Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Tales of Wisdom and Folly

This is the fourth installment of my biographical story and it continues with my exploits in the early Summer of 1973 to the winter of 1975, just before I was initiated into an Alexandrian Witchcraft coven. This was a time when I made some really disastrous choices for myself and experienced quite a bit of personal conflict, all of which led me to learn some important lessons about who I was and what I really wanted to do with my life. I also began to deal with reality in a more mature manner than I had previously. By the end of 1975, I was on the right path and truly learning some important magickal and spiritual truths. It was a time of wisdom and folly, with an emphasis on folly - at least at the beginning.

It was the middle of spring in 1973 that I seemed to partially wake up from my self absorption. This was because I had to take important and strategic actions in order to ensure that I actually graduated from high school. Truth be told, the freedom to do whatever I wanted, even avoid coming to school and being productive, had taken its toll on me. I had to scramble and work pretty hard to justify getting enough school-based credits to graduate. Not long after my eighteenth birthday in January, I had decided to seek out a career in the Navy, so I went through the recruiting paperwork and physical and signed up for a program where I would be trained as a nuclear machinist’s mate, which was a guaranteed six year program. That meant that I would be raised to the grade of E-4 after graduating from the first class in the training series, which was the basic Machinist’s Mate school. I had opted for the deferred program so I didn’t have to report for basic training until almost the end of June, after I had graduated. Thus, graduating from high school was suddenly a very important achievement, whereas before, I was just getting by with a meager attendance of classes and productivity. I had managed to paint several paintings, but I had other requirements that I needed to satisfy to graduate. Luckily, I managed to pull everything together in time, but for a while it was a panic induced paper chase with an uncertain end.

During the long winter months, I had acquired (from my father) some inexpensive and thin composite board and painted a magick circle on it consisting of three tightly concentric rings with magick sigils written between them, and a septagram segmented and painted with a graduated color wheel, varying from black, dark brown, violet, purple, blue, green, to red, orange, yellow and white. I carefully nailed this circle to the tile floor of my bedroom. I also constructed a low wooden altar, which I placed in the center of the circle, and I had collected a few other tools, including a short sword purchased from Sanctum Regnum. Scott had supplied the candle sticks, but I also crafted wooden candle holders for the four watchtowers, using cut pieces of a tree branch affixed with plywood bases and topped with a colored glass votive candle holder. I painted and decorated them with more of the Atlantean sigils, of which I seemed to have an endless supply. I also decorated the various tools as well. With the room completely dark and the candles lit, the resultant temple was quite excellent and very fulfilling. I was also integrating Qabbalistic techniques into my magick as well, so everything was proceeding to my satisfaction.

Since Scott had left town, I became the undisputed sorcerer supreme of my high school, reigning over a small clique of students attending Walden III. I had re-focused my magickal workings with my friend Bob, who had become a kind of surrogate for the loss of Scott. Bob, whose full name was Bob Pietkivitch, had exclusive use of a dull red 1965 Rambler American, which we decorated with Atlantean runes and other oddities, both inside and out. Bob and I would frequently go places and do things in the winter that I could not do otherwise. I had only the exclusive use of my antiquated Harley, or sometimes I would occasionally get to borrow my father’s car. We were frequently together and we became very close friends, although I pretended to be superior to Bob because I was the “experienced” occultist. He obligingly took on the role of my assistant. Bob quietly put up with my egotistic outbursts and callous disregard for anyone’s feelings because I was probably the most unusual and interesting person that he had met so far in his short life. I was still on a massive ego trip from the previous autumn and probably thrilled him with my delusional stories and eccentric opinions about nearly everything. Being my confidant, Bob learned all about what had happened to me over the last couple of years and seemed to be genuinely fascinated by what I was doing. He had asked more than once to join me, so I allowed him to do so, yet I never treated him with the same respect and awe that I had treated Scott. Bob also introduced me to his cousin, Mark, who also wanted to be allowed to work magick and hang out with us, so he became part of the pack as well. The fact that both Bob and Mark’s parents could barely stand me probably made me even more attractive as a friend.

Looking over my occult workbooks from that time, it appeared that I was very busy not only attempting to systematize what I was doing, but also adding a lot of new material from classic occult sources, including some material from the Greater Key of Solomon and the Goetia. I even did some goetic conjurations, although what happened was pretty spotty and never fully documented. The methodology that I used was slim on technique and high on imagination. However, I was probably fairly delusional, drunk on my own power trip and quite disconnected with reality. Because of this, I was probably able to do pretty much anything, so long as it didn’t require any kind of actual material manifestation. I wouldn’t learn the rules of how to perform real earth and material based magick until at least a few years later, after I had joined a witch coven and got some proper training.

One episode that occurred which sticks in my mind happened in a place where we would go for an adventure while in the highly suggestive and altered states of marijuana intoxication. We would get really stoned and pile into Bob’s car and then he would drive off to some odd part of town that he had previously checked  out, and we would get out and explore it, as if we were in another reality altogether, which in a manner, we were. One place that was very magickal was a drainage ravine, which ran through an old neighborhood, down so low and so heavily wooded that it was completely obscured, even in the middle of winter. I think that this was off of Spring street near Lincoln and Horlick parks. The Root river runs through that area and even splits off to form two separate rivers, and this valley was probably part of a natural drainage area. No houses were built down there, of course, but houses lined either side of the gorge, which was probably around thirty to forty feet high. The area of the gorge was heavily wooded and filled with undergrowth, but a small creek wended its way through the center of the valley where no trees or undergrowth grew. It was like a fairy den or ghost road in the middle of the residential area of town.

We often went down to that place to explore and hang out - we could walk for a few miles uninterruptedly along this ravine. It was accessed from a children's playground (where our adventure started), but we would climb a fence and carefully follow a pathway down into the magickal grotto. I recall specifically that one time we were down there, quite smashed and experimenting with extracting magickal power from that place, I began to summon a great power into myself, using a combination of potent sounding nonsense words of power mixed with some Enochian. It was a spontaneous occurrence, but I remember feeling the power fill my body and soul. My friends engaged in this activity with me, and I believe that they felt the same thing as I did. Then I said to them, “Run with the power and let it lift you and fly!” So we all ran, with me in the lead. More swiftly and rapidly down the narrow corridor of the valley we flew. I almost felt as if I was about to get airborne, as if the wind that was blowing against my back was about to take us all into the air, when I tripped and fell face first into the mud. My friends also fell, probably tripped up by me, and we were all piled together in the mud and the water of the tiny stream. Once I caught my breath I started to laugh, but I really wanted to cry because I had failed to fly through the air, even though I felt I had come so close! I wrote it off as just a test of our abilities, but it was a clear sign that we were too much into our imaginations and nearly delusional in our relation to the real world. I have carried this memory with me to this day. I had not flown into the air - instead I crashed into the mud like an idiot. It was a sign of what was soon to pass for me in my real life.

These kinds of crazy adventures, not to mention getting a reputation of being really weird and even scary to our peers, became the stuff of our personal legends. We didn’t care what anyone thought of us and we weren’t about to stop what we were doing, either. Even the dark and bitter experience that I underwent with the terrible murder of Tina Davidson didn’t bring me out of this delirium. What sobered me up real fast was leaving my friends, family and home, and traveling to the Navy basic recruit training center in Orlando. There I truly crashed to earth, since without any outside influences or the aid of friends to project my fantasy of having occult powers, I had to make do with my wits and learn to be like everyone else. It was a terrible shock, but I adapted quite well and managed to graduate. My father and mother even traveled to see my graduation ceremony in Orlando. I was dressed in my white sailor uniform and my father was dressed up in his white uniform as a senior chief petty officer in the Naval Reserve. He was quite proud of me, but even though I briefly enjoyed his praise and warm regards, I was quite unsure of what the future held for me.

Oddly enough, being in the Navy didn’t end my magickal career. I got to come home for a two week leave and then went to school at the Great Lakes Naval station, just north of Chicago, and within easy driving distance of my home in Racine. So while I attended school, I could visit home every weekend unless I had to remain on base for guard duty or janitorial duty. As a graduated recruit, I was a well trained first rate janitor. This was true with all low level enlisted men, who were expected to mop, clean and polish, paint and maintain all government buildings and other assets. This would also turn out to be true when I got posted to my first duty station - we were always either mopping and cleaning, chipping paint, or painting. I also knew that sooner or later I would be stationed on a ship. As one of my instructors at school was so fond of saying, “Sailors belong on ships, ships belong out at sea.” However, I was getting paid for my first job, so like a fool with his money, I bought a brand new Triumph Tiger 750 cc motorcycle (instead of a car). While it looked great, it was one of my many follies. The place where I bought it managed to screw up the clutch so badly that when I finally sold it, just several months later, the buyer had to have it completely overhauled to get it to work properly.

Another album was produced by Jethro Tull, and of course, this one also seemed to function as a form of prophecy for me. The album was called “Passion Play”, and it seemed almost as good as “Thick as a Brick.” There was even a reference to a “Fulham Road”, which was one of the main roads that ran through the Great Lakes Naval training center. A lot of the cryptic lyrics allowed me to interpret them into aspects of my own life, so I enjoyed listening to the music and attempting to determine the nature of my great destiny. Another album that was important to me at that time was by Emerson Lake and Palmer, called “Brain Salad Surgery.” A couple of the songs had very apocalyptic themes. This bolstered my sense that the world was going to end in the near future, of course, with me being elevated by fate to the level of some kind of messianic magician who would save the world. This was really silly stuff for a grown young man to believe in, perhaps even a bit crazy. However, later on I would encounter other people who had temporarily come to similar conclusions when listening to certain rock tunes. Ambiguous lyrics lent themselves to being re-interpreted by teenagers suffering a mono-mania, causing them to see the world in a decidedly egotistical fashion. They were all desperate to find some kind of meaning in a world that was rapidly being drained of its meaningfulness and ideology. In the end some would convert to fundamentalist Christianity, some would become atheists, and others would either end up institutionalized or mature into rational and insightful occultists. Luckily, I was one of the latter group.

So all during the autumn, I managed to continue my occult studies, since I now had the purchasing power to buy some really good books and do some deep studying. I invented a system of working magick without having to use a temple, which I called Indarelim Sortus (indirect sorcery), and I had even more experiences with astral projection, which I had perfected during the terribly boring days spent in the recruit training center. The original garden of four seasons that Scott had shown me was joined by a number of other mythic and archetypal locations. I even drew pictures of these places and later painted them in water colors or other medium. It was a very creative time for me, but all of that was soon coming to an end. The true gritty reality of being in the Navy was about to manifest itself to me.

In late November, after graduating from MM school, I got my orders shipping me out to a temporary assignment on a rusty old refrigeration cargo ship, the U.S.S. Rigel, AF-58. I spent a total of almost three months on that ship. It was like a living nightmare for me, since the ship was in poor operating shape and had many more cockroaches and rats on it than it had people. I can remember one time attempting to lead a group of crew members extracting debris and junk out of the bilge area, which was located at the very bottom of the ship, below the engine room.

After being lowered into the that area with a work light, I held it up to illuminate the area, seeing first the curvature of the hull of the ship, filthy with sea water, condensation, oil, metal scraps, paint chips and other junk. As I held the light up I also noticed that there was quite a few rats down there as well. The reflected light from their many eyes greeted me as I took in the creepy and abject horror of that place. There were probably quite a large population of bugs down there too, even though the ship was fumigated at least a couple times of year. Often in nooks and crannies where machinery had to be accessed, one would find dead rats or piles of dead cockroaches - they were part of the environment. I also discovered that a ship this large had a lot of places to either hide contraband or oneself. A number of shipmates would go off into secret locations and smoke marijuana or hashish. How the ship managed to function under such circumstances is beyond my understanding even today. Anyway, some of the areas of the ship that I had to access were very cramped for space, being full of pipes, valves and machinery, dirty, fouled with spilled oil and old paint chips. Having to work in these tight enclosures made me fairly claustrophobic, and they gave me nightmares even months after I had been discharged.

While I was living aboard a ship that was at the end of it’s life span, I had no idea that peculiar religious beliefs and practices, such as witchcraft or any other non-mainstream religion, were not tolerated in those days. Navy culture for enlisted men was quite homogenous, so there was little room for eccentricities or strange behavior. I didn’t know this, but I was engaged in beliefs activities that could get me discharged if ever I revealed myself to the right person. I was quite unhappy being on that ship and felt like I was going to be forced to stay there forever. I was not competent in my work and had a rank that far outstripped my ability, causing resentment from other crew members. Several of my acquaintances were also trying to get out of the service, becoming alcoholics, obvious drug users, declaring themselves conscientious objectors or pretending to be queer. Once fully ensconced in the military, attempting to get out could cause one to experience a great deal of peer pressure, punishment, and perhaps even some jail time.

My ship had recently come out dry dock and was being readied for duty, although so much of it was in disrepair, that it seemed like maintaining it was a waste of time to me. However, before my ship was ready for service, I went to visit an acquaintance of mine who was attempting to get out of the service by pretending to be crazy and an alcoholic. He certainly was a heavy drinker, but the rest of his supposed maladies were clearly faked. He did end up in the base hospital, so me and couple of other crew members went to visit him. I had also hurt my hand in some minor mishap (nothing serious), so I was seeking a bit medical assistance as well.

Anyway, as luck would have it, I walked past the office of an on-call psychiatrist sitting at his desk, writing a report. I asked permission to talk to him for a moment, and then when he courteously had me sit down at his desk, I revealed my whole story of being a witch, sorcerer and potential messiah. He was kind, compassionate, listened to all of the embellished nonsense that I was saying and wrote down copious amounts of notes as well. When I was done, and had basically thought that my intention of finding a way out had failed, he encouraged me to stick around while he called together a couple of his colleagues. I complied, and told them pretty much the same story, with perhaps even some more embellishments.

Most of what I said was true, but all of it was steeped in a deep occult context that the average person wouldn’t begin to understand. So these three psychiatrists conferred with each other and then unanimously decided that I was quite mentally ill. I thanked them for their attentions and said that I probably had to head back to my ship. They told me that wasn’t necessary, that they would see to it that I wouldn’t ever have to return to that ship, and in fact, I only returned a few days later to pick up my already packed seabag to leave. I was taken instead to a hospital ward and given a bed (in the geriatric ward, of all places), where I was to wait for the processing of new orders. There I witnessed the depressing end of the lives of several distinguished military men, now in their complete dotage and cared for by the orderlies of this base hospital. It was a sad and eye opening experience. One ancient old man (probably in his nineties) had been an interpreter for General Pershing in the First World War. Back then he had fluently spoken several languages, but now was reduced by dementia to being barely able to speak English.

I must have made quite an impression on those doctors, and they in turn were quite convincing to the commander in charge of the base, for in less than a week I was fully discharged from the Navy. They even made me walk my own papers to the various functionaries to hasten the process. In the middle of February (1974), having served only eight months total of active duty, I was discharged from the Navy as being unfit for military duty. I even had a re-enlistment status of RE-4, which meant that I wouldn’t even be drafted if World War III came along and the military needed anyone it could find. However, I was happy to gather my seabag and travel back home via military standby one more time. My father was very unhappy with my failure, but I suppose that he believed it was somehow his fault and felt deeply sorry for me. He decided that I was a complete failure and wondered what was to become of me. I wasn’t sorry in the least, and seldom ever regretted having been discharged from the service. Military life was not my cup of tea, nor was it my destiny. So now I had to figure out what to do with myself, since by now childhood was officially over.

By this time, my friends Bob and Mark had gotten some part time jobs and also acquired a connection to procure a form of LSD called Window-pane, where tiny liquid droplets were deposited and dried on small pieces of acetate. I dropped acid the first weekend I was home and had a terrible trip. After enduring all that I had endured while in the service and experiencing my father’s rejection when I came home, I was probably very close to being psychologically afflicted, enough so that the psychiatrist’s evaluation of me being a borderline psychotic probably had some truth to it. Anyway, I managed to get through the experience, and my friends did try to help me out when they realized that I wasn’t having a good time being out of my mind on drugs.

For a time I refused to take any more hard drugs and went through a period of completely drying out. Instead I focused on smoking hashish, Thai sticks and high quality pot - this, I believed, would help me sort out what I was going through. Later on I was able to drop LSD again without having a psychotic incident, but I tended to pace things with that drug, since it caused me to be somewhat debilitated for a couple of days afterwards. During these times of being high or hallucinating, we would work magick at Bob’s place. I had transferred most of my occult equipment into Bob’s room before I had left for the military. My father had reconverted my bedroom back to what it had been before I modified it for working magick, so there was little magickal working done in that room. However, we did hang out and do drugs there, talk and collectively fantasize. There was a cheap stereo and an old black and white console TV, which we occasionally watched. But the occult activity was centered at Bob’s room, whose walls by now were painted black, and the windows were blocked out. The magickal circle and altar were installed and so were a lot of my pictures and art work. It became our functional temple, even while I was gone and serving in the military. Bob was the beneficiary of my years of occult collecting and building, but he was careful and gracious in handling my stuff.

I sought out employment here or there, but couldn’t manage to find anything that suited me. I was quite untalented at whatever I tried my hand at, except maybe art and music. During this time I returned to Walden III as a visitor and a graduate, and joined a group of musicians led by a friend of mine named Ralph, who was something of a piano virtuoso. Our group was a mixture of black and white musicians, and we played blues, R&B and jazz-rock. Being in this band and playing my flute was a form of excellent therapy for me, even though the members of the group frequently argued and sometimes even broke out into fist fighting. I truly enjoyed playing jazz flute and had even managed to acquire an electronic synthesizer to bolster my sound. I had an extra flute head that had a transducer welded to it, and a wire connected the flute to the small synthesizer pack that was clipped to my belt. This was a happy-sad time for me, but at least I was no longer in the dreaded Navy.  I was free to chart my own future and go wherever I desired without having to answer to anyone, or so I thought.

Sometime that spring, I got a brief visit from Scott Malueg, who had come back for a short time and was staying with his friend Grant. Scott told us how great life was living in the Colorado Rockies and he invited us all to come out and live with him. So naturally, both Bob and I were quite enchanted with the idea of moving away and living in the Rockies. It seemed like the next big thing to do. We would become occult vagabonds and travel around the Southwest and discover ourselves, as many other kids were actually doing at that time. I managed a few odd jobs to gather together some money and so did Bob.

By the time Summer rolled around, we had enough resources (so we thought) to begin our epic journey. So we packed a few important items, and Bob in his old Rambler, and me, on my Triumph motorcycle, split one early June morning for Colorado. Unfortunately, we didn’t get very far. Before we hit Chicago my motorcycle began to develop some severe problems with its clutch, so we had to drive all of the way back so I could drop off my bike at my parent’s home and continue with our trip. I was profoundly disappointed that I couldn’t drive my motorcycle and would become dependent on Bob to provide transportation. Bob didn’t seem to mind, in fact he actually appreciated having me along inside the car, not only for the company but to share in the ordeal of driving.

We drove on and on until we were both completely exhausted, even though we had been taking shifts at driving while the other person slept. Eventually, we crashed for a few hours in a rest area on the side of the freeway somewhere just across the border in the state of Colorado. The next day we drove through the Rockies all the way to Glenwood Springs, and then off of the freeway past Carbondale to a small country village where Scott and his family lived. We had arrived at our magickal destination, both of us were elated to be finally reconnected with Scott, who acted as our magickal and mystical tour guide for all that was cool and trendy about life in Colorado.

I remember one of our early first nights in Colorado quite vividly. We traveled to a remote nearly deserted canyon. The night sky was pitch black and even the dimmest stars could be seen. We watched the stars slowly spin around the Pole Star while getting a lot higher on pot than I have ever been. Yes, even the pot seemed better in Colorado! We were also drinking Coor’s Light, only available in the West, as if it were some kind of nectar of the gods. There we were, in a lonely valley, seeing some shooting stars, and Bob pulled out his favorite cassette tape of “Tree Music”, which was probably the strangest album that I had ever heard anywhere. It was a really very unusual scene, and for us, thoroughly magickal.

Another day found us trekking to the peak called Snow Mass, where we walked nearly to the summit while clouds were scudding past our feet - as if we were angels walking on the mists of heaven. We started our ascent with a large can of Coors Light each, and as we performed our ascent, we would drink the beer, getting higher as we went. We also visited a place called Marble, which was an old ghost mining town. We walked up the road following the path where the old narrow gauge railroad had run, ascending to the giant mine shaft that had been carved right into the side of a mountain of pure white marble. All throughout this area there were thousands of pieces of white marble, in all sizes and shapes. It was a monument to what the miners had done to the environment, raping the earth for needed minerals, but covering the area with scars and debris. This would not be first ghost mining town that I would see in the Old West. Carbondale itself had been a coal mining town many years ago. Every where we traveled, we saw mysteries and amazing sights, jagged snow covered mountains, awesome sunsets, starry nights and unpolluted streams, creeks and sparkling pure air. All of these adventures were amazing and very magickal for us Midwesterners, but we also needed to make some money. We performed a temporary stint as general laborers for a condo construction site outside of Vale, but it was a lot of work for just a handful of money, and it wasn’t enough to live on.

After we had spent a few weeks in Colorado, it soon became obvious that there were few decent paying jobs around the area for us. We weren’t carpenters, cabinet makers, masons, plumbers or electricians, so all that was left was general construction labor, which paid very poorly. We also weren’t independently wealthy, so our limited cache of money would soon be depleted. It had become apparent to both of us that we would have to either go back home or move forward. Bob had an uncle that lived in Orange County and after calling and talking to him, it seemed that California had a lot more opportunity than rural Colorado. So we decided to move on and continue our trip to the West Coast. We said goodbye to Scott, packed up the Rambler, and headed west, while dreaming of finding our destiny.

While we were in Colorado, I began to notice something that had started to bother me. Bob and Scott got along too well together, and often when we were doing stuff, I felt that Bob was ingratiating himself with Scott at my expense. I am certain that I was probably hard to be around day in and day out, especially with such a large delusional ego as I had to support at that time. I felt that Bob and Scott were not being respectful enough towards me, and that Bob started to think independently, creatively, to challenge what I knew and believed. He was no longer my chela, and because I was dependent on him for transportation, I believe that he thought that I was not sufficiently grateful and thankful for his support. Our friendship began to become frayed and we seemed to get on each other’s nerves a lot. By the time we got to Bob’s uncle, I began to realize that there was soon to be a parting of the ways between us. We celebrated the 4th of July with Bob’s uncle and aunt, but I became distinctly aware that Bob’s uncle was making critical comments about me behind my back.  He was more than willing to help out his nephew, but he didn’t think too much of me, and wasn’t obliged to help me out at all. So I had to contact my uncle who lived in San Diego and ask Bob to help me (one more time) to drive to my uncle’s house and leave me there. It was obvious that Bob and I could barely stand to be in each other’s company - we were no longer the good friends that we once were. I took it all quite personal, but it seemed that Bob blew it all off. He went back to stay a while longer with his uncle and then went back home. I was more tenacious and decided to stick it out.

I ended up on unemployment (courtesy of the Navy) and had to live in the local YMCA because I had soon wore out my welcome with my uncle. He was an overbearing anti-intellectual man who was something of a Christian fanatic and a stickler for all that was traditional. Therefore, he found my opposing religious views to be very troubling, since he didn’t want his son (who was younger than me) to be influenced by them. Because I needed to find some kind of paying job as soon as possible, I decided to join the Job Corps and get trained as a carpenter. I figured that it couldn’t be too demanding and it included an easy induction into the carpenter’s union when one completed the training. I had to live two weeks in San Diego waiting for the papers to be completed and then to be transported to the Job Corps center in Oregon. While I waited, I studied my occult books, wrote copiously, pretended to look for work, and would occasionally engage in some socializing. It was at that time that I went to see the movie, “The Wicker Man”, which was showing at a theater in the downtown area. I loved that film and wanted terribly to be somehow transported to Summer Isle. I was also aware of the news at that time, since this was the summer when Richard Nixon resigned his post as President of the U.S. I was actually quite delighted by this news, so were a lot of other young folks.

Soon I was put on plane to Portland, then afterwards, I traveled by bus to the Job Corps camp, which was some miles past the nearest town of Estacada, near a conservation camp. There I lived for around two to three months before I finally had to leave, being helped to escape by a dear friend that I had made there. He had graduated soon after I arrived and had a job in Estacada as a mechanic. As a Seventh Day Adventist, he was probably the most generous, compassionate and kind person I had ever met. When things got bad at the camp, he actually rescued me, helped me gather my things and drove me out of that place. He let me stay at his home for the few days it took for me to get money to buy a ticket home. If I hadn’t left when I did, I would probably have been beaten up to the point of having to be hospitalized.

The Job Corps camp was run by individuals who were very conscientious and who didn’t believe in any kind of tight discipline. The camp should have been run like a military camp, but it wasn’t. This might not have been so bad except that the kids who occupied it (all under age 21) were probably the most vicious punks ever assembled in an isolated rural camp. These were kids from the ghettos of Watts, Oakland, East LA, and numerous other urban locations. Since there was little discipline, these hoods covertly ran things, and I found myself mixing with gang bangers of the most severe kind. I learned all about the Crips, the Bloods, the Brims, the Esse’s, and their associated call signs and signal apparel. White kids were a distinct minority, so we had to learn to hang out in packs and never do anything alone, otherwise we would fall prey to other groups of kids. I swear that things were so bad that one white kid was beat up until he ended up in critical care in the hospital, just because some other kids tried to roll him for two dollars. Theft, vandalism, assault, male rape and even race riots between black and brown kids erupted on a frequent basis. The only salvation for us white kids was the strange fact that the urban punks were terrified of the forest. The camp was surrounded on all sides by a massive forest of Douglas Fir trees that were around 120 feet tall on average. They thought that Big Foot and other monsters lived in the forest, and we white kids helped stoke their fears by telling tall tales of what we had seen in the forest. To find some solace from the terrible living conditions and the endemic violence, we would frequently spend our free time in the forest, where none of the urban punks would dare to traverse.

Even though life in the camp was kind of hellish, walking in the Mt. Hood National Forest Preserve was an incredible experience. I absolutely adored the forest, since there was a highly variegated environment, from cascading hills, shallow creeks and wash beds, dry stream beds and lots of wonderful berry bushes. Since this was very early autumn, I happened to be there during the dry season. There were lots of wild berries to eat and the water from the streams was unpolluted and quite refreshing. A friend even showed me a special trail to a place that was a couple miles from the camp, deep in the woods. It was a natural circle clearing where some trees had fallen and a thick carpet of moss had grown over the entire floor, like some huge living room. The fallen trees made natural tables and chairs, much of it padded with the thick covering of moss. It was a place where I could read, meditate or even work magick alone, unmolested and unnoticed. I spent many hours there during the day when there wasn’t any work, or on weekends. I could almost forget the harshness of my living situation after spending an hour or two at this sacred place. I read books and continued my studies, but also developed my meditation skills as well.

During this time I was avidly reading the books written by Carlos Castaneda and trying to put those ideas into a workable system of magick. No matter how hard I tried, it always seemed like there wasn’t enough information to accomplish this task. I was also intensely reading and studying the book, “Sacred Mushroom and the Cross”, by John Allegro. With this book I had greater success, since it was filled with all sorts of fascinating information, including a kind of proto-language that I attempted to use as a magickal language, with some success. Bob had been very interested in the Castaneda books as well, but he was able to find more useful information in them than I was. Later on, when I actually took some anthropology courses and discovered the true practices and beliefs of Southwestern Native Americans and Mexican Indians, I found that Castaneda’s books seemed even more hokey to me, since I had found the real deal as opposed to something that was obviously contrived.

Eventually, though, I had to leave the Job Corps camp in a hurry. I was held up for a dollar, and then one of the camp counselors talked me into reporting it, which I did. Not only did I not get my money back, but the kids were simply verbally admonished, promised not to do it again, and then told me afterwards that my ass was dead that evening. I could expect a blanket party, and when that happened, typically one could expect to be hurt pretty badly. So I left that day with some help from my friend, then contacted my parents asking them to send me some money for a bus ticket back home. In late October, I boarded a Greyhound bus and traveled all the way back home, a grueling trip with an untold number of stops. I had failed to find a cool new place to live, but I had a lot of life experience, which helped ground me and make my aspirations more real.  I returned to my parent’s home more sober, realistic and definitely over my power trip. I realized now that life was hard and whatever advantages one had in the way of intelligence or ability should be utilized. I decided to go back to school and learn a trade. Thankfully, my father appeared to realize that I had made some progress in maturing and was helpful and encouraging towards my desire to go back to school. I still had to work, but I could also take advantage of my limited GI Education Bill.

When I got back, I reacquainted myself with Mark, his girlfriend Cathy, who had also become one of my best friends, and even Bob. However, while I was still away, Mark and Cathy would write and tell me that Bob had returned home and was acting very weird. The old friendship between Mark and Bob had also become quite strained. I guess that I had sensed something shift in Bob when I was with him in Colorado that others were now witnessing as well. The letters that I got told me that Bob was behaving strangely and had declared himself one of the hidden messiahs. He was talking about me in a fairly derogatory manner and he was treating his cousin and friend Mark, as well as Cathy, in a very condescending manner. It would seem that while I had been grounded by the harshness of the reality and lessons of life, Bob had instead been pulled into a massive ego trip. Of course, I was hardly one to judge anyone for being on an ego trip. I had just recently ended my own massive ego trip, which I am certain annoyed the hell of everyone around me - including my friends. Yet where my mono-mania was at least grounded in solid occult teachings, Bob had come up with his own occult system seemingly unrelated to anything, so he had an ego-trip that was based on nothing but hyperbole.

I tried to talk to Bob after I had returned. It almost seemed like either he had really gone off the deep end or was pretending to have great occult powers and insights, perhaps just to mock and belittle me. After a while, I decided that it was a little bit of both. Mark and Cathy, who had become very close friends with me when I had returned, had also found Bob’s behavior unacceptable, unsettling and even obnoxious. For some reason, Bob focused a lot of his angst on Cathy, talking and acting in a very rude and condescending manner to her. Another thing that happened was that Bob found himself a girlfriend who was just as strange and bizarre as he now was, and who also believed that Bob was some kind of hidden messiah. Even though I felt estranged from Bob, I began to re-acquire all of the magickal stuff that I had helped to outfit his temple. Bob seemed to be relieved to get rid of the stuff and helped me move it all back to my parent’s home. Some pieces I destroyed, some got refurbished. Later on, I moved it to the temple that I helped build at the old country house outside of Racine where Mark and Cathy lived.

After trying for a few months to deal with Bob and to work out our issues, I decided that it was just a waste of time. Mark and Cathy felt the same way, so on a winter evening in the early part of the year 1975, I asked Bob to come by my place and bring the magick key that I had painted for him. Mark and Cathy were there with me - it was our last attempt to work things out with Bob. I took the key back and we tried to talk things out with him, but to no avail. We had him come back a few days later and announced that we were no longer interested in either being his friend or having anything magickal to do with him. I returned his key to him, but I had burned off all of the paint, so that it was nothing more than a piece of wood with a blackened surface. Bob was obviously quite hurt by the rejection that we handed him, but he seemed more puzzled by our behavior, and even more confused because we failed to see him as he saw himself. His new girlfriend saw this great masterly potential in him, but we didn’t. So we parted ways and I can’t remember ever seeing him again after that night.

Bob was a odd character, although he had been a very good and faithful friend. Perhaps I could have been more compassionate with him, realizing that he had the same affliction that I had. Bob was a quiet person, he often would be silent for long periods of time. He was often courteous to others (especially people who he deemed were important), but just as often, he would make fun of individuals who were different than others, finding a joke name for them and mocking their affliction. So he could also be cold, calculating, uncompassionate and very selfish. If you were Bob’s friend, you could do no wrong and he was faithful and consistent with his friendship, but often it seemed that Bob was expert at manipulating people around him. He would often tell stories of how he had defrauded people just by not being sincere or open to them. Bob had quite a powerful dark side, but then so did we all.

Life went on for us and we all found our various niches in life. I moved away from Racine in the summer of 1975 because my father got a new position where he worked and had to report to an office that was a lot further away. So he sold the old house and bought a new one in a suburb of Milwaukee, and I followed him there, helping with the transition. I also enrolled in college and began my college career. Mark and Cathy moved in together and then later, got married.

My rapacious acquisition of knowledge, aided now by being enrolled in the university, took off in an accelerated arc. It seemed that I had been intellectually asleep my whole life. In addition, I finally completed the magickal system that I had been assembling for some time and I began to perform it at Mark and Cathy’s home. Everything seemed new and absolutely incredible. I also felt as if I was finally on track with my destiny. I was still single, but I already had some encounters with women. I was learning and growing up to be an adult. Occasionally I would hear from Mark about Bob and what he was up to, but I never bothered to try in get in touch with him or try to rebuild our broken friendship. Mark never had much good to say about Bob, which made seeking him out seem like a bad idea. I forgot about Bob, and I suppose in his way, he forgot about me.
The next period that I experienced on my occult path was the four years that I spent with the Alexandrian coven from Hell run by Christopher Synn and Alexandria Pendragon (the infamous Schnoebelens). I have already written about this story, including the events leading up to it and afterwards.

From the little snippets that I heard from Mark, Bob got into the high tech industry and became a security technician at Bell Labs. Later on he become a software engineer. He also got into the web when it was in its infancy and started his own bulletin board and email ring, dedicated to the occult and new age beliefs and practices. Later in the ‘90's, Bob founded and created the Nagual Network Website, donating it as a free space to anyone who wanted to communicate about the occult with other like minded folk. (You can see a link to this site here.)

Sometime in December 2002, Bob died of a sudden physical malady that took him and his family totally by surprise. I had heard about this sad event from my friend Cathy, but knew then that there was nothing left to be done. Perhaps I treated Bob poorly and maybe I even betrayed my friendship with him, for no other reason than to bring him down the way I had been brought down. I would feel even more guilty about how I treated him if had not been for both Mark and Cathy deciding to break their friendship with Bob as well. I know that Bob was impossible to talk or reason with at that time, so there was probably nothing to be done other than what we did do. Yet the fact that he is now dead means that I will never be able to talk to him and see if we had both finally outgrown our childish ways and could really deal with each other as true human beings.

Sometimes an occult life does have moments of regret - not everything that happens is miraculous or special. Sometimes it’s only an indication of our insecurities and the never ending folly that is our life.

Frater Barrabbas

1 comment:

  1. I just read this and remembered what I was doing while you where finding yourself. I was finding myself as well.
    I can never forgive our relatives in San Diego for the way they treated you. They will always be scoundrels in my mind.