My brother John inspires from the grave. His penetrating eyes challenge me to keep moving on, to attempt the seemingly impossible feat of living from the inside out. He was not a saint or guru. He was, in fact, a drug addict who killed himself at age 27. Prior to jumping off Rhode Island's Mount Hope Bridge, he spent seven years attempting to escape from the intolerable prison of “normal.” To Him, the life offered to a working class American male in the middle of the 20th century was unimaginably drab and awful. He did his best to be a husband, a father, a son, a brother, a worker, to go to the church, to fit in with the society, to be thrilled and inspired by the prevailing myths of the day. Like me he was more impressed by the mushrooming counter-culture of the 1960s. Abandoning “normal” he dove headlong into the euphoria of drugs. Amphetamines and heroin quickly became his Gods as they delivered him from normal consciousness and catapulted him into a luminously altered state of mind.
I was the older brother and although solidly grounded in “normal” was, like him, diving into the music, poetry, politics and drugs of the day, and like him, was convinced that I was rising up from “normal” into something higher, an expanded consciousness, far superior to the normal embrace of God, church and country. While I was able, with my marijuana, hashish and occasional “speed,” to keep one foot planted firmly in the world of respectability, John’s speed-freak method of altering consciousness created a yellow-eyed, emaciated seeker of bigger and better highs which catapulted him into the world of petty crime, emergency room visits following overdoses, prison stays following unsuccessful home break-ins and finally treatment in state institutions for the mentally ill. Electro-convulsive “therapy” left him with numerous holes in his memory but did nothing to divert him from his quest to live in a colorful world of love, peace, joy and truth. None of that seemed possible to him in the land of “normal” and so he pressed on the drug highway to higher and higher states of unconsciousness which led him on a moonless night, stoned and alone, to the grand heights of the Mt. Hope Bridge.
Following his death I continued my own quest to escape “normal.” I read the great books, drank wine, smoked dope, became sex-obsessed, changed jobs, changed locations, became an actor, became a writer, got divorced, entered psychotherapy, lived communally, became an avowed atheist, all of it in an attempt to not live a meaningless life of boredom, of normal, of conformity to the mob psychology. It was a desperate attempt to make a prison break. Because my dear little brother had chosen amphetamines, heroin and suicide, those options were firmly rejected. My crazed attempts at breaking free had landed me on the psychiatric couch, labeled manic-depressive with psychotic tendencies and offered a prescription for lithium and three other psychotropic medications, and still I was immersed in normal mind, living in the bland world of work, responsibility, guilt, sex, bills, income tax, eating corporate food, working corporate jobs, paying into a cruel system of planetary exploitation.
By the third anniversary of John’s suicide I was battered, bruised, obsessed with thoughts of suicide but knowing I could not do it. That path out of normal was not available. I couldn’t do it to my mother. I could not bear the thought of crushing her with the reality of both sons dead and gone. I also had a vague feeling that John would also be crushed by my failure to find a pathway out of normal and into that over the rainbow land of divine luminosity.
That was close to forty years ago, and although I look somewhat normal, I can assure you that I am not. Although I have no proof, I am certain that John has watched over me and has nudged me towards that jumping off place where the land of normal can be evacuated at a moment’s notice. John’s tragedy this lifetime was that he never encountered an alternative escape hatch. With his help and probably a shit-load of luck I stumbled on one of the many escape hatches that life provides. In my case it was through something called The Psychology of the Buddhas, a rather fascinating concept proposed by a 20th century mystic named Osho.
The Psychology of the Buddhas boldly asserts the preposterous idea that all beings are from the very beginning Buddha. The consciousness experienced by a Buddha, a Jesus, a Krishna, a Baal Shem, a Lao Tzu is possible for all. The kingdom of God is within you. The way in is called meditation. As Jesus said to his disciples on that last night in the garden of Gethsemane, “Watch with me awhile.” He was apparetly attempting to share meditation, watchfulness. They all fell asleep.
Drugs provide the seeker of escape from normal a door downward into the subconscious. The breaking free of “normal,” as all of us alkies and druggies know is initially an ecstatic experience. It is fun.It is dangerous and excitng. It gives you a taste of what feels to be the divine. Those of us with enough experience know absolutely that the experience is more devil than divine.
The Psychology of the Buddhas is an existential experience of leaving normal through a door upwards. Like the downward escape hatch it leads to an experience of joy, ecstasy, peace, love, truth and there is no hang-over, no crash, no brain damage, no destruction of the physical body. Although rooted in a profoundly intellectual system, it is not an intellectual process. It is a scientific method designed to alter your chemistry, stimulate unused areas of your brain, get your blood boiling, your breath deepened, and your constantly chattering mind shut off. The temporary shutting off of your mind is the door upward into the first layer above normal. Osho calls it super-conscious mind. It is an ecstatic realm of joy, poetry, dance, creativity, spontaneity… GIVE IT A TRY!!!!!!!
My book Mastering Madness will provide an introducton to this alternaive reality. www.mentalillnessmyths.com
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