There is a school of thought, I believe it’s called Gnosticism, wherein the God of this decaying, dying material plane is seen as mad, and we, the individuated conscious monads are trapped, as it were, in his nightmare. The True God, being perfect, CANNOT have any intercession with the material plane, as that God is in a state of perfection beyond the material. Until we find the enlightenment of transcendent knowingness, we cannot, as it were, “Go Back to Godhead.” Until then, we continue, as Buddha said, “to reenter the womb,” to stay mired in physical reality, which is the stuff that, cyclically. always sickens, decays and dies. The world of Maya, the Illusion.
“When a person dies, he changes from human to something else.” -Sseruwu, African cannibal, quoted in “True Vampires” by Sondra London.
Socialist reformer W.T. Stead was fascinated by spiritualism and psychic phenomena, so much so that when a medium told him he must not, under any circumstances, travel by sea, he went and booked passage aboard an ocean liner for her maiden voyage.
He died aboard the Titanic, April 15, 1912.
There is a story told of Lord Krishna. When he was a toddler at Brindavan, he liked to steal butter and cream. He was roundly scorned for this, and his mother told him he should take care never to do it again.
So, the next time the little Lord set about playing at the homes of his young friends, instead of making off with the butter, he grabbed a baby fistful of mud, ramming it into his mouth. His young friends, seeing what the baby had done, were offended, and went to tell his mother, Yashoda.
When he returned home, Lord Krishna’s mother said to him, “You awful, unthinking child! I will teach you never to put filthy mud into your mouth again!”
And she started to enact his punishment. Perhaps she was going to make him suck on a sour lemon, or even a cake of soap. We are not told. Whatever the case, though, when Lord Krishna opened his mouth, his mother was treated to an astounding sight:
She saw hills and valleys, trees and fields, rushing rivers, and vast craggy peaks. She saw mountainous rises and shallow dips, the twinkling, starlit array of diamonds in the black, vaulted firmament of heaven. She saw the planets, each with its own life, and the suns burning brightly in wonder, and the forgotten depths of the ocean floors, and even the raging waters of other worlds.
She, indeed, beheld the universe in the suckling infant’s mouth.
Lord Krishna’s mother fell to weeping, as she realized that Vishnu had come to earth in the form of her son.
(We imagine that, after that, he was treated to all the butter and cream he liked.)
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Kimberly mining camp in South Africa, in 1873, was a rough and tumble collection of shanty shacks, gambling “hells”, dens of iniquity and vice, prostitution, drunkenness; what one would expect, for the most part, from a boom town that had grown up overnight, its development driven by the lust for glittering riches, hidden in the form of diamonds buried beneath the earthen crust.
It was into one of these establishments that a young man entered, possessed of a small sum of money he was eager to multiply. Seeking out the roulette table like a lemming looking for a cliff, he sauntered up, laid down his bets, and began to play. And lose. And go again. And lose again. and, yet, for him, at least, losing only a part of his wealth was not enough.
The gambler’s mania had gripped him, and, soon, he found himself dispossessed of all but a single British pound. (Or, we at least assume it was a British pound. I suppose it could have been a single Rand. We’re unsure of this. Let’s compromise for now and just call the measly currency he proffered a “dollar,” shall we?)
Raymond Chandler has a story called “You Play the Black, and the Red Comes Up.” Raymond Chandler novels were full of desperate men and beautiful, deadly dames, all of whom lived in a world that was, essentially, amoral, predatory, rife with scoundrelism and, just beneath the aching, tired, weather-beaten and undeniably phony façade , was corrupt deep down to the core. Life is ugly, men are predators, and dames is “no damn good.”
Of course, the young man was soon divested of this money, and beating his breast in despair (or, so we assume), dragged his sorry carcass out the door of the so-good den of gambling and vice, much to the cheers and jeers of the other assembled gamblers. It was not long after that a shot rang out in the street.
“Well, I’ll be damned. The sorry bastard has went and done himself in!” someone must have shouted.
(You’ll forgive us the literary license of putting words in the mouth of a fictional bystander. We do it only toward the establishment of a dramatic effect.)
In the dusty, rutted, dirty road lay a bleeding body, the hand still gripping the butt of the pistol, a pool of crimson wetting the earth around the rawboned, grief-addled, but undeniably handsome visage of the dead young miner. A small crowd gathered to circle, like human vultures, and spit forth exclamations, mutterings, and various imprecations to the preservative power of putative saints.
They must have dragged the body off to the morgue. I suppose it was unceremoniously deposited into a cold, lonely, paupers’ grave, to be eternally forgotten, except by the windblown trees.
Soon after, as if in a cosmic chuckle at the ill-starred fate of the so-unfortunate suicided loser, a quite similar young fellow entered a gambling establishment called Dodd’s Canteen. He had only one dollar in his pocket. His name, incidentally, was David Harris.
He sauntered over to the roulette table. Should he lay down his single, hard-earned dollar, risk the only money he had, all and everything, on a simple intuitive feeling?
He finally decided to do so. Mr. Harris left Dodd’s Canteen 1,400 dollars wealthier than when he entered it. In time, he would develop this small sum of money into a vast fortune.
So turns the inscrutable Wheel of Fortune. For one man wealth and happiness; for another rack and ruin. The completely illogical nature of this seems, to us at least, to almost smack of a kind of cosmic sadism; or perhaps, it’s all one big joke, with the final joke always being on you.
Even the Prince catches up with the Pauper, eventually; in the shallow depths of a cold, hard grave.
But, still, one must surely beat his breast, raise his fists to heaven, and damn God for the inscrutable way in which he metes out destiny in the world. C’est la vie!
So here I am sitting in church.
“Wait, didn’t you say you had a dream about God last night?”
Someone to my left asks me this. In point of fact, I had a dream I died. Went through the whole tunnel of light thing. A space-alien voice, like a prerecorded robot female telephone operator says, “And I started moving faster and faster.” And right away, I make that God has everyone on a string, like the Krishnas believe, and when he pulls up…that’s death.
But I don’t tell the guy any of this.
In front of the church, on either side of the altar, the pastor and some other rube is sitting, and I make I should get up out of the pew, and so I go up to them and the pastor smiles at me, great, awesome gape of a grin…
“Hey, don’t you remember your instructions?”
He smiles. Secretly, I hate and fear the man, as his withering contempt is somehow frightening to me. But, it looks like his church has fallen on hard times. The decor is the same, but this business with two tables set up for communion…I don’t understand.
He hands me a sprig of grapes. I suppose this is the untrammeled body of Christ. Or maybe, like the ancient hymn, He is trampling out the vintage.
(“In the lilies of the valley, Christ was born across the sea, with a splendor in his bosom that transfigured you and me…”
I wake up with this in my head. Something about these lyrics…
“As he died to make men holy, let us die to make men free…”
Our God is marching on. )
I look at them, rather nonplussed. He is sitting in what looks like a lawn chair. It’s all very casual. This is communion?
My grandfather is leaning over the table on the right. I walk up behind him, and he hands over a clear plastic Dixie cup spilling over with wafers. The Body of Christ? I think to myself, disgustedly.
“Don’t you remember your instructions?” His question kept reverberating inside my skull. I had dreamed, the night before, that God had everyone on an invisible cord, like the silver cord spiritualists claim connects the astral body and the physical body to keep them from separating on the earth plane. And when we die? He simply pulls the cord, like pulling the plug.
We go up, up, up…through the tunnel of light. “Faster and faster,” claimed the cyborg-like voice.
Faster and faster.
But, I couldn’t, at any rate, remember whatever it was my instructions were supposed to be.
And I was separated from God.
And maybe we explode like a burning flame, flicker out like a dying star. And maybe we are trampled like the vintage, like the grapes of wrath…
And maybe, and maybe, and maybe so…