Here begins the chronological story of Marcus’ life, as he tells it to Victor Noble
There wasn’t much traffic as we headed north on Route 80 in the middle of a weekday morning. Marcus kept the car in the left lane and drove very fast. He was completely placid and relaxed, even though the speedometer often inched up toward 90. Pinole, Hercules, and Rodeo were hardly more than blurs as we blew past them.
Helena sat up front with Marcus, and Sabrina and I were in the back seat with all of our worldly possessions, those of them that were not in the trunk; luckily there was less than a carload, for we had both been living vagabond lives. Orion was behind us on his motorcycle, maintaining an even ten carlengths so steadily that he might have been a waterskier in tow. It was the third day after the “war” with the witches and magicians.
There came a moment when for no apparent reason Marcus began to slow the car. Soon we were in the right lane, the needle pasted on 55; Orion was still a steady shadow behind us, but had halved his distance.
Helena glanced around, and smiled at my puzzled look. I said, “We’re not getting off the freeway here, are we?”
“No,” she said, “but something is going to happen in a minute or two. Just watch.”
In short order a car zoomed past us in the left lane, going about 75. Several heartbeats later we heard the dim wail of a siren in the distance behind us. It quickly crescendoed with flashing red lights as the California Highway Patrol barreled through in hot pursuit of the speeding car.
“Wow,” I said, “do you have one of those gadgets that pick up police radar?”
“We don’t need one when Marcus is driving,” said Helena. “He’s a psychic fuzzbuster.”
I was amazed, and didn’t quite believe it. Now we passed the CHP cruiser parked behind the car it had pulled over. The officer was writing a ticket. “It happens every time,” Helena assured me. “That’s why Orion is following us. He knows he’ll make much better time than if he rode on his own.” A couple of miles after passing the cop and his victim, Marcus swung back into the left lane and resumed warp speed.
We crossed a bridge and exited onto a smaller road. “What town is this?” I asked.
“Vallejo,” said Sabrina, and it sounded distinctly distasteful in her mouth. “I lived here for a few years as a kid, before my father changed jobs:”
“What was it like?”
“Very, very middle class.”
“There are worse things,” said Marcus. “Though I have to admit that I didn’t exactly have a normal upbringing myself.”
“How did you grow up?” I asked him. “I’ve often wondered about your past life, but you’ve never told me very much. Is it a secret or something?”
Marcus smiled. “Parts of it are secret, and I don’t tell much of the rest of it to just anyone. But if you’re interested, I’ll tell it now, to you. As much, at least, as you’re willing to hear.”
“Tell it all,” I said; “I’ll let you know if I get bored.” But somehow I knew I wouldn’t.
So it was that as we drove to the V alley of the Moon that day, Marcus related a brief but suggestive account of his life up till then. Helena often broke in and offered details in areas where modesty made Marcus reticent. In the next four and a half years I was to learn much more, and was given access to documents which confirmed the accuracy of all the important points, including the ones that strain credibility. I draw upon all these sources in the story that follows ~ my total knowledge of the life of Marcus before 1980 ~ though I condense it all into the length of a morning’s drive.
Marcus’ father was a Norwegian physicist named Magnus Christianson. His mother, Anastasia, was the daughter of Russian nobles who had fled the revolution; she was a close relative of the Romanovs.
Magnus had been of the faction that welcomed the union of Norway with Germany, and did top secret research and development for the regime, an effort that continued through the Second World War. When in 1944 it became clear that the cause was lost, Magnus’ friends and superiors persuaded him to save himself by emigrating. Papers were forged and records falsified by officials on the highest levels to make it appear that Magnus had actually opposed the regime, and was fleeing persecution by it. In this way he was permitted entry into the United States in December of that year, along with his pregnant wife.
So it was that Marcus was born as an American citizen, on Hiroshima Day, as has been noted, and perhaps at the very moment of the explosion. “Marcus was the first Baby Boomer,” said Helena, and he groaned good-naturedly at the pun.
Marcus mentioned that had he been born in Norway his surname would’ve been “Magnusson”, in accordance with the custom there; but his parents elected to honor the legalities and forms of their new country.
“And where in the U.S. were you born?” I asked.
“Pennsylvania,” said Marcus. “My father took a position as research director of a large steel company.”
I was born and raised in Pennsylvania myself, so I asked Marcus exactly where in the state he had been born; but for some reason he seemed reluctant to answer. “Shall I tell them?” asked Helena.
“If you must,” said Marcus.
“Bethlehem,” she said.
Marcus demonstrated a lot of precocity right from the start. He spoke words and even sentences by the age of four months. He didn’t cry to let his mother know that he was hungry ~ he said: “Mom, where’s my breast milk?”
His parents, being highly intelligent and sensitive people, did everything they could to nurture and encourage Marcus’ burgeoning abilities. So it was that he could read comic books by the time he was one year old, and novels a few months later. By the age of four he was doing algebra.
When he turned five, Magnus and Anastasia enrolled Marcus in a private school for gifted children. He throve there, not only academically but also in the program of physical development, which included sports and ballet. He was socially prodigious as well, emerging early on as a leader, even among these advanced children. The only blot on his scholastic record was that he sometimes got into fights.
Marcus explained that “The main difference between me and the other little geniuses was that I knew what was really going on in the world. They all wanted to grow up to be TV stars and millionaires. But my parents were able to make it clear to me that the Ophidians had really won the war, and were now in the final stages of consolidating their power over the whole of world civilization. And I was smart enough to understand their admonitions that I must never talk about this openly with anyone outside the family, or the family’s small circle of confidants. So you see, I knew from the beginning that I had a very special mission in life.”
Marcus apparently had some precocious sexual experiences with girls in his school and neighborhood from the time he was nine. He didn’t say much about these except to specify that “I never went all the way, because I was worried that something bad might happen to the girl. It wasn’t just a matter of getting pregnant ~ most of them hadn’t even hit menarche yet. There was something more involved.”
I wasn’t sure I fully understood, but Sabrina said, “Oh, I know what you mean.”
Marcus was graduated and awarded a high school diploma at the age of 12, a remarkable accomplishment even in his private academy. His parents had been making plans to find a college that would accept him, and a number of prestigious universities had expressed interest. Marcus himself favored Harvard, and was making plans to enroll for the autumn semester that year, which was 1957; but an unexpected event intervened during the course of the summer.
LSD-25 had been circulating discreetly in certain upper-class cliques all through the 1950s, even though it would not become known to the general public until its giddy explosion in the ’60s. Some of its afficiandoes had visionary plans of using it to transform the planet by giving it to world leaders and inducing in them a change of heart; and indeed, according to Marcus, a number of very powerful people took the drug in private and affirmed that they had been ennobled thereby. The main point was that this secret substance was at that time held in very high regard by the cognoscenti.
Among the friends of Magnus and Anastasia were Eric and Mariel Dietrich, a young couple who had both sprung from lines high in the American aristocracy; Mariel’s family had been friends with aviation hero Charles Lindbergh before the war. There came an evening when these two arrived for a visit just bubbling over with ecstatic stories of something nearly miraculous that had recently happened to them. It sounded like they had had some sort of mutual religious experience, and at length, in response to Magnus’ probing questions, they revealed that it had been induced by a drug.
“But what a drug!” said Eric. “Forget your preconceptions. This is not something sordid and addictive, but positive and marvelous … even holy and sacred. Scoff if you like, but that’s how we felt ~ and we’re not alone in feeling that way.” They then rattled off the names of a number of people highly esteemed by the Christiansons who, they said, had also taken this drug and subsequently sung its praises. Finally they urged Magnus and Anastasia to try it themselves.
“It’s beatific,” said Mariel. “When you walk in the woods or just sit in the grass, you open up to all of nature and discover God in it.”
“I know,” said Anastasia, “for I have had this experience. And I did not need any drug to make it happen.”
“Ah!” said Eric, “natural religious experience.”
“Yes, very natural. This has happened to me a number of times in my life, always at the moments when I needed it the most. It would not be necessary or proper to try to force the hand of Divine Providence by artificial means.”
“I accept this,” said Eric. “You don’t need LSD. But let me point out that you are very special. You’re a saintly woman, Anastasia; I truly feel you were born as a blessed soul. But for those of us who are not as far advanced in the spirit, it can be beneficial to get a little glimpse of the sacred, even if it is by means that might well be called artificial. And although the substance is artificial, let me assure you that the experience itself is genuine.”
“That,” said Magnus, “would be very difficult to prove scientifically.”
“To the contrary. Now that we have this tool to induce these states which had always been so quixotic and chimerical, we can begin to do hard scientific research on them. I know a psychologist, a biologist, and a chemist who have all taken LSD and are applying for grants to begin such research. Magnus, this will be the greatest scientific revolution since Copernicus!”
Magnus appeared to be slightly swayed. He admitted that he was tempted to try the experiment ~ he was a scientist, after all. But he finally decided that his responsibility to his family, his work, and his people precluded his taking such a risk at this stage of his life. And in fact the young people had been forthright in admitting the risks ~ anything that could affect the mind this powerfully was bound to contain dangers that were as yet unknown. They had heard of no cases of a serious negative reaction among the people who had taken it privately; but it was rumored that the CIA was also using the drug, for less benevolent purposes ~ so it clearly had that potential.
That might have been the end of the matter as far as the Christiansons were concerned ~ except that at that moment Marcus sauntered into the room and revealed that he had been eavesdropping the whole time. He apologized for the breach of courtesy, and then announced: “I would very much like to try this drug.”
All the adults were upset, feeling abashed and guilty about their irresponsibility in allowing the boy to be exposed to this obviously seductive information. But Marcus launched into an impassioned and eloquent monologue which showed that he had a very intelligent appreciation of everything Eric and Mariel had said. Albeit with great reluctance and anxiety, his parents began to come around. They asked if there were any known cases of children taking this LSD; Mariel said yes, she had heard of some, though not as young as Marcus; but the teenagers involved had shown positive changes after their experience.
Magnus said, “If anything happened to Marcus, I would never forgive myself.”
“Dad,” said Marcus, “you know I have an adult’s intelligence and abilities in many ways. I’m totally confidant that if Eric and Mariel and all these other people can deal with this experience, then I can too.”
“Yes,” said Magnus, “in my heart I feel you can.” He hugged Anastasia to him, for she was trembling. “But what of you, dear one? How can the mother’s heart inside you go through the fear and worry of this trial?”
“If it must,” she said, “it can. The only serious question for me is whether Marcus has grown into a man enough to be given his will in this dangerous affair. It’s difficult for me to believe it’s so ~ for after all, here he stands, a boy of twelve. Yet he has not only the mind but in many ways the heart of a man ~ much more than in any boy I have ever known. So if both my men are in agreement on this, I feel it would be a sin for me to thwart the manly will.”
With a great sigh, Magnus said, “Very well. But I confess that my own heart trembles.”
Marcus was elated, but constrained himself. He said, “Gee, I really love you both! I’m sorry that you’ll be so worried but … well, you’ll see ~ I’ll be fine.”
So it was agreed that within the next couple of weeks arrangements would be made with Eric’s parents to bring the Christiansons for a visit to their estate in the countryside nearby. This, it was felt, would be the most conducive setting to a favorable experience with the drug for Marcus.
“It’s such a lovely place,” said Mariel. “It’s where Eric and I had our first LSD experience. It makes it easy for Divine Providence to find you.”
The Dietrichs were descendants of the Pennsylvania Dutch who had begun settling the area almost three centuries before. An early patriarch of the family had expanded from farming into produce distribution and retail. He became one of the founders of the Great Atlantic and Pacific Tea Company, which in turn gave birth to the A&P supermarket chain. To say that the family was very wealthy was an understatement.
It had been decided that Marcus would go out on the rolling acres of the estate with Eric and Mariel and take the drug, while his parents stayed and socialized with the elder Dietrichs in the manse. There were a number of reasons for this, not least of which was the possible negative effect that the anxiety of his parents might have on Marcus. As Mariel had explained, when you’re on LSD you become hypersensitive to the feelings of others, and your own emotional reactions are magnified; so to insure a good experience, it’s advisable to seek only positive stimulation, as much as possible. The tentative plan was that after the initial intense phase of the experience had passed, the three would return to the house and Marcus could relate to his parents.
It was a gorgeously sunny summer day. They sat under a tree and opened their soft drinks and snacks. Then Eric took out a pocket calendar and removed something from inside the vinyl cover. “LSD,” he said, “is such a powerful substance that it requires only a tiny little bit to induce a strong experience. It’s measured in micrograms, not milligrams like most drugs and medicines. In its original liquid form it’s very difficult to measure precise amounts. So our friend who gave it to us hit upon a solution.” He showed Marcus a small white square of paper, about the size of a fingernail. “He puts carefully measured drops of the liquid onto absorbent paper like this, and thus it’s possible to know exactly how much you’re taking. And it’s also possible to take less than the full dose.” Now he took a pair of scissors from his knapsack, and cut off one quarter of the square. This he put onto the frosting of a bit of crumpet, and handed it to Marcus. Marcus held it up to the Sun for a moment, as if making an oblation; then he swallowed it.
“The trees are wobbling,” said Marcus.
“That’s the hallucinatory effect,” said Marie!’ “How does it make you feel?”
“It makes me nervous.”
Indeed, Marcus was visibly disturbed by the first effects of the drug. It didn’t help when Eric explained that “What you’re seeing is what you always see: the raw impressions of your vision and other senses. But you have a mechanism in your head that filters out the inconsistencies and rough edges, and creates the illusion of a solid, coherent material world. And that’s the point: that it is an illusion. Just relax and let go, and you’ll see what lies behind the illusion.”
But Marcus couldn’t let go. He began to notice that his two friends seemed strange, subtly different from their usual selves. They exchanged a few words between them. Marcus attempted to join the conversation, and suddenly realized that he didn’t know what they were talking about. This was a new and unsettling experience for him; usually he could divine any level of adult converse. He became confused, and withdrew.
He had brought along a book, a novel he was reading. He opened this now, intending to distract himself. He found, however, that even the writing on a printed page was not behaving in its customary manner. Each word still contained its usual meaning; but space was now filled with such vastness and time moved along so slowly that when Marcus tried to string the meanings together into sensible thoughts and concepts, it was an immense, stretched-out process. Doggedly he concentrated until he grasped the meaning of a sentence; but when he did, he was astounded at the stark mundanity of it, and that such a cumbersome process had been necessary to convey so little.
In a fit of convulsive despair, Marcus flung the book away from him. It struck a tree in the near distance and fell among the shrubs.
“What’s wrong, Marcus?” said Eric. Marcus saw concern in his face, but also fear. The fear caused the word “wrong” to resonate and explode in Marcus’ mind. Yes, it was so: something was terribly wrong.
Marcus suddenly leapt to his feet and dashed off through the woods. He ran furiously, scaling hills with no loss of speed or momentum, almost tumbling on the way down. It seemed like he had been running a long time; he no longer remembered what had frightened him nor what he was running from. Had he only imagined it? Was it safe to stop and rest? He looked over his shoulder and saw that sure enough, someone was chasing him. So it was real. Sheer terror pumped energy into his legs, and he put on a burst of speed, lengthening the distance from his pursuer.
He had absolutely no idea who might be after him, or why. There was no continuity of memory from the scene under the tree, nor of Eric and Mariel at all. Marcus at that moment was totally alone in the Universe, except for the unknown predator pursuing him.
At last he tired and slowed his pace. He was tackled by his adversary, and struggled in the grass against the restraining grip of the alien. When he found that he couldn’t get away he screamed, a shriek from the very bowels of him. He was certain that now he would be devoured.
When nothing happened, he relaxed slightly under the body of the man on top of him, partly from simple physical exhaustion. Then there was another presence, a woman. She leaned over him, and he wondered why there was such worry in her face. She put her hand on his arm, and her touch was very soft. Then she kissed him on the forehead.
The fear melted away like a wall of ice dissolving in the Sun. “Marcus,” said the woman, “it’s us. Mariel and Eric ~ your friends.”
Marcus let out a long breath, and relaxed. He remembered now, and it was all right.
Eric released him, and he sat up and looked at them. “What happened?” he said.
“You just got a little paranoid,” said Mariel. “It happens sometimes on acid, but it’s okay if you know how to deal with it.”
Marcus wasn’t at all sure that he did, and in response to his apprehensive look Mariel said to him, “Do you remember how we talked this morning about ego-loss?” .
With great effort, Marcus stretched his memory back the length of an enormous time before he
had ingested the drug. But yes, the word rang a bell.
“That’s right,” he said, “you told me I had to lose something to make the LSD work better. But
I can’t figure out what it is. What am I supposed to lose?”
“Marcus,” said Mariel, “do you remember what the word ‘ego’ means?”
“Sure. It means ‘I’.”
“Yes,” she said, “and that’s it: your ego is you. Or rather, it’s what you think is you. It’s everything that you imagine to be yourself. Do you understand?”
“Gee, I guess I do … but it doesn’t make sense. How can I lose myself?”
“Oh, it might be easier than you think. Just relax, and look at the sunlight in the leaves, and let go. Everything is all right. It’s a beautiful day and we’re here together, and you can just let go… let go… ”
The feel of Mariel’s hand in his hair was so sweet, the sussurus of her voice so soft…. Marcus decided to put everything out of his mind and just lay here with his head in her lap and see what was going to happen next. As far as he was concerned, it could take forever and he wouldn’t care. He would just lie here and wait.
As it, turned out, he didn’t have to wait very long at all. The visible world around him was still behaving in peculiar ways: objects that should have been solid were waving and rippling; even the ground seemed to curve under them, forming a sort of bowl instead of the flat surface he knew it to be. But now he began to see a pattern to the apparently random movement ~ it all rippled in time to a pulse, a vibration, which resonated up from the ground through Mariel’s body and into his. It shimmered upward through the trees and finally concatenated overhead in the Sun. He was sure it must be the very stroke of noon, for the Sun was directly above them. He thought about how nice it would be to float up and melt into the Sun, and be gone. To be the Sun looking down on all creation. And as he thought this, it was so … though just for a moment.
He opened his eyes, and was astounded. He was no longer Marcus looking at his two friends; instead, there was only one being looking at itself through the eyes of them all.
This being was a godlike creature made of light; it could only be the Sun, he thought. But the instant this thought flashed upon him the miracle was gone ~ they were no longer the one being of everlasting light but only three little mortals sitting in a wood.
Marcus sat up and rubbed his eyes, then said, “Did the two of you see that too?” They gave only wide silent smiles in response. The grin spread to Marcus, and now, halleluyah!, they were each other again ~ though again but for a fleeting second, a breathing in and sighing out.
They strolled back toward the spot where they had left their things when Marcus had run off. They walked hand-in-hand, with Marcus in the middle. Their movements were slow and delicious, as Marcus looked about and saw how everything was tinged with the ecstasy of being one with the Sun. “Everything is made of light,” he said, evoking a comment from Eric about quantum physics and another from Mariel about God hiding himself behind the veil of his creation. At last he remembered the conversation that had taken place before his breakthrough into this bright new world. He turned to Mariel and asked, “Was that ego-loss?”
“What do you think?” she said.
“I was gone!”
“Then it was.”
He pondered this. “No, wait ~ what I should really say is: Marcus was gone. I was still there ~- I mean, there was still an ‘I’ perceiving and experiencing everything, but … but it was much bigger than just me, than Marcus. It was all of us ~ it was the Sun … and in fact, it was everything.”
Eric and Mariel broke out in mutual delighted laughter. “Congratulations,” said Eric, “you have joined the exclusive inner circle of LSD initiates. Now you know the deepest secret behind the mystery of existence: All is One.”
“Is that what it means?” said Marcus. “I’ve read about Pantheism …. ”
“I guess you could call it that,” said Mariel, “but why call it anything? The last thing the world needs is another ‘ism’. It’s the hidden truth of the Universe. Isn’t that enough?”
It wasn’t enough for Marcus. He said, “Right, it can’t be Pantheism, because ‘God’ is in the word. But the feeling was that I am everything, not that ‘God’ is everything. To say ‘God’ makes it seem like something external. But the whole point seemed to be that nothing was external. There was definitely that sense of self, that I am the Sun and the Earth and all of us.”
“Yes,” said Mariel, “we’re all one, and it’s all us. There’s only one self in the whole Universe. After our first LSD experience, Eric and I met a man named Alan who explained it all in terms of Zen and Vedanta.”
“There are an infinite number of ways to explain it, n said Eric, “but the important thing is that once you’ve had the experience, it changes your relationship to the world and other people. If all human beings are one, then there’s no need for them to go on killing each other in wars or harming each other in all the ways that people have always done. And if the leaders of humanity undergo the experience and come to know this, it’ll be the end of war and the beginning of a new age of peace and brotherhood.”
Marcus looked startled. Something seemed to brighten in him at the prospect of this vision; but then he withdrew his hands from his friends’ and walked thoughtfully for awhile in silence. At last he said: 1150 if the Ophidians take LSD they’ll relinquish control of our civilization and give it back to us?”
Now Eric and Mariel were startled; in fact, they were dumbfounded. They knew, of course, about the Ophidians, and were familiar with the perspective of Magnus and Anastasia regarding them. Up until this moment, however, they had never thought about the Ophidians in relation to the LSD experience and its apparent implications for the world.
Marcus saw that they were flustered by his question, which had been asked in frank sincerity. He said, “Hasn’t it ever come up in the LSD inner circle?”
“No,” said Eric, “to be honest, it hasn’t. And now that I think about it, I can’t remember there being any Ophidians among the people we’ve met who have taken it.”
“That’s true,” said Mariel, “but I’ve heard of some. In fact, one man renounced the traditional Ophidian religion and converted to Buddhism. So maybe there’s actually hope for what you say, Marcus ~ though I have to admit that I hadn’t thought about it before in just that way.”
“Wait a minute,” said Eric, “we’re missing a basic point here. The whole essence of what acid does is to enable people to see beyond their differences and the conflicts that have divided them, to the underlying unity. So it won’t be a matter any more of the Ophidians versus our people, whom your father calls Solarians. We’ll all live in peace as one people in a transformed civilization that will include the whole world.”
Marcus looked disturbed. “That’s starting to sound exactly like what the Ophidians themselves have been saying for years. I mean, I’ve read propaganda books by Ophidian authors who say that kind of stuff, and it’s always been clear to me how they use it to manipulate people into… you know, surrendering to them and doing what they want. And anyway, if there were really only onekind of people in the world, it would mean I’d have to give up being a Solarian. But I can’t do that because it’s what I was born as; and that means I’d end up having to pretend that I’m not a Solarian.”
“But Marcus,” said Mariel, “you’ve just experienced the oneness that underlies all existence, and all people. Doesn’t it follow that we have to act on our knowledge of that oneness, and do our best to make it manifest in the world?”
“I don’t know,” said Marcus. “I guess I’ll have to think about it a little more.”
They returned to their spot and had a picnic. At first Marcus was reluctant to eat; he noted that he didn’t feel at all hungry, because his other senses were still being strongly stimulated as a result of the drug. He said, “The warmth of the Sun and the feel of the grass on my feet are banquet enough for me.” But they persuaded him to try a nibble, and he found a great relish in it, but only of the more natural delicacies: thick brown bread, gourmet cheese, raw fruit and vegetables, with just a dash of dressing. The same pastry he had swallowed the blotter on was now entirely too sweet to his taste.
As they reclined on the grass afterwards, Marcus said, “What would happen if we all took LSD together?”
Eric and Mariel exchanged a look which conveyed a telepathic message: Uh-oh! Marcus has opened the next can of worms.
“Well,” said Mariel, “if you like, I’m sure we could try it sometime. Depending on how your parents …. ”
“We could try it right now,” said Marcus. “Eric has some acid left, and it’s still very early in the day. It’s only two o’clock. We could split the rest of it three ways. I’d get to have a stronger experience, and the two of you would get to join in.”
Eric said, “The agreement we made with your parents was for a low dose….”
“Yes, but the concern was that the drug might have a bad effect on me. And as we can all see, it’s been having a very good effect, ever since I made it through ego-loss. And anyway, wouldn’t half of that little piece of paper still be a pretty small dose? I mean, you usually take a whole one of those apiece, right?” Eric nodded. “And how much LSD is in it?”
“The whole blotter,” said Eric, “has about 400 micrograms. So if we did what you’re suggesting, you’d be on 200 altogether. That’s a fairly hefty trip. ”
“Eric” said Mariel, “you’re not seriously considering it?”
“I don’t know. He has a point about the agreement. And his experience so far has actually followed a pretty common pattern. From what we’ve heard and observed, a significant number of people become disoriented and have other problems at the beginning of their first trip; but if they then go through ego-loss or have similar breakthroughs, their subsequent experiences are all positive, even at very high doses.”
“It’s still a risk. We have a responsibility to Marcus’ parents.”
“Everything in life is a calculated risk. And we also have a responsibility to Marcus. There are large and profound forces behind LSD, and even if we don’t choose to call them ‘God’, they’re of the same nature and on the same level.
“One thing I learned on acid is that the individual is sometimes presented with key choices at key moments that can affect the fate of the world ~ even the Universe. The right choice is not always the safe one. And it’s at least conceivable that at this moment the right choice is for the three of us to take the rest of the acid, as Marcus suggests. It might be our spiritual duty to do it ~ our ‘dharma’, as Alan calls it.”
Mariel still had objections, but in the end they were overcome, and the rest of the LSD was divided and ingested.
After about forty minutes Eric and Mariel could feel the effects. They explained to Marcus that because they had tripped before, they could attain higher states on a lower dose than a first-timer. “You tend to remember the territory,” said Eric; “successive trips are cumulative.”
Marcus wasn’t sure if he could feel his second dose coming on. Mariel suggested that they meditate. “Do you mean Hindu-style?” asked Marcus. “How do you do that?”
“It’s not hard at all on acid,” she said ~ “it’s actually a very natural process. The Hindus have no monopoly on it, even if they did invent it as a formal discipline.”
They all sat cross-legged in a close triangle, or a “three-pointed circle,” as Mariel called it.
“Now,” she said to Marcus, “just breathe deeply, relax, and try to think of absolutely nothing.”
“That’s hard,” he said, “to not think. I’m thinking all the time. I like it.”
Eric chuckled. “We know. But if you can’t manage to think of nothing, you can try thinking of just one thing.”
“Imagine a point of light directly above your head.”
“Oh! That’s like what happened with the Sun when I had that experience before. The Sun must’ve been right overhead.”
“Well, it’s not any more, but you can imagine it so. Just close your eyes and visualize the Sun over the top of your head.”
“And,” added Mariel, “try to let all other thoughts flow right out of your mind. Only the Sun will exist in all the Universe.”
“Okay,” said Marcus, “I’ll give it a shot.”
It wasn’t long before Marcus noticed that a pattern of intense vibration was coursing through his body upwards to the light above his head, which already had become very tangible. Pulses traveled up filaments running through his legs and arms and torso, and into his head. That must be my nervous system, he thought, and then remembered not to think.
The sensations generated by the pulse were so overwhelming that it was only with great difficulty that he hung onto his state of surrender to the current, allowing this autonomic tidal wave to keep surging through him. Then he noticed that the bulk and substance of his physical body had vanished, leaving only the network of filaments and the light at the very top, which was now glowing very brightly indeed. And then there was only the light.
Marcus dwelt in the light forever, the sole entity in all of existence. He felt no loneliness, however, for he was in a state of rapture, the ecstasy of ego-lost allness.
He became aware that he was now lying on his back, and that his still-folded legs were sticking up in the air. At last the force of gravity pulled them down, and the foreverness ended.
Eric was hovering over him saying, “Marcus! Are you all right?” Marcus smiled beatifically. Eric put a hand on his shoulder and helped him to sit up.
“He looks fine to me,” said Mariel. “He looks better than he’s ever been. Am I right, Marcus?”
Marcus was about to answer, when he became aware that the light was still above his head, the visualized Sun, shining with no intentional effort of his own. He looked at Mariel and Eric; it seemed to him that all three were aware of the Meta-Sun above them.
Then Mariel said: Marcus is incandescent; I can feel his pulse-beat from here.
It took Marcus a moment to realize that her lips hadn’t moved when she said it. He looked her in the eyes and repeated: “Marcus is incandescent; I can feel his pulse-beat from here.”
She gasped, and gaped at him.
He looked at Eric, who also seemed to be speaking without moving his lips. What’s going on? he was saying, What’s Marcus talking about? Why did Mariel react that way?” Marcus repeated these, his thoughts, back to him, and he too was stunned.
“I seem to be reading your minds,” said Marcus.
They talked about the unfolding miracle in awed tones, until they had mastered the paralyzing sense of uncanniness. Then Eric was astute enough to propose that they treat it scientifically, and experiment. In this way they soon discovered that although Marcus could pick up their specific thoughts, they could not read his; but by focusing on the ectoplasmic light overhead, they could all pick up feelings, inklings, and intuitions from one another. They were in a remarkable state of shared empathy.
After awhile Marcus’ telepathy appeared to fade. Experiments revealed that he could no longer read their explicit thoughts, though the three friends maintained their state of mutual emotional awareness. “I guess you could call it telempathy,” said Marcus, and they marveled at the beauty and astuteness of the word.
At last they walked back to the house, still filled with psychic intensity. They greeted a couple of servants casually as they came in, then made their way to the large and ornate drawing room, where they found Marcus’ and Eric’s parents, and a fifth person.
Mr. Dietrich was a genial old man. II Ah, the young people!” he said, and introduced Marcus to the visitor: “This is Mr. Shelton. He looks after our investments and such. Jake, this is Marcus, an extremely bright young man.”
“Indeed,” said Jake Shelton. “Perhaps you’ll want to go into business someday, Marcus. Bright people can do very well for themselves.”
“I don’t think so, sir,” said Marcus. “I mean, I’m interested in other fields.”
“Is that so? Well, you never can tell. You’ve got plenty of time to change your mind.”
Marcus noticed that Shelton didn’t ask what his interests were. He was obviously totally focused on his own field.
Now an interesting tableau unfolded. When Eric had first taken LSD he had tried to explain it to his parents, and found them less than enthusiastic ~ in fact, they had been shocked that their son had taken a drug. After lengthy explanations and pleadings for understanding, they finally came to see that there might be something in it that was not absolutely damnable and self-destructive. So they forgave him his indiscretion, and he was wise enough to never mention the topic again, let alone reveal that he still experimented with the substance.
And so now, although Magnus and Anastasia knew what the situation was, the Dietrichs did not ~ and it was important that they not find out.
Refreshments were brought in for the new arrivals from the woods. As they ate snacks, drank coffee, and made conversation, the three of them became aware that not only did they still share the telempathic link, they also mutually apperceived a psychic dimension to the speech and actions of the other people in the room.
From the moment he had shaken hands with Shelton, Marcus had been aware of a strong negative energy-field about the man, infusing every nuance of him. Now, as he talked with great relish about stocks and bonds, about annuities and debentures, and about world affairs in terms of the market, Marcus was able to see specifically what was weird about him: he was constructed all of money.
Dollar bills oozed invisibly from Shelton’s eyeballs. There was a fine mist of precious-metal powder in the air around him, and this is what he inhaled with every breath ~ gold and silver were as oxygen to him, and his veins bulged green with lucre. His fingertips made incessant little grasping motions; his whole being was a magnet drawing money to him. His mind was a convoluted cash register, calculating every interchange with other people in terms of potential profit and fear of loss. If there was anything truly human in him, Marcus could not see it; his soul was a wad of cash folded up tightly inside the wallet of his body.
There came a moment when the elder Dietrichs and Christiansons were rapt in a train of talk with Shelton. Marcus took the opportunity to make a quiet aside to Eric and Mariel. Gesturing with his head toward Shelton, he said, “Do you recall our conversation about the Ophidians?”
They both looked at Shelton, then back at Marcus. The feeling-link was very strong and psychic now. “I know what you’re thinking,” said Marie! softly to Marcus; “I’ve been seeing it too. He’s all money!”
“Yes,” said Eric, “it’s very strange. It’s so. . . so alien! I don’t know what to make of it.”
“It’s not just him,” said Marcus. “He’s part of something bigger. Can you see it?”
They looked, and yes, they could sense the faint outlines of something large in the room, and extending beyond the room into the vast sweep of sky outside, as seen by their prescient vision. “I can feel it,” said Mariel; it gives me the creeps. But I can’t see it very well.”
“Concentrate real hard,” said Marcus, and did so himself as he said it. Eric and Mariel saw the glow around Marcus brighten and expand. It was as if a light had suddenly been shone into a dark cavern, revealing what had lain unseen therein.
Shelton had a large, quivering tentacle attached to his back. Or more specifically, he himself was the end of the tentacle, his body and soul the grasping suction-pads. Its girth became greater as it extended away from his body, and up through the ceiling, which was now wholly transparent. They looked up to see what the tentacle was attached to on its other end, and there above them, shrouding the sky like a thunderhead, was a colossal monstrosity the like of which they could not have envisioned in their worst nightmare. It was reptilian and insectoidal; it was bug-eyed and ugly; it had fangs and claws and talons and feelers, and was covered with slithery cilia like a gigantic paramecium. It slavered and lusted and consumed and sucked. It was hideous, and it was real, and alive.
“Be cool,” whispered Eric desperately to Mariel, gripping her arm with his hand, himself severely shaken. “Don’t let on. Act normal.”
When it was clear that they had collected themselves, Marcus looked at them gravely and said, “Do you really want to become one with that?”
They could not reply, for they were speechless.
“What are the young folks talking about so seriously over there?” said Mrs. Dietrich with her customary good-natured giggle. “Perhaps you can let the rest of us in on it.”
It was Marcus who mustered the aplomb to answer first. He said, “We were discussing the psychological symbolism of a movie we saw recently: Forbidden Planet. It features a monster that is created from the collective unconscious of an alien race, and breaks free to terrorize human beings. The monster is invisible, but the humans lure it into a trap where they blast it with electricity. The special effects in this scene are excellent ~ you begin to see the form of the monster outlined in electric flashes and such.”
Mr. Dietrich laughed approvingly. “I told you he was bright,” he said to Shelton.
“You don’t know the half of it,” said Eric.
Mr. Dietrich invited Shelton to stay for dinner, but he declined, saying he had an appointment with another client. Marcus, Eric, and Mariel were glad ~ the meal would’ve been hard to swallow in the noxious presence of the monster.
Mrs. Dietrich now excused herself ~ she wanted to supervise the cook in the preparation of a couple of special dishes. Mr. Dietrich ushered the rest of the party into the music room so that they could hear his new high fidelity sound system; then he, too, left to freshen up.
As soon as their host had departed, Anastasia took Marcus by the shoulders and searched deeply into his eyes. “How is it?” she asked. “Are you all right?”
He looked at her, and was engulfed by the primal tide of her motherly love. For a long moment he could do nothing but just stand there in the amniotic immensity of it. Then he hugged her tightly; he could only say, “I love you, Mom. I love you, I love you!” He was practically sobbing, and this did not reassure Anastasia about the effects of the drug, though she had noticed a remarkable positive glow about him when he had first entered the drawing room. He sensed her disquiet and pulled himself away. It was like being born allover again ~ he could almost consciously remember the first time he had separated from this woman and emerged into a place of light. She was a lot bigger then, he thought wonderingly.
With an effort he snapped himself back into what Eric had called “consensus reality”: the world as perceived by the people who have not taken LSD. In this way he was able to explain to his mother something of the wonderful things that had happened to him, and how he was experiencing psychic phenomena with Eric and Mariel. The essential message for her in all of it was that he was sound and himself; he had not been damaged, and was having a good experience.
Magnus, however, was very interested in the details of Marcus’ report, and wanted to know more. When Marcus began to speak with his father, he noticed a return of the sensation that had preceded his experience of ecstatic unity. Now it seemed that he stood in the center of the Universe with his father, or very near to it. . All other persons and events seemed to revolve around them on the periphery, like satellites or epiphenomena. He saw that Magnus was in fact the Sun, and he his principle planet, like Jupiter heating up in training to become a Sun himself. They were Solarians, and it seemed to him that now he felt the full impact of it for the first time.
When Marcus had described the telepathy and telempathy, Magnus said, “Before the war ruined it, there were special settlements where the effort was made to bring highly advanced children into the world, and then to raise them in such a way that they would advance still further. There were reports that the experiment had begun to bear fruit ~ or at least the early flowers. Some of the children were said to be able to do things like this, and more. I had thought the world must wait another thousand years before we could try again, but now I see that perhaps it is not too late. Perhaps the miracle can yet occur in this cycle.”
They were interrupted by the sound of Mrs. Dietrich’s voice calling them to dinner. “We’ll talk at home,” said Magnus.
“I’ll tell you everything, Dad,” said Marcus.
The meal was uneventful, except for MarieI’s suggestion that Marcus stay overnight with them. Eric and Mariel actually lived in New Jersey, and would not be driving there tonight; and Eric assured the Christiansons that it would be no trouble to drop off Marcus on their way home the following day. Marcus was enthusiastic about the idea, and so his parents consented.
An hour later, the three friends sat talking in Eric’s old suite, the familiar rooms he had grown up in. Magnus and Anastasia had departed, and Mr. and Mrs. Dietrich were off in the lounge watching television.
Eric was saying, “There is a way to deal peacefully with the monster ~ there has to be. I’ve mentioned The Tibetan Book of the Dead. The concept there is that after death the soul encounters all kinds of demons and monsters. If the person tries to fight them or run away from them, they just become more powerful. The only successful way to deal with them is to realize that they all spring from your own. mind ~ they’re sort of like the phantoms of the fears and hatreds and unresolved conflicts you’ve brought with you from life. So when you become aware that the monsters are your own illusory creations, they vanish and you’re free. This implies that they go back inside you.”
Marcus asked, “What does this have to do with the Ophidian beastie we saw today? I mean, we’re not dead ~ we’re all very much alive. And so was it, even though it was a … I guess you could call it a metaphysical creature.”
“The Book of the Dead,” said Eric, “works on all different levels. If we can conquer our fear and loathing of the Ophidians, and they of us, we can come together and be one. In a sense, we can make that monster vanish back inside of us. ”
“Except that it didn’t come out of us in the first place,” said Marcus. “Look, I can acknowledge the concept ~ when we’re dead and in the meta-world, the method you describe might work. The thing is, though, that because we’re alive now in the material world, we have to use physical methods. If you have a physical body, the only way to get another physical entity inside of you is to kill it and eat it.” Eric was slightly shocked at Marcus’ choice of imagery. But they were both surprised when Mariel said, “That’s not strictly true, Marcus ~ there’s at least one other way that I can think of.”
He was completely puzzled ~ he couldn’t see where she was leading. He said, “And what’s that?”
And now Marcus appeared to be slightly shocked himself.
Or perhaps stunned. Any thought of sex had been far from his mind, but now that the matter was broached, he suddenly became flushed with awareness of it ~ and of Mariel as a lovely young woman.
Eric was also puzzled. “What made you say that?” he asked.
“Oh,” she said, “it was just a logical response to what Marcus said. Probably only a woman would think of it from that angle. See what I mean?”
It took him a moment to see it, and when he did he blushed. Then he said, “Sweetheart, Marcus is just a kid. Do you think you should be talking like that in front of him?”
She seemed taken aback. “Gee, maybe you’re right. I don’t know what got into me. I’m sorry, Marcus.” She turned toward him just in time to see his eyes roll up the length of her body. Then he fixed her with a look that made her blush now, all the way back down to her feet. “Marcus!” she shouted, and tugged at the hem of her skirt. She almost said, Behave yourself, but realized the incongruity of it.
Marcus said, “You sure are beautiful, Marie!”
Eric was now visibly upset. He reminded himself of the danger of becoming possessed on LSD by negative feelings, and especially of projecting them onto other people who had taken the drug. Nevertheless, he couldn’t keep a nervous edge from his voice when he said, “Marcus, your sensations are just being magnified by the acid. You can’t come on to Mariel ~ you’re only twelve years old!”
“I’m a prodigy in more ways than one,” said Marcus.
Eric was aghast. He looked at Mariel and said, “What are we going to do now?”
“Marcus,” said Mariel, “can you just tell us what you’re feeling?”
“You mean, be really honest about it?”
“Okay. I feel like I want to make love with you.”
Eric sucked in his breath. Mariel gave him a restraining look. “All right,” she said calmly to Marcus, “and do you realize why you can’t do that?”
“Sure I can. If you don’t believe me, you ought to try it and find out.”
“That’s not what I meant. I don’t doubt for a minute that you can do anything a man can do. But…”
“But I’ve never done it before. There were girls my age who wanted to, or who would’ve let me, but it didn’t seem right with them. Seriously, Mariel, I know what’s going on. I don’t blame you and Eric for being upset ~ I know this is asking a lot. Before this, I wasn’t sure what I was waiting for, but now it’s all very clear: I need an experienced, adult woman to guide me through the first time.”
“But not a married woman!” said Eric.
“If she weren’t married, she would be either not experienced or some kind of floozy. So that wouldn’t work. She would have to be a very special woman, a real friend, someone who cared about me. I understand it’s hard for you, Eric, but you know I’m right. Mariel is the ideal woman for it. If she wants to do it, then this is the right choice at the right moment. It’s destiny. It’s dharma.”
Eric huffed in frustration. He said, “Mariel, can you please try again to get across to him why….” And then he looked her in the face. He froze at what he saw there. It was assent to Marcus’ proposition. She did want to do it.
There followed an argument about responsibility, morality, legality, and secrecy. Eric protested every point, but in the end he was grudgingly won over by Marcus’ absolute certainty and his adult-like awareness of all the issues debated.
They made sure that Mr. and Mrs. Dietrich were still in another wing of the mansion, and that there were no servants about; then Eric picked up the phone. “Magnus,” he said a moment later, “something’s come up …. No, no, nothing bad has happened, Marcus is still fine. But, well, you see…. ”
After much stammering and embarrassment, and initial astonishment on the other end of the line, the gist of the matter was communicated and discussed. After awhile Eric turned to Marcus and said, “Now he’s talking with your mother. Marcus, do you realize what incredible parents you have? Do you know how inconceivable all this would be with any other couple we know? I mean, that you could even say such a thing to them, and that they would actually consider it?”
“Yes,” said Marcus, “I realize it. I’m very fortunate. And if they say no, I’ll totally honor their decision, and respect it.”
Magnus came back on the line. He said: “If she wants to do it, as you say she does, then go ahead. Marcus is a man already in his mind. Perhaps it will benefit him to be also a man in his body.”
Mariel insisted that Eric withdraw not just to the next room, but to the library in the next wing. “It’ll be easier on you,” she said,” and more private for us. I’d be able to sense you in the next room, especially since I’m tripping, and I’d feel so bad about doing this to you that I wouldn’t be able to do it for Marcus. Because I love you, dearest ~ you know how much I love you. But this is something I just feel I have to do ~ it’s like a holy act of service, not just for Marcus, but for. .. I want to say ‘God,’ but that’s not exactly it. You know what I mean, though: the larger being that we’re all a part of.”
Then Mariel and Marcus were alone in the bedroom. “Eric is jealous,” said Marcus.
“Of course he is. It’s only natural. Do you realize what a big, hard thing it is he’s doing, by allowing us to … to be together like this?”
“I think I do. And if I hadn’t fully realized it before, I’m beginning to see it now.”
They hesitated for a minute in mutual embarrassment. Then Mariel breathed a long sigh, and took off her blouse.
Marcus instantly became very excited, but still hesitated to touch her.
Mariel said, “So what did you do with those girls you necked with?”
Marcus nestled his body against hers and began to caress her with soft fingertip strokes.
“Mmmm,” she said, “I that’s very good. Some guys never learn that, even when they’re grown up. They just sort of grab you and squeeze you. You’ve got a wonderful touch, Marcus.”
Encouraged, he proceeded to caress different parts of her body, gradually closing in on the more intimate zones. Fifteen minutes later they lay naked together on the bed, in rapidly escalating passion. He had sprouted up at puberty and was almost as tall as she, so there was little sense of a disproportion in size, as there was in age.
Marcus became telepathic again, though now there was practically no conceptual thought in Mariel’s mind to read. Instead, he knew in exquisite detail what she was feeling, and desiring. Thus he anticipated her every whim and nuance, stimulating exactly the parts she wished an instant before she wished it, augmenting or lessening every lick and stroke precisely as her need dictated. Thus she had to do very little verbal prompting; even in techniques that were wholly new to him, almost all her coaching was silent and psychic.
At just the right moment of expectant arousal, he entered her. She gasped, and they quickly synched into rhythmic push-and-thrust. Her crescendo was entirely tangible to him, and he timed his own to match exactly. He felt that he was being guided psychically not only by her but by a larger force ~ something vast, ancient, and very primal. He simply gave over his actions to it, and was astounded at how easily he knew what to do, even though it was the first time.
Or was it? Suddenly he began to climax ~ or rather, they began to climax, for she was right there with him, melded in every breath, stroke, and heartbeat, as if she were an extension of his own body. And now, in the total release of the last shards of his ego, he knew the truth: he had performed this sacred act a billion times before, in many male bodies going back a million years. Each act thrust forth his essence into the woman and made a new body, and thus he could go on and on, a million years into the future, and more. He was The Man, and he was immortal ~ as long as he could put forth his seed into The Woman, and thus project it into the centuries.
The ejaculation seemed to pulse forever, and only now did it reach its peak. Astoundingly, Marcus saw the Sun. He and Mariel had fused together and become the Sun. They were one in the Sun, and so intense was its passionate heat that it seemed like it was going to explode. But at that moment the pulse began to wane.
As the intensity melted, Marcus could tell again that Mariel had a separate body, though so closely was it twined about him that they still shared the same breath and heartbeat, like conjoined twins who are yet in the common womb. The most elementary phase of his rational faculty faded back into his brain. He still remembered that he was the primal Man, but now he knew that he was a certain kind of man, and that his kind shared this planet with other kinds, and that these were hostile. He knew, too, that the immortality he had glimpsed was guaranteed only if his kind went on, and triumphed over the others in the never-ending struggle for primal life and survival. His kind was of the Sun ~ he was a Solarian. He could live forever, but only if the Solarian seed could impregnate the eons to come.
Languidly and reluctantly their bodies pulled away. Marcus stroked Mariel’s face, and looked into her eyes. This brought back a flash of union, how they had discovered that they were ineluctably one. Words were not yet necessary or possible between them; they only kissed, and kissed.
The first word they said was “Love.” Just like that ~ they said it together: “Love.” And it stood like that, unqualified.
Then Marcus had an insight. He knew it would be the next stage of spell-breaking to speak it, but he did, for he had a sense of destiny. “Now I get it,” he said. “Love is the expression of the unity of the One when it’s split up into two. When we’re the One, there’s no need to say it ~ it just is. But when we’re two, we say, ‘I love you’ to remind each other that we’re really One.”
“Yes,” she said, “love is Oneness. And I love you, Marcus. I love you!”
They kissed again, and again; and only then did Marcus think of Eric.
She instantly recoiled. The telepathy was still strong.
She sat apart from him, and thought, looking very troubled. At last she shook her head and said: “My God, this is crazy!” Marcus said nothing but only looked a question at her, and she replied: “It must be the acid. It was so intense! But I… I forgot all about Eric! There was only you. And you are… Marcus. And… and I forgot that you’re just a boy. I still can’t believe it, looking at you. You’re such a man! You really are.”
Marcus smiled in spite of himself. He felt pleased, and proud.
She reached out and drew him to her again. They fondled and hugged and snuggled. After awhile Mariel said, “Do you love me, Marcus?”
He appeared to be puzzled that she should ask. He looked her in the eyes and said “Of course! You know what we experienced.”
“Yes, I know, I know. But now… Marcus, what are we going to do?”
He didn’t grasp what she meant by the question. Obviously the telepathic bond was broken, or at least temporarily disrupted. “Mariel,” he said, “I can’t tell what you’re thinking any more. I’m sorry, I really am. But you’ll have to say it.”
She looked shocked. After a moment she said, “I see!” Her eyes now were far away, as if staring at a tragedy that was visible only to her. Marcus honestly did not know what to do. He waited. Mariel looked at him again; he had the imprssion that she was gathering up her courage. Finally she said: “Marcus ~ I love you more than Eric!”
Marcus said, “What?!”
She winced. Then she said, “It’s true. Even on higher doses of LSD, I never merged so intensely with Eric as I did with you. Marcus, I saw you as a god! You are a god! Do you know that? Seriously ~ that’s why I was so astounded to remember afterwards that you’re only twelve. I felt like God the Father was making love to me! Or Zeus, or Odin or someone. And it was so sad to have to become two again ~ I wanted to just be part of you forever. I still want it! That’s what’s so crazy ~ here I am, a married adult woman, and you’re only twelve ~ and yet I’d rather be with you than Eric!”
So now Marcus understood what the trouble was. He thought: There must be a way to deal
with it! But he could think of nothing that made any sense.
He put his arm around Mariel. He said, “Things sure got complicated fast, didn’t they?”
“Yes,” she said. “It makes you realize why monogamy got started in the first place. Everything is so much simpler that way!”
Marcus started up at her words. “You said … monogamy.”
“Yes, but what does that have to do …. ”
“It reminds us that there are alternatives!” His eyes were glowing. “It means that we can still love each other, and it doesn’t have to be immoral or sinful or illegal. It could be a polygamous relationship! Or I guess in this case you would call it ‘polyandry’, since there’s one woman and two men.”
“Marcus, now you’re the one who’s talking crazy! Whatever you call it, it’s completely illegal. And certainly any and every church would call it immoral and sinful. And besides, Eric would never want to do it.”
Marcus became thoughtful. After a moment he said, “I guess I’m thinking about the future. You’re right that we’re bound by the rules and conventions of society as it’s set up. But what if someday we could set up our own society? We could make any rules we want. We could experiment and see if it was realistic for people to live in different ways. And the most important thing of all is that we could get away from the Ophidians!”
Mariel began to realize that he was giving birth to a vision. She was impressed by the breadth of it, but was disappointed that it didn’t seem to address their immediate problem. She voiced this to Marcus, and he said: “Well, we’ll have to be patient, but knowing that it’ll happen someday can change things for us now, at least a little. It’ll be our secret. I’m your second husband.” He smiled so mischievously that she couldn’t help but embrace him and cover his lips with kisses.
Despite the appreciation of Magnus for the potential of LSD as an evolutionary catalyst, Marcus’ parents were distraught when he told them that he had changed his mind about going to Harvard. “I’ve checked back through their catalogue,” he said, “and they have hardly any courses in my new field of interest.”
“And what,” asked Magnus, “is this new interest?”
“Metaphysics,” said Marcus.
In the ensuing weeks, Marcus requested and obtained course catalogues from every major college in the country, and a number of specialized minor ones. He came away dissatisfied. “Some of them,” he explained to his parents, “have some of the stuff I want, but there’s always too much fluff. They’d make me take too many time-consuming courses in things I don’t need to know, at least not yet.”
“But,” said Anastasia, “that’s how college works. You make the effort and study things that you may not be excited about at the moment, but that will be useful to you in the future.”
“Mom,” said Marcus, “I’m only twelve years old. I’ve got plenty of time to learn all that other stuff. Right now there are some things that I just desperately need to understand, and I mean fast! I can’t know what I have to do next until I find these things out. So I’ve decided that the best thing I can do is study them on my own.”
“The boy is obviously consumed with the desire for this,” said Magnus, “so I don’t see how we can stand in his way. I hope his intuition is leading him aright. But I remind you, Marcus, that there are consequences which cannot be undone later. For instance, when the people at Harvard accept a student, they are not used to then being told that he has changed his mind and turned down this prestigious boon. They are likely to be very offended, and will certainly not change their minds later, should you decide in the future that you’d like to go.”
“I hadn’t thought of that,” said Marcus. “But there’s still no way I can go to Harvard now ~ it would just interfere with my education.” His parents could not help but laugh at the irony of this remark.
Marcus threw himself passionately into his self-directed studies. He began with a bibliography compiled for him by Eric and Mariel. It featured a number of books by W.Y. Evans-Wentz, including his translation of The Tibetan Book of the Dead. There was also a recently-published volume by the couple’s friend Alan, and more: an article from an academic journal by a psychiatrist named R.D. Laing; two essays by Aldous Huxley describing his experiences on mescaline; the Bhagavad Gita and the Tao Te Ching; some books and pamphlets published by the Theosophical Society on the esoteric meaning of Christianity: and a popularized rendering of the discoveries of quantum physics.
Marcus went through it all in short order, and felt that he was just scratching the surface. He turned to the works of the great Western philosophers, of which he already had a smattering acquaintance. Now he discovered that when he unraveled the incredibly verbose ramblings of Hegel, Hume, Kant, and their colleagues, he could indeed find passages and whole chapters that had what he was looking for: evidence, descriptions, and explanations of the mind-boggling realities he had encountered on LSD. But he also found that there was a problem ~ in fact, there were a couple of problems. He had known that one of them was there before: a dualism so basically ingrained in the collective psyche that he knew it must go back much further than Descartes. The second error he could not have known about before his acid experience, but now, gradually, it became clear. These men with such brilliant and convoluted minds did in fact speak of what Marcus had begun to think of as the meta-realities, but in an entirely intellectual way. Marcus had to finally conclude that they had attained knowledge of these things strictly by means of the intellect. This proved that it could be done that way, which was an interesting discovery. But their evident utter lack of tangible experience of the meta-realms sorely limited their knowledge of them, and usually drew the thinkers to wrong conclusions.
Plato was a different matter, and in him Marcus felt that he had at last found a European mind who knew some of the operative secrets of “meta”. After devouring all his works, and rereading the relevant sections, he was nevertheless left with a frustrating sense that he had missed the gist ~ or perhaps that the gist was missing from the ancient books. Marcus noted that some of the commentators claimed that Plato had never rendered the real secrets into writing, but only transmitted them orally to his students in the Academy. He concluded that it was probably true.
As he studied onward, Marcus found this concept repeatedly stated and elaborated: the great esoteric mysteries of all cultures were handed down always in secret, transmitted orally, and psychically, from teacher to pupil. It was not only that they never were written down, but that their nature was such that they never could be written down. This struck a powerful chord in Marcus. He tried to imagine what effect Huxley’s essays would have had on him if he had read them before taking LSD. He quickly realized that he understood all the substantial points in the writing only by reference to his own psychedelic experience. Without this, the most the essays could’ve conveyed would’ve been the notion that there was something remarkable and mysterious in the experience itself ~ and it would’ve made him curious to try the drug and have the experience.
He also thought about how on the LSD “trip”, he and Eric and Mariel had been able to talk about the meta-realities only because they had all experienced them. If the two of them had tried to tell him these things beforehand, it would’ve seemed completely abstract and academic, and he would not have been able to contribute meaningfully to the debate on their implications.
And then there had been the curious scene with the money-man, Jake Shelton. Because he was on a higher dose of acid, and perhaps for other reasons, Marcus had been able to see the Ophidian monster more clearly than had Eric and Mariel ~ and he had then been able to show it to them by doing something psychic. In the terminology he was now learning from the books, he had conveyed occult information to them by “direct transmission”.
In the same way, he reasoned, an individual who was more knowledgeable of these phenomena, and who had greater psychic powers than he, would be able to transmit to him further quanta of metaphysical information ~ astonishing things of which he now had no inkling, and which he could never acquire by means of his unaided initiative.
He formed a hypothesis that there must be special schools, probably existing in secret, which these highly advanced souls used to transmit their knowledge and power to promising young aspirants. He could find nothing in his research that indicated the likely existence of such schools in Europe, and certainly not in the Americas. His Eastern references, however, yielded what he hoped were tantalizing clues.
That evening at dinner Marcus told his parents that he had reached a point in his studies where he now needed the assistance of teachers, and that he needed to go someplace where he could be taught. They both rejoiced at the news. “Where do you want to go?” asked Magnus. “Penn State? Stanford?”
“Asia,” said Marcus.
When the Christiansons became convinced that there was no way to dissuade Marcus from the certainty of his destined course of action, they set about making it possible for him to fulfill it. They had a few friends in the Far East, and sent out inquiries explaining, as best they understood it, Marcus’ desire for instruction in ancient spiritual philosophies and disciplines. The replies they got were mostly dubious and pessimistic; the refrain was that the old traditions had fallen into neglect in recent centuries, and been replaced by new Westernized curricula. Nevertheless, they sent sketchy information and leads, some based on hearsay and rumor, about the possible locations of schools that held to the old ways.
With nothing more specific than this as the itinerary, Anastasia prepared herself for a prolonged journey, and made arrangements for Magnus to be as comfortable as possible in her absence. And then she and Marcus flew to the East.
Their first stop was Taiwan ~ or Formosa, as it was still called by many ~ where Marcus met a man who claimed to be an adept in all aspects of the ancient sciences of the Chinese Empire, which were now being purged by the Communists on the mainland, from whence he was a refugee. His name was Liu Shan, and Marcus found him sufficiently interesting for Anastasia to rent a flat in Taipei and set up a tutorial arrangement. Shan spoke excellent English, and professed to be so pleased at finding an eager pupil for his olden lore, which was also neglected in capitalist Taiwan, that he was happy to visit six days a week and talk with Marcus, for only a nominal fee ~ though Anastasia suspected that in terms of the local currency it was rather inflated.
It took Marcus several days to work out an overlapping conceptual matrix with Shan’s very alien idea-system. But by the end of the first week’s lessons, he fairly beamed as he told Anastasia: “I’ve discovered the cure for Western dualism!”
Over the course of the following months Marcus grasped and gathered the implications of many exotic premises. Ch’i seemed to be equivalent to “energy”, yet it did not oppose “matter” and sometimes seemed to be identified with it. “Yes,” said Shan, “this is a principle: things can be opposite and yet identical.” Not only were the opposite poles of all dualities held to be complementary, but mutually dependent on each other for their very existence.
And furthermore, there was a range of gradation between them which made them not truly dual in the first place.
Another difference between ch’i and Western “energy” was that ch’i was alive. It suffused the entire Universe, and indeed the Universe was likened to an ultimate Man, not just abstractly but in its particulars: different objects and phenomena of the world were conceived as the body parts of He whom Shan spoke of reverently as “the Representative of the Union of Men.” This term, he said, was an inadequate rendering of an untranslatable Chinese word. Marcus felt that he was clearly on the track of a non-Pantheistic explanation of his LSD experience.
Shan confirmed that, since every individual was a manifestation of the Universal Man, he could use his ch’i in accordance with large cosmic purposes. And beyond this, there was a kind of super ch’i, a hyper-energy called T’ien-Wai’-Chih. The Sun was made of it, and the wise man, who knew the secrets of this ancient science, could generate it in his own body and accomplish things that the West would consider miracles.
Marcus was anxious to begin learning the secret methods by which he could control and transmute his ch’i to bring about these incredible changes in himself. But as they embarked on this phase of his instruction, they seemed to encounter a barrier. Marcus just could not seem to cross-translate the strange and detailed instructions into any frame of reference that made sense to him. It didn’t seem to be a language problem, but something deeper. He wondered if this indeed were the point at which psychic transmission would be required, and if he were failing to attain the necessary telepathic rapport with his teacher. Finally there came a day when with a great sigh Shan said, “If only you were Chinese, I could teach you easily.”
That night Marcus told Anastasia of the problem, and voiced his fear that the alien cultures of Asia might be divided from their own by such a chasm that the secrets he sought might be eternally impossible to communicate.
“Or maybe it’s just the Chinese culture,” said Anastasia, “or Shan himself. You and he seem to have done well up till now, but just because you’ve reached a limit with him is no reason to think it will be so with other teachers.”
Marcus was heartened, and they decided that the time had definitely come to move on in their journey.
They went to Thailand and spoke with the robed inhabitants of monasteries in Mongkol Borey and Battambang. Marcus knew enough from his studies to understand the explanations of what they offered to would-be novices, and none of it struck the chord of his heart’s desire. They continued on to Burma and found a school in a Buddhist temple in Mandalay, but after observing the rites and sitting in on some classes, Marcus knew it was not what he was after.
Then in the town of Amarapura they looked into an order which included martial arts training in its discipline, a regional variation of kung fu. Marcus was astonished when he saw the feats of the combatants in practice, and knew instantly that this was something he must learn. There were problems, however: none of the monks nor students spoke English, and the dialect was so unique that Marcus found his preliminary studies of the Oriental languages to be of no use in comprehending it. Also, from what he could get from their hired translator, the non-martial elements of the teaching lacked any clue that they held the mysteries that Marcus sought. They had no choice but to move on.
They crossed the border into India, and here Marcus felt strange stirrings of something deep in his psyche. They stopped in Calcutta long enough to get a feel of the thronged metropolis, then headed up the Ganges. As they drove along in their rented car within sight of the river, Marcus began to get a sense of returning to some mysterious source from which he had come in a forgotten past. “We’re getting closer,” he told his mother.
“To what?” she asked.
“I don’t know exactly ~ only that it’s there, and that it’s what I’m looking for.”
They investigated a religious community in Ayodhya near Nepal, which was said to be very old. Marcus met the abbot, or guru, an intelligent man with typical light brown skin and the facial features unique to the modem Hindi race, combining the ancient strains of the Aryans from the north and the Dravidians from the south, and traces of all the tribes that had dwelt between them for millennia. The man thought it remarkable that a boy from a Christian country should be interested in joining their sect. He insisted that a preliminary novitiate of two years would be necessary to familiarize him with the essentials of Hinduism.
Marcus protested that he had studied this on his own; the guru countered with the assertion that books could not convey the inner meaning of the doctrine. This Marcus could not dispute, for it was the whole reason he was here. There was much in the group’s teachings and practice that appealed to him, and he seriously considered accepting the terms of the offer.
In the end, however, he acted on an impulse to move on.
Marcus and Anastasia passed through Delhi, then followed up a lead at Amritsar in the Punjab, which turned out as fallow as the rest. They continued north into Kashmir, and now Marcus was actually tingling with the tangible sense of zeroing in on a motherlode. They came to Srinagar, and Marcus was certain that here they would find the prize, but days of careful investigation did not reveal it. Regretfully he agreed to drive on, but a short distance from the town he made his mother stop. “I know we’re very close,” he said, though they could see nothing in the surrounding countryside to validate the inkling ~ there was no temple nor monastery nor even any sign of native settlement.
They went into what they took to be a small British complex to inquire about what might be in the vicinity. It was a modern building, and inside they found white men and women in Western dress, telephones, typewriters, and all the other appurtenances of a European commercial enterprise.
Immediately upon their entry a tall man in a business suit rose and greeted them. “Welcome,” he said. “We don’t often get visitors here. How may we be of assistance?” All the people in the office ~ if such it was ~ stopped their activity and turned to look at the two souls who had stepped in from the road. The workers were obviously curious, but did not seem in the least surprised or hostile.
“I’m looking for a school,” said Marcus. “Do you know of one nearby?”
The tall man raised an eyebrow very slightly. “From your accent,” he said, “I would guess that you have come a long way in search of this school. What makes you think it might be nearby?”
” A hunch,” he said.
“Forgive us, sir,” said Anastasia. “My son is on what the Hindus might call a divine quest. He thinks there is mysterious knowledge preserved from ancient times by hidden initiates, who have secret schools to teach it to deserving young people.”
Now the man raised both eyebrows and broke into a broad smile. Marcus said to him, “I know it sounds strange, but my studies make me sure that it must be so, and some of the Hindu holy men I’ve spoken with seem to confirm it, though so far none of their schools have been the one I seek.”
The man still appeared to be amused. He said, “And do you think you would recognize this school if you saw it?”
“I’m certain of it. Please, sir, if you know of anything at all in the area, no matter how unlikely it may seem, I’d like to know about it.”
The tall man looked thoughtful. “Very well. Perhaps I can be of some help. If you will please come with me…. ”
He led Marcus and Anastasia down a carpeted hallway and into a large room which was appointed not like an office but a parlor. At the far end was a picture window. He beckoned them over to it, and waved his hand at the view. They looked, and were amazed.
The back of the building evidently overlooked a valley. It had been concealed from the road by a line of trees and low hills. On the near slope of the valley was a remarkable structure which looked like an amalgam of a monastery and a medieval fortress, but of a style of architecture that may have been even more ancient. Even Anastasia, with her background of European nobility and its ancestral haunts, had never seen the like of this. As old as it must have been, the building was in excellent repair, and the figures of people could be seen going in and out of it, and walking in the courtyard.
“What is that place?” asked Marcus.
“That,” said the tall man, “is our school. If you like, I’ll take you down and introduce you to the, ah, headmaster.”
It was like a dream. They passed elegant alabaster statues of Hindu deities. They heard the melodies of many voices chanting in unison. They saw a bevy of saried women practicing dances in a high-ceilinged hall. They stopped for a moment and watched a man in coveralls painting a mural of a six-armed god on the wall of a chapel.
At length they passed through an arched doorway into a sunlit garden, where they saw a number of men in white robes sitting on benches, engaged in earnest conversation. “We’re in luck,” said their escort, “he’s not in his sanctum. Come, let us approach.”
The eldest of the men turned his head and saw them. His eye caught that of Marcus, and he gave a bright smile of recognition, as unmistakable as it was inexplicable. He had been speaking in what Marcus took to be a dialect of Hindi, but now he said to his listeners in English: “We have guests.”
The tall man stepped forward and said, “Pardon the interruption, Teacher, but these travelers have come in search of a school. I would be pleased to introduce them to you, but alas, in our conversation thus far I have thoughtlessly neglected to ask their names.”
“Oh!” said Anastasia, “that’s right. And we didn’t think to ask yours.”
The robed man smiled again. “Well, then I shall have to do the honors,” he said. He gestured toward the tall man. “This is Svetaketu, and I am Yajna Vasudeva. And unless I am mistaken, young sir, you are the soul whom I once knew as Pravahan, and who in this life is called… ” He touched his hand to his forehead as if in concentration; then he said: “Marcus.”
Marcus was astonished. Anastasia said, “That’s amazing! How did you know?”
“Sometimes it’s easy,” said Vasudeva, “sometimes not. I must confess, Madame, that I cannot guess your name, and beg that you enlighten me.”
Marcus recovered his composure and said, “This is my mother, Anastasia.”
“Charmed,” said Vasudeva.
Vasudeva himself was very charming. Marcus fancied that his impeccable speech had Oxfordian overtones. He bade his guests be seated, and called for tea to be brought posthaste.
After a round of somewhat exotic small talk, Anastasia felt comfortable enough to say, “I’m surprised to find that you have Indian names. I assumed this was a religious colony of British who had taken up monastic Hinduism. I mean, everyone we’ve seen here is white.”
“We are Indian,” said Vasudeva.
“But you certainly look like Europeans,” said Marcus.
Vasudeva smiled warmly as he said, “You have it backwards, my young friend. The Europeans look like us. We are direct descendants of the original stock. We are the last Aryan Brahmins.”
The community was referred to among its inhabitants simply as the Srinagar Ashram. Vasudeva told Marcus that it also had another name, which he would learn by and by.
Over the course of several days Marcus was shown the full scope of what he must commit himself to in order to be accepted as a student here, and hence as a member of the community. He was thrilled to learn that martial arts were a part of the discipline. “It came back to us from the East,” said Vasudeva. “We put forth the seeds, as it were, millenniums ago. Hinduism and its disciplines transmogrified into Buddhism, which spread among the Orientals. These worthies developed their own specialties, the most finely honed of which was their methodology of combat skills. The outer culture of India, meanwhile, had perhaps petrified too much for its own good. So when a master from Shaolin visited us several hundred years ago, desirous of learning those skills of which we are the unique masters, we immediately saw the advantage of recombining the warrior and priestly function, just as it was in the Golden Age. When we became proficient at it, it had a further benefit of attracting more Kshatriyas into the community ~ this in fact was vital to our survival, because of the declining numbers of qualified Brahmins in the general population.” Marcus knew that the Kshatriyas were the traditional Hindu warrior caste.
Besides learning kung fu, Marcus would have to meditate, study the Vedas, and do his share of the physical work of the community, all on a daily basis. There were also many areas of specialized studies, some of them elective, some not. And there was yoga, as both a physical and philosophic discipline.
Marcus was not only undaunted by the regimen, but positively eager to begin. He sensed a definite rapport with Vasudeva and some of the other teachers and masters. And, as he told his mother, he was already starting to feel at home in the community.
For her part, Anastasia felt distressed at the prospect of going home and leaving Marcus in a remote place in the middle of Asia which outsiders didn’t even know existed. Vasudeva offered her a guest facility for as long as she wished to make use of it. Here she lived while Marcus entered upon his new life. After only a few weeks, however, it was evident even to her concerned motherly eye that he was thriving; and so it was that Anastasia knew she must depart and leave her son to his destiny. The fact that the community had modern communication links with the outside world was an important consideration. Marcus promised to call collect at least once a month without fail, and to write letters in between.
Life at Srinagar was stimulating, and very, very challenging. Marcus awoke at five in the morning six days a week, meditated for specified long and short periods, learned complex Vedic chants and their meaning, attended classes, and mastered increasingly esoteric aspects of yogic postures, movements, and breath control. He also performed a great variety of manual tasks, ranging from plowing a field to digging a pit for an outhouse. He proved to be especially apt in the martial training ~ he progressed through the belts so rapidly that his teachers were astounded.
At last there came the day when the visionary hope that had brought him hither began to bear tangible fruit. As did all the students on a periodic basis, Marcus was being given a private examination by Vasudeva, whom, as he had learned, was referred to by the ancient Vedic title acarya rather than by the term “guru”, which was a product of more recent centuries. He found Marcus to be at a proficient level of knowledge and accomplishment in all required areas, and to exceed the requirements in many. “You have done so well,” said the acarya, “that we can possibly promote you from chela to full aspirant. It is very rare for one not of adult majority to attain this stage.” Just as Marcus started to smile, Vasudeva said, “But there is a trial you must pass to win this boon. It is extremely difficult, because it depends not on mere learning and skill, but on a change you must go through in your very soul. You must be able to see certain things with your third eye, and if one has not the spiritual capacity for this, all his other powers will be futile.
“Furthermore, there are certain perils inherent in the trial. As your acarya, I can take your soul to the place where it can, if it is able, go through this transformation. But if it is not able, it may be damaged in the process. You may regress to an earlier stage in your life’s journey, or suffer even harsher consequences. Knowing this, do you consent to undergo the trial?”
With no hesitation nor even a mote of uncertainty, Marcus said, “Yes, Teacher ~ I’m ready.”
“Very well. First you must meditate with me here for awhile.”
It did not take Marcus long to go into his meditational trance. As he had been taught, he visualized the seven chakras, as the Hindus call the body’s vital energy centers. He focused on each in turn until it seemed quite tangible to him, then visualized a current of energy circulating through them, going up and down his body, round and round the circuit.
Suddenly he became aware that his third eye, the chakra between the eyebrows, was vibrating in a new way, more strongly than it had ever done before. It seemed also to contain a new energy, a silver ball of light, or radiation. And then he knew it was Vasudeva. His teacher was projecting his presence inside Marcus’ body.
Without words, and without sound as our ears know sound, the silver sphere in Marcus’ cortex communicated to him the message: Very good, pupil. You have found me out. Now we shall go further.
The sphere nested itself in the lotus which was the visualized symbol of the chakra. Then, slowly, it began to spin.
Gently, gently, the sphere nudged the flower, until it too began to rotate. The speed of the spin increased, slowly at first, then faster. It seemed to emit a hum.
Marcus began to see pictures. Landscapes spiraled out of the lotus and spread before him. They were in motion, and blurred. Then he began to see people. Some seemed to be persons he knew; others were grouped in vast crowds, moving about the landscape. Some of the people went into buildings, and there were indoor scenes. It was almost like watching a movie, or being the observer in a sequence of dreams.
The moving images settled down into what seemed this very room. The sphere bade him to remain calm and relaxed. Then Vasudeva’s mind said to his: Now, pupil, very carefully, so as not to disturb our state, open the eyes of your subtle body but not those of your physical form.
Marcus wasn’t at all sure if he could do this, but he tried. Looking around inside his mind, he seemed to find a muscle that was made of subtle matter. He flexed it, and his eyes opened. He thought that he had surely failed, for here was Vasudeva seated before him ~ it was the scene before his physical eyes in every detail.
Or was it? He looked more attentively and saw that though his teacher wore the same white robe and beard, the features of his face were different. Surprised, he looked deeply into the old man’s eyes, and found that these were the same as they had ever been.
“Your eyes are the same too, pupil,” said the strangely altered Vasudeva, “but your mind is not. Look into it and see.”
Marcus allowed himself to resume conceptual thought, while still maintaining trance. This was a difficult feat, but he had learned it some time before. Again he was surprised, for he found that he had a whole new set of memories. And another name.
“Now, Pravahan,” said the acarya, “we can continue our conversation. Do you remember where we left off one hundred and thirty-one years ago?”
Remarkably, Marcus ~ or Pravahan ~ found that he could. “Yes, Teacher,” he said. “You were trying to convince me that the English and other Europeans were not truly our enemies, but were the descendants of our ancestors returned from the West.”
“Very good, pupil! And what else do you recall?”
“You told me that the masters of the East India Company, which is conquering and despoiling our country, are not truly English, but Ophidian.” He was aware that the word would have a different sound if he heard it with his fleshly ear, but the meaning was lucidly clear.
“You advised me not to join the other Kshatriyas in making war upon the English, for not they but the Ophidians were the true enemy, and that the Ophidians could not be fought with arms but only by subtler methods.”
Excellent! And how did you heed my words?”
“Alas, Teacher, I did not. I knew you spoke with wisdom, but when I saw the English soldiers marching towards the town of my birth to take revenge on my brothers and cousins for their resistance, I could not stand by. I took up arms and I fought, and … and I died.”
The acarya nodded, and looked him in the eye. The pupil marvelled at what he found in his mind. “I remember my death!”
“Yes. And afterwards? Can you remember that?”
He concentrated. “Not as well. I recall a light ~ and shadows and phantasms. Forgive me, Teacher.”
“You have nothing to apologize for ~ you’re doing very, very well. But now you must move from the past back into your present life as Marcus, and see if you can find any strands of continuity.”
Marcus closed his subtle eyes again in trance. After awhile he said, “Yes, the pattern repeats. I must act it out again, until I reach the point where by a different choice I can find the path of dharma.”
“Ah!” said Vasudeva, and then was silent.
As a fully-fledged aspirant, Marcus had the same status as many of the adults in the ashram. He was fourteen; most of the other children his age had been born into the community, and not all of them were brahminical chelas in training.
Indeed, Marcus was coming to realize just how unique this community was. In the passage of the rite by which he had won back the memory of his last incarnation, he had also learned that the secret name of this place was Asgartha, which meant essentially “Heaven”, though it contained many connotations not included in the Christian word.
Asgartha was unlike any other presently-existing Hindu ashram or monastery in many ways. The acaryas who had guided it through the turbulent times of the last few centuries had not only adapted to the British presence in India but had adopted some of their ways ~ like the founding of the trading company which had at first fooled Marcus and Anastasia into thinking they had entered a British establishment. The community was internally self- sufficient from its small-scale farming and mastery of animal husbandry and handicrafts; but the profits from the trading company enabled Asgartha to obtain whatever items of Western technology it found a need for, and to maintain a covert presence in the rapidly-expanding global communications network.
The contact with the West had definitely served to awaken the Asgarthans to the perilous position of India in relation to the radically changing world beyond its borders. The acaryas had been aware for centuries that the people and culture of their country were in a state of slow but drastic decline.
Before the arrival of the Europeans, there seemed no need to attempt to act on or to change this situation, for it was in accord with the basic Hindu doctrine of the four Yugas, or epochs, during which mankind steadily devolved through conditions symbolized by gold, silver, brass, and iron. The present era was the Kali Yuga, or Iron Age, so it was to be expected that the populace should spend thousands of years in an extremely degraded state.
However, with the advent of colonialism and modernism, it became increasingly clear to the High Brahmins of Asgartha that the degenerative tendencies were being accelerated in a way that would necessarily bring about in a relatively short time a complete catastrophic collapse. Lord Shiva would do his dance of destruction, the existing civilization would be annihilated utterly, the world would be thrown back into primal chaos, and from thence a new Golden Age would arise.
With this apocalyptic prospect in view, the acaryas totally reconfigured Asgartha from a traditional Hindu monastery into something thoroughly new ~ or rather, something they hoped was extremely old. Their objective was to recreate a true Vedic community, as it must have existed in the dim mists of the past long before the Vedas themselves had ever been written down, even before the Aryans had entered this land and transformed it into India.
Only such a community, they reasoned, had a chance to survive the violent end of the Kali Yuga, and thereafter be in a position to inaugurate the new Golden Age.
Despite the fact that their goal was ultimately so conservative, the Asgarthan acaryas were wise enough to adopt an absolutely radical perspective on how to attain it. They saw that the proliferation of castes into innumerable sub-groupings, and the rigidification of the resulting social boundaries, was a product and a cause of India’s decline. They decided to halt the vicious downward spiral, and remake their community on a new primal foundation. Their expectation was that under natural conditions, the four basic castes would reconstitute themselves. Only in this way could the Vedas be honored, as well as the Laws of Manu, for these ancient holy books dealt with four castes, not with the multiplicity of them that had appeared in the following millennia.
The acaryas also knew that in Vedic times caste and race were one, with the darker peoples in the lower castes; indeed, the very word “caste” ~ varna in Sanskrit ~ meant “color”. They knew that the strict Vedic injunctions against the mixing of the castes in marriage were in essence prohibitions against the mixing of the races. Almost the entire population of latter-day India was the product of the failure of their forebears to honor those prohibitions; and so it seemed to the acaryas that there was only one practical way to undo this situation and prevent its recurrence. So it was that they expelled from the ashram all those of mixed blood and brown skin. It seemed to some the height of folly, especially since many of these were Brahmins; and the action was not without retribution, some of it bloody. But the community survived, and eventually began to thrive as it never had before.
The change necessitated many adjustments that were quite novel to the participants. Those expelled from the ashram included not just monks, chelas, and aspirants, but all the erstwhile servants. So it was that Brahmins and Kshatriyas had to perform their own menial labor, which was properly the job of the fourth and lowest caste, the Sudras. And when the ashram expanded into a community striving for self-sufficiency, they had to do the work of the third caste as well, the farming and trading of the Vaisyas.
Meanwhile, the acaryas of Asgartha and their agents scoured the whole of India in search of qualified individuals to take the place of those expelled. It was a difficult quest, first of all because of the rarity of the remaining Aryan strain, and the even greater rareness of the second and equally adamant criterion, which was personal quality: the candidate must be a noble soul, or else he or she would not be considered.
It took several generations, but eventually the quest was successful. Asgartha was restocked, as it were, with Brahmins and Kshatriyas ~ and even a few Vaisyas ~ who met the necessary standards.
Because the objective was to have a complete community ~ indeed, a society and potentially a nation in miniature ~ the customary rigid ascetic regulations were relaxed. As his training continued, Marcus came to appreciate the beauty and magnitude of what had been accomplished.
The practical reason for asceticism is not piety or prudery, but conservation of the body’s vital energies. For men, the key element is the retention of semen, and the subsequent redistribution of its energy to other chakras by technical procedures developed and perfected over thousands of years. For this reason, the most spiritually accomplished masters at Asgartha were celibate; if they had not been so all their lives, they had become so at a strategic point in their progress.
These, however, were a minority. Most of the inhabitants were married, including many of the monks and aspirants. The need for sexual asceticism was further reduced by the inclusion in the curriculum of Tantric practices borrowed from the Buddhists. Asgartha was probably the largest community since the Golden Age with collective mastery of a sexual dynamic that minimized expulsion of fluids and extraneous energy, while maximizing pleasure, power, and quality of offspring.
When he turned fifteen Marcus was a strapping young man, six feet tall and heavily muscled. The state of his emotional and spiritual development was clearly on a par with that of his body, and so his teachers decided to permit him to begin his Tantric training. His master in the new discipline was Karna, a Kshatriya by birth, whom Marcus knew to be well accomplished in many fields. There were practices lasting several months which Marcus had to do on his own, in which he learned conscious voluntary control of internal organs and physiological processes that are usually autonomic. Then came the day when Karna announced that he felt Marcus was ready for a partner.
Karna told Marcus the names of three girls, and asked his preference. He was well acquainted with all of them, but hadn’t known that they were tantrikas in training. Discreet secrecy was an integral part of this discipline.
Marcus knew immediately that of the three, he would most like to be matched with Katyayani, a delightful young lady of sixteen whom he always enjoyed talking, playing, and doing chores with. He said that if Katyayani were mutually inclined, he would like her for his partner. Karna nodded his approval of the choice, and said that she had already indicated her assent. Marcus wondered if the other two had also been offered a choice which included him as a potential selection, but he did not voice this thought.
The first meeting was of four people in a small but well-appointed room. They were Marcus, Karna, Katyayani, and Maitreyi, who was Katyayani’s tantra mistress. They sipped tea and spoke in soft tones. The casual atmosphere was intended to alleviate the highly-charged nature of the circumstances for the boy and the girl. Even though (or perhaps because) they knew each other so well, both were very shy and embarrassed about meeting in this situation for the first time.
Soon, however, the pleasant talk of the teachers put them at ease, and only then did Kama and Maitreyi begin discussing exactly what the first session should consist of. In general, Marcus and Katyayani were invited to simply begin to become acquainted on this new, more intimate basis, in whatever manner they found comfortable, when they would be alone together. If things went well, they were encouraged to remove their clothes and begin the massage techniques they had been taught, starting with the less specifically erotic ones. If they reached this point, it would more than suffice for a first encounter.
As it turned out, Marcus and Katyayani quickly found themselves enmeshed in a very compatible state of empathy, and only with difficulty did they restrain themselves from proceeding beyond the advised limits of the session. Having recounted everything to Kama afterwards, Marcus listened as his teacher re-emphasized the importance of maintaining control of everything involved in the tantric process, especially one’s will and desires. Only with this iron framework of willed control was it possible to ride the edge of release for long stretches, and finally to attain the mystic state of simultaneous control and release.
Over the course of the following months, Marcus and Katyayani progressed through a series of well-modulated stages to the phase where he penetrated her. Now came the time of exquisite control, the advanced degrees of it, as she sat on his lap and embraced him and they caressed, with him hard inside of her the whole time.
Their eye contact was the key here, given that their bodies had attained the state of restraint in the act of passion. That act could now go on and on for hours, even whole nights and days, and through their eyes their souls could become commingled just as their bodies were. When they reached the stage of climax, they would not permit themselves the natural ejaculation, but rather sublimated the great burgeon of energy into a finer climax in a higher chakra. The result was a different kind of orgasm, subtler but every bit as potent for them both, pulsing cathartically through every fibre of their conjoined bodies and souls.
There came a night when this ecstatic energy attained a greater magnitude, rippling up to concatenate in a point of scintillating light above their heads. This point was the center of the Universe, and in it they were both ecstatically one, united not just with each other but with all that is.
The state of unity seemed eternal, but eventually, despite all their efforts, it began to melt, and shards of beingness spiraled down from the point above. One of them was Marcus. His eyes were closed now; he no longer saw Katyayani, nor the room which he knew must be there around them. What he saw was a different place, and it astounded him.
He was in a land that must have been India, but it was inhabited not by men but by gods. A great triune presence hovered over him, and he recognized the three-headed form of Brahma-Shiva-Vishnu. The countryside had a surreal aspect, for he was momentarily on land, then in the sky, and sometimes on the water, or under it. And sometimes he was in a place of fire, presided over by Agni, its lord. Marcus himself seemed to be a disembodied presence, like a dream observer, but this was more real than any dream, and more real even than normal life in the waking state. He projected himself hither and thither, and saw elephant-headed Ganesha, mighty Indra sitting on the throne of Heaven with Indrani beside him, and Yama in his demonic aspect reigning over the underworld. He saw gods battling demons and riding on giant birds and serpents. He saw a circle of sages drink soma and then grow in size and power so that they consorted with the gods and entered Heaven. Marcus reflected that essentially, soma was the same substance as LSD.
He saw how this entire amazing meta-world had grown over centuries from a gigantic dome of light, a living field of electric-like energy which covered all of India and was generated by the vital force of its inhabitants. Marcus looked at it all and marvelled, from a vantage point that could have been in outer space, such was the breadth of vision; yet he could see all the details, even to the thought-forms of individual people.
As he studied the spectacle before him, Marcus could not tell if the gods and demons ~ or devas and asuras, as they were called by the Hindus ~ had arisen out of the collective mind of the mass of incarnate people, or whether instead the devasuras had projected the humans from their plasmic substance and created them, and all of the physical world, in a way similar to how Plato imagined that the Forms would precipate the objects of sense-perception.
But even as he contemplated this enigma, he became aware that there was something more basic underlying the vast noetic complex which had here unveiled itself. Beneath the fairy-tale efflorescences of the Hindu meta-world was the ponderous mind of a single creature, a group-soul which had lived for long ages before it had ever dreamed these pantheons and turned them real. He saw this creature as a vast amoeba straddling the landscape of the subcontinent. And then the video-clip that was his vision ran backward, and he saw it oozing through the bottleneck of Kashmir into the great fertile plain aound the Aral Sea, to Iran in the west and across the Caucasus Mountains to the endless expanses of the Steppes. Onward it osmosed through Anatolia and into Europe, and wherever the entity settled, a part of it would fission off and begin to spin out another metasphere. The seeds of the same deities would sprout in new soil and assume altered forms; yet it was easy to see that Indra was he whom the Greeks called Zeus, and the Nordics Wotan; and that likewise all the other gods and goddesses and demons, at least the ones essential to the collective soul, would rise again from the fresh turf of a further country.
This took thousands of years, and tens of thousands. Meanwhile, Marcus turned his envisionaried eyes to still more distant fields, and saw there the strange and alien forms of other entities. He knew them to be the collective souls of other peoples, just as the one he had been watching was that of his own. Each such being was a world for the souls that lived within it, and was peopled not just with people but with gods, demons, and spirits of the dead.
He saw how these creatures were very different from the corresponding ones of his own metaworld. So the metaphysical menagerie of each realm was distinct; a being whom one culture would perceive as a benevolent deity could appear as a menacing demon to someone from outside ~ and thfl perception could well be accurate, for the gods of one realm were frequently hostile to the inhabitants of another.
Indeed, war was frequent between beings from different realms, and sometimes between the great amoebas which embodied the realms themselves. As Marcus struggled to understand what he was seeing, he knew he needed a name for these vast creatures. Perhaps Vasudeva knew of one, and could tell him when he returned to his familiar world. Meanwhile, he pondered the probable nature of the beasts. They were evidently a metaphysical life form, swarming over the planet like gargantuan protozoa. Ah, thought Marcus, that’s what they are: they’re meta-zoa! Yes. So I can call them… metazoans? Or perhaps METAZONS for short.
So every genetic grouping of people was a metazon, a living being whose unity could be experienced by individual members of it in certain exalted states of awareness. This was the raw fundament, and Marcus realized that even animal species must have metazons. But human metazons obviously had added layers of complexity. When a metazon generated a culture, the result was a meta-world. If a culture grew into a civilization, its meta-world exfoliated into a marvel like the science-fictional realms he was now beholding: rich with all the imagery of fantasy and dreams, yet endowed with a realness exceeding that of merely physical life.
He saw that just because he had been born as what he was, he was cast within the amoeboid boundaries of his metazon. From his apparent perch in the astral stratosphere, he looked across the Himalayas to the neighboring Chinese metazon, with its alien and sometimes monstrous entities. He plucked up his courage and tried to enter it, for he was very curious; but he found that he could not. The protean dome which was the skin of the amoeba would not permit his disembodied form to pass through it ~ it was a barrier.
There must be a way through, thought Marcus. He searched, and shortly found what appeared to be a gate. It was woven of the ectoplasmic substance of which the dome itself was made. Marcus saw that a person could pass through, but that it would be very difficult, and take a long time ~ perhaps ages. Indeed, for the key of passage was nothing less than one’s own genetic code. This bedrock essence of oneself would have to change as one passed through the long convolutions of the gate, which also resembled a tunnel.
Now Marcus understood why Shan had not been able to transmit to him the Chinese mysteries. To receive them he would have had to enter the Chinese meta-world, and actually become a part of its metazon. And this he could not do, except by dying and being reborn Chinese. And he saw further that even should he set his will to do this, it would take not just one death and rebirth, but many. Indeed, the gates between the worlds were formidable.
Marcus took flight again and looked to the west, observing the alien metazons encountered in that quarter by his own, the metazon of the primordial Aryans and their offshoot peoples. He must’ve been far in the past, for he saw its pseudopods encroach on the edges of an amoeba as large as itself, a vast realm containing Egyptians and Assyrians, Hebrews and Phoenicians, and many other tribes, clans, and nations. Time ran forward swiftly, and, fascinated, he watched the interplay of the two great entities, their conflicts and competitions, their cultural borrowings and peaceful exchanges.
He was becoming absorbed in the development of the Roman Empire, when a strange occurence claimed his attention. A part of a metazon went through a transmutation which changed it into a different type of entity, a meta-creature the like of which Marcus had not seen before. It must’ve taken many centuries, but Marcus’ time-lapse vision enabled him to see it quickly. The being stopped feeding from the earth, like the other entities, and instead began feeding off of them. Perhaps in retaliation, the metazons took away its own patch of earth. This, however, only magnified the vampiric tendency of this organism, and Marcus watched as it gradually perfected its methods and became a full-fledged meta-parasite. It was small but virulent, and had decisively fissioned itself off from the larger metazon of which it had been a part. Nevertheless, it retained its meta-world from the days when it had been a culture like any other, and therefore had to be considered a metazon unto itself.
With a shock, Marcus realized that he had witnessed the birth of the Ophidian metazon. Engrossed and horrified, he observed its further progress. It was exactly like a bacillus, invading the bodies of every metazon it could reach, and living inside of them by diverting nourishment and resources to itself. And like some parasites in the biological world, it gradually mastered more insidious tactics, taking over key functions in the host’s body until it could manipulate its behavior. So it was that the rulers of states and kings of nations enacted policies and unwittingly waged wars that benefited only the Ophidians, to the expense and detriment of their own peoples and the vital needs of their kingdoms.
Finally the unfolding meta-drama reached the point where it connected with Marcus’ previous knowledge and completed his picture of history. He saw the Ophidians so thoroughly infect and enfester the body and brain of his own metazon that. it literally sought to destroy itself in enthralled response to the primal hatred directed at it by the Ophidians, and to their primordial desire for vengeance on the enemy metazon.
Marcus cried out at the sight. This caused him to lose control of the tantric process; he opened his eyes and the vision vanished like a magical dream turned into a nightmare. Before him was Katyayani, looking very anxious about Marcus’ apparent trouble. “What’s wrong?” she asked, caressing him.
He was delighted at seeing her again after what had seemed to him an immensely long visionary experience. He kissed away her concern, and then said, “How long has it been since we reached the summit and started down?”
“I don‘t know, dear one,” she said; “I have no clock.”
He laughed affectionately. “That doesn’t matter. Just tell me how long it seemed to you.”
“Well, after we became two again, I floated slowly down through the spirit-worlds …. ”
“Ah!” said Marcus, “I, too. Tell me, pretty flower, what you saw.”
“I did not see so much as I felt. It was warm, and I felt protected as if by my mother, and by the gods and goddesses. And by you, my valiant, for you were a god.
“Then my soul came back through the aperture of Brahmin at the top of my head, whence it had flown when we climaxed. I saw that you were not yet back, so I sat with you and waited.”
“I see,” said Marcus. “And how long would you guess that all this lasted?”
“Perhaps ten minutes. No more than fifteen, certainly.”
Marcus whistled. “The spirit-world is an amazing place,” he said.
“I must leave,” said Marcus to Vasudeva. “I have work that awaits me in the world.”
“You have become dear to me, student,” said Vasudeva, “like all my other spiritual children here. And, if truth be told, even more dear than most. You are having a very special incarnation, my son. You came far as Pravahan, and now as Marcus you have taken a great leap beyond even that. I could almost recognize you as an avatar, save that there is one more great initiation you must pass through. I would like to think that if you remain with us, we could guide you through it more knowledgeably than could any of our ancestral cousins in the Western lands.”
Marcus gave a slight bow, then said, “It’s true, Teacher, that here there is more knowledge of the spirit and the metasphere than in the West. But that is where I was born, and that is where I must pass through whatever further initiations await me. I hope, however, that when the need arises, I may call upon your wisdom.”
Now Vasudeva bowed. “I will be ever at your service, as long as I reside in this body ~ and afterwards as well. We have become linked through the akashic ether, which works independently of physical distance, and even of incarnation. The link will indeed become stronger after one or both of us gives up the body. Meantime, should the need arise, you can use the telephone.”
Marcus smiled, and they made their last farewells.