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Journeys to Hell and Back


The Essays of Brother Anonymous
Spiritual Essays

Last revised: June 14, 2009.

I continue to process my issues as fast as they arise.

My most troublesome issue derives from my family background. I heard, I did not see, an instance of family violence so searing on my conscience as an eight-year-old boy that it shaped the rest of my life. Following the incident, my family was told matters that happened in the family could not be discussed outside the family. They must be kept a secret.

At that moment, the tree was bent and, as it was bent, it inclined.

I became the guy who came from a physically-violent family where the secrets of how bad it were to be kept from doctors, ministers, and counsellors.

The whole truth about family violence had to be treated as if it were a lie or never happened. Denial was the example that my parents tried to sell me.

I am watching the number of ways in which that record of family violence and the subsequent imposition of secrecy have played out in me and how I automatically respond in a machine-like, habitual manner in the whole area.

As I grew up to be an adult, the ways I responded to the events of those early years look slightly different and they usually get bought by the other as what a group leader once called a “winning number.”

For instance, sometimes I say that I will tell the unpleasant truth, no matter what the cost. The original unpleasant truth would have been about the family violence, years and years ago. Now it is about whatever may be happening in this moment, but I am still an eight-year-old acting out an ancient battle.

Or I will protest that I am not a person who likes keeping secrets. This is true enough. I’ve grown up feeling uncomfortable with secrets because the eight-year-old was so offended at having to keep the original secret.

Or I may say that I won’t shut up when I see something illegal happening, or immoral, or suspect. I won’t remain quiet.

On and on go the permutations, but always the same basic theme: I am reliving and acting out again a drama that happened when I was an eight-year-old boy.

I am superimposing the face of the ancient parent on people in the present and doing unto them what I would have liked to do to that parent. There is still the quality of being frozen in time and running through the same event over and over again.

A legend grows up around my act, my number, my racket. I am Jack the Giant Killer, the man who told Bush and Cheney that they were mass murderers and high traitors, the man who redefined disciplines, upset ways of running museums, the man who broke ranks with his colleagues on the bench over gender issues and child persecution, etc. A legend in my own write.

None of this is to say that I don’t feel right exposing the truth in the current situations. I do. I am super-right, dead-right. I am constantly in danger of being self-righteous, of narrowing and becoming rigid, like some characters we would recognize from movies who say, “I wouldn’t think of doing that. Only evil people do that. I am not an evil person. But you are, Black Bart. Look to your soul!” Well, of course, being rigid, self-righteous and moralizing are their own flavour of being evil.

This habit pattern of being unable to brook a lie being told, a dirty, dark secret being hidden, or the Emperor parading by without clothes – this is what I mean by a vasana, a samskara, an issue, or a piece of unfinished business.

It’s not like we don’t all have vasanas and it’s not like they don’t have their usefulness. I know a friend who grew up on a mountaintop. His father went to work every morning and, when he did, the son lacked any way of getting down off the mountaintop to, say, a hospital until his father came home.

That man grew up being a super networker. He was always and regularly servicing his network, keeping it well-functioning and happy, neurotically so.

Then one day, he realized his number. And a very strange thing happened. And here I need to use a bit of specialized vocabulary to explain it.

As long as I am run by my number, I am, what this same group leader called, “at the effect” of that number. The minute I become really aware of it, from head to toe, I move from being at the effect it to being “at cause” with it.

Well, when my friend realized that he was at the effect of his experience on the mountaintop and acting out his fear of being without a functioning social network, he moved from being at the effect of it to being at cause with it.

Now he still networks (and he is brilliant at it) but his vasana or habit pattern no longer drives him. There was a magnificent change in him. He had space, He had wisdom. He could call you or not call you and he wouldn’t become a mental wreck from not doing so.

So do I say that his time was wasted during all those years being at the effect of that vasana? Not at all. It taught him to be a wonderful networker.

Each of us has at least one major vasana started by some traumatic event in life which is the major condition that we promised before we were born, when we worked out our soul contract or life blueprint, that we would get on top of in this lifetime.

Our lives then become about acting that vasana out and getting on top of it or not doing so and having to tackle it again in another life.

And so all my time spent being the one in the crowd who will not shut up if a lie is being propagated will not be wasted. At some point I too will move from being at the effect of it to being at cause with it and I shall bring with me all the courage and integrity I have cultivated by slugging away at this issue for so long but none of the machine-like, automatic behaviour.

I may even be able to disagree with the other person kindly, patiently, courteously instead of throwing a mental dagger at him or her whom I think is telling the untruth. I may become more of a diplomat than a warrior, as I am now.

The upside, the biscuits, the payoff for this vasana is that I get to feel proud of myself. I may get booted out of universities, lose jobs, get kicked out of clubs, but I feel satisfied that I have lived up to my personal standards.

The downside, the brickbat, the cost for this vasana is that I am cut off from other people, who might have agreed with me had I not ripped their faces off. I leave them badly bleeding and sometimes deeply offended. I made people bad and wrong in the process of disagreeing with them. I left wounds, residue, from our discussions, which often festered.

So having run through this scenario twice in what feels like three days, and having shown myself again that I will not flinch from telling the unpleasant truth, while watching big, important doors slam in my face as result, I am looking at what it would take to move from effect to cause.

You should be so familiar by now with what it will take that I should let you write the rest.

It will take my lying down, breathing into the feelings I am feeling right now, and letting them expand and fill me up. It will take me naming them until I have the exact label for them – shame, regret, humiliation, refusal, rage, fury, fear, angst.

There may be several different layers of them and I would repeat this process with each layer.

Then it will take breathing in deeply and opening myself to the full experience of these very-uncomfortable feelings until a memory comes up. I take the first memory that comes up. I don’t try to be logical about it. Usually the very first memory that comes up has a direct connection to the way I am feeling.

I now allow that memory to play out along with the feeling until feeling and memory are completely experienced. That takes as long as it does. There is no rushing this part of the process.

I may need to shout and scream, but not always. I can process quietly.

But if I do it well, I stand in the face of the whole terrible memory and really experience to completion the awful feeling connected with it. If I carry the process to the absolute end, the feeling and the memory subside.

I will have completed the emotion and experience once. It will now be that much easier to complete the next time it comes up. I am now in the process of moving away from being automatically reactive to the emotion or memory. I am now in a position where the emotion and experience could “run” and I could choose to go with them or just watch them.

I have been “restored to choice.”

I am well on the way to moving from being at effect to being at choice with this vasana.

If I were fully at choice with the vasanas or unfinished business, I would be what Eckhart calls “present.”

Present, I could dance through the eye of the needle. Burdened with vasanas, issues, unfinished business, I am a very large man attempting to go through a very narrow passageway.

We all need to diet and lose pounds and pounds of vasanas or unfinished business. This is the way of practice that Ramana Maharshi would agree with, Eckhart Tolle, Enlightenment Intensives, the est organization, rebirthing, gestalt, and encounter groups.

So never mind that summer is coming and you need to fit into your bikini. Ascension is coming and you’ll need to fit through the needle’s eye. Time to slim down for summer. But much more importantly, time to slim down for the real passage to the Golden Age.

I’ll be on the other side. There is no way I am taking my vasanas, my baggage with me. I will personally be cheering for people who have baggage that can be dropped, issues that can be renounced, unconscious views of the way it has to be that can be let go of, and any other thought-creations that cling to you and keep you out.

By then I hope to have a repertoire of questions that will help others see how foolish it is to cling to issues, how easy it is to complete a vasana, how a resentment is killing you and may lose you paradise, etc.


The Essays of Brother Anonymous
Spiritual Essays