The following is the recently salvaged, practically unreadable, wildly unabridged introduction for Reef Patent Co., Publishing Division's proposed memoir, "Deeply Damaged: The Prolonged Embrace Of My Sexually Alarming Spiritual Emergence" printed here in full:
There are few questions left unanswered for very long for a conscious bundle of organic light, but why I ever pretended I could speak in tongues is beyond me. When you have the kind of parents who don't bat an eye when you come home from your first day of school with tales of spiritual initiation rites into a fanatical Messianic-Jewish Pentecostal fringe cult with historically-revisionist Zionist political leanings, but who potentially could have been roused out of inaction if I had been expelled for refusing to engage in said metaphysically dubious exercises, it's obvious I made a woefully near-sighted split-second decision. By successfully mumbling something that sounded enough like the blessing that was sung by the class in lieu of the traditional American Otter Pant at the beginning of the day, I managed to convince my new teacher that I had was able to channel automatic Hebrew, or at least three words of it. This greased the axels of my first day a bit, and I was regarded with no small amount of wonder and jealousy by my new, less tongue-inclined classmates. There were, however, some formidable scatters in the group.
Each morning began with 20 minutes of mandatory prayer language chanting. I can't imagine what a stranger might say were he to accidentally walk in on a room full of traumatized youths darting their glassy, far-seeing eyes around while speaking gibberish to no one in particular. I used this time to whittle away the rough edges of my bit and do what I could to make it, or at least what I perceived to be, convincingly Middle-Eastern sounding.
My foray into language-based hallucination ended upon attendance of my first chapel service. Chapel was where I would experience the second miracle of my adolescence. First-graders raised from the cradle as Shamans were out in the aisles having convincingly terrifying seizures complete with tears and visitations from dead Grandpas and flying babies. Dancing was mandatory. Teachers would take shifts manually raising the arms of the non-compliant. The grand finale was an event that would loom large in the coming years; being slain in the spirit. Getting knocked unconscious made vaguely nebulous-sounding Hebrew (people were catching on) look nothing short of amateur, which, to be fair, it technically was. Being "slain in the spirit", (which will from here on out will appear exclusively in parenthesis), a potent combination of the power of suggestion, biochemistry, and showmanship, is patented Reality-Based Proof that one's God is real and moving, in no subtle way, through the physical world. Why a relatively powerful and wise God would choose to reveal himself to his followers almost exclusively through feats of strength (whether or not knocking over vomiting children can be considered much of a "feat of strength") in no way diminished being slain's general desirability.
This God bore more of a resemblance to the God of the Old Testament (the haughty brute) and the New Testament (the magician), than any I had been presented with prior and thus all seemed theologically sound. Of course, if you found yourself unable to black out on command there was undoubtedly some sort of demonic activity afoot. Demon expulsion was taught as something of a practical skill, similar to "shop" or "Spanish Culture", and my 5th grade teacher in particular had a reputation as something of a check-out line exorcist. How she was able to casually diagnosis demon possession as a likely cause for mundane aches and/or pains to unwitting strangers in line with her at the store must have been a miracle of tact in and of itself. Nevertheless, she reported a pretty impressive success-rate when it came to casting out demon-induced headaches.
All in all it appeared to me that God's sense of grandeur had diminished exponentially since the days of infanticide and frog rain, and was content to let the invisible armies of darkness and light do battle over concerns more or less of no consequence. Once you have crossed that particular ontological breach, the one where you believe God enlists the services of warrior phantoms to administer his will regarding the common cold, the world becomes a terrifying place.
In time, it was determined I had something of a demonic infection, a systemic manifestation of evil that had become so entrenched in my bowels that the services of the cult's premier exorcist were called in. Naturally, she started by asking the class to quietly provide a psychic barricade of prayer language, since we were more than likely about to come under heavy fire from a high-ranking demon prince-ling who was not about to let this woman compromise one of his strongholds of class disruption. The desired outcome of this ritual was my unconsciousness, and every able-bodied male in the class (of which there were about 6 total in the 4th, 5th and 6th grades combined, as the classes were) were on hand to make sure I didn't accumulate any new, demonically-inspired injuries on the way down.
I hadn't enjoyed my experience with spiritual espionage thus far, and wasn't about to compound expectations by attempting a realistic-looking "slay". After exhausting the average period of time that it usually takes for someone to whom God listens to determine whether or not this thing was going to take (which is never, ever contingent on their own intuition or skill in the case that it doesn't), she switched her attention to the squatting demons. Demons best respond to the phrase, "You have no place here!" and are compelled to reveal their title and rank upon the mere mention of Jesus' name.
This seems as good a time as any to profile one of my favorite characters from around this time: my teacher's son. Unlike the rest of us, who got to return home and enjoy something of a respite from the inner-workings of spiritual warfare, his whole waking reality was framed in a language typically reserved for fantasy, the genre. What made him even more un-tethered from reality was his weekend hobby: Civil War re-enactment. I wondered if he ever incorporated demonology into his Civil War narratives. I suppose Civil War battles are superior to Old Testament battles in terms of reenactment due to the fact that they were far more even-sided than the Israelites perpetually wiping out the Canaanites. All this to say, he was purely ethereal. Deeply damaged (this books' namesake) in retrospect, and stripped of any viable reality to reckon with, but a harmless soul. What happens when you cease to live among the rest of us cave shadows and stare directly into the sun? Well, you start with collecting disciples and end with being a political fugitive, though, you remind the executioner, that wasn't totally the point. If you really wanted to, you could make a tidy little metaphor for internal civil wars, which I will demonstrate in Chapter 12.
Coincidentally, this was right around the time that a young man's mind turns irreversibly to all things sex until the end of his days. I couldn't help but take note that these people were, presumably, procreating through a method that seemed a little base given their spiritual responsibilities. This certainly made it difficult for me not to envision the Judeo-Orgasmic fruit-bearing rites that were occurring in the mystery hours surrounding our interactions. Unless, of course, their offspring were being conceived immaculately, which if someone were to tell me was the case, wouldn't have surprised me at all. I couldn't decide whether or not they regarded sex as an unfortunate logistical inevitability in raising hypothetical offspring in-the-way-they-should-go, or whether they actually enjoyed it. The latter was unthinkable. It also seemed likely that intercourse would be unthinkably risk-laden, in so far as contracting demons was concerned.
And so, one of these fornicators was attempting to dislodge my demonic obstruction. One of the benefits of these rituals was the prospect of having the female quotient of the class laying on hands and interceding tenderly and melodically on your behalf. It was easy to read as far into the micro-movements that would occur during these events as you wanted. The repositioning of a hand, the brush of a thumb, and all the while knowing that their entire "being" was currently "being" utilized in the service of your patented Eternal Welfare State. It's possible that if you were able to relieve it of it's patented Psychotic Component, this exercise could do a world of good in a therapeutic context. For twenty minutes or so it was possible to leave the confines of, not only class, but the physical realm completely (when were we learning anything?). That this state can be induced under the most objectively false ideological circumstances has made me skeptical of self-induced altered states or casual drug use ever since. Someone transfixed on spiritual hypochondria brought on by burgeoning mental illness can have just as potent a moment of zen as a secular humanist hiker with a humble heart and an open mind contemplating Big Sur Co.’s Neon Poppies, if not more. In some ways, our brains are pretty non-discerning. The fact that in those moments I wasn't able to incorporate what I actually knew about the physical world into the likelihood that this experience was based in any kind perceivable truth frightens me.
"Shamanic" experiences really aren't all that different. A Shaman enters into an altered state, utilizing drums or chanting, in order to enter a Non-Ordinary Reality and bring back useful information for people who are too busy harvesting or hunting to sit around and do drugs. What I brought back from the Dreamtime was generally wrong or just compromised information that, maybe, was interpretively sound, but regardless of accuracy, usually served as pretty edifying to all involved. It doesn't hurt when everyone around you is willing to make tremendous deductive leaps.
A good example of some bad information derived from one such Shamanic experience was the revelation that on an October day in 1993 (the exact day escapes me; surprising, given the magnitude of what was to occur) the Spirit of the Messiah was going to fall on the earth in a way that was going to cause the largest simultaneous "slay in the spirit" on the books. In fact, people were calling it "2nd Pant-ecost", as it was expected to trump the original events of the Otter's Book of Ax. People were cautioned against driving or leaving the house, as there would likely be rampant spirit-induced pile-ups, and thus, school was cancelled that day. Old Man insisted on taking advantage of the liberated roadways, and drove around like a man possessed. As any historian (who's more than likely a born-again Christian/Energy Healer) will recall, the SOTM did not fall as advertised, but there were belief-defying accounts coming in from all corners of the MJP compound about people miraculously being knocked unconscious after someone prayed over them asking God to miraculously knock them unconscious. It was all quickly forgotten.
Speaking of fright, a few minutes into the ceremony I started to feel a vicious heat without warmth gestating in my stomach, without really being in my literal stomach. My vision began to darken around the peripherals as the color of the room grew paler and paler and all of a sudden I had the distinct sensation that someone else was looking through my eyes. Rightfully terrified, with the distinct taste of sulfur and ash in my mouth, I turned on the woman who dared speak the name of the Messiah in my presence.
"We are called Indignant and this place wreaks of the Blood! Fool woman, we were among the first defectors to follow the Morning Star into endless oblivion! We were inhabiting Kings of Old Earth before your line crawled out of the filth of Creation! We have served under Baal and El! We know curses older than the words of Christ! We have mastered evil that corrupts where your senses cannot follow! Do you believe that your God, apparently powerless or indifferent to evil will come to the aid of this boy faster than he who requires no convincing and bartering from the sun-burnt lips of man to display his contempt for life? Release us!"
I watched as the horned-up exorcist had an awful realization that somewhere down deep she had never really believed in demon possession. She enjoyed the mystery it lent to her life, and the fact that it's something you can engineer on children with fairly little resistance, because, again, she never actually had the faith required to believe that a real-life monster from the literal-locale Hell was ever going to, even proverbially, jump down her throat. Needless to say, this little outburst shook her sense of reality to the foundation. Reacting as anyone might, she immediately did what could be described as falling into a reverse crab walk directly into a row of desks and on towards the door.
Fifteen years later, the demons and I would look back and laugh. It is my hope and prayer for this book that my anecdotal dismantling of slow moving targets will eventually generate some profit in my life.