The Man Turned Inward – A Loose Screw

A Loose Screw


At the age of forty-five, Jorge Onslaught suddenly realized life was passing him by. His health was failing, his eyesight was slowly dimming. He had become preoccupied with death. Though he had no reason to feel this way, his strength seemed to wane, as if life was slipping from his grasp. His medical practitioner, Dr. Degas, assured him that for a man his age, other than the fatigue that consumed him daily, he was in the pink of health. All the tests proved normal and there was nothing medically wrong with him.

Even Dr. Rosen, the psychiatrist that Degas had referred him to, gave the man a clean bill of health. This to the point of suggesting that perhaps it was a loose screw that was at the root of the man’s condition. But nothing definite could be concluded, so that the Doctor, along with reassuring the patient, sent a letter to the referring physician of the obvious—not only was this person healthy of mind, he was also imbued of an astute sense of self and a superb grasp of his place in life, something which very few of Dr. Rosen’s  patients could be said to possess.

With the preponderance of these facts in mind—and an innate predilection toward the extraordinary—the man logically decided to concern himself with other things. He immediately stopped looking to the medical profession for answers and began to look inside himself. Perhaps that loose screw the Doctor mentioned had fallen into some dark recess—a place where probing professionals were unable to penetrate. Perhaps their bewilderment was due not to a lack of cause, but rather to their inability to discover. So the man embarked upon a pilgrimage, a journey through the wilderness of the psyche to find the answer.

He began exploring the realms of those spiritual gray-areas he had once feared to travel. Ignoring his former habit of applying a single approach to life’s complexity, he sought a cure somewhere beyond the reaches of the routine. He realized that things outside himself were not necessarily the absolute material truth, but a manifestation of his inner being. He peered beyond the apparent and saw something else—a window open to a different reality, one that held new meaning. Leaving behind the beliefs of wounded faith, seeking to extract himself from the improbabilities of the physical world, the man turned inward.

Originally published on: Sep 15, 2017


The Man Turned Inward – The Reincarnation of a Prehistoric Spiritual Man


The Reincarnation of a Prehistoric Spiritual Man

Under the circumstances in which he found himself, after a lifetime of extraneous activity of the psyche, and being then at that vulnerable middle age—given the opportunity to ask anything he desired (and I swear this is true), any thinking man would have asked for the very same thing.


From the time he was a little boy Jorge Onslaught had prayed to God—the one we pray to deep in the night; free from the influence of religion. As a youth he might have simply asked for better grades, or to get along with his brother and sister, to learn to ride his bicycle. But now, with the tumult of advancing age on him, he found himself confronted with a larger issue.

It was not long after his many quarrels with the High Priests of Medicine, in a moment of despair, he imagined a voice in his intellect petitioning him to make a request. “Anything,” the thought assured him—reminding him of the wise man whose request for “wisdom” made him the marvel of his age. Likening himself to the reincarnation of a prehistoric spiritual man, he seized the moment and made his request.

But what he asked for was something quite different: What he asked for was not Wisdom, but Understanding. For though Wisdom is the ability to apply Knowledge, Understanding is the ability to answer the question Why? And wouldn’t it seem that if one possessed that most illusive condition of the intellect, being able to absolve the shadowy arena of Doubt, then everything else should follow?

Now, I’m not speaking of understanding how-things-work but, rather, the ability to understand why-things-are. Why it is that we dash so madly through life, with the berserk ambition of mad dogs, only to have death follow with such rhythmic ease? Why, even in the confines of undying faith, we are not spared the pain that death of a loved one brings? Why the belief that with death one goes to a ‘better place’ doesn’t lessen the fear of dying? And why those convinced of a resurrection hang on to this life with such tenacity, dreading the inevitable when death is at their doorstep?

These questions had always lingered on his mind, perplexing him, causing him to live life in a confused uncertainty. And it was not until his “prayer” was answered that he felt some measure of relief.

But how can such a “prayer” be answered, you ask? And aren’t these questions humanity has battled throughout history, filling tomes with great spiritual mandates and directives, rules and rhetoric to answer the doubts of even the most ignorant? One would think so. But as I tell you (and again, it is true) those very questions that once formed stubborn clouds on his horizon soon began to dissipate like a summer rainstorm blown out to sea.

It was not the answers that were perplexing, he realized, but the questions. The questions could not be answered, so why ask them? Relieving himself of that burden, he immediately found one could leave life for the living instead of clinging to the words and thoughts and deeds of the dead.
His request was granted.

But how can one be sure that this was an answer to a prayer and not just some metaphysical coincidence? Again you question! Because, upon awaking one day (although all this did not happen overnight, but gradually. Only it was upon awaking on that particular day that it became clear) everything he once believed now took on an air of the absurd. The things he’d once held sacred, even revered, suddenly became primal, given to the realm of idiocy. He came to understand that all this time he’d been duped. The very beliefs that once suspended him in their web of ignorance were a trap from which he awoke.


The Man Turned Inward – The Bleeding Placenta Eyes of the Womb


The Bleeding Placenta Eyes of the Womb


At this point it would be fitting to make this single fact clear: With “Understanding” comes a price. Yes, by having unraveled the threads of logic and reason, the very understanding he’d gained now unwittingly caused him to become a child as to perception. He began looking at life in the raw, through what could only be described as the bleeding placenta eyes of the womb. He was left to grope. In fact, he had to re-teach himself to perform as simple a function as breathing deep his surroundings.

All his life Jorge Onslaught had enveloped himself in a shroud that restricted his ability to feel the world around him. Everything triggered rejection. The sight of naked women caused him shame—a repression of sexuality. A sky, darkened by overcast, portended doom. A large uncontrolled body of water threatened death by drowning. Trees blighted by drought reminded him of the firestorms of holocaust and destruction. The earth poisoned by pesticides and lead, brought anxiety about his health. Why, even the food sold at market teemed with deadly bacteria. A campfire in the woods, or a backyard barbecue served only to remind him of parts per billions of hydrocarbons being spewed into the atmosphere. Everything seemed, in his eyes, to hasten death.

His response to these terrors was to incubate himself, cloister his life in a protective cocoon of fear, so rather than die quickly in the gladness and joy of life, he allowed himself to die slowly, agonized by the fear of his mortality, neurotically holding his breath against the “evils” of a world whose elements, despite his misgivings, have co-existed with humanity since the beginning of time.

So he made a list for himself of all the things he wished to accomplish with his new-found consciousness.

First, what he wanted was continuity. He had already made many drastic changes in his life. His trip to Americas. His Professorship. Now he had to make another, and this one would certainly be traumatic, for it entailed his separation from the world he knew. His relatives, his colleagues. But would the end be justified? Only time would tell.

But more than anything else, he needed to find personal freedom—the freedom to act and think as a man, and not as a child. To become what he wanted to become, and not what others would allow. For he knew now that freedom is something tasted, not with the mouth, but with the breath—one doesn’t speak of freedom, one inhales it.

He saw a vision of life that made absolute sense, though he was once blinded to it by the fears of convention. He found he was able to look into things simply, and reject any ideas colored by former inhibitions. To him it seemed people didn’t really understand the things they believed in, even though they were willing to die for those beliefs. He felt life had been a prison from which he finally found a release.

The Man Turned Inward – The Unspoken Condition of the Spirit


The Unspoken Condition of the Spirit


The sun felt good on his shoulders as he walked the open meadows of his home in Banyuls-sur-Mer at the foothills of the Pyrénées. His mind raced with thoughts that never seemed to end. Always examining, wondering, finding answers that were everywhere around him—obvious, despite the blurring dichotomy of the pseudo-intellectuals he had so avidly read throughout his life; who had sold their thoughts for profit instead of spiritual gain, having to come up with ever newer, fresher ideas to satisfy the constant hunger of the followers conscripted into their armies of hopelessness.

He felt he was being led into to a new way of understanding. There were clues everywhere. In every work that he read: Camus, Mann, Hesse, André Gide. He felt the yearning for knowing something that he felt he should already know, and it bothered him. Every night he’d come to a conclusion, and every morning he’d awake needing to confirm it. But it eluded him. He felt lost, but he was not afraid. He could no longer turn back to the childlike innocence of his former beliefs, though he was a child about Understanding.

Riding these dizzying heights of reason, he exercised his mind in a way he had never thought possible. Drawing conclusions, revising beliefs, allowing himself to be the child who questions all things, viewing them anew. He had become a man full of so many thoughts and ideas, he could no longer contain them in the pockets of his shirt, so he carried a rucksack that held the different articles of his dreams—a pencil, notepad and whatever book he happened to read at the time. A piece of bread and cheese, and a flask of port.

Along the summer lanes he’d walk, with his Van Gogh straw hat and a wooden cane fashioned from a stick found laying in some forgotten field. A blade of straw between his teeth.

“I have tasted the spiritual eternity!” Raising his arms to a sky the blue of summer, trees bordering a meadow bleached by the dry season, the grass beneath his feet yellowed for harvest, he shouted to the wind, “This is pure God—pure understanding!” Ah, that unspoken condition of the spirit. The transcendence of the mind to the astral plane of ideas.

As he bent down to scoop a handful of brook he stopped to think. “There is nothing like drinking ice-cold water from a stream.” He touched a finger to his chin, “But where have all the ice-cold waters gone?”

Maybe he was looking too deeply beyond the edges of reason. Perhaps he was merely escaping into madness. But to me, Jorge Onslaught had reached the point of genius few men attain.

Words of Wisdom – Just Do It

Alan Watts’ unique ability to understand and assess Eastern Philosophies for the Western mind is a valuable asset to those who follow a Zen lifestyle. Without his writing and those of D. T. Suzuki, from whom Watts borrowed much of his insight, it would be difficult to grasp the true significance of the practice, if we can even call it a practice. I prefer to call it Mind—Being—in the moment.

The following is an excerpt from one of his many spoken lectures; this one addressing the shortcomings of the Western practice of Zen, and Asian thought in general, broadcast from radio station KPFA in Berkeley, California on April 17, 1955.  -Pc

“The important thing is simply to begin—anywhere, wherever you are.”

In this broadcast, Mr Watts explains:

We want to enjoy ourselves, and fear that if we forget ourselves there will be no enjoyment.”

He goes on to give an example with the Western Proverb:

“A watched pot never boils.”… if you try to watch your mind concentrate, it will not concentrate. And if… you begin to watch for the arrival of some insight into reality, you have stopped concentrating.”

It is a paradox. If we try to concentrate we are not concentrating, but watching ourselves trying.

“Real concentration is… a rather curious and seemingly paradoxical state, since it is at once the maximum of consciousness and the minimum of ego-feeling… The only way to enter into this state is precipitately—without delay or hesitation, just to do it…”

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When he walked the Earth, what was it the Buddha understood that enabled him to stand above the stature of Man and become a Spiritual being?

Simply put, spirituality is what we call the state of inner understanding. A spiritual man doesn’t have to prove his spiritual stature, it speaks for him. He has attained a state of calmness that comes natural, through understanding, or Enlightenment. As natural as we may find this state, it requires cultivation. For, just as we must attend to a flower after it has sprouted, we nurture Understanding, maintaining that state of transcendent consciousness, allowing a raised sense of being to bloom after it has taken root.

So, when does a man attain enlightenment? What was it the Buddha achieved that made him a spiritual guide to one-fourth of the human race?

In Siddhartha, Herman Hesse posed a question when the Brahman-turned-seeker explained to the Buddha why he could not become a follower. Siddhartha spoke to the Enlightened One, stating in a most reverent and entreating way, the following:

“I have not doubted for a single moment that you are Buddha. . . You have found salvation from death. It has come to you in the course of your own search, on your own path, through thoughts, through meditation, through realizations, through enlightenment. It has not come to you by means of teachings! And–thus is my thought, oh exalted one. . . You will not be able to convey and say to anybody. . . in words and through teachings what has happened to you in the hour of enlightenment! The teachings of the enlightened Buddha contain much. . . But there is one thing which. . . these so venerable teachings do not contain: they do not contain the mystery of what the exalted one has experienced for himself, he alone among hundreds of thousands.” [italics added]

So, when does a man attain enlightenment? As the Buddha taught, only the one who has attained it knows.



That Sort of Freedom


That Sort of Freedom


The commuter train’s cars heave along dilapidated rust covered tracks. They wrangle past summer cottages, bungalows and the soot covered buildings of Poughkeepsie, to end their journey in a final sway of creaking springs and tortured steel, at Grand Central Station.

From my apartment it’s a short walk—close enough to afford a private view just outside the grounds of the retreats cropped along the Hudson—to touch the banks of that other river, the iron river—its flow caressing the heart of this huge land, lining it with the silver steel of a new adventure waiting just down the track.

I’ve walked those rails. I’d sit and meditate, or smoke, or just sing out-loud to myself, making up songs that I imagined could one day become part of the canon of American songs. Or, not. Either way, it didn’t matter. What I liked was the way the sun, warm on my back, reflected off the shiny rails, shimmering, as I tried to match my steps to the awkward spacing of the railroad ties.

The crunch of the granite stones under my feet, the heat rising off the rust and gravel between the tracks gave me a good feeling, as if stepping on the iron of those rails somehow could put me in touch with another existence, a reality detached from this world’s assault on the Stream of consciousness. Lost in the ozone, simplicit, without a care; a wandering will o’ the wisp dharma bum, content with the euphoric splendor of a Saturday afternoon all lazy-like and sunlit, replete with a breeze from the river swirling the leaves of the trees in a happy dance, I quietly contemplated the empty completeness of the earth and its Spirit, the life that flows in the leaves and dark dirt and pine needles underfoot; frogs whomping, breathing their own life into the Cosmic eternity of my being. Walking on these rails has always made me feel that way.

the simplicit fool
knocks sprockets with the universe
calls it freedom

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