Once securely in our new house, at the end of a dead end road, surrounded by stands of lumber trees, and a few neighbors up the road from us, we spent our first winter next to the wood stove, our sole source of heat, surrounded with leisure and books. The finished house had running water, thanks to my plumbing, and S’s electrical expertise, all gleaned from books. We hired a well driller to drill a deep well, which, again gracefully, turned into an artesian well, which astounded the driller, because it was not possible, according to him, to have an artesian well at a mere 60 feet deep drilled well. When he finished drilling an additional 60 feet, before admitting we only needed 60 feet, we had pristine, gorgeous water flowing out of that well at a rate of 15 gallons per minute, which overflowed into a tiny stream in the front yard. We did not find a piece of land with a stream on it, but we found a stream in that piece of land after all. This well still flows as it did more than 30 years ago, and the water is still pristine and delicious. I recall the first day that we ran a tub full of water, and looking at the turquoise color of this water in the full tub, and being just astounded at its beauty. The building had a full kitchen, with both an electric stove and a cooking wood stove. It was heated by a Jotul wood stove, in the center of the building, with one bathroom with running water, with a composting toilet. It had two bedrooms, living room, art studio room, cold pantry (full of carrots and potatoes and onions), and a warm pantry off the kitchen, (full of canned tomatoes and beans). To a plumber, my plumbing was not the best of plumbing, no doubt, because it was not at right angles, nor was it beautiful to behold, but it was up to code, or maybe even more so. Likewise, the electrical work was more than up to code, as S was afraid of burning down the place if it was not at least up to code. How we managed to do all of this within 7 months time, and where the energy came, was unclear, but we did. Today, I realize that when we do what we came to do, it is easy and painless, and flows without hindrance, and the energy needed is always there in abundance.
It was here that we began our serious work. I began to work part time at an "art factory"; those places that produce mass produced "original" hand painted paintings that you find on the walls of hotels, restaurants, and lodgings. Signed with a flourish, with a made up name, and a made up signature. I worked just enough to get the needed money for bills, and not more, because our priority was not to make money, but to live our life in freedom and adventure. S remained home to finish up the inside carpentry work that was needed. Somehow, even that early on, we realized that priorities needed to be set, and once that priority was determined, everything else was relegated to serve that priority. This “rule to live by” has served us throughout our life ever since then, and it is a truly golden rule by which to live and to reach any goal, whatever that goal may be.
During the snowy -- and in those days -- very cold winter, we spent a great deal of time reading and thinking, and simply being, something that heretofore we had not found the time to do in the pursuit of a career in first the Navy, and second, the Foreign Service. To be able to pick up a book and spend as much time as you wanted to was a luxury we both welcomed and even wallowed in. To the beginning spiritual seeker, books can be one of the greatest sources of reinforcement, education, discipline, and if the right book is chosen, a virtual guru at hand. S and I spent almost all our extra income (and there was very little of that in those early days), on books. If we could not get them through the library, we would buy them through the mails. This was before the computer, so it wasn’t as easy to find esoteric books, but there were a few sources of mail order through which we would drool with longing to purchase many more than we could afford. We accumulated a terrific library, which we have since given away or sold, from collecting so many books over the years.
The real guru books were recognizable the moment we held them in our hands. Ouspensky’s book, “In Search of the Miraculous”, about Gurdjieff, was an introduction to the limited perception of the normal human being and was for me a living teacher. It broke away many concepts and ideas that obstructed my own perception and prepared me for discoveries many years later that indeed, humankind is asleep, and it is an effort to overcome that state. “A Course in Miracles” was one of such books, and coincidentally, we stumbled upon it through Psychology Today magazine, in the very first year of publication. In those days, it cost $25.00 for the entire set, and that was a great cost to us. Nevertheless, we learned early on to sacrifice other things for the pursuit of truth, so other things would be sacrificed, but books would be bought! “The Gospel of Ramakrishna” was another. Idries Shah’s” The Sufis”, another. Irina Tweedie’s autobiography “Daughter of Fire”, or the condensed version “Chasm of Fire” another. J. Krishnamurti another. Alan Watts’ Zen books were full of spirit. All of the Christian saints biographies I devoured with great fervor, and frequently spoke with the authors in elaborate dreams and conversations. Many visions and dreams of Jesus permeated these years. And of course, later on, I stumbled onto Nisargadatta and Ramana Maharshi, two living books if there ever were any. But that was much later, and of course, most recently, U.G. Krishnamurti simply caught it all up in a nice neat bow, and confirmed for me that there is little one can say about anything in this area, and that’s just fine.
I also stumbled into Da Free John, who at that time was known simply as Bubba Free John or Franklin Jones, who was to play a pivotal role in my own personal spiritual process early on.. Though I never met the man in the flesh, he and I carried on a devotional/love/ecstasy/teaching relationship for several years which colored my waking hours and sleeping hours in such a way that I have to conclude that the power of the man is greater than his failings. He too was a divided teacher and fell from his own grace a number of times due to his predilection for sex and beautiful women. (His excuse was that he was an advahoota (a crazy wisdom teacher), which is carte blanche for miscreants to do whatever they wish to do in the name of instruction of the disciple. Who is to judge what the motivation is, only the doer of the action knows for sure!) Of course, Nisargadatta would respond today to my comments about his power that “It is possible, my dear, that the power is within, and it is a fact that you can’t see out there what is not already within.” If I accept this as truth, which I do, I must admit as well, therefore, that Da Free John’s fall from grace was my fall from grace, and his escapades were undoubtedly within me as well! Maybe that is why he is a decidedly western teacher, because we, or I, as a western individual, had found a western image on which to dredge out from myself all the magic and powers, as well as the most carnal desires imaginable, and reflect them back to me through his image. That is, in the final analysis, what a living guru does for a disciple.
In any case, I am indebted to his (or to my projection of his!), lessons and instruction. It was a moment of sheer palpable ecstasy of the most incredible kind, and my relationship with him was one of the most devotional and loving imaginable but at the same time highly sensually charged. Had I been able to transform that relationship to that of God directly, and indeed, in these encounters he WAS standing in for God for me, or at least his image was -- it would explain why the mystic saints prefer to sit in caves and basilicas for the remainder of their lives in ecstatic devotion to God. Unfortunately, it was unsustainable for me, and only lasted a few years. The Sufis teach, “Don’t stop there”, and of course, they are right. But it was a lovely time while it lasted.
This is not to say that he alone was my instructor. I had intense and ecstatic conversations with other teachers throughout the years as well. Nisargadatta appeared to me, as did Ramakrishna, but this occurred seldom and haphazardly. In a particularly lucid waking dream, Jesus “made me a man”, indeed so stating it as he tied my hair up in a samurai type knot on my head and gave me a sword. I walked with Jesus while he carried his cross, and I wept with him at the end of that walk, with his exhaustion and despair bringing me out of my dream weeping with heartache and my own physical body wet with perspiration from the climb up the mountain with him. To this day, that walk can be felt to the depth of my bones when I recall it. Finally, sweet, sweet Jack Schwartz, a living teacher at the time, and whom we had the enormous good fortune to know personally, and who has since died, was a frequent visitor to my reveries and dreams, even healing me when I could not heal myself. Jack was an eclectic, but Sufic kind of teacher, with a heart as bright as gold, who demonstrated in recorded sessions, in the flesh, the power of mind over the body by stopping his heart, and his blood flow, and healing himself within minutes from a puncture wound. He understood the power of love to such as extent that while he was working the underground during WWII, against the Nazis in Holland, while being tortured by them he turned to his tormentor and said, “It is okay, I love you.” The tormentor left him alone.