ELYSIUM'S PASSAGE CHAPTER ONE

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THE SUMMIT

 

INTRODUCTION

                        

This narrative begins with a most unusual allegory that came to me in a dream one night which, as it turned out, would foreshadow the direction of my future life. The symbolic nature of the objects and environments I encountered reminded me of the symbolic meanings I read of in Pilgrim's Progress.[1] My dream experience had a similar quality to it: the most provocative interpretative expression of my life up to that point, including various deficiencies not so evident to me, though they likely were to others.

Also, you will note, I have included above the quote, come further up, come further in. These few words sum up the primary theme of this book and my new life. If you are familiar with literary works C.S. Lewis, you may recognize this phrase from what was cried out by the characters as they ran further up and further into the New Narnia, as described in The Last Battle, the concluding book in the Chronicles of Narnia series. Only after my adventure, did I come to understand what meaning Lewis intended to convey with this short phrase.

As we each ascend our Mountain further up and further in, we continue to gain greater clarity and vision in seeing who we are while we remain on earth. Whatever path we may be on, we are all on a trek through life. I wish now to share a very peculiar venture that took me further up and further in, far beyond what I could have imagined.

 

CHAPTER ONE

A REALLY CRAZY DREAM

 

It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road,
      and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.[2]                                                                                                                                                                Bilbo Baggins  

 

It had been a stressful week at university as I lectured by day in several over-enrolled introductory philosophy classes, while diligently marking stacks of midterm essay examinations by night. After barely making the Friday afternoon deadline submissions, I returned to my flat and collapsed on the bed, completely knackered.

However, there was still too much going on in my mind for my body to rest. Partly, I was concerned about how this evening might go with a woman I hardly knew. I don’t know; perhaps I felt intimidated by her. Finally, I got up and poured a half glass of rum, then I poured another, and another. Now, feeling much lighter and relaxed, I said a prayer to my favourite god on Mount Olympus.  

Officially, I would have described myself as an agnostic or atheist, as would many of the philosophers in my department who pride themselves on their scepticism. The prayer, if that's what it might call it, was ingenious, or so I thought.

In jest, I said, ‘Zeus, if you're still hiding somewhere up there, I need you to come down for a while to give me a break. I’m afraid things aren't working out so well here these days.’

It was true; I felt increasingly disenchanted with my life. I wanted to experience more fulfilment but wasn't sure what that was or where I might find it. I even considered dropping out for a few years to search for whatever I was lacking. Perhaps if I went to Tibet or the Andes; these places had a lot of appeal to me ever since becoming an avid mountain climber during the completion of my Master’s programme in Canada several years ago. But as I considered doing this, the cynic in me would say if I couldn’t find myself in London, I wouldn’t find myself anywhere else either.  

I was becoming increasingly troubled with my fledgeling career, which did little to allay my financial instability. Also, my inability to establish even one satisfying relationship with a woman was beginning to frustrate me. Outwardly, I had several things going for me, including my academic credentials, physical appearance and roguish charm. When it served my purposes, it seemed I was able to use my debonair persona to attract many women into my life and bed over the years. But keeping them, there was another matter.

This evening, however, I was hoping to put all my cares behind me after arranging this dinner date with the attractive brunette I recently met at a charity event at the university. I was rather impressed with her confident demeanour; not only was she well-read and articulate, but that she recently earned an MBA. Furthermore, she said she was already working as a senior investment analyst for a major investment firm located on one of the top floors of an office tower in Canary Wharf.

Unfortunately, things didn't go too well for us that evening. Perhaps I should have imbibed something less toxic while impatiently waiting for her to arrive. By the time she turned up at our table, over a half-hour late, I might add, I had decided I didn't like her tactics very much.

To me, it appeared that this was a ploy to let me know who had the real job. Likely, this was her way of saying she had more pressing matters to attend to than mark term papers. At least, that’s how I interpreted it. But considering her pretty face and revealing cleavage, I thought I'd make the best of things by attempting to be as pleasant as I could, and see where things might lead; hopefully, in the direction of my flat.

My problem, however, in attempting to make interesting conversation with her, was that we lived in two very different worlds, which is why I found her incessant talk about international commerce so difficult to relate to, not to mention her stellar career. I guess I should have been impressed, but from my academic perspective, I had already decided she wasn't authentic.

Her upwardly mobile pretences didn't do anything for me except make me feel emasculated, which wasn’t exactly a turn-on. I would have been willing to tolerate these affectations if it was to impress me for some amorous intent, but it seemed she was more interested in impressing herself for her own intents.  

I tried to be civil and attentive, but I’m sure she could tell the bored look on my face, except on occasion, when my eyes may have inadvertently drifted down below her neckline. After a couple more glasses of wine following dinner, I was no longer on my best behaviour, suggesting we take a taxi back to my place to get to know each other a little better. Maybe the problem was how I said it.

She wasn't stupid though, as she curtly declined my less than subtle offering. I felt further chagrined when she insisted on paying her half of our dining tab as if to make it clear I had no pretence of a claim on her. Most ungracious, I thought; certainly not how I had planned the evening's outcome.

As she walked out to catch a taxi to go home, I muttered something which she probably didn’t hear. But if she did, I didn’t care. I can be as obnoxious as any pickled bloke under the influence. And by then, I most certainly was. I was distraught with how things turned out and how she had rebuffed me; cold and dismissive, as though passing on some marginal investment option at her office. But as I thought about it the next day, I could hardly blame her for how she responded to my uncouth advances. 

Things might have turned out better that evening had I taken my lumps and gone home to bed. But oh no, I needed to recover some of my esteem by finding my way to a somewhat less dignified establishment to chat up some new acquaintance that might be prepared to ride home with me for the night.

No such luck, even though by now I was prepared to compromise my previous standards for the night. I suppose drunk isn't considered very sexy, unless the other is just as drunk. As the saying goes, a wink is as good as a nod, but I wasn’t getting either.

Worse than enduring the rude dismissals, rejections and rolled eyes, was the little skirmish I had just after midnight with an oversized Godzilla bouncer standing at the door. I noticed he had been observing my deteriorating condition for some time, and so I decided if it was necessary to inform him of my professional credentials.

So, I walked over to him, although not so steadily, and told him who I was. Not surprisingly, he seemed not that interested in hearing about my career or the scholarly papers I planned to present at one of the finest academic institutions in Britain. I don't know why I felt it was necessary to tell him all that, but I did anyway.

Rather than being impressed, he seemed to consider me a common drunk. Sure, I told him, ‘maybe I was a little blotto, but dammit, I wasn't a drunk.’ As I staggered to the water closet, he suggested I find a cab to take me home. Likely it didn't help that I had a contrary opinion by venting some of the more creative expressions I had acquired during my short bout as a sailor. And likely telling him to ‘get stuffed, you fuggin ape,’ had something to do with my intimate encounter with the pavement outside after being unceremoniously escorted out the door. I suppose it didn’t help that I took an inept swing at him. And so, the only thing I came away with from my bender that night was a bloodied face and a severely damaged ego.

I suppose he was only doing his job, but in my stupor, it felt like the greatest humiliation of my life. On my way home, I pondered how I would explain my new face art to my classes, not to mention enquiring colleagues in the faculty lounge. Though truthful, I'm not sure how credible falling on the sidewalk would sound.

It also occurred to me how thin the veneer of our civil personas can be, particularly when in an altered state of intoxicated consciousness. I was angry with myself, knowing how I would have stood up to him as a sailor in the days of my invincible youth, having survived several late-night brawls of decisive wins for fun and frivolity. Mostly, I came out relatively unscathed from these pugilist forays when docked at various Mediterranean ports.

Now look at me, I thought, sipping on lattes with all the stiffs in the faculty lounge! What happened to the street fighter? It was apparent to me that I had relapsed after years of becoming outwardly genteel in the refined academic world. I was out of my element on both fronts tonight; neither much of a fighter nor particularly genteel.

I thought it rather sad how, in my effort to establish a secure career, my salty sea life had become eclipsed by all the stifling civility around me. Muddled reflections of my misspent youth swirled around in my mind as I lay slouched, half passed out, across the backseat of the cab, my nose still bleeding. Unbeknownst to me, while riding home that night, I was being readied for something most extraordinary that would forever alter the course of my life.

I recognize that, at this point, I'm not presenting a very flattering picture of myself, especially regarding my conduct that evening… hardly what you would expect from a man of letters! But I wish you to appreciate the low point from where I was to begin my spiritual ascent. Though I had to start somewhere, I could never have imagined then that I was on my way towards discovering a new dimension of reality.

Like most of us, I have my quirks, strengths, weaknesses, and a variety of charming idiosyncrasies, and I suppose I always will. But whatever my foibles, let's just say, notwithstanding my doctorate, I still had a lot to learn about life. As was evident with my date that night, it would never have occurred to me that what I perceived in her had everything to do with me projecting my fears and insecurities upon her. It was an established pattern I wasn't yet aware of having.

Then, something extraordinary occurred to me that night after I collapsed on my bed and passed out, my battered body convalescing from my self-inflicted wounds and dissipations. What came to me as I slept most soundly was an exceptional dream with exquisite colours and images with a mystical twist. I suppose such might be normal for some, but not me. But more significantly, this dream had a disturbing scene at the end: a most dreadful climax, yet without any explicit resolution.

I had no idea what it meant, but as I awoke, still in a panic, it seemed I was about to fall into an abyss. I've had dreams of flying before, but this one didn't promise to be a happy flight. Now fully alert, I stumbled across the room to my desk to record my vivid impressions.

Detailed scenes remained emblazoned in my psyche, feeling larger than life. Because it was so unusual, I wanted to capture all I was able just as quickly as possible, even though I still had a splitting headache. I didn't bother to turn on the light since the sky was beginning to lighten with the dawn. The more I wrote, the more came back to me with images of strange lands and people that eventually led me to an excruciating, but exhilarating, mountain climbing adventure.

In the days and weeks ahead, I often thought of what I dreamt and what it might mean, and the more I did this, still more images and extraordinary experiences came to me. As I kept adding these impressions to my journal file, I increasingly felt my life was taking on a whole new trajectory. It was subtle, but something seemed to be unfolding within me that would eventually alter the course of my life.

I'm not one to remember my dreams that well. Even if I do have one, I tend to ignore it unless it has some uninhibited young feline jumping into my bed. That doesn't happen too often. However, on rare occasions, significant reoccurring dreams will stick with me, with some even extending back into my troubled childhood.

This time, however, I knew something profound had happened in the subliminal spheres of my mind. Rather than fading away, it continued to become more pronounced, to the point the impressions intruded into my consciousness throughout the day, at times distracting me while I lectured.

Even common experiences of my daily life took on an intriguing, mystical hue; as though my mind was beginning to drift into some rarified domain of awareness. And yet, in some ironical way, life seemed to feel more purposeful than ever before. My thoughts were often more profound and meaningful than before, as though I knew I was going someplace without really knowing where, except it felt transcendent.

Though I didn't recognize the places or objects in the dream, what I saw felt like symbols and metaphors that at times represented the struggles I encountered in life. Previously unrecognized aspirations were given new meaning, along with the many accompanying sorrows and disappointments, which is what made my dream experience so unforgettable in the days ahead. I couldn't shake it, so I remained puzzled by the curious impact it was having on me. There were so many contradicting images and messages that made me feel both sad and hopeful at the same time.

While sleeping, I would at times awaken enshrouded in fear, and yet whatever impending doom awaited would not reveal itself. On other occasions, such as while walking along the Thames, I would receive exhilarating flashes of ascending to an exceedingly high and challenging Mountain. Whenever this occurred, I would later sit on my favourite bench near the river, and contemplate what was being evoked within me, perhaps a longing to experience something more than what life was currently offering me.  

I often wondered if there was some hidden message in the images intended to jar me out of the mediocre existence I had become bogged into? Some of the dreary scenes at the beginning reminded me of feeling stuck and disempowered in my academic career. Other images suggested me being liberated from everything was holding me back. But before I go further with how the dream proceeded, let me provide a little background to my life that may give more context to what these images may have been telling me.

As an orphan, my earliest years living in various foster homes in the Liverpool area were not happy. Mercifully, I was finally taken in by my father’s uncle who must have finally taken pity on me, or perhaps he was more concerned about how I may end up tarnishing the family name. Being a retired teacher in a private boy’s school, he possessed an appreciation for advanced learning. That served me well, being endowed with a sufficient degree of intelligence that made learning relatively easy. With his influence and my natural abilities, my inner world opened to books of high adventure and utopian ideals.

Later, when I became a young adult, this background provided me with an ideological basis to get caught up in several de rigueur liberation movements, as envisioned and espoused in the humanist writings of Voltaire, Marx, and Huxley. What few religious moorings I still held from early childhood were soon tossed aside, and I no longer believed in God or prayer.

By the time I entered into undergraduate studies, I had already become disillusioned and cynical about life and the direction the world was going. I had hoped philosophy would help me find purpose on earth and what I was doing here. But later, after reading Nietzsche, Hegel, Freud, and Sartre, I fell into an existential weltschmerz as I despaired of ever finding meaningful answers to life's questions.[3]

I was finally able to break this sullen spell after enrolling in my Master's graduate programme at the University of Calgary in Canada. The Philosophy department was recommended highly for its excellence, with many of its philosophers having strong ties to Britain.[4] My two years there did much to improve my attitude towards life, as I began to develop several significant relationships, both academically and socially.

But nothing could have been better for my character development than climbing the highest peaks throughout the majestic Canadian Rockies. Though I was able to advance in my academic achievements, none of the ultimate answers I hoped to find was forthcoming. By the time I completed my doctorate in Edinburgh, Scotland, I had resigned myself to whatever deeper meaning I was looking for would likely remain unknown, at least to me.

Now in my early thirties, I was growing weary and cynical towards science, religion and even philosophy. It seemed that throughout history, they had all become contrived, distorted and exploited for power and gain. After feeling disillusioned with the world order, I indulged in wanton promiscuity, at least until I grew bored. It seemed these affairs only reinforced the existential angst of my futility problem.

And yet, even with my frustration in finding meaning and purpose, something in me never gave up, at least not completely. I wanted to believe that one day I would find a way to reach higher ground, somewhere far beyond the bogs where I remained stuck. At times I would think of the words of Lao Tzu: The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step, but I couldn’t seem to get my feet unstuck for long enough to take the first step.

So, it was that infamous night at the pub, when I felt I had hit bottom, both literally and figuratively, this dream came to me as a flicker of light, dimly shining through the cracks of my broken life. A line in Leonard Cohen's lyrics from Anthem speaks of how the light enters through the crack.[5] And Rumi, the Sufi Persian poet, made a similar observation centuries ago: The wound is the place where the Light enters.[6]

For me, I first became aware of this light when the dream shone through a crack in my soul that night. Thereafter, what I heard and saw in my dream became indelibly imprinted in my psyche. More than just a dream, it was an extraordinary premonition that would lead me to several more cracks and wounds that were almost fatal.

Interestingly, during the beginning stages, I thought I heard a commentator guiding me through various images, events, and peculiar landscapes I observed in my sleeping consciousness. I didn't understand it at the time, but still, I could feel this was my story told to me on several levels. While still sleeping, I thought how peculiar it was that someone would presume to speak to me about my life. Mysteriously, the sonorous voice seemed to emanate from far beyond: a plane identified as being on a Mountain far above the clouds in my life. I later wondered if perhaps Zeus had deigned to answer me after all.

Wherever the voice came from, it spoke with uncompromised authority. I was disturbed at first by how imposing it seemed as it enjoined me to accept a new calling for my life. To what fate was I being beckoned? I wasn't sure what to think.

At first, it seemed a distant echo: 'James, prepare to leave your world.’ I half awoke, startled by the abrupt words. Was I about to die? Then I fell back, this time into a deep sleep as the voice returned, becoming even clearer and more direct than before.

‘Listen to us; we speak to you from a high plane on a Summit where you have often unawares sought to join us. From our lofty ridge, we view your life in the lands far below. We may appear far away, but we are very near; we dwell here even while we dwell within your mind to which we now speak, for we are all of one Mind.

'As we survey the magnificent vistas beyond us, we regret those who have no wish to leave the Lowlands below to discover the wonders of what might lie beyond. Though you remain unaware of who you are and where you're going, we can tell you the Lowlands is no longer your home; you belong here with us because you are of us. The people you dwell among are corrupting you with their perspectives and opinions; believing their forlorn reality is the only reality.

'They say you live, you die, then return to the elements from which you arose, and so that's how things are. But that, however, is not how things are. Perhaps one day, you may tell the true story of what they really are. But you can only speak to those who, like you, envision this Mountain where we wait far beyond the flat horizon. Most will neither see nor hear; they have already decided what is real, though what they look upon is not at all real.

'In your sleeping consciousness, you've oft heard our faint voice and questioned whether it came to you from afar or if it was only from within your mind. It matters not from where, the message is one, and there is no separation. You sometimes long to join us here on these hight vistas to discover new mysterious realms on our side. We speak to you now since you are ready to be answered, just as all are answered who open their eyes to see what others cannot and will not see.

'As we stand high on this Mountain ridge with you in our sights, we ask that you put aside all thoughts of how you think this may be, and try to understand what we have to say. When you come to discover the wondrous sights that lie far beyond the Lowlands' foggy images, you will know. You may not understand, for you were never told, but we are telling you now. Your perceptions, formed in the Lowlands, is but a chimaera you chose to believe and live.

‘Ask yourself why you cannot see this Mountain on which we stand. Is it real? What if it is more real than all you consider to be real? Tell us if you are able; what is real? What makes it real, and how can you tell? You need not answer us, but consider these questions as we invite you to join us for a season by ascending to this Summit of true understanding, not as your world understands. No, we have something more significant in mind for you than just knowledge. But this will remain your choice: to join with us or forever remain unaware in your Lowlands.

'We didn't make our dwelling on this ridge overlooking your world when we entered this threshold between the old and new worlds. But it's a special place where you can join us for a spell to discover new vistas of existence before you return. Once you depart your plane below, you will have begun your journey into the infinite landscapes of wondrous splendours you will realise there is no end to the ineffable splendours of indescribable dimensions. And so, it will always seem you are only beginning to ascend further up and further in.

‘You have long considering this quest, and so we call out to you now to join us where your soul longs to be; a domain you have long forgotten. Then one day, you too may reveal to your weary world something of the resplendence you have seen, heard, and touched.

'We have often watched you unwittingly gazed off into the distance towards our misty and mysterious peaks. There are others too who dwell in the lower domains who sometimes share your vision, but few wish to give much attention to what lies beyond the flat plains. But you did. As you gazed longingly in our direction towards heights unseen and unknown, you yearned to know what lies beyond your marshy planes.

‘Then, ever more frequently, you began to dream shadowy dreams with strange images and strange voices calling to you. But from where? You didn't know, but it felt right because it came from someplace beyond, perhaps somewhere higher. Maybe, you thought, one day you would be shown a way that would lead you away, far from the stifling Lowlands.

'As your unconscious dreams continued to ebb and flow over the years, they seemed to drift and meander without any having any specific meaning. At first, these were just visions of subliminal impressions, but as they slowly congealed; there emerged some inward gnosis to remind you of something. Perhaps it was of you, what you were and what you were to become!

'Within the deepest recesses of your ancestral memories, someone began to speak softly to you, saying you are not abandoned, you belong with us in a reality much larger than the Lowlands. You hadn't heard this voice since you were a child.

‘After your years of innocence, you forgot who you were and why you came to this world! But now you are becoming aware of what’s calling out to you from within. And so you wonder if you should leave the Lowlands to seek the higher grounds you didn’t know existed on a Mountain longingly envisioned when your mind was quieted.

'At such times, you drifted towards deep mysteries more beautiful and more majestic than you had ever before known. But they also confused you. Such hallowed stirrings were contrary to everything you had experienced, just as they are contrary to what the brooding muckraking inhabitants of the Lowlands understood or wanted to understand!

‘But whatever these inklings may or may not be, you thought it would be best to remain silent. Such frivolous speculation is not well tolerated in the Lowlands, so you spoke nary a word.

‘As time passed, these callings didn't go away, as you continued to nourish the hope engendered in your soul until it became an exciting presentiment of what could be. Then you began to muse that one day you would take the risk and leave the Lowlands where all was safe and secure, to venture beyond. Whatever was calling you was more sublime than what could be heard in the Lowlands.

‘And so, as you continued to grow tired of the amorphous fog hovering in the air where no one in the Lowlands could get excited about anything other than their predictable affairs. With no firm convictions, the air stagnated into dense swamp gases of debilitating apathy.

‘In its mist, you found there no one had any clarity of thought, so nothing had purpose or meaning because nothing mattered. Perhaps it was the Lowlands' somniferous aether, but it didn't seem necessary or even advisable for one to think beyond their mediocre thoughts since that might disturb the slumber. So, it was considered best not to stir things too much least they awaken.

'Making one's way along the boggy base was soft and accommodating for you. The ruts required little effort to meander through, and there was never any concern about where to go since all paths eventually returned to where you started. For what purpose you continued to wander about, you weren't sure, but it didn't seem to matter. It was what everyone did.

The deepest ruts, you found, were always the shortest and easiest paths to get to where you were going. With so many treading the same way, these kept wearing down deeper and deeper, making it increasingly difficult for you to go off-course. Not that you would want to. What would be the point? Life's path, you thought, was predetermined; the very notion of exercising free will was a fanciful illusion.

'At least, that’s what you were told by those who thought they had no choice in life. This belief seemed to make things easier and more secure, much preferred over the uncertainties and responsibilities of choosing ones own path. There wasn't much worth you to strive for or be concerned about in the Lowlands. But neither was there anything to become inspired over; they already had enough meaningless amusements to occupy themselves throughout their meaningless existences.

‘However, sometimes things would change when the rain continued to pour for extended periods. The soft ground would become very sticky, and one could sink and perish in a rut while the misty drizzle persisted for days on end. You knew about being stuck, and it wasn't a great feeling. And so, as you reflected on your life there, it became increasingly apparent that there had to be more to life than continue to endure all their ennui.

‘At some point, you realised you could no longer ignore your call from beyond, although, yu remained tentative and unsure where to go since you were unable to see anything past the Lowlands' veils of mist. In the past, you were told there was nothing beyond the Lowlands worth seeing.

'Still, as you continued to focus your inward eyes on what may lie beyond, you would catch vague images, and shifting shapes of something you didn’t know. Increasingly, as you gave more attention to your visions, an image appeared as a Mountain, causing you to wonder if there might be something higher that was beckoning you, or was this just your imagination deceiving you? You didn't know where to go, but a time came when you realized you must leave in search of it.

‘You didn’t know what direction you should go, but you followed your longings, trusting your inward call would lead you to higher land. This hope, though still vague and undefined, became irresistible. So, late one rainy evening, you stole away into the darkness, leaving behind the mud, sludge, drudge and all that felt familiar and safe to you.

And with that, the oratory faded into the distance. I heard no more of this enchanting narration, and still my dream continued as I saw myself embarking on a journey out of this land the voice had called the Lowlands. Lucid images continued to be impressed upon my mind throughout this improbable, but epic, trek into the unknown.

I remember feeling it was days, or perhaps months, aimlessly wandering through the Lowlands' boggy marshes. But then, gradually, much to my amazement, I sensed a slow and gentle rise under my feet as my leg muscles constricted from the incline's strain. This sensation felt rather peculiar since flatness was all that I had known in the Lowlands. Yet here I was, inwardly compelled, ever upward to a region I had never gone. It seemed an unknown universe.

Though the fog obstructed my vision for a time, I forged ahead, believing I was on the right path to wherever I was destined to go. I remembered thinking how the Lowlands didn't approve of adventures such as this, so few strayed very far away from where they felt safe. As my austere hovel in the Lowlands retreated further into my forgettable past, I sensed a tingle of rebellion within me.

Yes, I was finally becoming my own man! No matter what I might encounter ahead, be it life or death, I would now live my life as a lion for a day rather than a hundred years as a sheep.[7] I swaggered onward and upward with a touch of disdain towards the mediocrity and smug complacency of my past. Though the Lowlands’ inhabitants would always remain insular, I had left their fold. Look at me, I thought, I'm no longer a sheep, I'm a lion. Yes, the lion has left, and he's not coming back!

As I continued upward, far beyond the marshes below, I noticed the ground becoming firmer on the higher ground I had so long envisioned. In the rain, I didn’t realise at first that I was beginning to ascend a mountain I couldn’t see. I only knew the journey was becoming more difficult as my weary lungs laboured for more oxygen on the upward thrusts. No, it wasn’t easy, but it was exhilarating!

Despite the gravitational stresses, my body became vibrant as I felt my muscles strengthen. When it became apparent that was ascending a mountain, my determination extended to every molecule in my body as I surged forward, stoked by what challenges I might find around each corner and over every precipice.

What was driving me to ascend further up and further in, I didn’t know, but it felt as though it had come from somewhere; maybe the calling from within. Though I was unclear where this journey might lead, I knew I must continue since this might be the Mountain I was envisioning through my hovel window.

There would be no going back to the soft bogs. My footing was now secure on the granite, provided a welcome contrast to the marshes below. With each step forward and upward, I acquired more resolution and confidence that I could overcome whatever obstacles might lay ahead. Though the terrain was strange and challenging, I ignored my fears as I scaled steep vertical escarpments, balancing precariously on the narrow ridges as I lept over deep fissures and glacial crevices.

I told myself over and over there had to be a Summit where I could view unseen vistas on the other side. Then, at last, I knew for sure I was an adventure where there was far more to life than continuing to languish in the Lowlands. Though I didn’t know what, I felt something extraordinary was awaiting me further up.

After what seemed a very long time of plodding along with increased fatigue, I wondered if there would ever be an end to my meandering through the fog and rain. Then, one day, to my amazement, I emerged out of the clouds into the bright blue sky. I could see the sun's full orb as it shone warmly on my face, unfiltered by the gloomy clouds that shielded the Lowlands below. I can scarcely express how excited I was to see my new bright reality.

At first, I felt slightly disoriented, observing the clouds swirling below, rather than above me. It was a new way of seeing things, but it was also a vision of how life could be different. As I continued, it seemed something inexplicable was drawing me further upward, while a complementary force seemed to push me from behind. I thought, what strange magic this Mountain possessed. 

Though I felt a heightened state of awareness in the brightness, the way upward became increasingly confusing as I encountered sheer vertical rock walls that at times seemed impossible to ascend. Sometimes, I had to retreat to lower altitudes to find new passages that opened upward.

On other occasions, my body grew cold, weak and weary as I shivered through the night. I was uncertain whether these chills were from the glaciers or my fears. More than once, huge condors with a hideous hiss would swoop down towards me on the side of a cliff, like that of a prehistoric archaeopteryx.

Besides all these adversities and fright, my provisions had become depleted, leaving me with little more than the clear Mountain air and splashes of freshwater that trickling down the glistening cliffs.

There were times I thought about what the Lowlanders would say if they knew I was attempting to ascend high above them. Likely they would never understand why I would want to do this since they would consider me quite insane for not staying where things remained flat, smooth and easy. With the stilled, stale air trapped in the marshes below, there were no lashing mountain winds of sleet and rain to endure.

I admit, there were times I wondered if I had lost my way in life, causing me to pine for the safety of the hovel I had left behind far below. Indeed, it can be disheartening to struggle towards a destination you can't see, especially when attempting to climb loose scree on steep slopes, only to slide backwards again. At such times I would question why I was putting myself through this; seemingly toiling forever upwards like Sisyphus.[8]

In these moments of doubt, imagining what everyone in the Lowlands might think, it became difficult for me to remain resolute. Likely they would say it was foolish to search for an illusionary, make-believe Mountain. I tried to maintain an attitude of what do they know? But in actuality, I wasn’t so sure what anyone knew about anything, including me.

I even found myself struggling to justify my decision to answer this call. At times, my journey seemed more delusional than real. In the end, what would I have to show for all my efforts other than scraped, bleeding knuckles, twisted ankles, blistered feet and a sun-scorched body?

In the depths of these dark and despairing nights, I hunkered down into a narrow fissure to escape the wicked blast of frigid winds and tried to rediscover the vision within me that drew me further upward and inward. But in these times of fear and adversity, it would fade from my mind, becoming elusive and seemingly ridiculous. Conflicted, I felt the torment of self-doubt picking at my heart like the vultures I imagined hovering over me.

When the storms rolled in, pelting me with sleet, I heard voices in my head taunting me to return to the Lowlands' safe and secure mediocrity. Though life in the Lowlands can be tediously dull, with everything so simple and predictable, at least no effort is required to survive. Even when it drizzles in the Lowlands, the slimy mud still has the advantage of keeping everyone grounded, preventing them from wandering off on rash adventures. Except me, of course.

I thought how safe things must be in the Lowlands right now, and how unsafe I was. There are a few hazardous patches of quicksand on the Lowlands’ periphery where the odd dweller might wander off and sink out of sight. But all in all, provided you don’t stray too far from the ruts, you will remain secure.

Although security is essential to the Lowlanders, most, if they were honest, don't feel very safe since there's always an underlying fear of vulnerability, especially towards anyone considered different. Many suspect predators might lurk about somewhere in the distant hills, so they are sure to keep their doors bolted.

The more I reflected on my comfortable life in the Lowlands, the more I realized I could never go back even if I felt lonely and disheartened. For one thing, it would be difficult to lower my body down the precipices without incurring a fatal fall. Letting oneself down each ridge, trying to find secure footing, while dangle above the ledge below, is a lot harder and more dangerous than pulling up to the next ledge. This principle would also apply to my social relations back home; I had to keep moving upward.

Even if I made it back down, I would have to explain where I went and why I left in the first place. Likely I’d never be accepted in their fold again after deserting them. The scoffers would never believe me if I told them what I had seen and experienced on my adventure. I could already hear them: ‘something wobbles in that young man's brain; he's not like the rest of us, thinks strange thoughts and imagines things that aren't there; best not to have anything to do with him.’

To hell with them, I thought, as I continued upward with no trails, guides or companions to show me the way. I only knew it would be up the whole way; never soft, never flat, but always dangerous. The sun, however, continued to shine, lighting my way, and my spirts. I was feeling more confident than ever that if I persisted, I would find a Summit somewhere up there. And if there were a Summit, there would be a world vista I could never have experienced in the Lowlands.

Having endured several dark nights of the soul[9] in the most challenging terrain imaginable, I again felt the clarion call that had drawn me away from the Lowlands. With my doubts and fears mostly below and behind me now, I felt ready to meet whatever fate may await me when I reached the Summit; something that would forever change my life; what I longed for, yet couldn’t imagine.

Upon the dawning of what would be the last day of my long, arduous ascent, I slung on my backpack to continue along the narrow ledge, trying not to glance over the cliffs. I took one careful step at a time as I clutched the jagged sides, fearing the dark void beneath.

After a great deal of struggling up a very steep and challenging crag, I found a clearing on a broad ridge with patches of grass and moss. It was a perfect place to relax and soak in the sun's warm, rejuvenating rays. After all the recent discomfort and inner turmoil, I fell into a deep and peaceful slumber. When I finally awoke, my mind and body felt considerably refreshed; my way to the Summit felt more promising than ever.

As I rose to my feet, I stood there, noticing how expansive the views had become and how clear everything seemed compared to the Lowlands. I wondered if the dark clouds that covered the Lowlands were projections of their brooding thoughts, casting a veil over the land. Having lived there for so long, I was no longer sure. I wondered if the Lowlanders had consciously, or unconsciously, drawn the dark clouds to themselves, dimming and obscuring the vision of whatever may exist beyond.

Whether they were aware of it or not, this Mountain existed, not just for me, but for all who might venture to ascend it. From now on, whatever the Lowlanders had say would no longer matter to me; I had now come too far. Leave the past behind where it belongs, I thought, and look forward to where you're going, not where you've been.

As I surveyed the vastness of all that was before me, I felt a renewed surge within me, as though I was beckoned to ascent further upwards without further delay. Was this destiny calling me, I wondered? In haste, I grabbed my backpack, slung it over my shoulders while half-stumbling towards the escarpment awaiting my attack.

By the time the sun had almost lowered to the horizon, I had scaled most of the way up. That’s when the realisation hit me like a boulder catapulting down from the ridge above. Yes, this was it, just over the next rise. I could see it; not much distance remained to reach the Summit now. The long, weary ascent was almost over!

As I pulled myself to the top of a plateau ledge, I wanted to jump up in celebration, but my leg muscles were too strained and fatigued from this last frantic scramble. So instead, I staggered to my feet and stood there in awe of my impossible feat. I was almost there! I raised my right arm in victory, fist clenched.

But then, as I looked upward towards the summit, I thought I saw something moving far off near the pinnacle of the Summit ridge's eastern end. I dropped my arm. Hardly discernible at first, it moved closer to the edge as it continued to glow. I had no idea what this was, except it appeared to be a shining orb of shimmering light. The longer I focused on it, the brighter it seemed. Then I saw two, now three more light spheres, although it was difficult to tell what was going on since they kept shifting around. Then, suddenly, they disappeared! Most peculiar, I thought; if not startling!

I moved slowly forward; eyes firmly fixed on the summit ridge. The euphoria I felt minutes ago was now displaced by whatever had me spooked up there. My heart was beating even harder than when I scaled up this last ridge. Then came an eerie premonition that something extraordinary was about to happen; possibly an encounter with something unknown, whatever that might be.

How strange, I thought, that at this moment of triumph, my gut felt it had become twisted into knots. Possibly, this was delirium setting in from the high altitude. Was I losing my mind from oxygen deprivation? Or were the Mountain gods not pleased with my intrusion into their sacred domain, sending flaming chariots to hold me at bay?

I knew something was about to happen; I just didn't know what. I sensed something there that was not of this world. And it wants me! Oh God, I thought, I'm not only delusional but paranoid too. Whether anything was out there to get me or not, the air felt charged with electrified ions, like when lightning is about to hit the earth. Except there were no storm clouds in the sky. So, was Zeus about to strike me down?

Despite these unnerving premonitions of doom, I burst forward to meet the adversary, if that's what it was. Perhaps it was reflexive, but that's how I deal with fear: head-on! I've always despised cowards and so always do the opposite of what I think they might do. Or, I wondered, was I more like a moth drawn towards the candle, only to be consumed by its flame? Lurching now with all my might towards the summit, at times faltering, I clambered up the next craig; the final precipice for me to conquer.

I was most of the way to the Summit when my legs would no longer carry me further. As I stood hunched over, gasping for air, I felt I was being watched from above. Then, as I looked up towards the summit again, I saw the orbs hovering above. At the same time, I felt something impinging upon my brain, as though attempting to get through to me. Next, I heard a voice.

I told myself I only imagined this from the winds sweeping over the Summit. And those throbbing lights… probably just the sun's reflecting off something or another. But off what? It couldn't be from the shrubs and boulders. Nothing natural could have that brilliance and then just vaporize in the air. Whatever it was; continued to flit about like fireflies at night, even though it was still daylight. Aliens, I wondered?

I realised that at this point there would be no way out for me if they wished to abduct me. With my body now overwhelmed with exhaustion, I didn't know what to do, stay here, continue upward, or attempt to lower my way down the precipice, then run like bloody hell all the way back to Santiago.

But no; I couldn't just slink away. I'd rather die. I had to continue forward! Was I being mesmerized by subliminal trance-inducing waves emanating out of the orbs, something like the hapless Eloi who would passively stroll into the caves and clutches of the cannibalistic Morlocks?[10]

Whether it was an irrepressible impulse or not, I forced my legs to proceed again until I couldn't go any further. I was at an impasse. On the right was a vast chasm, perhaps the result of an earthquake or some cataclysmic overthrust from millions of years ago. On the left, I couldn't proceed upwards to the Summit because the vertical rock was too smooth and sheer to grasp.

Bloody, I thought; earlier in the day, while deciding how best to proceed upward, it appeared there were only two alternatives. Unfortunately, I chose a trajectory that brought me to this abyss. Had I taken the longer route towards the right, I might have been able to spiral around to the other side to reach the Summit. It may have been much more accessible, although my aerial photo showed evidence of a steep glacier which would likely have been difficult to traverse without ice picks. If I were to retreat down to the ravine below where I had rested, it could easily take another half a day to recover this altitude, provided I found another way.

The canyon walls before me were steep and unforgiving, but it appeared there might be enough of a ledge to make it across to the other side. It would be risky though… very risky! Once across, however, I could do a few switchbacks and then scramble to the top. It wouldn't take long; then I would be able to confront whatever was waiting up there for me.

I looked down the deep abyss. It was dizzying. Attrition over aeons of time had created a formidable dark void that I couldn’t have anticipated from the angle I approached the Summit. No person in their right mind would attempt crossing this without proper equipment. It would be insane. And so, I inhaled a few deep breaths to steady my nerves, relaxed my muscles, and offered a quick Hail Mary in case there was a Mary out there listening.

I leaned inward to the rock face while using my hands to help secure my balance. Provided the footing held, it seemed I might be able to make it across. Then after a dozen or more steps across, my knees began to tremble as I realized I had gone too far; the ledge was now too narrow for me to turn around. You committed yourself, James, I thought. You now have no choice; it's either do or die.

Though looking down was something I preferred not to do, I couldn't help but gape into the dark chasm below as I continued to position my feet one step at a time. With each step, I thought of what Nietzsche once said: When you stare into the abyss, the abyss stares back at you.[11]

Indeed, it was staring; most terrifyingly. Any slip would be a drop into oblivion, a very long way down with nothing to break my body's fall until hitting bottom. Almost certainly it would be fatal – my final demise.

'Oh God,' I breathed out frantically, 'what have I got myself into?' With still about another twenty feet to go, things weren't looking good. There was no fissure close enough for me to wedge an anchor to rappel out. Even then, my rope wasn't long enough to swing far enough off to the side to find grounding. At this point, it was difficult to determine how thick the protruding ledge was or whether it would be sufficient to hold me.

If only I could offset some of my weight by finding something to grasp on to; even a tuft of grass would help. But there was nothing to cling to. Again, I tried to turn around, but couldn't. Why didn't I heed my instinct on how treacherous this would be before I started to cross over? Probably because I was afraid and too impulsive to make a rational decision!

But here I was. Though I wasn’t a believer, out of nowhere in my mind, came the words: Father into thy hands, I commit my spirit.[12] 

I too must commit, I thought, there’s no other choice. So I stepped forward and placed my foot down. My last thought was, careful James, this could be your final…

And so the dream ended.

…but was it just a dream?

ENDNOTES


[1] Likely the most famous example of an allegorical story in the English language is John Bunyan’s 1678 classic, Pilgrim’s Progress.
[2] From The Lord of the Rings, J.R.R. Tolkien (1892-1973)
[3] Weltschmerz is a loaded German term often found and elucidated in the works of Herman Hess, Heinrich Hein and several other literary luminaries exploring man’s pervasive condition. The word conveys a meaning of world-weariness associated with anxiety, pain and existential despair.
[4] Several well-known philosophers such as Anthony Flew, Kai Nielsen, C.B Martin and Terrence Penelhum were part of the faculty at one time.
[5] You will find the lyrics to Leonard Cohen’s copyrighted lines of Anthem on the Web.
[6] Rumi was a 13th century Persian, Sufi poet, born in Tajikistan.
[7] An old Italian proverb
8] Greek mythology of futility whereby Sisyphus was forced by Zeus to eternally push a giant boulder up a mountain only to have it roll back again and hit him each time.   
[9] Dark Night of the Soul is the title to a poem by Spanish mystic Saint John of the Cross (1542 1591). 
[10] In reference to H.G. Wells’ science fiction novel, The Time Machine (1895) and the 1960 film version of the Eloi falling into sound-induced trances that caused them to saunter into the dark tunnels of the brutish Morlocks to meet their fateful demise.  
[11] Friedrich Nietzsche, German philosopher, Beyond Good and Evil, 1886
[12] The words attributed to Jesus as he died on the cross, as recorded in the Gospel of Luke; 23:46 (New International Version, hereafter referred to NIV)

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SUMMARY OF ELYSIUM'S PASSAGE SERIES

THE SUMMIT the first in a series of five Elysium’s Passage narrations regarding a young British philosopher named James Phillips who finds himself living in an altered state of reality while still remaining on earth.  

After experiencing a near-fatal fall while climbing to the summit of a remote mountain in the Andes, James awakens in a new dimension. He soon encounters two mysterious beings who provide him with a very different perspective on the nature of his existence. Over the next year, before his body recovers from the coma, he is challenged to re-examine his understanding about life’s meaning and purpose far beyond anything he previously believed or could believe.

An engaging and sometime surreal adventure with intimations of impending romance, the narrative explores the most important questions about life, death, reality and our ultimate destiny.

The Plains of Elysium (Champs-Élysées) was described by Homer, Hesiod, Virgil and many other poets as the paradisiac afterlife realm reserved for heroes. As the title suggests, this is about a journey through a passage that leads towards Elysium’s exciting realm of existence.

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PENDING PUBLICATIONS ELYSIUM’S PASSAGE SERIES

 

The following titles in the ELYSIUM’S PASSAGE series are projected to be released as follows: 

THE SUMMIT is now available

THE ASCENT fall 2020

QUANTUM LEAPS fall 2020

SURREAL ADVENTURES spring 2021 

MYSTICAL ROMANCE summer 2021

HE ELIXIR fall 2021

THE RETURN sometime in 2022/23

ELYSIUM’S PASSAGE: THE SUMMIT, is now available for purchase on www.Amazon.com and www.Amazon.ca

With the exception of the last novel in the series, the last three have been written but still require more editing before publication.

 

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READER REVIEWS

The following comments are among the first Amazon reviews of Elysium’s Passage: The Summit. All are Five Stars! Others reader reviews are included below, along with excerpts from two professional reviews. To read full reviews, go to READER REVIEWS on www.elysiumspassage.com

"Quietly, gently, and without imposition, the Author unfolds the pages, creating an intricate, interlocking bridge spanning the chasm between mind and heart. Renewing, refreshing, restoring. In my bereavement, it was vigil and light…"

"A delightful mix of fantasy, reality, conjecture and humour; Mr Meyers draws the reader into the story with a gentle narrative that captures the imagination, leaving one anxious to get to the next page drawing you into his exceptional world.”

“Excellently written with an exceedingly deep understanding of this world and the next. The characters are very well written and engaging. I can't wait to complete this book!"

“Takes the reader on both a philosophical and spiritual journey, a journey that at times is both disquieting and tranquil. James, a British Philosopher can be irreverent and caustic, traits that should have left me cringing, but instead made me laugh out loud. Elysium’s Passage is a fun, enlightening and remarkable book.”

“This is a masterful fantasy, becoming a real possibility, as the reader is drawn into the story. The Summit leaves you anxious for the next book in the series, yet also leaves you totally satisfied with the world you have just visited. Genius! An exciting, yet calming, experience that is not to be missed."

"There was hardly a page on which I did not find at least one sentence worthy of hi-lighting for future reference. In addition, I thoroughly enjoyed the main character, James, whose personality and passionate verbal exchanges with the other characters, kept me coming back for more. I am reading the book for a second time while I wait for the next one in this series to be made available."

 “N.G. Meyers has clearly put a great deal of research and thought into what the afterlife may look like and I like his perspective. It’s an altogether welcoming and exciting vision. The book gives one a great deal to think about and a reassuring confidence that the end of our lives is truly the beginning of life in the next. I highly recommend it."

“The humour interjected into a serious discussion makes me laugh out loud. Totally unexpected....l may be in the presence of at least a master, if not a genius. A fair ride into reality... seeking that which is unseen, yet absolutely real.”

“An engaging story of adventure embracing man's deepest desire to search for meaning and purpose, N.G. Meyers takes the reader on an adventurous thought-provoking journey. This book has substance. It is a perfect blend of adventure and fantasy combined with spiritual philosophy. It ignited my imagination. The author magically weaves a good story laced with wit and humour together with deep philosophical wisdom. This book has it all!”

“An evolution in thought is triggered by many fresh philosophical themes which could inspire readers to re-think their reality and former ideologies that have dictated their lives… the author fires readers’ imaginations to view what could be possible when spirit vacates the body.”

“This is the book spiritual seekers have been waiting for. For me, it granted a great read as well as increased inspiration to live every day with a heightened sense of purpose. I highly recommend it.

“The Summit is capable of hooking readers and luring them to search for Book 2 to discover more about Dr. Philip’s surreal trek into the mysterious unknown universe. This thick book is well worth the read and to share…”

“Mind-blowing statements and speculation (‘…everyone is a non-physical thought form conceived in the Mind of God, preserved for all eternity because God’s thoughts never die…’). Many will find Meyers’ journey up the Mountain intriguing—and possibly even life-changing.” (BLUEINK REVIEW)

“In its effort to grapple with fundamental questions about the meaning of life, it raises questions that have echoed throughout the ages, including about where we come from, where we are going, who we are.”  (CLARION REVIEW)

For READERS REVIEWS go to https://digitalbloggers.com/arts-and-entertainment/reader-reviews  

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CONTACT INFORMATION

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WEBSITE: www.elysiumspassage.com 

FACEBOOK: Elysium's Passage Novel Series, Elysium's Passage Public Group page, Elysium's Passage Author's Page, or to my personal page Neil Meyers

TWITTER: N.G. Meyers@neil1113 

INSTAGRAM: meyersneil or elysiumspassage

LINKEDIN: Neil Meyers

EMAIL: nmeyers@shaw.ca 

BLOG POSTINGS: https://digitalbloggers.com/articles/elysiumspassage or the Elysium's Passage website

AMAZON: Purchase details of Elysium’s Passage: The Summit, are available at www.amazon.co or www.amazon.com 

Sample press review: https://www.prweb.com/releases/2018/05/prweb15515775.htm 

 

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