Living with a Mystery

Chapter 1.

For Beltane in 2005, I took a trip to Mykonos, intended as a vacation. Toward the end of the trip, a shopkeeper found out I was an astrologer.

“Do you know what’s less than a mile away?”

I answered that I didn’t. It turned out that another island called Delos was about one nautical mile from Mykonos. Delos was revered by the Hellenistic Greeks as the island of the gods: the birthplace of Artemis and Apollo, with temples to many deities. I visited the Sacred Lake, where the twins were born; the temples of Hera, Isis, Aphrodite and Herakles. I spent every minute I could there, taking in the visceral feeling of the society that left it behind in the 1st century BCE.

I returned to Paris for a brief stay at home, and then headed to New York, where my first stop was the home of my friends Karen and Michael, who live on the Grandmother Land in High Falls. On my first morning there, I woke up and went into Kingston, where, walking down the street, I discovered that one of my testicles was swollen. Not very swollen, just a little—it seemed to be filled with fluid. It wasn’t painful, just odd and uncomfortable.

I went to the Chronogram office and started making calls, to various friends who were doctors, and to the hospital where two years earlier I’d had a hernia repair.

Over the next four years I talked to about 20 different doctors: Chinese doctors, herbalists, surgeons, urologists, about five of them the first week. The first place I went was an acupuncturist I knew was very good, and trained in China; he treated me but said he was perplexed. I went to my regular doctor, taking advantage of being in the Hudson Valley, and did some basic check-up stuff including blood work. Everything looked normal. Though I didn’t realize it at the time, I was beginning a medical, spiritual and personal odyssey to find out what exactly was wrong and what I could do about it.

My next city was Toronto, where I would be teaching an astrology conference. That happened to be where I’d had my hernia surgery in 2002, at a hernia center called Shouldice Hospital. I was seen by the chief of surgery, who examined me and informed me that I had something called a hydrocele. He could not tell me how or why – though it turned out that 1% of hernia patients end up with one, usually on the right side.

This was an odd way of coming full circle. I actually got the hernia when I was 17. Hernia is easy to diagnose, though the doctor I had gone to said that I had…a hydrocele. So for the next couple of decades, I believed I had a hydrocele when I really had a hernia. The person to straighten that out was my friend Jeff Paterson, who is an osteopathic physician. He told me that I actually had an inguinal hernia and I should get it fixed. He recommended Shouldice, which specialized in effective, economically priced hernia operations. In fact that was all they did, and they were world-renowned for doing so. Even Ronald Reagan considered going there when, during his term, he had a hernia.

The operation went well, though within two days I had an infection, in the incision. I got on the next flight I could to get back to where I was living at the time, an island near Seattle, on Vashon Island. There, I had a close friend who was a midwife and another who was a doctor – I figured I would get the best care there. This was true. With the devoted, focused and wise leadership of my friend Gail Murphy, we worked on the infection, and gradually after a month, worked it out. I never took a single antibiotic.

Gail and I developed a treatment plan using a carefully designed herbal regimen, hot compresses and other basic methods of care. We kept the incision open for 11 days, so that it would drain properly. On the 11th day we switched the topical herbs to another one designed to close the incision quickly, and from that point it healed normally.

Then I developed the hydrocele and I was back in the hernia center being told that I had what the first doctor I had seen as a teenager mistakenly told me that I had. There were two medical options: one was a radical form of surgery that was not appealing; the other was a procedure that would extract the fluid and apply a small amount of a sclerosing agent to seal off the tissue that was excreting the fluid. This is similar to what is done for varicose veins.

But why was this happening? What was the underlying psychic or emotional issue? And how would I work that out? That would occupy plenty of my mental and emotional bandwidth the next four years. Along the way I met many doctors, heard many theories, and followed my way as close as I could to the core of the issue. I learned a lot, including how little many doctors know.

I hired a medical researcher in Boston to dig out all the treatment options, even the obscure ones. I explored the issue from every conceivable standpoint: homeopathic, conventional medical, herbal, and surgical. I worked with a witch who found an old essential oil combination that could be effective – but like all the other textbooks, in nearly every other discipline, this one said that the issue was stubborn and tended to return.

A holistic doctor in Brussels was the first person to ask me about the astrology of the issue, which I had considered: and it was Mars and Chiron.

Yet the reason I spoke to so many people was that I could not work the issue out. It would not move, at least on the physical level. And while the hydrocele was medically harmless, and painless, it was weird and uncomfortable and gradually growing.

I considered and explored the sexual metaphors, though I had a few discoveries to make about that. One thing that I recognized over time was that on that same trip to Canada, I began photographing models; basically, I created the Book of Blue. It didn’t have a name yet, but I began the journey. It was ‘coincidental’ with the hydrocele, though it felt connected by theme, at first in a deeply abstract way. The timing was precise within weeks; I bought my first digital SLR camera on that trip to Canada and posted my first Craig’s List listing and did my first photo session with a model, using mirrors.

The two processes, a healing process and an artistic one, traveled through time like a double helix. Over the next four years as I explored the issue from many dimensions I photographed and got to know many interesting women who contributed to my growth as an artist, my body of work and my growth as a man.

This recognition did not shed much rational light on my situation, and it didn’t do much to relieve the anguish of my unsolved mystery. Though because my inner life is so focused on my sexuality, it was a particularly poignant one. And, I missed my old balls. I had really, really nice balls; and now I had one that was getting larger and stranger.I wasn’t going to do anything that wasn’t thought through. I knew I had one advantage – time. Not forever, but I decided to use my time well.

Medically, this started with eliminating the more serious possibilities: I had a sonogram to check for tumors and did several courses of antibiotics (for the first time in decades) to address the potential of an infection, and which made me quite sick. With those possibilities eliminated, I could afford to take my time and explore the territory.

Chapter 2.

It took a long time to learn how not to allow this issue to run my life. I became obsessed with learning the medical truth, learning to explore the underlying intuitive truth. And in a close synchronicity I began the process of photographing and getting to know models in the Book of Blue series of photos. There was no diary at that time; there were only people, photos and my relationship to them and to the work. Without recognizing what I was embarking on at the time, I set out on a path of exploring every nuance of my desire nature.

And I began a process of building my confidence with women, first unconsciously and then as a fully conscious act. I have a reference point, which was my trip to Mykonos. While I was there I worked with a portrait photographer named Kristos and through knowing him I got a look at how incredibly insecure I was. I could see it because he could see it: I was afraid to talk to any woman I was attracted to. I would panic.

Through the course of doing the Blue photos I had to confront this, mainly because I was attracted to every woman I photographed. Getting to know her, and experience the dynamics between us, and then exploring my responses to the photos, I went ‘through the looking glass’ on my relationship to my desire nature. I spent a lot of time brewing in my sense of yearning and desperation, my overwhelmed reaction to female beauty, and my desire to make contact. I observed this as healing an injured male nature, a sense of not deserving or not belonging: that is, not deserving love or truly belonging in the presence of a woman who got me going.

Because there was always a built in space between me and my models, I had the opportunity to explore that space between desire and mutual desire; between desire and action. Looking back I am sure the women I photographed responded the way they did because I lacked the confidence or awareness to reach them directly; and because they understood what I needed and were giving it to me.

Meanwhile, seemingly in the background, my medical drama ensued, driven mainly by this symbol of sexual disfigurement: one ball bigger than the other, accumulating fluid for no apparent medical reason. The situation was benign on the physical level, but challenging on the level of self-image and my own aesthetic sense of my body. This, while confronting Woman as the image of physical perfection, of potential, of freedom of choice, all of which I could witness in them though not in myself.

One thing I was able to do was to allow myself to go deeper and deeper into my desire nature. I learned how not to deny that I wanted; and eventually I learned how to want. Wanting is different from wanting desperately; one is fulfilling and the other is not.

Then, given the bounds of who or what was available, I learned to receive from myself, or from anyone who would offer themselves to me. These opportunities often came with some kind of power struggle. My relationships with my models had a clear sense of purpose, of boundaries, and the unstated but obvious necessity for me to honor precisely what they wanted; and to be aware of what I wanted; and to submit to the truth that if they didn’t want to be close emotionally or sexually, that I would be the one who would give that piece to myself, and gradually get to know myself in the process.

The nexus point of the hydrocele, my photography and my desire nature was one thing – my desire to heal; my choice to hold sexual and emotional healing as a core value in my life.

Chapter 3

I didn’t understand the relationship between my new exploration of photographing women and my healing process of this physical issue that manifested. The link was and is in some ways intuitive, though it was good enough for me that they took place and developed along the same part of the temporal order. Both had a focus on sexuality, though that was one level beneath the surface.

I was dealing with an injury or condition related to my sex organs, and I was engaged in a creative process that put me into the presence of women with whom I could experience and explore poignant desire.

Both represented questions. An injury to the sex organs can point back to sexuality and probably does, though this came out in some improbable ways, as I will describe. While the Book of Blue photos were not usually explicitly sexual, they were infused with sexual energy based on my experience of the women I was photographing. There was an understanding involved, which is that I was holding space for their conscious self-awareness, which they gave me permission to express in art.

Female sexuality is usually experienced as subtler and more diverse than male sexuality; the awareness factor is different, and that awareness is what I was learning from my models.

I was aware of my sexual desire, and also my holistic curiosity, for the women I photographed. I truly liked nearly all of them. Yes, some were difficult cases. Some had more fun than others, though I almost always felt kinship with them and moreover, identified with them. They were interesting and intelligent, and most of them were talented artists. I would have loved to spend more time with them, though by a curious coincidence they were unavailable, and if they were, that is, if they didn’t announce their boyfriend and keep their distance outside of my studio, none seemed interested in anything more than a casual acquaintance – at least for the first few years.

Yet the creative rapport I shared with them was pretty incredible. The photos were all about my sense of awareness and contact. And this presented me with some challenges.

For my part, I had gone years without a lover, and my sadness and longing were starting to ferment into another feeling that I didn’t like; a bitter longing. I could not understand my situation. I had everything going for me that the psychological studies of women say is attractive in a man: I was successful at what I was doing, I had social standing and respect, I’m a considerate person, and I take an actual interest in the people that I meet. As I met this nearly unanimous array of women, I kept referencing my astrology career, where all I met were women seeking partners, usually desperately.

I was not willing to accept being ‘too deep’ or ‘too smart’ or ‘too sexual’ or ‘too aware’ as excuses for their apparent lack of interest (though some supposedly wise women said this or something like it was the issue).

I questioned the wisdom of continuing my experiment of experiencing my photo subjects at such close range: close enough to love them and to pick up their scent and to feel a depth of unusual contact. Looking from the outside I could see how it might seem like I was taunting myself with interesting women who I got to experience naked for a few hours, having an interesting conversation, and then not go any further with.

Yet for some reason I was continuing. I understood that the safe space I created was partly so because I respected their boundaries; that’s one of the circumstances that allowed them to be so open in the photographs. That part made sense. And I understood that my place was not to deceive anyone about my curiosity or caring or desire, but rather to be in my feelings honestly, without judgment or guilt. Gradually I learned to clarify those sources of interference.

Recently I remembered an experience I had on Mykonos, just before my photo project began, with a photographer I commissioned to do my headshot. His name was Kristos Katzios. In the months when tourists were there, he did beautiful portraits of people visiting; then during the winter months he would travel the world. He had an incredible life and seemed to be solidly confident in himself.

He noticed that I had absolutely no confidence with women. It almost seemed funny to him.

I began to understand I had something akin to subtle terror of whatever woman I was attracted to. Or more accurately, my fear would surge any time I was attracted to someone and was not in a social situation that allowed room for intelligence or individuality, or where I was valued for my talents. Mykonos, despite its reputation as a gay island, was overrun with little hotties on vacation visiting from all over the world. I barely noticed the gay thing. The women in bright summer dresses had me dizzy, but I felt like J. Alfred Prufrock, gripped with paralysis. So in retrospect, it seemed like a logical thing to do, to begin to work with these feelings and investigate that of which I was terrified.

One thing I learned fast photographing absolutely stunning women was how not to be intimidated by them. With a camera in my hands and a mutual agreement to make pictures, I was in a position to bring both curiosity and appreciation. There was no room for intimidation; not if I wanted to do the work. And so, one session at a time, one woman at a time, I learned to be confident, to take charge of the situation, and to honor her individuality and my own – no matter how beautiful, no matter how intriguing, now matter how madly I wanted to suck her pussy but for whatever reason could not.

Chapter 4.

This is the fourth part of Living With a Mystery. The first part is three posts down, with a title. This series is intended to be read in sequence: the posts are in chronological order, organized from bottom to top.—efc

My first extended phase living with a hydrocele and creating my life through art was in Paris. It was like my psyche was oriented in two poles that emerged simultaneously, and there was something that joined them, or rather, a space I was exploring between them.

The space between is where I started, with a new depth of openness that came with arriving in that town. My choice to open inwardly was a utilitarian or preordained response to my unfulfilled eromotional yearning for women, or maybe it was about adapting in a place where female beauty seemed more out of reach and yet more exquisitely beautiful as I could not touch her.

I enjoyed sex when it would happen and the truth is I had some really interesting experiences, moments of agonizing, planetary beauty in human form. Part of my conflict was that I wanted more, I wanted emotional submission and sharing to go with erotic surrender. Being in conflict over that didn’t help me manifest it or perhaps notice when I had what I wanted.

Yet there was also the issue of complexity—the psychic complexity of another person, which comes with a partial loss of autonomy; of one who happened to be a woman with the power to grant or withhold sex; to grant or withhold the privilege of female orgasm. The privilege of the scent and the water of cunt. Necessary for survival, for happiness, for art. For sanity.

For me the more poignant side of my street was exploring my pine-scented delight in allowing myself to yearn for one who was unavailable, yet so vividly open. To thirst in honesty. And…I catch myself at this all the time, because the silent truth is: A more appropriate response would have been gratitude. I know that the women who chose to expose themselves to my curiosity and my canvas were in collaboration with [the goddess] my need to understand my sense of loss. My loss of…each was a ray of mother, disguised as daughter, as friend, as fantasy object. Each lit up a dark spot in my mind. The resonance was: you can’t fuck your mother but you can want to, and that wanting can turn up in the eyes of virgins and babes, mothers and those wanting to be. And as I did this I understood that I needed to find this quality in the mirror. The mirror was the space between me and myself.

The little gap. The precipitous drop.

And my ball growing heavier. A burden I carried everywhere.

In a story below I described my mom coming into the room while I was masturbating one night, sitting on the bed and being with me for a little while. I could see, and see the beauty, that in masturbating in the presence of so many women, I was reaching for that moment.

I developed a sweet tooth for letting go in the company of sexworkers. I craved autonomy, and somewhere in here the concept masturbation celibacy was collecting in the crevices of my limbic system: collecting and finding if not words, experience. My pleasure was the buildup and dive into having a mouthful of myself in Her presence. Of being full of myself and loving and being loved and admitting the edge of shame, admitting myself; in a safe presence, a light behind the shadow, I could give myself permission in her company, and I think everyone I’ve shared with knows this.

Prostitutes are anonymous. But they have an expected role, as does the man who arrives. And that generally does not involve an emotional need. To hand a prostitute a mirror and say please hold this for me dissolves the illusion of ‘disconnected’ and the sexplay becomes empathy. I paid some sweet girls to do that for me, once a pair of Italian girls working in the Feu Reuge of Amsterdam.

It is a kind of intimacy: saying, of admitting, to a prostitute – I need your help with this. I don’t want or need to fuck you, I need you to hold this mirror and I need you to say things to me and…one of the most beautiful was Sabrina, who informed me, as I pulled back my knees and she moved a dildo inside my body: You’re just like a woman. You like to drink semen, and you like to be fucked.

Driven by the sense of the missing woman, I learned to embody Her.

Chapter 5

While I was living in Paris I traveled to Amsterdam. On my first visit, before I had tried any of the treats the city had to offer, I took a walk in search of the Feu Rouge, and discovered with pleasure that it was mingled with coffee houses and Chinatown. The Asian food is just excellent in this town, and my favorite restaurant turned out to be a place called Tibet. There, I had some of my best meals and best conversations. The food resembled Szechuan, only better done and more intensely exotic.

Surrounding Tibet were many coffee houses. In Amsterdam a coffee house is a place where you can choose and purchase and smoke cannabis. They don’t serve alcohol, only hot drinks, some cold drinks and even in the smallest place, a lovely diversity of choices of weed: all of it uniquely strong.

Having never done so, I found an interesting looking shop, a few steps down from street level, went in and chose something. The place was called The Basement and it would become my favorite haunt in town. I borrowed the house pipe, a water pipe, and about two tokes later was tripping. Not tripping hard, but definitely visiting Summerland, it was in fact summer and the streets were teeming with humanity; with the pulse of men in search of the one they want to fuck: a prerogative of this place. Women in bathing suits and lingerie lined the windows, flirting with men, taunting them to come in and let go. I could feel the energy of male release, of the orgasms happening on the other side of the facades, as I slowly walked along the sidewalk

I turned a corner and looked to my left and there, in the full length glass of a doorway, dressed in elegant white lace undies, was a girl so beautiful that my heart sang for her: streaming, wavy dark brown hair, dark eyes and, by her offering this obvious bit of knowledge, Italian – which explained the delicate moan of my soul upon seeing her face. She looked at me knowing I had already submitted; and a moment later we were together, she closed her door, drew shut her blinds, turned the lock. Then she collected her fee, which was 100 euro for 40 minutes. I handed her 120.

I was stunned. I had never done this, and then she was presenting herself to me, a woman so beautiful I could never imagine fucking her, for example, if I met her at a party or function. And now she was offering herself with the sway of her hips, accentuated by her heels. I was fascinated by the power of a little money.

At first I had no mind to fuck her, but there was no logic in not doing so. Or none that I could find. Then she was naked and I was naked and I was mounting her. She guided my initial penetration and my penis filled up the warm core of her body.

I gently fucked into her, verging on disbelief, and my sentiments surged upward and I told her how sweet she was and I reached toward that gentle spot that I knew she held. Yet no matter how deep or freely I fucked her, I could not let go. I studied her face and she was barely breathing. I asked her to relax her energy but that was too much for her, too intimate.

I knew I would not relax and let go that way. So I separated from her and sat up in front of her and masturbated with the condom on me. She sat up and looked at me, curious and bewildered and friendly. I so so dearly wanted to ejaculate into her, into her little tummy and between her hips and I knew I couldn’t, but looking at her I could easily spin out of control. And I planned to.

Then I had a thought: I asked her if she would say some words to me. She nodded yes and I said, please say…and she did, she said: You want to fuck me like a man, but you’re sitting here like a boy in front of me masturbating. This, in her delectable Italian accented speech, her oval face looking at me in wonder that morphed into her sense of power. She had picked up on the theme easily and kept going.

You want me but you’re jacking off. Go ahead, that’s right. Make yourself cum. Jacking like a little boy.

With this, I lost control. My eyes opened wider and I looked at her, exposing my face fulfilled in my desire for her to see me, and I pumped rhythmically into the condom, throbbing in my hand. I mourned for a moment that she would not see me spurt outward, and I soaked into the demeaning truth of that, too, as my semen flooded the condom invisibly.

Coming down from the climax I was still soaring. She made the rounds of her room, slipped back into her white lace and informed me that I now had to leave. This wasn’t going to happen.

“I have ten minutes left” I said, “and besides, that’s not enough for me to feel safe going out onto the street.” I knew I would need to pay to hang out longer, so I reached for the pocket of my jeans and fished out a crispy 50 euro note, and a worn out 10 that was floating the same pocket, and handed them to her.

She put them in a box in her locker, and she sat down and turned on the radio. I looked into her face and then into her eyes and we exchanged a moment of compassion. As the radio came on in her hand, I heard one of the most astonishing things I have ever heard – the Joan Osborne song, ‘One of Us’. You know:

What if God was one of us
Just a slob like one of us
Just a stranger on the bus
Trying to make his way home

If God had a face what would it look like
And would you want to see
If seeing meant that you would have to believe
In things like heaven and in Jesus and the saints and all the prophets

And yeah yeah god is great yeah yeah god is good
yeah yeah yeah yeah yeah

Chapter 6

Medically, my time in Paris was spent on several projects. I was referred to a Vietnamese homeopath who had a strange way of working, compared to the American ones; he did a kind of divination that would test for issues and appropriate remedies. What I took from him was: Your father is jealous of you. So I spent some time dealing with how disruptive that was – dealing with that kind of resentment, that amounted to him holding me back energetically. I took a few different remedies. I gained understanding but did not make progress on the physical issue – and the hydrocele was gradually growing larger.

The part about my father was a clue, however, one of many that I collected.

I worked with an acupuncturist, who told me about the Chinese medicine theory about how these things manifest suddenly but it’s really the drop that spills the cup. A Frenchman who was trained in Asia, he worked on me a number of times, and then a communication mishap ended our relationship.

I had the Sonogram and got a look at the thing: a collection of fluid, nothing more. I did the antibiotics, to rule out an infection. A truly paranoid, sexually neurotic, extremely hot Italian ex-girlfriend was worked up about the possibility that I had given her an STD, though she had no symptoms and neither did I, except for a hydrocele.

Nobody wanted to hear about my research findings connecting the condition to hernia surgery. While I was in Canada I got my files from the hospital and read the rather disturbing, if routine, surgical notes on my procedure: I didn’t realize how much they cauterize while in there, which would have totally disrupted the vascular condition of the area and led to such a thing.

I started to get the feeling that working with doctors was like the fable of the blind men and the elephant: every one knows their part and therefore thinks they know the whole thing. None of the methods I was working with seemed to overlap, or perhaps just a little: but the practitioners were stuck in their methods and unwilling to look beyond them. I don’t recall anyone doing actual research into the issue, despite the fact that nearly every practitioner I worked with having never seen the issue before.

The French acupuncturist was particularly annoying in his refusal to address the medically documented after-effect of hernia surgery often associated with the problem – though this was true of all of the supposedly ‘holistic’ practitioners.

So, I did the research myself. I learned about the anatomy of my balls. I learned about many treatment methods for hydrocele, most of which were never done; and the one I wanted, the least invasive and substantially most effective for the effort, was only rarely done.

On one level, the issue was running my life. Considering that nobody could really help, and nobody seemed to have a thorough understanding of the issue – or even experience dealing with it – except for a friend from the poly scene, an osteopathic doctor who lived in Madison, WI. He was the curious type and he did a lot of work with cosmetic vascular issues, such as varicose veins, and he had some ideas. He was the one who, years earlier, had noticed I had a hernia.

Still, I was taking a research, wait and see approach to the issue. And I was taking photos, stretching into that space between desperation and fulfillment: which is honest desire. And in that space, I knew intuitively there was something for me.

Chapter 7.

Underneath these events is another discovery, and though it’s challenging to talk about things will make a lot more sense once I have it in tangible form. In fact I can’t believe I’m going to go here, but I’ve gone a lot of other places and I want to clarify this for myself and draw back a layer of mystery for you. Intellectually it’s simple. Emotionally, it’s more complex. Translating that into Gestalt, intellectually I am simple. Emotionally I am more complex. This journey is emotional; it’s about how I feel about myself. I’m about how I feel about myself.

The idea to drink my semen came from dreams that started in adolescence of cumming down my own throat. So realistic, so vivid, sensory and beautiful, I would wake up ejaculating, with the full sensation of my throat and my penis throbbing in unison and the semen pulsing into my belly. My last thought before waking up was always something like, I never knew this was so easy.

I could get into the thirst while I was masturbating. I started to and it became one of the things that got me hot the most dependably. In fact got me off the most dependably. Like running off a cliff into the Sun. Then I would be sitting there with a handful of my cum and the idea was dumb. Not a turn on. Kind of gross and embarrassing.

This could go to an extreme of downright shameful. So, I gradually learned how to speak to these feelings, and to listen back, and to relate and gradually began to find myself. I started to understand that the side that wanted and the side that were disgusted were like hemispheres with a space between them. I got this idea that this was not just a model of my libido but also a model of my psyche. A model of western civilization. Wanting but not having. Having but not wanting.

Women gradually shifted from being the one who would give me sex, to the one who would help me receive myself. Every woman I became close to helped in some way. Many sat with me and held space as I built up my desire and admitted my thirst and gave myself orgasm. Then the moment of truth. I needed the permission given by Witness. (The first role of the thresholder is Witness.) In the presence of women, I began to weave myself back together.

Then I would try it alone…

This leads nicely into a second idea, and I hadn’t seen how seamlessly they fit, before writing this.

As I did this, as I explored being witnessed, within my fantasy scenario emerged the idea of withdrawing sexual desire for women and holding it with and for myself. I accepted the irony that women would be the ones who would help me do this; that I still needed them, but somehow this felt like a more honest need. One that offered something.

Initially this felt like a gesture of nonviolance: a choice to withdraw some energy source that was also the source of violence. In the interest of peace between men and women, I experimented with being willing to be made love to, or make love, only to myself.

Somewhere I wrote an open letter to Eve Ensler about exploring the feeling of unraveling the cycle of violence by men against women and the power struggle of men and women by becoming exclusively my own lover. In one dimension of the fantasy I would do this openly over some period of time, for a week or a month or year, and describe my reflections and thoughts as I did, such as in a blog. To use the experience as a way of focusing the conversation.

Give myself to be totally honest about the desperately painful situation that is – despite the overall madness of the usa, one of the best things about out society these days, that men and women basically get along many places. Not everywhere but…a lot of places I’ve been. Yet there’s sometimes this tension. I began to recognize the specifically violent elements within my desire nature. Deep stuff that didn’t look like violence on the surface.

This gesture implied releasing control; the women I loved would fuck who they wanted. I could be jealous, and I would let that guide me to selfsurrender. Deepen my thirst.

Intuitively I knew that withdrawing into myself and learning to accept who I am and what I feel was a contribution to peace between the sexes. In addition to being so relaxing. A key to peace in my life. Meanwhile the erotic vista of masturbating with whomever the feeling was mutual was like a crystal city in the forest.

In that forest men may drink their own semen instead of raping women.

Chapter 8.

After many conversations with doctors and photo sessions and light years of inner journeying, I left Europe and moved to New York. I continued my primary career and began working with women in my new home. One classified ad placed in the fall of 2007 brought in a wave of models with whom I did some of my deepest work as a photographer, and some of whom I still know and am close to today.

And – I was still living with a hydrocele, which was about the size and shape of a small pear. It was nearly as uncomfortable as a hernia, though benign. And strange. And something that after three years I wanted to be rid of. Everyone on the holistic side had half a theory. My new acupuncturist told me that her mentor said that if I stopped taking baths (what he called ‘lifestyle changes’) that would help resolve it. As ridiculous as it is to tell a Pisces to stay out of the tub – it’s refuge in a chilly world, after all – I tried it for a while and nothing budged. I was becoming skeptical of so many practitioners whose vision was shallow and myopic.

One day I was talking to my eye doctor, Marc Grossman, author of The Magic Eye series of books, which are really visual healing tools. Marc may be the only eye doctor who works with you so you don’t need glasses. A man connected to the alternative health scene for 30 years, it occurred to me he might know someone who could help.

Without hesitation he said, “Make an appointment to see Katherine Sweet.” He gave me her number, saying he had worked with her for years. I trusted Marc. I knew this was a good lead.

I had no idea ‘what she was’, except that I understood she was a healer of some kind. I called and had to wait about five months for the appointment, and drive two hours, just outside the city in Port Chester.

Kathy turned out to be a chiropractor and kineseologist, from the days when the two were taught as aspects of the same discipline. She was in her mid-50s, professional, friendly and eminently serious. Her treatment room was well worn. Her long, magnificent gray hair hung in a pony tail.

Kineseology is basically muscle testing; it’s tapping into the body’s knowledge of itself. When I met her I was aware that she was much more than this; that was the shingle she hung out. Once you have a medical license, particularly chiropractic, you have a lot of freedom.

She did a form of muscle testing that depended on the middle finger of the right hand, which she had found is not connected to any organ or known emotional complex; it’s the closest thing to a neutral muscle. So all of the information I got from that session came from a series of questions posed, while she muscle tested. She made many inquiries of organ systems on different energy levels, and scanned through many time frames.

I came to her on the theory that there was an underlying issue related to my hydrocele that I wasn’t contacting, or had not named. While I worked the situation out over the past three years, I was stretching into some daring territory, understanding my relationships to women and teaching myself art. But I knew there was something deeper.

About half an hour into the session she said she believed that my issue dated back to a trauma in 1912, that is, to a prior lifetime.

I knew about this one. “Chicago?” I asked.

“Yes,” she said, and we were in. This was a difficult lifetime, my most recent; I lived from approximately 1900 till approximately 1945. I was a minister. I know my full name from that lifetime; I won’t say it here. I was a doctor of divinity and some kind of professor. I understood from prior work that my fundamental conflict of that lifetime was that I could not tell the truth about God because I was a minister – or that was the best of my knowledge, to that point. I learned that I had another issue, with God directly.

I knew that my wife had died fairly young. I knew that I had fallen in love with one of my students (probably a graduate student), and she with me. She was much younger than me, and our love was sincere. Yet I was agonized with guilt over this, and died of grief in my mid-40s. I’ve known for a long time that I have a natal chart configuration that indicates that my current lifetime is a direct reaction to the immediately prior lifetime: a rare, indeed nearly impossible to create setup that in Vedic astrology called kala sarpa yoga. Interpreting this is controversial, though I understood that the prior lifetime is like a diving board into the current one.

When the year 1912 came up, I asked her if she could give me a month and a date: that turned out to be June 9. I asked for a time and she scanned the clock, bending my finger, and said five pm. I asked if this was Chicago and she said yes.

I now had chart data, down to the hour, for something that might be the original issue, or at least connect to it. I would have been a child at the time. Funny, I had never considered my childhood in that lifetime; I only had memories of myself as an adult.

When our session ended, it was like coming out of a dream. Entering the dreamtime can be a subtle experience. You don’t always know you’re there. But when you come out of it, that’s more obvious. I had opened a door. I also had some practical information, including the need to supplement my diet with co-enzyme Q-10.

I drove home, and later that evening I cast the chart. Then I went to my friend Tracy’s website and searched the minor planets with the first 1,000 asteroids included – something I had never done before. One called Mnemosyne caught my eye. I looked up the word and discovered that it was about remembering past lifetimes. If you drink from the River Styx you forget. If you drink from the Mnemosyne, you remember.

My friend Kristina was sitting in my living room. I looked up at her and said, “This is the chart for my mother getting murdered.”

Then I typed the date into Google. One of the first hits that came up was the murder of the Moore family in Villisca, Iowa that night: the first mass murder in United States history. I started reading through web pages. Six members of one family had been bludgeoned with the blunt end of an axe, along with two house guests in a downstairs room: six kids and two adults.

It literally sent the country into panic. Something had crept out of the shadows, committed a crime in a small town in the Midwest, and terrorized everyone from coast to coast.

Chicago was 400 or so miles from Villisca. I had no idea the connection. This, I would need to investigate. But at that moment I was looking at images of eight people who had lost their lives that very night, overnight from the 9th to the 10th, in a hideous, extremely strange crime, one that was unsolved nearly a century later, and that contained one particular crime scene detail that made little sense to those who had considered it before.

Chapter 9

What is not commonly known about Villisca is that it was a sex crime. It’’s always thought of as the first known mass murder in the United States and the most famous unsolved murder. There are reasons why the sex crime aspect is not well known, and one of them is that it’s not well understood. The other is that it’s not easy to talk about; it’s embarrassing and it involves a dimension of sexuality that most people prefer to avoid.

I will come back to that time and place: to that crime scene, and to the story that the details tell, and who was involved.

Having discovered that the Villisca murders were committed corresponding with data that came out of my finger in a healing session, I was in shock for a while; it preoccupied my thoughts for the rest of that summer. I found a documentary on Netflix and watched it a few times, and began to align with this new dimension that had opened up in my life.

It was more than I could talk about with most people and more than I could write about. I had help: from Catherine, from a few close friends, and from David, my astrology teacher, who helped me decode the June 9 chart.

In terms of narrative and putting the information to use: I was aware that my personal situation was in Chicago, about 400 miles away. I had the clue, mostly intuitive but spoken out loud, that the chart I was looking at was for the murder of my mother. I could not confirm that objectively: with past life issues, objective confirmation is rare, and it’s best to set that craving for rationality aside. The ego can run wrangle over the subtle information that is coming through.

I understood it was unlikely my mother was part of the Villisca murder scene; that would have been unlikely at such a distance, involving such a small town. And the chart I had was for 5 o’clock in Chicago, not midnight in Villisca. A scenario came to me fairly quickly, within in minutes, which was that if my mom was killed in Chicago earlier on the same day as the murders in Villisca, and if that news of the bigger crime had stormed the country by radio and surely by the time the Tuesday daily newspapers came out, the news event would have eclipsed the personal event in my life.

And that is the feeling I had.

To grasp this notion fully, it’s necessary to have an idea how completely the country was gripped in terror that the killer was stalking them personally. People even in places remote from Iowa hired others to guard their bedroom doors; they barricaded themselves into their apartments; they stayed up at night; and generally freaked out. There was that feeling, “If this can happen in such a happy little place as Villisca, it can happen anywhere.”

Nothing like this had ever happened: certainly not as a pubic event. Though the United States was far from innocent, it always clings to a perception of innocence, and this is what exploded into shards that day. The Villisca killer rose up like a huge shadow projected from the mind of every person who saw it or felt it as fear.

With this I had my first scenario of my childhood in my immediately prior lifetime. I started to get visuals: of the funeral in Chicago, where everyone was talking not about my mother or paying attention to me, but gossiping endlessly about Villisca. There was the irrational terror that everyone was caught in like a riptide.

And there was me, a kid of 12, with my life shattered – raging at God because such a thing was possible. I never resolved this, not in that lifetime. Perhaps going into the ministry was an attempt to do that. Whatever it was, I went into the service of God having been betrayed by God.

Chapter 10.

The crime scene that entered awareness at 8:30 the morning of June 10, 1912, when a relative unlocked and entered the Moore house at 323 East 4th Street, makes the darkest horror novels seem dull.

In an upstairs bedroom, two adults – prominent businessman J.B. Moore and his wife Sarah Moore lay in bed with their heads bludgeoned on the forehead by the blunt end of an axe. In the other upstairs room, their four children lay with their skulls crushed.

In a downstairs room, now called the Blue Room, two overnight guests, friends from just outside of town, Lena and Ina Stillinger, had met the same fate.

On the kitchen table were remnants of a meal. There was a slab of bacon on the floor. There were four mirrors in the house (according the the man who restored it to a museum, with whom I spoke yesterday); all of them had been covered with cloth or clothing. Lena, who was 12 and the oldest girl in the house, had been positioned with her nightshirt hiked up over her hips and her legs spread, with a lamp placed between her knees.

All the shades had been drawn and the front door locked. When the usually busy household did not stir to life on a Monday morning, neighbors became concerned. A relative was called; he had a key that worked.

Soon after the discovery, word spread and a crowd gathered, and the people of Villisca, Iowa filed through the house – hundreds of them – staring at their dead neighbors, imprinting the scene of carnage into their DNA. And because so many spectators had walked on, touched and otherwise disturbed the place, the crime scene was destroyed. (In fact, this incident became the basis of developing modern methods of crime scene preservation.)

While future generations of Villiscans would (and still do) criticize outsiders for their fascination with the murder, they do so without admitting that the obsessive interest in the crime and its details began with them. Perhaps it’s a natural human thing, to want to see death up close; perhaps it’s anything but natural.

From what I have read, the detail about the bacon was played down at the time, though both contemporary and modern sexologists agree that it was used as a masturbation device: as something to fuck. Something fleshy and, in fact, cold: it came out of the ice box.

Lena was apparently the object of that masturbation. She was also the only one whose body was in a position that demonstrated she was conscious at the time she was killed, and that she resisted.

What is not understood and what I have not seen analyzed is why the mirrors were covered. This discussion may exist somewhere. The simple fact is that with the mirrors covered, the killer would not be haunted by his own image; for a psychological reason, one need look no further than that. But mirrors are more than reflective; he would also close off a portal, or try to do so.

I have read a number of interpretations of the murder, in total: of how and why it happened the way that it did, and of who may have been the killer. As late as yesterday, accusations were flying as to who committed the crime, and why: what animosity or petty difference between neighbors may have led to this, or what serial killer may have passed through town that night.

What I have not heard mentioned is an interpretation of the crime as a human sacrifice.

Chapter 11

Knowing about the Villisca murders seemed to connect me with something within myself; they were like being given a missing file, and a tap into a past that affected me but from which I was usually shielded. How I came to discover this information gradually intrigued me less than the sense an inner door opening, through which was escaping sadness and grief and fear, and disgust. I didn’t go too deeply into any of it. I preferred to touch the edges, to feel the quality of my responses, but not to indulge too deeply.

Plenty was coming through. Though I did not immediately see the direct connection between the events of the crime scene and the process I was in personally, and the issue of my hydrocele that the discovery was intended to address, I moved through the material patiently. I have been involved with many inner investigations, and criminal investigations; I know this is the only way to move: gently, using intuition, with as little expectation as possible.

Doing some research I discovered that while the information on the Net was repetitive, kitsch and inconsistent, a film documentary had been made recently called Villisca: Living With a Mystery. I requested this from Netflix. The film explored in a fairly straightforward way the details of the murder, the days immediately following and the way that the town became divided over who people believed the killer was.

After no out of town suspect was caught, attention turned toward accusations of two different local suspects, one of whom was a small, sickly minister considered a pervert, and the other of whom was a business rival of Joe Moore who supposedly hired someone to kill him. Under this scenario, the contract killer mauled the other seven people in the house—that is, Moore’s wife, four small children and two overnight guests, to avoid being recognized.

I was given a third scenario last week, by the current owner of the Moore house: that the contract killer did the job (and killed the other seven people for the same reason, preventing being recognized) and then the creepy minister came a long and explored the scene. All of these scenarios seemed ridiculous the first time I heard them, and seem even more so today, based on physical evidence, psychological evidence and my inner knowledge of events.

The reaction of the town was impressive: the people who poured through the crime scene, the way the town became so viciously divided over who the presumed killer was, the sham trials designed to get some closure – all of it.

Yet what touched me the most deeply about the incident as portrayed in the documentary was the face of Lena Stillinger, the older of the two children who was a house guest in the Blue Room.

I recognized her. I felt her presence and I felt my soul answer her. Her face as a child resembled mine as a child of the same age, in this lifetime. One of my friends recognized this and was so creeped out she could not watch the rest of the documentary. I felt like I understood her. I felt like I had loved her for a long time, as if we had a bond or thread connecting us.

I don’t think I ever met her. By logic, there is not much of a chance that a child of 12 in rural Iowa is going to meet a boy the same age in a city hundreds of miles away. In 1912 most people did not venture far from home. I meditated on this puzzle for a while and then it occurred to me that we would have met, had she lived; that she was to be my true love and companion in that lifetime. The sense of longing for contact with her that I felt gave me a clue as to the isolation and longing that I had experienced in my most recent incarnation; my sense of disconnect from the woman I married; and later in life, my guilt and conflict over another woman I was in love with, that is, my graduate student.

Though the details were agonizing, I at least had some clue as to the scenario that led to this unhappiness. And a door had opened as to what I was working out in my current lifetime.

In journeying through the feelings and experiences of that incarnation, I touched on one other feeling: the sense that God is a fraud. Until that time I knew that my conflict over being in the ministry was that I could not tell the truth about God because I was a minister. Until learning this I had no sense of what I thought that underlying truth was, nor that my being a minister was somehow an attempt to cover up for this, or to compensate.

While I did not know Lena personally, anyone who was aware in those days of June 1912 knew the basic details of the Villisca crime scene, and my sense was that if God was real, this could not have happened. Nor could my mother have been killed. This settled into a bitterness that left me as the stilted, isolated, pious man I was, yet one whose child-soul yearned for something deeper. And while that yearning in one way expressed itself as a calling for or from God, in more human terms it was for contact with women: with mother, with companion, with a sense of balance.

Up until that time I had no idea this child sense existed within me, in that lifetime. I was familiar with the Rev. Dr. ____, but not with the child he was – until contacting this scenario. I did not know about the losses he suffered early in life, only those he suffered much later.

In their own way each of these themes, particularly the loss of women, had been significant features of my current lifetime, though this time I had an approach to the situation. And shorn of the traditional ministry, I was free to explore my love for women, for sex and for cosmic truth. I was free to explore my curiosity about my existence.

Chapter 12

Something was gradually beginning to unravel for me in my present experience. Old modes of relationship were showing no signs of working, though another experience was embracing me. While I’d struggled to dependably find the kinds of emotional and erotic experiences I wanted when offering or seeking sex, as I explored my inner world, women were opening up to me about their masturbation, and were available for me to open up with them.

As an aspect of this I was invited to bring my curiosity deeper into their inner lives: that of their true desire, their experiences with other men, their experiences with women, their fantasies and masturbation, and how they felt about those experiences. I asked for, and received, the details

To this confrontation, and it was a confrontation, I could and was willing to submit and surrender. I struggled with wanting to fuck, and with wanting to drink from, certain women I cared about; gradually I surrendered to the fact that this was not happening, though that something else was: something that I dearly wanted, and that I deeply needed. I could trace all the splits in my mind about this, and in moments of my deepest honesty with myself, I was grateful to my partners for giving me something I dearly needed.

Though it was painful at times, I could directly encounter their seeming unavailability. I could see the paradox of this, since they were indeed making themselves available – in a way that I was gradually coming to terms with; gradually learning to respect.

I did not stop wanting them, and that was one of the gifts: to be free to do so; to tune to the vibration and feeling of my desire, without the ‘necessity’ of guilt. I was exploring desire itself, and learning about its emotional constituents.

I began to consciously feel the delicate humiliation and selfless beauty of knowing that the women around me were free to make love as they pleased, and that they did; though what we would do together was masturbate. I am not sure I can adequately put into words what it’s like to explore that mingled space of desire and denial, and to be witnessed in that space.

As I felt each let go, and as I let each guide me before the mirror, I could feel elements of liberation, of acknowledgment and of humiliation.

Now, in a way that I associate with Vesta, together we could define a mutual space where we were free to spread out; where I was free to spread out; and consciously witness one another’s reality.

I had also created a space within which I could learn about myself, and be seen for who I was and who I am. Something changed, in that space. What was once scarcity – the lack of fucking or cunnilingus – was transforming into abundance: the freedom to want consciously, and to receive myself as a sacrificial, and sacred, gesture. Women who would not welcome physical contact or take my penetration were welcoming psychic contact.

So, that summer my experiences opened up, and I had some beautiful, exquisitely honest journeys with women as my mirror; of being together with them in front of the mirror; and of them witnessing me explore myself, witnessing myself. I was aware of holding up some potent reflection to them as well. I gradually began to deduce that, and the realization was and is beautiful.

Along with the Villisca dimension opening, and becoming aware of Lena, I began to feel my primal fear more directly. The fear of being viciously ripped from maculate existence. I began to feel the ruthless stalking murderer in the universe, or possibly in me, stalking myself. I explored what Lena must have felt as she consciously experienced being assaulted in her last moment of life.

The covered mirrors in the Moore household came with a haunting feeling, yet they served as a contrast to my rather different approach to the mirror space.

For the first time I began to fear the mirrors in my studio, as potential portals through which something could enter from another dimension. It took all of my skill as a medium to hold a safe space within this environment. And, on the subject of mediumship, I was working with the June 9, 1912 chart, and in this I had some help from one of my astrology mentors.

The chart had pointed straight to Villisca matrix, and it would soon point the way out.

And, as the months went on, my ball grew heavier. The fluid was pressing into my inguinal opening, stretching my spermatic cord. I was filling up. Yet with what? Was it unshed tears? Was there some relationship to the quarts of my own semen that I had drank? Was there something I was in denial of?

Whatever it was, I relaxed into the feeling, the weight, the question that was teaching me so much.

Continued in Living With a Mystery, 13-22.