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Obeying Chogyam Trungpa

Last summer in Boulder I was talking to Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche about doing a retreat at his Vermont center. I asked about taking along a typewriter. He objected that this would defeat the whole purpose of a retreat, like a carpenter takes along his tools - and I see we have a very different purpose in mind. That he could make the carpenter comparison shows where the difference lies: the difference being, with all due respect for the trade of Jesus Christ, that a carpenter can always carpenter, while a writer has to take it when it comes and a glimpse once lost may never come again, like Coleridge's Kubla Khan. Writers don't write, they read and transcribe. They are only allowed access to the books at certain arbitrary times. They have to make the most of these occasions. Furthermore I am more concerned with writing than J am with any sort of enlightenment, which is often an ever-retreating mirage like the fully analyzed or fully liberated person. I use meditation to get material for writing. I am not concerned with some abstract nirvana. It is exactly the visions and fireworks that are useful for me, exactly what all the masters tell us we should pay as little attention to as possible. Telepathy, journeys out of the body — these manifestations, according to Trungpa, are mere distractions. Exactly. Distraction:  fun, like hang-gliding or surfboarding or skin diving. So why not have fun? I sense an underlying dogma here to which I am not willing to submit. The purposes of a Boddhisattva and an artist are different and perhaps not reconcilable. Show me a good Buddhist novelist. When Huxley got Buddhism, he stopped writing novels and wrote Buddhist tracts.  Meditation, astral travel, telepathy, are all means to an end for the novehst. I even got copy out of Scientology. It's a question of emphasis. Any writer who does not consider his writing the most important thing he does, who does not consider writing his only salvation, I — "I trust him little in the commerce of the soul." As the French say: pas serieux.

I was willing to concede the typewriter, but I certainly would not concede pen and paper. A good percentage of my characters and sets come from dreams, and if you don't write a dream, in many cases, you forget it. The actual brain trace of dream memory differs from that of waking memory. I have frequently had the experience of waking from a dream, going over it a number of times, and then forgetting it completely. So during the retreat I kept pen and paper by my bed, and lit a candle and wrote my dreams down when they occurred. As it happens, I got a new episode for the book I am currently writing and solved a problem of structure in a dream recorded in these diaries. I also attempted some journeys out of the body to visit specific people, with results that, while not conclusive (they rarely are), were at least interesting and fruitful. In short, I feel that I get further out through writing than I would through any meditation system. And so far as any system goes, I prefer the open-ended, dangerous and unpredictable universe of Don Juan to the closed, predictable karma universe of the Buddhists. Indeed existence is the cause of suffering, and suffering may be good copy.  Don Juan says he is an impeccable warrior and not a master; anyone who is looking for a master should look elsewhere. I am not looking for a master; I am looking for the books. In dreams I sometimes find the books where it is written and I may bring back a few phrases that unwind like a scroll. Then I write as fast as I can type, because I am reading, not writing.

I will endeavor to summarize the highly complex and sophisticated system of spiritual training outlined by Don Juan in Tales of Power. The aim of this training is to produce an impeccable warrior - that is, a being who is at all times completely in possession of himself. The warrior is concerned only with expressing the totality of himself, not with praise or support from others. He neither seeks nor admits a master. The warrior's state is achieved with the aid of a teacher and a benefactor. To understand the respective roles of teacher and benefactor, one must consider the concepts of the tonal and the nagual, which are basic to the warrior's path. The tonal is the sum of any individual's perceptions and knowledge, everything he can talk about and explain, including his own physical being. The nagual is everything outside the tonal: the inexplicable, the unpredictable, the unknown.  The nagual is everything that cannot be talked about or explained, but only witnessed. The sudden irruption of the nagual into the tonal can be lethal unless the student is carefully prepared. The teacher's role is to clean up and strengthen the tonal, so that the student is able to deal with the nagual which the benefactor will then demonstrate. The teacher and the benefactor show the student how to reach the unknown, but they cannot predict what will happen when he does reach the nagual. The nagual is by its nature unpredictable, and the whole training is extremely dangerous. While the tonal, the totality of conscious existence, shapes the individual being, the tonal is in turn shaped by the nagual, by everything it is not, which surrounds it like a mold. The tonal tends to shut out and deny the nagual, which takes over completely in the moment of death. If we see the nagual as the unknown, the unpredictable and unexplainable, the role of the artist is to make contact with the nagual and bring a part of it back into the tonal in paint or words, sculpture, film, or music. The nagual is also the area of so-called psychic phenomena which the Buddhists consider as distractions from the way of enlightenment.  Buddhism and the teachings of Don Juan are simply not directed towards the same goals. Don Juan does not offer any final solution or enlightenment. Neither does the artist.

During the retreat I wrote down dreams and the elaboration of dreams that takes place spontaneously in the waking state. I used an exercise in association: take a walk and later write down what you were thinking when a deer crossed the road
or when you sat down on a rock and killed a biting fly. One of my first acts in my retreat hut was to improvise a fly swatter from an old whisk broom, and I think this no-killing obsession is nonsense. Where do you draw the line? Mosquitoes? Biting flies? Lice? Venomous insects? I'd rather kill a brown recluse spider than get bitten by one. And I will not coexist with flies. Interesting point here:  The Miracle of the Centipede which disappeared as I was about to kill it with a sledge hammer. That was a nice miracle.  Chapeau, Trungpa Rinpoche. Because that centipede was only half an inch long, and they don't get much bigger in that climate. And that's a bearable size -doesn't keep me awake knowing it is in the room, so why kill it? On the other hand, a centipede three inches long is already an abomination in my eyes. Little spider in web at window. He's all right. But I hear a rustling on the shelf above my bed. I light the candle and there is a spider about an inch across and a brown spider at that. Might be a brown recluse. Any case, too big to live in my vicinity. I feel better after it is dead, knowing it can't get on my face while I am sleeping.

The Retreat Diaries are not a sequential presentation. By sequential presentation, I mean Monday with all dreams and occurrences noted, then on to Tuesday and so forth. Here Thursday and Friday may be cut in with Monday, or the elaboration of a dream cut in with the dream itself in a grid of past present and future. Like the last words of Dutch Schultz. Some of Dutch's associations cannot be traced or even guessed at. Others quite clearly derive from the known events of his life. The structure is that a man is seeing a film composed of past present and future, dream and fantasy, a film which the reader cannot see directly but only infer through the words. This is the structure of these diaries.

To start with dream August 9th, 1975 . . . "WORDS" Perhaps women are words, and as Brion Gysin says, the first words were "Hello." When God anesthetized Adam and made Eve out of his rib and he comes around. Eve says, "Hello Adam." Recall when Pat Garrett had surrounded a cabin where Billy the Kid, Charlie Browder and a few others were holed up. Charlie had just stepped outside to piss and caught a .30-.30 through his guts which knocked him back into the cabin and Billy shoved him out with a gun in his hand. "Try and kill one of them before you die." Charlie starts staggering towards Garrett, pissing in his pants, spitting blood, dead on his feet without strength to lift the gun, so Garrett holds his fire. He gets right in front of Garrett and says "I wish ... I wish ..." and collapses hugging Garrett's knees and Garrett says quietly, "Hello Charlie."

Death is a word. Now fairy stone was an old remedy for sunburn, and they say it's hot on the planet Venus. Words can also serve as cover. Words are a painkiller, like junk. And here is dream about Doctor Dent, who cured me of
the junk habit with apo-morphine treatment.

The Diaries consist of tits of dreams and poetry and associations cut in together; I can't cover every association, just give a few examples.  I was thin}:ing about Bradbury Robinson, an English friend who was then going in for mystical Christianity, when a deer crossed the road. Spanish subtitle on the film Rashomon. The woodcutter had deceived the poUce and stolen a ring.  And some spaced-out Buddhist has put the fire extinguisher under the Coleman stove. I can see burning fluid falling in a sheet of flame while somebody tries to reach the extinguisher. Move the extinguisher to a better place.

Now to contact Campbell Dalglish by the method outlined in Monroe's Journeys Out of the Body. His instructions are to visit a place and not a person.  That is, you concentrate on where the person is. Now Campbell lives in a house outside Conifer, Colorado and he works in Denver. So in the dream I am on Wyoming Street and find 1 am in the wrong house, since my house is on Denver Street.  Someone else I tried to contact some days later was John D.C., who was later -much later — at Little America in Wyoming and sent me a post card. Point is, this out'of-body visiting is not a sequential matter. There is no time outside the body, or rather, past present and future merge.  So don't expect a simple one-to-one visit; it doesn't always work that way. On August 7th I set out to contact my son Bill in Santa Cruz, California.  Dream about Madrid.  Now years ago in Tangier I had dream that i was standing with Bill on the coast and saw an explosion in the distance, and said, "There goes Madrid." Also Santa Cruz is Spanish name and California used to be Spanish. And a sort of fast-moving agent story emerged from this dream.

Contact James Grauerholz. Lumbago helped by his back exercises. Contact came later and indirectly. James had related a dream to me about a fundamentalist sect and meeting a young boy who said, "Shall we camel?" (The dream is quoted in an appendix.) This boy then slots into this dream via a friend named Camel, and this is the episode which showed me how the pirate story I was working on could fit into Cities of the Red Night, at precisely the point where the excerpt published in ARCADE is in the manuscript. And it was James who selected that excerpt, and sent it in to ARCADE during the retreat.

Someone has written on a piece of cardboard in the woodshed:  "How can I please myself when I have no self to please?" Sorry, young man, I think you are kidding yourself. As long as you talk to yourself, you have a self. The self is like a pimping blackmailing chauffeur who gets you from here to there on word lines.

"Maya am I? You don't get rid of me that easy."

I have always felt that the essence of self is words, the. -internal dialogue. Trungpa agreed, with reservations, but does not give the matter of words such basic importance as I do. Don Juan, on the other hand, says that suspending the internal dialogue is the crucial step out of a preconceived idea of self. Tales of Power, p. 22:  "To change our idea of the world is the crux of sorcery.  And stopping the internal dialogue is the only way to accomplish it." The exercise he recommends to stop the internal dialogue is to walk with the eyes slightly crossed, covering a 180-degree area, without focusing on anything. This floods out the internal dialogue. Unfortunately I had not read Tales of Power at the time of my retreat and have had no opportunity to perform this exercise, it is not really practical in a city, owing to the constant barrage of word and image.

Some years ago I put a question to CONTROL, a mysterious computer in London which purports to be from Venus and will answer any question.
Question: Would rubbing out the word result in immediate exteriorization from the body?

Answer:  Yes.

Question:  How can this be accomplished?

Answer:  At first automatic exercise.

I took this to mean that once the words talk on their own,
they rub themselves out.

As a writer I deal with words. The more characters and sets develop on their own, the more valid they are for artistic purposes. If I was reading and not writing I would literally be out of my body and into my sets and characters, like the painter who bowed three times and disappeared into his painting.

A basic mutation in consciousness is necessary.  No patchwork will do the job. Nobody sitting in his body is egoless. What is the nature of this drastic step into the unknown? As Korzybski said, "I don't know. Let's see." This is the Space Age. Space is a dangerous and unmapped area. It is necessary to travel. It is not necessary to live.