Moral Philosophy: The Novel – youwriteon featured WIP

Okay, so behind schedule already, but here’s the first of the 2011 ones-to-watch from peer-review-site youwriteon.

Spiritual Philosophy: the Novel is the work of Grimsby-born author Anthony C. Green who gets up at six of a morning to squeeze in some quality writing time around the day-job.

Well, we’ve all been there! John Grisham notoriously got up at five every morning to write A Time To Kill, and after fifteen rejections it finally got published. And bombed. Luckily for us readers, Grisham had all but completed his second work by then, so wasn’t put off. The Firm went on to establish him as one of the world’s leading legal-thriller writers. You can be sure he doesn’t get up a five every morning nowadays!

Now Anthony’s Spiritual Philosophy: the Novel is not a legal thriller, and not yet ready to become next year’s best-seller. It’s a work-in-progress, so make due allowance.

The point of platforms like youwriteon is to let new writers (and many established writers) test their material, get feedback, and hone their skills.

Yes, sometimes the assignments we receive can leave one helpless with laughter, pitying the poor sole deluded enough to put such a piece into the den of lions that is a peer-group review site. But no-one is born a professional writer. We all started out writing embarrassing pieces we’re now thankful have been lost forever.

And sometimes youwriteon produces some real gems. Occasionally near-perfect. More often a rough diamond.

Spiritual Philosophy: the Novel falls into the latter category. A rough diamond, yes, but the potential shines through.

It’s a work in progress, and the author has no pretentions otherwise. Much still to be done, but what there is shows real promise, which is why I’m very happy to bring it to a wider audience here.

Next year’s best-seller? Who can say?

Enjoy it as a WIP, and if you’ve any constructive comments to make, you can free-will review it on youwriteon at any time.

And hopefully we’ll get to see the finished article on Amazon Kindle soon, and in the bookshops somewhere down the line.

Spiritual Philosophy: the Novel


Read Feed : ““You see old chap I see things; things that other people do not see. Strange, I know, but true. And I see something in you, young man; something very, very special. Something, one might say, unique.” “

Author : Anthony C Green

Genre : Literary Fiction, Novel, General Fiction

Synopsis: A Cult. Two teenage Messiah’s. A journalist obsessed by all things fringe and marginal. A girlfriend in a coma. Nazi parents. Obscure cultural references. Outsider art. Meditations on the nature of belief. Hallucinogenic drugs. Auto erotic asphyxiation. Thai bar girls. Post Modernism. Spiritual Philosophy: the Novel has all of this and more.

Spiritual Philosophy: the Novel

ONE

Like many things nowadays it started with an email:

“Hi
My name is Paul Collins…” it said “…I work for New Century magazine. I would like to discuss a matter that will be to your advantage. Please reply ASAP in order to arrange a meeting. Time and venue of your choosing.”

I knew what it was about of course, even though it had now been some years since the last journalistic approach. I quickly deleted it along with an offer of penile enlargement and a message from a deposed African Princess informing me that I had been randomly chosen to inherit her ludicrously inflated fortune. I continued with my mind numbingly dull workload until the oversized, slow moving office clock finally announced four – thirty and tried to forget my former exalted status.

The phone calls came next. I returned home the evening after that first email to find Deborah at the stove cooking one of her deliciously pungent concoctions. Her back was towards me, her flowered, towelling dressing gown tied tight around her expanded but still diaphanous waist. Time was I would have embraced her and fondled her, dragged her uncomplaining to the bedroom, or the living room sofa, or the hallway, or the stairs, or the floor, or the most secluded part of the garden in order to work up a proper appetite. But ten years together, eight as man and wife had inevitably diminished our passion and so I confined myself to a mumbled ‘Hi’ and got something not dissimilar in return.

The evening adopted a familiar pattern. I showered and changed into my pyjamas and gown whilst Deborah made the finishing, expert touches to our meal. We ate in near silence and then I tidied the kitchen, forcing myself, as usual to suppress my annoyance at Deborah re doing most of my endeavours. After the rubbish had been taken out and the floor mopped I settled down to a night in front of the television, a large packet of teeth rotting sweets at my side whilst my wife disappeared to the room that we had for so long waited in vain to convert into a nursery in order to work on her writing. Deborah teaches English. But that has always been a poor substitute for the attainment of her real dream. She had written three novels by this time. Each one filed away unread by the world, including by me. “I just need the right idea”, she often said.

The first phone call came in the empty gap between the two episodes of Coronation Street.
“Hello, could I speak to Carl Patterson please?” The voice was posh with rough edges, or perhaps working class with an educated sheen.
“Yes. Speaking.”
“My name is Paul Collins. I emailed you earlier?”
I hate the way that people, ever since the unwelcome incursion of the Australian soap opera onto these shores have begun to raise the intonation of their voice as though asking a question, even when making a statement of fact. Deborah does it. I even sometimes do it myself, unconsciously.
“Did you?”
“Yes, I wondered if we might meet up; to talk about your time in the Illumination Movement?”
“I think you’ve got the wrong man,” I said, terminating the conversation.

We seemed to live in the park, my friends Andy and Alun and I, that first post school summer two decades and a lifetime earlier. We were sixteen and adulthood and a world of limitless possibility stretched before us. But I was in no hurry to embrace it, not yet. It was obvious, as it is to all teenagers, or at least to all teenage boys, that I would live forever and that I could be whatever it was that I decided to be, whenever I chose to make the effort to be it. What was the hurry? For the present, I was content just to hang out, happy to at last be free of teachers and lessons, free to hang out with my friends smoking roll ups and drinking cheap sherry, skimming stones across the duck lake, laying on the grass watching bright sunny afternoons turn into long warm summer evenings filled with the drama of youth. The giro cheque that dropped onto my parents frayed doormat every second Thursday was quite adequate to my simple needs, and when the money ran dry, well then there was Andy’s giro to fall back on, then Alun’s, then back to my own. What need was there to work? Besides, this was the Eighties, the decade when Thatcher made youth unemployment respectable, almost a badge of honour to be worn with surly pride.

There were always girls around the park too. A man’s teenage years are often years that flatter to deceive with respect to the ready availability of sex. These were not, on the whole, the kind of girls whom I would wish take home to meet my parents, other than now and again as an exercise in demonstrating that I was, contrary to their probable expectations, growing into a normal, healthy, heterosexual young man with a normal, healthy heterosexual young man’s appetites. But they were most definitely the kind of girls who were easily persuaded into the bushes behind the old wooden bandstand for a quick grope and a fumble. Or more, so long as you were also prepared to demonstrate your responsibility. This was, after all a time when Aids was apparently poised to decimate the population of the earth, a ‘fact’ that had made a packet of condoms in the back pocket an essential lifestyle accessory for a sexually ambitious young man.

Alun and Andy had been my best friends since the commencement of Comprehensive school. Both of them were blonde, blue eyed, good looking, popular in their own that is our own, small world. We laughed a lot in that friendship, though I cannot now easily remember what it was that we laughed about. Looking back, I can see myself clearly in my mind’s eye, doing this, doing that, saying this, saying that, but it is almost as if I had no inner life at all; as though I were a void, an empty vessel, a blank sheet of paper waiting to be written upon. Maybe that is a big part of the reason that I was chosen; or maybe all Sixteen year olds are like that. At any rate, it’s a strange beast, destiny. I would see Andy years later, selling the Big Issue, his blue eyes now deadened and afraid, living on the fringe of civilisation, one of those people for whom it all went too wrong too early, before he had developed the resources necessary to enable him to claw his way back . He did not recognize me, or did not see me, and I felt it better, safer, easier not to acknowledge his diminished presence. As for Alun, he would join the army and die from an IRA bullet, not long before the peace process kicked in. I didn’t go to his funeral. I didn’t really know him by then.

It was Andy who first pointed out the fat middle aged man with thick black, unruly hair and expensive looking if ill fitting clothes watching us from one of the concrete and wood benches that ringed the circular duck lake.
“He’s always there, him; looking at us. Fucking old pervert”, he said as he passed me the QC. We were taking refuge from the mid afternoon sun beneath the large tree on the small hill, our favourite spot. He was right, now he came to mention it. The fat man did always seem to be around, doing nothing, just watching. I laughed and shrugged and moved on to the next passing amusement, just putting the old guy down as a harmless old eccentric, whiling away what little remained of his sad and empty life.

Some days later, Andy had gone off ‘baby sitting’ with Mandy Haggerty, a girl with a long established and well deserved reputation. Alun had been summoned for a ’review’ at the job centre, always a dreaded occurrence in our young lives. I was sitting once more on the hill, counting my loose change, weighing up the relative merits of pie and chips and a half ounce of Golden Virginia, sporadically fending off insect attacks whilst awaiting the return of my friends, a light buzz still evident from two recently imbibed cans of Black Label lager. At first I paid no attention as the man whom I would soon know simply as ‘Uncle Charlie’ waddled amiably towards me.

“Hello,” he said his voice gruff but friendly, his accent verging on what my dad would have called ’cut glass’. I mumbled a disinterested, distracted greeting, dropping the jangle of coins back into my jeans pocket as I did so. The man smiled.
“I’ve been watching you,” he said.

This was back in the days before paedophile hysteria properly kicked in, an innocent time when Gary Glitter was nothing more than a faded pop star whose cartoon glamour added considerably to the gaiety of the nation. Nevertheless, I had still heard about men like this.
“Oh yeh?” I replied, giving off my best adolescent attitude. The fat man broadened his smile.
“Don’t worry old boy, nothing bad, nothing seedy. I just wanted to ask you something, that’s all.”

The ‘old boy’ jarred my ears, but I would soon grow accustomed to his curiously sub public schoolboy mode of speaking.
“Oh yeh?”
I meant ’fuck off’ but was not quite bad boy enough to say it.
“Yes. Do you realise that you are very, very different to your friends, different to an astonishing degree?”

It was a strange question that caught me by surprise and I did not reply because I did not know how to reply. Instead I busied myself attempting to construct a cigarette from the dust remaining in the corner of my home made tobacco tin as the weird interloper continued his weird talk.
“You see old chap I see things; things that other people do not see. Strange, I know, but true. And I see something in you, young man. Something very, very special. Something, one might say, unique.”

Collins rang again the next evening and got similar short shrift. Then he door stepped me, as it were, in the Clown.

Much against the better judgement of my sponsor Angus, an old school AA type who believed that any recovering alcoholic who enters a pub is subconsciously willing a relapse, I often passed an hour or so with a pint of refreshing coke and the evening paper in the Clown after work. It gave me time to unwind after the dull rigours of the day and provided Deborah with the space to crack on with the evening meal after returning from her own labours at the didactic coal face. Besides, I knew that Angus – as much as I was grateful for his past assistance and continuing presence at the end of a telephone – was wrong: staying off the booze is a matter of Will; location is irrelevant.

The pub was virtually empty: just a trio of withered old drinkers in one corner who looked as though they had been in residence since the dawn of time, or at least since the landlord unveiled the ‘Open’ sign; a solitary middle aged peroxide blonde sipping her G and T at the table by the door, cigarettes and lighter at the ready in front of her; and a smattering of my fellow post work office types enjoying a pint or three before returning home to their clinically dead marriages or lifeless gadget laden bachelor pads.

I picked Collins out of the thin crowd immediately: about thirtyish, designer stubble, smart but dishevelled clothing. He looked like I imagined a New Century journalist to look and was of a type that some women might well find attractive. I don’t know if he recognised me through my youthful press cuttings or by mere intuition, but he soon made his approach as I distractedly perused the job section of the local paper.

“Paul Collins…” said Paul Collins, extending a hand that clearly, not unlike my own, was a near stranger to manual labour.
“…we spoke on the phone, I emailed you before that?”
I ignored his hand, merely nodded my acknowledgement of his presence.
“Do you mind if I…” he continued, indicating the chair.
“Free country; relatively,” I said.

He pulled out the chair and sat, placing his delicious smelling whisky and coke with ice on the table in front of him.
“Look, whatever it is you are selling…” I said, “…I am not interested.”
Collins took a liberal swig of his drink.
“Not selling; more buying really.”
“Whatever” I replied, using another modern affectation that I profess to hate.

The journalist pressed on.
“Like I told you in my email, I work for a magazine called New Century; maybe you’ve heard of it?”
I noticed the shape of a cigarette packet in the top pocket of his blazer jacket and briefly wished that I still smoked; that had been the last of my major vices to pass into history. As it happens, I had heard of the magazine; had even read it from time to time. It was basically the top end of the ‘Men’s market.’ It featured long articles on music and film interspersed with reviews of cultish books and slightly politically incorrect essays that never really offended anyone too much. All of this mid brow pontificating made palatable to the hoi polloi by the inclusion of multi page photo’ spreads of beautiful women in expensively sheer lingerie, all shot in a tasteful, post modernistic, knowingly ironic fashion, of course. I shrugged.
“No, I can’t say I have.”

Most of Collins’ next sentence was rendered inaudible by the sudden interjection of the juke box, Queen’s ‘I want to break Free’ exploding into life at the instigation of the plump middle aged peroxide blonde, a woman who looked as though she would once, in her long faded salad days have had her pick of men. The music blasted out at such volume that the glasses on the table in front of us trembled as though there had been a minor earthquake as Collins leant forward, invading my space, half shouting .

“As I said, I’d really like to talk to you about your time in the IM, the Illumination Movement? I’m writing a story, a Big Story about it and I’d really like to get your side of things. Your angle. There’s money in it, maybe a lot of money.”

I leant back, away from the permanently amused eyes and stale smoke tinged breath, rapidly downing my way – too – soft for the occasion drink to the dregs, deliberately keeping my voice quiet in defiant refusal to compete with Freddie Mercury.
“And like I said, I think you’ve got the wrong man.”

Collins fished in an inside pocket and produced a small rectangular card that he handed to me. It was embossed with the New Century logo and contained Collins’ contact details.
“In case you change your mind.” he said, rising.

Sometimes you know even as you speak them that your words are lies; and my curt refusal to engage with Collins was one such occasion. Truth is I was tired: tired of running from my past; tired of airbrushing from history a large chunk of my adolescence. Then there was the money talk. None of this meant that I was going to roll over and play dead quite yet. To ring the number on the card would show desperation; a willingness perhaps to sell myself cheaply. I needed Collins to come to me; to pursue me. It took one more phone call and one more email before I agreed to another meeting.

I have often reflected on why it is that I didn’t just tell Uncle Charlie what to do with his odd question’s and be done with it straight off that first afternoon. Maybe the reason is no more esoteric than that every Sixteen year old likes to think of themselves as ’special’, as being somehow different to and above the norm. At that age enough of the magical innocence of childhood remains to allow one to be able to fully embrace the new and unusual, to hitch oneself to an adventure and run with it, before the weight of adulthood leaves one mired for life in fear and self doubt.

Whatever the reason, I did not make a bolt for it when he offered to buy me coffee and tell me more in the little wood shack café that stood guard at the entrance to the park, merely indicating in what I believed to be a super cool, disinterested manner that I would much prefer a pint.
“Ok, a pint it is then, old chap”, he said, apparently unconcerned by the fact that I was still two years below the legal age to drink. Having heard these magic words, I quickly dispensed with my thin lip scorching roll up in favour of the strange man’s proffered John Player Plain and led him silently in the direction of the nearby Wheatsheath, an establishment famed within my peer group for the lax attitude of the bar staff regarding issues of identification.

The first of the three pints that Uncle Charlie would stand me that first afternoon was nearing completion when he finally cut to the chase.
“When I said that I see things that others do not see, what I meant was that I see aura’s, a type of spiritual outline that, unbeknown to most, surrounds each and every one of us. One‘s aura develops as one‘s life progresses, according to the choices made in that life. One is not born with an aura. New born babies don’t have one except in very, very rare cases. You may, I believe, be one such rarity. The point is…”

Most of what he was saying was going straight over my head. I was drinking his booze and smoking his fags and eyeing up the bevy of short skirted student lovely’s at the next table. And yet a part of me was listening to every word; a part of me was in fact revelling in my new special status, even if that special status was, for the moment, being bestowed upon me only by one single, fat, middle aged and possibly sexually predatory eccentric male.

“…that an aura is a mixture of negative and positive qualities that are visible to only a few, to people like me. Some people have mostly positive aspects to their aura and some have mostly negative. That is, we are all, generally speaking, a mixture of good and bad, but the actual ratio of positive to negative can fluctuate throughout life according to one’s action’s and efforts. In the East this process of cause and effect, of change and transformation according to one’s interaction with others and with the wider environment is known as Karma. Very occasionally a person comes along whose aura is wholly negative; a Hitler perhaps or a Stalin, or a serial killer such as the Yorkshire Ripper or the Black Panther. Such people are thankfully rare, but even rarer still are those individuals whose auras are absolutely pure, radiantly positive. Such people bring light to humanity: Jesus; Buddha; Lao Tzu; Rumi; Madame Blavatsky; Gurdjieff; Krishnamurti; Swami Prabhupada and others whose names have now been lost to us. About twenty years ago, I was told that I, and I alone, would know when the next Great Teacher, the Light Bringer of the modern age once again lived amongst us. It would be my job once I came upon possession of that knowledge to nurture and guide that person until the time was ripe for him to at last reveal His presence to humanity.”

He broke off from his long monologue, a monologue punctuated by drags on his cigarette and sips from his slowly diminishing pint of bitter, and looked intently into my eyes.
“I know that this will sound crazy to you old boy, but the person that I have been waiting for this past two decades is you.”

I left the pub pleasantly pissed that night, putting the whole thing down as a great lark, a weird occurrence to later amuse my friends with. Except I didn’t; tell anyone that is. I went home and slept off the beer and awoke feeling somehow different. I didn’t go to the park the next day, merely stayed in my room fantasying about my great new found destiny, staring into the mirror, hoping to catch a glimpse of my dazzlingly pure and beautiful aura. Of course, I saw nothing. But as Uncle Charlie – ‘everybody calls me Uncle Charlie’ – had explained, a person’s aura is visible only from the outside, and then only to those, like him, who have been blessed with the eyes to see such sights.

I did not mention what had happened the next time I saw Andy or Alun, nor did Uncle Charlie make anymore appearances whilst I was in their presence. Rather, he seemed to materialise as if by magic whenever I was alone in the park. Always we would repair to the ’sheath where he would provide me with more free lager and smokes, talking endlessly whilst I listened, still attempting to affect an air of youthful disdain.

I can’t remember much of the detail of what he said at that early stage, most of it has become mentally fused with the hundreds of talks that came later. The crux of it concerned the inadequacy’s of the existing organized religion’s, how these, all of them are merely imperfect expressions of an Absolute, Primal Spirituality that man had once known but had now long forgotten, a state of affairs that had left us in a permanent state of feeling that things were not quite right, a feeling of incompleteness akin to going out without your keys. It was to be my role, as the World Teacher, the Light Bringer, to lead Mankind back to this Original Source and, by so doing, to bring about wholeness within the soul of each and every man and woman on the planet. This in turn would usher in a new Golden Age where war and suffering and poverty would become things of the past, nothing more than a bad memory from the infancy of humanity.

Did I think that he was insane? Like I say, it’s difficult to reconstruct my thought processes after the passing of such an eventful expanse of time. On one level, I think I told myself that I was only there for the free booze and fags and the sheer enjoyable lunacy of the situation. But at the same time I was taking it all in, basking in my new found Earth shattering importance. Plus, on a more mundane level, I liked Uncle Charlie. He had an easy manner and a way of speaking that kept me on the edge of my seat, as well as a sort of stillness that effortlessly drew your eyes towards him. He was like an island of serenity in a sea of frenetic activity. You can’t help but trust people like Uncle Charlie. That is the source of their great power, though also potentially of their great danger.

More prosaically, I was also impressed by the fact that he drank and smoked and had such a libertine attitude, at least at this stage, to my young self doing likewise. Such earthly activities set him far apart from my almost wholly negative pre conceptions of what it meant to be religious. Ok, so what he was saying was, on the face of it complete and utter madness. But there were various factors at play that moved me slowly in the direction of at least beginning to take him seriously. Consequently, when he announced, at our fourth or fifth meeting, that he felt it was now time for me to meet his group, the local Chapter of the Illumination Movement, I don’t think that I hesitated for more than the briefest of moments.

I arrived at the Clown early to find the same trio of hardened, all day drinkers in the corner and the same smattering of post working day workers reluctant to return to their homes. I ordered my chaste pint of coke then waited at the bar fixated by the blonde, unsmiling, big breasted barmaid as she prepared it. I was spoilt for choice for seating, but nevertheless sat myself down at the same table that I had last spoken with Collins at. After a gap of perhaps ten minutes during which I half hearted studied my morning broadsheet and periodically considered breaking the near silence by firing up the nostalgia laden juke box, Collins arrived. He acknowledged my presence with a nod before flirting quietly with the now smiling barmaid before walking towards me with his already customary whisky and coke.

“Ok, cut to the chase…, “he began after a desultory and quickly abandoned attempt at small talk, “… as I’ve said I’m doing a story about the Illumination Movement. It’s a good story I‘ve already done a fair bit of prior research. What I like about the story is that it isn’t your standard shock horror cult type of stuff. Nothing really bad happens; well, not on the scale of Heaven’s Gate or the Peoples Temple or Waco. To be honest with you, that sort of story has been done to death, excuse the pun. I‘m not interested in mass suicide or mass murder. I’m interested in people; and this seems to me to be very much a people story. Your part of the story is key. In fact, without you, as far as I am concerned, there is no story. ‘The mistaken Messiah’; the ’World Teacher who never was’: what happened next’? Sorry, I’m just pulling out potential tag lines from the top of my head; bit tabloid I know. It’s you who will direct the way the story goes. It’s your authentic voice that I’m after.”

Collins came to a pause in his persuasive verbal flow. I watched him, the barmaid jiggling as she flapped at empty tables with a damp cloth in the distance, as he took a sip of his drink and placed it carefully back on the table, the dark liquid now barely covering the shrunken ice. He said nothing, allowing the silence to build until at last he cracked and filled it.
“I’m looking to be commissioned for a series of articles, but it’s a book I am really interested in. We can even put your name to it if you like. I’m happy to be a ghost writer, if that‘s what you prefer; we’ll split fifty – fifty. Like I said, there is money in this. Maybe only a Grand or so for the articles. But if the book takes off, who knows? We could be talking film rights. Maybe not Hollywood, they’d want to tag on a mass suicide at the end, just to get bums on seats. I see it more as a BBC adaptation, BBC 2 or BBC 4; something classy with proper actors. Think about it. All I need at the moment in order to get things moving is an interview. The story is going to get written anyway; be a shame for it to appear with no input from you. I know that you’ll probably need time to think it over, talk it over with your wife; Deborah isn’t it?”

I nodded slowly in a partial act of surrender.
“Ok, ok. I’ll think about it. Don’t hold your breath,” I said.

I took the scenic route home through a pleasantly refreshing summer evening drizzle, passing through wide tree lined near empty streets before joining the smattering of dog walkers and sinister looking teenagers in the park where it had all began. I knew full well that I would soon be ringing Collins’ number; it was merely a question of when. The offer of money was important, no getting away from it. Despite the decade long presence of the fiscally steadying influence of Deborah in my life, my finances had never quite recovered from the wild and wilful years that had followed my departure from the Illumination Movement. Active alcoholism is an expensive business. It’s not just the actual cost of the booze – a man could and can still obliterate the need to think, to plan, to take responsibility for his life remarkably cheaply. But there is also the whole erratic mode of living that generally accompanies the drinking, ‘the sheer bloody insanity’ as Angus had said a million times at a million meetings. The precise forms of this lunacy vary from drinker to drinker. In my case it had been the mad impulse buys; the credit card holidays; the whores; the grandiose acts of generosity that had led me, without so much as a backward glance of regret – that would come later as an unwelcome but necessary accessory of sobriety – further and further down the road of debt. I didn’t know how seriously to take all of that stuff about a book, about possible T.V or film right’s. But Collins did seem to have a passion, a way of talking and presenting himself that I found grudgingly attractive. It wouldn’t do any harm to talk further.

Problem was that Deborah knew nothing of my Messianic past; and I wasn’t at all sure that this was the time to be dropping such a bombshell. Over the last year or two, as the prospect of children had become ever more remote, I had began to silently harbour the distinct impression that the two of us remained together merely through a mutual fear of being alone. All it would take to break us would be the arrival in either of our lives of an acceptable alternative.

Or perhaps the revelation that we had been living a lie.

If I had told her right off, in the first days and weeks after I wandered dishevelled and aimless into the creative writing class where she was already the star pupil, still raw and fragile in the early days of my sobriety, then it wouldn’t have been a problem. She accepted my alcoholism. A recovering drunk could not have asked for a more understanding partner and in recognition of this I had not touched a drop for the entirety of our relationship. If she was prepared to enter into the wreck of my life, to take on the long term and potentially hazardous task of salvage, then the least that I could do was to avoid making the operation still more difficult by revisiting the source of my misery.

Except, of course, alcohol was not really the source of my problems at all. To find that you had to go further back, to a strange meeting in a park, to my past status as the Divine head of a Movement of whom Deborah had almost certainly never heard. Telling her about the booze had been relatively easy: the zeitgeist, the spirit of the age, the growth of rehab’ culture had made addiction almost socially acceptable. But to explain the Illumination Movement and my place within in just seemed so difficult, so much so that I put off the task for so long that it became a virtual impossibility. But now, as I strolled through the beautiful, damp, ghost filled park, a place that still often drew me as a place of refuge and reflection, I knew that it was a task that I would soon have to face.

Uncle Charlie was a man of ample girth and, from the appearance of his large footballer style detached house on the outskirts of the city, of still more ample means. He drove me there in his aged but still impressive to my young eyes dark blue BMW, through country lanes that I had never previously had cause to travel. I felt nervous, afraid for the first time by thoughts of what my curious adolescent mind might be getting me into. Uncle Charlie did his best to reassure me.
“They’re nice people; good people. Nobody expects anything from you; just be who you are old chap and you’ll be fine. Don’t worry.”

The house was set at the end of an unfeasibly long drive way. It wasn’t quite a mansion, but to me, raised as I had been in a two bedroom council house, it might just as well have been. Uncle Charlie opened and unlocked the large wooden front door with a suitably huge set of jangling keys fished from the inside pocket of his unseasonal Parker coat. He then led me down, after first disposing of our shoes into the first shoe organizer that I had ever seen, a narrow passage way that resolved itself into a living that was almost as large as the entire ground floor of my parent’s house, including the back yard.

The room was populated by a dozen people sat haphazardly upon round black cushions perched upon square black mats scattered around the wooden polished floor. The room smelt strongly of fresh flowers and incense, the aroma wafting from a small wooden table set out as an altar at one end of the room, a dining chair empty at either side. As well as the flowers and the incense the altar contained a small serene, slim young Buddha; a wooden figurine of Christ upon the cross; a photograph of an oriental gentleman whom I didn’t then know but who later turned out to be the ancient Chinese sage Lao Tzu; and, unbelievably and rather thrillingly, a photograph of myself sitting upon my favourite hill in the park, staring out faux poetically into the distance. Uncle Charlie had taken the photograph a few days earlier on an antiquated looking camera that he carried in a small leather case slung tourist style around his neck, for the purpose, he explained of preparing the group for my arrival.

The group itself were a mixed bunch: a gaggle of twenty something hippy chick social worker types; three young men of roughly my age, people who were, as it turned out, minor, peripheral figures in the movement. But then came three individuals who turned out to have key, starring roles in our/my story: an intense young man with burning eyes who I soon learnt was ex would be rock star Nigel Smith; a gorgeous blonde in her twenties called Jenny who was Nigel’s ex and who would prove to be the most loyal of my followers; and an attractive Oriental looking woman in her early thirties whose body I would shortly get to know every curve, crease and crevice of.

There were others so forgettable that my mind has all but edited them into none existence, but all told there were about twelve people present, not counting myself and Uncle Charlie. They all looked up with expectant curiosity when I entered, nervously following on behind Uncle Charlie’s rotund figure. Then, as though responding to an invisible, inaudible command, they all, Uncle Charlie included, rose as one, prostrating themselves before me, foreheads and palms against the cold, hard floor. They repeated this act of devotion three times in all, before rising and re positioning themselves straight backed and alert upon the cushion’s as though nothing at all unusual had occurred.

Uncle Charlie seated himself upon one of the empty chairs by the altar, lowering his large frame carefully into it whilst beckoning wordlessly for me to perch myself upon the other. Part of me felt like fleeing in terror but I did as he asked, depositing myself nervously and inelegantly in the empty chair as Uncle Charlie began to speak.

“Once upon a time, as all good stories should begin, I was a staunch Marxist, a loyal member of the Communist Party of Great Britain. It sounds unbelievable now with what’s going on in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union, but a lot of us were back then. It was nineteen sixty nine, a year after the May events in France: a year of revolting students, if you’ll pardon the expression; of striking workers; of the Vietnam war raging on with no end in sight; of the Red Guards in China; of the martyred death of the heroic Che. Revolution was in the very air that we breathed. Of course, many newly radicalized youth sough solution’s to the problems of the world outside of what they saw as the stifling, bureaucratic confines of official Communism: in Trotskyism in its various guises; in Anarchism; in New Left libertarianism. But I was a little older, already in my thirties by this time, and a worker, an engineer by trade. The Communist Party had been and, despite the crushing of the Prague Spring, remained my natural home. I was making my second and though I did not know it, final pilgrimage to the U.S.S.R, the land of October Nineteen Seventeen; the birth place of Actually Existing Socialism.

“The trip consisted of the usual politically motivated tourist itinerary: tours of tractor factories and New Model hospitals; visits to schools full of polite uniformed children reciting the requisite anti imperialist rhetoric with fixed smiles and newly pressed uniforms; a ride out into the countryside to see happily collectivised peasants joyfully tilling the land before returning to evenings of politically prescribed relaxation in their Potemkin villages. I was lapping it up my friends, the perfect Western visitor from the authority’s point of view; a beast that I believe the blessed Lenin once dubbed a ‘useful idiot.’

“I’d done Leningrad and its surrounding area and was now in Moscow, taking a break in the hotel bar, downing a few vodka’s whilst studying my schedule for the last few of days of my visit. Suddenly I was approached by strange gentlemen who sat himself down at my table without so much as an introduction. He was about forty, straggly black hair with a matching moustache that curled up slightly at the sides, and dark, deep intense staring eyes the like of which I have seen neither before nor since. I figured from his appearance and his accent that he was from one of the outlying Republics: Armenia; Azerbaijan; Kazakhstan; one of those places that have recently become intent on breaking away from Mother Russia’s fraternal embrace. Despite the heavy accent he spoke good if not perfect English and got to the point without too much preamble or small talk.

“’Why have you come to the Soviet Union?’ he asked me. I just said something about wanting to see life under Socialism, to experience a different way of living, a different way of organizing the economy and society, freed from the distorting mechanism of the profit motive. He then asked me if I was a Communist and when I said that I most certainly was he asked me why. All the time he was looking at me with these intense eyes. I felt more than a little bit unnerved to be honest; didn’t know whether he was a nutter or a KGB man or an American agent or what. Anyway, I told him that I believed Capitalism to be grossly unfair and unjust, that the Working Class never received the full fruits of their labour, and that the whole system was in crisis and would soon come crashing down anyway, just as Marx and Lenin had predicted. The gentlemen reached across the table, took my vodka and drank it down in one.

“I must have looked at him as though he was crazy; I mean, you just don’t reach over and down another man’s drink, whatever the socio – political and economic system. But he just carried on talking as though nothing had happened. ’Capitalism and Communism are just both sides of the same Materialist coin….’ he said, ‘…and man is not, never has been, and never will be mere matter. We are, in essence, Spiritual Beings. It is just that, in our Long Sleep, we have forgotten this great and absolute truth. One day a man shall come who shall awake humanity from that sleep and reveal to them their True Identity. Then, and only then, will the just and free society of which you and so many millions of others dream truly come to be’.

“I mean, dear friends, what can one say to that? Ok, I thought, religious nutter for definite. So they have them even under Socialism. A cultural hangover to the days of Tsarism perhaps. After all, pre revolutionary Russia was full of mystic charlatans, the mad monk Rasputin being simply the most famous of examples.

“I was silently ruminating on this, hoping to replenish my stolen vodka, hoping that this strange individual would soon leave me in peace, when, without further speech , he reached over and took my hand. Miraculously, I felt this incredible surge of energy when he did so, a feeling that can perhaps best be described as being like an intense heat shooting upwards along one arm, across my shoulder, up my neck, before bursting out through the top of my head. This powerful, almost orgasmic surge left me feeling dizzy and disassociated from my surroundings.

“I looked into those weirdly powerful eyes and it was like I was looking into eternity; into infinite love and compassion. Then he spoke and his voice sounded different, sounded like I imagine the voice of an Angel to sound, though as a staunch atheist I had never of course envisaged that I would hear the voice of an angel. ‘When he who will Bring Light to humanity comes….’ he said, ‘…you and only you will recognize Him and reveal Him to the world.’

(c) Anthony C Green 2010

Read Feed : ““You see old chap I see things; things that other people do not see. Strange, I know, but true. And I see something in you, young man; something very, very special. Something, one might say, unique.” “

Author : Anthony C Green

Genre : Literary Fiction, Novel, General Fiction

Synopsis: A Cult. Two teenage Messiah’s. A journalist obsessed by all things fringe and marginal. A girlfriend in a coma. Nazi parents. Obscure cultural references. Outsider art. Meditations on the nature of belief. Hallucinogenic drugs. Auto erotic asphyxiation. Thai bar girls. Post Modernism. Spiritual Philosophy: the Novel has all of this and more.

Spiritual Philosophy: the Novel

ONE
Like many things nowadays it started with an email:
“Hi
My name is Paul Collins…” it said “…I work for New Century magazine. I would like to discuss a matter that will be to your advantage. Please reply ASAP in order to arrange a meeting. Time and venue of your choosing.”

I knew what it was about of course, even though it had now been some years since the last journalistic approach. I quickly deleted it along with an offer of penile enlargement and a message from a deposed African Princess informing me that I had been randomly chosen to inherit her ludicrously inflated fortune. I continued with my mind numbingly dull workload until the oversized, slow moving office clock finally announced four – thirty and tried to forget my former exalted status.

The phone calls came next. I returned home the evening after that first email to find Deborah at the stove cooking one of her deliciously pungent concoctions. Her back was towards me, her flowered, towelling dressing gown tied tight around her expanded but still diaphanous waist. Time was I would have embraced her and fondled her, dragged her uncomplaining to the bedroom, or the living room sofa, or the hallway, or the stairs, or the floor, or the most secluded part of the garden in order to work up a proper appetite. But ten years together, eight as man and wife had inevitably diminished our passion and so I confined myself to a mumbled ‘Hi’ and got something not dissimilar in return.

The evening adopted a familiar pattern. I showered and changed into my pyjamas and gown whilst Deborah made the finishing, expert touches to our meal. We ate in near silence and then I tidied the kitchen, forcing myself, as usual to suppress my annoyance at Deborah re doing most of my endeavours. After the rubbish had been taken out and the floor mopped I settled down to a night in front of the television, a large packet of teeth rotting sweets at my side whilst my wife disappeared to the room that we had for so long waited in vain to convert into a nursery in order to work on her writing. Deborah teaches English. But that has always been a poor substitute for the attainment of her real dream. She had written three novels by this time. Each one filed away unread by the world, including by me. “I just need the right idea”, she often said.

The first phone call came in the empty gap between the two episodes of Coronation Street.
“Hello, could I speak to Carl Patterson please?” The voice was posh with rough edges, or perhaps working class with an educated sheen.
“Yes. Speaking.”
“My name is Paul Collins. I emailed you earlier?”
I hate the way that people, ever since the unwelcome incursion of the Australian soap opera onto these shores have begun to raise the intonation of their voice as though asking a question, even when making a statement of fact. Deborah does it. I even sometimes do it myself, unconsciously.
“Did you?”
“Yes, I wondered if we might meet up; to talk about your time in the Illumination Movement?”
“I think you’ve got the wrong man,” I said, terminating the conversation.

We seemed to live in the park, my friends Andy and Alun and I, that first post school summer two decades and a lifetime earlier. We were sixteen and adulthood and a world of limitless possibility stretched before us. But I was in no hurry to embrace it, not yet. It was obvious, as it is to all teenagers, or at least to all teenage boys, that I would live forever and that I could be whatever it was that I decided to be, whenever I chose to make the effort to be it. What was the hurry? For the present, I was content just to hang out, happy to at last be free of teachers and lessons, free to hang out with my friends smoking roll ups and drinking cheap sherry, skimming stones across the duck lake, laying on the grass watching bright sunny afternoons turn into long warm summer evenings filled with the drama of youth. The giro cheque that dropped onto my parents frayed doormat every second Thursday was quite adequate to my simple needs, and when the money ran dry, well then there was Andy’s giro to fall back on, then Alun’s, then back to my own. What need was there to work? Besides, this was the Eighties, the decade when Thatcher made youth unemployment respectable, almost a badge of honour to be worn with surly pride.

There were always girls around the park too. A man’s teenage years are often years that flatter to deceive with respect to the ready availability of sex. These were not, on the whole, the kind of girls whom I would wish take home to meet my parents, other than now and again as an exercise in demonstrating that I was, contrary to their probable expectations, growing into a normal, healthy, heterosexual young man with a normal, healthy heterosexual young man’s appetites. But they were most definitely the kind of girls who were easily persuaded into the bushes behind the old wooden bandstand for a quick grope and a fumble. Or more, so long as you were also prepared to demonstrate your responsibility. This was, after all a time when Aids was apparently poised to decimate the population of the earth, a ‘fact’ that had made a packet of condoms in the back pocket an essential lifestyle accessory for a sexually ambitious young man.

Alun and Andy had been my best friends since the commencement of Comprehensive school. Both of them were blonde, blue eyed, good looking, popular in their own that is our own, small world. We laughed a lot in that friendship, though I cannot now easily remember what it was that we laughed about. Looking back, I can see myself clearly in my mind’s eye, doing this, doing that, saying this, saying that, but it is almost as if I had no inner life at all; as though I were a void, an empty vessel, a blank sheet of paper waiting to be written upon. Maybe that is a big part of the reason that I was chosen; or maybe all Sixteen year olds are like that. At any rate, it’s a strange beast, destiny. I would see Andy years later, selling the Big Issue, his blue eyes now deadened and afraid, living on the fringe of civilisation, one of those people for whom it all went too wrong too early, before he had developed the resources necessary to enable him to claw his way back . He did not recognize me, or did not see me, and I felt it better, safer, easier not to acknowledge his diminished presence. As for Alun, he would join the army and die from an IRA bullet, not long before the peace process kicked in. I didn’t go to his funeral. I didn’t really know him by then.

It was Andy who first pointed out the fat middle aged man with thick black, unruly hair and expensive looking if ill fitting clothes watching us from one of the concrete and wood benches that ringed the circular duck lake.
“He’s always there, him; looking at us. Fucking old pervert”, he said as he passed me the QC. We were taking refuge from the mid afternoon sun beneath the large tree on the small hill, our favourite spot. He was right, now he came to mention it. The fat man did always seem to be around, doing nothing, just watching. I laughed and shrugged and moved on to the next passing amusement, just putting the old guy down as a harmless old eccentric, whiling away what little remained of his sad and empty life.

Some days later, Andy had gone off ‘baby sitting’ with Mandy Haggerty, a girl with a long established and well deserved reputation. Alun had been summoned for a ’review’ at the job centre, always a dreaded occurrence in our young lives. I was sitting once more on the hill, counting my loose change, weighing up the relative merits of pie and chips and a half ounce of Golden Virginia, sporadically fending off insect attacks whilst awaiting the return of my friends, a light buzz still evident from two recently imbibed cans of Black Label lager. At first I paid no attention as the man whom I would soon know simply as ‘Uncle Charlie’ waddled amiably towards me.

“Hello,” he said his voice gruff but friendly, his accent verging on what my dad would have called ’cut glass’. I mumbled a disinterested, distracted greeting, dropping the jangle of coins back into my jeans pocket as I did so. The man smiled.
“I’ve been watching you,” he said.

This was back in the days before paedophile hysteria properly kicked in, an innocent time when Gary Glitter was nothing more than a faded pop star whose cartoon glamour added considerably to the gaiety of the nation. Nevertheless, I had still heard about men like this.
“Oh yeh?” I replied, giving off my best adolescent attitude. The fat man broadened his smile.
“Don’t worry old boy, nothing bad, nothing seedy. I just wanted to ask you something, that’s all.”

The ‘old boy’ jarred my ears, but I would soon grow accustomed to his curiously sub public schoolboy mode of speaking.
“Oh yeh?”
I meant ’fuck off’ but was not quite bad boy enough to say it.
“Yes. Do you realise that you are very, very different to your friends, different to an astonishing degree?”

It was a strange question that caught me by surprise and I did not reply because I did not know how to reply. Instead I busied myself attempting to construct a cigarette from the dust remaining in the corner of my home made tobacco tin as the weird interloper continued his weird talk.
“You see old chap I see things; things that other people do not see. Strange, I know, but true. And I see something in you, young man. Something very, very special. Something, one might say, unique.”

Collins rang again the next evening and got similar short shrift. Then he door stepped me, as it were, in the Clown.

Much against the better judgement of my sponsor Angus, an old school AA type who believed that any recovering alcoholic who enters a pub is subconsciously willing a relapse, I often passed an hour or so with a pint of refreshing coke and the evening paper in the Clown after work. It gave me time to unwind after the dull rigours of the day and provided Deborah with the space to crack on with the evening meal after returning from her own labours at the didactic coal face. Besides, I knew that Angus – as much as I was grateful for his past assistance and continuing presence at the end of a telephone – was wrong: staying off the booze is a matter of Will; location is irrelevant.

The pub was virtually empty: just a trio of withered old drinkers in one corner who looked as though they had been in residence since the dawn of time, or at least since the landlord unveiled the ‘Open’ sign; a solitary middle aged peroxide blonde sipping her G and T at the table by the door, cigarettes and lighter at the ready in front of her; and a smattering of my fellow post work office types enjoying a pint or three before returning home to their clinically dead marriages or lifeless gadget laden bachelor pads.

I picked Collins out of the thin crowd immediately: about thirtyish, designer stubble, smart but dishevelled clothing. He looked like I imagined a New Century journalist to look and was of a type that some women might well find attractive. I don’t know if he recognised me through my youthful press cuttings or by mere intuition, but he soon made his approach as I distractedly perused the job section of the local paper.

“Paul Collins…” said Paul Collins, extending a hand that clearly, not unlike my own, was a near stranger to manual labour.
“…we spoke on the phone, I emailed you before that?”
I ignored his hand, merely nodded my acknowledgement of his presence.
“Do you mind if I…” he continued, indicating the chair.
“Free country; relatively,” I said.

He pulled out the chair and sat, placing his delicious smelling whisky and coke with ice on the table in front of him.
“Look, whatever it is you are selling…” I said, “…I am not interested.”
Collins took a liberal swig of his drink.
“Not selling; more buying really.”
“Whatever” I replied, using another modern affectation that I profess to hate.

The journalist pressed on.
“Like I told you in my email, I work for a magazine called New Century; maybe you’ve heard of it?”
I noticed the shape of a cigarette packet in the top pocket of his blazer jacket and briefly wished that I still smoked; that had been the last of my major vices to pass into history. As it happens, I had heard of the magazine; had even read it from time to time. It was basically the top end of the ‘Men’s market.’ It featured long articles on music and film interspersed with reviews of cultish books and slightly politically incorrect essays that never really offended anyone too much. All of this mid brow pontificating made palatable to the hoi polloi by the inclusion of multi page photo’ spreads of beautiful women in expensively sheer lingerie, all shot in a tasteful, post modernistic, knowingly ironic fashion, of course. I shrugged.
“No, I can’t say I have.”

Most of Collins’ next sentence was rendered inaudible by the sudden interjection of the juke box, Queen’s ‘I want to break Free’ exploding into life at the instigation of the plump middle aged peroxide blonde, a woman who looked as though she would once, in her long faded salad days have had her pick of men. The music blasted out at such volume that the glasses on the table in front of us trembled as though there had been a minor earthquake as Collins leant forward, invading my space, half shouting .

“As I said, I’d really like to talk to you about your time in the IM, the Illumination Movement? I’m writing a story, a Big Story about it and I’d really like to get your side of things. Your angle. There’s money in it, maybe a lot of money.”

I leant back, away from the permanently amused eyes and stale smoke tinged breath, rapidly downing my way – too – soft for the occasion drink to the dregs, deliberately keeping my voice quiet in defiant refusal to compete with Freddie Mercury.
“And like I said, I think you’ve got the wrong man.”

Collins fished in an inside pocket and produced a small rectangular card that he handed to me. It was embossed with the New Century logo and contained Collins’ contact details.
“In case you change your mind.” he said, rising.

Sometimes you know even as you speak them that your words are lies; and my curt refusal to engage with Collins was one such occasion. Truth is I was tired: tired of running from my past; tired of airbrushing from history a large chunk of my adolescence. Then there was the money talk. None of this meant that I was going to roll over and play dead quite yet. To ring the number on the card would show desperation; a willingness perhaps to sell myself cheaply. I needed Collins to come to me; to pursue me. It took one more phone call and one more email before I agreed to another meeting.

I have often reflected on why it is that I didn’t just tell Uncle Charlie what to do with his odd question’s and be done with it straight off that first afternoon. Maybe the reason is no more esoteric than that every Sixteen year old likes to think of themselves as ’special’, as being somehow different to and above the norm. At that age enough of the magical innocence of childhood remains to allow one to be able to fully embrace the new and unusual, to hitch oneself to an adventure and run with it, before the weight of adulthood leaves one mired for life in fear and self doubt.

Whatever the reason, I did not make a bolt for it when he offered to buy me coffee and tell me more in the little wood shack café that stood guard at the entrance to the park, merely indicating in what I believed to be a super cool, disinterested manner that I would much prefer a pint.
“Ok, a pint it is then, old chap”, he said, apparently unconcerned by the fact that I was still two years below the legal age to drink. Having heard these magic words, I quickly dispensed with my thin lip scorching roll up in favour of the strange man’s proffered John Player Plain and led him silently in the direction of the nearby Wheatsheath, an establishment famed within my peer group for the lax attitude of the bar staff regarding issues of identification.

The first of the three pints that Uncle Charlie would stand me that first afternoon was nearing completion when he finally cut to the chase.
“When I said that I see things that others do not see, what I meant was that I see aura’s, a type of spiritual outline that, unbeknown to most, surrounds each and every one of us. One‘s aura develops as one‘s life progresses, according to the choices made in that life. One is not born with an aura. New born babies don’t have one except in very, very rare cases. You may, I believe, be one such rarity. The point is…”

Most of what he was saying was going straight over my head. I was drinking his booze and smoking his fags and eyeing up the bevy of short skirted student lovely’s at the next table. And yet a part of me was listening to every word; a part of me was in fact revelling in my new special status, even if that special status was, for the moment, being bestowed upon me only by one single, fat, middle aged and possibly sexually predatory eccentric male.

“…that an aura is a mixture of negative and positive qualities that are visible to only a few, to people like me. Some people have mostly positive aspects to their aura and some have mostly negative. That is, we are all, generally speaking, a mixture of good and bad, but the actual ratio of positive to negative can fluctuate throughout life according to one’s action’s and efforts. In the East this process of cause and effect, of change and transformation according to one’s interaction with others and with the wider environment is known as Karma. Very occasionally a person comes along whose aura is wholly negative; a Hitler perhaps or a Stalin, or a serial killer such as the Yorkshire Ripper or the Black Panther. Such people are thankfully rare, but even rarer still are those individuals whose auras are absolutely pure, radiantly positive. Such people bring light to humanity: Jesus; Buddha; Lao Tzu; Rumi; Madame Blavatsky; Gurdjieff; Krishnamurti; Swami Prabhupada and others whose names have now been lost to us. About twenty years ago, I was told that I, and I alone, would know when the next Great Teacher, the Light Bringer of the modern age once again lived amongst us. It would be my job once I came upon possession of that knowledge to nurture and guide that person until the time was ripe for him to at last reveal His presence to humanity.”

He broke off from his long monologue, a monologue punctuated by drags on his cigarette and sips from his slowly diminishing pint of bitter, and looked intently into my eyes.
“I know that this will sound crazy to you old boy, but the person that I have been waiting for this past two decades is you.”

I left the pub pleasantly pissed that night, putting the whole thing down as a great lark, a weird occurrence to later amuse my friends with. Except I didn’t; tell anyone that is. I went home and slept off the beer and awoke feeling somehow different. I didn’t go to the park the next day, merely stayed in my room fantasying about my great new found destiny, staring into the mirror, hoping to catch a glimpse of my dazzlingly pure and beautiful aura. Of course, I saw nothing. But as Uncle Charlie – ‘everybody calls me Uncle Charlie’ – had explained, a person’s aura is visible only from the outside, and then only to those, like him, who have been blessed with the eyes to see such sights.

I did not mention what had happened the next time I saw Andy or Alun, nor did Uncle Charlie make anymore appearances whilst I was in their presence. Rather, he seemed to materialise as if by magic whenever I was alone in the park. Always we would repair to the ’sheath where he would provide me with more free lager and smokes, talking endlessly whilst I listened, still attempting to affect an air of youthful disdain.

I can’t remember much of the detail of what he said at that early stage, most of it has become mentally fused with the hundreds of talks that came later. The crux of it concerned the inadequacy’s of the existing organized religion’s, how these, all of them are merely imperfect expressions of an Absolute, Primal Spirituality that man had once known but had now long forgotten, a state of affairs that had left us in a permanent state of feeling that things were not quite right, a feeling of incompleteness akin to going out without your keys. It was to be my role, as the World Teacher, the Light Bringer, to lead Mankind back to this Original Source and, by so doing, to bring about wholeness within the soul of each and every man and woman on the planet. This in turn would usher in a new Golden Age where war and suffering and poverty would become things of the past, nothing more than a bad memory from the infancy of humanity.

Did I think that he was insane? Like I say, it’s difficult to reconstruct my thought processes after the passing of such an eventful expanse of time. On one level, I think I told myself that I was only there for the free booze and fags and the sheer enjoyable lunacy of the situation. But at the same time I was taking it all in, basking in my new found Earth shattering importance. Plus, on a more mundane level, I liked Uncle Charlie. He had an easy manner and a way of speaking that kept me on the edge of my seat, as well as a sort of stillness that effortlessly drew your eyes towards him. He was like an island of serenity in a sea of frenetic activity. You can’t help but trust people like Uncle Charlie. That is the source of their great power, though also potentially of their great danger.

More prosaically, I was also impressed by the fact that he drank and smoked and had such a libertine attitude, at least at this stage, to my young self doing likewise. Such earthly activities set him far apart from my almost wholly negative pre conceptions of what it meant to be religious. Ok, so what he was saying was, on the face of it complete and utter madness. But there were various factors at play that moved me slowly in the direction of at least beginning to take him seriously. Consequently, when he announced, at our fourth or fifth meeting, that he felt it was now time for me to meet his group, the local Chapter of the Illumination Movement, I don’t think that I hesitated for more than the briefest of moments.

I arrived at the Clown early to find the same trio of hardened, all day drinkers in the corner and the same smattering of post working day workers reluctant to return to their homes. I ordered my chaste pint of coke then waited at the bar fixated by the blonde, unsmiling, big breasted barmaid as she prepared it. I was spoilt for choice for seating, but nevertheless sat myself down at the same table that I had last spoken with Collins at. After a gap of perhaps ten minutes during which I half hearted studied my morning broadsheet and periodically considered breaking the near silence by firing up the nostalgia laden juke box, Collins arrived. He acknowledged my presence with a nod before flirting quietly with the now smiling barmaid before walking towards me with his already customary whisky and coke.

“Ok, cut to the chase…, “he began after a desultory and quickly abandoned attempt at small talk, “… as I’ve said I’m doing a story about the Illumination Movement. It’s a good story I‘ve already done a fair bit of prior research. What I like about the story is that it isn’t your standard shock horror cult type of stuff. Nothing really bad happens; well, not on the scale of Heaven’s Gate or the Peoples Temple or Waco. To be honest with you, that sort of story has been done to death, excuse the pun. I‘m not interested in mass suicide or mass murder. I’m interested in people; and this seems to me to be very much a people story. Your part of the story is key. In fact, without you, as far as I am concerned, there is no story. ‘The mistaken Messiah’; the ’World Teacher who never was’: what happened next’? Sorry, I’m just pulling out potential tag lines from the top of my head; bit tabloid I know. It’s you who will direct the way the story goes. It’s your authentic voice that I’m after.”

Collins came to a pause in his persuasive verbal flow. I watched him, the barmaid jiggling as she flapped at empty tables with a damp cloth in the distance, as he took a sip of his drink and placed it carefully back on the table, the dark liquid now barely covering the shrunken ice. He said nothing, allowing the silence to build until at last he cracked and filled it.
“I’m looking to be commissioned for a series of articles, but it’s a book I am really interested in. We can even put your name to it if you like. I’m happy to be a ghost writer, if that‘s what you prefer; we’ll split fifty – fifty. Like I said, there is money in this. Maybe only a Grand or so for the articles. But if the book takes off, who knows? We could be talking film rights. Maybe not Hollywood, they’d want to tag on a mass suicide at the end, just to get bums on seats. I see it more as a BBC adaptation, BBC 2 or BBC 4; something classy with proper actors. Think about it. All I need at the moment in order to get things moving is an interview. The story is going to get written anyway; be a shame for it to appear with no input from you. I know that you’ll probably need time to think it over, talk it over with your wife; Deborah isn’t it?”

I nodded slowly in a partial act of surrender.
“Ok, ok. I’ll think about it. Don’t hold your breath,” I said.

I took the scenic route home through a pleasantly refreshing summer evening drizzle, passing through wide tree lined near empty streets before joining the smattering of dog walkers and sinister looking teenagers in the park where it had all began. I knew full well that I would soon be ringing Collins’ number; it was merely a question of when. The offer of money was important, no getting away from it. Despite the decade long presence of the fiscally steadying influence of Deborah in my life, my finances had never quite recovered from the wild and wilful years that had followed my departure from the Illumination Movement. Active alcoholism is an expensive business. It’s not just the actual cost of the booze – a man could and can still obliterate the need to think, to plan, to take responsibility for his life remarkably cheaply. But there is also the whole erratic mode of living that generally accompanies the drinking, ‘the sheer bloody insanity’ as Angus had said a million times at a million meetings. The precise forms of this lunacy vary from drinker to drinker. In my case it had been the mad impulse buys; the credit card holidays; the whores; the grandiose acts of generosity that had led me, without so much as a backward glance of regret – that would come later as an unwelcome but necessary accessory of sobriety – further and further down the road of debt. I didn’t know how seriously to take all of that stuff about a book, about possible T.V or film right’s. But Collins did seem to have a passion, a way of talking and presenting himself that I found grudgingly attractive. It wouldn’t do any harm to talk further.

Problem was that Deborah knew nothing of my Messianic past; and I wasn’t at all sure that this was the time to be dropping such a bombshell. Over the last year or two, as the prospect of children had become ever more remote, I had began to silently harbour the distinct impression that the two of us remained together merely through a mutual fear of being alone. All it would take to break us would be the arrival in either of our lives of an acceptable alternative.

Or perhaps the revelation that we had been living a lie.

If I had told her right off, in the first days and weeks after I wandered dishevelled and aimless into the creative writing class where she was already the star pupil, still raw and fragile in the early days of my sobriety, then it wouldn’t have been a problem. She accepted my alcoholism. A recovering drunk could not have asked for a more understanding partner and in recognition of this I had not touched a drop for the entirety of our relationship. If she was prepared to enter into the wreck of my life, to take on the long term and potentially hazardous task of salvage, then the least that I could do was to avoid making the operation still more difficult by revisiting the source of my misery.

Except, of course, alcohol was not really the source of my problems at all. To find that you had to go further back, to a strange meeting in a park, to my past status as the Divine head of a Movement of whom Deborah had almost certainly never heard. Telling her about the booze had been relatively easy: the zeitgeist, the spirit of the age, the growth of rehab’ culture had made addiction almost socially acceptable. But to explain the Illumination Movement and my place within in just seemed so difficult, so much so that I put off the task for so long that it became a virtual impossibility. But now, as I strolled through the beautiful, damp, ghost filled park, a place that still often drew me as a place of refuge and reflection, I knew that it was a task that I would soon have to face.

Uncle Charlie was a man of ample girth and, from the appearance of his large footballer style detached house on the outskirts of the city, of still more ample means. He drove me there in his aged but still impressive to my young eyes dark blue BMW, through country lanes that I had never previously had cause to travel. I felt nervous, afraid for the first time by thoughts of what my curious adolescent mind might be getting me into. Uncle Charlie did his best to reassure me.
“They’re nice people; good people. Nobody expects anything from you; just be who you are old chap and you’ll be fine. Don’t worry.”

The house was set at the end of an unfeasibly long drive way. It wasn’t quite a mansion, but to me, raised as I had been in a two bedroom council house, it might just as well have been. Uncle Charlie opened and unlocked the large wooden front door with a suitably huge set of jangling keys fished from the inside pocket of his unseasonal Parker coat. He then led me down, after first disposing of our shoes into the first shoe organizer that I had ever seen, a narrow passage way that resolved itself into a living that was almost as large as the entire ground floor of my parent’s house, including the back yard.

The room was populated by a dozen people sat haphazardly upon round black cushions perched upon square black mats scattered around the wooden polished floor. The room smelt strongly of fresh flowers and incense, the aroma wafting from a small wooden table set out as an altar at one end of the room, a dining chair empty at either side. As well as the flowers and the incense the altar contained a small serene, slim young Buddha; a wooden figurine of Christ upon the cross; a photograph of an oriental gentleman whom I didn’t then know but who later turned out to be the ancient Chinese sage Lao Tzu; and, unbelievably and rather thrillingly, a photograph of myself sitting upon my favourite hill in the park, staring out faux poetically into the distance. Uncle Charlie had taken the photograph a few days earlier on an antiquated looking camera that he carried in a small leather case slung tourist style around his neck, for the purpose, he explained of preparing the group for my arrival.

The group itself were a mixed bunch: a gaggle of twenty something hippy chick social worker types; three young men of roughly my age, people who were, as it turned out, minor, peripheral figures in the movement. But then came three individuals who turned out to have key, starring roles in our/my story: an intense young man with burning eyes who I soon learnt was ex would be rock star Nigel Smith; a gorgeous blonde in her twenties called Jenny who was Nigel’s ex and who would prove to be the most loyal of my followers; and an attractive Oriental looking woman in her early thirties whose body I would shortly get to know every curve, crease and crevice of.

There were others so forgettable that my mind has all but edited them into none existence, but all told there were about twelve people present, not counting myself and Uncle Charlie. They all looked up with expectant curiosity when I entered, nervously following on behind Uncle Charlie’s rotund figure. Then, as though responding to an invisible, inaudible command, they all, Uncle Charlie included, rose as one, prostrating themselves before me, foreheads and palms against the cold, hard floor. They repeated this act of devotion three times in all, before rising and re positioning themselves straight backed and alert upon the cushion’s as though nothing at all unusual had occurred.

Uncle Charlie seated himself upon one of the empty chairs by the altar, lowering his large frame carefully into it whilst beckoning wordlessly for me to perch myself upon the other. Part of me felt like fleeing in terror but I did as he asked, depositing myself nervously and inelegantly in the empty chair as Uncle Charlie began to speak.

“Once upon a time, as all good stories should begin, I was a staunch Marxist, a loyal member of the Communist Party of Great Britain. It sounds unbelievable now with what’s going on in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union, but a lot of us were back then. It was nineteen sixty nine, a year after the May events in France: a year of revolting students, if you’ll pardon the expression; of striking workers; of the Vietnam war raging on with no end in sight; of the Red Guards in China; of the martyred death of the heroic Che. Revolution was in the very air that we breathed. Of course, many newly radicalized youth sough solution’s to the problems of the world outside of what they saw as the stifling, bureaucratic confines of official Communism: in Trotskyism in its various guises; in Anarchism; in New Left libertarianism. But I was a little older, already in my thirties by this time, and a worker, an engineer by trade. The Communist Party had been and, despite the crushing of the Prague Spring, remained my natural home. I was making my second and though I did not know it, final pilgrimage to the U.S.S.R, the land of October Nineteen Seventeen; the birth place of Actually Existing Socialism.

“The trip consisted of the usual politically motivated tourist itinerary: tours of tractor factories and New Model hospitals; visits to schools full of polite uniformed children reciting the requisite anti imperialist rhetoric with fixed smiles and newly pressed uniforms; a ride out into the countryside to see happily collectivised peasants joyfully tilling the land before returning to evenings of politically prescribed relaxation in their Potemkin villages. I was lapping it up my friends, the perfect Western visitor from the authority’s point of view; a beast that I believe the blessed Lenin once dubbed a ‘useful idiot.’

“I’d done Leningrad and its surrounding area and was now in Moscow, taking a break in the hotel bar, downing a few vodka’s whilst studying my schedule for the last few of days of my visit. Suddenly I was approached by strange gentlemen who sat himself down at my table without so much as an introduction. He was about forty, straggly black hair with a matching moustache that curled up slightly at the sides, and dark, deep intense staring eyes the like of which I have seen neither before nor since. I figured from his appearance and his accent that he was from one of the outlying Republics: Armenia; Azerbaijan; Kazakhstan; one of those places that have recently become intent on breaking away from Mother Russia’s fraternal embrace. Despite the heavy accent he spoke good if not perfect English and got to the point without too much preamble or small talk.

“’Why have you come to the Soviet Union?’ he asked me. I just said something about wanting to see life under Socialism, to experience a different way of living, a different way of organizing the economy and society, freed from the distorting mechanism of the profit motive. He then asked me if I was a Communist and when I said that I most certainly was he asked me why. All the time he was looking at me with these intense eyes. I felt more than a little bit unnerved to be honest; didn’t know whether he was a nutter or a KGB man or an American agent or what. Anyway, I told him that I believed Capitalism to be grossly unfair and unjust, that the Working Class never received the full fruits of their labour, and that the whole system was in crisis and would soon come crashing down anyway, just as Marx and Lenin had predicted. The gentlemen reached across the table, took my vodka and drank it down in one.

“I must have looked at him as though he was crazy; I mean, you just don’t reach over and down another man’s drink, whatever the socio – political and economic system. But he just carried on talking as though nothing had happened. ’Capitalism and Communism are just both sides of the same Materialist coin….’ he said, ‘…and man is not, never has been, and never will be mere matter. We are, in essence, Spiritual Beings. It is just that, in our Long Sleep, we have forgotten this great and absolute truth. One day a man shall come who shall awake humanity from that sleep and reveal to them their True Identity. Then, and only then, will the just and free society of which you and so many millions of others dream truly come to be’.

“I mean, dear friends, what can one say to that? Ok, I thought, religious nutter for definite. So they have them even under Socialism. A cultural hangover to the days of Tsarism perhaps. After all, pre revolutionary Russia was full of mystic charlatans, the mad monk Rasputin being simply the most famous of examples.

“I was silently ruminating on this, hoping to replenish my stolen vodka, hoping that this strange individual would soon leave me in peace, when, without further speech , he reached over and took my hand. Miraculously, I felt this incredible surge of energy when he did so, a feeling that can perhaps best be described as being like an intense heat shooting upwards along one arm, across my shoulder, up my neck, before bursting out through the top of my head. This powerful, almost orgasmic surge left me feeling dizzy and disassociated from my surroundings.

“I looked into those weirdly powerful eyes and it was like I was looking into eternity; into infinite love and compassion. Then he spoke and his voice sounded different, sounded like I imagine the voice of an Angel to sound, though as a staunch atheist I had never of course envisaged that I would hear the voice of an angel. ‘When he who will Bring Light to humanity comes….’ he said, ‘…you and only you will recognize Him and reveal Him to the world.’

(c) Anthony C Green 2010

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