Okay, I’m now going to perform the death-defying, futile feat of attempting to describe how Spirit works in the material world. And even though there’s no satisfaction in this process, there’s something exhilarating about trying. I don’t know why that is, but all the other activities in this world seem boring and mechanical by comparison. I think that maybe when I come back into the material world from these spiritual events, I’m like those veterans for whom civilian life is just too sluggish and prosaic, and all I want to do is get back to the action, or at least reminisce.
Jsu Garcia (a veteran of a similar situation, having lived in the high-energy, nonstop world of John-Roger as his assistant for 26 years) did his usual “marathon” (a full day of John-Roger seminars) plus a showing of “Mystical Traveler: The Life and Times of Dr. John-Roger” on October 22, the two-year anniversary of J-R’s passing, in New York City.
In my mind New York stands out as the only city where steam comes up out of the ground. Not just little wisps, but billows of it. And it’s not from something natural, but from a human-made steam system, started in 1882, that runs under the whole city, used for heating, cooling, cleaning. If it were smoke it would be infernal and toxic; if it were cold air it would be sterile and inhibiting. This is warm and fertile, ground-borne but harmless. J-R says that the ego is made up of mind plus emotions, and in mythology, symbology, astrology, etc., mind is air and emotion is water. Together they make steam, and New York is a place where the ego has not only expanded into the skies, trying to place the earth up there, but has conquered the underground as well, and transformed it into something flowing, forceful, functional, and eruptive. In many places the steam can’t be contained and escapes to join the buildings, people and sky in one big ego-mass, scented by whatever happens to lie under the ground in that spot—usually a trash-tinged, sweet-and-sour pungent earth-and-wet-concrete fragrance. But when it surges from the sidewalks all that underground commotion dissipates into the air and comes to nothing, a reminder of how the ego-creations that cover the sky will eventually dissolve as well.
And the food. Food on every block, mounds of it. Not the demure little snack-meals you get on the west coast, or the sugar-and-grease emotion-stuffing of other areas of the country; but a massive, no-holds-barred, multi-cultural, high-protein, high-carb, high-fat, high-everything all-out assault on anything that might create doubt about the achievability of total satisfaction, immediately and 24/7. Everywhere else, food seems to represent something, whether it’s family or security or health or refinement. In NYC food is just food. And it’s always portable so you can have something with you to tide you over during the couple of blocks where there’s no food. It seems like there’s a pizza place on every corner, open all night. Pancakes, burgers, 3-inch high deli sandwiches, potatoes of every kind served with everything you order, gargantuan steaks, 4 different kinds of cheesecake cut into slices 4 inches on the thick end; huge bowls of soup with matzoh-balls as big as my fist; Chinese takeout in bagfuls of small-footprint vertical boxes that seduce you into thinking that five narrow boxes is less food that one huge one, but that expand to take over the whole kitchen table once they’re indoors; diners with 10-page single-spaced menus; comfort food, the kind of food that that children love because it’s big and soft and simple and endless, and it doesn’t mean anything except food. (I went to Boston the day after, and as soon as I landed I thought, “Where’s the food?” The restaurants were spaced out too far from each other as though they were just for special occasions. It felt like there was some kind of miserly selectivity going on that imposed an arbitrary time-delay between desire and fulfillment, just so that things didn’t get out of hand, as if there’s something slightly dangerous about food, or maybe about pleasure in general.)
And the noise. It’s a roar, as loud at night as in the day. Not a sinister or violent roar, but not a roar of delight either. And not a roar of disorder or confusion as in third-world countries. Not the roar of animals or children, or pain or pleasure. Not a roar that’s unrestrained or a roar that’s limited. It doesn’t come in waves or get louder and softer; it’s constant. Because of the canyons created by the buildings it’s an echoing that doesn’t seem to come from any direction. It’s an auditory rendering of work and movement, of car horns, traffic, machines, shouts, footsteps and thousands of voices, a lingering reverb of perpetual motion, bouncing off the building-canyons forever, as though what you’re hearing at 3 am could have been created at midnight, so that it doesn’t have a clear point of origin in time, like the light coming from distant stars. After a while it’s so blended and formless that it fades into the background, and you perceive it as a kind of silence.
Into this chaos comes a band of people, some native, some visitors, to participate in the equally delicious chaos of a whole day of seminars by a spiritual teacher or master (although he would deny that he’s either of those) who is as human and warm as New York, and as unpredictable and dynamic. Out of the all-inclusive pageant of J-R’s consciousness come so many different points of view, so many different explanations of the psychology motivating our human dilemmas, and so many tools and prescriptions for how to deal with them, that after a while the mind gets overwhelmed, and the hugeness of it starts to dissolve the stuck points in consciousness, until there’s a feeling of floating above that jumble and being able to see more clearly how it can be moved, shaped, or used to clear personal issues. It’s very similar to the directionless roar of New York. There’s so much that you have to love it all, and it moves so fast that you can’t impede it. You know you’re not going to be able to deal with all of it from a single point of view, so you have to expand to match it and take on multiple points of view. You’re put into a situation where the only way out is love and movement, because to sit still is to be overrun or left behind. Jokes transform into philosophy and back again; questions are posed and unanswered; nuggets of wisdom emerge from a stream of consciousness and then disappear, and stories veer off and drop from their trajectory, so that everything predictable is overturned, and if you can hold your center without being distracted, you’re lifted above it into a deep, meditative state.
Jsu’s personality is similar, and you can see how he’s absorbed and been transformed by J-R’s consciousness. There is an absence of rules and boundaries, a fluid, mindless madness that’s also soft and sweet. The eyes have a deep and constant harmlessness while the mouth and body range freely over the largest possible range of human expression. You don’t know what you’re going to get as he introduces each seminar, but whatever it is will be performed with full commitment combined with lack of attachment. Something is going to move, and anything is going to be possible, and it’s going to be either funny, or fun, or poignant, but always alive because it’s coming from a state of openness rather than control or agenda.
People come in and out of the videos to hang out and eat (of course) in a nearby kitchen. It’s a family affair, conducted at “Joynture,” a communal office space downtown on Wall Street. At the end is “Mystical Traveler: The Life and Times of Dr. John-Roger,” a sprawling 3-and-a-half hour biography that moves and changes with the same uncontrolled range of possibility as J-R. I’ve seen it many times now, and this time when it starts I think that I can’t stand to watch it again. But after half an hour I give up and let it wash over me. As I let go of trying to focus on the outer pictures and words, the energy comes more and more alive, and I go into an ecstatic, non-physical state where it’s all I can do to sit up and stay conscious in the body. By letting go of my focus, everything opens up like one of those 3-D paintings. J-R goes from coal miner’s son to teacher to celebrity to world traveler, from rural Utah to 1950’s beatnik San Francisco to new age Southern California; hair and body weight change, speaking styles change and then revert back again. You can’t even imitate his accent, which is middle American everyman but with the precision and elocution of a Brit, combining intense emotion with intellectual meticulousness. Everything is temporary in this anarchic panoply of outer expression, so you might as well go in and start searching for what’s underneath that.
What’s underneath is a joyful detachment that comes through J-R’s voice and demeanor, a freedom and lack of concern for form that seeps through even his most ordinary actions, and comes across as what J-R has called a “carrier-wave” of loving. If you can let go of the outer, you get to feel the carrier wave, as everything in the outer expression is designed to undermine itself. If you have any judgments or expectations of what spirituality is, you’ll stay in the outer levels and miss it. But if you don’t try to catch or hold onto anything, your consciousness drifts from text to subtext, from agenda to detachment, from judgment to acceptance, from control to letting go, from resistance to loving, from noise to silence.
And to complete this overrunning of all definition, you can’t even define the experience as an inner journey. Even that gets upended. I take a break and I’m texted by a friend with some photos from a NY gallery, and it turns out the gallery owner is someone I met briefly on a train 35 years ago in NY, who made a big impression on me, and whose name I still remember. A big block of karma and memory shears off and shifts a lot of things inside me related to New York and my childhood there. The intensity of the spiritual energy releases karma in a way that’s very powerful, and has a noticeably different flavor from life outside of the Mystical Traveler energy field. That energy speeds up, amplifies and re-orders everything, and the feeling is like a heightened reality, very much like a dream or a drug experience, but more systematic and harmonious, guided by beings who cherish and respect you and who know your pain and how to release it with compassion, rather than the uncaring tricksters that rule the drug realms and some of the lower dream worlds. What seems like inflexible physical cause-and-effect is spiritualized, de-stabilized, deconstructed and rarefied so it’s more easily transformed. Even the earth becomes less solid, and the underground is liquefied by steam.
Even though this is October 22, the second anniversary of J-R’s passing on October 22, 2014, I don’t feel a hint of death or sorrow anywhere. It’s as lively as New York in that room, and you can see it on the face of 5-month-old Oliver, son of Jim and Emily John, who say that Oliver has a fascination with J-R that gets turned on anytime there’s a video. His range of expressions is as alive and fluid as J-R, and Jsu, and New York. I think it’s just as J-R would have wanted it. Chaotic and steamy, a quiet roar.
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