In my nightmares I had come to associate logical reasoning with a monstrous figure that would tear me apart even as it embraced me. Intuitive and experiential knowledge I began to associate with a mystery woman and the intensely spiritual lovemaking of my dreams. You can probably tell that I had read Hesse’s Narcissus and Goldmund several times by this point in my life.
Reason, I had concluded, was a trap. With reason as your guide you could only become hopelessly trapped in the paradoxical nature of our existence. I had run my mind in circles trying to find the door out of that circular pit, desperately looking for the right organizational matrix that would somehow allow me to perceive the design of our mutual prison and thus be freed from it somehow. At times I thought it would drive me mad, as I would lay awake at night struggling with questions of free will, the nature of truth or to what degree the perception of reality was relative to the observer.
Being raised in a Buddhist household, there were certainly other options presented to me. At a young age I remember often coming across my dad meditating in the living room, and like any young boy trying to understand his father I would try to meditate too. I didn’t really understand exactly what we were trying to accomplish by clearing our minds of thought, and being a young child I would fidget too much, although the breath control I learned in those early spiritual excursions would prove invaluable to me later in life. Along with these experiences there were many books of Zen wisdom in our home library, and as I grew older I devoured them with zeal.
I was excited by these works as much as I was challenged by them. Reading them, I felt a sense of rightness in my gut, but I also felt fear. It was too big, too scary, it was impossible to accept all at once, and so I put them away, returning to the works of western philosophers like Descartes, Plato and the existentialists. Initially excited by Plato, I was ultimately disappointed in him. Reading his Republic, my anticipation turned to ash as he resorted to a constructed afterlife to demonstrate the worth of being a just person. Descartes only reinforced for me the fragility of logical argument and the dangerous appeal of the skepticism one can draw from his works once you remove his axiomatic belief in God from the equation. Sartre and the other existentialists left me wanting. The acknowledgment of the absurd in life was a powerful beginning for me, but it seemed to lack much hope. I did not understand how anyone could find joy in this belief, and it did not scare me, which made it feel less real.
I found myself sweating some nights as these thoughts whirled around in my head. In my journals I would write messily and too large “ESCAPE THE PARADOX!” It became an internal mantra for me and I knew that someday I would have to let go, but the fear was still strong. There had to be a way out, and maybe the way out was to find some way to take control of the world around me.
And so, in my game of spiritual hopscotch I turned to paganism and the occult.
To Be Continued