Year of Jubilee


for James Kent
Daniel Pinchbeck


And ye shall hallow the fiftieth year, and proclaim liberty throughout all the land unto all the inhabitants thereof: it shall be a jubilee unto you; and ye shall return every man unto his possession, and ye shall return every man unto his family.

Leviticus XXV:10



or it’s not, which means everything I’ve ever thought or believed for the last 30 years has been some sort of joke, the kind of practical joke that leaves you, broke & high dancing naked at the foot of a Mayan pyramid on the Winter Solstice of 2012, expecting that moment of perfect alignment when the cosmic ray will sweep down and brush it all away, sans teeth, sans eyes, sans truth, sans everything.  A second childhood’s end.


I go too fast – probably the drugs coming on – so let me step back and walk into this territory: gently, slowly cherishing the burning embers and broken glass, the clasped hands and lover’s looks, the simple and increasingly the complex, and get some understanding which will, for now, have to stand in for wisdom.


And give it to you in pieces, thought-bites, images plus time:  there is no essential sequence; one before another, one follows another, like pearls on a string, each complete, beautiful, identical, and only time to separate one from another, but nothing about them, (nothing important anyway), says anything but one thing, an arrow drawn tight in its bow, pointed perfectly upward along the tangent ray infinity.


The same place where, in a moment, I believe, the Summum Bonum, Elixir of the Metals, and true Philosopher’s Stone will pound down to Earth.  And put this way, I can relate the strange eventful history of my 50 years as a series of lightning strikes in a roiling darkness, seeming to come ever closer to the mark.


The last of these – the Blast to Please – entirely holy fire, divine current a carrier wave for a more universal symbol than the stuttered phonemes issuing from sunburned & blistered lips, more meaningful than answered prayers which if thoughtfully obeyed would leave one world and the second and the third wiped out in an orgasm of hatred, more timely than sperm meeting egg, the perfect and logical conclusion to the Birth of Form, the arc stretching up across 12 billions years, from bang to burst.


Or so I keep telling myself.  And I know, having been informed in college long ago (one of the only things I learned there) that true is only true if it remains true after you’ve stopped telling yourself what true is.


Listen: there’s but a few moments left.  No time for transcendence no time like the present.  After which there’ll be no more time.


And here, in the bandgap between chaos and eternity, in this dense and active zone, everything has become so overloaded that even the simplest words have wriggled free from their moorings in the safe port of meaning, and every story so transmitted tells a universal tale.


Stately, plump, buck naked, I was from my mother’s womb untimely rip’d, an ill-starred child who kills his mother, and I did the doctors work, gutting myself into orphanage with a hideous episiotomy, rent a central artery and exsanguinated, slipping away before I had ever been lifted to breast.  Life is death, life is pain, and if I could never quite feel the guilt of my own impertinence, neither would I bask in her unconditional love.


Passed hand-to-handed off through a small forest of relatives, each who gave me a little something: lemon cookies, a whispered prayer, and a swift backhand.  Faint praise and a big party to celebrate my exodus.


To Carthage then I came – Delenda est Carthago – the city set on a hill as an example for all others to see.  Look upon us, it cried, with the voice of vainglory, for we are important.  We are all importance: that not contained within us is not worth knowing.  Everywhere the center, all and everything.


Here the Academy with its bright lights, the hallowed halls of the Big City.  I sat down at a table with all manner of delights spread before me, sweet confections and hearty meats, and with an engulfing appetite I ate it all, took it within me, and from the first bite began to forget a world beyond these halls, a place outside the City.  My food filled me utterly, and if I gave no thought to an existence apart from this self-evident center of the human world, what did that matter?  I had arrived, received the truth, and been accepted into the mysteries.  Worship of the neon night supplanted dedication to the evening star, and the ways of Man seemed fairer and more beautiful than the logic of nature.


To Carthage then I came, tasted joy in diesel and might, and if not for the light cast from my shadow, might have remained forever trapped in the Bardo of the Gods, utterly destroyed in an instant of fire.  But this would not be.  I woke up from a fitful sleep and gazed upon the objects of possession, the chains and keys, leash and collar, and understood I had gloried in the light reflected from a false Sun, projected through scaffolding and scrims, a stage play of the real.


And vomited all of it up, venting the poison as if touched by the Vine, replaced nothing with nothing, and the empty space like an open sore, ready, waiting, willing to give up to any sort of infection.


And so I passed through refiner’s fire, and came to know the One.  Dross burned away, the remainder quenched in a baptism of fire, I received the good news with an open heart and in a moment the world changed, its shifting forms a landscape of light and shadow, black and white.  It only required faith in the One, and from this all else followed, my foolscap and sackcloth, my crown of thorns and rosy cross – by His stripes I was healed, made complete in a way the City could not offer.  And thus the One became One point, One thought, One duty, as evident as truth and conspicuous as air.  This I grasped, and was grasped by it, fitted out as a puppet suits its master, for my mouth became a mouthpiece for the One, my hands His hands, my mind His mind, a slave to him, honestly and utterly, with the promise of rich reward after a lifetime of good stewardship.


But though I loved the One, and spoke the words, and did His bidding, beneath my gut a voice cried out in a  language nearly forgotten and whole recognizable: the sound of my soul.  Which at first began with the plaintive call of a longing for appetites unfulfilled, the demon and terror I had put aside when the One burned through me.  Which grew in time to a cry that this was not enough, or would be only in a complete castration, cock and balls nailed neatly to the cross, each perfectly at war with the other, and in this delicate balance the rarest of opportunities: to act, for one moment, from myself, respecting appetite and adoration, Eros and Agape.


And there could have stalled forever, in the outer chambers of the Temple, but a stiff prick knows no conscience, has no allegiance to the One, seeking to stab and stab and stab the wound that bleeds and heals.   A moment of heat, and the fire was gone.  I had cut myself off in the spirit only to recover my body, and years passed before I wondered why not the cross and the cock, thorn and pricks?


I still have no answer.


Because I could not believe the One, instead I fell to All, crash-landed Pleiadians with light bodies Gnostic & perfect, teasing the subtle from the rough clay which binds us, spirit and soul, to the doomed decaying wreck of Earth, invaded by an army of Martian Greys, Zeta Reticulans, cattle mutilators and anal probes, black helicopters and a lie so Big none dare speak its Name.


Light as air, blown back and forth from Pythagoras, Plato, Hermes Trismegistos, Dee and Blake, Crowley and Gurdjieff, Drunvalo Melchizedek and Zen Master Rama, driven hither and yon across a seemingly endless sea of perfect equanimity, all points equal and superlative, seductive in the apparitions of Angels from the next dimensional plane of existence who needed my help in combating the Archons of the Demiurge, who needed, like Tinkerbell, a handclap at the right moment in time to rescue us from the thunderous approach to the abyss.  My eyes, like candy, looked sweetly upon the Testimony of Sages and Wisdom of the Prophets.


It was all true, all of it.  All of it made up, and perfectly true.  But even so, ridiculous.  Closing my mind to the All made the universe a less interesting place, but with the fog of a trillion truths gone, I knew what I must do: simplify, bring myself back to unadorned essence.


And so I scraped a hovel from hard land, felled the trees and built a home, everything absolutely direct: food from my hands to my mouth, heat from the wood I had cut, and an absolute conviction that confusion arose as the consequence of connection, and that, in excepting myself from the bounds of community I would become calm, my perfect nature revealed in unalloyed solitude.


And thus went mad, or nearly, for when the whine outside diminished, the voices from the inner world overwhelmed, amplifying every fear into panic, appetite into unquenchable hunger, and disappointment into blind fury.  My own mind, companion in my hermitage, at last burst forth in a dark hallucinatory creativity wherein the very fabric of existence breathed against my presence in it.  And in my darkest hour, crouched in a fetal ball, she came to me.


What can I say of a daughter of the Gods?  That she was fair and bright as the Sun, dark and brooding as the Seas, quick as silver and great in battle?  Even these do not touch it, for in her I understood the first and greatest of the mysteries: we are alone, yet we are with others.  To hear her voice, after so much silence, was like rain in the desert, and brought forth a life in me I had not suspected: that I could, through another, be complete.


She took me to her palace, and bade me eat, and from the moment I tasted her food, time moved awry, neither forward nor backward, now or later, but an endless present of feasting and merry.


Time forgotten and ten years past, she the same ever-pleasing form, while I grew older and more imbecilic in a Neverland of pleasures which delight the body and never touch the soul.  Life is suffering and I, quite clearly, was not alive.


The moment of this thought the spell broke.  All faded into the fantastic mist from whence she conjured, and she stood before me smiling.


You have chosen wisely.  But more must come, and more must pass, before you find your home.


Because of her I could anticipate a world of seductive voices which promised perfect peace and endless love, stopped my ears up against the impossible and absolutely believable lies of perpetual rising, and found somewhere within myself the power to resist the offering tailor-made to be absolutely irresistible, cursed my appetites and damned the Fates, until, after a crucifying interval, their chants changed from promises to pleas, from pleas to whispered hopes, and then, thankfully, to silence.


But this was not the half of it.  The world had more to offer me, and made itself plainly heard: these I give you freely – Wisdom and wonder, comfort and power.  But one or the other.  Choose!  Thus was I torn, as my mind wanted one, my heart another, and each would have gone their separate ways, ripping me asunder, if I had not recalled her stern advice:  Both choices true, both choices false, both choices wrong, both choices right.  How then but the Middle Path?  I wanted both – how I wanted both! – and settled for neither, none the richer, and none the wiser, but more myself.


And now I found myself before a great tree, its root the Earth itself and branches threading upward to infinity.  This tree contained one fruit, red as sin with spots of pure light, guarded by a dove and serpent.  The dove forbade me eat but the serpent countered, arguing any price be worth the taste of such magical food.  And I, the perfect fool, swayed by his words, did take the fruit and eat.  It was sweet in my mouth, but in my belly it did sour.  Then the thunder spoke:


Thou shalt not look upon the face of the Lord and live.  Thou shalt not.  And so I died.


Death felt like the ultimate recognition.  Here again, as if I’d never been gone at all.  And the moment of pure light, when the Great Liberation is offered up in the opening to Nirvana, in that moment I understood all this had happened before, I had already stopped the wheel of time, experienced each of my past lives, first as a Tibetan monk shot by invading Chinese in the spring of 1962, whose last thoughts of anger and regret he put aside in favor of a renunciation of anger and regret, and so passed the wrathful demons and stopped the wheel of time.  And before that a German Jew, an engineer building the delicate clockwork control systems of Von Braun’s flying bombs, and killed in the Allied raid on Peenemunde, whispering the Shema as the walls caved in with fire, and before, a Spanish child consumed with influenza during the great epidemic that followed the Great War, and before and before and before and before, the endless succession of beings and becomings a cosmic joke, perfectly executed to bring forth a laugh at just the right moment, this moment, when I recognized myself as a lesser bodhisattva, not messiah nor prophet but witness and clerk, keeping some celestial record of events too strange to be uttered or known or even seen before.  God had fashioned him an Eye, made it perfect, and bade him see.


Naked and revealed, cast up on Ithaca’s shores, returned to the universe of Form, I remember myself, a man in the complex and terrifying world that offers gory glories and painful beauties, and everything increasingly confused, as if some human act had pierced the fabric of reality, and all that lay beyond come rushing in.


But this mattered little, this was all according to plan, and against this I had been given sun and moon, wife and daughter, each an emanation of divine love, visible in their eyes, spoken in their voices, felt in their touch.  These I had against the coming tide, these the pillars to which I’d lash myself as I faced a rising sea of troubles: many comings and goings, great earthquakes, wars and rumors of wars.  I read the end stories, each and every one, and knew these too would come to pass.


But how could I escape the attachments of love?  Life is death, life is pain.  And so I saw four horsemen in the sky, and the last of these, a rider on a pale horse, and his name was Death.  And he brought great pestilence into the world, and a quarter of mankind died.


It was quick, mercifully quick, I’ll grant Him that.  No long, drawn out leave-taking, just high fever and endless sleep.  Would that I could sleep.  Instead I watch wife and mother, child and daughter, lay down, never  to rise again.  And the world is plunged into darkness.  There is no sleep, there are no dreams.  How could, on the threshold of something completely unexpected, we be overrun by something so small?  Is this the end I am to witness, nothing but the stupidity of death, repeated a billion upon billion times?  Are we meant to exhaust the sea of compassion?


I knew I endured the pain of my attachments, and resented that I must release my love to release my hatred to release a miracle.


And so, so slowly, I come to realize that this is the appointed task, the appointed hour.  Without the shock of loss, it could not possibly be real.  The universe risks everything on a single throw of the dice, sacrificing whatever might be required to guarantee the bet.  We are powerless, perhaps, but not hopeless, and I have a promise to fulfill, even as the promise is fulfilled.


Or so I keep telling myself. 


Moments left.  Moments.  And I wonder what completion means, and as the sun rises I start to understand that I too am the universe, and I too seek escape from the endless, ridiculous cycle of birth and death and rebirth, the mechanical movement of souls into and out of form, difficult but necessary to translate this universe to different stuff, lifting each part into the whole, with all voices united, mine and hers and she asks can you hear it? and yes I say yes