The Life and Understanding
Copyright 1971 By Franklin Jones
Chapter 8: The Idea of Release from Narcissus
The central ideas in Rudi's way of teaching were "surrender" and "work." "Surrender" was an idea that corresponded to the internal practice in life and meditation. It was conscious and even willful opening or letting go of contents, resistance, patterns, feelings and thoughts. "Work" was the idea that corresponded to the external practice. The ideal student was to be in a constant state of surrender and a constant act of work. The purpose of this was to make the entire instrument, internal and external, available to the higher power, the "Force" or Shakti," and thus to grow by including its will, presence, intelligence, light and power on every level of being.
I took this way very seriously and I made a constant effort to adapt myself to this way absolutely and exhaustively. I accepted Rudi as a perfect source of this higher power, and I allowed none of his apparent limitations to represent actual barriers or limitations to the Force itself. Whenever I encountered limitations in him I was immediately moved to reflect on my own resistance. Thus, I never allowed myself to become concerned about Rudi's problems or to think the Force or Divine power was available to me to a limited degree.
The effect of this way of life was a perpetual and growing encounter with my own resistance. And where I encountered my own resistance I would awaken to my own tendencies to self-pity, negativity and the subliminal self-imagery by which I guided the creation or manipulation of experience. The more I worked the more I saw Narcissus.
This way required immense self-discipline, and as long as it worked it provided a positive mechanism that strengthened and purified me physically, mentally and morally. Rudi was a master at this kind of psychological tutoring, and these effects were his primary gift to me. Even if his motives were often founded in problems of his own, he would never allow his students to become identified with his own case. He would always turn them to themselves, to their own work and surrender.
I considered him to be a tremendous and brilliant force for the transformation of my life. He was unique in my experience. My own tendencies were to seek a loving connection on which I could become dependent. Where love was not poured on me I tended to become angry and resentful. But Rudi used these tendencies in me to create a consciousness of my own patterns and reactions.
Rudi's psychological presence was coupled with the mysterious power called the "Force," an energy that I could experience directly and unequivocally. Rudi became for me a personal God-presence, a strange combination of influences that seemed identical to Christ and the various Divine personalities in religious and spiritual literature.
And what were my motives in surrendering and forcing obedience to such an influence? Clearly, I had sought just such an encounter. It was no arbitrary meeting, but a perfectly appropriate coincidence of my own needs at the time. First of all, it was an encounter, a confrontation. I had spent years in a more or less private investigation of my own mechanisms on a purely internal and philosophical level. I had become exquisitely aware of the content of my mind and life. Now I had sought an influence outside myself that would contain and manifest all of the forces and virtues I had come to believe were really present in the form of reality. My years in exile or solitude were an attempt to discover or affirm what was necessarily in reality. Now I sought to encounter that proven reality in a living, demonstrable presence. If I had lost God and Christ, now I sought to encounter the equivalent force and reality. I no longer considered this impossible. I thought it to be entirely necessary.
Even more, as a result of my long experiment I had discovered an underlying content and creative logic or image in my own consciousness. I had located the source of suffering and misadventure in myself and recognized it as the pattern fascination had appeared to me concretely as the leading and drama of Narcissus. The logic of separation and self mechanism of ordinary consciousness. This was coupled with another recognition, which I found in the observations of Jung and the literature of spiritual phenomena. It was that the drama and fate of Narcissus was not necessary, not equal to reality. Thus, I sought an encounter with reality that would release me from Narcissus, my own deadly logic, by forcing me to include what Narcissus always rejects by subtle self-involvement.
The idea of release from Narcissus, the internal myth that creates our suffering and destroys the inherent bliss and freedom of uncontradicted reality, was my leading intention. Thus, when I saw that Rudi manifested and dramatized that "other" presence that is reality, that always works to confound Narcissus, I gave myself up to him as a man does to God.
As weeks passed Rudi increased his hold on me. He fascinated me with the stories of his life, the whole drama of the Force and its miraculous effects. And the more fascinated I became the more he strengthened his demands for work and surrender. Soon there was only work and only surrender. The underlying presence of love, friendship and spiritual power was continually reinforced by him in many personal ways, whenever it was required. But the outstanding manner of his dealing with me was blunt and aggressive. Whenever I approached him I would be set aside. Attention was not focused on me. I was only given some kind of work to do or left only to listen while he openly gave his attention to others and seemed to favor them.
From the beginning Rudi made Nina the object of love and pleasure and constantly drew my attention from my own problems, questions and needs to Nina's need for love. I had decided before I met him that I would either have to leave Nina or accept the responsibilities of a husband. Rudi's way neither required nor valued celibacy and separation, but always love and connection. When he began to chide me, at first humorously and then with obvious seriousness, for my irresponsibility in relation to Nina, I began to consider how to become more a husband to her. Finally, he all but demanded that I marry her, and I agreed.
There is some truth in the idea that I got married because my teacher told me, for the sake of discipline and as a kind of yoga. But it was a voluntary decision on my part and one that I had come to recognize as right and necessary. To be sure, it would be a matter of years before I could be capable of being a husband on my own merits, out of real understanding, love and a need for my wife, but I knew even then that it was right and good. Thus, Nina and I were married on February 26, 1965.
Rudi's influence also led me to discover a way of engaging my work-life in a way that utilized my personal and creative needs. My father had become interested in Rudi as a result of our conversations, and he would occasionally visit Rudi at the store or even come to class. On one of these early visits my father told Rudi that I had once intended to become a Lutheran minister. He said that at one point I appeared to lose all hope in the church, and tended to abandon my family, the church and even the world in despair.
Rudi asked me why I never became a minister. I told him that at one point I had become unable to believe in Christ or God and had gone off on my own to discover what was true about all such things. He dismissed all of my romanticism about the past and told me it would be good for me to take up those studies again. After all, I was no longer separated from such things. They had become my own experience. And the work of a minister or a theologian was ideally suited to me. It could make use of my intellectual abilities and give me a creative outlet in which to speak about spiritual truth and help other people.
I protested that I may have become attuned to spiritual life, but I ,as in no sense a Christian any longer. The truth for me was broader than Christianity. I had found my symbols more in the East, and Christ stood only as one of many Avatars, Divine incarnations or expressions of Reality. Rudi told me that I was only being childish. He pointed out how his way could easily be expressed in the language of Christianity. The Force was the same as God or the Holy Spirit. If I accepted the work of a minister with a mature mind it could even involve me creatively. I should simply see in it a right path that would give me the opportunity for work and surrender.
At first this seemed impossible to me. I was no longer affiliated with any church, nor did I care to be. The whole life of the church seemed to me so mediocre and limiting, and I knew I could never identify myself with it. Rudi claimed that this was a virtue. Why should I identify with it? Indeed, I shouldn't identify with it, for that would only provide more armor and self-imagery and prevent me from using it for the sake of work and surrender.
Finally, I attributed all of my misgivings to my own resistance. I agreed to give it a try. Even when I told Rudi I would accept it and play it as a kind of "impostor" he pointed out again how it was all a part of me and suited to my very needs and abilities.
At first I tried to find a place in a denomination other than Lutheranism. I thought perhaps the Episcopal Church was a broader denomination that could include more of the form of spirituality I would profess. But I soon learned that I would have to pass through a long period of probationary training as a member of an Episcopal congregation before I could be accepted as a candidate for seminary training. Besides, the Episcopal Church had many peculiarities of its own that it would take me a long time to learn and use proficiently and visibly.
So I again made efforts to become affiliated with the Lutheran Church through my old congregation in Franklin Square. The minister who served there when I was in high school had since retired to a congregation in Florida. But I quickly made friends with the new minister and was received quite openly by those who remembered me. After several weeks I was recommended as a candidate for seminary training and given preliminary acceptance at the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia.
This was in the spring of 1965. Entering students at the Seminary were required to have minimum training in koine or "Biblical" Greek, and so I was unable to enter the following September. Instead, I enrolled at a Protestant seminary in New York for a year of reading in Greek. In the meantime, my job at the radio station had come to an end, and I went to work as a furniture refinisher in a store owned by one of Rudi's students. Thus, I established myself in marriage and study, and productive work that could carry me until September, 1966.
Rudi's effects extended to all areas of my life. One evening he came to visit Nina and me at our Houston Street apartment. He seemed obviously uncomfortable in the place, and said the atmosphere was very heavy and unclean. He remarked at how dark and small it was there. There were few windows, and the building was in an old, run down and unclean neighborhood. He told us we should not keep cats or other animals because they kept the place dirty and created vibrations that draw consciousness down to an animal level.
Nina and I took this quite seriously. We gave the "Bitty" to a friend and sent the lady cat off to Nina's parents. We tried to brighten up the apartment, and covered the walls with religious and spiritual pictures. As a result we also began to collect art, and we spent quite a bit of money buying paintings and sculpture from Rudi during the next few years. Finally, we found a large and bright apartment on Fourth Street near Sixth Avenue, and we moved there shortly after our marriage.
All in all, our lives became cleaner and happier. It was an intense struggle and discipline for me, but I welcomed all its effects. And I looked to Rudi and the Force for a dramatic reversal of my ordinary state of resistance and the logic of Narcissus.
These changes in our way of life were the essential and lasting benefits of our experience with Rudi. Even these were gradual, and it would take longer for the kind of internal experiences I sought to begin with any kind of dramatic potency.
Even on a physical level my life was becoming happier. My new logic of living was a conscious surrender of the patterns of self-indulgence and excess to which I had voluntarily submitted in the past. I began to limit and improve my diet, and this, coupled with the heavy labor of work in the furniture store, gradually strengthened me and dropped my weight from more than 230 pounds to about 170 pounds. I began to use Hatha Yoga exercises to limber my body and adjust my weak back. All of this enabled me to enjoy a state of comfort and well-being I had never known before.
But while I concentrated on these more external improvements in my way of living, I was slower and more reluctant to let go of certain obstacles in my internal way of life that prevented the Force from creating new forms of internal experience. I had long been accustomed to writing and exploiting the inner mechanisms of experience through its means as well as through the use of drugs and other excesses. Clearly, Rudi's way was opposed to such habits and the prolonging of them could only prevent the evolution of that internal advancement the Force was supposed to initiate.
My first experiences with the Force in class and in my personal relationship to Rudi were gratuitous events. They indicated a real presence of a spiritual kind, but they affected me mostly on a physical and mental level. They served to motivate me, but they were not of a profound and dramatic nature.
In class I would only become profoundly aware of my own resistance. After my first one or two experiences of the exercise I saw that I would have to perform a revolutionary and gradual effort in relation to this resistance. Only then would I have any of the kind-of dramatic. and visionary experiences Rudi described and which I had learned to desire on the basis of my own past experiences and my reading of spiritual literature.
Even because of the presence of this resistance in me and my consciousness of it, I began to acquire intense feelings of frustration in regard to the internal work. Thus, I continued to maintain my efforts to write as before, and I began again to use drugs on occasion to relieve this frustration and provide certain forms of internal opening and perception that I so deeply desired.
However, as a result of my new logic in opposition to Narcissus, and also because of the purifying presence of the Force in my life, my old ways also met with resistance in me, and they began to cause me trouble.
I began to see my writing as a superficial and fruitless exercise. And I doubted if I had any talent at all. My writing had developed to the point where I should begin the actual and conscious production of a book that would contain all of the values and discoveries of my long progress. But I steadily resisted bringing it to the point of deliberate creation. I felt that something more needed to occur. There was yet some crucial event that needed to be uncovered in the process of internal attention. I hadn't yet seen the death of Narcissus.
By the spring of 1965 I had begun to use marijuana frequently. I found it relaxing and particularly necessary under the pressure of work and effort that Rudi required. But the drug began to have a peculiarly negative effect. When I would smoke it the salivary glands in my mouth would cease to flow and I would realize a profound anxiety and fear.
I took other drugs with my old friends. We took Romilar again, but now its effects seemed minor. We found the city atmosphere aggravating, in contrast to the natural and beautiful setting of California. We began to turn on and spend our time yearning to return to the ocean and the forests.
I took a drug called DMT which had a remarkable and miraculous effect. I became visibly aware of the nature of space and matter. Time disappeared, and space and matter revealed themselves as a single, complicated mass or fluid. When I concentrated on a wall or the objects in a room they would break up and converge with incredible speed toward an invisible point at infinity. I would see forms and space break into the millions of geometrical and mathematical units that composed their apparent structure. When I would look at someone's face I could see the muscle and bone structure below with a kind of X-ray vision. I could see the internal organs of the head, the brain, the moving flow of fluids and nerve energy, the sheaths of the body that were more subtle than the physical.
Such remarkable states of awareness combined with my rising sense of anxiety, fear and reluctance in relation to drugs, so that finally, in the early summer of 1965, I determined somehow to stop their use.
I decided that I would deliberately take a drug for the last time. I would not simply stop using drugs before a last, decisive try. I did not want fear to be my motive. Thus, I bought two large capsules of mescaline, and Nina and I wen to spend the Fourth of July weekend at the summer home of a friend on the south shore of Long Island.
I was quite anxious, and I delayed the taking of the drug for several hours. Nina decided she didn't want to take the drug, and so I gave it to a young man who was also present. My friend, Larry, took several capsules of peyote. I shuffled through all my cautions. Then I downed my last capsule of drugs with abandon. It was to be the most terrifying experience of my life.
After we took the drugs we drove out to a nearby beach for a picnic. It was a deserted area. We spread out blankets and lots of food. As soon as I began to eat I noticed that peculiar nausea and disinterest in food that often accompanies a powerful hallucinogen. My friend Larry was already experiencing the effects of the peyote, and he was walking along the beach many yards away. I watched him as he walked, and my mind seemed to have become a prism focused through a concave lens. Everything became small and compressed. Instead of opening and expanding, my consciousness had contracted, so that I felt trapped, and my very life seemed about to vanish in the tiny focal point of my vision.
Physically I felt equally unstable. I perceived none of the familiar points in space or the sense of my body within them that permits balance and judgment. I was becoming quite disturbed and frightened. My speech was becoming incoherent. Somehow, I managed to communicate to Nina that she should get me to the car.
When we got into the car I told her to drive and just keep me moving. As we drove, I was overcome by violent fear and confusion. My body began to tremble, and soon my legs began to shake and jerk up and down, so that I felt I was about to be overcome with a violent fit. Then I felt as if I were about to have a heart attack. Violent constrictions began in my lower body and my chest, and then the awful moment came in the heart. There was a powerful jolt and shock in my chest, and I passed into blackness, knowing I was about to die. But then, a moment later, I returned to consciousness and felt the violent fit climbing in me again. Again there was a seizure in the heart, and again the black. Then again the trembling fit of terror, the fit of breathing and the jolt in the heart.
I couldn't imagine a more terrifying predicament. It was an endless cycle of deaths and fits that had no end but always seemed to end. I told Nina to get me to a doctor.
Minutes later we arrived at a hospital. Nina guided me in. I was incoherent with confusion and fear. Several nurses came and asked questions, but they seemed unconcerned or unaware of my state. Nina told them I had taken a drug, and they frowned and told us to sit and wait. I couldn't imagine whey they didn't simply administer an antidote or a tranquilizer.
The minutes passed, and I began to wander around the waiting room searching for help.
Nina sensed that they were only stalling in order to get the police. I decided we must somehow get away, and I told her to meet me in the parking lot. I found a door and wandered out toward the cars. As I walked I felt as if I were passing utterly into madness. My mind appeared like a dome with two interlocking spheres that closed the visual mind to what is above and outside the body and ordinary perception. As I walked these semi-spheres turned and openings were revealed in their separate shapes. Thus, as I walked, the mind opened beyond itself, and I seemed to pass through myself and out beyond any figure or ability to perceive or know a thing in relation to my personality and form.
I had told Nina to get me some tranquilizers. When she found me I was groveling in the dirt beneath a tree, weeping and crying to God and Christ and Rudi for help. I swallowed a few tranquilizers and asked her to call Rudi on the phone. But Rudi wasn't home. Nina spoke to his mother and found that Rudi was away for the weekend.
I stumbled into the station wagon and lay down in the rear section on my back. Then Nina drove off toward our friend's house. As she drove I passed into an absolute consciousness beyond any thought or feeling or perception. The deaths that threatened me earlier became a kind of Nirvanic death of perfect and mad simplicity.
The next thing of which I became aware was the door opening to the rear of the station wagon. It was night. Nina was standing there. She led me out into the street and into the house. I was experiencing a state of absolute tranquility. But I no longer possessed a memory of any kind.
It is difficult to communicate the emptiness of my condition at that time. It was not merely that I didn't remember who Nina was, who my friend was, or where we were. I had not the slightest notion of what I was or what they in fact were. I had no idea what a human being or a world was. I had no ideas of any kind. I perceived everything as an original, blissful, infinite void.
It was a totally arbitrary awakening, and I simply began to adapt to my form and the form of world in which I appeared. I learned the names and relationships and uses in that world. I adapted to the memories the people claimed to have of me. I questioned them and learned how to function among them. But it was all a present learning process without even a hint of memory involved. Later it seemed to me that if I had awakened as a pair of shoes in a closet it would not have been more arbitrary and unusual than this, and I would have adapted to it in the same way.
After several hours in this state I had acquired a certain facility for life in this form. The feelings of love and familiarity were simulated again in my mind. And we drove out to watch the stars and the sunrise on the beach. My state was one of absolute peace and tranquility, a consciousness unthreatened by any death or any necessity to persist. It was an enviable, brilliant and even true calm, a state that may be rooted in ultimate reality, but the price of suffering that had been required to attain it was beyond my endurance or my willingness to pursue it again.
During the next week I spoke to Rudi about the incident. He knew that I had already paid the price, and he made no attempt to blame me for it or make me wrong for doing it. I told him why I had done it, and promised I would never use a drug again. He accepted my promise and pointed out how devastating such drugs are. Even the internal strength I had gained as a result of the past months of effort with the Force had been wiped out by those few hours of experiment with drugs. He told me that I would have to avoid all such things in the future or else invite madness. Now I must begin to work and surrender in earnest.
And so I did begin to work in earnest. My efforts, internal and external, were profoundly magnified by this freedom from the need to indulge myself in drug experiences or any other kind of stimulation. I found a new strength with which to penetrate the resistance of Narcissus within me.
Finally, even my writing stood before me as an obstacle. Over the years I had accumulated and retained a handwritten manuscript of perhaps fifteen or twenty thousand pages! Besides this there were several boxes of notebooks and collected material. I decided I would either turn all of this into some kind of productive writing or else abandon the activity altogether.
For several days, in the late summer of 1965, I pored over my manuscript and notes. But I saw that these pages themselves had developed into a size that could not possibly be either edited or used. It was simply too large, too expanded to be researched or included. The more I examined it the more useless it appeared.
I saw that all of this had in fact accomplished its purpose. It was not really the preliminary work for an eventual novel. It was the visible product of years of a spiritual exercise of my own peculiar design. Its purpose was not fiction but the realization of truth. And its purpose could not be fulfilled in the writing of any work of fiction I had in mind, but only by its extension as the spiritual work I had discovered in relationship to Rudi.
Thus, I decided to burn every last page of everything I had ever written or collected in my life. In doing so I was aware that something vital and creative might also be destroyed, but I knew in any case that whatever concrete results were produced by my writing were retained in my mind. If ever I gained the refreshment and creative power to write again, I could draw the useful material of those years of labor from my own memory.
Nina often remarks about how startled she was when she came home that evening. I was squatting totally naked in front of the fireplace, throwing sheaves of manuscript into the fire. For her it was also the end of a familiar form of life. It was the apparent destruction of all of the results of an effort she had made possible in many ways. She had protected and supported me through all that period of creativity, and now she was never to enjoy its fulfilment. But I assured her it would be fulfilled. My life would be its fulfilment. Love and consciousness and truth would be its manifestation. And even what was substantial in all that I burned would remain in me, to be used whenever the real impulses of are were awakened.
It took me three days to burn it all. I don't know how many grocery bags and boxes of ashes remained to be discarded. But it was a purifying fire. I had spend years to recover every last memory, motive and form to consciousness. Now I had to perform the sacrifice that returned it to its source. Thus, I would be empty and creatively free. My manuscripts were a burden of past time, a present obstacle to conscious awareness. I saw that now my work must be a present, positive creativity. It could no longer be a passive observation of contents. That had served its purpose, and now Narcissus was known to me. He was alive as me. Now I must overcome him in myself, and to do so I had to be free of every last vestige of the old work and its accumulations.
The result of the burning was a purification from all my past and the position of self-conscious knowledge its awareness required in me. I felt thoroughly cleansed and free. My life was perfectly renewed and alive, instant and direct, a present activity free of any content that could either determine or limit its ultimate Realization. Thus, I gave myself utterly to the overcoming Narcissus, and to the liberating attainment of his death.