IN THE END IS THE BEGINNING…
In July of 1986, my first wife, Paula, and I went to France to study through Bowling Green with my French-teaching mentors, Drs. Michael and Lenita Locey. We stayed with a French family, took classes at Institut de Touraine and traveled. It was a very romantic trip as well because we were hoping to conceive our first child while in La Douce France. I am aware that the last sentence was intimate, but it is not gratuitous. There have been periods of my life when the stars seemed to align and the same theme resonated throughout the big picture to the most intricate details. That summer was a time of imagining the future and the theme was everywhere.
One of the excursions the Bowling Green group made was to Les Eyzies, a village of the Dordogne river region of southern France. There has been an uninterrupted human presence in La Dordogne for 55,000 years. For that reason, it is the location of the recently constructed Musée Nationale de Préhistoire.
Just outside of Les Eyzies is a Cro-Magnon painted cave called, Font-de-Gaume. In what was to be the most pivotal day of my life, most fortuitously, on a warm summer afternoon, I experienced an initiation into the old ways, in the sense of a primal, 20,000 years old indigenous way of being.
If you visit Font-de-Gaume today, the tours are limited to 12 persons and feature only a partial visit. Luckily for us, in 1986, the rules were looser and we were able to enter into the heart of the grotte.
Our feminine underworld guide was a lovely blond Française. You could tell she knew something about how the painted caves were used for rituals long ago because of how she staged our visit. Once our group got inside the wooden gate that protects Font-de Gaume, she shut the door and kept speaking to us through the darkness. She told us to hold the shoulder of the person near us and to follow her voice further underground. Led by her sensual, and to me, nearly erotic, French, we were invited to enter more and more deeply into the dark cave passage that lead beneath a hillside.
It really was a journey back into the womb of time. The sides of the winding tunnel were smooth and warm to the touch. Our guide had us stop and stand side by side, and told us to keep facing her voice. She then said:
— Ce que vous allez voir n’a pas changé depuis vingt mille ans.
(What you are going to see has not changed in 20,000 years)
She switched on the light and before us.
To my left, a woman’s voice cried out,
— My God, I’m having a mystical experience!
The heart of Silence collapsed.
Before it so abruptly ended, I was opened by the awe of the enduring beauty of the red ochre animals before me. I experienced a simultaneous awakening to timelessness while at the same time being timelessness. I knew that my experience was gnostic, in the old sense of the term of a lived experience of the sacred. I had received a lightning strike of direct knowledge of the Eternal, but in slow motion, like an 8 second near-death experience. In that sudden flash of illumination, I came to know that I am No-Time and I am of No-Time. The ancient Greek word for an awakening by becoming is, apotheosis.
Within a 45 minute period that day, everything I had ever learned in my 25 years in Irish/German Roman Catholic culture, 10 years of the 12 Step Recovery Movement, Adult Children of Alcoholics with some 7th Day Adventism thrown in, even all my dream knowledge — ended.
A perfectly functional 20th century Jesuit education grounded in modern science, was decisively dissolved in the vastness of time unto timelessness. It could be told that I went to France in July 1986 and took a look at Paleolithic cave art. Going into that gallery turned me into some sort of accidental Cro-magnon gnostic heretic.
I became the divinity even as I was in the Presence.
I am No-Time.
When we re-emerged to the upper world of the 20th century, I was embraced by a renewed Earth in Creation. The best way to describe it was that I enjoyed a simultaneous seeing and feeling into the depths of Creation, surface (exteriority) and depth (interiority) at once. I could sensually feel into the energies of the historical and geological ages beneath my feet. They themselves rested, as if rooted, into a timeless ground. Without being able to explain in words, I understood the shape, color and motion of each tree, bird, plant, breeze. I knew the underlying pattern within them in-formed all the events. For the following 4 days, love-making with the intention of conceiving new life was like never before — a sacred sexuality.
Wherever I was alone, indoors or outside, I felt the persons of the Earth and Grandmother Herself loving me back in appearances of beauty. I also would feel an occasional warm tingling flow through my body. I recognized the invisible patterns that influence and transform meaningful events and their timing. It was clear how sensual moments and beauty announce the depths. Beneath it all, in a constant and faithful Silence, I understood the great open secret that Heaven is Earth and as Plotinus had stated some centuries earlier:
All Creation breathes together.
It would not be until 1990 that I would first hear Joseph Campbell use the words, transparent to the transcendent and aesthetic arrest with Bill Moyers on Power of Myth. The most valuable spiritual experience of my life connected me with the planet and a deep context of human history. It separated me from most everyone and everything else of our culture. You can imagine my happy surprise when I unexpectedly met someone who understood.
In 1991, I met Gene Monick and we had a conversation. It turned out that he too had gone to Font-de-Gaume and had what the guides there still call, la Revelation. Gene shared that after it happened to him, he sat speechless in a cafe with another woman from his tour group. In his writings, he used the term aura, to articulate the way the nature appeared to him after his own awakening.
The rest of our time in France, I worked on a song to better integrate the initiatory passage. I had been reading a lot of Alan Watts and stories of Zen. Inspired by Watts, I chose the word, Satori. In the closing days, I had an odd, poetic moment while walking alone one evening after sunset. It was a starry night and I came upon a small yard strewn with old sculptures. What caught my eye was a sculpted head that seemed to be pushing upward from beneath the Earth. His marble face was gazing up at the stars. That unexpected star-gazer was the other ‘bookend’ to the revelatory summer of 1986. He was the trigger for the lyrics which became my song, Satori.
See how slowly summer turns
to her own completion?
Bring your piercing reason
and seek this hidden love.
It’s quick as light!
Silent river, peaceful song
mocking your confusion,
feel your true emotion
and seek this hidden love.
It’s quick as light!
It’s quick as light!
Reach to touch your own hand.
This carved stone disk above was found in Moundville, Alabama. It is from the Algonquin (Mississippian) culture that flourished from 800-1600 CE. I was taught by an elder that the rattlesnake still symbolizes Time/No Time.