For if this book is a joke it is a joke against me. I am the man who with the utmost daring discovered what had been discovered before. Chesterton, Orthodoxy
I didn’t even pick up the Bible until I was forty. Like many families in 1970s South Jersey, mine found itself riding out the anti-establishment wave of counter culture, and by 1975, when it would have been my turn to go through the motions and take communion, I just said no to it. The Bible had the smell of church on it, and reeked of all the reactionary stupidity that I saw unleashed by the cultural revolutions of the 1960s and 1970s. The Bible was worse than irrelevant – it was the enemy.
After the twin instructions of punk rock and graduate school – teachings for which I am forever grateful – my antipathy to Christianity hardened into a hatred. The Bible was all that was wrong on this cosmic rock 93 million miles from a middle aged star. It was the Conquest. It was homophobia. It was patriarchy and its desperate need for control that, yes, begat this fine mess we find ourselves in.
But a funny thing happened on the way back from the Upper Amazon: While I went to Peru as a scholar in order to research Ayahuasca, the admixture of plants the writers William Burroughs and Allen Ginsberg wrote about in their Yage Letters, I came back, to my utter astonishment, something other than secular. In the Oneness catalyzed by the Icaros sung by my teacher Norma Panduro, in astonished dialogue with the plant teacher I would begin calling “mamahuasca”, I experienced an irreversible otherness that opened my eyes to the unity of all things. In this unity, so far from home, I could hardly avoid the divine. In the chattering rain forest frenzy of shamanic experience, far from the incensed church of my South Jersey childhood, I found not only the healing gifts of Norma, but that from which she manifests: ” I am.”
The giggling aliens had tried to prepare me for it, but probably nothing, or rather only everything, could. Under the the violet glow of a closed eye vision, these 0live eyed cartoon Greys asked me, over and over, if I was ready. “This is something big!”, they promised, giggling. One of them even wore sunglasses. Perhaps I should have known to shield my eyes.
But, like the unsuspecting Arjuna in Chapter 11 of the Bhagavad Gita, I was apparently asking for it, and what to my wondering eyes should appear, but the animated vision of the unfolding of the Big Bang into the present, with a soundtrack of nothing but “I am” resounding in my ears. All that Is, is, in one undivided moment.
It would be years before I even realized I was now on a spiritual quest. But the healing that ensued and the experience of Oneness would not, could not, fade, and before long I found myself opening all of the books of all the traditions in search of integration and resonance, and you can still hear me slapping myself in the forehead after I opened the Bible.
With the help of Swami Prabhavananda’s The Sermon on the Mount According to Vedanta, it clicked. Without the experience of Oneness, the Bible, in all of its translations, looks like a dualist text. God is there and we are here. We are well East of Eden, whirling lost in a meaningless Cosmos. But with the memory of the entirety of the Big Bang compressed into the sonic earful of the “I am”, what we might call the “Code of Oneness” began to pop out from the pages of the so called “Old” and “New” Testaments. If one explores the within, we discover, eventually, that it is mobiused with the without. Oneness. It is this hardly secret and never hidden code that I will be sharing in the best way I can on this blog and in the book that is emerging from it, The Bible Beyond Belief: DIY Oneness and the End of Religion. I’m looking forward to the journey! “Are you ready? Are you ready? This is something big!”