The Acolyte

Some of the best stories we can share with one another come from that realm of experience where we all find creative genius emerge from the mysterious depths of ourselves. Let me share one of my dreams with you here where mundane experience mixed with the transcendent potential of myself and left with me with a significant teaching.

One night several years ago, I spent several hours typically immersed in the spiritual writings of the American mystic Vitvan. Just before turning in I turned on television and caught the beginning of a movie starring Burt Lancaster. It wasn’t long before I fell asleep and slipped into a dream where he starred in a movie of my own making.

As the dream opens, I am clearly three aspects at once. Just as if it were a movie, I am like a cameraman shooting high above a Sinai desert scene. It’s actually a split-screen shot. In the right screen I am a classic, ascetic-looking, desert Holy Man, very much like Charlton Heston playing Moses. Complete with long hair and beard, dressed in burlap rags, carrying a staff, and shorn in sandals, he strides with a powerful and majestic glide across the baked landscape. There is a timeless quality to his graceful and fluid movement, as if he goes through the motions of walking, but it is the landscape that passes under him. He holds his head high with a face expressing formidable strength and serenity. As him I experience unchallengeable faith, knowing and communion with all creation.

In the left screen, I am also a crowd of about thirty men and women made up of reporters and psychologists scrambling to catch up with the Holy Man so they can evaluate him and make a definitive assessment of his ostensibly divine status. The reporters intend to use their clever wits and the shrinks their “scientific” tests, but no matter how much they speed up their pace, some of them even breaking out into a jog, they can never catch up with the Holy Man. You can just imagine how the clamor of their self-important minds contrasts starkly with the open serenity of the Holy Man.

With the dream screen still split, the Holy Man reaches a dramatic change in the terrain, one that transitions from the desolate climes of the Sinai to an alpine terrain much like the foothills of our Rocky Mountains. He steps into the trees and disappears, just as the baseball players disappeared into the cornfield in the movie “Field of Dreams.” In that moment a voice-over explains that the Holy Man has “come to his land.” This doesn’t daunt the rabble of me following some distance behind. We continue to pursue him right on into the hills, and, after a short distance, we come upon a kind of encampment with a singularly commanding figure poised off to the right. Simply awesome in his magnificence, he but barely raises much more than a slight eyebrow-raising curiosity in any of my arrogant and cynical gang of pros.

But the being we behold is unique indeed. Imagine an old, WW2- vintage DC-3 transport, its wings, fuselage, and tail sections covered in feathers of every color of the rainbow, iridescent with a psychedelic luminosity. As the being breathes, his skin shivers and the colors shimmer, throwing light off itself like sunlight refracted through a crystal. Where the nose and windshield of the plane should be, the face of Burt Lancaster looks down upon us. Don’t laugh! You must remember how bold and charismatic his features could be, which perfectly fits the stature of this magnificent being.

After a very short pause for a moment of orientation, one reporter asks the being who and what it is. The being explains that he is a keeper of this gateway into “The Land.” When one of the psychologists asks if his unique appearance makes him of divine stature like the Holy Man, the being replies that, to the contrary, he is a lowly beginner, a mere acolyte, and that his assignment here at the gateway is one of his first duties as an new aspirant. One of the shrinks rushes to the front of the group saying that that is good enough for her and proceeds to explain to the being what she and her colleagues intend to do with the Master, and could she possibly test the being to see what results she might obtain. The being tries to explain that her tests are really not appropriate for a consciousness such as his because his is of such another order that these tests could not register accurate information. Naturally, our pros are not convinced and beg the being to allow them to proceed. With a gentle, stately equanimity, he says, “Sure. Suit yourselves, but you’ll see what I mean.”

The shrinks then lay out a set of cards like those of the Thematic Aptitude Test and ask him to choose three cards that impress him the most. The airplane-bird-man-being makes what sounds like his version of a chuckling noise as he repeats the word “choose,” and then promptly lifts straight up from where he is resting on his wheels. Hovering just inches over the ground, his landing gear/feet turn into bird-like claws.

To fully appreciate what happens next, you must picture the structure of a DC-3. This old plane is what’s known as a “tail dragger,” meaning it has no nose wheel. Its landing gear consists of two struts attached just behind the leading edges of the wings, which are set back from the nose several feet. The tail-wheel is very short causing the nose of the plane to point upward. In a person we would consider this the quintessential pose of the snooty and arrogant, but somehow on the DC-3 this posture gives the plane a proud but humble manner, a characteristic magnified in this mysterious being.

So, where the tires once touched the ground, his bony claws open, and as he hovers over the cards, the difference of consciousness his chuckling alludes to reveals itself. With his head so far forward of the feet, with no ability to see what they are grasping, choosing is an impossible and irrelevant function. Just so, as his feet grasp the cards, a narrator’s voice explains over the unfolding drama, “And thus when we choose, the probability vectors collapse.”

That’s all it says, but at once the drama stops, an over-screen appears showing a sunburst of many arrow-like vectors, and then in an instant all the arrows collapse into one. What follows is a sequence of thoughts elaborating on what I have just witnessed in the whole drama. Just like my own talking to myself when I’m thinking, but with an unusual clarity and authority, the teaching unfolds: “From multiple possibilities, we choose, and in so doing, we close to ourselves alternatives and thus we create the specific pathways that comprise the stories of our lives. For this being, however, there is no choosing as we do. He makes no deliberations and engages in no calculations between alternative possibilities; he just acts. His acceptance of whatever occurs— by his own actions or by whatever cause —is so great, the actions of choice have been transcended. Events flow through him. He has no need to feel himself either the cause of his reality nor the effect of it, whether the effect be benevolent or malevolent. With no need to choose, his anatomy is no longer structured for choice.” And with that I awaken.

And with that I’ll close, allowing you that ambiguous freedom provided by all our dreams to ponder what was revealed and to make of it what you will. Enjoy.

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