Ghost Dancers

(This segment originally appeared in Ash Fork in September of 2006)

Beneath the good and evil, there is the possibility of redemption and new life contained in the story of the death of the creator at the hands of his creation, and simultaneous with that, the explosion of consciousness in the creation, in the sudden realization of what sacrifice love is willing to make for the beloved. Only the memory of this, the story of this, is powerful enough to seal the ship, and create a foundation on which a new world can be built when the old one dies.

It took Bergamo a long time to cultivate a level of genius in himself which allowed him to accept being in two places simultaneously. One of the traits of genius is a tolerance for ambiguity. By that definition, fundamentalists are relative Neanderthals. They have no tolerance for ambiguity at all, and the more conservative they are the less they can tolerate it.

And what, exactly, is ambiguity? It is both this and that, yes and no, good and evil. It is the unity of opposites. In the oldest continually practiced religion on the planet, the Tibetan Buddhist, their Book of the Dead warns against thinking the dual nature of things is anything other than the projections of your own intellect. So long as you remain identified with one polarity, and then the other, of the opposites, you are lost in the Bardo World. Only when you know it is all your intellect's projections do you escape the wheel of time.

And yet there is an attraction to the opposites, because in any society one can gain power by acting out what is rewarded in the group, and projecting away what is unwanted.

This splits the society into a middle class and an outlaw class, of roughly the same proportions. A precarious monied elite convinces the middle class that they are in constant danger from outlaws, which is true enough, just as it's true the outlaws are in constant danger from the middle class. It's a civil war that unfolds in slow motion over long periods of time, between the ego and the shadow at a collective level.

An example of this is the story of Frankenstein. Mary Shelly was a young teenager when she married the poet, Percy Shelly, who was part of a movement of spiritual growth based in aesthetics. Lord Byron was part of the group, and it was at his estate Mary Shelly began working on the book. She had a dream in which a phantasm of a man was stirred by some powerful engine and began to twitch. When she began to write the story, the monster became a composition of rejected parts, put together to make a man.

Her own husband, and Byron, were going around smelling flowers and writing romantic poems, trying to elevate themselves above ordinary mortality. So here comes the shadow. The story begins and ends in the frozen arctic, where the narrator is an aspiring poet who has found the place of eternal light. The romantics yearned to rise above instinctual life, and to transcend the body.

The aesthetes trying to separate good from evil, beauty from beast, terrorist from corporate security, always end up with a problem. The evil they project away is real, and once they believe it to be outside themselves, it is no longer restrained by reason. So they have real evil out there somewhere, and it seems to stick to them like a baby to its mother, as if it has no place else to go. They are paired, like Dr. Frankenstein and his monstrous creation.

"Break on through to the other side." The Doors song filled the auditorium as Luther Sears looked out from behind the curtain and saw that, for the first time, he had a full house, without even standing room in the back of the hall.

"There must be ten thousand people out there," he said aloud.

"Capacity is eight thousand," Bergamo said. "More than that you've got problems with the Fire Marshall."

"Eight thousand is the seating capacity. They're standing all the way back to the door."

"You'd better get out there. They're playing your song."

The volume jacked up as Luther bounded out onto the stage, striding to the podium, acknowledging the blast of cheers and applause and whistles with raised hands. "Welcome, displaced persons of America!" he shouted, and the cheering intensified. "You tossed here by the tempest, I lift my lamp beside the golden door."

"Break on Through" had faded away and now space music came in, accompanied by a changing of the light. A holographic projection of a lamp moved as a ghost in the air beside Luther, the signal for the audience to change state. "There's nowhere to go," he said, "nowhere except into the center."

En masse, nearly ten thousand people changed state, breathing together with the pulsing of the light, inhaling with the gradual brightening, then exhaling with the dimming. "Nowhere to go," Luther repeated, "except into the center, where everything is in its undivided wholeness, where we are in undivided wholeness.

As at every meeting of the Displaced Persons of the Earth there were hecklers and paid disrupters. As they started their catcalls and shouted insults, Luther said, "Remember that anything that is one-sided is an opportunity to not identify, which can take you deeper into the center." He instructed them, as usual, to gradually move the light from the outside to the inside, to grow familiar with the shift in consciousness.

The trance was so powerful that even the hecklers were drawn into it, and their calls and insults became a counterpoint, an integral piece of the whole composition. The atmosphere in the hall became so charged it felt like they could lift off like a flying saucer, and that was the point of it. They were learning to operate as one unit of energy, with a common intention: they were leaving time, and going into space.

Most intellectuals in America found the movement interesting, but gave no credence to it as being anything other than part of the phenomenology to be expected as the planet got hotter and less hospitable to human habitation. People could very logically be expected to look for magical solutions when mass extinction had become a certainty. Back when there might have been time to turn it around, they could not do so for fear of disrupting the economy. Now, the very rich were planning their escape in space ships to a colony on the moon, from where they would explore for another breathable atmosphere.

The people left behind were, to them, no different from the Ghost Dancers and Luther was their Jack Wilson. What harm could it do to let them believe there was some escape? It was a tradition to hold revivals and promise pie in the sky to keep the natives from going into violent revolt against their masters.

There was something troubling, however, in this idea of a collapse of distance. It was a vague unease among the intelligentsia that centered on the rabble having no real plans to go anywhere. If they had been waiting to be picked up by flying saucers, or even mentally transporting themselves across the universe, at least they could be assumed to be suffering from delusions based on a hope for escape, like the people who believe they will be lifted off the earth in a rapture. But they kept saying there was no distance involved, just a shift in consciousness. Shifts in consciousness can be trouble if they are not based in delusion.

That was why the Fire Marshall was instructed to go in with adequate force and close them down for violation of public safety ordinances. What they didn't count on was the depth of the trance, and that one of the building blocks of it was the suggestion that any disruptive force could be used to deepen it. So it was that when the Fire Marshall came in, backed by two hundred policemen, and began to give orders to disperse, he realized he might as well be talking to a convention of wooden Indians.

"What part of disperse don't you understand?" he asked, his face just inches from that of a frail looking man in a Hawaiian shirt. But he got no response. "All right," he shouted, "let's play it your way. You've got too many people in his hall and it's a violation of public safety ordinances, so we'll just carry you out one at a time if you don't voluntarily disperse."

"Steel roots," Luther said, and the displaced persons felt the steel roots move from their feet down into the cement floor, until they were a solid mass. This didn't make them impossible to move, just as the ghost dance didn't protect the Indians from the soldiers' bullets, but it did make them difficult to move. Just why one's imagining oneself welded to the earth, and too heavy to be picked up, works so well is something of a mystery. It might just be the extensor muscles making the body dead weight. Whatever it is, it was making them as heavy to carry out of the hall as if they were lead statues. And all the time the red-faced policemen were removing them, an impossibly slow process, Luther was reminding them to go "heavier and heavier."

In about twenty minutes the Fire Chief realized force wasn't going to work, and he demanded that Luther order them to disperse. "Certainly," Luther said. "I'm surprised you didn't ask sooner." He turned his attention to the gathered multitude. "In the blink of an eye," he said, "we move from space to time, and back to the ordinariness of everyday life. When we meet again, my friends, it will be in a larger place, because our numbers are growing."

On cue the ten thousand shifted as easily as if a movie had just ended and the house lights come up. The astonished assembled force that had come to disrupt them sounded as lame as had the hecklers when they called out for them to leave in an orderly fashion. They were already doing that, chatting easily and seemingly oblivious to the authorities infiltrating their numbers.

When the event was reported in the media, it was reported as a huge movement of "zombies." The Fire Marshall described them as "a Frankenstein monster, breathing as one, and thinking as one, created by a charismatic messiah named Luther Sears. There was no mention in the various editorials and reportage that the assembly was peaceful. It was instead described as a monster threatening the status quo.

There was no discussion of the status quo as being certain death.

Posted: Mon - January 8, 2007 at 10:50 AM