Beyond the Island
by John W. Steele
Young Brian Mudd is proud of his ability to travel in the astral realms — until he encounters Lord Nagual, who prefers to be called “Max.” Brian becomes Max’s apprentice and finds him a harsh, even cruel master but nonetheless an effective instructor. Meanwhile, Brian is taken with Karen Frost, with whom he feels he has a karmic link. And Brian’s karma is trouble.
The sun was beginning to descend on the horizon, and twilight would soon draw nigh. I gathered my wits and headed back down the mountain. It was difficult to concentrate, and I acted on instinct. It seemed I’d become disassociated from my body and existed as a force outside myself. There was a body beside and below me, and I controlled the figure the way a puppeteer manipulates a marionette.
But I did not dwell within the body, and it existed as a living shell. I willed the body to clap its hands and jump up and down every so often to keep my concentration focused on it. I feared if I lost contact with the body, I would not be able to return to it. The walls of my island were tenuous, but I was afraid to give it up.
When I reached the lodge, I collapsed in a chair and sat in a state of a stupor. A physical discomfort that bordered on exhaustion ached deep in my bones. My arms and legs seemed to be made of lead. A sound like a blaring siren screamed in my ears, and a splitting migraine throbbed from temple to temple. The familiar surroundings helped to structure my attention and provided me with enough orientation that the feeling of being separated lost much of its intensity; but my hands were trembling, and I needed a drink.
I stumbled over to the bar and opened a bottle of Stone Haven. I poured a tall glass of the whiskey, set the bottle on the table, and fell back into the chair. A glorious orange and golden sun shone on the horizon. I admired its magnificence through the massive cathedral picture window at the front of the lodge. Shafts of yellow light illuminated a crimson and azure sky. I wondered if the angels ever looked down upon this world and sighed with yearning at the majesty of this broken place.
I could not fathom how anything so splendorous could be a hell, but my world now seemed like a hell. It was true that the world was a beautiful place and shared its great abundance. But it was also a burning inferno filled with want and desperation for humans and animals and, according to Max, creatures in other realms of existence as well.
Max claimed that’s why the island and all that exists separate from the Absolute is an illusion. And even the archons and powers that dwell in the celestial realms of Id are subject to desire. He said evolution and devolution were dependent on desire. He once told me that the Unborn would never tolerate the atrocities a wanderer commits with the free will it’s been granted. But the gift of free will was given without reservation to man, and not even the highest archons can overrule a human’s volition. Max claimed the significance of this gift could not be fathomed by anyone but a Nagual.
He said that without the infinite wisdom and sweetness of the Unborn, an islander always incarcerates itself in hell, no matter how delightful the temporary pleasures it believes will give it satisfaction.
“The Id fathers the ego,” Max said. “And when a wanderer becomes ensnared in Id, his downfall is assured. It is a wise apprentice indeed that takes responsibility for his actions. The paths that lead to the downfall are resplendent with the love of self more than the love of the Absolute. Islands are created when gods and angels mistake themselves for the Unborn.”
But an intellectual understanding was not what I needed now. I needed a drink. Since I’d become the Lord Nagual’s apprentice, I’d started drinking to ease the burden of my conscience and numb the memories of the past. I found that whenever I was lost or broken, drinking reassured me that I would survive whatever experience I needed to endure. I knew there were times that drinking had soothed my burning psyche enough to save my life. But Max said I was attached to a false impression of apathy and indifference, and that drugs and alcohol destroy the reserve of personal power required to transcend the island.
As I watched the final rays of the sun succumb to the spirit of night, a memory bubbled to the surface. I recalled a story Max told me one time while we were traveling to a far away cluster of energy he called Mahadhis.
This domain of energy lay eleven billion eons to the west near the very center of the limbic system. He said that there were primordial forces in this sector of mind descended directly from Id, and that he wanted me to be familiar with them. He claimed the limbic sphere was the root of all creativity and that an awareness of the powers that dwelled there was the secret to peaceful coexistence with them.
As we hurled through the fathomless darkness, he told me about a man who had lived in France at the turn of the 17th century. The man’s name was Count Henri Medici. The count was a vintner and lorded over numerous thriving vineyards. Medici had many servants, and his lands extended from horizon to horizon. His great wealth provided him with the opportunity to indulge in all his passions, but his favorite pastime was raising enormous swine.
Count Medici had bred three monstrous pigs that weighed over a ton each. His favorite swine was a gluttonous black boar named Xavier. The beast had an ominous set of ivory tusks with which it inflicted great harm or even death on anything or anyone who came in contact with it. The pig’s surly disposition had earned it the honor of being known as the demon ogre and the beast was ravenous, irritable, and vicious. But Count Medici found great joy in his pigs and treated them with care.
The swine had won many ribbons and awards, and they were renowned throughout the land. The Count became so obsessed with the beasts that he focused all his energies on them. His only ambition was to increase the size and weight of the crapulous animals.
One day after the annual festival in the province, Henri went off to celebrate with his friends. He’d won all the honors in the contests for swine, and he felt pride and great satisfaction in his accomplishment.
Henri became intoxicated, and when he returned to his estate, the pigs were waiting for him. When he stepped from his carriage, the animals squealed. Henri adored the sounds the pigs made and he went to check on his babies. The field hands had secured the beasts behind a rugged post and beam fence, and the swine wallowed in the pen.
The count hummed a tune and stumbled towards the pigsty. He climbed up on the fence and stood on the broad plank at the top. The pigs howled and their high-pitched squeal shook the rustic old barn. Henri looked down upon his beloved creations and was filled with a sense of glory.
As a token of affection, Henri pissed on Xavier’s nose. This had always aroused the beast and increased its appetite and aggression. The pig’s long pink tongue shot out and licked its snout. Xavier grew insane, and agitated, and butted the fence post with its thick broad skull. Count Medici lost his balance and tumbled into the sty. The pigs trampled him unconscious and then ate him alive.
I was not sure what Lord Nagual was trying to relate to me by this story and I could see no correlation between my predicament and the actions of a drunken pig farmer.
“That’s an amazing tale,” I said, “but what does it have to do with me?”
“Did the count die because the pigs killed him, or did he die because he was drunk and indifferent to the Lord of Death?” Max asked.
I wanted to try and outfox Max, and I said, “Henri died because it was his time to die.” I felt smug about this answer and I believed I’d unraveled the story’s meaning.
“That’s precisely the kind of answer that will get you killed. If it was Henri’s time to die, he would not have needed the pigs to do it, and his death might have been far more merciful. Medici seized a moment of his own volition and allowed death to enter his island. The impairment of his judgment was the key he used to unlock a window in the veil and invite Xavier in to kill him.
“It was his sense of self-importance and indifference to the realities of his island that blinded him. For a brief moment in time, he lost his respect for death and that error in judgment tragically ended his life. Death can be lurking anywhere, pork chop, even in the mud. Death is not proud. It rarely refuses an invitation.
“An islander’s evolution and devolution is determined by the quality of his reason and the decisions implemented through the limitless power of his free will. If reason is flawed or darkened, the result is insanity.”
This story had not made sense to me for a long time. But now I understood what Max was trying to tell me. I was often reckless and indifferent about the dangers on my island. I realized that I’d been inviting the spirit of death into my life when I grew apathetic and careless in my behavior and actions. I could no longer blame my drinking on Max or the circumstances associated with my island. I had free will and the finger pointed at me.
I poured the contents of the glass back into the bottle. I was glad I had finally unraveled the enigma about the pigs, but insights come and go. They’re no reason to waste good scotch. I staggered into the bedroom and fell asleep as soon as my head hit the pillow.
Copyright © 2009 by John W. Steele