by Joel Morwood
In this true story an "ordinary" man seeks his destiny from the jungles of Vietnam, through revolution in the '60s, to success as a Hollywood producer. Then, in the pursuit of a strange love, he abandons all to undertake the ultimate Quest that leads to his Gnostic Awakening as Consciousness Itself.
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Prologue to Naked Through the Gate
It was by eating of the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil in the primordial Garden that man became Man, and the fruit of this tree is metaphor. By the power of metaphor, man creates images; and by the power to imagine, he makes distinctions; and by the power to distinguish, he compares; and by the power of comparison, he names; and by the power of naming, he names himself. And the name of man is Adam, which means ‘I’
I am homo sapiens, the one who knows. And everything I know is given to me through metaphor. Metaphor is the basis of all my knowledge and culture, the source and substance of every art and science. All that I create is created by this power. It is my greatest asset and most potent weapon. Without metaphor my species could never have survived. Still, I must eat of its fruit “in sorrow” all the days of my life.
For by naming myself ‘I’, I also and necessarily name all that which is not-I the ‘world’, so that in every act of naming myself I am already implicated in the experience of duality, or separation between ‘I’ and ‘That’, ‘self’ and ‘world’.
But further, in order to name, I must compare; and by comparing, I must see the world as diverse and know these diversities as harbingers of joy and suffering, pleasure and pain, good and evil.
And by distinguishing joy from suffering, pleasure from pain, good from evil, I am impelled to seek the one and flee the other until everything reveals itself to be ultimately ephemeral and ungraspable, and I am finally confronted with the image of my own ephemerality, which is the metaphor of death.
Thus am I driven from my primordial home in Paradise. Its gates are sealed to me by my own knowledge. And by this knowledge am I also condemned to exile and bewilderment, to wandering and doubt, to seeking and despair in a world of fleeting forms whose final meaning I can never fully comprehend. Such is the life and destiny of every being born human, or so it seems…In fact, this destiny is a lie.
For, lest we forget, there also stands in that original Garden another tree, which is the Tree of Eternal Life; and the fruit of this tree is not knowledge but Gnosis. And whoever eats of the fruit of Gnosis knows that the True Life is not human but divine, that the Real World is not many but One, that I am not separate from or other than That One, but I AM That One, or the Reality, which is God, Brahman, Nirvana, or Allah—call it what you will. It cannot be named because It stands prior to all names; it cannot be imagined because It is the ground of all images; it cannot be distinguished from anything because It is both the origin and content of everything; nor can anything be compared to It because nothing exists outside, or beyond, or above, or below It
It is not something to be found, for It was never lost; not something to be revealed, for It was never hidden; not something to set right, for in It nothing is amiss. It can only be remembered before all remembering; and what is remembered is this very World, radiant and perfect just as it is, without a seam or flaw anywhere to be seen—for we have only dreamed it otherwise in the great sleep of ‘I’, that fabulous phantom play of metaphors and images that veils men’s eyes. But the one who eats of the fruit of Gnosis Awakes from this dream and this sleep and is free of all metaphors and images forever…
Yet to eat of this fruit, we must return to the Garden and to the Tree that bears it. Nor is this an easy journey to make; for, lest we also forget, the gate to this Garden is guarded by an assembly of angels with a flaming sword that “turns every way,” so that whoever would enter must first submit to the ordeals imposed by these angels with their sword. And the fiery function of this sword is to purify consciousness of every image and vestige of ‘I’ and ‘that’, ‘self’ and ‘world’, until we stand utterly naked, as we were in the beginning before all metaphor. Then and only then can we pass through the Gate into the Garden of our primordial Home where grows the Tree of Life and its Eternal Fruit
This journey is the True Destiny of every individual who comes into the world, and this book is a testimony to that Truth, written by one who has made the journey. Nor was this journey made by an extraordinary individual, but rather by an ordinary man born into all the ordinary circumstances of a metaphorical life, who yet found his way Home. For this Way is open to all, and this Truth is available to all, simply because there is no one who can ever depart from this Way, and there is no one who is other than this Truth.
Therefore, listen to my story not as the tale of someone else’s journey, but as the story of a journey you have already made, only in another form. And hear my testimony as the testimony of your own heart, remembering this journey and longing to make it again in your present form, for I tell you truly, we are all Only ONE.
The following quote from the book is Joel's account of this Awakening:
I jump up, turn on the light, and look around. Sure enough, I no longer see through a glass darkly. The veil has been lifted, and the glass has cleared—no, more than cleared—it has vanished! I see the Kingdom, and now I am laughing wildly, because the great joke of it all is that this exalted Kingdom I have been searching for in such anguish and despair is none other than the very room I have been sleeping in, with its dirty, cinderblock walls, frayed curtains, and horribly grungy, blue-green rug! Oh, I could have kissed that rug and those walls! I could have shouted! I could have danced! I could have done anything, for that matter, because it really didn’t matter. It didn’t even exist and never had. I was free.
What was it like? What was it not like? How can I tell you? I can’t, but I’ll be brave and try, anyway… It was not a thought. It was not a feeling. It was not an experience. I was everything. I was nothing. I was everywhere and I was nowhere—nowhere to be found, hence, nowhere to be lost. Amazing Grace! Sacred Grace! Silly Grace!—like those nonsensical little phrases that children make up and then laugh and laugh over while poor perplexed adults just shake their heads. And no wonder! You have to be a child to get it. And I was a child, a child sitting on a bed, bathed in rapture…
But there were thoughts, too: Zen stories popped to mind and made me laugh uproariously. I remembered the koan about killing the Buddha on the road, and now the Buddha was dead! He, too, had never existed, yet I was celebrating his demise. Eckhart’s words floated by, and my own woeful remark that no one ever tells you how to forsake yourself. But of course not! It’s impossible as long as you are still there; first you have to forsake yourself! Even my poem now made sense. Truly, a broken heart—if you really let it break—is the Gate to Paradise; and Necessity, sad necessity—whoever slays this Gorgon gets instant Enlightenment!…these were my thoughts, and many more, only they were no longer “mine.” They came and went like a parade of rainbows. Where do rainbows come from? If you know, you don’t need to read this; you can write your own description!
And there was feeling. Oh, such feeling. Relief. Joy. Gratitude—gratitude most of all, not because something had happened but because something had ceased—like waking up from a nightmare, you want to laugh, you want to cry. There’s nothing special about waking up. It’s simply that the ordeal you thought so real is ended, the Furies have gone. Well, I was awake and I was free—free of this journey, free of my Dream and all the other dreary destinies I had conjured for my life. I was FREE, and that was the supreme bliss in a measureless sea of bliss.
And yes, there was also an experience, like the ones I had so enviously read about—and yet, I had never expected this! What had I expected? Something exceptional, luminous, visionary—the Platonic Forms behind all forms, or a Transcendental Light wiping out the universe, or maybe the Cosmic Voice of God calling me from eternity—I don’t know, but it wasn’t this. This was much, much too obvious. It wasn’t even right under my nose, it was my nose. And it was a finger uncurling miraculously in front of my eyes. It was a car horn, sharp and crisp in the night. It was the sound of my sheets rustling as I shifted position on the bed. It was the doorknob effortlessly staring me in the face—they were all so effortless, and therein lies the true Oneness and Beauty of the world; we are all effortlessly together, brothers and sisters to the stars—nor do I mean this metaphorically (though metaphor it is), for this was no gauzy vision full of images and archetypes. The Image had burst, and the Light was out, and the Light was everything. The Metaphorical World had come to an end, and I was AWAKE in the REAL WORLD, the world without end.pp. 239-240, Naked Through the Gate, (c) 1985 Joel Morwood