Remarkable and beautiful people.
"The building was a continually changing cast of eccentrics, artists, writers, pioneers, explorers, adventurers, political refugees, wanderers, scholars, nature lovers, partiers, drunks, druggies, nymphomaniacs, dancers, alpinists, mountain-bike racers, river-rafting guides, white-water and sea kayaking guides, mountaineering guides- both men and women alike- mystics, angels, craftsmen, bush women, druids, gypsies, hedonists, Christians, Buddhists, Hindus, dykes, inventors, dropouts, outcasts, and all the rest of life's improbable ones, mixing together in a Pandora's box of work and play and every event in between."
A book excerpt from the spiritandflesh.com religion and spirituality online library.
It was as if this forum had been constructed specifically for these individuals, iconoclasts, and wayfarers to have a sublime convention of similar spirits, brought together to gather and commune with their brethren, under one roof, once and for all.
I could write volumes on each individual from the Co-op who crossed my path, entered my life, and changed the inner sanctum of my being forever, and barely would I scratch the surface of the lives and destinies of these unique and unheard of individuals who were drawn together for a while to grow, and learn, and heal each other. So many hearts, so many minds, so many diverse fragments of the infinite whole- it is enough to drive me into a stupor at the slightest thought of the wonder and implausibility of the remarkable sea of mankind into which I found myself gleefully bobbing about.
I could speak of a few like Dennis, for example, who was singularly the best athlete I have ever met- balanced inwardly between his male and female parts, and so balanced outwardly in the manifest- who could scale tough, expert rock-climbing crags for a lark on a weekend, could ski extreme descents in steep and wily backcountry territory, could mountain-bike down formidable problems with professional ease, and then back at home could create and construct unique pieces of equipment or gear for any need around, by refitting, redoing, or remodeling the world in any way he saw fit to better. He could take apart any piece of machinery, from diesel engines to welding torches, like a seasoned mechanic. This was a man whom I was once involved with on a one week mortise-and-tenon, timber framing course, in the interior of British Columbia, and within the first five minutes, on the first day, he was already more skilled and confident than the instructor. I kid you not.
Back at home Dennis could cook up an exquisite meal with a palate and dexterity to shame the finest French chefs in the area. Alongside this he'd be pouring out a perfect martini, regaling the crowd with subtle metaphors and artful anecdotes, and then begin a series of drunken parlour tricks which would include wrapping his ankles behind his head and standing on his hands, or crawling like a monkey through a person's legs, then up and over their torso and then back through their legs without ever touching the ground. Or he'd be dropping beer caps from his clenched bum-cheeks into an awaiting cup below, and then uninhibitedly changing out of his clothes into a slinky set of silk lingerie and treating the astonished onlookers to a burlesque routine fit for Soho. I say, freaks as well as faeries worked at the Co-op. Dennis was a true mad genius, a master of the manifest, as I often called him.
Then there was Oscar, a poet, actor, and garrulous metaphysician all rolled into a wiry, pendulous, elf-like frame, and charged with extemporaneous loquacity and thespian showmanship. To listen to his magical and eloquent yarns was to abandon the likes of Dylan Thomas as an antiquated old fuddy-duddy forever. Oscar's words came but as prayer and poetry, or not at all.
He was also a wilderness-survival instructor and a skilled homesteader, and so he was equally at home amongst the cosmopolitan pretense of the city stage, and the raw medium of the temperate jungle. He once saved his dog from being carried off in the hungry jaws of a cougar- which is an act requiring no small amount of courage nor love. A whole man, a real man, a man who shared with me that as a youth he had fled his own existence in a wild chase across the continent of Europe, only to be finally cornered by the Spirit on a beach in the Mediterranean and then, taken by the will of the kenosis, suffered his spirit to descend like a diving falcon through the firmament and land with a thud to fit perfectly into his very flesh. And the word was with us for a while.
Then there was Sylvia, a wise and venerated, mystical Eastern European woman, and an incredible artist and writer who had spent many years living in, exploring, and paddling amongst the wilds. She had been an environmental activist in the visible realm, and in the hidden one she had taken on the torment of separation which plagues all of mankind, had sat with it, endured it, and transformed it, and had emerged out the other side like an ancient wise woman of old, toughened in the fires of the Eleusian mysteries- a wise woman who had come through effort and trial to know that in the end life is not about finding solutions, but of creating solutions; it was this stoic vision of acceptance and strength that you could feel in the august light of her youthful eyes.
So many of them. So many people. It boggles me to consider. The wilderness athletics of the group alone is enough to exasperate me. There were extreme rock-climbers who headed south every autumn and spring to climb in the American desert, or to scale the granite walls of Yosemite; there were professional mountain-bikers of national acclaim, and others who were simply unknown experts, tackling the most arduous and precipitous trails of Vancouver's infamous north shore mountains; there were white-water kayakers running class five rapids, canoeists engaged in season-long expeditions which would impress the voyageurs of old; others who would cross countries on their bicycles, or ski the steepest couloirs from Washington State to Alaska; and there were world-class alpinists ascending peaks in the Andes, Hindu Kush, and Himalayas. The skill and dedication of these people to their chosen activities was rivaled only by the forgotten yogis, locked away in caves and standing on their heads reciting the Bhagavad-Gita upside down for decades on end.
I could speak of another quiet and discreet young woman who, without anyone's knowing, wrote more lucid, recondite, perceptive spiritual observations of the sublime and transparent realms than most of the so-called experts publishing their commonplace balderdash these days. She lived- and did not just seem to- half of her life in heaven and half of her life on earth, spent a great deal of time in the bush, and took young people on extended trips into the mountains and down rivers and tried, in her own way, to help them get a glimpse of what she knew but could not explain- which is to say, that ...God is, and that is all there is to it.
And there was the shy and brilliant German alpinist, linguist, and family man who spoke no less than six languages fluently, translated ancient Chinese texts of meditation on his own time, climbed the most arduous rock-climbing routes in the area without a word of pride or accomplishment, organized film festivals, and had soft, bewildering eyes that would stare right into you, right through you, and would leave you fighting for breath, for a place to hide, for a way of saying- "yes man, I know, I know, we're all too far apart from each other, we can't get close enough, and if I could vaporize this minute and fall into your eyes and touch your soul within, I would do it, but I can't and we'll have to live with what we've got instead, and that is- loneliness."
I could go on and on, and the list would barely grow shorter. But I'll end with a man who was, in a sense, the epitome of the west coast itself. Jim was one of the rare few, born and bred in the culture and climate of the Pacific Northwest. A true seed from the age of pioneers, mountain men, and adventurers; a great pagan man-hero. Throughout his years he had climbed the highest peaks all over British Columbia and Alaska, had spelunked in many of the caves under the vast land, and was both a recreational and professional diver, scouring the world beneath the sea. There were few places along the coast which he had not walked, climbed, swam, paddled, skied, or crawled upon.
Along with this he had designed his own alternative-energy home, was a beekeeper and researcher, raised chickens, and had a vast organic garden from which came an abundance of delectable fruits, vegetables, herbs, and giant pumpkins. He was an ex-sharpshooter, a demolitions expert, skilled woodworker, tinkerer, fly-fisherman, woodsman, wine and mead maker, and baker. It seemed that he was always doing something and yet never doing anything, for he moved with the ease and equanimity of a Taoist adept.
On top of all of this he owned a quaint log cabin, which he had beautifully refurbished, in the big woods just half an hour from Vancouver. It was here, in that little Valhalla-like enclave of ancient cabins and trees, that he claimed to have communicated with the 'little people' of the forest- the gnomes and faeries who exist as orchids on the profane plane, but are accessible as their true, living selves once a privileged person has fallen through the trap door from our world into theirs.
It was up in Jim's cabin, and its druidic vicinity, that many of us would occasionally congregate en masse to electrify the ether with the joy and exuberance of our collective spirits.
Indeed there was little more vivifying at that time in my life than a gathering of like-minded, reckless and restless, unrepressed individuals with bellies full of grog and psychedelic mushrooms, minds full of grass, and a growing hunger amongst the crowd to revisit the land of Pan and wash away the veil of this profane earth.
There is much to be said for those all-out, uninhibited, intense years of debauchery which we enjoyed to their fullest, with as few or as many other willing folks as we could cajole into joining us, or who could cajole us into joining them. To be out in the raw world, hyped and opened up and obliterated from the mundane plane, on a pharmacological cornucopia of narcotics, booze, and hallucinogens, and to throw yourself into that midsummer night's dream, to tear your clothes off and go running uncontrollably through the bush, to stand far off on a hill and bellow out a call of indescribable euphoria and intensity, and to hear it echoed back to you in a chorus of intoxicated and charmed hoots, howls, guffaws, and acclamations, and then to trundle back down to the focus of the crowd, all souls in invisible communion with their extra-selves, and bouncing off of each other's vibes, and to pass a bottle of whiskey around, then a joint, to devour a plate of barbecued salmon, a baked potato, a hash brownie, a chocolate mushroom, and then off again into the twilight zone, without plan or concern, always lost and always found, leaning suddenly against a giant spruce, or yellow cedar, gasping in disbelief, rolling about in the moss in blessed depravity, then sitting down in a circle of jocularity and repose, hearing the ribald laughter of another group somewhere off in the night, stopping to stare into one of your mates eyes for a brief second of siblinghood and contact, and then out and away again, another beer, another hug, or kiss, a wrestling match, more tom-foolery, singing out at the top of your lungs nothing in particular but for the inability to any longer squash the earthquake of delight and gratitude that cannot help bursting forth in your every word, move, and offering. The hallowed madness of it all.
These divine gatherings and the constant influx and outflux of the community of the Co-op would come to allow me to see the subtle aspect of being which permeates all life- the spiritual archetypes, mythos, and cosmic or subterranean relationships which direct and order humanity like a living blue-print behind the scenes; the sublime, intelligent projection, recounting and reworking similar permutations and acts, at different locations around the world, yet always playing the same drama which, over time, runs on towards a further outcome and is only disguised by different stage drops, props, and costumes, while the ancient, formless characters remain the same. For if you look deep and long enough into a dynamic group of people, you will see the building blocks of performers occasionally alter and change, as is the way of the theatre, but the wholeness and combinations of the show must remain the same; and so, on the world's many subtle stages, when one character leaves the play a vacuum is created drawing another, similar type in to fill the void, so as to complete the show.
Thus it was that I stayed on long enough on this one stage in the infinite puppet house of the spirit- long enough to see the changing of the guards, so to speak- one cast replaced by the next, and then the next, and so on, so that I came to understand that what we perceive as separate beings- autonomous of thought and will- are merely invisibly choreographed fragments of a gigantic hologram projected from itself, observing itself, and living within itself, and so there is no separation nor specificity, nor singular identity which can be applied to the apparent particularities of the whole- not, at least, until one of the actors wakes up in the show, abandons their role, and walks off of the stage. But this is an understanding I would not come to realize until much further along in the ridiculous list of characters I had unwittingly chosen to play.
This is a hard point to relate, for it implies that all is reflected in all, that the 'in' is the 'out'; it means that no one is only who they are; that the unreal creates the real and the real creates the unreal; that the self is only one because it is many, and the many are infinite only so as to hide the mystery that they are one. It means, as I have seen, that we dream other people's dreams, live other people's lives, and think other people's thoughts; that what we appear to be doing is not really what we are doing, that what we know is not what we think we know, and what we see is the unseeable, somehow come to stasis and held in the transfixed stare of false conclusions.
We are less than we think we are, and more than we could ever imagine. The shapes and forms, abstractions and tangibilities of life are but shadows of shadows leaping about in the heightened confusion of repressed dismay.
All this I realized would be impossible to relate, as it was slowly unfolding before me, impossible to share with my fellows who saw life as the linear and material event which it isn't, and who, I thought, would never imagine nor conceive that we are caught in a crazy, tangled dreamscape of profusion, assimilation, and release, for the conventional mind would have an instantaneous meltdown were it to open-up and allow in even the most limited potentiality and significance of this vision of our beingless existences.
Bread and circuses for the masses indeed, and pizza and television, and popcorn with the movies; the ontological placebos come in the most profane forms and guises while the groaning hordes run from the slightest glimpse of the limitless pleroma interwoven into a matrix of design and undesign, reason and fantasy, magic and mayhem, all spilling out before them in a surfeit of absurd unavoidability.
I expect that the soporific entertainments of society, which numb the subtle vision, must be our unnatural way of keeping the herd grazing on life's provender, while calmly fattening the populace on their way to God's abattoir. I say this because I sense that mankind is obliviously involved in an arrangement which allows the masses to move forward, albeit with sloth and trepidation, without the slightest inclination of where we are headed. An allegorical event from the natural world occurs when Orcas are on the move; for most of the whales in the pod have been discovered to be sleeping while swimming, while the few who remain awake create a continuous projection of sonic waves into the brains of the unconscious others, thus guiding them on their course until it is time to awaken and feed and breed. This sociobiological procedure is only slightly dissimilar to the subconscious movements of mankind, whose collective will is directed by forces which no one is truly aware of, towards a destination none can imagine, for reasons which are not supplied by the architects of the dream.
Such thoughts came slow and sublimely through the staccato and formative years of my tenure at the Co-op; what would begin as a routine job would grow and become a living part of my spirit, and I would witness the magnetism of the entire scope of our community slowly congregate under one roof, and raise the angel of our communion back to the sky.
If I claimed to understand any of this at the outset, or even now as I write this, I would be confusing what I have seen with what I have known. For what I saw I still do not fully comprehend; and that is, I saw, in the years amongst my kith and kin at the wilderness Co-op, that the spirit running beneath and through all things occasionally seeks to rear its head up through the static and dark manifest of the day, to harmonize and recognize and free itself at last, in and through groups of individuals brought together for this very purpose. It had been attempted in Camelot in the middle ages, in Paris early in the 20th century, and in the hippy movement a few decades later- and it was happening on the coast, as far as I could tell, and the heart and fulcrum of its strengthening palpitations was found in the collective soul grown strong in love, sincerity, and grace floating just below the surface in the culture of the Co-op.
Life has always the element of myth buried deep in the catacombs of the wider Self, and if we dig deep enough beneath us we will find our vastness flowing out into everywhere, and our divinity dancing rapturously upon the profane plane.
From such occurrences come the fabulous accounts of spiritual upheavals over the history of mankind's yearnings, from Atlantis and Lemuria, to Sumeria, Easter Island, Machu Pichu, Eleusis, Samothrace, Jerusalem, Medieval Europe and its bandwagon of aching saints, Avalon, the Salem witch hunts, Paris in the 20's, Tibet in the 50's, and the flower children of the 60's, all of which speak of the eternal will of the spirit attempting to overtake- or perhaps confiscate, as it were- the flesh, over and over again, and then to be beaten, pillaged, punished, driven underground, again and again, only to rear its mighty head up in another place, at another time, among another ready people, in another guerrilla assault upon the dark and binding gravity of the mold.
(excerpted from In and Of: memoirs of a mystic journey, by Jack Haas)