The Life and Understanding
Copyright 1971 By Franklin Jones
All rights reserved
Chapter 5: The Understanding on the Beach
After my experiences at the V.A. hospital I went into a period of relative seclusion to carry on my work undisturbed. Nina worked as a school teacher during this period and supported our living.
My own manner of living at that time finally established a form of practice in me that had begun in college. It was not required that I maintain a “job” of any kind, and so I was free to work as I pleased. As always, I found seclusion to be extremely vital, productive and creatively necessary for my own kind of progress.
The pattern of my days was mostly sedentary. This was partially dictated early in my life by a chronic weakness in my left side, particularly the left leg, and in certain tiny bone malformations in my lower back. I have not been noticeably disabled by this limitation, but it has led me to experience a certain tiredness and weakness in those areas if I must be very active physically. After more than thirty years of this slight disability my body has developed a counter-balance of muscular strength, and I have always been able to enjoy strong activity in swimming and other kinds of exercise. In recent years I have also learned how to manipulate and refresh the bone structure of the body, its muscular system, and the nervous system by using certain techniques of Hatha Yoga.
Thus, I spent my days in retirement, and still do for the most part. While Nina was away at work I would spend the day writing. My method was not one of any kind of intentional production. The writing of this present book, for instance, is a very intentional process. It involves a deliberate plan of productivity, the gathering of various notes and sources, chronological recollection, etc. I arise at about 7 A.M. for an hour’s meditation. Then, when I am alone, I write very deliberately and almost continually for eight hours or more.
However, in those days my method was deliberately unproductive. My intention was not to write a particular narrative I had preconceived. Rather, I deliberately and very intensively focused in the mind itself. And, as a result of several years of experiment in this direction, I remained focused there without effort, almost continuously, regardless of my peculiar external involvement.
This could perhaps be understood as a kind of “yoga” of my own creation, and it has analogies in the history of spiritual experience. But I had no separate goal in doing this. There was no other point I hoped to arrive at as a result of this concentration. I wanted to reside in the plane of consciousness at its deepest level, where all experiences, internal as well as external, were monitored. I wanted simply to become aware of what passed there.
Ordinarily we do not remain aware on the deepest level of the mind. We are either concentrated in its extensions, at the level of sense awareness or in the processes of concrete thought. Occasionally we slip into a deeper level, similar to the one to which we pass in dreams or sleep, and there we experience the day-dreams, the subliminal memories, emotions and motivations that underlie our working life. It was my purpose to remain continuously aware at this deepest focal point of the mind. That was also a point at which I often concentrated in the “bright.” It is a point deep within the head, but it monitors all the levels of consciousness, the physical body and the experiences of the sense organs, the vital centers in the lower body, the great center of being and energy in the heart, the peculiar order of subliminal imagery that perhaps moves out of some creative center analogous to the throat, and all of the passing perceptions, the images, ideas, sensations, forms, memories and super-conscious communications that are generated in the parts of the head.
In those days I spent all of my time concentrated in this witnessing function. I carried a clip board with me wherever I went. And I would write whatever perceptions were generated in consciousness. I attempted to make this writing exhaustive, so that not a single thought, image or experience would pass unrecognized. The act of writing seemed necessary to the act of becoming conscious itself. What I did not write seemed to pass away again into unconsciousness, perhaps to remain trapped there and provide matter for the hidden, unconscious form that bounded my awareness and prevented the “bright.”
Whenever I was too busily occupied to write, I would invent a catch phrase or some other mnemonic device in order. to hold the concept or perception until I could write it fully. I became so occupied in this process that Nina would have to do anything that required practical attention. She would drive the car, communicate with friends, and perform all of the usual chores within and without the household. My writing became a continuous, fascinating and absorbing occupation. And I began to fall naturally into a thread of consciousness and life that was profound, hidden, unfolding, inevitable and sublime.
I would write at any and all times, even in the evenings when Nina was at home, at the movies, parties, or during walks on the beach. I would often write late into the night, or I would awaken many times from sleep to record dreams and ideas. The same process went on during sleep, so that I remained conscious even during dreams or deep dreamless sleep.
I continued to exploit the possibilities for experience during that time, and I saw no benefits in retarding any impulses. I feared that suppression would only prevent certain necessary images or motives from releasing their energy to consciousness. I would often exploit the possibilities of sex, or become deeply drunk on wine, engage in orgies of eating, or smoke marijuana for long hours.
I became intensely aware of every movement in consciousness. I perceived every event in the world as well with an almost painful absorption. Every creature or environment I perceived became a matter of profound attention. I would write long pages of exhaustive observation on every step of a walk on the beach, or the day-long process and change of the ocean. There was page after page describing the objects and marks in the sand as I walked, detailed descriptions of rooms, mental environments, etc. So that I gradually came to a similar state in which I found myself at the point of awakening in college. I came to a point of exhaustion, not of tiredness, but of intensely inclusive awareness, where there appeared very little that remained to be perceived outside the form of consciousness itself.
As I approached that point of inclusive awareness the form of my writing also began to bear fruit. My concentration, as I said, was not purposive. It was not in order to create something intentionally on the basis of what was pre-conceived in the mind. But I was always looking and listening for that structure in consciousness itself which is chronically prior to awareness. I was waiting on the revelation of the hidden content of the mind. Not some sort of primitive event, no memory in the Freudian style or some symbolic perception which informs the content of Jungian types of introspection. These came and went. But I was attentive to the structure of consciousness itself, to the seed-logic or myth that prevented the “bright.”
As I approached that form of knowledge, which I knew from previous suggestions in my deepest experience had to be there, I would often pass through profound recollections and imagery. There were the emotional and scatological memories of childhood, and the moments of conflict in life that underlay persistent anxieties, preferences and chronic patterns. There were also times when I saw and learned the workings of what appeared to be psychic planes and worlds. I remember once for a period of days I was aware of a world that appeared to survive in our moon. It was a super- physical or astral world where beings were sent off to birth on the earth or other worlds and then their bodies were enjoyed cannibalistically by the older generation on the moon, or they were forced to work as physical and mental slaves.
I became very interested in the writings of C.G. Jung, and more than once I awakened to symbolic dreams typical of the level of consciousness he investigated. One of these coincided with a dramatic awakening that I will describe presently.
But my attention could not settle in any particular impression or event. I was always driven more deeply into tire underlying structure, and so I always remained focused in the mind itself, regardless of what passed.
Eventually, I began to recognize a structure in consciousness. It became more and more apparent, and its nature and effects revealed themselves as fundamental and inclusive of all the states and contents in life and mind. My own “myth,” the control of all patterns, the source of identity and all seeking began to stand out in the mind as a living begin.
This “myth,” this controlling logic or force that formed my very consciousness revealed itself as the concept or life of Narcissus. I saw that my entire adventure, the whole desperate cycle of awareness and its decrease, of truly conscious being and its gradual covering in the whole mechanics of living, seeking, dying and suffering, was produced out of the image or mentality that appears hidden in the ancient myth of Narcissus.
The more I contemplated him the more profoundly I understood him. I witnessed in awe the primitive control that this self-concept and logic performed in all of my behavior and experience. I began to see that same logic operative in all other men and every living thing, even the very life of the cells and the energies that surround every living entity or process. It was the logic or process of separation itself, of enclosure and immunity. It manifested as fear and identity, memory and experience. It informed every function of being, every event. It created every mystery. It was the structure of every imbecile link in the history of our suffering.
He is the ancient one visible in the Greek “myth,” who was the universally adored child of the gods, who rejected the loved-one and every form of love and relationship, who was finally condemned to the contemplation of his own image, until he suffered the fact of eternal separation and died in infinite solitude. As I became more and more conscious of this guiding myth or logic in the very roots of my being my writing began to take on an apparently intentional form. What was before only an arbitrary string of memories, images and perceptions leading toward an underlying logic now appeared to proceed from the heart of that logic itself, so that my perceptions and my thoughts from hour to hour began to develop as a narrative, completely beyond any intention or plan of my external mind.
I found that when I merely observed the content of my experience or my mind from hour to hour, day to day, I began to recognize a “story” being performed as my own conscious life. This was a remarkable observation, and obviously not a common one. The quality of the entire unfolding has the touch of madness in it. But we are mad. The ordinary state of our existence, although it is usually kept intact and relatively calmed by the politics of human society, is founded in the madness of a prior logic, a schism in reality that promotes the whole suffering adventure of our lives in endless and cosmic obstacles. I have known since I was a boy that this round of conflict, of contradiction and unconsciousness, was not natural or real. And the whole purpose of my life has been to realize that natural reality, that given form, the “bright” of consciousness that is not properly the illusive goal of our lives but its very conscious foundation.
Thus, in order to learn this thing I had to endure the progress of my own “madness.” I had to witness the madman himself and undermine him with my knowledge. This “madness,” however, is not merely unfortunate, irrational and disruptive. It is required of all those who would pass into real existence beyond fear and ignorance. And, in the process, we experience remarkable forces and eventually witness the synergy of the mind and every movement of energy in the world.
It was this synergy or synchronicity, this conscious coincidence of the internal and external world that I witnessed at that time. After the pattern I recognized as Narcissus began to show its flower in the mind and I became settled in witnessing its creative position in the whole of my life, the internal and external events in my experience began to demonstrate a common source or, rather, a coincident pattern. My own thoughts or images, then, began to arise in a similar pattern to my external experiences. A narrative was being constructed as my very life, which was itself a mythic form. The people, the passing events, the dramatization of my own motives, and all the imagery and categories of my thought appeared to be generating a conceived pattern. And I knew that my own life was moving toward the very death of Narcissus.
I began to write the outstanding narrative or myth that was appearing hour by hour. And I proposed to write a novel, tentatively entitled The White Narcissus, which would be this very complex of my life and mind as it was and had been revealing itself in my writing over several years. I intended to follow this production in myself until I should see it worked out whole. And then I would go back through the entire manuscript, whose proportions were already enormous, and make out of it a novel that included all of the creative motivations and intentions I had generated as a writer.
I was not afraid even of the death of Narcissus, which was now my own death. I knew that no matter how terrible the event in terms of physical and conscious suffering, it was not in fact the death of anything identical to my own real being. Even my own physical death appeared to me as a kind of mythic event. Its apparent consequences would perhaps be the end of my worldly life, but I was certain that I would have to pass through it in order to transcend the form of Narcissus. I knew then that all our suffering and all our deaths are endured only in the concepts, the functions and mentality that are guided by the unconscious logic of Narcissus. And so I devoted myself freely to the self-meditation of Narcissus in order to die his death as quickly as possible.
As it happened, that “death” did occur very dramatically two years later. But necessary transformations in my state of life had to occur before it would be possible. This point in my narrative brings us to the spring of 1964.
Beginning with the event I am about to describe, I have noticed that a peculiar and dramatic transformation the state of my awareness has occurred every year at approximately the same time. Nina’s birthday is May 8th, almost exactly six months prior to my own birthday, November 3rd. The spring of every year is a time of awakening in nature, just as the period moving into winter, the time of my own birth, is a period moving into latency. Peculiar events of awakening seem naturally to occur to me at the springtime of the year, and the period moving into winter is usually a time of interiorization, often of a heavy kind. The cycle of my own experience has seemed to follow this pattern exactly.
One morning, in the week prior to Nina’s birthday in 1964, I awoke with the memory of what appeared to be a significant dream. As I indicated earlier, a dream of the type often analyzed by Jung preceded a dramatic awakening in myself. I had dreamed that I was being born. At first I saw it from outside my own body. I was watching my mother from a position near the doctor’s viewpoint, between her legs. I could not see her face, and so I am not certain it was my actual mother in the dream. Her body was very large, fecund and-swollen. The baby appeared head first, and its face was red, ugly, wet and bunched up like a fist. Then it appeared that I took the position of the baby itself, and one of the doctors said: “It’s one of those multiple babies!”
Then I became aware of what must have been a later period in the life of that entity. The point of view was from my own body. I assumed it was the mature body of the baby I had seen being born. There were cords of phlegm that rose up out of my insides through my throat and out into the room. I was uncomfortable with this gag in my throat, but I was calm, as if I had lived that way for some time. The mass of phlegm separated out into two paths in the room, and each was attached to a young man. I assumed from their appearance that the three of us were in our late teens. And I also assume that the birth of the “multiple” baby was the birth of the three of us. The first baby, whose face was like a fist, and whose body I now inhabited, was the source or controlling entity. The other two were dual aspects of my being.
The one boy was very bright, energetic, attractive and youthful. The other was “dark.” His energy was heavier, and he had less mobility, physical and mental. I noticed the cords of phlegm at my feet as I moved forward and carelessly stepped on them. The act of stepping on the cords was both voluntary and involuntary, so that I felt both aggressive and guilty or trapped. I thought perhaps the boys would die if I stepped on the cords and broke them, but I also desired to be free of the gag in my throat and the immobility our attachment required of me. But when the cords were crushed and broken under my right foot the boys came running up to me and embraced me happily. We all appeared now bright and free. And they thanked me for cutting the cords, which they said they had long hoped I would do.
An external observer of this dream could certify one of several interpretations, depending upon the partial view-point by which he understands the matters of consciousness. I think probably all the basic interpretations would bear some of the truth. But I required no interpreter. The very having of the dream seemed to mark a transformation in me.
I had operated for several years in the aggravated model of my conscious being, and this dream appeared to mark the end or a long period of difficult progress. Those years had been filled with awesome fear and doubt as well as great intensity and, for me, worthwhile endeavor. Now a feeling of wholeness and well-being rose in the center of me, and I felt a peculiar relief in the wake of this dream. This change in me apparently set the stage for a remarkable discovery.
A few days later I arose in the early morning feeling very energetic. I sat at my desk to read while Nina slept. I turned to a volume of essays by C.G. Jung which I had often examined before. In particular, I turned to some chapters from The Interpretation of Nature and the Psyche. When I came to the concluding chapter I read something which, though I must have seen it before, never communicated to me as it was about to do.
I think it would be valuable to quote the entire passage as I read it at that time:
It may be worth our while to examine more closely, from this point of view, certain experiences which seem to indicate the existence of psychic processes in what are commonly held to be unconscious states. Here I am thinking chiefly of the remarkable observations made during deep syncopes resulting from acute brain injuries. Contrary to all expectation, a severe head injury is not always followed by a corresponding loss of consciousness. To the observer, the wounded man seems apathetic, “in a trance,” and not conscious of anything. Subjectively, however, consciousness is by no means extinguished. Sensory communication with the outside world is in a large measure restricted, but is not always completely cut off, although the noise of battle, for instance, may suddenly give way to a “solemn” silence. In this state there is sometimes a very distinct and impressive feeling or hallucination of levitation, the wounded man seeming to rise into the air in the same position he was in at the moment he was wounded. If he was wounded standing up, he rises in a standing position, if lying down, he rises in a lying position, if sitting, he rises in a sitting position. Occasionally his surroundings seem to rise with him – for instance the whole bunker in which he finds himself at the moment. The height of the levitation may be anything from eighteen inches to several yards. All feeling of weight is lost. In a few cases the wounded think they are making swimming movements with their arms. If there is any perception of their surroundings at all, it seems to be mostly imaginary, i.e., composed of memory images. During levitation the mood is predominantly euphoric. “‘Buoyant, solemn, heavenly, serene, relaxed, blissful, expectant, exciting’ are the words used to describe it. . . . There are various kinds of ‘ascension experiences.’* Jantz and Beringer rightly point out that the wounded can be roused from their syncope by remarkably small stimuli, for instance if they are addressed by name or touched, whereas the most terrific bombardment has no effect.
Much the same thing can be observed in deep comas resulting from other causes. I would like to give an example from my own medical experience: A woman patient, whose reliability and truthfulness I have no reason to doubt, told me that her first birth was very difficult. After thirty – hours of fruitless labor the doctor considered that a forceps delivery was indicated. This was carried out under light narcosis. She was badly torn and suffered great loss of blood. When the doctor, her mother, and her husband had gone, and everything was cleared up, the nurse wanted to eat, and the patient saw her turn round at the door and ask, “Do you want anything before I go to supper?” She tried to answer, but couldn’t. She had the feeling that she was sinking through the bed into a bottomless void. She saw the nurse hurry to the bedside and seize her hand in order. to take her pulse. From the way she moved her fingers to and fro the patient thought it must be almost imperceptible. Yet she herself felt quite all right, and was slightly amused at the nurse’s alarm. She was not in the least frightened. That was the last she could remember for a long time. The next thing she was aware of was that, without feeling her body and its position, she was looking down from a point in the ceiling and could see everything going on in the room below her: she saw herself lying in the bed, deadly pale, with closed eyes. Beside her stood the nurse. The doctor paced up and down the room excitedly, and it seemed to her that he had lost his head and didn’t know what to do. Her relatives crowded to the door. Her mother and her husband came in and looked at her with frightened faces. She told herself it was too stupid of them to think she was going to die, for she would certainly come round again. All this time she knew that behind her was a glorious, park-like landscape shining in the brightest colors, and in particular an emerald green meadow with short grass, which sloped gently upwards beyond a wrought iron gate leading into the park. It was spring, and little gay flowers such as she had never seen before were scattered about in the grass. The whole demesne sparkled in the sunlight, and all the colors were of an indescribable splendor. The sloping meadow was flanked on both sides by dark green trees. It gave her the impression of a clearing in the forest, never yet trodden by the foot of man. “I knew that this was the entrance to another world, and that if I turned round to gaze at the picture directly, I should feel tempted to go in at the gate, and thus step out of life.” She did not actually see this landscape, as her back was turned to it, but she knew it was there. She felt there was nothing to stop her from entering in through the gate. She only knew that she would turn back to her body and would not die. That was why she found the agitation of the doctor and the distress of her relatives stupid and out of place.
The next thing that happened was that she awoke from her coma and saw the nurse bending over her in bed. She was told that she had been unconscious for about half an hour. The next day, some fifteen hours later, when she felt a little stronger, she made a remark to the nurse about the incompetent and “hysterical” behavior of the doctor during her coma. The nurse energetically denied this criticism in the belief that the patient had been completely unconscious at the time and could therefore have known nothing of the scene. Only when she described in full detail what had happened during the coma was the nurse obliged to admit that the patient had perceived the events exactly as they happened in reality. (2)
*Hubert Jantz and Kurt Beringer, “Das Syndrom des Schwebeerlebnisses unmittelbar nach Kopfverletzungen,” Der Nervenarzt (Berlin), XVII (1944).
(2) C.G. Jung, Psyche and Symbol (New York, 1958), pp. 267- 269.
I have no idea how long I spent reading and re-reading this passage and the surrounding material from Jung’s essay. But when Nina awoke to prepare to go to work I was a changed man. I cannot overestimate the importance that data held for me at the time. It was as if the entire mass of suppressive ideas and assumptions that I began to adopt years before in works like The Lost Years Of Jesus Revealed had been lifted away in a single moment. I had long regarded Jung to be an important investigator into the truth of our experience. I felt limitations in his method and some of his assumptions, and these would become even clearer to me later on, but I had learned that he could be trusted to observe data and report it without distortions and interpretations. When he interprets, it is usually apart from the language and material that he reports.
Therefore, when I read this report of phenomena that transcend the boundaries of the ordinary model of man our culture typically assumes, I was positively overwhelmed. I felt this was a key to a whole range of experience, now capable of honest and direct investigation, which would vindicate, parallel and extend the experiences that had long been the burden of my life.
When Nina awoke I flooded her with my excitement. It was one of the happiest hours in my existence. An extreme pressure and source of conflict within me had been drawn away. I felt that I could begin the practical investigation of the miraculous and spiritual phenomena that up to now had seemed impossible. And because they had seemed impossible, because they had been carried away with the whole imagery of the lost Christ, I had been required to endure long years searching for an alternative solution. I was forced to pursue a description of our essential nature and freedom that does not assume more than the model of mortality that had been propagated in my university education. All in all, this passage in Jung signified in me a liberation from mortal philosophy and all bondage to the form of death.
In the weeks that followed I ravenously took to reading whatever material I could find that dealt with occult phenomena, miracles, spiritual and religious philosophy and any kind of liberated significance. I was particularly impressed by the documented evidence for out-of-body experiences and the better sources on spiritualism. The miracle that occurred at Fatima earlier in this century seemed to me a remarkable and important event. As many as ten thousand of its witnesses, many of whom were non-believing reporters or passers-by,-signed affidavits that they saw the sun wheel around in many colors and fall toward the earth. I was also profoundly impressed by the life and work of Edgar Cayce. I became acquainted with the I-Ching, translated by Wilhelm and introduced by Jung. I used it several times over a period of a month or more and saw the laws of synchronicity described by Jung demonstrated interestingly in myself and those around me.
The people I began to meet during that time also seemed to be coming at an appropriate stage in my life. And they came on a gradient suited to my own learning. At first I met people who were mainly spiritualistic and religious enthusiasts. Then I met others who led me to read intelligent material that supported a philosophic and spiritual view. All of this was founded in evidence of the kind I was beginning to-recognize rather than in the mortal philosophy of the establishment.
Finally, I met a man named Harold Freeman at a party in Palo Alto. He was an occultist and the first man I had ever met who claimed to have experiences of this unusual kind. He indicated that such experiences could be attained consciously and intentionally by a kind of scientific method.
He told me stories of how he met his teacher, a woman who has allegedly maintained a physical body for over six hundred years. She demonstrated and taught him many unusual abilities. He led me to the source books of occultism. I read the works of Blavatskv, Alice Bailey, and a remarkable set of volumes by Baird Spalding called The Life and Teaching of the Masters of the Far East.
I was unable at that time to separate fiction and exaggeration from fact in the occult material. It seemed even less reliable than religious literature. It appeared to take masses of religious and spiritual lore, which were the products of many centuries of community, and pass them through the emotional mind of a single, mediumistic intelligence. This gave it the force of a first-hand account, whereas it was actually a body of tradition in the secondary form of an oral literature. It also tended to deal with “phenomena” rather than matters of fundamental importance. Thus, I became very wary of literary influences, and I desired a direct, personal experience of anything pertaining to spiritual reality. But it was all at least an emotional symbol that did much to enlarge my humor and extend my growing impulses to real experience.
At one point I asked Mr. Freeman if he was to teach me. I told him I was now in search of a teacher for help in my own path of experience, but I very cautiously told him I didn’t feel it would be right to pay money for such help. A couple of days later he told me that he had contacted his teacher and was told that someone else was supposed to teach me.
I wondered if his reluctance was due to my insistence that the help must be for free, but I felt that he was mostly a genuine man, and he made no effort otherwise to capitalize on my vulnerability. Besides, his reply also seemed somehow right to me, for I had begun to recognize a new psychic awakening in myself. In the occasional flickering of certain images in my mind I had begun to recognize a communication about my future.
In the weeks that led up to my meeting with Mr. Freeman I had grown more accustomed to operating in the manner that my own work had precipitated. The recognition of the coincidence between consciousness and external experience began to develop into a comfortable ability, so that I began to use the images that seemed arbitrarily to pass through the mind. I saw that many of these images were signs of pre-cognition.
One image became a constant factor. I saw that I was to find a teacher that would be able to help me. I didn’t see him, but I saw pictures in flashes of a store where oriental sculpture and artwork were sold. It became clear to me that this store was in New York.
I told Nina about this experience, and we began immediately to prepare to leave for New York. These events led on toward the middle or end of June, 1964. We gradually sold or gave away most of our belongings, including my library of about 1400 volumes. I kept only a few hooks that seemed important to my my line of study.
Our last days in California were spent with a rather strange collection of recent friends. There was “La Martinelli,” the consort of ”Ezra Pound while he was institutionalized, who, apart from being a mad but interesting painter, is the subject of some of pound’s Cantos. Shy and Gilbert, her remarkably tolerant lover, had given me much first-hand knowledge of the unique work of Edgar Cayce.
There was Ken Kesey, a novelist who had written at the Stanford workshop and who has since gained notoriety as an exponent of drug culture. He was rather incommunicative, but we smoked marijuana together and listened to random tape recordings while we watched the silent images on his television set. I gave him two of our cats.
As we made final preparation to leave, I met Richard Alpert, who now goes by the name of Baba Ram Dass. He had joined with Timothy Leary and Ralph Metzner to combine the psychedelic movement with the concepts and images of Eastern spirituality.
When I met him he was animated and storied at Kesey’s, but, like myself, about to enter on a long adventure into the kinds of spiritual consciousness promoted in the East. We were to meet again in 1970, in the company of the same Guru. But he seems ready to pass forever into the habit of Indian devotion, whereas, for me, the paths of yoga, of occultism, of mysticism and all of the tradition of that remarkable consciousness I was about to experience would only be another brief stage in the simplicity of understanding.