Realizations The Autobiography
of Julian Lee / COPYRIGHT
2009 JULIAN LEE
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Seeking: I Need to Know "What's True?"
It was the lack of any understanding and any convictions that was the worst. What is this world? What is life for? What is true? What is false? What is Good, really? What is Bad or evil? I didn't know any of this. In this void an impulse rose up to get away from all of it. I felt that if I could leave my mother's environment, I could somehow get a clear view of truth and the world.
At this same time I had a friend, Rick S., who was working the summer in western Montana, in a little town called Polson. We had played together in a few bands. He was a keyboardist and had always coveted his authentic Hammond B-3 organ. I had lived with him in Ames when he was attending his first school there and I tried to "make it" in rock music. Rick and I had a strange relationship in which he was the "superior" one and I was the tag-along. You know how sometimes in a cafe you see a couple and one is doing all the talking, the other just listening? It seems to me the talker is the "higher value" party, the listener the seeker who wants them. I had a few male friendships where the other fellow seemed view me as the lower status party. I think this had something to do with my "broken home" status, my lesser looks, and my lack of money and good style. Yet it always annoyed me to be spoken "down to" in a way that implied they were privately laughing at me.
Rick had this quality, yet I accepted the friendship for what we shared in common, and just to have any connections at all. One of the signs of this is getting called "Mickunas." We boys had inherited that practice coming from the military where males often addressed each other by last names. Sort of like how the male teacher or gym coach might do. Rick always called me "Mickunas" and he often had this private smile on his face implying he considered me an odd duck, partly amusing but vaguely cool. What we shared in common
was our age, our European character, our engagement with the rising counter culture, and especially music. Also I was providing these types with companionship. Perhaps they had others they'd rather consort with who were "too cool" for them, and I was the fallback. Rick liked to share with me his health food enthusiasms -- which were considerable! But especially music. He loved to say, "Hey, listen to this. It's extraordinary" and he'd set the needle on his high-end stereo. He'd make other comments about the music. I was always adequately interested, and we'd together experience the track. If I made any sort of comment, such as "Wow, I love the phase-shifter on the guitar. Or is it a real Leslie?" or "It's cool how the bass stays on the Fifth through half the chorus" -- that satisfied him greatly.
My time in Ames at Rick's went bust, and now I was back in Des Moines and he was on summer vacation. He was writing me letters about how much he enjoyed it in Montana, the big skies, the mountains, the Glacier National Park, and his job at a health food store working for a long-haired couple. He had become one of those nature-lovers. He had the best mountain shoes, laced with thick and bright red laces. He also had become a fanatic about the Macrobiotic Diet and was continually fixing brown rice with Tamari sauce. In his letters to me he suggested I come visit him in Montana. He seemed to want to share his experience with someone. I don't think he thought I would take it seriously. But it was just what I needed.
My meaningless void, fatherless, life in mother's home felt like it was suffocating my mind and my soul. Just before I left I went to visit my dad. He was depressed again, worse than before. I could sense he was, in fact, suicidal. He himself seemed to be trying to tell me, by subtle means, that this was how bad he felt. It seemed all of my family had continued to abandon him, and visits from my brothers were not frequent enough. I didn't have a plan to leave home the last time I visited him, or I might have told him.
I Become a Seeker
Back at my mother's I was desperate. The world made no sense. I had no direction. I had to get away from this place, step back from the world, and look at it. I had seen advertisements in the back of Rolling Stone magazine for jobs with the Merchant Marine, in which you could travel on ships. Earlier in my teens I had had a fantasy and passion about traveling old Europe, such as France, and had been very stirred by books like "Europe on a Dollar a Day." But I had not been mature enough, or prosperous enough, to act on it. Now I felt that I needed to travel, no matter what. I remembered the the letter from Rick. The west sounded free, pure, and spacious. I decided I would surprise Rick in Montana.
I had hitchhiked a few times in Des Moines. I knew it was possible, that people stop, and you can get places. All of a sudden one day I pulled my Boy Scout rack backpack out of the attic, and began putting a few things into it -- whatever mother had around for food. At that time there was not much in the house, and I had no money. I remember that I packed a stalk of celery, a can of Brewers' Yeast, and a little bread, and a cabbage. Because that was all that was there. Then I stuffed my father's old Marine Corps regulation issue wool blanket to sleep in, and I left the house. I didn't say a word to mother. She was not around anyway, off cavorting with her friends probably down at "Poppin' Fresh Pies."
I still remember the very moment I went out the door and began hoofing it eastward on Ingersoll Avenue, crossing our ample front yard, getting to the sidewalk, then passing the mysterious and cold neighbors' homes to my left. It was broad daylight, about 4:00 pm or so, towards dinner time. Not that mother was really having "dinners" for us by then.
There was a sense of profundity about it because of the radical thing I was doing. I remember walking at a faster pace than I usually wood. Maybe I didn't want to lose my nerve and change my mind. More than that, I think: I didn't want any family members to see this pain. So many times while walking up and down Ingersoll Avenue over the years, my mother might happen by in her golden Cadillac, slow down, and call out something like "Where you going?" At other times she wouldn't ask. She rarely knew when I was at any given time, day or night. But at these happenstance meetings on the street it was as if she became suddenly aware of her 3rd son as an individual. The power windows would silently open up and move down, and I would get to have an opportunistic Conference with my mother. At these times she might learn where I was going. Or from a distance she would zip down the windows and yell: "I'll be making dinner around 6!" or "I'll see you at home."
At my escape moment I hoped that my mother would not happen by on her return to the house and see me hoofing it away from home with my fully-packed backpack and a bedroll, and get some clue where her son had gone.
I think I didn't want her to be able to know the pain of that moment or that scene. On the other hand, I wanted her to suffer. I wanted to be gone without a trace and without a clue about where I went. Maybe I didn't want to see my mother then so as not to comprehend the ugliness of it all. Divorce and broken families are ugly. But why should I have to think about that now. All I could think of was the prospect of tearing myself away from this false reality so that I could see reality. However, the pained thought was also there to justify this act: "Why should I think you'd even notice if I left?"
Thus I did hurry away up Ingersoll at a fast pace and was relieved when I at least turned left up at 42nd street, heading for the Freeway Entrance, where a drive by from anybody-who-knows-me became increasingly unlikely. Only 3 blocks up 42nd was the Freeway Entrance going west. Only when I pulled down my first helpful driver would I truly be free. I was soon there, standing where the drivers are still going slow with my thumb out, and I was soon picked up.
I don't remember who the first driver was, but I vaguely recall it was a 30-ish or 40-ish male. I told him I was trying to get to the Interstate 35 turnoff heading North, which was on the edge of town. I may have gotten there in one ride, or there may have been a second driver. My mind must have been a blur at this time. But I do remember first being out on the freeway edge the first time, and feeling the fresh open air and being more aware of the sky.
At that time along the freeway pullover strip I already felt freed. I was really gone. Already and immediately the freeway grasses, the Crown Vetch, and every distant hill, and every little expanse of green that White man built around his freeways became a comfort to me, and delicious. Somehow already the blue sky seemed bigger. The green expanses of highway landscaping in the vistas of West Des Moines seemed somehow more blessed. I immediately felt the purity and spaciousness of homelessness and disconnection from the world and from the past. I didn't realize it, but I had become a young saddhu.
I had been dropped off only vaguely near the I-35 North exit. There was a sense of exposure there on the fast-moving main freeway, and a vague sense of menace in the thought of the Iowa State Highway Patrol. Never slackers, the Iowa Highway Patrol had already snagged the young driver several times over slight infractions and they were one of the most efficient and able Highway Patrols in America. I didn't know, really, how they viewed hitchhikers. But I did realize that a hitchhiker presented less danger if standing where going slowly before they hit the open highway. I wanted to be on an on-ramp again. I began to hoof it toward the next freeway entrance.
There was no problem getting rides, and I was soon penetrating North and Northwest into Iowa, into territories I had never driven before in my old '69 Impala. Oh, the fields of Iowa. Even though decimated by agribusiness and monoculture, one still saw charming things in farm and field. Some drivers took me for short stretches, some for longer ones. What a delight it would have been to be a wanderer in the Iowa just 50 years earlier, when every small road was graced by family farms no bigger than a few acres, each one a family of wholesome Whites largely self-sufficient. I wasn't to know that Iowa. But the fields and skies themselves and the old remnants of the farming life gave the heart comfort to see.
Most drivers were male, but occasionally a woman would stop. I remember the first woman took me to a truck stop on the border of Iowa. She was maybe 5 years older than me. She had questioned me gently as she drove and had a kind of bemused expression on her face. Looking back, she could probably tell that I did not fit the profile of the average vagrant or hard traveler. I probably looked well-washed, well fed, and fresh from a comfortable home. Even at that time I could sense that she was in some manner attracted to me and was ambivalent and wistful when she let me go. I went into the truck stop and looked at what they had, basically just curious. Because I didn't really have any money to spend: I had left home with a dollar and some change.
Years later as a more mature adult I would look back at this event and think: "You were a very messed up young man! This was basically a crazy act." Then again I would analyze the spiritual and emotional situation my mother raised me in, and think, "You had to do this. It was a matter of mental survival. You were, really, losing your mind in her meaningless and un-directed environment." Later I read the writings of Robert Bly in "Iron John" where he spoke of an archetypal mother-leaving that a young fellow must achieve in order to become a man. It is easy to see that act in my leaving. Still later through the years I longed for the moments that I had during this and other wandering trips -- moments of purity in lonely, pure places where it was just God and me. And I developed the strong desire to go back to it, at least in later life. Even to end my life as a wandering homeless man. Such was the purity and delight of the wandering, homeless states.
I had bought a map of the U.S. before leaving -- one of the few intelligent things I packed. But I was not especially interested in it. My view was that if a driver was heading "generally west" or "generally north" -- I would take the ride. For my first sleeping place I chose a culvert near the highway that was well surrounded with overgrown highway weeds and ground cover. It was near a bridge, down beneath it. Though nearer to the highway that I liked, it provided good cover. Plus, it started to drizzle rain. I hadn't even thought to bring along a plastic tarp or piece of polyethylene plastic. So the overgrown weeds, as they closed over me, helped keep the raindrops off and, well tired, I was able to fall asleep on the concrete with my backpack as a pillow. It was all strange. But it was also pure. I was making it on my own. Not a soul knew where I was, only God, nature, and the sky. My only goal each day was to arrive in some place, by dark, where I might sleep unperceived and unmolested by passing eyes. Though I ended up sleeping in some odd places, that turned out to be pretty easy.
Hitchhiking in America circa 1970
The first time I hitchhiked was around the age of 13, in my city of Des Moines. It happened because I was with my friend Kevin R., a very light blond Irish fellow who I'd gone to St. Augustine's school with 8 years. We were both very influenced by the counter-cultural currents in media and society. We learned the guitar together and were to play together in several loud bands before the end of high school. He was more influenced in political directions than I was. He had an older brother named Dennis who somehow ended up a long-haired, problematic, avowed rough-and-ready genuine Communist. I mean his brother continually espoused literal Communism and attacked everything about the established society. Kevin was a rather mild fellow most of the time, always making jokes and quips. But even at 13, if anything like a political subject arose, he became fire and razors.
At one time we were riding our banana-seat stingrays up 46th street and there were some young men up on a roof shingling. Seeing our unusually long hair, both of them -- likely from the country or the working class side of town -- made a wolf whistle to mock us (as in "look at the pretty girls.") Kevin, only 12 but Irish temper flaring, immediately began yelling "Fascists!"and "Rednecks!" at them. I didn't even know what a fascist was, and wasn't sure what Kevin was getting us into here.
We had just turned the corner and were hidden by tall trees, and I was relieved. But his anger growing, Kevin doubled back toward the house. I followed. Cruising by again he started in with more more political insults and contumely shouted at the suddenly empty roof.
Out from the bushes burst the two guys behind us to our left. From their high perch they had seen us double back and were already on the ground from two stories up, to ambush us. Knowing full well who was the problem, they ignored me and a tall, muscular redhead went right for Kevin. He grabbed him by his shirt, bringing his bike to an abrupt halt. "Don't you be calling people 'fascist' you punk!" he abjured. Kevin was right back at him, in his face with stentorian political condemnations. The two couldn't conceive what his stream of words had to do with anything at all, and neither could I. In a more moderate lecture mode Kevin had dissembled just enough to wrest loose from his grip. We then pedaled away like mad. He yelled back one more insult at the bemused "rednecks roofers" from the Iowa country turned back to their fruitful labors.
They were burnished by the sun and in the prime of manhood. I see now that these fellows were the cream of the crop for men, strapping young men from the working class part of town astounded to see our young degeneracy and arrogance. Looking back on it, I see they were right and we were wrong. They were closer to their fathers and had more of a grip on reality and natural truth. They knew that long hair on young men was a sign of degeneracy.
They might not have bothered. They might have just let the two young blond longhairs ride by without a sound or motion. But they cared too much, and about where it all was going. For they were our racial brothers.
Because of my own fights with my father I sometimes believe that a man only grasps the values of another man by fighting with him over those values. Kevin later became much more conservative in later life, with a wife, good job, child, house, and a treasured guitar collection.
If I lived again I would rather have been more like one of these working class fellows. I had been to their houses before on the edge of town, part settlement and part country, and I envied their lives. The only fault they had, this type of man, was that their naivete made them the most likely types to become cannon fodder for Jews in their various manipulated wars, and to end up crippled and dead, not passing on themselves to wives and children. That was the only fault of these men, in truth, and Kevin was full of it.
So my best friend Kevin tended to spout edgy political talk. I gradually came to be aware that he was channeling his brother Dennis, bane of his father's heart and avowed Communist and beer drinker.
So one day Kevin and I had been making a trip downtown to Des Moines Music where we loved to ogle electric guitars and amps, and perhaps buy some guitar strings and picks, or other paraphernalia of the musician. Kevin had picked up on the idea of embracing aspects of a vagrant's life, living as a kind of fringe-dweller, as both a gesture of rebellion against established society plus a way to practically get on with life. One of the gestures he was pursuing was to see how long he could go without washing his clothes. I had joined in and I remember during this walk we each reported how long we'd gone without laundering our pants. I am not making this up. Well, this was one of my early saddhu impulses let's say, my 13-year-old version of "matted locks." At this point my father had been banished from my life, so anything could happen. He certainly would not have approved of my dark, oily looking filthy jeans and I would not have been caught walking past him in them in normal times. By contrast, the single mother was barely aware of anything.
Then at some point in our journey to or from the Music Store, while traversing some intersection, Kevin had stuck out his thumb and said "Let's hitchhike." Under his leadership and confidence I was comfortable joining in. I am not even sure if he'd done it before, or whether it was walking with me that gave him the confidence to try. But we must have been picked up and made it home, because I had a basic assumption by age 19 that hitchhiking was a serviceable technique that basically worked.
Off-and-on since then, whether for going on a long shopping jaunt or getting home from work, I had occasionally hitchhiked. The only time there was any trouble was when the driver, or other car occupants, were smoking marijuana. They would have been confident I was their type because I wore my hair fairly long. When I declined to also smoke it they would sometimes get nervous or vaguely offended. I became adept at blandly passing it up without much ado, or even pretending to smoke his reefer in the case of a very stoned driver. Throughout the 1930s and 50s hitchhiking was a common practice in America for young men trying to make it, or coming home from the military on leave, or even returning home from college. It got a resurgence in the 1960s as young people embraced an various simplicity ideals plus, as with all men, began trying to get a start in life. In only occasional places was it outlawed. During this journey I was told by a State Trooper that he didn't mind my hitchhiking if I stayed on an off- or on-ramp and not on the open highway. In another town, it was not banned on the city streets, but was banned on the on- and off-ramps. Thus one would need to stand a bit away from the ramps, perhaps carrying a sign indicating the intended direction. I am glad that I was able to touch, at least, that simpler time when people were that kind and that safe to a young traveler. The racial homogeneity of America was another factor that made it possible. People are more trusting of their own, and more willing to look after their own natural people. It was safe enough that you would often see young women doing it accompanied by males, or even by themselves. There were only just beginning to be horror stories, in the 1960s, about murderous drivers or murderous hitchhikers. As I set out that day I was in the embrace of a long-developing culture that was basically moral and sane. I could easily start riding the human currents of our nation towards the land of mountains, Montana.
Thus God, you could say, decided my route rather than me. The next night I found a hedge near the highway with several rows. I maneuvered a few times to locate myself such that turning headlights at-a-distance did not unnervingly pass across my body. I ended up needing to penetrate deeper onto this land, and happy found tall grasses there. Simply lying down I was utterly hidden from the world, ensconced wonderfully by the quiet grasses. Getting up in the morning light, I would begin my hitching stand again. A letter that I wrote to my father during the trip states that I rarely could stand out there more than 5-10 minutes before getting a ride. I do remember some longer stands than that. But those long stands in lonely places, all quiet, with a vast view of the sky and the land -- are now among my exquisite memories.
It ended up that I went through Nebraska, then Wyoming. Around Casper Wyoming I was snagged by a brown-haired fellow with medium long hair and a mustache. He was on a long journey to a new work site in northwest Wyoming. He had picked me up, in part, to help him drive because he was trying to do a marathon drive and stay awake. He had even told me that he was trying to stay awake and that it would help if I talked with him. I obliged. He himself was not very talkative, but I knew how to make conversation, having read Dale Carnegie's "How to Win Friends and Influence People" in Ames. You just ask people to tell you about themselves. It turned out he had been the original drummer for one of my favorite rock groups, which made the conversation all the more interesting. As I informed him of how successful the group had become later (without him), and he was heading for some dreary construction job, it seemed to make him sad. After a while he had me drive a long stretch of highway, and I was to inform him when we reached a certain lake.
During that long ride through Wyoming I saw my first mountains. I was immediately enraptured. In retrospect they were not large mountains, but to me they were mountain magic. I had never seen any mountain up to then except in pictures. Astrological lore states that those with Capricorn planets appreciate mountains. I can attest to this in my case. I thrilled to them.
We drove on and now it was now dark. He drove onto a smooth, sandy beach of this lake, the stars above it in the fresh air. He simply laid down on the sand and went to sleep, not even a pillow. This was apparently a place he had slept before. I did the same, feeling pretty safe sleeping beside his station wagon and him. I remember how he woke me up. He just kicked me gently with his boot, and we were back in the car. Looking at a map now, this had to be the Boyson Reservoir at the Boysen State Park in central Wyoming. His destination was Cody, Wyoming. Thus he wanted to head up the 20. I wanted to continue west on the 26, so dropped me at the changing roads, and I continued on my way under the Wyoming sky. Unbenownst to me, I was now on the Wind River Indian reservation. What I remember about this next stand was the untouched quality of the land, the great spreading fields, the white clouds in the sky, and the utter quiet. All these places where I stood, where there was no other soul or house in sight and no sound of any car, still live in my memory as pure places, where it was just me, God, and the world I wanted to learn about. Around this place I remember standing also on rising road, a little hill. Beside me were some trees, and a ravine. Down the ravine was a rushing stream. Now and then someone would drive by. I was aware that all the people who drove by here barely noticed this place, and they couldn't look down and see what I saw. These pure and wild places still live in my today; I can go back there in my mind and be standing there again. Since that time I have often thought of the wandering saddhus of India like Nityananda, as they wandered through a more natural and ancient India, and all the magical places they must have seen and loved -- the groves of trees, the secret places in the mountains, the village outskirts.
Jesus was a Wanderer -- The American Saddhu Ideal
Two Canadian Sisters
My next ride was two White sisters in a van. Of course, every person who picked me up on this trip was a White person. But I wanted to point it out just the same. When they stopped, rolled down their windows, and asked where I was headed I said "Montana." They said "We are going to Yellowstone Park." That was in the right direction, so got into the sliding door of their panel van.
They were maybe a couple of years older than me, and were doing a camping adventure through the U.S. They were brown-haired, a couple of years apart, and what some might call plain in looks. I was happy to be with somebody who was obviously safe, but also well-aware of the threat all women feel from strange men. Who knows their motive? Sizing me up, they probably also could see I was a babe-in-the-woods and not a hardened type. They may have felt greater comfort having a man of their race with them. Plus compassion, or curiosity. In any case, I tried to speak just enough to make them comfortable and not be too mysterious, but not so much that it might tire them or seem to pry. We went by the Grand Teton mountains and I was awed by their majesty. Soon we had crossed the line into Yellowstone Park. They had planned to camp that night there.
I was in a quandary about how to behave and how long to stay with these women. On one hand I was glad to have such a safe and comfortable ride. I didn't find the women particularly attractive in that romantic sense that always dominates the minds of the young, but this was all the better because it avoided complexity. My chief occupation with them was keeping a comfort level there. I actually found them rather boring. They combined an edgy trust in a young fellow they picked up on the road with a certain prissy reserve that was probably the natural female distancing mechanism. They didn't ask me much, yet I could tell they were curious about me. At one point I broached some mildly political topics. The general sense I got from them at these times was that they had both a curiosity about America and a contempt for Americans. I remember it made me feel a little abashed, like they viewed me as some lesser fellow. But theses were very plain women, and their attitude, I could sense then, was really just posturing, bluster, and a distancing mechanism employed on a young male. As they spoke of their plan to camp in Yellowstone, I was roiling with how to proceed. They were not saying, "You must go when we make camp." On the other hand, they did not say, "You are welcome to camp with us." The situation was strange. I knew that it would be an extraordinary thing for a young male stranger to encamp for the night with two young women in Yellowstone. One one hand I was enjoying the comfort and security that these women provided to me. They were vaguely like sister or mother figures at this point, having they panel van, the heating system, the radio/stereo, and a full tank of gas. A bit of comfort along these lines was not unwelcome. Not that they were very forward in giving comfort. I didn't tell them how little I had eaten in the past few days, and they didn't ask. Or that I had only a dollar and change. But some basic elements of comfort were there. On the other hand I reasoned that after their initial dalliance and adventure of experimenting with a male American hitchhiker, a strain might develop. Whether or not they truly would accept me spending the night in their camp was the question.
Having entered Yellowstone Park I was now in a very different environment. It no longer seemed easy to steal off to some byway and find a sleeping spot. Things were more regulated and controlled here. Rangers ranged. Camping spots were explicitly delineated. You didn't just camp anywhere it seemed. There was much forest, and I didn't know what it was like to enter those. Even the specter of bears arose in my mind as I pondered this. For me, the most convenient thing would be to simply spend at least one night with the sisters. At morning, I plotted, I could bid them adieu with thanks and be on my way. Yellowstone Park bordered Montana at the upper Northwest corner of Wyoming. It should be an easy step to get out of Yellowstone then, and across the line into Montana. I think at some point, as they occasionally discussed the plan for that night, and perhaps speaking in terms of "we" -- as if they had no intention of my leaving -- I may have broached the matter with something like "If you don't mind my camping with you tonight." And as I recall they answered affirmatively like it was no big deal to them. What probably worked for me was that I was a rather mild-looking, doe-like young man. They could probably sense, with women's instinct, that I was no threat to them and that I represented actual protection. Indeed, it probably made them feel safer to have at least one male who they knew even a little bit; had vetted a bit and one from their own race -- to even sleep the night in Yellowstone. There is no question, now that I think of it, that had either one of them been attacked by any man -- I would have jumped into the fray on their behalf. But at this time I didn't really comprehend the elemental things going on here, and the things they felt that I didn't understand. I just did not want them to be frightened.
To give them optimum sense of safety I stated that I would sleep out in the trees near the van. Thus I did. They probably thought it remarkable that all I had to sleep with was one woolen Marine Corps blanket that did not cover my length. With this blanket if I curled up a bit worked at it, tucking it edges beneath me, I could get it to enclose me and cut the cool breezes. But that was all. It was the barest of coverings. I have sometimes thought in the past how thoughtless it was that I took a family heirloom on this trip to serve a practical and rugged purpose. My father's Marine Corp blanket was one of the icons always present among his collection of WWII souvenirs, medals, and prizes like his two Samauri swords. One might have thought there would be some other blanket I might have grabbed, a better and bigger one. But I took this with me without a thought. Was I trying to get closer to my father by taking his blanket and sleeping with it in dangerous fields? I think his blanket had a certain mojo for me. My dad had been through Saipan. Certainly this blanket could get me through anything. I noticed now that there was a terrible crop of mosquitoes about. Sleep was very restless and disturbed because of these buzzing bugs. The women had it much better and more bug-free, no doubt, in their van.
I woke up the next morning on the ground in the Yellowstone sunlight with the two sisters out brushing their teeth and doing womanly things, getting ready for their next leg. I stirred out of my place and approached, saying they could drop me off on the main highway once we got underway. They wordlessly received this.
On thinking now of that night and morning there is a charm to it, the fact that I slept the night in Yellowstone park with two White European racial sisters of Canada, as their unwitting sentry and man-post as they intrepidly explored America. There is a certain purity about the whole thing, and I hope they have had happy lives.
Now commenced a hitchhike through Yellowstone, and one of the most extraordinary days -- and nights -- of my life.
It was difficult to get a ride! There were very few cars, and they were not inclined to stop. Not enjoying to stand so long, I decided I should start to at least make my way up the highway and began a steady walk. I came past a little mom-and-pop quick market. I went in to see what it was about. You never know, sometimes there is free food, or samples, or maybe I could do some work or chore for a few dollars. I was very hungry by now, having eaten only a celery stalk, a half-can of Brewers' Yeast, and a can of soup since leaving home to days before. In the store I saw a cooler full of meats. The clerk was non-engaging, and the only person in the store. At this time I was tempted to steal for the 3rd time of my life. My energy was failing and I worried about my fundamental health, fearing starvation. At that time I did pilfer a package of sliced Oscar Meyer luncheon meats priced at $1.69. I felt terrible as I spirited it away and then got down the road. I didn't even like eating the meat. I was dispirited about the lack of friendliness and approachability of the clerk and the general lack of people in this area while I was feeling my hunger. Life seemed cruel now. I remembered my dad decrying theft as I grew up, and he would alway say: "It's one thing when you are starving, it's another when you just steal." I had rationalized there was a certain legitimacy to my taking the meat in my situation. However, I didn't like the way that stealing made me feel, and this act at 19 was the last time I ever stole a thing in my life.
Now Yellowstone began to be more interesting. There were forests on both sides. I came to the place where people watch the geyser. They sit and wait for it to spout. I walked into the area where a group of people were sitting on split log benches, waiting for its on-the-clock showing. What fascinated me was the people. I was in the 2nd row. I vividly remember a certain woman, grandma-aged woman, who was sitting with a young girl. She kept turning to the child and hugging her and kissing her with delight. It was clear to me that this woman loved the child very, very much. She was probably the grandmother, and had not been with her granddaughter in some time, and this was one of the events they'd planned for a family outing. But the geyser was nothing to the happy old woman. All she could think of was lavishing affection on the contented child. How lucky are children when they have the interest and affection of grandparents, as well as from uncles and aunts. I think that the White European Gentiles could learn a lot from the Jews in this respect. They have smaller families and the grandparents are usually highly involved with the grandchildren, supportively. It is common, too, for Jewish men and women to be interested in their nieces and nephews. As I watched the 4-year-old child receive so much affection from a grandmother, I saw the great beauty and wonder of it and also felt sorrow about my comparatively empty and loveless life up to then.
I kept on walking, the few cars kept driving by. Now I was in some raised areas, heavily forested. I was very tired. As it grew towards evening I turned off the road into the forest. I tried to sleep there. The forest floor was covered with itchy, dry pine needles. Mosquitoes gathered around me in a ravenous could. I could not clear them from my little inner wool blanket bubble. I was hot and sweaty. I soon saw it was no use trying to sleep. Best thing to do would be to press on, though after dark. This resulted in the longest, strangest, most spectral and beautiful night walks I have ever had.
Night had come and the stars came out. The moon was also out, so I could see things. The landscape now changed in the northern part of Yellowstone. It was land of strange rock formations. All I could think of was "badlands." It was like the environment of some moody, austere western movie. I couldn't help imagining outlaws hiding in some of the rocky formations, or Indian shamans secreted there, or even the spirits of the peoples of the past. It was as if I was on another planet, where few souls had ever been. The cool of the night was now refreshing and I had a second wind. To my right I could hear a rushing stream as I walked along. The water was very loud.
Eventually I heard the sound of voices. Up ahead where the road turned left I could see human figures in a whitewater stream. They were laughing and playing in the water. They were naked. Their car was parked nearby. Apparently the stream I been hearing, which now came into view, was a hot sulfur springs and it was the habit of some locals to come her and enjoy them at night. I passed on by, comforted to at least see other humans though I did not morally approve of their naked cavorting. Soon I got my first Yellowstone ride.
I will always remember this couple. They were a young newly married White couple. Through conversation I learned that they were on a summer job together, working for Yellowstone and that they lived in some cabin provided to them by the Park. The fellow was decent, mature, and kind. The woman was very attuned to me in some way, very much reading me. She was a dear, brown headed young wife. Sometimes if the male decides he'd like to pick up a hitchhiker, his wife or girlfriend may not approve and you can tell this from her behavior during the ride. I think it happens that sometimes, being with a man or with her husband, it becomes the wife who desires to exercise compassion and take the risk of picking up a hitchhiker should he seem safe and intriguing. I think this may have been such a case. I think they both had wanted to pick me up and help me out. I have sometimes thought back to this couple, and how much they meant to me in my life with that small gesture when I was in one of life's strange bardos and transitions. I wonder if they remember me? I certainly remember them.
Though transported by the natural surroundings, I was growing desperate a ride and this trip through the Yellowstone badlands late at night had now become a kind of ordeal. I was very relieved to get the ride and to be making progress out of Yellowstone Park. They took me some ways, and I may have gotten a 2nd ride which took me out of the park and into Montana, though I didn't know this. All I knew was that a familiar site was ahead and now strangely welcome: An interstate highway bridge. I recognized it as a perfect place to finally sleep. I climbed up the sloping abutment to the top where there is often a broad ledge. There I slept happily until light and the noise of cars woke me up. I could see then across the way that there were other travelers, too, just waking up on the ledge at the other side. It was a good feeling to see fellow travelers sleeping in a similar way. I began my walk and found myself bursting into Montana's morning sunlight. Walking through a valley as the morning sun came up I found my self walking through the deep shadows cast by mountains, something I had never experienced. The environment was luminous, clear, and clean. This was southern Montana. Some kind of Yellowstone Tourist hex was now lifted, and more normative people were driving by, inclined to pick up a young man to help him out. I got a long ride from a brown-haired man who seemed very intelligent, thoughtful, and pensive. I found it hard to read him, but it seemed that he was working hard to read me. I sensed that he was a basically good fellow but that there were probably political differences between us. Keeping the conversation light, I made it up to Missoula. Hoofing past Missoula I got one final ride up to Polson, where Rick lived. The sun was just starting to go down when I got into the small town of Polson.
I found a park area next to the lake where there were some people still out. I saw two boys playing and said to them "Have you heard of a guy named Rick S? He works at a health food store here in town." Miraculously, he knew who I was talking about. I said "Can you point me which way the health food store is." One of the boys said "I know where he lives. We'll show you" and they began leading me out of the park up some streets.s They pointed to a two story house and left me there. I saw a mailbox with Rick's name on it, apartment two, which was apparently up some stairs. I went up and knocked. He had turned in early for sleep.
I had not told Rick that I would be coming to visit. He was completely delighted by this surprise ad by my intrepid and difficult journey to reach him. He welcomed me, happy to share his northwest mountain life with an old friend and musical band mate.
We fell in with three brothers from New York who were camping around the lake.
I got the money to buy a sleeping bag by picking cherries.
We camped with intinerant cherry pickers and we would gather nightly around a fire.
The brothers were headed west to Seattle, and dropped me off there. I hit "Alaskan Way" in the rain, utterly alone, cold, wet, and hungry. As the rain pounded down on the tin roof of the abandoned warehouse where I was sleeping on pylons over Puget Sound, I thought of my father and how I had left him without ever trying to help him recover himself. I determined to hitchhike home the next day and ask him if I could move in with him, knowing instinctively that this would help him return to normalcy and a positive spirit.
My old highschool (and later) friend Rick. This is exactly as I remember him. Rick and I had gone to high school together and played in groups together in Des Moines. He played the keyboard and had a big Hammond B-3 organ he was proud of. At one time it was up in the Ingersoll bedroom, in the room at the end of the long hall where a band of mine (with him in it) practiced. After high school I also lived with him for a few months in Ames, Iowa where I had joined a rock group. We shared a love of music and he was always wanting me to listen to some new album, group or track. He played the organ and respected my ability on the guitar.
Later I hitchhiked to Polson, Montana on a quest for understanding of life and the world, after he invited me in a letter and was doing a summer job at a health food store there. He was hugely into health food and crazy about Macrobiotic Diet, if you can believe that. He was part of a circle of guys who by the 10th grade were nuts about pure diet ideas. I surprised him that evening in Montana. I just had to ask some random kids in the small town of Polson if they knew about a guy named Rick who worked at a health food store. They led me several blocks to his house. America was simpler and safer at that time.
I lived with him there a while, then we camped together around Lake Flathead as he wanted to strart a new phase, avid to earn money picking cherries. We worked together picking cherries those summer days on the hillsides around that huge lake. At times up in the trees, on our ladders, we could spsot each other through the boughs. We would call out to each other and make jokes. Always planning some new adventure, he might say "Want to jump in the lake afterward?" Thus sometimes after our hot days picking we'd plunge into the clear, cold waters of the lake below to refresh ourselves. At night I camped with strangers and migrants in the woods (I think he went to his car), who would gather around the campfire of three New York Brothers who we fell in with. There was no danger. I didn't realize how good I had it then, in a way, despite my poverty. Just to be having this experience in a beautiful and safe country.
Rick was always urging me to go with him hiking in beautiful rarefied places with him but I had no interest. I think his greatest sorrow was not having someone to share his pristine God-like wilds with; to share the adventure and rigor with someone. He was constantly wanting to be adventuring, and got crazy about hang gliding for a while. Flying in the sky off high peaks!
I regret today that I spurned his invitations, but I had another destiny. Even so he did take me to amazing places before we parted in western Montana. We would plunge into the cold clear waters off of huge rocks that summer. It was joyous and I am glad that I shared a little of the joy of God's pristine wild nature with him. If not for him I never would have known those things. Before I went on alone to Seattle he was wanting me to go hike the Glacier National Park with him. Rick was highly creative, an artist, and loved the outdoors. This love of the outdoors grew into a successful career as a gear designer (backpacks, pants, etc.) for sporting goods companies.
Rick always seemed "bigger and better" than me, having more money and energy and ability. His parents were still married. They had money. He was very able and skilled! But in the article I read that the Impala we drove around in was just a $125 dollar used car (about the same price I paid for my first car). He was really just scraping by like me and trying to find his path in life. He probably would have found my continuing friendship in the west supportive and strengthening. I might have gotten a job in Missoula, staying near him? And had more adventures with him?
I saw him as interested in the outer world and physical thrills, while I was trying to search out big questions like the truth about religions and God. But now I see I could have searched out those questions while with him and experiencing his adventures and a deepening friendship. We had happy times together and he liked my companionship. We fatefully parted ways late that summer and I headed on to Seattle penniless, and it was there I realized I needed to go back home and try to save my Dad. Glad it went that way. I have completely lost track of him and am amazed to find him with a page written about him by his company. It was great to se that face I know so well, now in age. He was fond of me, seemed to always find me intriguing or a suitable oddball friend, and I enjoyed his conversation.
I am satisfied with my life and wouldn't trade it for anything. But I wish I had kept closer to Rick anyway and stayed more in touch. He was always friendly and kind. Just a decent guy. His family was Presbyterian (church) and he went to church at the church right behind my Saint Augustine's. I could make a pretty good guess that a lot of his political views and views about society today are a lot like mine.
Rick was never lewd or told dirty jokes or talked about sexual things. He was just a nice, decent, hard-working guy in love with life -- and he's still alive and out there!
The day after returning home to Ingersoll I asked my father if I could move in with him. He readily consented. At this point through the influence of Ruth Christians I had spiritual inklings in me. In my austere bedroom I read "The Imitation of Christ" and very attracted to the ascseticism ideal. The book spoke movingly about what re called in Hinduism tapas (austerities/concentration) and bhakti (devotion). Its Christian lexicon used words like penances, piety, and love.
Dad didn't bother much to fix up my bedroom, give me furnishings, etc. The room I took was the one they'd kept me in as a newborn, where mom and dad kept a cradle to receive their string of boy and girls. There was a problem with the roof; it leaked. In dad's normal Virgoan mindset he would have fixed a leaking roof at the slightest sign of moisture. But he had let the leak go on for years, and the ceiling was starting to cave in. The outer wall, too, showed signs of water damage. The wallpaper was peeling off, there were cracks, and the characteristic brown staining that appears or white plaster when seeped-and-dried repeatedly with rain water filtered through lathe wood. The wooden floor had long since lost its protective varnish. There was no chair, bed stand, or table. But there was a single bed with a metal piping bedstead, and I could find some sheets. There was no source of music such as a radio or tape player, and I had brought all that I now owned, which fit into a small backpack. The room was fine with me. It was warm for the winter and out of the rain. And I was used to cobbling together a life in the various rooms I inhabited at Ingersoll, and this austere environment suited me fine. In fact, it made the ascetical paeon of "The Imitation of Christ" all the more delicious to me. In that room at my Dad's I felt I was already entering into a renunciate's existence. I did, at least, peel off some of the loose, hanging sheets of wallpaper so that the wall didn't look so hairy. I also swept up the floor. The Jupiter-in-Virgo and my basic improver nature couldn't resist.
Living with dad for the first time without mom, I began to learn about what he was really like. I found out he was tender. One moment stuck in my mind. I had come home from somewhere, probably some work, tired out and had fallen half-asleep on the bed with my clothes on. Then I felt something messing with my feet. It was my dad, untying the shoelaces of his 19-year-old so he would be comfortable sleeping. it was unbelievable to me. But it was such a surprising and sweet moment that I did not rouse myself from my somnambulent state but rather, completely took it in. I realized that my father had had nurturing instincts for his sons all along, but that during former times he didn't have as much opportunity to express them,locked in the chemistry of chemistry of my mother's and his relationship. It this small half-awake moment gave me to know that he was fond of me and glad I was there.
When I moved in with Dad it revolutionized his life. He soon said, "How would you like to take a trip to Chicago?" He put us on a plane and we went to stay with his cousin, Aunt Jean in a Chicago suburb. He wanted to visit the old home town. He didn't show me much. At one point he left me at the Art Museum while he went away for a bit. He was gone far too long and I had to be very patient waiting. I didn't like art museums as much as he thought I might. When he finally arrived I realized he had been visiting an old favorite bar, and I could tell he had been drinking. Years later I thought it would have been much finer if he'd taken me along and I could have met his old friends, seen him in his old ways, and maybe heard him speak Lithuanian. But father knew I was dead set against drinking.
He probably would have gladly taken Victor or Mark along. In fact, he probably would have liked to take me along and show me off. It was only years later that I realized: He didn't want to corrupt me. I also realized the reason for his sudden avidness to travel with a son and uncharacteristically paying for something as pricey as a plane fare: He wanted to show me off to his relations back in Chicago. Before this, he didn't "have me." He didn't have his sons any more. But now I was living with him; I was his again. There was probably an element of self-redemption in it. He had likely been humiliated by the divorce and ashamed in the face of his relatives back home. Taking me along it was like a statement: "See, I'm still a father. Look, my son loves me. He even lives with me." My move-in to my father's house was a very powerful redemptive influence on his life indeed, which would be repeated. Some time after that we had an argument. It was over politics. I told him I had voted for the Communist candidate Gus Hall. I didn't even know what Communism was -- but that was dad's fault for not telling me. He blew up. He had been drinking down at a bar down the street. He was very harsh on me when I told him that, such that I decided I had to leave there. I moved back in to the big house on Ingersoll Avenue. My mother raised no objection. We had the kind of house that was open -- all doors -- night and day, winter and summer.
Religion, The Path
I cultivated musical ambitions long. At the same time I was rotting and self-destructing within through lust and immorality. By my teens I was mostly confused, deeply lacking fatherly interest and support, hemorrhaging my life force and disturbing myself inwardly, and becoming deeply confused about a confusing world. I covered up the maw of my growing inner pain with lust, and and obsession with fame through music. Now in my later teens, religion became a dead subject to me.
Though I grew up Catholic and went to a Catholic school for eight years, the truth of that religion was never really presented cogently or convincingly by the nuns or priests. They seemed to be running on automatic and possibly didn't even conceive of the kinds of questions that could arise in a young man's mind in the roiling 1960's. The big ones were about sex. And it was a sign of the still relatively uncorrupted early '60's that people still had Sex listed as a Big Question. They were a more intelligent people, because it is. But I was more affected by the ever more degenerate mass media than by any religious teachings on moral matters. Frankly, I never did receive any explicit religious teaching on moral matters, notwithstanding my Catholic upbringing. As I collapsed within, my culture and world collapsed outside.
Religion was a given in my life, thanks to my father. But it was poorly presented, thanks to cultural entropy and time, and thanks to my own flawed karma. When you have better karma, religion is better presented to you in these dualistic lives.
In the Catholic faith, the best things I received were all indirectly imparted by the vastness of the great tradition itself, rather than directly imparted in cogent teachings. Starting young, I had the great good fortune to be taken into the beautiful Catholic Church called Saint Augustines. There, the very building and it's interior transmitted the inner posture of reverence. The great vastness of the church sanctuary itself, including the reverberations of its stone walls and surfaces, conveyed to my mind the vastness of God. But it was only conveyed subconsciously. Indeed, the Hindus teach that one of the very first creations of God is the akasa or "space." After first creating space and the directions, in some cosmic moment God fills it with his other forms of creation, starting with air, fire, water, and finally earth. Then the other creatures. But space was the start, and space itself evokes God. Thus I sensed an important quality of God's creation in the great and beautiful sanctuary and it affected me spiritually, but this was never explained in any conscious way.
I would see 'holy cards' showing saints kneeling, their hands together in the devotional mudra known in India, but there was no explanation of what "hands together" was for, what it signified, or the kind of inner state that simple yogic action evokes within the mind. This transmitted to me information about the "attitude of devotion" which I later learned is very important for inner God-seeking. In India Yoga, "devotion" or bhakti is a whole science, as it were, for experiencing the divinity within. Yet never in all these years was the significance of "devotion" per se extrapolated or presented to my rational mind.
This lack of explicit spiritual teaching in my church experience led to my mind failing to consciously value the things it was exposed to only indirectly.
Religion seemed to have provided the world, and my family, with much good. It seemed to have ordered life, created systems, laws and rules by which the European peoples had grown and prospered. It certainly created great edifices where one could step in and feel a sanctified space and time for thinking of God. Most European Christian churches are created in such a beautiful way that you can't be in them and not think about God. (May God bless and preserve our people.) That was, alone, enough fruit and substance to validate the beauty of Christianity. It created great music, great art, stable families, abundant children, and culture itself.
But at the same time, my religion seemed to have many empty or confusing areas. I was never really sure what "heaven" really was, or where. But I was told that we would go either to heaven or hell upon death, depending upon how we were here. This seemed to be what "salvation" meant -- having the ticket away from hell and into heaven upon death. There was a list of "good actions" (with much missing from it) and a short list of "bad actions" (with much missing from it) to prevent the hell path upon death. But there was not much motivation here in the present world for pursuing the good actions. Only the hope of avoiding hellfire upon death. For most persons, if they had the slightest doubt about the scenario, there was not enough inducement to perform good actions and avoid sinful ones. The sinful ones seemed too fun.
Basically, my religion, though old and elaborate, did not explain very much for a roiling young mind to get settled down. It did not tell me what to do with the developing sexual feelings I had starting in my teens. There was a sense that they were "dirty" and that there were sins attached to these feelings, but it was not explained why, or what to do about them. Later I started finding out that there were other religions, and even different varieties of Christianity. My mind wondered why there were other versions. Were some more right or less right? Different congregations seemed to have different attitudes about life. I began to doubt whether I had the "one true religion" because I had never really evaluated it against the others. Perhaps my religion failed to answer many question because it didn't have all the answers? This is how a young man thinks. In reality, Catholicism did have all necessary answers secreted in the spiritual practices of its saints. However, these were not being offered to me, and I was not ready for them anyway.
One thing that hurt was that some of the most religious people around me seemed unhappy. Here I speak primarily of the nuns. It is my belief now that the best and most fitting religious teachers have joy on their faces when they teach religion, especially to little children. This was seldom seen in my Catholic school. The priests, too, seemed dry and dull as they delivered sermons. Rarely animated with joy or spiritual enthusiasm. There was not much affectionate love from either nuns or priests, ever for these little dear children they had in their custody every day. The head priest at my Church, Monsignor Walker, had a distant, cold demeanor. I believe that in eight years he never once laid eyes upon me or acknowledged my existence. He certainly never called me by name. Some of the young priests seemed slightly depressed or insecure (God bless poor Father Lindsay), or they bullied rather than impressed us with character and male brilliance (God bless poor father Terry). The clergy was not attracting the best of the men, which is what young men need to be around.
It occurs to me now that many of these nuns were unhappy women. In many cases they were a very sad or ever terrifying thing for young children to be around. They had perhaps entered the convent because of disappointing or embittered lives. Now, their spiritual culture had failed to impart to them a compensating spirit-born bliss that might have made them a pleasure to be around despite it all. It's my belief now that the best religious "fathers" are men who really HAVE been fathers in real life. This would be the way of the Orthodox churches. They truly appreciate children and the value of a son. In like manner, the best female teachers -- especially for young ages -- are the women who have been mothers. They have a natural nurturing softness around which children thrive.
The one thing my Catholic school did right was choosing the softer, more motherly nuns for the 1st and 2nd grades. Thank God in heaven for that. My first two nuns were young and basically warm towards children, reducing the trauma inherent in school for such young children. Simply her ability to smile sweetly now and then throughout the perversely long day away from mother helped keep our life force from completely ebbing away by 3 p.m.
Yet in all this was a spiritual culture and my soul imbibed it. The austerity of some of the nuns was itself a kind of elixir that deepened my own sense of the seriousness of life, and perhaps even the inherent unhappiness of life. Why do you enter a convent, indeed? Because you give up on the idea of happiness from the conventional worldly life. So though I was not around women with little capacity to addict me to motherly softness, I was around women steeped in wisdom. The truth is, some of these nuns and priests were true God-seekers. And that made proximity to them a blessing whatever the emotional impact on a child.
Sometimes their wisdom was harsh, but it was still wise. Sometimes they reserved their softness only as reward for your effort and firm character. I had been a natural artist and illustrator from childhood. I was always receiving praise for it, such that I had learned to hide my work from most people. I often fest bad feelings when being praised for my drawing, because I felt sorry for those who could not draw as well. I also feared their jealous feelings, which I could sometimes feel. It happened that in that time, at that age, to be able to draw well was considered a Big Thing. I didn't understand why this was so, but it was. People would gush at me. Girls would talk to me.
Once in 4th Grade Sister Bernadette brought to me 5 drawings of bears. They were cartoonish, fun, pastel decorations of 5 bear heads. They were commercial decorations you would buy from the store. She wanted to use these to decorate her room for Christmas, but could only borrow them from another nun for a bit. She wanted them duplicated, and she wanted me to do it. She said, "Take these home and reproduce these for me." I was amazed at the request, that she assumed I could do it, because they were very well done drawings. But I was proud to be asked. I did it, and brought back my five versions. She was very pleased and posted them on the walls of the room. One of the children asked her, "Sister, who drew those bears on the wall?" She said, "I did." That was that.
At the time, I thought, "Wow. Amazing. That seems unfair." But now in my age it's easy to see that the nun was practicing wisdom and protecting me. She knew that if she said "Julian did them" it would hurt me. It would have done two things: First, it would have made me cocky and superior feeling. I was just entering the age where I was looking for things to distinguish and elevate myself. The ego and competitive pride was stirring. I already had cocky enough tendencies. Second, it would have stirred jealousy in others and they would have taken it out by distancing themselves from me, and harassing me unaccountably. This nun saved me all that, though it seemed "unjust" and cruel at the time to deprive me of credit. She did a third wonderful thing, and that was she prevented me from taking a path to become an artist. I was so good at art this could have easily happened. But I was destined for different things, different pursuits, than making pretty pictures. If I had gotten much "play" out of that project, I would have done it again, and learned what it could get me in terms of prestige and later, money. I might have gone down that road. Instead I expanded into other directions. Behind the austerity of the nuns, there was much character-building wisdom.
But not enough. They couldn't tell me what do do about Playboy magazine. They couldn't explain why our town was turning into 4-lanes full of strangers driving too fast in four-wheeled dangerous isolation units. Or why technology was taking over our world with no resistance. They couldn't explain why my mother and father were no longer speaking and now mother was talking to me on my morning paper route about divorcing dad. They couldn't explain why I was so drawn to long-haired rock and roll musicians and why I shouldn't be. They couldn't even explain to me why or why not I should smoke marijuana or take pills. Thank God I had a mother who explained that, because they certainly didn't help. They could not explain if it was wise or unwise to spend hours in front of a television set watching whatever the New York and L.A.-based media interests felt like cranking out. My religion was lacking much explanation and guidance. Not adequately warned about the nature of sin, especially the new and sophisticated forms of sin our culture was spawning, I began to burn up in it. I damaged myself long and hard in sin.
The foundation of religion comes in several layers. The first layer is human unhappiness. If we did not experience human unhappiness, there would be no need to think of religion, seek religion, or manifest religion. When we sleep we often feel sublimely happy. Thus in sleep we don't seek religion. If we were in a wakeful state of constantly new happiness we would have no occasion to seek religion in the waking state. This is because religion is happiness. Reversed, happiness is religion. Thus, those who are happy don't seek religion because they already have it.
Yet every human being in the normal waking state encounters, finally, profound unhappiness. The recognition of life's unsatisfactory aspects is what engenders the quest for religious knowledge. All of the great religious founders spoke to this fact. Christ said, "You have the poor with you always," i.e. the world is inherently flawed and dualistic. He also said "Sufficient to the day is the evil there of," meaning every day of our lives has flaws and sorrows, plenty enough. The "First Noble Truth" of Buddha is simply, "Life is suffering." What a stark thing! Yet that's what he says. The beginning of religious wisdom, for the Buddha, was the recognition of the unsatisfactory and unhappy nature of life and world. The Yoga-Sutra, which is a profound, terse manual on how to return to God, has a similar saying: "To the wise, all is suffering, because of the reality of duality and the impressions we receive of the dualistic experience which can only engender more dualistic experiences." In the Yoga-Vasistha the prince Rama starts acting depressed. They call the sage Vasistha to analyze the problem and Rama laments to the sage, having realized the samsaric and pointless nature of material existence. Vasistha says, 'Ah, this is auspicious. Now this boy is ready to receive religious knowledge." So the beginning of religious knowledge, and religion, is in fact sorrow and frustration with this world.
Religion is, in fact, an instinctively manifested program for regaining our lost happiness. I say it is instinctively manifested because everyone "manifests" outer religion and religious knowledge, based on his karmic conditioning and the depth of his soul cry in his unhappiness.
The true way to God is within. To find this path within, you have to cultivate your own pathways to God within. This leads to experiences, sensations, and knowingness in which you then become more and more established. The simple formula is here:
-- Hear and read about the lives of God-men and saints.
-- Cultivate your faith. If you have good parents and a good mother, she will give you the capacity for faith naturally.
-- The stories and faith awaken the sense of religious piety
-- Piety increases the tendency to right living and morality. This in turn makes one inwardly capable of sustaining inner God-feeling, more pleasing to God, and more capable of pursuing God undistracted because of a less complicated and less afflicted life. Real piety also should awaken interest in the techniques of religious development and worship, which are inner techniques of mind and soul.
-- From piety a man or woman develops the attitude, and feeling, of devotion which is higher still than piety
-- From the attitude and feeling of devotion, one begins to experience God more and more within, because God Himself is of the nature of devotion, and
-- He experiences the bliss of God within.
-- Finally one experiences true worship. True worship involves the feelings of bliss, gratitude, rapture, and merging with the Beloved within.
-- All this is attended by the ability to truly help others and help the world, by leading them to find their own inner bliss-God, which is the only thing that will satisfy man and solve his hungers and problems.
-- One gets the ability, also, to help the world in a myriad of ways should one desire to play that game. But generally, the world will start to improve and upgrade on its own, as his outer world-dream, projected in the first place by his own body, becomes improved by his own growing purity and bliss.
This salvation, this is real religion, this is the path of the saints and the one we all must take, and these are the important things to remember and develop in Christianity. If Christianity fails to rediscover these and develop their knowledge for the people, Christianity and our great churches will fail. With a proper understanding of Christianity, you should know that the "kingdom of heaven" is an attainment you were meant to attain here, now and this is what God wants. When you attain it here, you attain it there. And this world is the literal anvil, the driving block, upon which we are able to pound out the inner obstructions to that Kingdom of Heaven within.
In my teens and twenties the Bible became important to me. Though growing up Catholic, I had never really known it. It was spiritual food, yet intellectually, it raised as many questions as it answered. So along came Baha'i books, especially "The Hidden Words of Baha'u'llah" and their beautiful bhakti-oriented Baha'i prayers. Later, I was powerfully influenced by "Autobiography Of A Yogi." Moving on, I finally discovered the Bhagavad-Gita, in many translations. Finally ready, I came upon the sweet and golden "The Gospel Of Ramakrishna." I also perplexed myself over an extraordinary book called "The Yoga-Sutras of Patanjali." Writings by the Sikh masters were discovered, speaking elaborately about inner divine sound.
After many years of reading my favorite books became the Yoga-Sutra, the Yoga-Vasistha, and finally the "Non-Dualistic Vedanta" of Shankara and Upanishads, and any accounts of yogic or Christian saints. But the bhakti oriented writings, that is, the writings explaining and augmenting religious devotion, were the best.
The Yoga-Sutra is an acquired taste. But when you are really interested in the ultimate truth and how to get there, this is where you end up. It is lean reading, and covert. I have many translations of it. It states that "yoga" is contact with, and merging with, God within. It describes God as fundamental bliss and Pure Consciousness which creates all, is obscured by the ego-mind, and also as fundamental Identity that is personal. It states that the first "action of Yoga" is austerities, or self-mortification. One minor, peripheral thing it mentions is the idea of holding a posture for a long time for the purpose of becoming "free from the pairs of opposites," i.e. unaffected by sensory states of heat, cold, etc. (Christian saints and mystics figured this one out, too.) It states that the most effective austerity is meditation, which draws the mind away from the world, and the life force away from the carnal senses. Because the mind is the source of all sensory entanglements, and actually is the world. So setting aside the mind is finally setting aside the world and choosing God, who is obscured behind the ripples of the constantly moving mind. So I started meditation at 28.
Sadly, the whole word "yoga" has become dumbed-down, subverted, besmirched, distorted, corrupted, waylaid, glamorized, sideswiped, side-tracked, circus-ized, corporatized, Hollywood-ized, fame-o-tized, grotesqued, sexualized, materialized, monetized, and feminized, American-womanized. If that run-on sentence gives you the impression that I consider the western/feminine subversion of yoga to be a horrible misfortune, that was the point. It is part of my mission in life to stand for what Yoga actually was, and is, and especially to admonish those who think that it in any way mixes with lust, moral corruption, or material and bodily goals. Yoga is not about making yourself healthy. That's a mere side benefit of seeking God and it requires no postures whatever. It is not about making your butt smaller so you have a good female self image, or to get a boyfriend, or to chat with your lady friends. It's not about posing for pictures and playing Buddha, and having cool yoga clothes. It's not about getting tattoos, piercing your body like some savage who hates what God made, doing calisthenics on the floor, grappling with a sexy partner, climbing up jagged peaks, being a rock star, being a feminist, or sitting on the beach. It's not about endless sexual lust. It's not about health food. It's not a cool profession for you, so that you can "help" anybody who gives you a 30 buck monthly tuition. It's not about pranaming like a devotee when you are not devoted to anybody.
All these are debasements of yoga. You don't even start in yoga until you want to renounce the world and sensual enjoyments. Yoga is about purifying yourself and knowing God. It is entirely about the mind and its direction and subjugation. And it doesn't live in the same house as lust.
Yoga is: Cessation of the fluctuations of the mind. (The 2nd sutra.)
And it is most facilitated by meditation on God combined with chastity and bhakti.
Then the Seer is established in his own real and fundamental nature. (The 3rd sutra.)
Purity lets you do it.
Austerities are how you purify, and are the "basic action of yoga." (Another of the sutras.)
The most important austerities are celibacy, meditation itself, and fasting. Then you get to contact the Great God within.
And that's it.
And that's religion.
The most important things about my spiritual life I have left out and shall, as one should. I gave up the passion for fame in my 20s and only write this to to help other young men, and because in these politically treacherous times it is prudent to write one's own biography than to let others do it.
I have a guru, Paramahansa Yogananda. After tearfully requesting that he accept me as his disciple, though I was unworthy, I had a series of dreams that were powerful initiation dreams. After that time I began to have spontaneous bodily movements, many of them the classic yoga postures and poses. I had a number of other strange events and manifestations after that also. I did not understand the movements of my body at first. But I was soon led to a book called "Play of Consciousness" by Swami Muktananda that explained them and I understood all was well.
The guru and the guru principle is the most powerful and precious thing in my life. Most people don't understand the guru principle. And even those who do often don't understand that you must ask. You have to ask him to accept you, take you on, and make you his disciple after preparing yourself a bit. The luckiest thing about my life is that I intuited that was true, and I really asked.
Yet all these are small things compared to God. Because this was only done by grace, and grace is what I still need to do that.
I encourage all young men to be religious, austere, free of sense-addictions, and to seek God according to their lights. I want to see Christianity great, vital, and strong again. I am hoping to provide young Christians with vital things they may be missing from their own tradition. Or simply things that are forgotten. Especially I want to awaken them to the ideals of "guru bhakti" as applied to Christ by Christian saints of old, and to the understanding of meditation technique. Again, many of these meditation techniques were uncovered by Christian saints of old.
I am writing this autobiography to help others understand me and my work, and some of my message, after I am gone. I also find myself to be a political dissident in these times, the sort that has many natural and powerful enemies. It is always good to write one's own biography rather than letting one's enemies do it for him. This is the truth about my life and my views.
The Divine Incarnation
Then comes the next plank or foundation of religion, which is the being or person who comes along and shows, somehow, that we can be free of this sorrow and limitation. He often manifests miracles and freedom from ordinary laws, and at the better level, a joyful consciousness impervious to outer conditions. If there was not such a person, there would be no hope for most of mankind. But this person gives us faith that we can have some escape from the unhappiness of the natural world, or in the case of a happy life, from the uncertainty and fear of death. We may meet this person, or hear of him or her, or simply read about a figure from history who manifested some kind of freedom from life's sorrows and limitations. He usually passes on to others this same ability for freedom. It may show as miraculous feats by these others, or simply as an inner freedom that gives a happiness impervious to any outer conditions -- the better of the two. Religions forms around such persons. A great and mighty religion formed around the figure recorded as Jesus Christ and I was born into a family that had embraced, however awkwardly, his religion as the solution to life's sorrows. Through performing miracles Christ showed the simpler minded that there is a higher law and that we do not have to be bound by life's dualistic sorrows. The principle by which we could be free of sorrows and limitations came to be called grace. This person shows himself to be free of the limitations and laws by which we strike against sorrow, and proclaims that we can have similar freedom if we follow his prescribed path.
The Guru Principle
Being born a Christian, I was introduced to the guru principle, though nobody called it that. Christian conceptions of Christ, I found later on, can be seen as elaborations (or sometimes distractions from) the guru principle. In the guru principle, you make you guru your one-and-only. You see him as the representative of God for you. You meditate on your guru as God. This is very beneficial. The Catholics have a tradition of devotion, which the Hindus call bhakti yoga. When I was very young I saw holy cards depicting angels and saints. The saints were expressing the attitude of piety and devotion. As a child I understood it. I saw that attitude of reverence and devotion, depicted in the cards. The Catholics did not have a good lexicon for talking about this. Later, when I read about the tradition of bhakti-yoga, I understood that I was first exposed to bhakti-yoga in those Catholic holy cards as a child.
I saw pictures of saints and pious Christians with their hands together, pointing upward, heads bowed down. In India this posture is called a mudra, a mudra expressing devotion for God or guru. As a child in Catholic life I also adopted this mudra when talking to God, not knowing what it was. That common Christian mudra puts you into an inner posture of devotion right away. How lucky I was to be born into a Catholic family, with it's tradition of saints, unconscious bhakti-yoga, and devotional mudras!
A child is more pure and innocent. He has a great capacity for faith. Early in life I accepted that there was a God, and that He always heard your prayers. Somebody told me this. I don't know if it was a nun, or who. But when I heard it, I believed it, in faith. A child sitting in the devotional mudra, hands together, and praying to a God he believes in without question, is one of the fortunate ones on the planet. It is a very auspicious state! In Hindu terms, I was an unconscious bhakti-yogi from an early age. And every young Christian child, praying to God in faith, hands together, is that and more. It is very good for children to be around men and women of faith from an early age, and to be taught faith, and trust in God, from an early age. It sets them off right, on the deepest path.
My prayers often didn't work. But it was the posture and attitude that was auspicious and later attracted blessings. I also made "promises to God," which I didn't keep. My first was at the age of seven on the first day of school. I saw a little girl walk into the other 2nd grade class down the hall. One look at her and I thought she was the most beautiful creature that could ever walk the earth. I thought of her all day, agitated by her great beauty. I had been told that if you made a promise to God, you could never break it. I later learned the girl's name was Martha, but on that day, I didn't know her name. That night I made a solemn "Promise to God" that "I would marry that girl!"
Such is the mind of the young person as he approaches God. He asks for all sorts of things he doesn't need, or things that will be bad for him. Just like a wise and benign parent, God sorts things out and gives him what really benefits him, and ignores the silliness. I never married Martha, and it was probably for the best. That was just the first of many crushes and infatuations that torture a boy's soul during a lifetime.
World Problems and "Saving The World"
-- My views on race
I grew up in the typical American middle class media-dominated life. My views were shaped by the messages received from television, movies, and school just as much as from my parents. In fact, my folks actually failed to talk about a great many things and to pass on their views. Possibly they themselves had uncertain views in flux. That has been one of the characteristics of our age.
In the media message, whether television, movies, or schoolbooks, the sins or wrongs of Whites, especially with regard to blacks, were over-represented. The textbooks, and later television programming, made much of the story of slavery and made it clear there were brutal slave owners. The matter of black civil rights, and the "Jim Crow" era, and the behavior of southerners as the federal government invaded states and forced whites to "integrate" with blacks -- this was also constantly presented to me as a youth. Forced integration of whites with blacks was presented as victorious moral progress.
This propaganda presented to my young mind a schema of what "world problems" were. Later I realized that the real "world problems" were things like lust, lack of spiritual search, weakness of family, anger, addictions, and inner emptiness. More basic things. But growing up as a kid, the all-surrounding message made me believe that world problems were all about Whites not going around enough patting blacks on the back, or being their friends, or blacks facing so-called "prejudice," or blacks not getting jobs because of the "prejudice" of whites, etc. etc. This was my concept of 'world problems' as a youth.
Idealistic white youth are naturally stung and distressed by these images and concepts of his ancestors, and he gets a certain urgency and even militancy about righting these 'wrongs.'
The world was always being presented to me as a place where everybody was in conflict. It wasn't the deadliness of the Great Wars that were the focus, but the idea of everyday social conflict, the whole idea that "people just don't get along." That everywhere there is a problem of racial, religious, or class "division." In reality, as I understood later, division is as natural in society as cell division and organ division in the body. People feel most happy and comfortable belonging to particular groups, groups of increasing intimacy, down to the family finally. We don't want to just belong to this huge mass, some kind of Wal-Mart Worldwide Wombat Community. We want to belong to different special groups that are our own.
But in media, and in school, these differences were always presented as though they were dire flaws in the human condition, and that there were always unhappy outsiders to the "white world." I realized much later that a certain group in our society was quietly presenting this view of the world.
So a young man you get to thinking how to "fix the world" and "save the world." That is natural to young men and women, especially the Europeans I think. That evangelistic and White impulse to improve everywhere and make justice everywhere. This is related to our Christian heritage, too.
So the mind starts working, and trying to figure out, based on the "information" I had, what would "improve the world." The logic ends up being, "If everybody would renounce racial division, and also religious division, everybody would then be happy."
Writing that line, I now see how absurd it is. But that was how I thought as a young man, and how many young men and women think think today. My point is that this "solution" was a response to a particular set of "world problems" that had been constantly presented: racial and religious division. Now after analyzing it 50 years, I think that these are the true "world problems":
-- Your own lust
-- Your own lack of interest in God
-- Your other addictions and impurities
-- Your lack of service and attentiveness to your own family, clan, village, and people.
In that order! These are the "world problems" really worth worrying about! Everything else, should you worry about it or try to fix it, is just a distraction. Since the outer world is your own personal dream in the first place, attending to these first three, alone, will eventually eradicate all other apparent problems in the world-dream, from their very root. All "world problems," including many serious personal ones unique to you, dry up and blow away by attending to the first three. World problems are a function of your own impurity and nothing more. This is especially and spectacularly true in connection sexual lust and incontinence. And this knowledge is from the grace of the Lord.