I have written a book about the Fool’s journey. Many of those I knew in the phase of my life that culminated on the Mesa would have said I was the perfect person to write such a book. Back then, I was pretty much an ignorant and naïve fool (the small “f” type) in these matters, missing the context I needed to understand what had really happened. It was twelve years before I discovered that the kind of experiences we had that morning were once well-known, even nearly commonplace. Atop the Mesa, we each underwent an initiation. Some of us were prepared for it and others were not.
The Questions Arise and the Journey Begins
We each had an opportunity to come face-to-face with what in this book I’m going to call Universal Spirit. This term has the advantage of not having the connotations the word “God” does, or similar terms used outside Christianity, such as “Allah” or “Buddha.” It also has the unique advantage that its initial letters form the word “Us,” meaning that we are each part of it, and it is part of each of us.
The word “Fool” means everyman and everywoman who chooses to undertake a spiritual quest. The task of the Fool is to bring into conscious awareness both parts of this “Us” and learn to integrate them within. The end result of such a journey is to bring forth Heaven on Earth, a little bit at a time, one person at a time. This is what we were trying to do on the Mesa that August morning, even though we didn’t realize it. Our mistake was to think such events are in any way outer, external ones. The expectant bride and groom may have indeed have been the Earth and the Spiritual realms, but they are also components within ourselves that we must first crystallize and purify. Once that is done, their marriage may occur within us, but by that time, all distinction between “within” and “without” is gone, and there is only “Us.”
After that morning on the Mesa, I began a search for the understanding of the true meaning of that event. My search led me first into the past, back and forth among different time periods to discover the reasons why this “Us” is almost completely unknown. I learned why this knowledge of personal transformation had to go underground and remain hidden from the Roman Church and later Protestant sects, where it has lain relatively unknown for two thousand years. I came across many traces of it, hidden in myths and legends; in stories of King Arthur and the Holy Grail; in the Knights Templar, the Cathars and the mysterious Priory of Sion; I found it hidden in the origins of Christianity, in the inner meanings of alchemy, the art of Leonardo, in Sufism and shamanism – always the same story, but encoded in different ways.
Most recently, I found it in the Tarot. I had been familiar with the Tarot cards for many years. I’d used them for divination and other things since my twenties, and had collected various different decks. But I developed a new way to organize and sequence the cards, having nothing to do with divination, that illuminated these same, inner meanings in as simple and straightforward manner as I could have hoped.
Death, Rebirth, Initiation
For something to be born, something else has to die. For the Higher Self to be born, that essence that was presented to me as the Teacher, the lower self of the personality had to first die. Every genuine spiritual initiation, ancient, medieval or modern, catalyzes and marks this event. It is not enough to declare, or have someone else declare, that one is born again or something similar. There can be no real rebirth unless there has been a real death, the death of the outer self of the personality. On the Mesa that morning, the moment I gave up, became still and let the Teacher emerge, I had a taste of the small death and the larger birth. It only lasted a few brief minutes, then my former self roared back in with his doubts, regrets and the absorption of disappointment from those around me. Indeed, my death failed so miserably I soon forgot there had been a Teacher at all.
The major Tarot trumps, suitably arranged, provide a spiritual map of initiation, and help guide the seeker–the Fool–through its various stages. Had I and the others known this when we were on the Mesa all those years ago, we might have had some guidance based on established traditions used by the mystery schools for millennia. Instead, we thought we were doing fine, more or less making things up as we went. After all, we thought, this event was part of a “New” Age, and we didn’t need to know much about what had gone before. The problem with this idea was, of course, how to make the momentary changes we all experienced permanent? How does one withstand the pressures, challenges and emotional hurricanes of the everyday world? None of us had a clue, and so none of us could hold the inner states we had achieved for any length of time. The reason for this is that there had been no death of the ego-self. It is exactly the situation in the Zen story where the man refuses to first empty his cup of old tea so that it may then be filled with new tea.
What sort of death is required? First, it is not a physical death, and at no time is physical death or injury implied. It is rather a death of awareness, which is replaced by the birth of a new kind of awareness, and if one can hold onto this new state, the initiation will have been successful. But what does death of awareness mean? It means that the objects of awareness, that which is perceived, are fundamentally changed. New realms of perception are opened, and the ordinary world is seen in an entirely new way. Here, in fact, the most startling revelation occurs: The ordinary world is seen as an illusion, a dream, while a much realer world stands behind it, unseen in ordinary modes of perception.
This idea is fairly well-known today, thanks in part to the popular movie The Matrix, wherein humans are seen to be sleeping, dreaming the ordinary world, but are unaware of doing so. We are convinced the “real” world is real because our senses seem to tell us so. But with certain practices and understandings, new senses are developed that can perceive new realms, just as real now as the ordinary world.
This is indeed a mystery, as we stand now in the ordinary world. But it is hidden inside another mystery: Why don’t more people know about this? The Matrix was just a movie, after all, just a shoot-‘em-up and not real. Wasn’t it? (Most elect to take the Blue Pill and forget about the whole thing. We, however, will swallow as many metaphorical Red Pills as we can get our hands on here in our pursuit of understanding the experience of initiation.)
The same has been said about myths in times past. Gods battling on mountaintops, hurling lightening bolts at each other, are just naïve stories. But if we reach down towards symbolic rather than literal meanings, we can see the first mystery peeking through the camouflage erected by those who tried to protect themselves and their secrets from others in power at the time. Christianity provides the most recent and most egregious example. Spiritual initiation was well-known and widely practiced by dozens of mystery schools in Europe until the fourth century of the Christian era, where they were forced underground in fear for their lives.
A Murder Mystery and Cover-Up
We will use the motif of a murder mystery to investigate the wide-spread cover-up of a secret, and to examine how this secret nonetheless continues to reassert itself in every time and place, including the present time. We will use the device of a detective solving a mystery by discovering clues, interviewing witnesses and survivors and identifying the culprits. Indeed, our detective will first have to gather evidence that a series of crimes have been committed at all! There will be levels within levels here, and our detective will have to beware that one group of “bad guys” (or “good guys”) may be a false lead, and digging even deeper will be required.
Once evidence begins to accumulate, the metaphor of a live stage play will serve to describe the discoveries the Fool on his journey towards initiation must make in his perception of him/herself and the outer world. At this stage, we will discover multiple plots, screenwriters, actors, even theater music, and find that many of the players on the stage of apparent reality (and some of the screenwriters) are the same players who either aid or obstruct those such as our detective in uncovering the outer mystery, for the play is very real. We shall encounter famous people, such as Leonardo Da Vinci and Nicholas Poussin, who tried to keep initiatic themes alive despite desperate and bloodthirsty opposition. The real clues they left have not been decoded until now. We will get to know the culprits behind the series of crimes we are investigating, and come to a very surprising conclusion of who many of them really are, and who their accomplices are.
Finally, a path will reveal itself that delineates the Fool’s journey. We will find that the major trumps of the Tarot pack have a little-known purpose; they accurately portray the stages and obstacles the Fool must traverse on his journey to initiation, so that we can, if we are willing, follow him into unseen realms of existence and experience, thereby obtaining for ourselves the true Holy Grail, the Stone of the alchemists, if we persevere.
And so, let us begin our investigation of a mystery inside a mystery, and watch the play unfold around us. Curtain up!