Now Gavin found himself back in California, where he was born, and where the bulk of his childhood was spent. He had no friends and his cousins, once like brothers, had their own lives and did not seem to eager to include him. They were mostly strangers to one another. Gavin was an atheist amongst a Christian family which explained the distance between his cousins. They were in no hurry to converse with and associate with an atheist. Gavin was in no hurry to go to his old church which became a social handicap for him. The churches main function socially has nothing to do with religion and everything to do with providing a community and somewhere to belong and be accepted. Gavin was never very good at putting himself out there to be known by strangers and that quality is necessary to find acceptance in most tribes. To Gavin it felt like he was trying to be accepted as a pedestrian amongst the cars on the highway. To him sticking his thumb out was a sign of weakness. He was an only child and so the life of a loaner came naturally to him. He told himself that he didn't need anybody else knowing full well that he was lying to himself.
So he found himself 19 years old with no friends, no job, not in college, as the only atheist in an estranged Christian family, with no responsibilities and all of his physical needs met. His father was around but he had no relationship with him and so had no father figure to provide a sense of direction. His mother did the best she could but a 19 year old male has no interest in listening to what his mother thinks about anything and at any rate she was Christian. In his mind religion was a sign of intellectual weakness and so no Christian could provide him with any advice worthy of his contemplation. No doubt an attitude that kept him alienated from most people. He found himself in a situation that would never repeat itself because he never allowed it to. He was provided for and was not considered a mooch. It was okay for him to take time to figure out what he wanted to do with his life and that meant that he had no responsibilities of any kind short of doing an occasional errand or helping with house work. He was just expected to figure out what he wanted to do and was given an undetermined amount of time to do it. This all left him with no expected direction and so his direction became whichever way his intellectual wind was blowing.
With no group to belong to and nothing to do he did what he always did when alone and read. His church became the local two story Barnes and Nobles. He preferred Barnes and Nobles to the library because silence was not expected and that opened up the possibility to socialize. What he wanted was a female to love and so he went to the Barnes and Nobles to read and look and hopefully find. This was the best he could come up with to meet somebody, a book store. Mostly he was too busy reading to notice and at any rate he was not confident, or social enough, to approach a women. The book store became his library and he read entire books while sitting in the store. If a book wasn't finished and it was time to leave he would simply dog ear the page and place it back in it's place. Occasionally a book would materialize that had to be purchased because the store was closing and leaving the book was not an option. Life went on this way for months. Loneliness pervaded as he spent weeks saying no more than obligatory one line sentences to family and strangers where interaction was needed.
"That will be $15.60."
"Here you go, wait, I think I might have 60 cents." He fishes around in his pocket and pulls out a quarter, a dime, and two pennies. "Nope, not gonna make it, guess you'll have to break the 20."
"Not a problem. Do you need a bag?"
"Okay, well come back and see us."
"Oh, I'll be back, don't you worry."
And that was the longest and most involved conversation for the week. He would occasionally talk to Chris on AOL instant messenger, but beyond that his existence was a solitary one. Loneliness became his normal and depression was rising up from the deep desolation to find him. What kept him going was a feeling that he needed to know. As depression followed on his heel he stayed just out front of it because his purpose was to know and he wasn't going to give up and wallow in not knowing and loneliness. He denied the depression but it didn't stop it from being there in a constant attempt to fill the vacuum created by belonging nowhere and having nobody. As depression stocked him he continued reading about the case for Atheism. It was logical, intellectually reasonable, scientific, correct, and true and yet still there was an itch. This was not it but he had painted himself into an intellectual corner that he could not get out of.
Then he found a way out of the corner and without messing the paint up. He found himself in the New Age section of the book store. That corner behind the Self Help and beside the Religion section. Buried in exile where only the kooks and weirdos with no social status to lose dared to be spotted in. His interest was peaked as to what this "New Age" was all about. Foreign words like Tarot, Druidism, numerology, Wicca, the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, and Qabala all sat quietly mysteriously staring at him. He scanned the books and an electric blue spine caught his eye. "Modern Magick: Eleven Lessons in the High Magickal Arts," by Donald Michael Kraig literally jumped into his hands. The cover featured a female dressed in a flowing robe after just creating an electric blue pentagram in the air with a dagger. The image activated a curiosity that had been lying around dormant and unseen. That curiosity quickly took notice and gained control of his body. He found his legs taking him to a seat so that he could sit down and inspect the contents. This discovery was one of several pivotal moments during his nineteenth year of life. He purchased the book and took it home with him and spent the next couple of days scrutinizing it's mysterious message.
On the surface, the one that society sees, this was reserved for strange weirdos. This was what 40 year old men with long hair, dorky glasses, and Dungeons and Dragons paraphernalia did in their parents basements after they got off work at the local Blockbuster. There was definitely a social stigma attached to this subject. Occult smacks of cult and devil worshipers sacrificing children to Satan to the Christian mind. The residual misunderstandings and assumptions from his Christian past were still lurking even as he read with intense interest. That book planted a seed in his psyche that would take root but not grow for a long time. It remained there in the darkness of his unconscious mind patiently waiting for all of his mind to finally accept it's truth for over a decade. There was a short window that opened and gave him a glimpse into the deeper mysteries of consciousness. In his seclusion he began practicing some of the visualization meditations and studying the intricate symbols of the Tarot. He was an atheist studying the occult. The contradiction created a friction that was released in one moment that would change his mind for the rest of his life. He was given proof that consciousness was more than just electro-chemical reactions in his brain. What happened next was his initiation into the occult.
It was early in the afternoon on a Monday with no agenda. Gavin had just laid down for an early siesta. A nap just like any other. He closed his physical eyes for sleep and opened his ethereal eyes consciously for the first time. His vision took on a different quality as things appeared slightly opaque as if he were looking through water. At the same time this consciousness carried the weight of a deeper and more meaningful reality. His eyes opened and he was gripped by a paralysis. Moments passed in this transitory waiting. His consciousness began floating upwards towards the ceiling as he felt a type of expansion and release and yet this world was still anchored somehow to his usual experience of reality. His consciousness stopped at the ceiling and all he could see was the textured ceiling of his bedroom. His consciousness began moving back downward and uprighted itself at the foot of his bed to peer out of his bedroom window at the sunny lazy Monday.
"What is this? What is happening to me? Where am I?"
He floated to the door of his bedroom that lead to the living room and the common dining area of his families house. Nobody was in the house with him, they were all at work. As he went to cross the threshold of his bedroom door a thought occurred to him that he wanted to verify that what he thought was happening was indeed happening. There was really only one way to find out. He had to turn his consciousness around to look for what he thought he might see. He turned around and the moment that was to irrevocably change him happened. He was looking at his own body lying in bed asleep. His body was lying right lateral and his head was resting on his hands with his legs together like the resting Buddha. His physical eyes were shut. This event changed his consciousness permanently as he realized that he was not what he thought he was. He was still experiencing the him that he always experienced and yet without the use of his physical body. He starred at himself sleeping while transfixed on the sight. A new type of paralysis set in as he found himself unable to look away for many moments. He snapped out of this hypnosis brought on by a split in his consciousness and wondered at what was happening.
"What are the rules in this state? What am I capable of doing now? I'm clearly floating and so gravity is not present. Maybe I will float out through the roof and go outside."
He floated towards the ceiling and just before he got there a fear began to build and take hold. His consciousness stretched and expanded away from his center. All at once he felt his physical body pulling at him as his consciousness slowed it's momentum as if attached to his body by a rubber band. He thought to himself, "Am I dead?" Fear exploded all around him and in an instant he was back in his body just as he had began this short life changing journey. He was once again lying in his bed staring at the ceiling and paralyzed. He lay there unable to move in the growing fear when he remembered reading something in one of the occult books he had thumbed through at the book store. He recalled a story about somebody who had what they called an "out of body experience." At some point the author talked about something called "sleep paralysis," and he remembered reading about how the author regained control of his body by focusing on moving a toe. Gavin was not sure that what had just happened was an out of body experience, but he was willing to try anything to prove that he was not dead.
Gavin began focusing on moving his big toe and after several minutes of intense concentration he was able to move it slightly. Relief began to grow as he held on to the hope that he was not dead. Soon the control over his body spread to his lower leg, and to his other leg, and finally he sat up as the fog created by the split in consciousness began solidifying back into his body. He stood up from his bed and walked into the kitchen. He sat at the table and poured a bowl of cereal with milk and ate it in silence. His thoughts were all focused on what had just happened to him. He could not deny the experience and it was not drug induced. He had not so much as smoked a joint or drank a beer in months. His mind attempted to explain the experience away but it was the most real thing he had every witnessed. There was a sense of realness that he did not have now. The feeling that remained was that he was closer to the truth than he had ever been, but also that he had barely scratched beneath the surface of what this meant and of what the possibilities were in that state. His intense yearning to know the truth had provided him with this snap shot through the looking glass. He knew that he had just peered into the entrance to the gate of the mysteries. He knew that this was not over and that he wanted more. He would have much more, but corporeal life has a way of asserting itself and ruining the best laid planes. The experience was not simply shaken off, but Gavin would make decisions that would force him to forget about the experience at the gate. He was not prepared to pass through. This was just a validation from God that there was more to life than what man was capable of explaining with high powered microscopes and telescopes. It was the source of life nodding to him in response to his questions. It was an offering to keep him from falling into the abyss of the purposeless void of whimsical and random swerving. It was the experience that would keep him from falling off of the fence that separated divine purpose from pointlessness. On one side of this fence there was purpose and on the other there was just a lonely existence with no meaning and only oblivion to wait for. The oblivion that waited for the intellectual atheist's brain activity to stop. A lonely stop to time that made all of your experiences forgotten, inconsequential, and mortal. Gavin's out of body experience allowed him to walk atop the fence that separated these two worlds. He lived between them. As time moved on, and as life continued with its obtuse unconcern for his providence, the mystical answer began to fade. As time continued and his distance from this experience increased it became easier for him to forget what it had meant. The cold suffering deterioration of life's tyranny would constantly batter his sense of purpose. But he never forgot and the mystery never forgot. He wold return to the gate, but first he had to pass through the crucible. The belly of the whale where the dark night of his soul was waiting for him.