A Breath Before a Plunge

(For Carl Oglesby)

by Michael Rossman

        I'm sitting out at this edge of the land watching the continents drift, toying with scraps of mystery; despite some occasional companionship, very much alone and afraid. It's like walking into the fringes of a strange force field, or the early flickers of acid: my consciousness, my world view, start to waver, spawn mirages, fall apart and re-form, still continuous with the past but pregnant with radical weird.

         I sort over my disconnected scraps of experience: the telepathic realities I've shared with Karen, my precognitive mindlock with Linda, diagnosing a tumor at a distance, our experiments in sending images and energy signals to each other in Body Group, my first faint glimpse of an aura, feeling the ch'i flow precisely in my body, glimpsing the energy configurations of my car, lifting out of my body in meditation and dropping back scared, opening to broad-band telepathy in the heat of politics, my response to the moon's phases, the instants when I've acted with my energy body alone, the million faces that spin by when my eyes meet another's, the times of merging my being with another's, or with others'.

         So fragmentary, so pregnant. The psychics tell me things about my "past lives" that make discomforting sense. I am wary, with the paranoia of the Jewish radical. Karen sees me as operating in a sloppy credulity: I see myself creeping along in suspicion's shadows, entertaining others' interpretations of phenomena I can no longer disbelieve, but struggling at each instance to understand the web of culture that brings forth and insists on these interpretations -- struggling to keep in touch with the knowledge that all these maps are only maps and limited, and that I must make my own in consciousness that they but represent the Inchoate. It is paralyzingly slow, perhaps because the fraternity of those so engaged is thin and secretive. Is it also because I am afraid to jump into another frame? Or is it that this time, in fuller consciousness than last decade, I want to create the frame I leap to afresh from the materials of our time and being?

         I sit here, once and still a man of the Movement (the more so for being, before, through, and beyond it, my own man), trying to bring what I've learned through it about being an animal man in a society in history, to bear on this new front. How to honor what I have come to understand about my nature and social justice, in unlocking the psychic and spiritual domains? Meanwhile, I ponder their implications for reevaluation of the research and treatment methodologies of the human sciences, all now even more radically suspect than they seemed through simply political eyes; observe the assimilation of psychic industry into the capitalist domain; and struggle invisible and with slow success to dare a step further in my own life.

        There are hundreds of thousands of people in America now with some degree of conscious control over significant psychic ("paranormal") powers. They are fortune tellers, dowsers, adherents of the old spiritualist traditions; they are country communes meeting in peyote ritual, meditators of a hundred practices, biofeedback pioneers, a spectrum of healers; they are multiplying. Among their thousands of small groups only a few are also working in disciplined ways to affect some social circumstance. But the impulse to meddle in society will grow as this wave of psychic exploration continues, and as its Babel begins to generate a common tongue. How can we anticipate the potential secular impact? What would a collective of revolutionary psychics do if they got it together?

         It is another of those watershed times, a continuation of the last decade's changes through an odd but natural pivot of consciousness: a time in which the edge of a course into the unknown, personal and social, confronts many of us intimately. And besides being a naked soul I find myself an American again, dependent upon a climate of free thought and free action, of liberty, precious and self-reflective. What we are confronting is blessed and fearful and beyond our comprehension, much within us and around us cries out to close it out with violence. It is crucial that there be the space for people to dare the mysteries, and support for their engagement; it is crucial that they also be free within their own ranks to question what they are doing, for they represent us all. And we shall have to struggle to realize any of these freedoms. Great streams of thought and action are intersecting, and their full synergy can develop only in a climate which permits the adventurous and responsible hybridization of frames. Nor is this the climate of embattlement, of ideological besiegement in isolated rigid camps, that runs like a plague through the secular Left -- and is already manifest in this turn to the higher domains.

         Indeed, I pursue my timid researches in an air of dark premonition. It seems to me that the energies and values we are unleashing or yielding to are potentially even more directly and totally threatening to the old order, in all its ponderable corrupt vitality, than anything we have yet bodied forth; and I wince already with the impact of a dreadful retaliation, without any idea of the form it will take. I see also, already almost full-blown, the growth of a monstrous facade, that will hypnotize our awakening with illusions of light: not only to preserve the old forms in new face, but to preempt and inhibit that genuine transcendence whose potential winks unmistakably at the edge where our world is being torn apart. The truth is simple: we create the reality we experience, though not alone, and can change it as we will; but it is hard to keep sight of, the clouds of illusion re-forming as they do. Where will we get the energy, the solitary courage?


April 1973

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