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An abridged excerpt from


One night in the summer of 1997, I drove to a look-out point high in the mountains of Joshua Tree National Park. The road was long, dark, and fraught with shadows, and I couldn’t help drawing the analogy between that road and the spiritual path I had been following.  Disturbed over financial uncertainty, problems with a new business, and essentially wrapped up in the machinations of the consensual reality, I was finally driven to seek some sort of solace alone in the night, and Keys View was as close to a personal retreat as any place on Earth I had ever known, the kind of place Carlos Castaneda would have called a "power spot".


I climbed to the lookout point where a lone bench looks out over the Salton Sea – an irregular blotch of blacker black against the southeastern horizon – and before I knew it I was involved in a deep conversation with Orlando.  I did not know how he came to be there, and any rational explanation would be pointless in matters of  mystical experience.  But personal reality is simply what it is at any given moment, and when I tried asking him how he had known I would come to this remote location, and how he himself had gotten there – since there were no other cars in the tiny parking lot – he only smiled a little, stretched out his long legs, and slouched down on that cold metal bench to stare up at the stars.


“You’re predictable,” he said as if I should have already known.  “I’m here because this is where you always come when you’re mad at the world.”


I tried to engage him in a conversation of just exactly how he knew I was mad at the world, since I’d had no direct contact with him in quite some time, not even a letter, nothing to give him any hint of what was going on in my everyday life. But even as I began spelling all of that out to him, he brushed my words aside with an easy gesture.


“Do you want to talk or do you want to waste time looking for logical explanations for every magickal thing that ever happens?” he asked.  “That’s what’s wrong with the world, you know.  Instead of embracing the mysteries the universe has to offer and trying to determine how they might open a crack in their humdrum, pre-programmed existence, people waste their entire lives explaining it all away, attaching labels to it, filing and categorizing it until it loses any meaning.”  He sighed softly, sadly.


He had a point.  And I’d already been inundated with enough mysteries to know that some things simply had no explanation humans could understand.  ‘Magick is only science not yet understood’.  Words he had said to us in a letter more than a year before rattled through my mind up there in the middle of the night, in the middle of nowhere, looking down on a distant world that seemed far more unreal to me at that moment than the world Orlando had been trying to teach me to see.  He was there.  Whether physically, in some spirit-form manifestation, or only in my imagination is ultimately of no importance whatsoever, for in the sorcerer’s world there is no difference between body and spirit, and in any world, perception is reality.  I did perceive him, and what he said to me is of greater importance than how he came to be waiting for me in that desolate location high above the civilized world.


“Sometimes the silence up here is absolutely deafening,” he mused, more than a simple observation.


I listened.  At first I couldn’t hear it above the noisy chatter of my own thoughts, but as I gradually stopped the internal dialogue and settled into that place of pure existence, observation and silent awareness of gnosis, I began to hear what Orlando had intended me to hear.  Not a cricket nor an owl disturbed the stillness.  The lights of Palm Springs and Indio were only distant glitterings, the line of traffic crawling along I-10 nothing more than an illumined ant trail, so distant the movement of the cars could not even be perceived.  Just a line of lights in the middle of the desert, a phantasm, a chimera, a miasma of lost souls rushing headlong through the night, yet seeming to stand still.  A fitting paradox.


 But above it all, penetrating all of it, permeating the very air – deeper than the air, and into the fabric of the cosmos itself – a shrill, high-pitched scream.  At first, my mind scrambled around for its usual rational explanation.  In the absence of any real external sound, I told myself, remembering some old prattle from a high school biology class or some other ancient source of information I had always accepted as The Voice of the Real World, the ear drums began to actually pick up the sounds of one’s own body.  That scream, I told myself adamantly, was nothing more than the blood rushing through my own arteries, or perhaps even the electrical synapse of the brain itself as it was deprived of one of its ordinary senses.  It was the silence a deaf man might hear, I rationalized.  It was the silence of Beethoven’s last years, the melancholy of his unfinished symphonies.


  There are no words to describe it, yet most of us have heard it at some time or another in our lives – at least those who have been fortunate enough to find a place of solitude where that silence can exist, a place away from all the background noises we normally tune out in the course of living.  We’re surrounded by the noise of the hive. As I sit here in my office, there are literally dozens of noises.  The hum of the computer.  The clack of the plastic keys.  A whine of tires on asphalt.  Barking dogs.  The call of a raven.  Other sounds I can no longer directly perceive, for they are so much a part of my reality that they are simply accepted as natural.  Noise.  Sometimes when a black-out occurs, we get a glimpse of that silence for a moment or two, when the normally-unnoticed hum of the refrigerator stops and the motor on the fish tank is stilled and the subliminal murmur of all the digital clocks and such are finally silenced.  Maybe then, if we can stop our own internal dialogue and just listen, we can catch an edge of that deafening silent scream.


Orlando laughed as if hearing my very thoughts.  “It’s the scream nobody wants to hear,” he said, though I didn’t care what he said, for ultimately he was right.  That silent screaming was so loud and so permeating to the very core of my cells that all I wanted in that moment was to drown it out, distract myself from it.


  For a moment or an eternity, I found myself back in my old life, back in the identity I had inhabited before I ever embarked on this strange journey.  There was always noise in the house, I recalled.   ‘Background noise,’ I had called it then.  I’d turn on the t.v. for company.  If the t.v. was off, the CD player was gnawing on Credence or Enya or The Moody Blues.  If all else failed, I could always pick up the phone and lose myself in mindless prattle with friends for hours.  Back then, I’d thought of it all as just normal.  We lived in a technological world, so what was the harm of having it all?  The only thing I ever did in silence back then was my writing, and even that could hardly be called silence, for the very act of writing requires an active and cohesive internal dialogue.


  I wanted to mention all of this to Orlando, but I had become so engulfed by that silent screaming – which was growing progressively louder as we sat there with our gazes fixed on the flickering lights far, far below – that I was completely unable to speak.  At times, there would be lulls in that scream.  Then it would start up again, fade, return.  Occasionally, there would be true silence, but as I listened and began to try to analyze the phenomenon, I realized it had no particular pattern.  Indeed, it didn’t seem to be one silent scream at all, but literally millions – billions – of screams all laid down on top of one another like tracks of music.


 But more than that, it was as if that scream was imbedded with a despair so heavy that it reminded me of a black star – a gravitational field so dense that not even light could escape.


  “What is that?” I whispered, filled with awe and terror at once, for when I delved beyond the surface explanations and the rational analysis and all the other consensual reality-checks one does when faced with something one does not immediately recognize as part of the ordinary reality continuum, I came to realize that what I was hearing was not at all explainable in any terms I had ever called normal.  It was a normal experience – available to anyone willing to find a place silent enough to actually listen – but it did not conform to the normal explanations we have been taught to believe.  It was not the rushing of blood through my own ears, for it was external as much as internal.  It was not the synapse of my awestruck brain.  It was not the sound of one hand clapping.


 “What do you think it is?” Orlando asked, his voice a welcome intrusion into the darkness and the dread and the realization that something utterly profound was happening.


I knew perfectly well what it was, but I was afraid to say it, not only because the answer wasn’t rational according to the standards of the society in which I lived, but because I didn’t want to believe it.  That dreadful, despairing scream, I knew, was the death scream of every living creature who had ever walked the earth.  It was the wail of horror and despair choked out at the moment of death before being forever fragmented back into the fabric of the night that never ends.


It was the realization of the businessman that he had sold his life to a corporation that could do nothing to save his soul.  It was the last-breath comprehension of the devoted wife and mother that she had lived her entire life vicariously, through the accomplishments and failures of others.  It was the lonely weeping of the film star or the well-loved novelist who understood only when it was too late that the adoration of others could do nothing to launch one’s consciousness across the abyss and into some possible continuity.


  That scream was the final moment of awareness of The True Believer that there was nothing out there in the darkness but darkness itself, no God and no devil waiting to harvest his soul, for ultimately it was the eye-opening, deathbed awareness that the soul itself does not and cannot exist unless one has devoted more than passing and passive interest to one’s true identity – the “I Am” that can only be made cohesive and viable by the real efforts of each and every individual human being.


          It was, as simply as can be stated, the final moment of awareness that overcomes a consciousness just before that awareness is brutally but impersonally snuffed out for good.  It was the horror of finally understanding that no external force can offer salvation or damnation – but far worse than that, it was the moment of realizing that one’s own life had been nothing more than a series of illusions piled one on top of the other like so many blankets, none of them real, none of them having any meaning beyond the existence of its own self-contained play.  And, finally, it was the horrific comprehension that one had willingly bought into that play, put on one’s costume for the entirety of one’s life, and had essentially done nothing more than recite the lines required by The Husband, The Father, The Wife, The Mother, The Daughter, The Son, The Christian or the Atheist, The Republican or The Democrat.


It was, in the end, the scream that resulted when one finally realizes one has been lied to, duped, misled, and literally programmed to serve the very social organism which perpetuates the program in the first place. And, most appalling of all, that final scream was the wail of understanding that one really wasn’t a victim and never had been.  It had always been a choice to live within the program or take the first step to start climbing outside of the program in an effort to get to know the consciousness that resides above and beyond the reflection in one’s own mirror.


The scream, then, was the outraged despair of those who had never taken that step.


The struggle to see beyond the programs we have been fitted with merely by virtue of being human is the most difficult struggle one will ever undertake.  By virtue of living in certain societies, certain beliefs are more or less automatic.  Until fairly recently, if one lived in the United States, it was an automatic assumption that one was Christian and that one celebrated Christmas.  Only within the past couple of decades do we begin to see Hannukah cards or Kwanzaa greetings, or any sort of acknowledgement that perhaps – just perhaps – there are belief systems that do not necessarily agree with our own intrinsic program.  In short, we accept the reality with which we are presented.  Simply by virtue of being human, for example, we accept that “all things die”.  But instead of going against that program, that belief system, we weave pretty fables within the belief system itself to offer comfort to ourselves.  We weave tales of heaven and hell, and blame all our woes on the myth of Adam and Eve, never stopping to consider that each of us is Adam and each of us is Eve – we have free will, too, and we can choose to go on living in the blind ignorance of our fantasy garden, or we can take that forbidden fruit of real Knowledge and claim responsibility for our own salvation.


This path is Do-able, I thought, trying to find some hope, some comfort that didn’t require blind faith in external forces.  I thought of the experiences of the past few years, since Orlando’s first letter showed up in November of 1994.  The things I had learned weren’t dependent on faith or any church or even on Orlando himself.  What I knew I knew from personal experience – the only real source of Knowledge.  I could answer the first question:  who are you?  At the very least, I could answer it better than I had been able to when that question was first asked back in 1988.  It was the only question that ultimately had any meaning, for within that question was the path of discovery that would last a lifetime and beyond.


The scream, I knew, was the scream of all the men and women who had never asked that question.  Or if they ever did, they went looking for the answer in what they did for a living and the belief systems they uploaded into their lives like so much changeable, obsolete software.  It was all the regrets of all the human beings who had ever lived a meaningless life or died a pointless death, that last-moment realization that all of it had been in vain, regardless of what we have all been taught to believe, the program instilled into us since birth.


It was the inability to answer the first question  - "Who are you?"  That was what the scream really was.


All these thoughts went tumbling through my head as I sat there listening to that terrible, unending scream.  It was all the ugliness of the truth we choose to turn away from, and it was the reason for all the noise in the world – the noise we used to distract ourselves from hearing that scream, the inner dialogue we had instilled within ourselves to keep ourselves forever deafened to that one hideous, horrible, inescapable truth that no one ever wanted to look at:  our own mortality.


I cannot stress enough that the scream was real.  More real than the stars overhead or the breath in my own insignificant mortal lungs.  And I most certainly cannot stress adequately how desperately I did not want to believe it, for to believe it meant having to accept complete and total responsibility for my own soul, my own continuity beyond death, my own answer to the first question.  I wanted it to be otherwise.  I wanted to believe in God or goodness or even evil, for any of those external forces would have offered an explanation that would have exonerated me from that responsibility for which there is no outline or set of instructions readily available.


I thought of something a close friend has said on and off throughout this journey - that it causes her to see the world in an ugly perspective, and that she has often considered turning away from the ongoing journey in the hopes of re-embracing some of the beauty she once found so prevalent in life.   Personally, I have never had that particular reaction, and indeed I have found the removing of the blinders to be the most beautiful experience of a lifetime, but each of us sees the world through different glasses.  To me, seeing what the world can be apart from the roles, the programs and the illusions is the beauty of it.


    When we drag ourselves beyond the programs and finally dare to take a look at the truth, the truth is that nature is a relentless but impersonal bastard.  We are born mortal and we will return to the dust if nature is allowed to take the path of least resistance.  The only alternative to that is the alternative nature has provided.  Evolution itself.  Self-willed-boot-strap evolution.



But even that thought was too overwhelming that night overlooking the human world, because at that time I couldn’t begin to fathom how to go about forging an “I Am” identity that might have a chance of assembling itself into some form of ongoing cohesive sentience beyond my mortal death. I didn’t even have the words at that time to formulate that concept, only a vague sense that there must be a way, but a lingering anger that it wasn’t immediately and easily revealed to me.   And so, for that reason alone – that I didn’t know how to begin the real work – I wanted nothing more than to throw up a wall of stubborn denial and disbelief, fall right back into the consensual reality’s program, and pretend like hell I never heard that scream at the edge of the world.


“Ah,” Orlando sighed as if I had said something of great significance even though I never spoke out loud.  “Now you’re beginning to see how reality is really built.  When the average man encounters something he doesn’t want to believe, he will spare no expense of time, energy and money – even wars and blood – to spin a more palatable story in which he does want to believe.  Why do you think there are so many religions in the world, so many different beliefs that are all really the same belief system just re-dressed over and over again?  More than a savior, Man’s been looking for a scapegoat since he first crawled out of the primordial soup and reared up on his hind legs.”


A satellite was passing overhead, a silent, lonely star with technological agendas I could not fathom.  Orlando’s words made me irritable, for the insinuation was that I was trying to throw up a wall of stubborn denial and disbelief and fall back into the consensual reality’s program.


Silence fell between us, but I knew I would never hear the silence the same way again.  I wanted to blame him for that.  I scuffled my feet to interrupt that terrible screaming, but it wasn’t enough.  I couldn’t obliterate it.  The screaming and the despair, was like something out of Milton, I thought.   The real Hell was that there was nothing and no one out there to blame.  There was only life, death, and perception.  No god.  No devil.  Not even good and evil, which are only human doings.


I didn’t like it one bit.  It wasn’t pretty.  Against the backdrop of the jagged, unforgiving terrain all around me, I was insignificant and small.  Fragile.  Out there in the desert alone at night, I could tumble off a cliff and break my neck, or simply drop dead of a heart attack or a stroke.  And in the end, it wouldn’t matter much – not really.  Not in the big picture, which was spread out before me – a blanket of stars dropped down over the Earth from light-years away.  I was seeing the past in those stars – the light that I was perceiving having been transmitted years or even centuries in the past.  Nothing was real.  Not even time.  For all I really knew, all the stars had already burned out.


 “We talk about this evolution of consciousness all the time, Orlando,” I finally said, not liking the complaining tone in my own voice, but unable to filter it out just then.  “But the truth is that I don’t know what to do or how to do it!  My friends all think I’m certifiable, and half the time I don’t even know who I am anymore!”


He was thoughtful for a moment, then I heard him sigh, a soft sound of amusement.  “Good,” he said at last.


I sputtered, disbelieving.  “But I don’t know who I am!” I exploded, surprised by my own outburst, wondering if he hadn’t heard me the first time.


“At least you now know who you are not,” he replied, looking at me intently.  "At least you have shed the false identities you spent the first 35 years of your life trying on, yes?"




Not up to his scrutiny, I stood up and walked to the stone wall that marked the edge of the path.  Beyond it lay a series of rock formations and jagged cliffs, 6,000 feet of space between me and the glistening lights spread out in the distant country club valleys below.  Though it was August, a strong, cold wind drafted up from those forbidding rocks, whistling eerily through the crannies, momentarily obliterating that awful screaming silence.


I closed my eyes, taking a breath of the darkness and the night.  A voice in my mind whispered, “You can stay if you want.”  The image that accompanied the invitation was an unformed idea of lingering like a ghost on that stone wall for all of eternity, watching the tourists come and go, listening to their conversations, tossing sand in their beer cans in the guise of the wind.  It was an invitation that was both appealing and unnerving, for I wasn’t at all sure what I was being offered.  


I turned to say something to Orlando, but the bench was empty again.  I thought I heard footsteps on the path leading back to the parking lot, but when I looked, the only sign of movement was a lone coyote walking soundlessly down the road, a silver ghost in fading moonglow.  For a single moment, the coyote turned and met my eyes, and there was something in his gaze – something haunted and hungry and real – that told me he, too, heard the screams.


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