British Columbia Spiritual Wilderness Adventure
Queen Charlotte Islands, Haida Gwaii, and the fabulous west coast of British Columbia,
filled with mystics, miracles, and madmen.
A book excerpt from the spiritandflesh.com religion and spirituality online library.
Looking back now I see how my patterned routine of exodus and return began on my first extended trip up the coast, riding in a rusty old pickup truck with a most beautiful and severe young blond woman named Sandy, who was a true, incarnate, spirit of the land- as some people are, who get in touch with the earth and assimilate it into their very beings.
At that time Sandy was in her early twenties and was already an incredibly capable naturalist who had guided both kayaks and rafts throughout a great portion of the coastal waters and rivers running through British Columbia. She was the one, chosen by the cosmos at that time, to blend her spirit into mine, thus becoming my anima, and, as in the way of myth made manifest, she would lead me in the flesh to the Avalon of North America- the misty and mystic Queen Charlotte Islands- where I would, for the first time in my life, experience a genuine understanding of what the word 'wild' really meant. I say this with absolute sincerity, for I had been to a few of the untouched places on earth earlier in life, but never before had I seen the staggering display of Tolkienesque landforms, forests, and people as such exist in the Charlottes. It is a land unlike any other land. A world set apart from the world. A unique, thriving, ecologically astounding archipelago often referred to as the Galapagos of the north.
I have read The Origin of Species, and I can assure you that had Darwin voyaged to the bountiful forests of the Queen Charlotte Islands instead of the desert landscapes of the Galapagos, he would have forgotten instantly his ad hoc hypothesis based on the spurious mental constructs of survival and mutation, for he would have at once fallen to his knees in awe-struck bewilderment and been forced to accept what every scientist spends their whole life attempting to disprove- their own inexorable stupefaction.
Had The Beagle sailed north to the Charlottes instead of southward, students of biology everywhere today would be trained in the poetics of mystery and the art of appreciation, rather than the mechanistic obscurations of statistical analysis, laboratory research, vivisection, and the laughable, fascist confines of the scientific method.
Had Darwin studied the outlandish Puffin, or the irrepressible Pigeon Guillemot, rather than the common Finch, his eyes may have been opened to the incomprehensible living spirit animating all things, instead of arriving at his inert conclusion based on the precise mathematical attrition of obsolete budgie colons.
Darwin's essentially morbid outlook, formed on the barren rocks of the Galapagos, necessarily produced a theory whose main operating factor is death, whereas, had he set his eyes upon the thriving plenitude of nature's finest, he would have instead propounded a vision based on Life, and life's inherently vital mechanisms. For a philosophy based on 'life' belongs innately to a living universe- one which is still expanding, even after eighteen billion years! After all, the Big Bang implies a sexual super nova, not a chaste black hole; it implies a life more abundant, not a cosmos based on scarcity and struggle.
Had Darwin not been a biologist, he would certainly have been a mortician.
When I first arrived on the blessed isles, I walked about in a sort of disbelieving stupor that such a magnitude of life actually exists on earth. I have heard tales of visitors to the islands walking into the forests and bursting into tears, because they, like I, could not believe in the beauty and majesty that the earth has brought forth, and which has been eliminated almost everywhere but for a few isolated areas on Vancouver Island and along the coast of British Columbia and Alaska.
To walk into one of these ancient forests is to be transported to another planet. It is to walk through a time warp, and enter Eden before the Fall. To stroll about on thick beds of moss, with ten-foot diameter trees running up to the sky in gothic piety, or to paddle in a kayak or canoe along the deserted shores while watching for sea-lions, Orcas, humpback whales, water foul, raptors, rainbows, and deer dancing on the shore, is to tear at your hair because you finally realize you are on the planet of the apes and you now know what the simians have done to your home.
It was partly for the power and privilege of witnessing and becoming a part of this rare and priceless world that I would return many times after my first trip to this blessed sanctuary. And yet I came back often for the island's equally wild people, including one individual whom I would encounter, on this first trip, in the life, mind, and wilderness refuge of the man who was to become my mythical mercurius- a man named Hans.
It is strange indeed when the myths and secrets men read about and think of as fable or allegory begin to occur within your very life. It is strange when one's conventional mind begins to slowly awaken to the underlying drama of spiritual archetypes and mythic journeys in the sea of spirit in which we are eternally swimming, and strange to find that you are a player in a sublime game that the Gods may have even forgotten they were playing.
Such was my unwitting induction into the hidden folds of the universe, as I headed north that rainy afternoon with the young and inspired Sandy, driving up to Prince Rupert, ferrying across the aptly named Hecate Strait to the main town on the islands, and then onto a day-long water taxi, heading to the rustic hamlet where Hans lived- a place which would, over the years, take away and give so many things to me that, for quite a few years, whether I was there or not, I would consider it my home- Rose Bay.
Never had I met another individual so burning with their own nebulous fire as I did in Hans. I doubt that in all the epochs of all the worlds there never has been one such as he, and perhaps there never will again. You would have to merge the idiosyncratic characteristics of Nietzsche, John the Baptist, Daniel Boone, and Beethoven together to come close to the fiery stew of eccentricities this one specimen of mankind enveloped.
Having left his German homeland in his early twenties with the sole intent to become a child of the earth and to "reclaim his rightful heritage", as he put it, he bounced around Canada for a while and finally ended up the last place you'd expect to find a growling, fastidious, Teutonic intellectual- in the uncultured bush, one hundred kilometers by boat or plane from the nearest community.
It was in that remote utopia that he hacked out a life for himself, building two exquisite cabins, a massive organic garden, chicken coop, goat house, and solarium complete with grapes, figs, lemons, and other geographically inexplicable delicacies.
Over and above his carpentry and horticultural skills, he was a top-notch musician, playing every conceivable instrument with assured finesse; from raucous, Appalachian banjo tunes, to self-styled guitar solos, to Celtic recorder riffs, to piano adagios which made the Moonlight Sonata sound like a Russian fighting march.
And there he was, in all the splendor of a crackpot, genius, hermit mystic, mad and fanatic and full of a life- which is as rare on this earth as the dinosaur- as I arrived to my delight and astonishment to find that such a one as he could exist in this world, at this time, in this way. I had stepped out of the twentieth century and right into middle earth, and Gandalf and Treebeard came out to greet me, and the comparatively inexperienced hobbit that I was at the time crossed his furry little toes and prayed that he was not dreaming.
Back then I was still little more than an uncarved block- a young man who had only begun to piece his own world together, had only begun to find his own voice, had only begun to write and believe in himself- which is an essential step towards binding the disparate worlds of essence and form into a functioning whole. Yet Hans and I quickly latched onto each other like two derelict prisoners in a sea of idiots. And there we clung together, grappling through the darkness of words for ways of understanding each other and our common lot, for ways of sharing in each other's visions, for ways of saying- "Yes, brother, yes, it is all crazy and impossible, this life, and no one sees it like we see it, and you see it differently than I, and I differently than you, but damn it, not that differently, and at least we- two out of six billion- at least we know it is all mad and misunderstood and that there are realities running on behind the scene that would freeze the average man cold where he stands were he to get even the slightest glimpse of it."
Poor Hans was like a castaway who had been adrift even longer than I; a voice crying in the wilderness in a language that was no longer spoken, of a reality that had been long forgotten; a lost remnant of a lost race which was suddenly thrown upon the shore of my implausible world- a world in which I had begun to realize was far more tangled, far more psychically polluted, far more afoul with the stench of mankind's sordid history of folly and blindness, and far more enmeshed in the hidden dream of the Gods who had forgotten they were dreaming than I ever could have imagined.
But now I had met one who was calling them to account. One man, alone in the wilderness, raging like an awoken beast with the scent of divine blood on its nose. There was Hans, driven like an exiled Pharaoh, out into the bush, driven by an unknown force, with an unknown need, out into the wilds to vent and curse the heavens, and build himself a life and try to heal the rift he could no longer avoid seeing.
And we took to each other, as I said, like two beings lost in an alien world who had finally found another to whom they could communicate. Albeit we reached out to each other through naught but vulgar grunts, and howls, snorts and scratchings of all varieties, but we knew at least that we were pointing at the same wound, the same darkness, the same hidden and yet ubiquitous sea of bile and oppression which oozed out into the soul and mind of every one on earth whether they were aware of it or not.
Every year from then on I would find my way to the Charlottes, traveling by thumb, or bus, or boat- and usually an odd collection of each of these vehicles- and I would arrive in one of the island towns, fill my backpack with booze and some dope perhaps, and hire another boat or plane to whisk me away from one world and into another. And there Hans and I would sit together, machinating and articulating, from sun up to sun down, day after day, week after week, together like co-researchers, hammering out the secrets and unspoken notions of this mysterious universe, all the while conversing in esoteric yarns, metaphor, parable, and rhyme- arguing, disagreeing, commiserating, debating, propounding, relating, and coming together on occasion to formulate the new thought, the new understandings, and new intentions that would solve the conundrum of existence now and forever.
We'd run the whole gamut of thought from lost religions, to recondite metaphysics, occultism, philosophy, anthropogenesis, and the like. No topic or observation was excluded; no idea was beyond our ken, no possibility too outlandish or remote. The Gods had had their day, had messed things up royally- or so we supposed- and now we sat there, a force of two men, bantering out how to right it all, how to fix this wholly botched experiment and bring it to a rapturous finale.
To be sure, as similarly as we saw the world we also saw it completely opposed. But the flint needs steel to strike it in order to create a spark and bring the fire. And fire is what we needed, and fire is what we got. And that is what kept our cloistered, insular brotherhood burning hotter than the sun.
What to say of Hans' metaphysical outlook? It was an idiosyncratic collage of irrefutable absurdity, acute introspection, and volatile cosmogenesis, all artfully combined and delivered in passionate, thundering filibusters by the intransigent attitude and towering intellect possessed by a man who had followed the call of his spirit fifteen years earlier, had left mankind behind, and had learned another way of seeing.
Among many of his other esoteric observations, the greatest problems besetting not only mankind, but also the heavens themselves, lay, according to Hans, in the foundation of denial and guilt, which were built into the superstructure of the cosmos from day one. He saw how these two stumbling blocks to the freedom and joy of the spirit were brought into existence at the same time as everything else- at the beginning- and that these pathologies were created by the same power as everything else- the Creator; for God was once but an insecure, guilt-ridden misfit, like the rest of us, and so God's imperfections were inexorably woven into the human experience, and thus what we were up against in attempting to solve our inborn dilemmas, was so massive, so ancient, so thickly embedded in our souls and beings that to turn the tables would require no less than a superhuman commitment and intent, because we had inherited the guilts and denials which were imprisoning and destroying us, and now no one could help us but ourselves, but we were so confused and deluded by our own distortions that rare, if at all, was there a person who could see themselves with perfect clarity, and therefore undo the knot of denial and guilt.
Adding to this impregnable obfuscation, Hans saw legions of infirm and warring angels thrown into the discord, an armada of dark seraphim, innumerable formless maleficent forces, mindless Lemurian refugees, and heartless Atlantean survivors. All of these so torn apart and removed from their true existences that they were pitted against each other without really knowing why. Hans saw an intermixed, dysfunctional, endlessly troubled spiritual milieu the likes of which even the most creative fantasy writer would consider well off of the approachable map. And yet he had convincing arguments and observable examples for everything he propounded- that is, if you could turn your mind inside out in order to re-examine life from his cosmological point of view. He was determined, resolute, indefatigable, and had a laser-like vision that I could only avert from its focused gaze with the most dexterous and delicate of jousts and swipes into the rare and almost imperceptible cracks in his conceptual armor.
It was a magical tête-à-tête for me- a young man who had for too long been cooped up in his own head and his own notions without a living sounding board, let alone a loquacious artifact from the astral plane to challenge his visions. It was a dialectic into which I tossed my own skull with burning veracity, and which would test everything I had come to believe in and felt that I knew. And though I hold Hans' exceptional mind, otherworldly philosophy, and unquestionable experience in high esteem, we eventually came to a place where our stimulating disagreements turned into a giant metaphysical chasm that neither of us could cross without throwing away his whole Weltanschauung. That is, Hans, no doubt having his own perfectly sound reasons, had recognized that we were all in Hell- a perspective in which I was somewhat in agreement with at the time; but for Hans, oddly enough, it was better to be in Hell than to be in Heaven. And why was that? Because, according to him, there were more 'colorful' characters down here, and Heaven was full of nothing but uptight perfectionists who flew around in boring white gowns listening to the same phlegmatic harp music all the time. In a way he had a point, though it wasn't until a few years later, when I experienced a dream-visit up to the firmament, that I could see he wasn't completely right. And besides that, there was something disagreeable in his conclusion, for, though I agreed that Hell existed on earth- that we were in Hell- I, myself, didn't like it at all, for the real truth was that I believed that we were in Hell only because Hell was in us. And not only that, but Purgatory and Heaven were also within; not the heaven which Hans found so tedious, but the true Heaven, and the true Hell; the immanent realms which are made visible and brought forth into manifestation only so as to reflect our turmoil or peace within. Yes, indeed, I was in Hell, but I had caused my own incarceration, my separation from the One, and I ...I was paying my dues and walking back out.
It is only demanding relationships- like the one I had with Hans, in Rose Bay- which have the force necessary to flip one inside-out, and bring about the great transformations needed to move a person through incarnations without having to die. For the shifts of the soul do not come easy, and they will not come when sitting around comfortable coffee tables and talking peacefully of soft and shiny things. You have to find your match in the arena of the spirit. You have to come up against your equal, and dig inside yourself for every last ounce of reserve within, if the two combatants in the verbal and psychic milieu are to both emerge stronger from the duel. You have to lock horns in a bitter and beautiful struggle to test the mettle of everything you've got in you, if you are going to attempt to build your home upon this world of sand. Because you can bet the sea will come and wash away the foundation out from under you, and it's only then that you'll know if what you perceive is real and true, or if all your realities are merely sand castles in the air.
And so I say that Hans was my mercurius. And I say that for both mythical and actual reasons- because this world is both mythical and actual. For the drama into which I fell exists on many planes at once, and so the story which I tell exists both in the actuality of our temporal lives, and also in the eternal myth of our spirits as well.
Only internal revelation and sublime communication from the other world will convince an individual of this reality. No one can point to it nor prove it to another. When you walk through the membrane of permanence, into the shifting twilight of the Self, only you, and you alone, are there to bear witness to it happening, for we are each given only that which we are capable of receiving, and so we must therefore learn to be capable.
(excerpted from In and Of: memoirs of a mystic journey, by Jack Haas)