We don’t remember conversations in full tableau. Instead, glistening moments, a bluesy vignette, a mere phrase filled with undisclosed meaning. They shine like supernovae across our lifespan, persistently prodding us to mine their significance with each new contemplation. Gifts which keep on giving.
“Do you believe there are adepts, Robert”? His voice kind, not intrusive. The conversation had come to this.
The query hung suspended in spacetime, buoyed up by the slanting diffuse afternoon light pulsating in some conversation’s parlor. 15,000 days ago, give or take some hundreds, this same gold September glow. It pervaded both room and thoughts, unloosing an unhurried grace permitting a pleasant but engaged eternity for composing my response.
Mac’s regard was permissive too. Eyes limpid, blue-green. Their transparent outermost layer suggesting a turbulent sea of kind but insistent inquiry beneath. He did not want a swift reply. He wanted a deeper taking stock of the wellsprings driving my intuition. Something considered, something tolerant of doubt, something courageously post-rational without sacrificing one’s temperance. He knew that my data was crucial to his own. For Mac was actively seeking, as was I. By his own quite different highway, he’d come to also see what was now, and had long been, the number one line of questioning confronting humanity. Those who were looking.
“Yes, I do.” Pulling the truth out of a sailing cloud I was fixed upon out beyond the window. Calm. I allowed the words to walk past my lips, but colored them with me. “I do.”
And these words too lived for their own while, imparting a certain mood to the air we were inhaling.
I thought of the succession of esotericists whose biographies and writings I had probed. Casteneda’s Mexican mysticism, proponents of Taoism, Sufi aphorisms, Gurdjieff’s sometimes astounding insights, often too implausible yet evocative to be fabricated, Ouspensky’s drier more scholarly approach, and the luminous esoteric Christianity disclosed by Rudolf Steiner. Especially the latter bore the haunting scent of truth while at the same time being the least evangelical. But what really struck the bull’s eye for me was the work of the warrior poets, and other artists, who produced such a body of compelling beauty that I could not help but think of them as historical initiates in some ‘openly secret’ fashion, perceiving both human nature and the cosmos as mirrored pictograms of each other. Microcosm and macrocosm, each with a tincture of the opposite within their holy cores.
Mac considered long, as if rolling his tongue around to locate the subtlest retiring indicative taste of some never encountered beverage. We were patient, listening. Then he seemed to catch his elusive thought. “The Chosen Few…”, it trailed off slow and indistinct. A long receding wave retreating on a gentle nearly level shoreline. It was part question, part assessment, part mystery. And I’ve revisited it many times in the intervening years, always adding a layer to the watercolor.
Mac was a Roman Catholic at heart, I think. Though he was in the game for real, not easily willing to obey a doctrine thrust upon him externally. He was a digester. A chef in his own crucible of experience. An attorney, as well, often devoted to pro bono work. I could sense how heavily he weighed the ideal of eventual redemption for all, or for most, for the weak, the stumbling, the downtrodden, the unfocused, the ones prone to errant mishap.
I cannot recall how we departed, precisely. It was our final encounter this round. I think with a silent agreement to hold each other’s outlook in a place of safekeeping, for the sake of inner scrutiny in unknown moments ahead. I’ve thought upon the mustard seed parable, to clarify its import. No, not clarify, cultivate! For when have I met someone with a true commitment or understanding concerning this mystery? Least of all the clergy.
And so the barren soil, the rocky ground, the insufficient water or sunlight, the absent shelter from chance winds — all revisit me again on this similar contemporary afternoon, under this same gold September’s glow. So much depends upon the ones who persist the narrowest of routes, who prevail up the rocky ledge. Who break through to the realization that Kingdom of Heaven is neither location nor endless reward, but in truth a higher stage of consciousness and perception. And who must steer there by straining to identify and dissipate their beloved superficial cloud of egotism. No easy task this, especially in this age of entrenched scientism, for hard pill to swallow: cognition of the next available level of spiritual reality depends only a little upon reason, but very greatly upon moral inner work. Those who pierce the veil, who learn to comprehend the maps shown, matter so much. It is only by grace of their possible future sacrifice, which we are not in a position to comprehend, that all the grapes can be gathered from the vine. The one exemplary life has been displayed on the world’s stage. It’s details are not available to superficial history. It must be meditated to be grasped. You must be in it for the long haul. The sacrifice must be repeated, in the long run, individually.
A gorgeous piece of music I’ve long delighted over carries a similar feeling for me as the episode depicted above. Really, it’s value has deepened for me over time — it signifies more to me now than then, and seems richer. It shares the same title. The more sides we can think of to consider a thing from, the more depth the thing reveals. I love the way the melody undergoes a false expiration around the 4:30 mark, only to gradually rise unpredictably and beautifully like a phoenix from it’s own corpse, unveiling something strangely related but new:
[ Image : detail from Andrew Wyeth’s ‘The Wind From The Sea’ (1947) — one of my absolutely most loved American paintings. It hangs in D.C.’s National Gallery. We don’t detect the deeper truths about things by virtue of direct perception, rather by noticing their effects. ] (link)
NOTES: The tune is from Weather Report’s 1977 album entitled Heavy Weather. At this point the impossibly talented Jaco Pastorius had joined full time as their expressive bassist and co-composer. They also had two fluent percussionists, and these three together concocted a percolating counterpart for the complex melodic outbursts from Joe Zawinul (keyboards) and Wayne Shorter (saxaphones). Five sensitive musicians at the top of their game going full tilt.
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