August 28. 2022

 Today, I saw intense orange and purple when the eye opened. At first, I thought I was gazing upon a jewel but soon realized it was the colors of a vivid sunset. I was standing in a conifer forest on the shores of a lake. The sky to the west was ablaze with color, turning the still water liquid crystal. I looked down and found an otter looking up at me from these limpid waters. Beside the otter was a canoe. In the canoe was an old man, a shaman. He was wearing furs and a headdress reminiscent of an otter. The otter was his spirit guide.


All around us, the forest and waters were alive with spirits. This was a paradise, a spirit world filled with mystery and the realm of imagination. It was also a home, a home to these people far away from the contamination of white people. A haven.


I bowed to the otter, the man and the spirits. I was humbled to be called here. I knew that it was a gift not lightly bestowed to be invited, as a white person, into this holy realm and I was profoundly grateful. Soon, I climbed into the canoe and we skimmed off across the water, the otter swimming before us. He led us to an isle in the middle of the lake. I knew as soon as I saw it why I had been called here: The island was pitch black. All I could see was the black outline of the solitary trees and rocks.


Except for one thing.


A white…thing…was on the shore of the island. You might think that because it was white, that is was holy but, no, there was nothing holy about this beast. Part wolf and part maggot, it was in the midst of consuming a woman. The woman was in agony.


The man pulled up to the black rocks and I stepped out of the canoe to confront this thing. No warrior, I had no weapon, only my heart which was open and seeing everything as it truly was. I knew the beast was no beast. It was a white man. Had he stolen this woman away to this island to rape her? I don’t know and probably will never know.


I stepped into the holy blackness, the fathomless Absolute. The island was merely a projection. Inside the inky blackness, I could clearly see the white man and the woman. How long had they been trapped in here? I hope not long for the woman’s sake. It’s bad enough that she was murdered but to be trapped alone in darkness with your murderer? I shudder to think about it.


Neutrality pervaded me. Equanimity. I wasn’t there to judge or punish, I explained to them. I told them that everything had changed. This was a blank slate. I offered them the possibility to exit this realm of blackness. Where would they choose to go? It was up to them.


Perhaps not surprisingly, the woman chose to leave and stepped through the opening I had made upon entering the blackness. She was met by the outstretched hand of the shaman, waiting for her on the other side. They immediately closed the opening before the white guy could follow him.


I was alone in the blackness with this man. I could see him clearly. Bearded. Reddish hair. Perhaps thirty years old. He was just a man.


He caused the blackness to transform around us. In his mind at least, there was only place that could be this dark. He saw it as menacing. He saw it as hell.


And so it became hell.


Hell is filled with all manner of demonic creatures. I could even feel myself transformed into a looming demon. Is this how the man saw me? I explained to him that one thing about hell is that it is distorted. It is not the ultimate truth. Everything here was actually something else.


He really believed he was there to be punished. He readily accepted the hideous form of a demon, transforming himself into a vile creature. Before he left, I told him that whatever form he chose, it was fine. “But don’t forget who you really are,” I advised him. “Never forget that.” It was both his doom and his greatest hope.


So, what does one do when one finds oneself in hell? One meditates. One sits and allows oneself to be in hell. One is neutral, holding it all with equanimity. One neither tries to leave or stay. That is a key to everything, really. Even heaven. It doesn’t matter. Just hold everything with neutrality, neither wishing or rejecting.


I soon found myself in another realm of hell. This one was interesting in that it appeared all white. A man dressed in pure white, jeweled robes observed me with a sneer. Was he a former bishop or maybe even a pope? I don’t know but he clearly believed he was in heaven and regarded me and my blackness as an unwelcome guest. I suppose I was because I told him that this was not heaven but merely a realm of hell. Had he mistaken jewels, finery and whiteness for holiness? He didn’t like this in the slightest but maybe my presence will make him contemplate a different possibility?


The next realm was the realm of sickness and contagion. I’ve been here before, of course. The beings there are like zombies with rotten skin, exuding pus and foul odors. It’s not pleasant but I guess nowhere in hell is. (Except that it’s possible to experience the truth of hell and, when one does that, the suffering and nightmares disappear and one is left with only the truth in its purity. This is the true hope of hell: That those trapped within it will one day awake and be free. Getting to that point, though, requires a lot of suffering.)


After the realm of contagion, I found myself back in the place where all of this had begun. I was back in the forest on the shores of the lake. It was nighttime now and the moon was rising, casting its silvery light through the trees. The sky was luminous blue and the trees were pure black. It was quite lovely.


The white wolf appeared first. I recognized him from the island. At that time, he’d been distorted into a monstrous form that was part wolf and part worm. Now, though, he was pure white and pure wolf. A noble wolf that was also not a pet; he was as fierce as he was beautiful. I bowed to him, glad he was free again, and wondered about the worm. Soon, it appeared as well. More snake than worm this time, it had lost its bloated form and was pure serpent. Like the wolf, this snake wasn’t tame but it also wasn’t evil. It possessed great power, more at home in the sky than on the earth. I was happy that these spirits were no longer trapped in horrific limbo and were once again free.


***


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