‘I’ve been checking up,’ said Robin, ‘on the twentieth-century mystics, western-style.’
‘I’m not impressed, unfortunately. They all seem to be either theoretical – you know, not having achieved full enlightenment – or they display odd personalities and weird behaviour. So the men all write about divine love and what have you, and the women all produce stigmata or claim visions. It’s pretty dire.’
‘Men like Thomas Merton or Alan Watts. They both felt ‘drawn’ somehow, to spirituality, and they joined the established channels of Christianity and Buddhism. They explored nothing new. Both failed in achieving the enlightenment experience, had recourse to alcohol and failed sexual relationships – I mean, in their lives, they failed to exemplify any kind of ideal whatsoever. Merton even committed suicide at the end. What sort of mystical understanding is that – when you can’t even cope with the present world? What they both achieved was writing best-selling books. That’s what really distinguished them. They were best-selling authors. And probably quite charismatic in their own right. Certainly they pulled the wool over the eyes of their followers and the establishment, which they seemed unable to do without. They weren’t outsiders by any means. And they possessed no special knowledge. No wonder mysticism is criticised.’
‘And the women?’
‘Like I said, all ill and weepy. Further bad examples. What seems to single them all out – men and women – is that they were all dreadful egotists and attention-seekers. They couldn’t do anything for its own sake, except that everybody had to know about it. Yetch!
‘So why are we bothering to continue?’
‘Because we believe that mystical enlightenment is possible – and that it is only possible by stepping out beyond the established channels. Or at least that’s how I see it. Such knowledge is achieved by your own work, not by taking it on trust from others, or doing it to try and impress others. You know, I really think mysticism – twenty-first century non-religious mysticism – is the big one.’
‘I wish I shared your optimism. I can’t help thinking it will still seem to be seen as the domain of the few.’
‘But only personal enlightenment can break down the barriers.’
‘I agree. But who is genuinely prepared to put in the work? If anything, with social media and so on, egotism seems to be more rife than ever. Who is going to withdraw themselves for a sufficient period of time in order to look into themselves and understand the principle of the One – of the One in All, and All in One?’
‘Well, you don’t need monasteries any more, or ashrams or whatever. Society is sufficiently stable and sufficient provisions like security, warmth and food available. It’s down to the individual – enough individuals – to withdraw and overcome their egoism. It’s practically possible.’
‘Well, like I say. I’m not so very optimistic over all.’
‘But at least some of us can try. One more American and one more Brit, that’s got to be better than nothing, better than giving up altogether.’
‘It seems that to be a human is never to be free.’
‘Which is why our humanity needs to be superseded, by as many of us as possible.’
They were on their way through the lovely old south Bucks countryside on a slightly circumspect August day replete with grey cloud and sunshine and low summer temperatures, heading for Milton’s cottage, in Chalfont St Giles, following a visit to Great Missenden, where Arty had once lived for a brief time, and where the Dahl family had set up a museum for Roald – not that either Robin or Arty had wanted to go in. They had visited the church and been impressed by the garlands of sunflowers left around the entrance door following a weekend betrothal. They had sat in the churchyard and drank coffee from a flask, barely retaining their warmth despite the time of year. Arty eased his Fiat Doblo out onto the main road, where they met a flurry of traffic. Cars just seemed to be driven aimlessly around the countryside, their drivers in search of any activity that might pass the time of day – a visit to a pub, to an organic food outlet; or maybe even Milton’s cottage.
John Milton, 1608-74, poet, essayist, polemicist… Regicide.
‘Makes me think of our walk through the beech woods that day, onto West Wycombe hill. You still haven’t explained about cricket to me.’
‘The time will come.’
‘You know, I’ve been thinking about the Key of Love, and I actually think I’ve something to add.’
‘Well, it’s the spine of the thing.’
‘Visualise it for a moment. If it’s safe.’
Driving was easy, and Arty saw it in his mind
‘Okay. Got it.’
‘Now the R, at the bottom.’
‘So, look at the perpendiculars, on the L and the E…’
‘And the R.’
‘You got it. That perpendicular… That’s the Logos feeding down through Eternity and Vortex to Earth…’
‘And the R?’
‘That’s the feedback. See, R joined to itself – on the spine, reversed – you have the O and the upturned V…’
‘Wow! You’re right! You’ve got it.’
‘That’s the human intellect comprehending the One in All…’
‘It’s the – Kundalini..!’
‘My friend, we have it!’
After the trip to Milton’s cottage Arty just couldn’t wait to contact Gee and tell him what we – Robin, actually – had discovered.
He was in his Devon farmhouse and for a moment I thought the line had gone dead. And then he got back to me.
‘Yes,’ he said. ‘Yes. You and Robin. You have cracked it…the code.’
‘Now all we’ve got to do,’ I told him, ‘is to experience it. By my reckoning it took you 45,000 hours of thinking and 25,000 miles of walking – the circumference of the Earth – to make it happen…’
‘Sounds about right. But I started from the ground, don’t forget. You’re nearly there already.’
‘Thank you, Gee,’ I said. ‘I’ll let you know when I get there.’
Robin was due to leave for America the next day, and Arty had promised that he would join him there sometime.