MAGIC TO THE Nth
BYE BYE, UNIVERSE
MAY 19, 2011. The inspiration for this article came from the only productive conversation I’ve ever had with a student of ancient Tibetan practices.
Back in 1982, I was just building up momentum as a journalist for LA Weekly, writing a flurry of articles on nuclear-weapons issues. I met a few doctors who explained radioactive fallout spread to me, with maps and charts. One of the doctors brought along a friend to a meeting, a bright woman who was between teaching jobs.
She mentioned John Blofeld, who had authored a book about Tibet I admired. After the meeting, she and I had coffee at Zucky’s, in Santa Monica, the old deli that had been open 24/7 for decades. It was a home away from home for all sorts of light-night LA denizens.
We sat at a table and talked until dawn. The upshot of the conversation was: if, as the Tibetans used to say, universe is ultimately a product of mind, and if the individual can imagine and create other universes, where does that happen? Is it important to leave this physical reality to do it, do you do it right here, and if you manage to leave this reality, do you come back?
Quite far-out engaging stuff. It was like collaborating on a science-fiction story. She’d had a number of experiences doing a version of the Tibetan practice called deity visualization (dv). So had I. We compared notes. Especially about time and how it changes during dv.
I told her that once, I had entered a “time channel” that reminded me of the swiftness and happiness of my favorite movie comedy, His Girl Friday. Cary Grant, Ros Russell.
She said, “Have you ever watched a movie and discovered that the actors on the screen were real?”
“You mean, more than images?”
“More than my subjective impressions?”
“Yes,” she said. “Alive.”
Well, that part of the conversation took us through breakfast.
I left Zucky’s with the feeling that a person’s most remarkable and impossible experiences tend to gather dust, unless there is a way to share them. Otherwise, the colors fade; the feelings recede. I vowed not to ever let that happen again.
I’ve kept that vow.
So here we go…this piece is a kind of excursion that traces a leaping line of thought/experience I’ve reflected on many times. It’s the jumping-off point for my 1999 book, The Secret Behind Secret Societies. It’s for you, Margo, wherever you are, whatever you’re doing, and for Zucky’s, long gone, where we brought ancient Tibet back to life one night. It and Zucky’s still live…
People want to say they understand reality.
Or sometimes they want to say they don’t have a clue.
Depends on the situation. And on how they feel.
They can go either way with it.
And they’re right, you can approach reality from both directions. If reality is an egg, you can peel it and break it open and look at it and eat it. As soon as you do, another hardboiled egg appears on the table. And you can break that one and eat it, too. And boom, another egg. Or you can pretend, in the first place, the egg is an impenetrable mystery and just stare at it for a few centuries…
It’s fun, for a while.
But then you run into something like this: “…Because today we live in a society in which spurious realities are manufactured by the media, by governments, by big corporations, by religious groups, political groups. So I ask, in my writing, What is real? Because unceasingly we are bombarded with pseudo-realities manufactured by very sophisticated people using very sophisticated electronic mechanisms. I do not distrust their motives; I distrust their power. They have a lot of it. And it is an astonishing power: that of creating whole universes, universes of mind. I ought to know. I do the same thing.”
Philip K Dick, “How to Build a Universe That Doesn’t Fall Apart Two Days Later,” 1978.
I’m sure science fiction writers have tried their hand at this, but there are interesting story lines to consider—a human approaches and meets the highest level of reality-manufacturers and discovers exactly what the hell is going on.
But I’m not talking about the political, economic, media, medical realities, I’m talking about UNIVERSE-generators, the folks who bring you this whole physical apparatus, the space-time tin can.
Absent, of course, the religious myths. Forget that. All that falls by the wayside right away. It’s just a cover story.
Obvious story line: Universe is an amusement park, with all the chills, thrills, and excitements of a Disney production…factoring in just the right amount of pain and suffering to give it street cred.
Better, the vacation scenario. You’re taking the spouse and kids to a new place, you buy the ticket, and you’re in. WELCOME TO UNIVERSE.
Of course, there’s a trick. The Roach Motel trick. Check in, can’t check out.
After about 20,000,000,000 lives, you’re indoctrinated, as they say.
The ancient Hindus realized there was something fishy about this setup, but they embroidered their insights to include “good reasons why” you and the family shouldn’t be able to escape universe.
The whole karma shell game, the caste system, various hierarchies, running all the way up from microspore and ant to king of the world…
The religion story produces a lot of nonsensical static. You need redemption, you were a bad boy, you can’t do it on your own, you have to contribute to the building fund for a new pyramid or cathedral, your exit strategy must involve grindingly gradual ascension.
But hey, be a good little soldier, and drop coins in the box.
Some people buy into the squishy New Agey variation. We’re all one Glob of Consciousness Goo, that’s the final destination, take it easy, don’t worry, it’ll happen when it’s supposed to.
But see, the clue is:
some guys built universe, so why not build your own?
Trouble is, when you’ve lived in this space-time vacation spot long enough, you tend to forget your have imagination. That’s a drawback if you’re trying to create a brand new universe.
However…you can imagine you have imagination. Works just as well as the real thing. Truth is, there is no real thing. Imagination ultimately IS imagining you have imagination. I know, it sounds odd, but there it is.
You just have to want it.
Physicists tend to get weird on the subject of universe. It’s expanding, it’s decaying, it’s the result of an explosion that came out of nothing and nowhere and still distributed titanic energy, it runs on twelve strings with no guitar player, there’s a bullpen where unused energy is stashed, you can’t destroy even one micro-micro of energy, ever, or that would somehow upset the whole applecart. They’re obviously troubled souls.
In one of the first interviews I did for LA Weekly in 1982, I talked with Bill Perry, who had just quit his cushy job as head of PR for Lawrence Livermore Labs. They do advanced nuclear weapons research there. One day, Bill passed by the desk of a guy who was fidgeting and frowning. He told Bill he was worried about cuts in the defense program. Bill said, “Man, don’t you realize we already have enough bombs to blow up the planet ten times?” The guy stared at him. Zero comprehension. “I’m a physicist,” he said. “I do research. I solve problems.”
Moving along…Ancient European magick was the premise that there was an exit door to universe somewhere. They would eventually show it to you if you submitted to initiation, professed eternal loyalty, and learned all the key words and symbols and ceremonies. Maybe a small cash donation could help. Drugs were sometimes employed. Becoming a slave earned you points.
Yes, there is an exit from the Grand Vacation in the space-time tin can.
But it’s not a magickal portal.
That presents a problem to most people. They don’t like it.
Basically, they want to remain Small while exiting into Big.
Ha-ha, doesn’t work that way. Sorry. Nice thought, though. Clever.
“Yes, I want to move outside this universe through my TV set, while watching Law and Order reruns.”
Seinfeld, maybe. Law and Order, no chance.
Now, if you were sitting in a concert hall when George Carlin was up on stage, that would be different. A few years before he died, my wife and I saw him at an outdoor venue in San Diego. He was trying out new material for an upcoming HBO special. He did a ten minute piece on the end of the universe and his Uncle Dave. It was a stunner. I won’t try to describe it, but I think, if one wanted to choose that moment to wave bye bye to this whole Machine, it would have been possible.
Yet why would anyone want to leave universe? A facile answer might be: after a vacation you’d like to get home.
Or, you want to see what’s outside.
Or you’re tired of same-old same-old.
Or you want to obtain a platform where you can gain decent perspective on this whole vacation location.
You want to try to remember what it was like before you bought the ticket to the ride.
You want to be able to take off from, and come back to, Here. You want that freedom.
You want the kind of power that doesn’t need to operate (and shrink down) within the space-time continuum rules.
And you want to get rid of any stray vestiges of the enormous propaganda that goes along with this universe, the nonsense you’ve been absorbing in all the sorts of vacation brochures that attracted you in the first place.
But let’s not deceive ourselves. Getting out doesn’t automatically mean you become someone else.
You’re still stuck with the fact that you have infinite imagination and infinite creative power. You can’t shuck that off. You might find a spot where you can sink into a couch and watch those Law and Order reruns and not have to worry about having a job or bringing home a paycheck, but amnesia will only take you so far.
Narcosis, amnesia, hypnotic trance—they fight the good fight, but in the end you will need to mount a major campaign to stay small. And even then, the programming tends to develop holes. You wake up one morning, and you look out the window, and you see a reflection of your own power on the horizon.
It’s a disconcerting thing, but hell, immortality has that downside.
So why not do something interesting right here and now? Why not imagine imagination and go for the up? Like it not, there are a whole lot of oysters in the sea, and they’re possible worlds, and they’re yours.
No brochures, no salesmen will call, no killer fee, no packing, no crap to deal with at the airport.
Turns out that when you imagine and create widely enough and adventurously enough and intensely enough and long enough, the road you’re on, around the next bend, has an exit sign. You make the turn and you’re out.
You’re outside universe.
And you can come back.
When people say, without knowing why or what they’re talking about, that there is cosmic joke, this is what they’re really getting a whiff of.
Bye bye or hello, the wind is in your sails, the car is gassed up, the plane’s on the tarmac, the rocket’s on the launching pad. Ready to rip.
You can then push the discovery button, in which case you’ll embark on journeys that involve meeting many interesting people and creatures, some of whom want to burn you. Or you can do a super-galactic war of good versus evil and save the princess from her tormentors. You can glide into astral islands of grottoes, elves, trolls, lost crowns, hyperbolic wizards, sailing ships, and winged horses.
Or you can push the imagine button, in which case you’re the artist starting from scratch. Then you invent without limit.
Remember to lock up the house and set the alarm. Tell the neighbor to feed the dog. You may be away for a while.
There’s an interesting twist to this tale. Sometimes you think you’re in the space-time tin can and you’re really already out. Then, coming back can be quite a kick. Tells you something about why you bought the vacation package in the first place. Being here can be quite exhilarating. Especially if you’re not carrying around all the propaganda with you. As in, “Hey, shut up already. I know what’s in the brochures. Yeah, yeah, yeah. I’m enjoying myself right now. Take a walk. Go sell somebody else.”
Maybe 45 years ago, I was sitting in a movie theater in West LA. It was a Saturday afternoon, and I had walked from my apartment to the theater on a whim. The place was nearly empty. On the big screen, Liz Taylor and Stewart Granger were working through the plot of the costume drama, Beau Brummell. Granger (Beau) and Liz (Lady Patricia) were talking in a drawing room.
The film was a bore. For no particular reason, I decided to home in on the two stars. Focus in hard on them.
After a minute or so, something happened. I wasn’t looking at the movie anymore. I was seeing Liz and Granger, as if they were two ordinary people talking on the street. The fancy overstuffed drawing room, the costumes, the story—they were no longer propping up the artifice of the movie.
You know the old saw about the audience suspending disbelief, in order to accept the terms of a play? Well, I had reversed that. I was in such a diamond-hard state of disbelief, I came rushing into the moment like a freight train. And there they were. Not the characters on screen; not the actors. The two people. Spouting lines to each other. It wasn’t funny, it wasn’t sad, it wasn’t absurd, it WAS. Pure, real. The membrane that separated them from me was torn away.
It was like discovering a pirate’s treasure chest in a fast-food joint next to the cashier. Nobody else saw it. I saw it.
It seemed like it should be illegal. It wasn’t supposed to happen. I was aware some cardinal rule had been broken.
It occurred to me there is a main-event feature about the world and probably the universe itself that is based on permanent andcontinuing distraction. And now the distraction wasn’t there anymore. My mind was very quiet. I was sitting in the dark looking at two people on the screen.
Two people. Very bright on the screen and very clear. There was no movie left. The two of them were undeniably THERE.
The three of us were very alive: I in my seat, the two of them on the screen.
I could have heard a piece of popcorn dropping on a shoe a hundred feet away.
I kept looking at the screen.
What a marvelous thing. The two of them kept talking to each other, I kept watching them. I half-expected one of them to turn to me and tell me to go back to seeing the movie, I was intruding, I should stop.
In the dark space I was sitting in, the air felt cool and gorgeous. The two small side balconies were perfectly scalloped. The muffled sound of somebody whispering down front was clear as a bell.
Everything around me was brilliantly composed.
The raked slant of the seats, the heavy curtains at the sides of the screen, the downward angle of the aisle, the row of little yellow glowing lights on the aisle seats.
Ordinary, but now breathtaking.
Here, in the theater, in that extended moment, without anything added, was a sensational glorious place to be.
The day I met Liz and Granger.
You want to be able to exit, and you want to be able to come back. You want to be able to imagine and create worlds and universes beyond this one. You want to be able to do that from here, from outside, from anywhere. You want the thrill of being outside and the thrill of being here. You want to be able to see reality as ordinary and dull or brilliantly alive.
This is all possible.
This is all doable.
Civilizations always bet on the opposite, they keep doubling down and redoubling on the line that says: can’t happen. When they finally play out the string and see the extreme folly of their way, out of the gloom appear these ancient and present facts written on the sky:
You and I and everyone else is immortal and there is no limit, no boundary.
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