A man without ambition is dead.
A man with ambition but no love is dead.
A man with ambition and love for his blessings here on earth is ever so alive.
Pearl Bailey, 1971
"Would you like to take communion?" Will Lovejoy looked into Bob's eyes with fascination. What Lovejoy heard was, "Would you like to jump off this cliff?" Lovejoy had climbed dizzying mountains, rafted wicked rivers and survived the deadly heat of life in the desert. Lovejoy knew the ecstasy of surmounting physical challenges. Before this, he had earned all the academic laurels he desired and had actually become cynical of further formal teaching. He decided that he could, and should, find his own answers to life's questions.
Lovejoy was onto the next major expedition of his life. Learning about the possibility of other worlds from descriptions of near-death experiences by his patients; he studied, and then began trying, every means possible to enter the non-physical realms. To Lovejoy, the world's religions, mystics, and those who had survived the crucible of near-death had described those other worlds in identical terms. If reality is defined by consensus, he reasoned, here was a new unmapped geography he wanted to conquer.
Besides, from what he knew of physics, he didn't see why consciousness existing separately from the body should be impossible. If the nebulous electron could stay alive as it circled the nucleus simply by merging in phase with itself; then perhaps humanly generated electromagnetic fields could sustain themselves. They would simply have to fold neatly back onto themselves in a self-supporting fashion; like a Celtic knot. Maybe life after death was a persistence of our electromagnetic field separate from the body. Wasn't this the field that was so closely identified with the nervous system, which we assumed was the seat of our consciousness?
He went on to himself; if concepts of life beyond death were not contrary to scientific principles, then maybe other spiritual concepts were valid too. Lovejoy, with characteristic hubris, left the scientific proof to later generations. He was ready for the experience.
He heard about Bob from a patient who wore a unique gold design on a neck chain, one that Lovejoy recognized as a combination of two obscure religious symbols. Bob and his wife, Juno, led a small tightly knit spiritual group; not seeking new members. Lovejoy liked that. The first time he visited the "Ring", as they called themselves, he saw metaphysical symbols woven throughout the elaborately designed rooms of their house. What captured his attention most, however, was the common enthusiasm. Everyone seemed to work together as one organism.
Very quickly he felt at home and decided to join in a religious service. That was when Lovejoy accepted Bob's invitation to explore this new dimension. Lovejoy didn't really believe that it mattered much which religion, sect or shamanistic cult one joined. What was important was the power that they could draw together for the transcendence of the material realm.
That's what he thought then. Fourteen years later he felt a little differently. At first, the intense cooperation was exhilarating. They could accomplish things together that no twelve people could do working separately. They helped the local schools, built clinics and dazzled visitors to their home with their elaborate artistic endeavors.
More importantly for Lovejoy, the religious services that they held, sometimes for many long hours, gave him a palpable awareness of the other world so often described in ancient writings. He threw his heart and soul into the "Ring".
Unfortunately, they were only too willing to receive his soul, for their own small purposes. Looking back, Lovejoy felt ashamed for missing the obvious deviations from their stated goals as red flags. Juno seemed more focussed upon impressing the locally important politicians, than finding the noble choices. Bob seemed to enjoy gathering attractive "groupies" more than serious students of the hidden dimensions. At times, they both seemed to fear those with the most challenging and profound mystical minds.
When Lovejoy didn't always see the connections between their words and their actions, he assumed that he didn't understand the higher mission of these two admirable, read charismatic, leaders. The paradox of the spiritual mission is that one has to give up all prior concepts of what is normal in order to comprehend that which transcends normal. Yet that leaves one in the vulnerable mental state of a child; learning everything there is to know about the world from their parents.
So when Lovejoy's spiritual parents started corrupting the mission, he ended up doubting himself and his willingness to do the necessary work instead of questioning Bob and Juno. Gradually he came to understand that they were human too. He rationalized that the effort to create a spiritual community was still a worthwhile goal. He remained.
Time built larger archives of hypocrisy and Lovejoy had to admit that absolute power, which he and his fellow seekers had given Bob and Juno, corrupted absolutely. Juno fell ill. In crisis she found opportunity. Everything in the Ring was put on hold to coddle the physical needs of Juno. Two of twelve were kept home all day to fix drinks, change bedclothes and generally pamper a body that, for all Lovejoy could see, was essentially healed. Still, he remained.
Juno's mother was moved in so more members could care for her, which was not so bad in itself. However, the policy of the Ring had always been that members must forego any contact with their "biological" family. Lovejoy regretted the pain he'd put his family through when he cut them off for no reason that they could discern. They were not aware of the various scriptural admonitions to shun the worldly family in favor of the spiritual one. They were simply left confused as to why their son had for all practical purposes dropped off the edge of the earth. However, the families of Bob and Juno were to be spared this challenge.
When Bob started claiming "friendship" from various group members, Lovejoy knew he was in the wrong place. First he tried to change things when he saw those who refused Bob's advances pay the price. When he couldn't stop Bob or get the others to realize what was going on, he saw no option but to leave. However, it wasn't so easy.
Finding a place to rent, while every free minute had to be accounted for, was not the only problem. It was the emotional burden of fourteen years of believing that he had been doing God's work. If he quit now, it was his future's doom for many lifetimes to come. He had been trained to believe that all their effort and faith was crucial to nothing less than the world's destiny. Surrounded by like-minded thinkers twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week; no amount of blatant disregard for all principles on the part of Bob and Juno could bend the psychological bars on his world. The Ring's policy to the outer world was that people were free to come and go. Lovejoy knew differently. Unless he was very clear, walking away from this group would destroy his image of himself. Unlike Lot's wife, he must never look back.
Soltrey@humanmind.net is copyrighted July 2000. All rights reserved B.T. Brian Brown.