I would like to talk about the development of Spiritual Sense.
Actually, of course, it isn't a "development," or a "process" at all.
It is a "dawning," or an "awakening" to Who and What we are already.
Something that is already done. Finished.
And that we are just waking up to.
But, not really, because we are already awake to it.
We are already there.
However, at our present stage and state of consciousness it will seem like a "process" of "awakening."
Until we get there.
And see that we were already there all the time.
C'est la guerre.
Let's get on with it.
One of the little "artifacts" in my study is a canoe. A little handmade, chiseled-out piece of wood--about 18" long, covered with canvas.
I got it from Walter Hoeffler in the Third Grade.
I got it by stealing 43 cents from my dad, and mom, and brother.
And giving them to Walt.
He, of course, had stolen the canoe from somebody else.
I used to build great huge dams out of snow and slush in front of our house.
Sometimes my dams would go halfway across the street, and back up water a half a block.
(That's an exaggeration.)
But it seemed like it.
To this little kid.
We had a lot of snow in Missoula, centered as it was, in the midst of several great mountain ranges.
Which also meant it was gray and dismal a lot of the time.
But I, and the other kids like me, would invent these crazy things to do.
To keep from being shut in a house, for the whole of the long cold winter.
Like play in the run-off water when it thawed.
In early Spring.
There is a health, and energy, and bounciness that one learns to live and be attracted to as a kid.
We could pick it out more easily than some I guess, because we had this harsh climate, which made it all too evident when something "good" was happening. Or about to happen.
As a class, the group I went through grade school with were happy, eager, strong, and normal.
We went through all eight grades; and then to high school.
We had a wonderful girl in our class, named Sherry Reardon, who is now my memory expert on what happened in our class.
Sherry and I went steady in the eighth grade.
For at least one day, as I recall.
She says it was longer; but I say I gave her my ring, to wear around her neck; and then she gave it back to me the next day.
In Jerry Kennison's Packard.
While she was in the front seat. With him.
And I was in the back seat. Without her.
That was the day I first traveled over 100 mph.
In the back seat of that 1956 Packard.
Down Fort Missoula Road.
Lined with trees.
I thought something would "happen," when we crossed the magic 100 mph line.
But it didn't.
What did happen was the understanding of just how fragile these tender little human relationships were.
And the "dawning," the growing awareness, that maybe there might be something a little bit more durable around than staking your happiness on the trusty foundation of how somebody's going to wake up feeling about you tomorrow morning.
Sherry's and my love for each other transcended the fickle whimsy of personal sense or personal touch.
I can distinctly remember "trading" Sherry with Bill MacLean's makeout partner, Lynn Ricketts, to see whether there was any significant change.
(Ah, the wandering lust of sensuality always looking for one and only one thing in the end. Novelty.
Which is really a repetition of the primal experience of novelty.)
Sherry's and my relationship was really based on respect.
She had tremendous strength.
And so did I.
For similar reasons.
Her dad had died.
Her sister had liver trouble, which had kept her in and out of hospitals and clinics for years. With no spleen.
And then she finally died.
Leaving Sherry with her mother and grandmother.
Yet you would have been unaware of any of this terrible pain in the early days of Sherry's life when we were growing up.
Only once, when some boys teased her about her sister's dying, did I see her break and cry, and get even a hint of what was going on.
And then, I was much too much of a coward to face and beat up her tormentors.
I watched a lot of fighting as I grew up.
I didn't participate. Much.
I was pretty much a chicken. A coward.
That was how I learned about courage.
By being a gutless chicken in the crunch.
Early in life.
And learning to hate it so much in myself (and to understand it so readily in others), that I overcame it as a chief obstacle to my growing up.
But, when I got to High School, I had two opportunities to punch guys out.
One I took.
The other I didn't.
The one where I didn't, the guy had been a lifelong bully; I had always been afraid of him.
But, to my startled amazement, when I got him down, and was ready to smash his face with my fist, it occurred to me that I didn't want to hit this poor joker. Instead, to my unending amazement, I said, "I love you."
And got up and walked away.
The case where I did take it, the kid was being an obnoxious punk asshole at my buddy Penn Stohr's house.
Our drinking home.
And Penn's mother, Alma, who had lost her husband and was supporting Penn and herself, and could not be home to guard the roost, was one of my very favorite human beings on this earth.
So I took a few swings at this kid, and knocked him down the front steps and out of the house.
That was the only and last time I ever hit a man in earnest.
I wish I hadn't.
To this day it still bothers me.
Even though I was drunk.
And he was drunk.
And it couldn't have mattered less.
The time I am most proud of was when Scott McKinstry plastered me in Bill MacLean's basement.
McKinstry was a jock.
I hated jocks.
I hated thugs.
And jocks were not-so-clearly-disguised thugs. To me.
I fought them all the way through High School.
I was editor of the High School paper.
And we took on the jocks.
I mean we tried to get our football team kicked out of the AA Conference.
The jocks were not happy with us.
With me. In particular.
More than once they contrived to waylay me.
They were bullies.
And I knew it.
And they knew that I knew it.
And I exposed them for the thugs they were.
Well, this one superjock--McKinstry--I actually kind of liked.
He was a good guy, and made friends with my little group of renegades and outlaws, and we had some good times together.
Of course, we had to take time out, occasionally, to haul McKinstry down to the hospital, to stitch up his arm from karate-chopping whiskey bottles.
One day I had a confrontation with McKinstry.
I told him how much I hated jocks.
For two hours. I harangued him.
About how very much I hated jocks.
What bullies and thugs they were.
McKinstry, finally, had had enough.
He stood up. And picked me up. Out of my seat.
And set me on my feet.
And then took aim to break my nose.
The second time he had to pick me up off the floor.
And set me on my feet.
But he failed.
And he marveled, he truly was impressed by how strong my nose was. He later told me.
Because McKinstry was the State Shotput champion.
My home life, growing up, was not exactly demure.
Mom and Dad and Mark and I had our little squabbles.
Dad's euphemism for the fact that we generally were on the edge of a fight was the fact that we were four "very independently minded people."
He expressed the point in more colorful language when he was dumping the table on top of my mother at dinner.
With all the dinner on top of it.
Throwing her over backwards.
And leaving Mark and me to pick up our plates and run for the living room to finish our supper.
He usually expressed it in snarls of rage.
But, you have to remember, that he was merely replying to Mom, who typically initiated the conversation of hate-snarls.
Keeping my dinner down was a major project with me.
I thought at the time it was mother's cooking, which it probably was, but mixed in with the general climate of goodwill and love that pervaded our household at dinner. After the folks had been able to get a little loaded with drinks.
They drank Petri Sherry.
Or, for special occasions, martinis made in the ice trays in the freezer.
I can remember, about my mother's cooking, that I used to have a bad dream about how she would bring out this casserole--she loved casseroles--filled with worms and gravy.
Then she would make us eat it. She would put a piece of bread down on our plates, and pour the worms and gravy over it.
I once asked, as meekly and humbly as I possibly could, whether I could just have a little gravy please?
Eat your worms!
Was the consistent reply.
Mom made us eat everything on our plates. It was a Law.
One of the many Laws that established and maintained her authority.
Another Law was that you couldn't leave the table before eating.
Which meant that I couldn't go into the bathroom and puke.
So I had to learn how to keep it down at dinner, meanwhile eating the rest of my dinner so I could leave!
Mom wasn't all nasty though.
I would get so terrified at night that I would have to come downstairs, down the long, bare, creaking staircase in the middle of the night, without turning the light on, and sneak into bed with her.
The trick was to do it without waking her.
Because if I woke her, or woke her very much, there was a good chance she would tell me that I was being a "baby," and send me back upstairs.
Upstairs, eventually, I learned how to turn on the light, and be by myself.
I found an all-night radio station in San Francisco on my clock radio, that I could turn to for voice.
And I loaded my '22 and kept it beside me, along with my hunting knife, to keep off the many many spooks that occupied our house.
The spooks got so bad that Marko got to move downstairs to the guest bedroom.
Marko was always the favored in our home.
He was two years younger.
And cunning. Oh God was he clever. He could set me up for the greatest falls.
Especially when he teamed up with the Old Lady.
One time I remember coming into the house and getting a glass of water, at the kitchen sink. I was standing there chugging down this nice cold drink, when Bonk!
My God Damn little brother hit me over the head with a Baseball Bat!
While I am drinking this glass of water!
The glass hits the sink. And shatters.
I turn around in a daze.
To see my Mother glaring at me, telling me that Now I should learn not to pick on my little brother.
I get the point.
What was harder to get was why Marko should have been so systematically favored.
All the time.
And the Old Man too; but not quite so much.
The Old Man only really began to favor Marko when he saw that Marko was going to Harvard.
Then he started giving him Prep School Metaphysical Tutoring.
On "Christian Science" or "The Cosmic Rules," as he called them.
The Old Man knew about one tit hair's worth of Christian Science. He had read the book, or part of it, and had seen a couple of Practitioners for a problem he had had down in Berkeley, where he was working on his doctorate, but he had only seen enough to know that it was very powerful.
And he was trying to impart his own inexplicable sense of it to Marko, as a last gesture, before sending him off to Harvard Law School.
He didn't even name it as Christian Science per se; he only spoke of it in terms of Philosophical generalities, like "The Law."
And, he inextricably tied the lesson, the teaching, to himself, which is absolutely fatal in Christian Science.
So that poor old Marko wandered off to Harvard, with this half-assed Philosophy in his back pocket, tied to a man who didn't understand it himself, and who was himself filled with treachery and deceit in the action.
Needless to say, Marko didn't fare too well with it.
He very quickly ended up in a Psychiatrist's office, with the Psychiatrist asking Marko where he had gotten this highly inflated notion of his father.
After the shrinks got done with Marko, he didn't speak to the Old Man for three years.
And didn't see him again for eight.
It's not nice to fool around with the most powerful Force in the Universe, Dad.
The Force that Is the Universe.
Or, more accurately, the Force that is the Source of Everything, the Universe being only one expression of it.
But Marko, for his part in the conspiracy against himself, had to learn a very very hard lesson about love.
In response to my inquiry to him, about why he thought the family so overwhelmingly favored him over me when he was going to Harvard.....Marko had said to me, "When you've got it, you've got it; and when you don't you don't."
I knew then that he had betrayed, or had been conned into betraying, the Principle of Love.
Which is the Principle of Christian Science.
Although, I, of course, didn't know that at the time.
I didn't know one goddamn thing about Christian Science, because of all the wonderful examples I had around me of the people who did know something (no matter how small) about it.
Marko has been in the hands of the shrinks ever since.
So has my mother.
After she and my father broke up.
And now, she and my brother sit down in Southern California, comparing notes on who had the more ugly upbringing, she or him.
And he, occasionally, saves her from suicide.
When I was growing up I had a dog named "Tippy."
Tip and I grew up together till he was twelve years old, when he died.
We had a Mountain.
It overlooked Missoula; and had a great big letter "M" on the face of it. For the University of Montana. Which was at its base.
So you could drive toward the town and see this "M" on the Mountain from many miles away.
Actually, it wasn't a great Mountain. It only rose maybe a couple thousand feet above the town. But the town was at 3200 feet, so that put the "Mountain" up there.
It was shaped kind of like a big hump, covered with grass, except for the trees on the top.
There was a kind of a "crotch" up on top, formed by erosion, where the trees came part way down the mountain, sort of like the opposite of a part in your hair.
That was always the goal of our hikes.
We went on hikes all the time. Up to the M. Up to the "cliffs", that overhung the Clark Fork River, where kids occasionally fell off and died every few years or so.
And we went up to the "Mine."
The "Mine" was something dug out of the face of the Mountain when somebody, sometime was looking for something.
It's just a tunnel.
Going into the side of the Mountain.
We used to set that as our goal, when we were younger, and couldn't get to the "top."
It was steep.
I remember going over the top with Tippy the first time. I was old enough to have my '22.
We saw some birds up there, and for the life of me I thought they were "quail," or game birds of some kind.
So I shot three of them.
And we sat down and made a fire; and roasted them on a spit, for lunch.
They were "camprobbers" I later found out, to my infinite humiliation.
"Camprobbers" are a close relative of magpies. In what they eat.
We had a "fort," that we more normally went to, that sat underneath a huge jutting rock, overlooking the river. It was above the cliffs and just north of the M.
I would take a couple of hot-dogs, and some buns and mustard, and we would build a fire, and have a little feast.
I had an army-surplus canteen for our water.
We would make the "fort" out of pine boughs.
Last summer I went back up there to the "crotch" on top, to visit Tippy's grave.
I found a host of the most beautiful flowers along the way.
They are Bitterroots.
And they are the state flower.
The Bitterroot is a flower that likes rocky knolls. Places that are exposed to the elements, and have very little soil to put their little feet into, to hold on.
They are the most beautiful flowers on earth, to my way of thinking, for just this reason.
They sit there, delicate and pure, some of them a little pinker than others, some of them whiter, utterly defiant of their ugly, harsh, formidable surroundings.
They're just little dinky things.
Maybe an inch and a half across the breadth of their opened petal.
They close up at night.
And they don't seem to have any leaves.
They just sit there on these rocky ledges and knolls, and ornament the way of the adventuresome traveler.
They cant be transplanted or raised in domestic captivity.
You see them when you see them. And you don't when you don't.
They always seem to surprise me. Delightful. Always.
We have some family pictures of Tipperary. And me. And Marko. In our pajamas.
In front of the fireplace.
With his eyes glowing in the flash of the camera.
We have some of us on top of Lolo, that Pass I was telling you about that Lewis and Clark went over, and that dropped down into the "Lochsa," the River the Indians named "Rough Water."
"Missoula," by the way, is so named by the Indians too. It means "place by the clear, cold, chilling waters."
When I was eighteen, and just out of high school, and about to go to college, I went to work for the Forest Service.
At Powell Ranger Station.
In 1961, they finally pushed the road all the way through over Lolo, down into the Lochsa, where Powell was located.
They put me to work running a chain saw.
It was tough, clean, hard work.
We were "snagging."
That means you go out in the woods and cut down all these great huge snags, that are sticking up out of the new growth, and are likely invitations for lightening to strike, and start forest fires.
Later that summer, the summer of '61, I was destined to be in the middle of the worst forest fire season in recent memory.
Two of my friends were to be killed in that season.
One by a special kind of "widow-maker."
You see, the fire creeps along the sod, or the "duff," as it is called there, which is a mixture of twigs and humus and pine needles. And it burns into the base of a tree at its roots. Silently.
Eventually, the tree is just standing there like a telephone pole standing on the ground, with nothing to hold it up.
Then it falls down.
But, without a single sound in warning that it is coming.
Except a sort of whistle.
That you pick up one tenth of a second just before the several tons of falling wood crash to the ground right beside you.
If you're lucky.
Which this guy wasn't.
He got it right in the neck.
You're so tired on these fires that you have to lie down in the ashes and just simply go to sleep.
At least that is what I did.
Well, anyway, all of this caused me to get into A-1 primo shape.
I was in such good shape, for those of you athletic lovers of health and exercise, that I could get drunk on two beers.
And puking drunk on five.
Not bad, for a guy who, the year before, could drink a case of beer in a night and live to handle the cops.
The same night.
We would pack up our junk on Friday Afternoon, stop at a tavern on the way home to Missoula, buy some frosty cold ones, and have a blast coming back into town for the weekend.
Well, I was at the age where young men are sent off to war.
And, if it had been a few years later, I would have gone to Vietnam. No question about it.
So, I would come home, full of spit and piss, and ready for any action that lay in the path.
My cousin, Bill Brown, happened to be staying with us that summer.
One day I came home, and said, "Want to go for a hike?"
He said, "Sure," and we took the dog to the top of the Mountain.
It was named.
Tippy was about twelve. And he was old. And smelly. And sick. And going fast.
I knew that the Old Man wouldn't have enough guts to do what I was going to do; and I knew how awful and painful it would be for him to watch "his" dog decompose, degenerate, and disintegrate before his very eyes.
So I took up my gun, my 30-'06, and set about to take care of it right then.
We set out for our "last" hike.
Tippy and Bill and I.
The fact that Tipperary could make it up the Mountain didn't deceive me. I knew he was declining fast. And so did he.
I took three of my elk hunting shells--220 grain bullets.
The largest they make for an '06.
I had knocked elk on their ass with them.
The gun was a remodeled Army Springfield.
I had put on a sportsman stock, and had sanded the barrel down to a lighter weight. And reblued it.
It was a nice little weapon.
I felt comfortable shooting it.
I packed us a lunch.
It was an easy walk.
We found a good little spot up in the crotch of trees, overlooking the city.
It was grassy.
Tippy was panting, but looking pleasantly and thoughtfully down at the city.
I fed him half my sandwich.
Then I picked up my Springfield Army rifle, and aimed it at the back of his neck; said good-bye; and squeezed the trigger.
The echo filled the canyon from the blast.
I looked at Tippy.
And he was just sitting there.
He had no head!
And he was just sitting there.
I couldn't stand it.
I thought he might be in pain.
But of course he couldn't be.
So I slipped another shell into the chamber; and shot him again.
And then I slipped my last shell in and blasted him a third time!
I shall never forget that day.
And what it did to me.
And my father.
These little "character building" incidents, or moments of "development" of "Spiritual Sense," as I call it, are not at all confined to one's youth. In fact, beginning with the development of morality in a person, and leading, ultimately, to his full and direct appreciation of the Spiritual Reality that is his nature, these little "things" that happen to us may come at any time in our lives: whenever we are ready for growth.
My first year of teaching at Whitman was such a time.
I was ready.
My first marriage had fallen apart.
Early in the Fall I had come home and announced that there would be no more daytime television in our house. My wife took aim with the head of lettuce she was preparing for a salad for dinner, and fired what had to be the first and only fast ball of her life. She had always been a baseball fan, but never particularly athletic. Now, the dream of a lifetime (her lifetime--with me) was fulfilled as she exploded that head of lettuce on my head.
It just disintegrated all over the kitchen.
I walked out the door.
That was the end of our marriage.
Which left me with the anomalous problem of what to do next.
That year is a long story, in my personally inconsequential little life. But there is one incident I would like to focus on that was to give me new depth and direction for seeing the way to go then.
I made two very good friends among the student body that year--Mike Rona and Gary Robbins.
Rona was a guy I could trust.
Robbins was a guy I admired.
It was a matter of the kind of star they showed me in their characters. Which is a word of course, that makes absolutely no sense at all outside of a spiritual context.
Ask a behaviorist, or a computer, what "character" means to him.
And yet, character is the moral ground on which the spiritual is built.
And we can all watch the development of "character" in our lives.
Well, Robbins and Rona each had a girlfriend.
I was deeply lonely, and frightened, and afraid of the existential angst that I felt stirring inside of me. (Actually, it wasn't angst at all, if you reverse it, and rightly identify what was really going on: it was Truth preparing my thought for the new direction and ideas that I was being made ready to receive.)
Ho Ho, you say?
The intensity of my despair, over the loss of my wife and son, mixed with the power of what I was reading and studying in class--which was mainly counterculture--together with the tremendous love and appreciation I felt from my students for the breath of honesty I brought into the classroom, ultimately let to this incident.
B.B. King came to town.
We put him up in our brand-new Auditorium, called Cordiner Hall, after Ralph Cordiner, the Chairman of the Board of General Electric.
It had cost 2.5 million.
And was a spectacular statement to our college of the triumph and beauty of technology.
Just the sort of thing I was intensely engaged in dissecting the evils of in class.
We were reading books like Goodman's Compulsory Miseducation and The Community of Scholars, Marcuse's Eros and Civilization and One Dimensional Man, Fanon's The Wretched of the Earth, Cleaver's Soul On Ice, Roszak's The Making of a Counterculture.
I didn't use The Harrad Experiment.
They were right in the middle of the big spat about Coed Dorms that was hitting the College Campuses about then.
Rona and Robbins were big sticks in the student body, which had just under 1200 kids.
I was twenty-eight.
Rona was the Vice-President of the student body.
Robbins was the leader of the activists and cynics that wanted to destroy the system or make it better on strictly moral grounds.
It was the high tide of the Black Movement.
And the demonstrable injustice between their plight and our school's fat and luxury was painfully apparent.
Painfully apparent enough that for the one and only time I ever rose in a faculty meeting I rose to draw the faculty's attention to this discrepancy.
Robert Whitner, the Chairman of the Faculty, and a man who would four years later sit on the evaluation committee that would set me up for the crisis of my last year, replied thus: He said that Whitman had not always been wealthy; that he could remember when he had to work out in the fields harvesting wheat back in the early days of the school.
A grown man said that.
In reply to my statement that I thought the students' complaint really was based on a moral charge against the school.
And it stood.
I was not pleased.
But I had to prove to my students that you win these battles, and wars, by working within the system.
Well, I was all stirred up, of course, after my long long bout with the behaviorists and logicians at Washington University, and I had to constantly control my calm.
Which I did.
Except that a couple of times the lid blew off.
One of which was when old B.B. King came to town to give this concert.
The Auditorium of Cordiner Hall was just filled with kids. Screaming and dancing in the aisles.
Rona happened to be ushering at the door, and he helped me find my seat.
I was too drunk.
Far far too drunk.
To find my own seat.
This was not good business.
For my P.R.
If anybody should catch me.
With my students.
In a public place.
Before the night was out I went nuts. I mean bananas.
I mean, they shouldn't have picked me up and taken me to the laughing academy when the did, but they should have this night.
But I "lucked" out.
"Luck" is the most preposterous weasel word in the English Language.
There is no such thing as "luck."
Luck is the paradigm for the human invention of meaningless categories that we run our lives by.
I was protected.
Thoroughly, completely, protected.
By my students.
Who were all around me.
And who never, ever said one word about what I did that night.
Before the night was out I was standing on my feet (which, of course, didn't distinguish me from anybody else, since everybody was standing up yelling and singing and screaming and dancing right along with B.B. King).
But I was screaming a particular verse, something that I had gotten from Zap Comic Books.
I was on my feet screaming, at the top of my lungs, in the middle of thousands of kids, surrounded by my students, the following words: "Bite My Crank!"
That was the choice little expression I elected to use to express my dismay, my angst, my despair at what I was going to have to give up to really follow Life and Truth and Love as I understood them.
At the time.
"Bite my crank!" is an expression that comes to us from two Pirate characters in one of the early issues of the now defunct Zap.
I keep one of them on the wall behind my desk.
Right beside another Comic I picked up at this time from one of my students, called "The New Adventures of Jesus."
The two Pirates in the Zap Comic sequence are seated at a table in a bar.
One of them says something to the other about the size of his crank. The other says how very much he'd like to see it.
So, the first reaches down and flops out this great big crank! Right on the table!
The second whistles out his sword, and lops off the end of it before the first Pirate can blink.
And then plops the end of it in his mouth!
And sits back, belching his pleasure and satisfaction over his delectable meal at the first Pirate's expense, and exclaims, "The head's best!"
I was crazy.
With fear, and desire, for Life and Truth and Love.
It took a strange form.
One that was certainly unexpected.
But, there I was, standing on my feet, for all of the world and God to see, screaming at the top of my lungs for B.B. King and all of my students to hear, "Bite My Crank, Matey!"
Over and over.
Over and over.
Until old Dimond, who was seated a few seats away from me, told me to get a hold of myself, or I'd lose my job.
Pretty prophetic Dimond.
Thanks for the tip.
But, believe it or not, that isn't the incident I want to tell you about.
The incident has to do with Rona's and Robbins' girls.
There was a time, later, that year...in fact it was early in the summer...when I had just gotten my little rented farm house out in the Valley, from Stan Maiden, a local farmer.
Stan had had a little dairy operation, and had a sign by his house that said "Maid-'0-Gold".
He had a hundred black angus on a hundred acres or so, when I rented from him.
$90 a month.
I had just moved in.
And was fixing it up.
When Rona's girl happened to be out there with some of my other students for dinner.
Burned barbecue chicken was my specialty.
They were smoking dope, which had me a little uneasy, but it was okay; I felt. Ultimately. Because it was summer.
When it was time for bed; they wanted to stay the night.
They had their own sleeping bags.
I said okay.
I went to my bedroom, only to find Rona's girl, whom I loved very much, right there.
To go to bed.
I said, Oh My God.
What am I ever to do.
She looked right at me, with big blue sincere eyes, and said something quite sincere: "It's OK."
Meaning, it's OK with Mike.
I said, Oh My God.
What am I going to do.
The counterculture thing had me believing that it was O.K.
That morality, "sexual" morality, really had changed.
I said. Gulp. O.K.
And we spent the night together.
A beautiful night.
But, then, when the dawn came, it was the same old morning after I had always known.
The Guilt. The Emptiness. The sense of Betrayal.
The awful feeling, of now what do I do?
Well, she knew what she was going to do.
She went to tell Michael.
About her newfound relationship.
As soon as she could.
I felt like shit.
I have ever since.
Never to be forgotten.
A little lesson in morality. To be remembered every morning when I see the sun get up.
But, do you think that was enough for me to learn my lesson?
One day I went over to see him: he was living in the town of Walla Walla that summer.
He wasn't home.
But his girl was.
We ended up at my place, out in the country, and I was so drunk I did a doughnut on the pavement.
In my good old Volvo.
Another protective angel looking after me.
I don't know what Robbins' girl and I did that night; but I do know what we didn't do.
I was too drunk.
And besides, in her case, I knew better.
But I do know we did some naughty things.
Well, the next day (she did not spend the night) I was walking around my old farmhouse kitchen, scratching my hangover, which resembled my head, and, up she drives in the driveway!
Oh happy day!
Just who I want to see.
What do I do now? Or, more accurately, what did I do the night before?
Because within minutes, she is standing there, with no top on, bare naked from the waist up, getting ready to help me paint!
Jesus H. Christ!
I am trapped.
What have I done.
Well, within a week or two, she brought Robbins out to the farm. For a little tête à tête.
Robbins began a little psychological hate campaign, against me, right then and there.
All the demonstrable good I was doing for his cause, by laying my career on the line for the principles of political morality that we both shared, was forgotten.
Instead, everything between us was now reduced to my having had an "affair," as he called it, with his girl.
He crawled into his hole, of hate, self-righteousness, and very hurt pride, and threatened to ruin my career. With the knowledge that he had of this thing.
And that's the way it stayed.
For the rest of the time he stayed at Whitman.
Which was quite a while.
Because he later became a mailman, because he didn't want to leave Walla Walla.
Rona forgave me.
He had seen the pressure I was under. He had helped me clean up my house and move after my first wife left me.
For a whole week we had been together.
And that was his star: the perfect love that I saw in his capacity to forgive me.
That I seek, someday, to equal.
Robbins had a bit more difficult time. But he forgave me too, after a fashion. He had gone to graduate school for a while, and then worked as a flight attendant.
One day, I received in the mail, years later, a letter that began: "Dear Geoff, This letter should have been written long ago, and would have been, but for my own pride and cowardice. Years ago you wronged me, and I wasn't willing to forgive any of the principles: not you, not ........, not myself. And so I wronged you."
And it goes on.
That is the incident.
I keep that letter pinned on my study wall, right in the bright light above my Webster's Unabridged Dictionary.
You may suppose that it is easy to try to work inside a corrupt system, i.e., one that is thoroughly committed to materialism in one of its countless and infinitely varied forms.
But it isn't.
Don't tell me youre not surprised.
But listen--and this is why I am here writing this book to you--what I have discovered is that working inside or outside the system has nothing to do with your effectiveness. Or potential effectiveness.
Although establishment members like to play up the fact that Jesus was a carpenter, and a member in good standing of the Jewish Religion, his example, his ministry, that we are to follow, if we would seek the same understanding that he had, would lead a dispassionate observer to conclude that you don't have to be a member of the establishment in any form to be the most effective man (or woman) on earth.
That is what I am here to tell you.
Human institutions, and membership in them, have nothing to do with power. Real power.
When you are tapping the Vital Life Force of the Universe, the Force that makes The Universe Its Expression, the notion of needing to be a member of a "human" institution in order to be an influence for good is a mockery in the eyes of God.
Prayer, the secret of yielding the human for the divine, is available to anyone.
And, the more humble you are the more effectively you can use it.
Which disqualifies most of the people who seek stature and position in "human" institutions.
But not all.
Since many have the humility to follow their own sense of good, no matter where it may lead them.
No matter how disgusting a (seeming) result it may seem to lead them to.
Like the inside of a Church.
But, what I want to make perfectly clear, is that the understanding of God--true prayer--has only to do with a willingness, on your part, to lay the human on the altar.
For the love of God.
That's all there is to it.
It is the principle of prayer.
That makes it a Science.
A workable Science.
That you can apply to your lives.
And overcome any problem.
Any problem whatsoever....
Now, for the last little tale I have for you about the development of character and Spiritual Sense.
This one involves trust.
I mean Trust.
So much so that you put everything on the line for your pursuit of what you see to be the expression of Life and Truth and Love in your life.
According to your understanding.
At your stage of progress.
As it unfolds to you.
In your experience.
This will sometimes take "kinky" ways. That is, naturally, ways that seem kinky to the "human" point of view.
Since, of course, it is the human point of view that is being run over, trod into the dust, and ground into powder.
Thank you God.
For making it so that the "human" point of view is not the real one after all.
Thank you for every merciful trial that helps us to grow up, and out, and away from the utter limitation that the "human" would put on the divine.
If it could.
Jesus always spoke about matters of the heart.
How much do you love?
Was his constant question.
What do you love?
Is it Life and Truth and Love that you pursue with all your heart and all your mind and all your soul and all your strength?
This is what he kept hitting at with his disciples.
Time and again.
He did not, as did the Pharisees, the Religious Establishment of his day, equate morality or spirituality with the literal following of the Ten Commandments.
They are much deeper than that.
Instead, whenever he criticized, or really wanted to condemn a person or a point of view, he equated that person or point of view with the Pharisees.
The Pharisees have changed not one tit hair from his time to ours.
Jesus never, in all the recorded Gospels, had a bad thing to say about a "sinner," so-called.
He always attacked the Pharisees.
He had one central word for them.
And the word was 'hypocrite'.
That was the central message of the Sermon on the Mount: how to distinguish purity (real love) from hypocrisy. Or the Antichrist.
Anything that moves against Life and Truth and Love, in whatever form they happen to be emerging in human life, is the Antichrist.
The real Antichrist.
That, conveniently, would keep you from thinking.
Which is exactly the purpose of the Antichrist.
To keep people from "seeing" the true import of Jesus' teachings until they are ready.
Because his teachings are too powerful.
For the unprepared thought to handle.
As I said in the beginning, this is not a course for beginners, or the weak-willed in their pursuit of Life, Truth, and Love.
It takes courage.
Exactly the kind of courage that comes from the granite of New Hampshire.
Where Mary Baker Eddy was raised.
Mary Baker Eddy, a lady whose sandals I am not worthy to loosen, discovered the Principle of Christian Science.
Right in the middle of all that stuff that was going on in the latter part of the nineteenth century, and the early part of the twentieth.
When the Christian Science was founded.
It's hard to label Christian Science with your regular old human categories.
The Principle is God.
The Principle that everything that is happening, in us, in our lives, here there and everywhere, is nothing but the activity of God.
That is all there is to us, and our "minds" and our "heart" and our "soul" and our "strength."
And the bad things that seem to be happening to us, which are little more than bad dreams, in retrospect, are just there to help us wake up to that fact. When we are ready.
And the instant! that we do wake up to that fact, what is called "a healing" takes place.
And the "problem," in whatever form it may have seemed to manifest itself (which is really just God beckoning us, shaking us, to get our attention)....the problem disappears. Like that!
Into its native nothingness.
From which it sprang.
As a "problem" so-called, by the "human" "mind."
As if there are or ever could be real problems in the Life that is God.
In the Heaven, on earth, that Jesus came here to (try) to teach us about.
Well, the last little tale I have to tell you is about trust.
Trust in Life, and Truth, and Love.
In whatever form they may be manifesting themselves (beckoning you) to follow, and leave the old "human" forms of security behind.
Such "security" as they are.
The secure guarantee that you are doomed to a "life" of decay and death, with a little sin tossed in to make it as interesting as possible.
The tale of trust I have to tell is the most important one of my life. Because it was on the basis of my willingness to follow Love, real Love, and to give up everything that I had worked so hard for all my life, and to go against all the "human" rules and conventions in my pursuit of it, that I was led, ultimately, into the land of plenty, where no storm shall ever stir my heart again.
I have found the peace, the absolute stillness of heart, that is God.
I have to work on it.
To establish it.
But I have found it.
It is the pearl of great price.
It surpasses all the treasure in the world.
It is wisdom.
It is what the philosopher sought in the beginning.
The "love of Wisdom."
Which is identical, in the end, with the love of Love.
Which is identical with the love of Life.
Which is identical with the love of Truth.
Well, my little story of trust has to do with me and Kathee.
My second wife.
You know the one.
She is blind in one eye.
And it is crossed.
She was raised by a poor Lutheran family in Kirkland, Washington.
The suburb of Seattle.
The little kid who grew up in trying and succeeding as the most sincere little Christian Sunday School student around.
The one who majored in Chemistry at Whitman College, on a "need" scholarship; and who suffered with me through the loony bin and the degrading defeat in that institution of "higher" learning.
The one who came with me to the farthest reaches of Montana, to support my final effort to triumph over evil and ugliness.
Until she saw me headed for "Christianity."
Which she "knew" was debased and ugly beyond her toleration.
And then, and only then, finally bailed out.
And still loves me.
And talks with me every Sunday on the phone.
And helps make sure I am doing okay.
You know the one.
Well, Kathee and I were "involved" two days after the lettuce throwing incident by my first wife.
We were "involved" the entirety of the rest of that year.
My first year at Whitman.
In some form.
I would stay with her three nights a week.
And get up at 5:00 AM.
And walk by the dawning consciousness of the day in that sleepy little burg, back to my own home.
Which I had to keep up for appearances sake.
Thanks to the loveliness of my first wife.
She did that.
And didn't divorce me until the following summer.
But every night, or every other night, or every third night--whenever we could work it--I would sneak over to her apartment, which was surrounded by people who knew me, and spend as much time as I could with her.
There were three accesses to her apartment door.
Three streets I could approach from.
All had their dangers, from the point of view of people who knew me; and would recognize me. And would talk.
Because I was pretty hot stuff that year.
And that would have been the very most delectable morsel of gossip.
For the powers that were.
And they were everywhere.
Kathee was my student at that time!
And that would definitely have been grounds for moral turpitude, the only (real) reason they can fire you even after you do have tenure.
And this was my first year of teaching.
With five more probationary years to go.
If I had had even a whiff of this kind of scandal I would have been finished.
Right then and there.
But I was protected.
We were protected.
Not for the sake of promoting the virtues of adultery, but for the understanding that it would eventually lead to, in return for our willingness to follow Life, Truth, and Love.
No matter what the cost.
Her apartment was situated upstairs in an older house.
The problem was always a strategy of how to make the front door!
There were streetlights everywhere.
And a lot of people.
Living right close by.
And a sort of "no-man's-land" right in front of the front door.
A piece of ground, with the front walk and steps leading through it, that I would have to rush each time I made the entry.
There was a front door, downstairs on the front porch, that led uniquely to her apartment.
She would come down and open the front door ajar, just a little bit, so that I could make it in off the front porch as quickly as possible.
Because we both knew, that if I had been caught, it would have been the end of my academic career.
Which was the only place in the world that I ever wanted to teach.
I can remember lying in bed with her, in this ratty old student's apartment, listening to a stack of records of people like Judy Collins, James Taylor, Joan Baez, and Gordon Lightfoot, while her friends would be milling around outside, calling up to her to let them in.
They knew she was in there.