The Tree of Life

The minute I heard that Andras Jones had his book Accidental Initiations published, I was magnetized and couldn’t resist the pull.  It arrived in the mail, and I dropped what I was reading to dive right in.  It is strange and kind of wonderful to read a book written by an acquaintance.

“… we are sent to schools where we learn the agreed upon truths our CULTure calls reality.  These institutions ultimately release us into the wild, civilized world, to parse the varied sub-cults available to us and find our way toward a truth we determine best serves our nature (Jones, 22).”

When I first met Andras he unnerved me.  That feeling never went away.  He is quiet and introspective.  It bothered me that I never knew what he was thinking.  This was heightened by the fact that it is obvious he is a mischievous visionary, spiritually heightened but always on his guard.

In the book, Andras writes of his life experiences through various cults and relationships while guiding us through his own personal Kabalistic Tree of Life in the city of Olympia, Washington.  He finds ritual and symbolism in the map that represents different aspects of being.

The symbol of the Tree of Life has appeared to me several times, and each time it did, my life changed dramatically.  I found it again the night that I met Andras.  It was my last year living in New York.  That December, people from Seattle kept appearing, drawing me back west.  Their spirituality overwhelmed me in a place that tends to be so matter of fact.

A massage healer who was also a confessed energy vampire was staying with me off and on.  I had met him at a party in Seattle the summer before.  He was extremely pale and had a disease that aged him in the sun.  The more time he spent with me, the darker his skin got, and the lighter mine became.  Things were very trippy with him around.  I liked that he made me uncomfortable.

“Yes, many of my new friends and teachers were well-meaning charlatans or self-deluding shamans, but at least they were trying for the big consciousness shift (Jones, 52).”

He took me to midtown to an apartment where traveling tantric practitioner’s stay while working in the city.  Andras was staying there with his girlfriend at the time – an escort turned sacred sex worker.  My friend mentioned that Andras did a show called Radio8Ball based on concepts of synchronicity.  Audience members submit questions to the Pop Oracle and random songs answer their questions.  I eventually became a fan and saw the show in New York, Seattle and LA.

Andras’ girlfriend made mushroom tea, and though I normally do not do drugs, the mushrooms seemed so natural and called to me.  I played it like this was nothing out of the ordinary, but I was nervous.  Here I was with three people I didn’t trust at all about to do shrooms.  Anything could happen.  And in fact, it seemed that night that everything did happen.

At first I felt ill, but once outside and moving, the feeling subsided.  Everything unnatural was disturbing, and in New York City, that’s pretty much everything.  I realized I was not experiencing an altered state exactly.  This was true reality in another dimension, as seen through the soul of a mushroom.

“… the high was only a perspective shift from which to experience reality more realistically (Jones, 36).”

We walked past a man and I knew right away that he had killed many people.  My friend thought he could speak in foreign languages.  And I realized, in my suede jacket, that I was wearing a cow.  I could feel the cow and hear it mooing.  Unnerved, I asked my friend, “Just be my reality, okay?”

We went to Central Park and I could suddenly breathe and the world was made of rainbows and light.  Andras said nothing at all.  He had the grin of a Cheshire cat.  His girlfriend seemed like a doe – innocent and pure, an awesome contradiction to her line of work as a high-paid sex worker.

We came to a stage and my friend walked into the shadows becoming darker, then walked back becoming lighter (his favorite trick).  The three of them felt far away from me.  I climbed the stairs behind the stage, wanting to escape.  There were thick vine trees lining a path and I found the Tree.  I sat in it and the Tree began breathing up through me, rocked in a cradle of inhaling and exhaling wood.  We were melded together as one.  I wanted to be alone and away from all the uncertainty.  But my friend kept calling me, “Lauren, we’re moving on.  You need to come now.”

“No, I don’t want to.  This is where I belong.”

Eventually, I caught up to them.  We walked through a horse round and circled a statue where a panther mutated into a squirrel.  Live animals had become fluffy unreachable entities with no connection to humanity.  Electronic music was a terrible noise while church bells were the most beautiful sound I had ever heard.  People moved in herds except for some crazy disco roller skaters that all moved to their own rhythm.

When we returned we descended into an emotional slump.  I became obsessed with willing a rose to open, and then felt depressed as it began to wilt.  My friend worked on Andras doing massage and Andras had a break down, conflicted over his own masculinity.  We all sat down and my friend began to cry as he confessed that in a past life he had been on intimate terms with the insides of human bodies, opening them up to look inside.  Andras’ girlfriend wanted to work on my friend in a healing exercise where she needed to feel connected to him spread eagle on the massage table.  Andras was getting pissed, so they left us and went into the dark bedroom to finish the therapy.

Andras and I sat on the couch awkwardly feeling jealous.  He began to obsessively clean the kitchen and the living room.  I wanted to catch the train back to Hoboken, and he had plans for the next morning.  He began to yell all of this towards the bedroom, and finally my friend and I got the hell out.  I couldn’t go to sleep when we got back home, and I found the dark room disturbing.  So we lay there for a long time with the lights on, talking beneath the covers.

I would see Andras randomly here and there over the next five years.  Mostly through his show, once at an awkward networking event, and once at his past job as a bartender at Bottleneck Lounge.  He approached me at one point to help find sponsors for his radio program, but I was not at all right for that kind of job.

Accidental Initiations is enjoyable to read, and I don’t think that’s just because I knew many of the stories and people he writes about.  It’s a shame that on Amazon his ‘boring haters’ have made quite the mark, although their crazy attacks made me want to read the book even more.  He left KAOS radio station in Olympia on bad terms, fired for indeterminate reasons.  There was much slander and harassment against him and he’s hell bent on getting his show back on the station.  But he needs to let it go and move on.  The low point of his book is including all the dirty details involved in the case, including letters (that according to the ‘boring haters’) are not accurate.  This chapter has nothing to do with the spiritual journey we are all on with him throughout the rest of Accidental Initiations.  It is more suitable to a temporary platform like an article or a blog, not the pages of a book, which had the potential to go beyond his current audience for Radio8Ball.

Next week I am off to a place of solitude to finish a memoir that has been in the making for the last ten years.  Andras reminds me that our shared history is a strange one, with details impossible to recreate.  I too am not as social as I used to be because of people that have let me down.  And though I began my memoir out of spite, I somehow was able to forgive my enemies as I wrote through their voices.  I became the people that I loved, the people that I hated, and left behind the person that I was.

“One of the key components of any effective cult is some level of getting over yourself as a route to getting truly into your Self (Jones, 51).”

After that night when I sat in the Tree, everything changed.  There is strength in knowing the earth is made of magic.  I didn’t need to find my identity through someone else, because I had my own.  Nothing could stop me from being an artist.  It was time to go home.

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