It all depends on what you call a Guru – Ramblings on a return from rural silence

Witcher Road
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David Metcalfe will show you how to make sacred geometry’s elegant insights an essential part of your daily experience in the Evolver live interactive video course,Sacred Geometry Applied: A Practical Approach to the Harmonies of Light, Sound, and Vision.”You can also catch David in the upcoming Visionary Dialog,Is the Contemporary Occult Different than Occult Era’s Past?along with Gary Lachman, Mitch Horowitz, and Pam Grossman, which starts on November 17.

It all depends on what you call a Guru. He need not be in a human form. Dattatreya had twenty-four Gurus including the five elements – earth, water, etc. Every object in this world was his Guru.

The Guru is absolutely necessary. The Upanishads say that none but a Guru can take a man out of the jungle of intellect and sense-perceptions. So there must be a Guru.

– Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi, Be As You Are

Gone are my scorpions, spiders and crows, no longer can I look upon the circling vultures and smile as they spin in updrafts searching for some cast off carrion meal. An abrupt return from the quietude of a long stretch in rural north Georgia to the tensions of sub-metro Atlanta has brought a strange discomfort as the familiar embodiments of my teacher have stayed behind in the woods.  Living for the past year with no stable web connection or phone I’ve now returned to urbania to stay with my brother, a former Evangelical exorcist, so that I can have access to the web and participate in two upcoming Reality Sandwich and Evolver events, a Visionary Dialogue on the contemporary ‘occult revival’ with Mitch Horowitz, Pam Grossman, Gary Lachman and myself (Click Here for more information), and a two session webinar series that I am presenting on practical applications of sacred geometry (Click Here for more information) which will draw deeply on the fruits of my year long semi-retreat into the wilds.

For the past few days this body has been struck with an unquenchable feeling of fear. This feeling, in the past, has often been a precursor, or forewarning, for some extreme event – a car accident, an arrest, a violent argument, a death in the family. an unscheduled and unwanted visitor – and this seeming superstitious anticipation of the fear’s power of prediction has been feeding a sinking sense of dread. The tension of not knowing what is to come and the flavor the feeling puts on every thought and moment is becoming nearly unbearable – forcing a sense of disassociation as the mind seeks to assuage the discomforting rise of panic. 

The words of my friend Steve Speer come to mind, in an interview for Wired Magazine he points out that “Psychedelic means mind-expanding. You know, confusion. Dissolve and coagulate.”  In its true etymology psychedelic means something closer to announcement or proclamation from the soul, but Speer is right in that to hear what is being announced, and to integrate the implications, requires us to dissolve our preconceptions, and this process is often accompanied by confusion and fear.  He recently reminded me to focus on Gurdjieff’s recommendation to court the fear as a salvation from self,a wake up call,  and to remember always in regards to learning the lesson of our illusory being that we must  ‘like what It does not like.”  The fear is another face of the teacher.

Although I had anticipated some adjustments would be required – I hadn’t anticipated returning to a world that now appears completely illusory and unimportant. Heightened by the immediacy of digital culture, the superfluous nature of almost everything that I encounter here has been tearing at my mind as I attempt to re-calibrate myself into the contemporary world. Securing shelter, gathering wood for the fire, procuring enough food for a meal during the day, and appreciating the austere beauty and emptiness of a life in the woods has consumed me for months.  Creating imaginal sound environments via The Message (Click Here to listen) has superseded writing, drawing and more representational forms of expression. I’ve gotten used to being too cold, too hot, my flesh cut by briars, ignoring the sore bites and stings of innumerable bugs, and now faced with the retrogressive cultural rhetoric, mediated trends/conversations, identity politics and the rest I find myself unmoored and disorientated. I’ve grown to love the woods and all the challenges that living in nature entails. 

Dream researcher, and fellow Reality Sandwich writer, Ryan Hurd contacted me last night to figure out what link to use when mentioning me as a supporter of his new book, Dream Like a Boss (Book Two): Big Dreams, Lucid Dreams, and Borderlands of Consciousness (Click Here for information on Ryan’s new book), and I had a moment of disorientation when I realized that the process of re-visioning that has occurred over the past year has left my digital persona in tatters. Two of my main websites, the web-magazine The Eyeless Owl, and the home page for the Liminal Analytics: Applied Research Collaborative, are both down for the time being as I think about where to go from here. A year in the woods without stable web access while sleeping with scorpions and spiders and keeping company with crows, coyote and vultures has  realigned some priorities. It’s unclear to me that the ways which I’ve engaged with the web in the past are still viable. 

“It’s only when you realize that life is taking you nowhere that it begins to have meaning.” – P. D. Ouspensky

My internal clock has been turned off in the golden sunlit flicker show of leaves and breezes, the slow swirl of clouds against blue crystal skies. My expectations for getting food or being able to travel have been realigned based on a budget of $0 and surviving on free donations of unmarketable produce from local farmers, wild harvested fruits, herbs and vegetation and the cast off carcasses left after a local deer processor gets done preparing the good meat for local hunters.  Unwittingly I’ve gone a bit feral.  Yet, even this feeling of disconnection is another face of the teacher. 

Although away for awhile from the core corruption of so-called ‘civilized’ society, what the poet Robinson Jeffers called the ‘mold of (America’s) vulgarity’, even in the woods I was unable to escape the inanity of our society’s control structures.  A couple of weeks ago I ended up in the county jail after a bureaucratic screw up at the DMV and an unconstitutional road block at 11am on a Sunday in the middle of farm country enlightened me to the fact that in Georgia you can be put in jail indefinitely pending trial for a misdemeanor unless you have enough money for bail. Thankfully a generous faculty member in the University of Georgia’s Law department posted my bail. 

A few days before being arrested I had a dream in which my car spun out on the very road, in the very spot, where the road block ended up being. When the car came to a stop in the dream, a cop, dressed just as he would turn out to be in real life, approached my window and arrested me.  What I didn’t see in the dream is that after my real life arrest, when I was put into population one of my cell mates had recently had a near death experience and encountered a figure he believed was Santa Muerte. 

As he put it, “When I died, I didn’t see heaven, it was all black, and this figure in a cloak, with a face like a skull, motioned for me to come to its right hand side – I felt a feeling of power rush through me – like it was telling me I was going to be a leader. When I came back, when they revived me, I was fucking insane – I’ve never been so cold and violent – even my close friends thought I was possessed. It was that saint that the cartels worship – Santa something or other…” 

Living on the cusp of the so-called ‘contemporary occult revival’ requires one become comfortable with the ways in which dream and waking life bleed together. When I told my cell mate that I was working on a project researching the growth and development of Santa Muerte’s devotions he smiled and said “See, you’re here for a reason…maybe she has a message for you.”  Imagine, if you will, being locked up in a county jail with no hope of posting bail and hearing that. It was with those words that I realized why she has become so popular – for those on the outside of the system there is no hope, there is no solution, there is no answer. Here I was stuck in jail pending trial months away on a misdemeanor charge because I couldn’t afford a $150 bail and the DMV had screwed up some paperwork.  Sometimes death is the only one you can trust. 

An hour or so later the intercom in the cell sparked up telling me that my bail had been posted and I was free to go. Thankfully someone that I had only met once before had heard about the situation and provided the money to get me out. It is these kinds of ‘miracles’ that devotees often credit Santa Muerte with, and so I was given a taste of both the hopelessness and the spontaneous salvation that has lead to her becoming the fastest growing devotional traditions in the world.

As I type this my nephew arrives home from school and comes down the stairs to show me a picture of him in handcuffs from a demonstration held today by a visiting U.S. Marshall. He goes to a local Christian academy, and I am reminded of the tacit support that the  organized church offers to the prison industrial complex. Seeing my nephew smiling during a demonstration of being arrested, a subtle psychological entrainment to normalize the prison state, I hear Santa Muerte whisper that this is why so many turn their faith towards death in this age of social upheaval. 

“Looking back, I see that the  dreamworld was initiating me into a deeper way of living by handing me important dreams that revealed core fears and wounds, providing opportunities to heal and move beyond them. They also revealed an inner world that did not seem to reflect my personal life so much as the grand drama of human mystery.” 

– Ryan Hurd, Dream Like a Boss (Book Two): Big Dreams, Lucid Dreams, and Borderlands of Consciousness

Whenever things seem especially pertinent and potent, when the dream-like quality of life becomes sharper than usual I turn to the work of another Reality Sandwich contributor, Ronnie Pontiac, whose ‘astro-updates’ offer an opportunity to see if there are an seeming correspondences with the current celestial environment. Pontiac learned astrology directly from Manly P. Hall, and his readings are generally spot on, or so it seems to me. In this instance the tension I’ve been feeling corresponds quite well to the mytho-poetic interstice of stellar activity that has been going on for the past few days. According to Pontiac:

“Yesterday’s Mars Pluto conjunction is strong today and for most of the rest of this week and beginning of next. Aggressive energy, including libido, can become urgent. Anger can turn violent more easily than usual. The drive to make your mark, to get free, to revenge yourself, or destroy something to teach someone a lesson, to break through sexual barriers, set new records, can be very strong, but then there’s today’s Venus conjunct Saturn to really put a damper on things, demanding limits, caution, rest, quiet, lessons learned, chores accomplished. It’s not easy to get happy results from both aspects. Especially with today’s Uranus square to Mars exasperating the grand finale of the Uranus Pluto square we’ll be exploring from now till the end of March 2015. Whatever issues arise around anger, lust, competition, destructiveness deserve your careful attention. You can avoid trouble by making repairs and reforms now, and by eliminating situations, and possibly people, that belong to your past, not your future.” 

I pulled that from Pontiac’s FaceBook profile, where beneath it, reflecting on the nature of astrological correlations he says that the practice of astrology is like:

“Reading reflections in the jewel net of Indra…”

The opening quotation from Ramana Maharshi is a focal point of the upcoming sacred geometry webinar that I am presenting, where we will look at how the classical understanding of the 5 elements as teachers can help us to better understand how to utilize sacred geometry to access the visionary quality of everyday life. Further on in the presentation I draw on the Avatamsaka Sutra, where the jewel net of Indra shows how understanding the traditional 5 elements of nature through their exposition in sacred geometry leads to an understanding of consciousness. This is the second mention of Indra’s net in two days that I’ve seen, as the dream-like nature of reality emerges again and again. Yet another manifestation of the teacher.


In an excerpt from Kingsley L. Dennis’ new book The Phoenix Generation titled The New Monastics (Click Here to read the excerpt), Dennis talks about some of the friction caused by the emergence of alternate structures in the midst of stagnate ways of social organization. The essay speaks directly to my experience over the past year, and appears on the web, as if in a dream, just as I am thinking through these issues in the wake of this dissassociative and dread filled fugue that has found me upon my return from the woods: 

“How difficult or easy the transition times will be depends much upon the response of each person. The keys to our collective development may very well have been planted within each of us, in our social sense of responsibility – in our innate urge to come together. The human species is, after all, a social species (as anthropologists keenly like to remind us!). It is easy to behave ‘spiritually’ when one is confined to the hermit’s cave – then our only struggles are with our own ceaseless thoughts. Social participation is a responsibility to friends, family, community and to the wider world. It may well be that as times become more testing for many people the emphasis will shift toward the need for more integrated communities. Whatever the circumstances, much will be expected from people in the coming years as they face increased challenges and uncertainties – situations for which history holds few guidelines and precedents. The new monastics will be needed more than ever.” 

This follows from his insight that: 

“It is an ideal time now to look toward our own lives and our futures, and to start creating for ourselves the changes which we wish to see. It is time to examine our lifestyles – the food we eat, our securities, our dependencies, our networks, our finances and so on – and to be truly honest with ourselves.”

Having been stripped to the core over the past year facing the realities of freedom and limitation in the rural Southern United States I see that in order to secure these changes many will have to face fears that go far beyond the discomfort of the past few days.  I have seen what true community can do, how working together with a small group of people resources appear from out of thin air, harsh environmental conditions can be overcome and even enjoyed, and when the forces of the control system bear down, shared resources and attention can open unseen doorways. 

Yet, in order to move forward we all have to hold an individual responsibility that takes up Gurdjieff’s reminder to ‘like what It does not like.” As Dennis warns in the excerpt, “another caveat is that within these transformational patterns are also the windows of opportunity for the soothsayers, false prophets, gurus and self-appointed ‘spiritual teachers’ to take advantage of the increased sense of dislocation and fluidity.” For me the only true guru that has lead me during this time has been the daily walk through insurmountable odds and the lessons that emerge when concerns of ease and flesh fall away during the necessity of survival.  My teacher has appeared in many masks, as a deepening encounter with the elemental world of phenomena pulls off its masks to reveal an awareness beyond it all.

“It’s not only that our systems are built from our consciousness, but our consciousness is built from our systems.” — Charles Eisenstein in conversation with Paul Selig 

Living in nature, at the whim of the five elements, one can learn to dissolve symbolic interactions, allowing what is to be without any feedback from artificially induced systems. The  silence that develops from this sneaks up, suffusing and reclaiming the spaces cluttered by cognitive structures created under the corrupting influence of culture. 

All words read or heard, all images of potential meaning, skate the surface of this vast emptiness that opens while living among the trees. Nature as an interior vision of liquidity – the beautiful process of consumption and reintegration as the elements play against each other in the phenomenal flux of being. 

“…until one has journeyed beyond all created things and even the impulse of Being one can not know the face of perfect wisdom… it is before the heartbeat, even the Heartbeat of God.”

– t.k., recent talks

The teacher appears when the student is ready. It all depends on what you call a Guru. 


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