dissolute attitude which evokes lazy and dissolute mind. It's also feminine in a man. Maybe she didn't want to say these things, but I know she felt them by instinct. Slouching is not the yogic attitude!!

The fact is, this teaching comported fully with occult laws of the body and of yoga. The way we posture our body impacts our own mental state. This is one of the secrets of yogic asanas and mudras. They create occult impact on our own mind. On the everyday level, the man who stands erect gets an inner attitude of moral rectitude to match it. For the same reason the discipline-hungry army life teaches men to stand ramrod straight. Same with women. A straight standing female transmits rectitude and purity to the mind. In the entire Yoga-Sutra, ancient manual for God-realization, there is only one instruction regarding the body: "The spine should be settled but erect [when practicing meditation]."

A meditating yogi needs to learn to sit for long hours with his spine erect. The prana and kundalini-shakti is hampered and misdirected if he doesn't. In fact, the straightness of the spine attracts the kundalini-shakti into an upward flow, feeding the intellect and cutting channels to bliss later. Every boy growing up making an effort not to slouch is preparing himself for this. So here Sr. Eleanor Therese was preparing us all for the path of yoga and ultimate bliss by teaching us to keep, not only our spine, but our entire bodies, erect! Om.

With Sr. Eleanor Therese we had to use different "spiritual muscles" than we were used to using. These were the faculties of detachment, concentration, and renunciation. She was teaching us the saint's faculties of austerity, renunciation, and concentration of mind! But who would know? She was the only nun I ever heard make an issue of the creeping decadence seen in the young women as they matured. Though the girls wore uniform outfits -- dull green tweed skirts, white shirts, and dark green jackets -- they had begun sporting makeup, hose, and sexy girl things like jewelry. It was never an issue with anybody else, but the diminutive Sr. Eleanor Therese was not going to stand for the slutification of her girls. She'd berate some girls when they came into class and send them to the bathroom to wash it off. When they'd come back in, some had been crying. But the girls looked more wholesome -- and more approachable and honestly beautiful -- under Eleanor Therese's rule that year.

In her mind, this was all so that we would have the way clear to know God through the saintly principles of self-control, austerity, and strong mind.

Sr. Eleanor Therese never joked, never laughed, never smiled. She was all business. To relieve the stress, we joked. A certain wit -- the only one who I'd ever heard actually impressed this nun with is mind -- had coined an underground nickname for her: Mighty Mo after the formidable Navy battleship. This wit was a WWII aficionado. Actually, it was my brother Victor who coined it. 

But you never heard "Mighty Mo" anywhere within three blocks of this nun. You simply didn't mess with Sr. Eleanor Therese. She didn't have any "pets" among the students.
Well, there was said to be one. That was my brother Victor himself, the only kid rumored to be even close to that status with her. See, Victor had literary brilliance. Apparently, this moved her.

I was made of lesser academic stuff. My experiences with her were all painful. Once she 
pulled my sideburns hard with strong, bony fingers, a trick I'd never heard tell of. Pain like blood and fire! She spoke sternly to me all year long. Once she made me stand humiliated in he middle of the class until I crashed on the floor in a cold faint. My crimes were typical adolescent stuff: asking dumb questions, goofing merrily out in the hall past the bell, or turning to joke with a pal about a girl we liked to mock, deliberately in earshot of the target. This was the un-confident and friendless Helen R. (May God comfort her soul always.) I was in a phase of trying to be the class clown in the realms of the other teachers, and had unwisely brought that into her hour. Sr. somehow never missed much, and straight after my whispered aside to my pal, the terrible white-and-black bird was swooshing straight towards me as I went cold. Never wanting to interrupt her lecture, and knowing well how to punish, she just came to my side and curtly said "Stand up." I stood. Briskly, she said: "You're to stand for the rest of the hour" and continued on with her lecture without missing a beat. (You don't turn your head for an explosion, nor do you look at the hapless Curtis now standing like a fool in a sea of heads, black, brown, and blond.)

Like a scarecrow in a field I had to stand idiot-like amidst the assemblage -- which included
every girl I'd ever hoped to impress and every boy who liked to gun for me. This with my covert jerk-i-tude towards Helen newly exposed. And it was 20 minutes before the bell. I turned to stone. Losing consciousness I collapsed face-first into the hapless kid in front of me, John C. I don't remember anything about what my body did. He later told me, "I thought you were trying to pull some funny stunt of pushing my chair forward with your nose."All I remember is her black gown and shoes stepping briskly away as I was coming to. She had swiftly folded me into a sitting position with her own hands, then lifted me and stuffed my head between my legs in a flash, then again went on with her lecture. (I was giving Sr. a bit of a challenge commanding all concentration that day. As I saw her feet stepping away and heard her say: "There is nothing to be alarmed about. He will be fine." I had the slightest sense that Sr. was ever so slightly shaken herself, but only the slightest impression.

This sounds like extreme discipline, but I deserved that. It was perfect karma. I was indeed making fun of a female who had low self-esteem already and deserved protection. I had a bad trait of mocking the less fortunate. Do you know that this "cruel" nun, Sr. Eleanor Therese, was the only teacher who not only called me on it, but she really nailed me. She fought for the female dignity of that girl from a poor family, and gave me proper payback and instant karma. And there's a funny thing about spiritual people and divine masters: Instant karma takes place in their proximity.

When it came to academics, I had no better luck with her. At one time I handed her a hand-written assignment. She took one look at it, ripped it in two, and handed it back. Referring to my penmanship, she said tersely, "You made no effort to write well." That hurt! This was not to mention the "F" grade she'd given on another paper, with a caustic remark about the level of my effort. It was true, I was lazy. Who knew? But there was one more thing she said after she shredded my work, one saving grace. She said: "You can do better than this, Curtis."

It rattled me. On the other hand she gave me a new comfort: Just hearing her say my name felt like profound music, like I had been admitted into, at least, the front entrance of some ancient and secret place. Now I wanted to measure up.

We learned to respect this woman and make efforts. One day late in the year I got a hard-won decent grade on a paper. I think it was a B-plus. I had made an effort, and now seeing her grade I was on Cloud Nine! I felt expanded before God in His cosmic imperium. Occasionally now I saw our makeup-free female peers now tarrying after class to get instruction about lessons and papers from the Sr. Rarely the boys! But the girls seemed to be blossoming academically and getting a certain maturity under her. A peek in the room after closing one day, and seeing some of my favorite girl classmates calmly passing papers back and forth with the nun, it appeared as though they had earned her approval and even an amazing closeness. I was impressed by the sober, unmade-up workmanlike attitude they had with Sister. The girls were seeming to become better than us. She was tougher on us because we were to be men. Boys avoided her like the plague.

It's a spiritual mystery that if a holy person even looks at you, pays attention to you, or especially speaks to you -- they transmit shakti to you. However, if they get angry at you -- they transmit even more, and more surely. The great yogi Swami Muktananda never got many words from his guru Nityananda, though he craved for them and kept cultivating his devotional attitude. However, one time Nityananda yelled at Muktananda and chased him out of his ashram with a stick. Muktananda became the chief beneficiary of his guru's astounding shakti, and the main lineage carrier. I never knew if the aloof Sr. Eleanor Therese was even aware of my existence. But as the years wore on, I reflected on the fact that this terrible, remote creature of God had actually touched me. Not just touched me: She had lifted up my insensate body, torso-and-all, with her thin arms and old hands. In nun's vestments she then shoved my crude head between my legs to save my brain.

That was personal. As I became old and realized more, I felt a strange honor and elevation from this fact. How many rosaries had she said? How may austerities had this celibate woman done? How many Catholic prayers and pilgrimages? I am certainly the only member of the class who was bodily picked up by the small old woman. It was probably my first baptism (shaktipat). Maybe this was the first place I was picked up by God, indeed, and my destiny changed to an upward arc.

She seemed always aloof from me. But perhaps she kept her finger on me after all.

Many years later another religious woman, the great guru Karunamayi seemed to react to my moods and thoughts as she would give lectures. She  once interrupted her lecture and exiting the hall just after I felt a blaze of anger.
I was at a weekend silent retreat with her in a hotel, with many disciples. I had started seeing a strong aura of light around her during the retreat, a phenomenon I had never seen, and I was having a blissful time. I had felt very close to this saint, had once been invited to sit right at her feet by her people, and would crumble into tears whenever I approached her in the reception line. She had granted me a samadhi. She always called me her "Son."

Then in passing she made a little teasing joke that women might be more spiritually advanced than the men, as there were more women there than men. My thought was, "Oh no, not American feminism." And "Quality, not quantity." I felt it was an insult to most of the noble and satvic American bhaktas I knew among the men.
It did not tally with my observation.  (The men in the group were a saintly group, while the women would rather swish around in sexy Indian clothes, get parties going, and flirt.) She said it with a giggle, but I was enraged and my mood was gone. I was some distance from her. I wrote my feelings on a piece of paper, steaming. She immediately shifted to talking about anger, saying one can have much knowledge and spiritual advancement, but if he has anger, he still has a serious spiritual flaw. I was not impressed. I completely closed off to her. Just then one of her staff came in and said, "There's been a sudden change with the hotel administration. They tell all conference participants have to go to their rooms now and clear out their things, instead of at noon. So we have to take an unscheduled break right now." As everybody stirred to leave I saw  Karunamayi get up from her little throne and walk quickly down her flower strewn path through through the stirring group. She completely dispensed with the slow "royal progress"  and greetings she would usually make when passing through the devotees. I took my opportunity to leave, observing as I did that this was her cosmic doings. She had both released me, and gotten rid of me, not accepting my anger before her or in that group. As she stepped hurriedly through the group, almost ignored by all, she had a pained look on her face, a thing had never seen.

We get from religion according to our attitude. The universal omniscient God stands back of every religious symbol that denotes Him. When we have the right attitude toward any religious symbol of God -- be it a thing or a person -- God takes notice and gives us something back. I had a close connection with Karunamayi and received some boons from her (described later), because of 1) what she was, and 2) my attitude toward her. And the wiser Catholics cultivate the right attitude toward those symbols of God who are the priests and nuns. They act indeed as guru figures to the students, and through them God is trying to lead us to Him. There was an odd thing about Sister Eleanor's spontaneous lecture on slouching I only realized years later: Just a few days before I had taken up the conscious practice of slouching in the schoolyard to look careless and cool. I remember thinking of it at the time and thinking, "Other boys must be slouching. She couldn't be doing this whole lecture because of me."
I have had sometimes in age trouble with my hips and have occasionally had to use a cane. It seems to get worse with slouching or sitting with crossed legs too long. Was she speaking specifically to me with her slouching lecture that day?

One day I saw Sister Eleanor abandoned by the more cautious students as usual at the end of the day as she was soon to leave the school.
I had my grade B from her lately and felt a bit of legitimacy before her, so I tarried unobtrusively nearby as the others left, waiting for every last one to go. Then I entered the room bravely and asked: "Sister, would you let me carry your briefcase?"

I had seen other kids do it over the years with kinder nuns. I had heard one brave soul, a girl, had even requested and been allowed by Sr. Therese.

I understood something, and that was: What this nun represented on earth.
None of this was personal. She was a nun, and on this earth she represented purity and devotion to God, and God was standing behind that purity and devotion. She answered soberly without the slightest smile or embellishment: "Yes, you may, Curtis."

I owe that nun -- and the Catholic Church -- a debt of gratitude today for having the guru-principle alive. She understood why a Catholic boy asks to carry a nun's briefcase, and the religious and spiritual development of young men was what this one cared about. Thus she consented.

So it is that one of the best memories of my life is 2 or 3 minutes carrying Sister Eleanor Therese's black briefcase. She walked wordlessly beside me. I remember the clean smell of her full Dominican linen, her smooth, cool presence. Though she was exceedingly diminutive, I felt she was a mysterious giant walking beside me. I wondered about the nature of such a person, the nun. I had seen the little chapel in their convent containing kneeling furniture where nuns would kneel and pray and it amazed me. A life devoted to God! What a mystery is a nun! She had a solitary quality even among the other nuns. I never saw her chatting with another nun except rarely, in a strictly businesslike fashion. As I walked beside her she "smelled" like wisdom. I "felt" that she had an interior  that showed on the surface only as sobriety and silence. Now arrived at the steps to their convent, she gave me a thanks that was proper and courteous and no more. But as I walked home I felt sublimely elevated, righteous, decent.

See, she consented to be served for my sake, not hers. The yogic adept Swami Muktananda points out, quite archly, that the real beneficiary of religious devotion is one's self -- not the object of that devotion. This is because the attitude of devotion is a higher spiritual state, and one step away from bliss. The deeper spiritual mystery is that God Himself is of the nature of devotion. Thus when one puts himself into the devotional state, he makes himself right for God.

As I walked along carrying Sr.'s briefcase I didn't understand any of this. But the 12-year-old kid who walked home afterwards had a bit more pep in his step and a little more love of life, thanks to a nun who said "yes" when asked, was profoundly silent while I walked beside her, and knew that this was enough; that nothing should be said to add even one thing to what it was. No small talk. No effort to make me feel good.
Talk would have diminished the effect. She knew that I was serving the divinity by carrying her case, and that that was all and everything.

And funny thing about Andy, the one who had to run endurance laps around the big outer field each morning before he could enter the classroom: He was the one who made the most of himself. Everybody was amazed at a reunion I helped stimulate when we were in our 40's, that Andy had become an M.D. and had a beautiful wife. What a skillful and well-loved M.D. he would be. Becoming a doctor is hard. And you have to get up early a lot and go without sleep a lot. But Sister Eleanor Therese accustomed me to sitting with a straight spine, and Andy to getting up early and doing hard work.

I still remember moments when I found myself listening to Sr. Eleanor Therese, experiencing moments of concentration. I remember realizing "I'm on it. I'm following her. I'm with her. I'm understanding." By the end of that year I was having moments of mature mind and clarity while concentrating on whatever she said. I felt relieved to have moments freed of the roiling monkey mind that besets all undisciplined youth and men. The experience of concentration on Sr. Eleanor's words was a feeling of cool power.
Indeed, mental mastery -- yoga -- is that. I don't know if being in her class taught me what church was supposed to be like, or whether sitting in church reminded me of being in the presence of a saint. But it was probably that year in her class that made me attracted to sit in the pure and quiet atmosphere of the church later, both day and night. And this was one of the best parts of my life.

Our Big Green Piano
 
At some point mother my mom bought a grand piano. This was a cheeky sort of thing for her to do. It dominated the living room. This was near the time of the divorce, just before or just after. It had a unusual light green color. The top could be propped open. The keys had good action, and it sounded pretty good. She kept it tuned. She would on occasion sit down and try to get through a couple of piano pieces that she had been working on as a girl, under a West Des Moines female piano teacher. One was "Ebb Tide" and the other was "Claire De Lune" by Debussy. She would play these really feelingly. As Claire De Lune would get more fast-fingers and complex toward the middle mother would usually then give up. But I learned to love that song, especially on hearing the full recordings later. It's truly a beautiful composition.

My brother Mark found this photo fortuitously in spring 2014. It shows me and my Gibson Thunderbird playing a "dance" (they couldn't dance to us) at the Roosevelt High School "girl's gym." (Yes, there was a girls' gym, which was smaller.) Based on my right hand it looks like I am trying to get one of those demony harmonic screeches onto some lead lick. That was something not done much in those days but I had found it out! We were a terror! This is my first rock band which we named "Arno Gout." We didn't really like the name. We were wanting to name it "Mickey Rat." However our drummer, who was black and didn't understand our edgy and iconoclastic point-of-view and who wanted a more upwardly mobile image, strongly dissented. He had a big afro, wanted to be "Earth, Wind and Fire," and didn't fit into our proto goth-metal image. Thus both he and the rest of us got a name, at the last minute before our first public performance, that was named after the maker of our often-used gray duct tape (the Arno manufacturing company), and a knee disease. That's obviously my signature. By an early age I was making my i-dots into "o" shapes, which handwriting analysts associate with people who are striving to be different. What's more telling, perhaps, is the little arrow I drew to make sure nobody missed me. lol. Obviously I  tended to feel unnoticed a lot!
 
My pop-bottle-bottom glasses were heavy. Sweating during a 3-hour concert, they were always slipping down my nose. I could have worn one of those elastic bands like jocks wore, but that would not be cool! I learned decades later that children with traumatic childhoods, especially divorce, often end up needing glasses early. (See "Take Off Your Glasses and See") That author even theorizes that the individual is wanting to "not see the world" and to withdraw from it. What surprises me about this photo is how thin I was at that time. I never knew. Well, mother stopped fixing family meals after she got rid of dad. From then on eating consisted of foraging, at opportunistic times, in the kitchen for any edibles not already taken by my five brothers and sisters.
I never cognized myself as poorly fed during my single-mother-teen years. But look at those bony arm and fingers! Behind me is a Traynor tube amp with a can of Mountain Dew on it. (Kevin's favorite.) To my right, unseen, are Kevin (guitarist), Jerry (bass), David (singer) and Jan (drummer.) The mic stand shows I was starting to sing in public. I never thought my voice was very good and was frustrated that I couldn't sing as high as Robert Plant (we may indeed be doing "Whole Lotta Love" in this photo based on my right hand) -- but I tried my best. I never liked my singing voice until my fifties. By that time I'd learned there were vocal exercises you could do to improve your voice. What a concept! (For an Aries, who thinks he can always do anything on his own without any help.)

Mother wished that I would learn to read sheet music, as she could. But I had already begun teaching myself to play the guitar by ear. My sound-mind would tend to race ahead of my eyes as they would fail to immediately understand how to translate the notation. I would be figuring it out my own way. Soon I was playing the piano passably well and mother found me incomprehensible and stopped advocating that I learn notation. To this day I can bang out any sort of pop tune pretty accurately -- even with the correct inversions or embellishments. For example, I figured out how to play the piano part to David Bowie's "Life On Mars" pretty accurately including all its portentous augmented and diminished chords. I could always tell, though, that my hands didn't play with the kind of skill and definition of the properly trained pianists and this bothered me. I was just too impatient to go back and start piecing together music slowly from sheet music. I also noticed that sheet music that presented popular songs (the ones I cared about) -- was inaccurate anyway; not showing what the guitarist or -- even pianist -- was actually doing! So what was the point. If I heard some honky-tonk piano riff I wanted to be able to play exactly that, and not a watered-down (or missing) version of the published sheet music. One of the first breakthroughs on piano was getting hold of a chord chart. This was loaned to me by my friend Billy Riley, whose brother played a Hammond B-3 organ in a wonderful band called Wichita Flash. Once I had the chord chart I began to immediately be able to figure out known songs plus create items of my own. I found that my approach of learning by ear, later affirmed and championed by the Japanese violin teacher Suzuki, led me to be able to understand music at an elemental level and with my own sense of theory. For example, if I hear a song my mind is automatically analyzing the bass part, then deciding what chords are being placed over the base note. (The root chord? Or something else?) If the bass is playing G, but the chord is an F rather than a G, I can hear it immediately. Meanwhile that particular chord trick riffles, in my memory, through a list of moments in a wide catalog of songs where I know that chord/base note combo was used. Most note readers don't get that kind of ear. If the guitarist is playing a C but the bassist is staying on "the fifth" (G) -- I notice it and understand the mood of that structure (Elton John's bassist used it a lot) and the suspense it creates. This led me, in turn, to value the bass part very much and see how an entire song can hang on a bass part alone, taking out the other instruments, while retaining much of its musical dimension.

All of this I learned at my mother's piano. I often felt I was wasting to much time there at the piano. I used it to fill time or get away from the world. Yeah, I did waste time there. I wish I had worked more, such as mowing lawns or doing more handyman work. Yes, I've been lazy in this life. But I could have been doing worse things. I am grateful to this day to my brothers and sisters for NEVER complaining about my banging away on the piano, learning how to play it. I don't know how they stood it. It's been a pleasure at times to find myself in a festive group, such as a Christmas Eve party, where a piano present and find that by sitting down and playing Christmas carols, just shooting from the hip, I could raise up a more festive mood and get the people over the edge into singing happily by banging out the right chords on the piano. Mother was the key to my getting into music. The moment I expressed an interest in having a guitar, at around age 13, she immediately produced one for Christmas a month or two later. I remember feeling deeply indebted and almost over-blessed, as my folks didn't have much spare money. To have done that, mom had to have cared about me. In fact, it was the norm that she and dad would get us that one thing we really wanted for Christmas, even when we did not believe it was possible and only mentioned it to them as an exercise.


Sex and Girls

After long years here I can say there are two important things in this world for a man: Woman and God. We could also say Sex and God. And those are actually opposed to each other, though many can't hear this today. And it's a part of the cosmic symmetry of these two -- sex and God -- that they are quite like each other. Yet they are not the same thing. By having the proper understanding of sex, you can get God. With no religious understanding about sex, all you get is sex and a disturbed life and world. I had to come into this knowledge on my own. My religion was little help at first. I am going to talk frankly about sex here, because in this burgeoning porn age that is what is required to throw back evil and ignorance and take this subject out of the hands of vile pornographers: Frank talk for the right purpose. And because along with God, sex is the other most important subject in the world. It should not be left to pornographers, but to honest and religious men.

Entering my classroom on the first day of 2nd Grade I glanced down the hall in time to catch a glimpse of a delightful creature. She was entering her own classroom at the other end of the hall, under another nun. I was stunned. She had on a skirt and uniform as all our Catholic girls wore, and beautiful long chestnut hair. Having grown up with brothers, I was unprepared to see that vision. I was astounded by her beauty and charm. Her name was Mary, as many Catholic girls were named, but I didn't even know her name for months later. I was so moved by her that I had her on my mind all day. Though not sexual at all at that age, I was agitated by the sight of her and the thought "She must be mine." I had heard from a brother that "If you make a promise to God you cannot break it." I decided to view that idea in reverse. That night a 7-year-old spoke out loud a solemn oath to God. I said: "God, I am will marry that girl I saw today." Just a glimpse of a face, her tresses, and her winsome feminine ways and I felt: If I couldn't have her in my life, life suddenly didn't seem worth living. I think I said it three times just to be sure He got it.

When I finally began to have closer encounters with girls -- little conversation possibilities -- I found I was completely flustered and tongue-tied around them. Later as we grew and personalities began to develop, and social status showed, and cliques of friends formed -- the idea of  marrying the beautiful Mary seemed a far cry. Soon after seeing my first unaccountable crush, I took to what all young boys love best, and that is other male friends. As I grew and developed the boyish interests -- launching bottle rockets, constructing car models, playing "war" games -- it seemed girls were just boring creatures who were not interested in "cool things." The emotional complexity of facing them and learning how to talk to them was a disturbing mystery, and boys were cooler anyway for friends, so girls  receded from my mind as it should be with boys. It's natural and right for boys to prefer other boys for friends, not girls, until the sexual feelings develop. Even then if he does not become raging sex addict, he'll still prefer the friendship of other males in certain important ways. It's not good for boys to be too involved with girls at an early age, and vice-versa. This was all understood by the culture and the church, and there were many natural separations between the two groups. Growing up is complicated enough without the confusion of male-female dynamics except in small controlled doses.

I basically didn't worry myself over mysterious girls up to about the age of 12 or so, except as aesthetic eye candy from a distance. Then around the 7th grade some of the girls in our class began to get busts, wear hose, and some makeup, and things started to change. Because sex was not discussed by my parents, or any other wholesome place in society, I was not even sure what the change meant. All I knew is that our formerly boring female classmates were taking on a compelling power, almost like talismans. We would be drawn to tease them just to have some kind of interaction with them. May God forgive me for lobbing a too-well-aimed pear at the buxom Katie H. (God cherish and guide her delightful soul) and especially for putting burrs in her hair. (A thing I deeply regret doing, and which brought my first visit to the office of the principal, who was a severe and rather intimidating nun with Nordic blond hair just like Katie's.) I did not understand at the time how that instinct to direct missiles at her was a cosmic masculine imperative roiling in my loins.

Then one day my brothers went and visited the basement bedroom of our next door neighbor. This family was Jewish, though I did not know that for many years later. One of my brothers had crawled into an upper crawl space and was looking at something in there with a flashlight. Then another brother went in and traded places with him. I became curious and asked the Jewish fellow what they were looking at in there. He said: "Do you want to go and look." I agreed and climbed up there. They were looking at a magazine. It showed naked women, with big breasts. The boy apparently pilfered his father's Playboy Magazines, a magazine I'd never heard of. Immediately my penis began to grow and get long, and I felt a rush of feelings. Excitement, prickly feelings, a sense this was something bad, and dismay at what had happened to my penis. I looked for a few moments, but my conscience told me there was something wrong with this. Uncomfortable, I crawled out of the insulation-smelling crawlspace.

So this was my first introduction to sex, and it was an improper introduction, with nothing explained about the significance of sex, or the higher understandings we had in our culture or religion, which would let me make some sense of the experience or any firm resolutions about it. Mother had warned me about drugs and alcohol, but neither parent had ever said a word about sex. Thus I was like a lamb to the slaughter.

Later it happened that me, or my friends and I, would occasionally stumble on pages torn from Playboy magazine in gulches, or in forests in Greenwood park. Somebody would find a torn page, or maybe two or three, and they would share their find with others. The same experience happened again. The rush feeling. The pricklies. The heart speeding up. The generative organ growing.

As these little finds would turn up around our town and this experience would repeat now and then, I began to get addicted to the thrill of it, the the rush of the feeling. I began to really enjoy and desire to see the naked female body.

This is natural for a male. But I was not learning about sex in the right way, with the right moral or religious content included. It was pornographers who were teaching the young men about sex in those times, as also today, and those are the last ones who should be doing that. It should be fathers, moralists, and religious men who teach men about sex. This was one of the first major failings of the Catholic Church for me, though I don't blame the Catholic religion per se. It's just the state it was in at that time. However, an addiction to seeing these pictures occasionally grew in me, as with others I am sure, though there was still a great deal to know and learn about what sex was.

But this immediately changed, for me and other boys, the way we viewed our female classmates and their developing female bodies. They became highly distracting objects of interest for us, though I for one still did not understand sex or why that attraction was there. I just knew they started to be on my mind a lot, and physically. Boys would talk, too. Pretty soon some of the more "worldly" boys would tell me things about what sex is, only half-knowing themselves. At one point one told me that "in sex, the male inserts his penis in the lower thing of the woman." That seemed like an odd and unseemly thing to do. However, in times of picture-fed lust it suddenly didn't seem utterly and completely disgusting, yet what was the point?

Much later some boys found some "full nude" pictures in some culvert or gulch -- playboy did not show the lower organ of the women. At that time the arousal was so great that completely changed the consciousness and that feeling gradually became something I wanted to return to, and return to.

This is the way with all men. We are visually affected by the female. A sane and wise society puts filters and baffles over the female body so that young men are not so affected. These still existed from the cultural heritage, but the pornographers were now punching through them. And a wise society would give wisdom guidance to young men about sex feeling, and both rationale and means for restraining it and not willfully inflaming it. But there was none of this. All I knew was that periodically I just wanted to see the female body again, and feel those feelings. Meanwhile, our relationships with the girls in class, which should have had more development at the social, mind, and heart levels -- became thoroughly sexualized for me and the other boys. We would begin to obsess on them sexually. How big were the boobs on one vs. another, etc. Then I would hear more about sex acts. One boy explained to me there's "first base" (kissing), "second base" (touching a breast), "third base" (which I'd rather not write), and then "fourth base" -- which was again explained to me. This seemed to me a crass and opportunistic way to think about girls, at least the beautiful and noble White girls of our classes. But I was always able to accept differences in personality of the many fellows I knew and take their various murmerings with a grain of salt. But still, I didn't see why such a thing should be done (the "fourth base") and it seemed incredibly, well, intimate to imagine it with any of our noble and cultivated girls. I suppose I was around 11 at the time of that conversation.

One day now around 13 years old I read some "edgy" magazine -- something sold in all the grocery stores -- that was an "explanation of sex." It was couched as a science article. At this time, many of these "edgy" publications were starting to come out, such as "The Happy Hooker," which I did not read because it seemed vile on its face. Well, later I was tempted to peek at a few paragraphs in the grocery store. It seemed the whole culture was suddenly becoming sexualized. In this article, it talked about the orgasm, which is something I'd never heard of. It also said there is a "post-ejaculatory depression" for the male, which didn't sound too good. But it was all interesting. From this edge I fell into a spontaneous masturbation event. I felt horrible after it. Changed in some terrible way. However, I was amazed by the blissful feeling it gave to me for  fleeting moments. Again, nothing intelligent, moral, or religious was ever spoken to me to help me get my head around this experience and where I should go with it, or not go. Instead, I found myself later wanting to revisit that experience. Because ignorance and darkness immediately enshrouded me within after losing the pure creative essence -- once spread throughout my body but now condensing in lower regions -- I did not understand for many years that this was the male period, and that the depression, regret, and weakness immediately after was the corollary to the female's depressed state at her period.

Thus my health, personality, inner confidence, and life conditions -- and my whole life -- began to be damaged. From then on, too, I saw all mature women sexually and reacted to them sexually. There was no guidance around me whatsoever -- even where it should have surely been -- for life's most difficult and important challenge for a male. In ancient Vedic society they call the teens the period of "brahmacharya." The word means celibacy, and the idea was that the urgent need of that life period was for the young man to develop sexual continence; self control. But there was no such cultural wisdom around me. No talk from my father. Not even a teaching from the priests or Church, even as we teen boys began to become rife with sexual feeling. What sorrow! The news-of-the-world began to change and grow negative. I didn't realize it, but I was a young Adam, and I was now bringing about my further expulsion from The Garden. The world, projection of my own body-mind, collapsed further and further with each passing month. By the 8th grade it was Silent Spring, The Population Bomb, and big-bellied African children starving in Biafra. The prospect of expulsion from the Garden of Eden had been presented to me before by a nun in the Second Grade, but without adequate explanation.

The Fame Bug

For some reason I dreamed of fame starting young. Well, I know the reason: My own karmic tendencies coming in, the emotional hunger that develops in an unseen, 'unimportant' child, and the mass culture which made the famous seem important and desirable. Now it seems that fame mania has afflicted a great many of the youth who are coming up in this newly distorted and degraded culture. It was important in my life, and is worthwhile to talk about for others' sake.

First it was the idea of being an actor. Then later, rock musicians seemed to be more culturally important and weighty, having a creative product, the power to preach, and present ideas in lyrics.

In a strange way my very pursuit of fame, strong in my teens, led me to cognize a great disillusionment with it. First, I began to be analytical about what creates great fame. I wanted to be strategic about it. So I began to study histories and commentaries about the great bands. I especially loved the analyses that linked a band's rise to historical conditions. The fame of the Beatles, it seemed, was partly an exploitation of social conditions as they were in the post-war period, such as the turn-away from a long-standing conformity. The long-standing conformity that preceded them was partly what set them up to be "magic." So it seemed that really great fame had to link itself to great historic social currents. Thus I needed to identify what the social trends were presently. It occurred to me that the greatest trends in music -- and society -- were toward moral decadence; that this was the key element in new fame for the bands and artists coming out and a long identifiable trend. From this p-o-v I could analyze, say, the long hair of the Beatles, their involvement in drugs etc. -- as the perceivable arc of that moral decline. Taking something like the Rolling Stones, the analysis was even easier. Now we had things coming on like David Bowie and Alice Cooper, simply ratcheting up a taboo breaking process which was synonymous with moral decline.

My conditioning and nature had taken hold enough to recognize the moral decadence as repugnant, but in the freshly roiling, complexifying cultural climate I did not have much conscious understanding to prove or articulate why. I came to the conclusion that the "next big thing" -- i.e. the next truly great artist -- would be the one who starts a great reverse of the decadent trends so evident in music now in the 1970s.

He would be the opposite of them. Some kind of rock 'n' roll preacher. I decided if I wanted to set my sights really high, I should try to be such a person or at least prepared to go surf that trend once it was ready to turn. Something in my nature dictated that only fame that big could really interest me. It had to be "bigger than the Beatles" or I was nothing. It seems absurd to say. But these are the extremes of a teenage mind when he is emotionally neglected and unfulfilled.

My older brother Victor around age 19 in Des Moines apparently coming home from shopping.As a Taurus Rising he became an Epicurean style hippie of sorts, always having many nice things, and a connoisseur of everything from music, to wine, to who-knows-what. How many music groups I learned about by stealthily shuffling through his elegant record collection! A formidable personality, many seemed to to be in awe of Victor. It seemed at times that what little aura of respectability I had among some peers came from the fact that I was "a Mickunas," and more particularly, from the fact of who my brothers were. As if the only reason some fellows even talked to me was because "His  brother is Victor Mickunas." While I dreamed of being a rock star, both of my older brothers were already, naturally, that.

Then like a great light it occurred to me that I did not truly know religious or moral truth. I did not truly know the conscious, rational basis underlying whatever ideas of "right and wrong" I could identify. On a conscious and rational level, I could not explain what was "true" or "false," "good or bad." I didn't really have religious or moral knowledge upon which one could make compelling judgments. For example, though raised religiously I had never heard even one clear teaching on the right or wrong of masturbation, which is a subject every young man needs to have clearly presented. There were innumerable blank areas in the Jew-fomented storm of media on the horizon whose sole purpose seemed to trash every value and taboo known to western man. I had not been properly religiously or morally taught, at least not for a vigorous young questioning mind.

So in a funny twist of mind I determined that if I was going to be a truly great musician and songwriter, I would first have to study religions and moral systems. Such turns of mind, based on rational thought, are the benchmarks of my life.

Once much later I chatted with a Jewish fellow at a coffee shop who had been a psychiatrist. He said that this desire was a normal part of the youthful mind and an expression of youthful potential and power.

Later this thought snuck back in here and there, as if lurking, and one thinks of "bigger and better" ways to "be important." Along with a dawning religious search, the thought still lurked: "Well, the really important people are the ones who truly help the world," even after getting a sense of religious knowledge. So the complex of  fame-and-importance-through-saving-the-world was there. One only really loses the desire for fame -- and other desires -- when he feels God within, because only that fulfillment can overwhelm and preempt the need for other fulfillments. I have looked at politicians and other personalities through this lens ever since: I take them to be people with this psychological problem, along with a misunderstanding that they can save the world through standing and gesticulating, etc.

Through long study of religious scriptures, and meditation, I grew out of the fame bug. People might think I seek fame by having my website celibacy.info, or posting on a few web boards, or producing a few videos of my doings about town. However, my motive there is to help; to teach. And the motive to teach is, again, only to help. I was indeed not happy to make myself known as a recovered sex addict or any such thing. It is utterly embarrassing. It is much more ego-boosting to be famous for a song, or for writing a book others declaim as brilliant. I am a private person and
prefer a quiet, anonymous life. At the same time, I would have failed my people and mankind if I had not endeavored to teach elements of what I learned, and in their time of great need.

In any case I put myself out there, by this time with the celibacy, from caring and service. I saw how dark and corrupt the world had become, and how morally confused young men had become. I saw that an evil porn age had befallen us, and no man was raising a message contrary to lust; throwing a lifeline to young men left to the pornographer dogs.

I knew that a message about continence or celibacy would have little credibility or weight without a fellow signing his name, and fleshing out a real human being to go with the message. It was for that same reason that I later encouraged other men to speak personally at the celibacy website, to allow their pictures, etc. It gives more weight to the message. So finally in the end, I allowed the possibility of fame for the sake of service. 
I wrote a hasty little book, "Bliss of the Celibate," and put my name and picture there, and acquired the domain www.celibacy.org. I also began to create daily audio messages at the site, to give further personal credibility to the message. It worked. Men around the world were affected. Many began writing me. Taking up the quest for purity, some of them I invited to make audios as well, to add even more credibility to a message that was never heard with any vigor anywhere else.

But I love privacy, anonymity, and obscurity most.
Fame often comes unasked to high and low. All kinds of characters have fame thrust upon them for reasons great or silly. I have often felt powerfully protected and blessed to see that preserved in my life when it could have been so easily been taken away.

I recognized early on that man's fundamental problem is seeking lower thrills because he lost his God-thrill and even their inner contentment, and this was why men pursued drugs, women, and fame. I realized that fame was just one of the Cadillac thrills and Cadillac addictions, but still a lesser thrill compared to God. And of all the fame and power thrills, what could be more premium than being a Guru? So I was too educated by then to take the "fame-through-guruhood" bait, that so many fools were pursuing in the 70's onward. So many people went to India, became sort of ersatz pundits only, and were quickly elevated to guruhood by the naive and spiritually hungry young White westerners. I saw through all this, and could soon tell who were the real God-men and women and who were only pundits or posers. I did not want to be one of them, or even accused as one of them.

If someone claims you as their guru or experiences you as such, that is God's doing. My goodness, even morally repugnant rock stars, rich men teaching wealth seminars, and Hollywood actors get made into gurus by the various peoples! Who can stop that? But seeking to be "a guru" is ignorant and can only come from a lack of one's own inner bliss which fully satisfies. A guru's burden and distractions are great! On the other hand, refusing to be a guru when you are requested when the signs are all there, selfish and petty. If you find a true guru, that is God's doing. If you help others through your teaching and they claim you as their guru, that is also God's doing.


But at the beginning the fame bug was what turned my mind against the fame bug.
God always leads you back to Him. So I began for the first time to study the Bible with my own interest and motives. This only created more questions for me. Thus I enlarged my studies to commentaries and finally other scriptures from other religions. As I did this, my religious and moral questions just became bigger and more complex. And one other extraordinary thing happened: It occurred to me from this religious reading that perhaps the desire for fame was itself not a "good," and not the posture of a genuinely religious man. So I came to the conclusion that this desire was an unspiritual and perhaps neurotic impulse in myself. This cut off my interest in music and performing immediately. It was dead in the water now.

Now instead, because I had become exposed to real scriptures and lofty and great religious ideas in their many-faceted glory, such knowledge itself became my true interest. For the first time in my life I became a religious seeker. It was a strange trick God played on my mind to invalidate my desire for fame by that very desire for fame, such as the way Ramakrishna says God uses a thorn to remove another thorn.



The Aesthetic Hippie

My father's hellish separation from his sons and daughters, and now the relief of a return, made him more forgiving toward my counter-cultural tendencies. Overjoyed just to see his son, he no longer made issues about my long hair. Up to the time of the divorce the cultural divergence he was seeing in his sons had been a cause of some conflicts between us. He stood helpless before a sea of media that affected his children, offering up continuous cultural challenges and different moral directions. In me it mainly came out in the way I wanted to dress, and the kind of music I wanted to listen to. He didn't approve of either, but especially my obsessions about having the most "cutting edge" hair and clothes. His instinct that the breakage of hair norms represented a rebellion against traditions and self-restraint made him frequently roiled by his sons as we connived to grow it longer. When the Beatles came out they roiled and provoked by what were essentially feminine gestures. That is certainly how my father saw it. Their longer hair was feminine. Their high-singing vocals, sans male resonance, were also feminine. Their pointy-toed books with raised heels -- there it is again. When men of my fathers' generation would say "He looks like a girl," they meant it, and saw these developing trends as gender confusion. He couldn't understand how, based on the family and cultural mileau I was growing up in, these were actually ways to be  macho: To show courage, creativity, originality. Implicit in his viewpoint was, I am sure, the fear of one's sons coming out homosexual or turning homosexual. Thus every style or fashion I might have tried -- were it to have any connection to a feminine lexicon -- would have terrorized my father. Is my son OK?

In my mentality all of this was about getting attention, standing out, being the one with the most breaking fashion. Thus I and my friend Bill Reilly were the first to wear bell-bottomed pants in our school, and we were very proud of the fact. In generally we were influenced by the English rock stars. If we saw some rock musicians, such as the Moody Blues, wearing puffed sleeves like an English lord, we would avidly buy them as soon as we found them available anywhere. This brings me to an analysis of the different kinds of "hippies" that developed from the 1960s. Now, I was really too young to be a "hippie" technically. So I use the term loosely. I would term my friends and I as simply "longhairs," and English-influenced. My impression is that there were several types of longhairs or hippies:

-- Political hippies
-- Drug hippies
-- Sex hippies
-- Aesthetic hippies

Most of the types combined more than one. For example Abbie Hoffman, the Jew who became famous as an icon of hippiedom, was in the first three categories, though probably the 2nd not so much. Later two other saner categories emerged:

-- Natural Living hippies
-- Religious hippies

The last category was a later development, and included those attracted to India and gurus, and a neo-Christian type that were sometimes called "Jesus freaks." The Natural Living Hippies loved groups like Crosby, Stills & Nash and that album where they are sitting on an old couch. Their song "Our House" expresses the inner instinct of this type: To return to naturalness and wholeness. These types were the ones who gardened, formed agrarian communities, or founded health food stores which were a new cultural development. Or at least they frequented health food stores.

As for me -- and this also went for my brothers -- we were aesthetic hippies, to be sure. This type loved the musical developments of these times, perhaps above all, and loved to dress in new and beautiful ways. The phenomenon of the Renaissance Fair is good symbol for their values.

So a favorite activity of our youth was to get together and listen to the new album just released by one of our favorite groups. Whoever bought the album first might invite a few others over and we'd experience it together. It's charming to remember how big such events were to us, and how enjoyable it was to share the experience of the music. Comments as the music played might include: "I love the double guitar leads" or "Listen to this piano part,"
"He's playing that guitar part through a Leslie" or in the case of  a Genesis song (to  come later): "This thing is in 5/8 time. Isn't Buford amazing."  In particular we liked the bands out of England that were not yet known or popular in the U.S. One of these, very popular with my crowd, was called "Yes." We had been listening to them for a while before they were heard in the U.S. Bands like Jethro Tull, with their combination of acoustical Troubadour-like guitar, a creative flute, early Goth-like metal riffs, cynical and intellectual-sounding lyrics -- also attracted our type. We loved the cerebral quality of the developing music, as well as the richness of the European musical lexicon that it mined.

And then there were the fashions. An aesthetic hippie was a kind of dandy. My mother had called me a "clothes horse" already by kindergarten. I made her press my pants just so, and went through suffering over my hair amiss or my collar not quite right. My brother Mark was the master of clothes, and I had influences from him. He even worked at THE "hip" clothing store, a place called "Marcovis'" in downtown Des Moines, and he had all the latest duds. He was a veritable Paul McCartney. I had less taste, and was easily swayed by crass things. Once I saw a bright purple tank top shirt in the men's clothing section of Yonkers, made of net. I thought it was very edgy and different. When my father saw me in that thing he became agitated. I am sure at this point that he thought: "Is my son turning into a homosexual?" I didn't have those kinds of associations with fishnetting, I just thought the thing was interesting and different. He began to speak harshly to me throughout the day. He was enraged by the strange shirt. I was washing dishes in the kitchen -- ever the helpful son to my mother or maybe trying to win some points with dad -- when he came in at me with some critical words. I said something cheeky to buck him. He had probably been drinking. This enraged him and he came at me.

I soon evolved toward the Natural Living and Religious side of it. I liked to eat at a wonderful "hippie" eatery called "The Soup Kitchen," and experimented with diets like the Macrobiotic Diet and also fasting, which was a passion with some of my 17-year-old male friends. I recognize this now as an ascetic streak in both myself and my peers which resonates with our White European and Aryan ancestors.

Finally I evolved toward the Religious side of hippiedom, the choicest part. But by that time, the "hippiness" of it all was gone. Already by the 1970s society was too broken up to find anything shocking about any of these types.


I remember around 1969, going into a so-called "head shop" in the campus section of Des Moines  on University Avenue. They sometimes called themselves "emporiums." This one had the fascinating name of "Elysian Fields." There was also a wonderful one on Cottage Grove Avenue called Dottie Dumpling's Dowry. Here you could find the exotic totems of hippiedom -- fluorescent posters of Jimi Hendrix, Asian incense, strange "underground" magazines, hash pipes, artful posters featuring sexual positions -- all the necessary paraphernalia of the self-important "hippie." My heart raced in that dark lair. There was a heady philosophical atmosphere to make me feel vaguely noble. But I felt I was in a naughty place -- like a dirty book store. But it was there in that "head shop" that I first saw a picture of the great guru Paramahansa Yogananda, and his mystical book "Autobiography of a Yogi." There was also a copy of the arcane Bhagavad-Gita. Heady stuff. (That's why they called them "head shops.") At the time I didn't know how out-of-place that book was. Yogananda, like all Hindu yogis, was a celibate and gave no quarter to drugs.

The dark-haired and mustacheod purveyor of hipness on University Avenue could not be bothered about what was actually inside of that little book. It was just agreeably subversive, and sufficient to give a start to "Mom and Dad" and their "empty" Christianity. For the merchants of "progressivism," it is all about "being cutting edge." It doesn't matter what is being cut and shredded, just as long as something is being cut. Progressives are a little like termites that way. Or like a boy who delights in popping all the bubbles in a sheet of postal packing. They just get a rise out of breaking things. Then again, some may have found some interest in that little book.

My father could only get glimpses of all my interests as a distant observer, picking up snippets of news about me. Or maybe now and then hearing about it from my own lips, whatever I felt was safe to talk about, should he rarely give ear to me more than 30 seconds. For indeed, most of my visits to dad developed into the sort of conversation as times past, in which he did all the talking and told me stories about his past. But he was my dad, and it felt better to visit him and have a father-son relationship than the crazy feeling of the past three years. Visits to my father made life make some sense again, and I could see the possibility of meaning in it. Yet I was still living in a meaningless void.

Cultural Collapse

It would be fair to say much of my mind, even starting young, has been taken up with observing and coping with the religious, cultural, and racial collapse that has beset the White European peoples. As I grew up, my neighborhood, city, and nation was indeed a White European place. It was also a predominantly Christian environment. Much of my teens involved a process of watching the assumptions and values of White European culture -- and especially it's moral and religious underpinnings -- come unraveled. I remember walking into bookstores and magazine stands and always coming out shocked and disturbed. It seemed every time I went in and scanned the magazines or books, there was a host of new disturbances. Some new taboo was being broken. Some new envelope was being pushed. Some new "revolution" fomented. Even as a boy of 13 I found it disturbing. It took me many years to understand that my own sin was creating this situation. Then it took many years more to perceive that, externally, these changes were being fomented by a particular race, the Jews, who had a centuries-long hatred for Christianity and Gentile culture. They lived among us unnoticed, blending in, while always feeling themselves profoundly different and inimical to us. They had created for themselves the advantage of psychological invisibility. It was, in fact, these very same Jews who were behind most of the disturbing taboo-breaking literature I was constantly seeing in the magazine stores, most of it published from out of New York City. I didn't understand that then, but I see it now.

I would say that the predominant thought of my human mind, from the teens on up, has been grappling with this cultural and religious collapse, trying to find its true cause and conceive of valid and effective solutions for it. It boils down to the Gentile Christian peoples being told many lies. Lies about themselves and their own history. Lies about their ancestors, lies about their religions, and lies about the Jews. The lies told about the Jews are such as to make it psychologically difficult or impossible to even talk about them, giving them psychological invisibility in the culture so that they can act unhampered with full force. In my later years, about 40's on, I came to see how important it was for Gentiles to become aware of Jews, their motivations, their cultural agenda, their influence on the Gentile societies, and their power. This was a very difficult step for me. But as I saw the extent of their influence, I found I had no moral option to remain silent. Their terrible creation, Communism, must also be spotlighted and it's many new forms and guises thoroughly understood. In my teens, however, I did not even have a clear concept of right-and-wrong, moral understanding, much less spiritual understanding. This was because religions naturally become moribund over time. Thus I had to quest for that knowledge before I could understand society.

My father and I cheated by a no-custody divorce

In retrospect I can see that my father was royally screwed in the divorce. She went to a lawyer friend of the family for the "formalities," and my father probably trusted him, but the end was treachery. They were more friends to my mother than to him. Citing his drinking, she had been granted a "full custody" decree. That was more common in those days, but of course the injustice of it and the separation he had from his children worked its damage on his state. Starting from the separation, in which he moved into the old Rollins home, mother never spoke as if there was any plan or need for us to be with our father on any systematic basis. She regularly criticized him, too. She had a few repeated memes regarding him. I would hear her on occasion saying them to one of her friends in a low voice. I always had the feeling that mother might not approve if I visited my dad; that I might lose her affection.

I heard that Dad stopped working, and sunk into debt and poverty. 
I think mother's conscience worked on her after a few years, because she suddenly began saying things like, "Maybe you should go visit your dad. It would probably cheer him up." Nothing had ever felt right about my NOT seeing my dad, and his isolation seven blocks away, so the prospect immediately felt good. When I began visit him I found a very dark, gloomy man. At this point the once hard-working man had not worked for maybe three years, and he radiated gloom and despair. Instead of the warm embrace, I got a one-armed, lame response to my hug. As I noticed his living state and saw little notes around the house that he had written to himself, I realized that he was at a suicidal low.

I was not well aware of the concept of "custody" in family law. But I had a son's basic compassion for him and, seeing his state, knew by instinct that something wasn't right about this divorce and the situation I'd lived for the past three years. It began to add some meaning, some rightness, to my life to stop in and see dad starting around age of 16. It also worked a magic on him, and he began to be in a more normal state when I would visit, and would even be delightfully happy. It became clear that a visit by his son gave him joy, and his hugs -- now more robust and warm -- gave me comfort. Robert Bly wrote that a kind of "food" passes from the father to the son through their physical proximity and also by working together as the father teaches him skills. There was an emotional food in my fathers' hugs.

Still, it was all at my discretion. There was no "understanding" or rule  that  any of his children had to spend time with him. This was, no doubt, part of the injustice and pain that my father suffered as a "non-custodial" parent. I became aware that my older brothers Mark and Victor were also visiting on their own impulses. But it was all random or according to our mood. If my young obsessions happened to distract me for a few months, I might not think to visit him for many weeks. Then at times I would return to gloom again.

The Meaningless Void of My Single-Mother Home
 
After graduation at 18 I spent a year haphazardly pursing a music career by being a lead guitarist in a rock group called "Dancer." I quit that group over competitions with the leader, a much older blond fellow who played a Les Paul and sang most of the songs. At that point I moved up to the college town of Ames, Iowa to join a rock band consisting of three brothers, as their lead guitarist.  I lived with my old organist friend Rick Siberall, with whom I'd been a member of 2-3 different groups in high school. That was a bust, as I didn't like the group or the sort of music they liked to play, and they were not very skilled. I moved back to Des Moines, to my home, where  my mother was, pretty lost and directionless. But up in Ames, some things had gelled in my mind.

Just prior to Ames, while in the aforementioned group and still living at my mother's, I had read the autobiography of Benjamin Franklin. After reading that book I felt as if possessed by Franklin's attitude for some time -- all of his practical earnestness and his application to "virtue." It set me on a track of trying to think more like a businessman about my musical ambitions.
In the greater solitude of Ames I did a lot of contemplation about the dynamics of fame, analyzing all the factors that went into the success of the biggest musical groups. It occurred to me that the greatest musical sensations hooked into some kind of great historical trend or change; some new current in the culture brought about by forces well beyond the particular artist such as the Beatles, Elvis, etc. It might be a war. It might be a great change in religion or society. The biggest groups, it seemed, rode the crest of some social wave.

This led me to the question: "What is the big social trend now, and  what is the next big trend likely to be?"

I felt I could easily answer both of these for myself: The great new social trend in rock music was moral decadence, and this was already well underway. The Big New trend, then, would be moral regeneration. I saw in my mind that after the whole western world became corrupt enjoying it's decadent rock groups -- with men wearing makeup, celebrating violence and depravity -- some new rock star would arise who would reject thee things and be a moral reformer, and maybe even a literal saint. This seemed clear to me. Only involvement in such a massive cultural development could engage my interest. But now I had a problem: I really didn't know, myself, what "good" was and what "evil" was. I myself truly didn't know what was right and wrong. I literally decided at that point that in order to pursue my developing fame strategy I would first have to study the questions of good/evil, right/wrong -- as well as religion -- so that I could have some certitude about these questions and come from a place of conviction. At that time I began checking out religious books from the Ames University Library. These included the Bible, the Bhagavad-Gita, and others.

Another fundamental event had taken place in the group "Dancer" some months before. We were in a break in the room that served as our dressing room, in some big bar and raving house called "Jolly's Place" in Ames. Lou Scorpinini, the synthesizer player and a ladies' man, came in and said that there was a table of women who were crazy about me and were hoping to meet me. He was inviting me out there to meet them during the break. This was my first experience of "fans."
 
I went cold. I was terrified. In that moment I realized that the fame I had always dreamed of would not make me happy. It perhaps helped that I was basically shy and had no confidence with women. Part of my problem was that I didn't want to disappoint them and was pretty certain that I would. I had had girlfriends, and I could be witty and hold the floor with those I was already comfortable with. But this business of meeting strange women who cut the pattern of groupies was a bit over my head. But the worst part was this: I immediately regarded them as stupid. They were entranced with my act and my image. But that wasn't the real me, and I realized they were stupid for buying it, or possibly even degenerate. They were immediately, in my mind, not the sort of women I would want to meet.

The Young Pursuit of Fame Leads Me into a Mental Dead End

From that point on my pursuit of musical success as a rock performer was blunted. But now there was a deeper problem: My best fame strategy would only work if I could learn what Good and Evil were. As I began to read these religious books, I realized that the answers were not so easily found and the questions only multiplied. I was aware immediately of the multiplicity of religious and moral viewpoints. But I WAS getting an inkling of one thing: Very likely, the very pursuit of fame, itself, may not be virtuous. This came from the texts' various statements about humility and   self-abnegation. My own honesty informed me immediately that I couldn't be a true purveyor of Goodness by any means that was itself unvirtuous or evil. I was in a conundrum.

Now at nineteen and back in Des Moines I was drowning in what can only be called a  meaningless void. Other young men seemed to be induced to work by their parents. My mother seemed to consider it acceptable for me to do whatever I liked, now and then only grousing that I might take the initiative occasionally to mow the lawn. Everything about the way my mother raised us, subsequent to the divorce she initiated, led up to this.

In retrospect I can see that my mother, whether from default or as an emotional strategy of hers, raised her sons to be weak. It also became clear later that she had a strategy to raise us in isolation; to keep us compartmentalized. We were all strong males. One type of mother with one sort of conditioning might have realized the advantage of having four strong sons who were close, in harmony, and could get things done. By directing them she could get a great deal done, build a lot, and have a lot of protection. This is the traditional power-point of the female in human life:
As the satvic or wisdom-element that guides a group of men, like the mahut astride the head of a great, powerful, but stupider elephant. Mothers of the past, indeed, would delight in having sons and the more in harmony they were, the better for her and the family. But my mother was different. I believe that she felt threatened by her males as they matured, and saw them as a potential powerful block that could have too much influence in her life, coerce her, or maybe even criticize her. Thus her strategy with us was to keep us separate, in our own little worlds.

An expression of this was that mother never created a room in the house that was a "family room." I remember visiting the homes of some of my friends and being amazed when young Danny or Jim would say: "Hey, let's go down to the family room." Wow. What was that? Yet as I asked it I already knew, and the sound was just like being kicked in the gut. We'd go down to a basement perhaps, with a tile floor, and there would be a pool table, a stereo, some sporting equipment, a sofa. One friend, son of a doctor, had newfangled things like a foozball table and I played my first foozball. But as I did I remember not really enjoying it because I was in deep grief. This family was different from us. Though I came from a large family, we had nothing like a "family room" at our house. I felt there must be something wrong with us. I felt suddenly embarrassed to be in this home. I was not from such a good family.

The matter stands out because we had a large house. It had four floors, a full basement, and a rather large attic containing three substantial and almost mystical rooms. All-told there were nine rooms in our house fully adequate as bedrooms, and in my life on Ingersoll every single one of those rooms did see such use in time. Yet there was never any room designated as a place where my family might gather and enjoy each others' company.

This was all the more absurd considering that my mother had basically opened the house to the public as part of her burgeoning portraiture art career. Every single day there would be strangers in the house. By my teens I might be coming down to the kitchen hunting for some breakfast and encounter some woman dressed to the nines confronting me in our kitchen passageways, all gaseous with perfume. She would be embarrassed, I in my pajamas would be embarrassed, and I would scurry away. It seemed it would have been a sane and decent move for my mother to make one part of the house that was not a "public" and open part, so that her sons and daughters could get some sense of privacy and family. But she probably viewed the home as her showpiece and way of impressing prospective clients with her success.

Yet nature tried to create a community out of my brothers and I just the same. There were times when we brothers would start to gather in Victor's bedroom, or Mark's. But we were all cultivated to enjoy privacy, and these rooms were a bit small to handle 3+ boys while keeping the decorative order of that brother's personal environment. Then the vagaries of fights and spats would easily end any room-visiting phase. There needed to be a more spacious and more neutral zone, and mother needed to have this as a value; to make an effort to draw us together.
 
I remember phases -- in which my brothers and I began to gather in some certain part of the house, and then were scattered. It would come about usually by the presence of a sofa and maybe a table suitable for board games. If the room was not getting some other major use. Just as forest creatures will start to gather in a place if man stays away from it long enough, my brothers and I would start to appear in one of these type of rooms. But within a week of beginning any pattern of brotherly gathering, mother would completely re-arrange the rooms. The sofa would be gone. Perhaps a big table would be placed in the middle of the room adorned with decorative things, the stereo removed, the little card table folded up and hidden. We would be dispersed again. It would be clear that she did not want us to gather in this room, to play games, or to disturb it's newly-designed "elegant living" aura.

I came to believe in my adulthood that this was an expression of an actual fear in my mother that her sons might grow up to be close, a block, and strong. She managed our masculine energies by keeping us isolated, weak, and dependent. Another way she did this was by dropping negative news and criticism about some brother, something about their troubles or something she was displeased about. She might say, "That Vic, he's in trouble over...such-and-such." Or, "That Joe, he's always broke." You would end up feeling you had a secret about that brother, something you maybe were not supposed to know, and it created distance between myself and he. In future I realized she was likely sharing similar things with them about me: "That Curt, he's really a do-nothing." This became crystal clear to me at the time of her death, in a dying hospice, as the pain of her cancer plus her age lowered her guard and caution and I saw her clearly play these little political games among my brothers. When I first came into her death room, she acted as if she didn't know me. She was completely pretending. She had apparently been enraged that I didn't come sooner. A nurse came in and she made a great show of gushing over the nurse, at how much care she gave, at how wonderful the nurse was 5 minutes later. As she warmed up to me she started giving me critical thoughts about my oldest brother Mark, who I thought had been behaving as a saint at this time. When Mark came in later, she began informing him of the faults of Joe, etc. It was very plain to see, and it was clear how it this private negative news service from mom would have created distance between us growing up. One dynamic was that it made you feel that you were "in with mother" and that she was making you her confidante. Because of the general distance always there due to her work schedule and social ambitions, the small comfort of this, plus lack of felt solidarity with my brothers, would keep me from confronting her over it.

I haves seen in my sunshine thoughts how wonderful and powerful a group of brothers can be. Sometimes I have visualized myself in some future life with several brothers who are raised by a wiser mother. We have a band. We are masters of our instruments. We are singing an incredible song together. We are all vocalizing at an outdoor concert in the sun and blowing them away with both our music and our brother-ness. Both family and brothers can be a powerful and constructive thing. But my mother didn't have that vision.

My father, he did. He continually referenced an inner vision he had, while raising us, that spoke of the power of family and the power of working together. Towards the end of the real family he began to build a new addition onto the house. In his mind he intended it partly as a place where mother could do her parting and art with better light, plus a family room. The outer half was all windows and light, with the close presence of one of our apple trees on a little outdoor balcony. The other half was to be a family area.

An occult note: In Feng-Shui ba-gua theory our house had been a square with a "fame node." This means a little protuberance at the back middle. The fame node was a small outdoor balcony-porch. Thus mother developed strong fame aspirations in this house. Until dad tore off this porch to build the new addition, things were fine between he and mother. His design for the new addition, much larger than the porch, changed the basic shape of the house so now that it was a larger square but with a missing corner at the back right. That is the corner, in ba-gua theory, called the "marriage"  corner. So he re-built the house to have a missing marriage corner. The noticeable troubles between he and mother commenced with the tear-down of the porch and the building of his well-intentioned new addition. Just as it was nearing completion mother divorced him. From then on both areas were used for her business, one half for painting her clients and the other for her "desk" and papers. The "desk," also, was a long table that dad had constructed to be the family dinner table. While mother had her own special space for her public and her office, plus her own bedroom (she chose the larger bedrooms), plus 3 or 4 "show rooms" for her public to pass through -- four brothers and two sisters never once had a room they could call theirs, that mythical sacred space known by all children on the South Side of Grand -- the "family room." And one started to get going, she would quickly break it up.

Thus there was a profound isolation in my home despite the fact that it was a large family. And I was at the youthful and vital age of maximum energies. I needed to be engaged with something and with people. I didn't understand my situation objectively at the time. I only knew that I was extremely agitated by a lack of meaning in my life, and by a lack of any understanding of the world. Now in adulthood it is easy to see why I was at such a pass. When your father is not involved with your life, life seems meaningless. Likewise when he is treated as a "non-entity" and a non-issue by the mother, life becomes meaningless. The radical social trends taking place since the 1960s, with old religious and moral standards questioned and then broken, added to the confusion. When  you are never asked "What are your grades?" or "How are you doing in school," one thinks: "Why am I even going to school?" Nobody ever told me, in fact, why I went to a public school or what it was supposed to lead to. Yet every day I was warehoused there, and placed under various pressures.

The only thing that was giving my life meaning, by my teens, was my love of music and the quest for musical fame that I shared with a few friends. Being appreciated and praised seemed, still, like it might be meaningful. But as my mind developed and I studied religion in pursuit of my elegant strategy, I was beginning to fear that this was nothing but a childish obsession, an absurd fantasy, even corruption. The corruption trends in the popular music groups served to exacerbate meaninglessness and make me doubt the validity of the path I was pursuing. I remember attending a concert in Minneapolis by the shock-rock group Alice Cooper, whose guitar compositions I admired but whose image and apparent message gave me confusion and ambivalence. There was a program there among the seats, and some Rolling Stone writer's review was printed in it. As a critique he said that the group presented all the problems, but none of the answers. This was indeed true, not only of that outfit but others, and it only seemed to add confusion to a guidance-less young mind.

But there was a worse and more central factor helping to create this hell, and that was my sexual incontinence. Immediately upon having the male period, a man sees the world as void and the meaning leaves it until he recovers. This self-emptying, combined with my mother's laissez-faire approach to parenting, produced anxiety in me to the point that I feared I was not mentally sound. In fact, the bleeding male does become mentally unsound, as his creative substance is the foundation of his mental strength. Nobody ever brought this up either before I came into manhood or during, yet it is the most fundamental education that all young men need. Certainly my mother never told  me, "Don't masturbate. It weakens you within." She didn't even know.