Norman Allan
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Norman Allan : the story
book two: secrets
chapter four: the sacred
  Chapter 1: Maybe Cynthia                        Chapter 6: the substance of life and painting the city
Chapter 2: Past Lifes                                    Chapter 7: Three Portraits of Lucky
Chapter 3: Stoner                                          Chapter 8: Creep
Chapter:4: the Sacred                                   Chapter 9:The Psychic Lover
Chapter 5: Spring 2015                                Chapter: 10: the Devil's Story

Chapter 4: The Sacred... the last time I saw my father.

There is a story about some "spiritual" stuff that I need to tell to tell my sister, Julie: how I last saw our father, Ted, in the doorway. Forgive me if I ramble on the way there

My serious slide into "spiritual" stuff starts with a story of "lost art"…
           In my first year at chiropractic college the students had to fashion, to mold or sculpt, two adjacent vertebra… and… and earlier I'd had got into conversation on the bus with Jim, the carpenter. (Now why would CMCC (*) have a carpenter on staff?) Jim, my age, late thirties, early forties, he was working class. We chatted on the bus, and he invited me to play in his workshop, and let me work with his wonderful small stash of cherrywood. (1) So, with the sculpture assignment, I fashioned the top two vertebrae, C1 C2, atlas axis, life size in cherry wood. And they were exquisite. But they were not returned me. They were put on display… and someone stole them!
           Shite, I was angry. And I said in a rage, "I'd do a Bear Walk if I knew how!" Said it to Peter(**) who said, "Don't say that! That's a terrible curse." But he added, "I'll introduce you to someone who talks to Bear, and other spirits."
           Which is how I meet Marylyn Johnson, who carried a pipe and spirit traveled… and yes, she said she could see where they were, my little sculptures … but there was no name or address attached… and I never did find them, (though I can "see" in my mind's eye … the room she described, a chiropractor's private office (not a student). They're in a desk, a Chinese print on the wall and….. )


      And Marylyn invited me to meet her teacher, Joe Katur, when he was next in town… (And later, his teacher, Mike, my God, he tossed his eagles wing to me in the sweat lodge… and that was that Vision Quest, the fast that brought me Spirit into my face… my mind, understanding (2)… the synchronicity within the synchronicity within the you remember… book one chapter two. I just remembered this.) but in the years with Joe Katur and his student, Vern Harper… before that Vision Quest, I learned (a little) about "native spirituality", the smudge, pipe, sweat lodge. These are treasures that sooth our fall from Grace. bind us to spirit.
           I loved the informality of the native way: that Vern's bare feet might rest by the altar with the holy relics, buffalo skull, "flags", pipes. Though they are all ordeals, the rites: the pipe, the sweat, the fast, the sun dance!
           For fifteen years I belonged to Vern's circle… I'm stumbling on the word "sacred", but the circle is sacred. It is consecrated with the pipe that binds the people to Spirit and to the creator, the great mystery: Manitou.


You can search for spirit (or the mind) with direct attention, or with the intellect, but then you are looking for the map, not the terrain: the understanding, not the thing itself…
          Ken Wilber's World describes what he calls "the perennial philosophy", the dimensions of the spiritual realms: it's intellectual, but it's interesting, what I've written. Called it Wilber's World: the Cosmic Circle …..
          Caution: my son, Seth, says this piece is awefully "wordy", and that I should rewrite it as a children's story.

Dear children: when the physical material world evolves into the biological realm, new properties emerge: and the same as this evolves into mental, and beyond. As Wilber points out, "a cube has squares, but squares do not have cubes." Wilber designates several realms - material, pranic, mental, subtle, causal, ineffable (why not seven? where's my indigo?)

My teacher (of meditation) says these concepts, concepts are not his cup of tea. I, however, found these concepts clarifying: but they are complex and, so far, I can only handle them in a wordy fashion.

so the divine evolves from the physical, and at one and the same time the divine unfolds through causal, subtle, mental... to physical"

Words, words...      I expanded paraphrasing
mostly Wilber's words from "Eye to Eye", editing them freely in an attempt to understand... This footnote is a great example or wordiness…

footnote: an example of category error is what Wilber calls the "pre/trans fallacy". "... because the prerational and the transrational realms are, in their own ways, nonrational, they appear similar or even identical to the untutored eye. This confusion generally leads to one of two opposite mistakes: either the transrational is reduced to the prerational (e.g., Freud), or the prerational is elevated to the transrational (e.g., Jung)." Likewise errors arise from confusion of the "prepersonal, personal, and transpersonal, or subconscious, self-conscious, and superconscious". The pre-egoic, the "primary matrix", is not to be confused with the transpersonal "Self".

Bill says, "I'm a fairly simple, down to earth guy and I find reading this "stuff" almost painful in it's abstractions and intellectualized verbosity.
          That's one thing I like about the Natives: they use few words, grunt and haw occasionally, suffer well and "see" and "feel" the trees and the birds easily."


In the early ninties Joe Katur held a vision quest at Vern's sweat lodge (on the Jesuit land). Were there six of us? Vern and I were fasting, and who else? Monique? Nando? Danny? And tending the camp. Vern's Mary Lyn, and Joe's Elder Mike, and...
           Going into the quest there was a "sweat",… there were more than a dozen of us, not quite a score, people crowded in the low domed tent-like structure, you and not stand or even stoop, you must knell or sit, crawl... And at the center of the lodge is a fire pit.

not vern's lodge
(but rather like)

          For many hours the "grandfathers", 47 melon sized stones, are baked, fired up in a blazing bonfire outside till they are incandescent. The grandfathers are brought to the lodge, to the pit, and blessed. The lodge is closed: tight: no light comes in. The elder splashes water on the stones. The steam stings. Heat happens. A scalding heat envelopes. And you pray. And it is pitch dark. Perhaps a "singer" sings: four times, the song repeats four times… And there are four rounds to the sweat: new "grandfathers" are brought in four times. There is a reverence in "four", because it is the four directions, and the four medicine, and the four guardians.
            Towards the end of the third "round", Mike (Joe Katur's elder) sang a "song". And then, he must have thrown his eagle wing across the lodge: I felt it land at my feet.
          I picked it up.

"All my relations," we call out, with relief, at the end of a "round" of sweating. The fire keeper opens the door to the lodge from outside.
          I offered the eagle wing back to Mike. He indicated that I should hold it, work with it.
          In the interval between the third and fourth "rounds" the pipe is lit and goes around the circle. And then there is a "talking circle", each taking turns to say what they wish to say: to speak their truth, if they wish. I found myself slowly wafting the air to send the eagle's spirit focused somehow on each in turn as each in turn smoked the pipe and then, again, as each spoke. And just recently, in this writing, remembering this, wonder if in this fashion (channelling the eagles Spirit to my companions), if it were not through being granted this honor that I summonsed Spirit to me to say Hello: "She won't have to sleep on the street tonight."
Our vision-quest fasting huts were in the "bush" ~ a scant few acres of wood and scrub, between cultivated fields and creeping suburban divisions, bordered by a river, stream, creek, the Speed River. The land belonged to the Jesuit fathers and they let Vern build his lodge and camp.
           We cut willow saplings, eight for each "hut". Bent the willows over. Tarpaulin, not skins, to cover them. Not large enough to stand, or lie stretch out. But shelter (should it rain).
"Flags." You take a meter, a yard, of cloth. The elder will tell you the color you need. You put a handful of tobacco in the centre. Tie it. The string goes round four times, four knots. This is a "flag". It is an offering to spirit. And for the fasting lodge, tiny little flags, strung together, (red, yellow, white, black) circle round the inside of the fasting hut.  
The ordeal of the Vision Quest fast involves sitting up all night to tend one's fire. By daylight (dawn to dusk) your time is free. Ah. You must collect wood to keep the fire alight by day and for the coming night. Otherwise, you can nap. No food. No water. But you can wade in the water. The little river. And I lulled. Lay floating in the shallow creek. Crayfish and minnows nibbled at my feet. And wading in the water I did have an epiphany: was it meeting Vern? I realised, as the sun broke through some clouds, that the moment was just like this, just like this, when the John baptised Jesus! (What was the link? A quality of the light, I think. Oh, and of course, three days without food or water.)
  At the end of the fast, the Vision Quest, coming out, there is a sweat. The fast is broken with berries.
          About an hour later, one after another the small muscles of my hands and feet went into spasm (for a few minutes). Four days without water, now that can dehydrate enough to adversely effect electrolyte balances. (In the years to follow I would come for the fast, but stay in the camp and work, and fast to my own regime on watermelon.)

After the fast, everyday for a month there was a synchronicity... then spirit waving "hello" on the bus.

Some years after this I had a distancing from Vern's circle (perhaps of no great relevance here - shall I talk about this falling? hmm?) and Fernando became my "elder". I met Fernando in Vern's circle. He was Vern's apprentise in the Northern ways (Ojibway, Cree, Lakota), and Vern's adopted "son". Nando is a Mayan from Chiapas (southern Mexico: a Central American people) and a medicine person in their traditions.
          So many stories. Nando gave me tobacco to be his apprentice when we thought I'd found a site for Nando's sweat lodge: we picked out the spot on Gary's beautiful Pickering acres… Gary the horse whisperer… who then up and died, a heart attack, and that was the end of that lodge.

And what did I learn from Nando?
           That the Eagle is the guardian of the East, and his, her gift is Vision. That the Wolf is guardian of the South and her, his gift is Kindness. That Buffalo tends the West and Buffalo's gift is Patience. And Bear guards the Northern gate, and brings Clarity and Healing.


Janet phoned on a Thursday morning. Could I come and see her 92 year old father, Peiter, who was in hospital with kidney failure. Roger had told her that I was the man who might help. I cautioned that in all probability there would be very little I could do, but I'd be happy to come and see if I could find Peiter, and/or Janet, some comfort. (3)
          Ninety two year old, Peiter van Hulm was tied up with tubes. Gaunt, he was. Pressure cuffs slowly rhythmically pumping at his calves, ankles (to maintain circulation). Janet had freed one of his feet and ankles, and I spent much of those two hours of my visit applying acupressure to possibly relevant kidney points. Janet had the impression that more urine was flowing in the pipes (from the catheter: oh, his circulation was too weak for dialysis), and that he was calmer with me there.
          Now and then Peiter would call out, not quite a cry, "Help me." Janet, or I, would enquire what sort of help he sought. Medical? Physical? Was he in pain? (He was on heavy pain meds.)
          "Are you in pain?"
          What were the other questions? On occasion the help Peiter sought was with clearing mucous from his mouth and a tissue drawn across his mouth would help. But mostly he was, we were, unclear what help he sought.
          Peiter was from Holland. Peiter van Hulm. But he'd lived almost seventy years in Canada. Mostly round Kingston. He'd been a teacher, then a headmaster, a Principle at several High Schools. "Whenever they opened a new school, they would move him into it, to set it up, to get it running. He was the Principle of three High Schools."
          Peiter was much loved in his community, and Janet, for sure, doted on her father. He was scientifically inclined, a rationalist, not into religion, though Helena, Peiter's wife, Janet's mum, had been a devote Lutheran.
          Might I speak gently to Peiter about how I understood consciousness and mind and spirit? Janet felt fine with that. (It echoed the "spiritual" space she was coming from.) But I don't now remember what I said. Did I tell him about Katie, my mother, and the "verse on faith mind"?
          Katie too, my mother, was an atheist, and in her nineties, when she was fading I asked her permission to read her a Buddhist tract. It's quite wonderful, "verse on the faith mind", but it's eight pages long. "The Great Way is not difficult for those who have no preferences. When love and hate are both absent everything becomes clear and undisguised. Make the smallest distinction, however, and heaven and earth are set infinitely apart…" And on and on for page after page, and ten or fifteen minutes in, Katie finally demurred. "Too many concepts," she said. (4).

Janet was quite sure her father was not ready to pass on. "He said he wanted to reach a hundred." So, I had to be cautious, for her sake, when I spoke trying to ease his fear of passing. (She thought I was there to heal him, not to help him "crossover".)
          Janet told me stories about her father. The one that struck me and stuck though I don't remember the details, was the story of the eggs.
Peiter had heard that two young "miscreants" were planning to throw eggs at… I didn't listen well. I was "working" with Peiter. I can't remember the intended target., but Peiter, the headmaster, arranged to intercept the lads on their way to do the deed; met them casually greeting them warmly slipping his arm round a shoulder to explore - found and broke the eggs in their pockets, first one lad, then the other.
          "It saved them a lot of grief," said Janet. Involvement of their parent perhaps involvement of the police. This way, though, nothing more was ever said.
But here in the hospital, monitor flashing, beeping softly, scrolling multiple line, waves: what to do?
          What to do, God help me, for his entreating, "Help me"?
          "Help me."
          "I know," I thought, "I'll call the beagle. What a weird thought... Do it! Ask her to keep him company."
          I "called" the beagle. Rita, my beagle. She'd been gone three years: she had been dear to me, and it seemed the thing to do. Rita was much more suited than my beloved Lucky to look after, sit with, comfort Peiter.
          And, and I felt, I imagined her coming, being there.
          Real? I did not care. It felt appropriate to try this "stuff" whether it was real or imaginary. (So I called in a couple of my cat friends (though not the Pookey))

The next day Janet thought Peiter was better. Now her husband, Tom, was there, Peiter's son-in-law, who seemed to love Peiter like a father (though Janet had warned me that Tom too, like her dad, was a science guy, and to steer away from too explicit or too New-Agey spirity stuff.
          Old Peiter seemed more distressed to me. Called out "Help me!" more. Not too loud, but quite urgent. A third or quarter of the time it was for help spitting stuff out. But mostly Peiter couldn't answer Tom's insistence queries of what he needed help with (5). Peiter was pretty well "orientated": knew what was going on when Tom, or Janet, would rouse him. Still he'd often called, asked "Help me" but couldn't say how. (And I don't remember what I said, though I know I didn't "lecture" or "preach". Much.)

The third morning, Saturday, Peiter was fading, almost gone. Janet crying. Tom too. The monitor's heart spikes low and slow… expiring. And. And. Because of the eggs, because of "I have something to tell you. I find you attractive," I called Ted. And I looked up and seemed to see Peiter moving to a door, an open doorway. And Ted there greeting him. Ted smiling gently, welcoming Peiter.
          And Peiter was gone.

chapter 5

Here ends chapter 4, the Sacred, ah, but for the poem...

chapter 5
For now, I'm going to end by repeating the poem Wikisays Nirvana Nibbana (6). And there's a lovely little film of that (with Waleed)....



Wikisays Nirvana Nibbana


Nirvana / Nibbana  literally means "blown out" like a candle

ni      out, without, away from

va     blow, as a wind; or waft as an odor

na     not, never, nor

van   desire,
love, win. procure,
possess, conquer,

van   tree, thicket, quantity, wood

and va can mean weave

gatê gatê
    gone gone

Nirvana / Nibbana

Nirvana / Nibbana 
means blown away
                                   like a candle's flame

ni      out, without, away from

va     blow, as a wind; waft odor

na     not, never, nor

van   desire,
love, grasp

van   tree, thicket, quantity, wood

and va can mean weave

gatê  gatê
  paragatê   parasamgatê    bodhi swaha

Nirvana / Nibbana

wikisays: it's literally "blown out"
like a candle

ni      out, without, away from

va     blow, as a wind

na     not, never, nor

van   desire,
love, win, gain, procure, conquer
, possess,
          grasp, clench

van   tree, thicket, quantity, wood

va      weave

gatê gatê


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