My initial spiritual awakening happened when I was about 15, at a Christian retreat. It was a true dissolution of ego – I was slammed to my knees and the only word I could get out was “LOVE!” My entire life was remade in that moment. From that day on, people have always been drawn to me. The relationships that result from that phenomenon almost always result in some sort of profound inner transformation for the person, while simultaneously propelling me further into the awareness of myself as inherently spirit; my body only an illusion that tags along to help me make sense of my presence in this world of matter, causality and logic.
At the time, I decided that this was all coming from Jesus, and adjusted my personal theology accordingly. I had yet to question the basic assumptions about Christianity that I was raised with. It turns out that almost ALL of the beliefs that go with today’s “traditional” Christianity are either mistranslations, misinterpretations or complete bullshit. It wasn’t until MUCH later that I deduced just how often this crap turned out to be something that enhanced the power base of the church/priest as well as fattening the church coffers. Once I got this little nugget, I became disenchanted and turned away in disgust.
All through my teens, I explored drugs of all kinds, but especially my beloved entheogens (psychedelics.) I have always wondered why everyone says they “experimented” with drugs. Hey – after the first time or two, it’s not an experiment anymore! Despite the widely believed propaganda that screamed “drugs are an escape from reality!!” ALL my experiences helped me to go deeper and deeper into my own consciousness, and the awareness of unconditional love. Since this was all happening in the late 1960’s, I also had unfettered access to the rich and meaty world of Eastern and Western philosophy. The combination: Spiritual awakening, religious disenchantment, drugs and exotic philosophies synergized into the perfect storm. I was READY for something BIG!
Well, I most definitely got that “something big” I was looking for. I went off to college in a small town, with a major in philosophy and theology. I STILL hadn’t given up on religion and was planning a career as a Lutheran minister! I was the eternal innocent and attempted to sell some cannabis products to my fellow students. Less than a month later, I was arrested, and shortly after that I was on my way to the penitentiary. I had read enough to know that I was in serious danger of getting raped inside, and I had absolutely ZERO fighting skills (including the inner ferocity it takes to actually strike another human being.) I was in TROUBLE!
During my first few nights in prison, I cried myself to sleep every night and prayed for a miracle. I begged God to let me wake up and find myself back at home, getting high with my friends and holding my girlfriend. After a few nights of this, I gave up. I was already fighting for my life (AND my virginity.) It was at that moment that I gave up on God completely. Hey! I was his fair-haired boy! People came to ME to get “religiously awakened!” Well, God – if you can’t do this ONE little thing for me, then FUCK YOU! Little did I know that my most potent spiritual experience was yet to come.
I was soon moved to a minimum security facility out in the beautiful Southern Wisconsin countryside. There were a few other “hippies” there, doing time on various small-time beefs, mainly possession or sale of marijuana. Not only that, but several of them were musicians, and I had gotten my alto sax shipped in to me. We were allowed to participate in lots of free style jams; an experience WAY better than drugs. They also introduced me to dozens of amazing books on spirituality and philosophy. I was able to read Hesse, Leary, McKenna, Yogananda, The Tibetan Book of the Dead, the Q’uran, The Bible and all the Baha’i Faith writings all became part of my consciousness. Since I had given up on God, I needed to make some sort of sense of the awakening I had experienced, and how to move forward. I learned then that religion has NOTHING to do with spirituality. I also learned that true spirituality could create a chronic state of ecstasy and bliss, as well as enhancing my personal power.
An example of that personal power came about two months after I had been transferred to the camp. Let me give a bit of background here. Even though I am white, and was raised with PLENTY of the middle class, passive-aggressive type of racism, I had already come to question that deeply and was on a “search-and-destroy” mission to notice and eradicate any residual racism in myself. That was put to the test by the fact that well over 90% of the guys that were a sexual threat to me just happened to be black. I was constantly being hit on, threatened, and offered various kinds of payment if I would just be someone’s bitch. The most common one was to be someone’s “kept punk.” The theory there was that if I would only traumatize and humiliate myself with ONE predatory asshole, he would protect me from the others. I was deeply dedicated to nonviolence at the time. Conventional wisdom had it that the only way to get these guys off my back was to hurt someone – badly! Conventional wisdom didn’t have any juicy solutions for how to deal with potential gang-rape. I managed to make sure that I was never alone, nor was I ever far from the watchful eye of the guards. Gratefully, I was locked in a place where the guards did NOT participate in the rampant sexual sadism that is prison life.
Our musical activities all happened in a large common room that also doubled as a cafeteria, a meeting hall, a chapel, and a visiting room on certain days. In the corner was an ancient, creaky old upright piano. Almost all the ivories were gone from the keys, about two thirds of the keys didn’t work at all, and the ones that did were hideously out of tune. It still beat Hell out of nothing at all. I had gotten into the habit of jamming regularly with an elderly black man whom I will name Clarence here, for the sake of anonymity. Clarence wasn’t an amazing player, but he could plunk out a killer Blues bass line and comp some authentic Blues chords. Clarence also was not a sexual threat to me, and had offered me important warnings on a couple of occasions, if he got wind of someone planning to bushwhack me. One night, my fiancée had just left me for one of my friends, claiming that her father didn’t want her seeing a convict. The truth is that SHE didn’t want to be seeing a convict. Suffice to say that I had The Blues. I arranged to jam with Clarence, and we got together after supper. I was wailing away. My eyes were squeezed shut in exquisite agony, grieving the loss of the woman I had believed I would have babies with someday. I was positively SCREAMING the Blues with that saxophone; every bit of my life force was saturated in those sound waves that emanated from the bell of my horn. I could feel the energy in every cell of my body – Heaven, Hell, God and The Devil were in every note I played, and there was absolutely NO hesitation in me – I was playing an absolutely pure expression of my soul in that moment.
Finally, I was exhausted and had to rest. I stopped blowing, lit a cigarette and started to catch my breath. As I looked behind me, there were about ten people sitting there. All of them were huge, tall, black men – the exact same people that had been sexually stalking me for almost two months. Clarence was behind me, however he had already made it clear that he was not willing to fight my battles for me. He was, after all, well over 70 years old. As I goggled in horror, they all stood up at once and began to walk toward me. I began to shake uncontrollably, and weep in terror. I was 100% convinced that I was about to be the central figure in an epic gangbang; the first in many hundreds more to come. As they came closer, they circled around me, smiling in what I took to be sadistic, predatory anticipation. They all reached out their arms and began slapping me … on the back. “Yo, man! You sure can blow that sax, dude! You da man! Don’t stop now, man – keep on blowin’!” I nearly passed out with relief! After I managed to suppress my urge to vomit all over everyone’s shoes, I simply said “thanks, man!” and consented to play the Blues some more.
From that moment onward, I was never in danger of being hurt or raped again, and any new inmates that passed through camp were clued in immediately that “you don’t fuck with the sax man!” I had stumbled on a way to be seen as a man in their society without once lifting my hand in violence.” No one will ever convince me that this was not a spiritual matter. I now believed in guardian angels, though my guardian angel is – ME! My spiritual power became focused through my sax playing and created a miracle – it manifested a situation where a group of VERY Earthy men chose to see me as a man; every bit as powerful as the most brutal sadist in the joint.
Once I tasted my own personal power, I decided to revisit the teachings of Christ, but to do so from a completely neutral point of view – no assumptions. I would not assume Jesus to be either Divine, or Human. I would not assume that those two things were mutually exclusive. What I discovered is that the teachings of Jesus Christ are every bit as spiritual, and every bit as powerful when viewed as Divine, Secular, or both. He brought us a truly unique way of expanding our souls. He was a role model for how to be a spiritual being having a human experience, rather than vice versa. Thomas Jefferson actually wrote his own version of the Gospels, called “The Jeffersonian Bible.” Jefferson was offended by the idea that Jesus was somehow magical or mystical. He essentially rewrote the four Gospels from the point of view that Jesus was a philosopher, leader, teacher and great moral example, rather than a religious or spiritual being. I disagree, in that I see no great difference between spiritual and human. I’m guessing that Jefferson probably experienced his own disenchantment with religion, and in his bitterness was never able to separate the two – the hypocrisy and dogma of organized religion vs. the essential divinity of the entire Universe, including all Humanity.
There are numerous books that offer suggested explanations for the “missing 30.” In the Bible, Jesus disappears as a young boy, and then suddenly reappears in his thirties, sharing his teachings of prayer (meditation,) unconditional love (ahimsa practice,) and the unvarnished statement that we are ALL Divine, and that He is meant ONLY to be an example; a role model for how to be Divine. He did act as a channel between the Human and the Divine, but only so he could teach us to do it for ourselves. It seems obvious that he never wanted to be “worshiped.” If he had heard people refer to him as “Lord,” (especially in the feudal, European sense of the term) he probably would have been disgusted. He was our touchstone for True Humility. True Humility is embodied in the Second of His commandments: “Love one another as YOU LOVE YOURSELF.” In the First of His Commandments, He says “Love God above all else.” He did NOT say “The Lord Thy God.” That is a mistranslation, based on the medieval English that was being used at the time that The King James Version was assembled.
If you really think about what it meant to be a “lord” at that time, you see that the term is unflattering in the extreme. In those days, a Lord was the equivalent of what was referred to in Goodfellas as a “made man.” They were the wise guys of their day, albeit with the sanction of the Church and State of the day. They became rich from extorting the farmers under their domain, they schemed and scammed for favor in the King or Queen’s court, they exiled and murdered people for political gain, they raped anyone who was not protected by someone else with power, they seldom bathed, and the majority were sexually inclined toward sadomasochism in bed. I really don’t think anyone intended to equate Jesus with these characteristics, yet people use the term to this day. In their day, Lords inspired fear and loathing and one was expected to bow down obsequiously and kiss ass accordingly. This is why we talk to this day of “worshiping The Lord.” In my opinion, Jesus Christ would have most likely preferred a warm embrace or a kiss, and He wanted everyone around him to experience themselves as Christ, NOT as a worshipful, falsely humble, ass-kissing sycophant. Those were the ways one honored a Pharisee or a Sadducee at the time – two extremely pompous types of Jewish holy men in His day.