Peter paused before the punished door of the apartment. His mom was vacuuming while his brother was watching the tube. Where was his dad, though? Peter listened a few more seconds. When he peeked through the door, his mother was vacuuming with her back to the living room, so Peter tiptoed toward the bedroom, his older brother mesmerized by the TV. Peter caught a glimpse of his dad lounging on the back porch, a beer can next to his chair, the aroma of grilled hot dogs and hamburgers wafting through the screen door.
Peter slipped into the bedroom and closed the door as quietly as he could. Then he dropped his backpack on the floor, stretched out on his bed and emptied his mind. The day before, after meditating for over an hour, he had envisioned a gray figure eight on its side floating above his head. He had seen it and the wall and ceiling so clearly that for a second he thought he might have opened his eyes without realizing it. So he blinked, and the figure eight disappeared. Now, the dull roar of the vacuum and the jabbering of the TV destroyed Peterís ability to slip totally into the void.
Then Peter heard his mother and brother talking. A few seconds later, his mother peered into the bedroom.
"Why donít you come out here and make yourself useful?" she asked.
"Why donít you have Chuck help you? Heís just watching TV," Peter moaned.
"At least heís doing something. Youíre just being a lazy bum. Címon, get out of bed and help me with dinner. I need something from the store. Why donít you ride your bike over to SAFEWAY and get a bag of salad and some ice cream?"
On his way to the grocery store, Peter stopped in front of a hole-in-the-wall bookstore called THE GOLDEN CHALICE. He immediately glimpsed a pack of Tarot cards in the store window and suddenly felt the urge to check out the store; when he got inside, he noticed his neighbor reading a book.
"Hey, Mr. Cashing, how yaí doiní?" Peter blurted out. Since Peter was normally shy, his sudden friendliness surprised both himself and Cashing.
"Just great, thanks. How Ďbout yourself?" Before Peter could answer, Cashing glanced at Peter and smiled, "Well, I didnít know you were interested in esoteric philosophy."
"I didnít either. Iím just on my way to the grocery store, and I noticed that pack of cards," Peter pointed at the store window.
"So you want to tell the future, eh?" Cashing laughed in an amused, slightly ironic tone.
"Sure, why not! Is that really what theyíre for?"
"That, and much, much more, from what I understand," Cashing replied.
"Maybe you can help me pick out a good deck," Peter blurted out.
"Hereís a good one, and itís used, so itís half price. Only ten dollars. Better check it to make sure youíll be playing with a full deck." Cashing opened it and looked carefully at the cards.
Peter appeared nonplussed. "Ten dollars. Wow, thatís a lot. I only have five. Darn it."
"Donít give up so easily. Give me your five and wait here. Letís see if we can make a deal." Cashing ambled over to the register, unobtrusively slipping out his wallet. He pointed at Peter and laughed. The cashier put the deck in a paper sack. Cashing walked over and gave the bag to Peter.
"Wow, you got it. Howíd yaí manage that?"
"Iíve got friends in all the right places," Cashing laughed.
"Wow, really, I owe you one. Maybe you could show me how to play these cards sometime. I got to go now, though. Thanks again!"
"Donít mention it, really," Cashing replied quizzically. "Have a good evening."
After dinner, Peter took a look at the cards. To his great surprise, a figure eight on its side floated above the head of a man in a card called THE MAGICIAN and above the head of a woman in a card called STRENGTH.
It was exactly like the figure eight Peter had seen in his vision during meditation two days before. Peter could not believe his eyes. He stared at both cards a long time. "Iíve got to ask Cashing about this," he murmured to himself.
The next day after school, Peter made a bee-line to Cashingís apartment and hammered on the door.
"Well, hello again," Cashing said.
"Yeah, well, I wanted to thank you again and ask you a couple of questions, if this is a good time."
"Sure. Come in. Come in."
Peter stepped into a dim room. As his eyes adjusted, he could tell that Cashing made minimal effort to keep his apartment tidy.
"Please, donít mind the mess. Come in and sit down. Now what can I do for you?"
Peter sat on a dingy couch. "Well, you know those cards I bought--we bought--yesterday? I was hoping you could tell me a little bit about them."
"Sure, I suspected that you might have questions. Fire away."
Peter pulled out the pack. On top were the two cards that contained the gray figure eight.
"I was hoping you could tell me what these are."
"Why, theyíre called lemniscates. The lemniscate is the mathematical symbol of infinity. They are floating above the heads of these figures to suggest an awareness of the infinitude within. In other words, they recognize that they are eternal, spiritual beings."
Peter stared speechless at the cards, then at Cashing.
"Is something wrong?" Cashing asked.
Peter hesitated. "Well, Iím not sure I should say this, but...ah, but I was meditating a couple of days ago, and I saw the same symbol floating above my head. It was gray too and everything."
Now Cashing looked surprised. "You had a vision of a lemniscate?" Cashing whispered.
"Yeah, I guess. You donít think Iím crazy, do you?"
"Oh, no, on the contrary. Tell me more about it. You canít be more than sixteen. What made you start meditating?"
"Fifteen, actually. Well, you see, I need to rest a lot. I have this problem, food allergies. Anyway, I lie down a lot even though my parents think I should always be doing something. So I got this book on meditation because I guess I wanted to look like I was doing something when I was just lying around. Anyway, it said that a person should mentally cleanse the chakras, which are energy centers in the aura. So I did. I imagined each chakra as a turning margarita glass. Then I wiped out each one mentally with a white cloth. When I was finished, I started having visions."
Cashing tried not to look startled. "What kind of visions?" Cashing asked.
"You really donít think Iím crazy?" Peter paused. Cashing shook his head. He too had experienced visions during meditation, but he didn't want to mention it just yet. Peter continued, "Well, when I was done clearing the trash out of my crown chakra, which took hours, I had a vision of a pure white, four-petaled flower, which suddenly blossomed into a brilliant white flower with lots and lots of petals. I thought it was a rose, but then I kept hearing the word Ďlotusí in my head. I did some research the next day on the internet and discovered that the thousand-petaled lotus is associated with the crown chakra."
"My God. Have you told anyone else?" Cashing asked.
"I told my family at dinner, and they just kindaí looked at me strange. My brother called me gay for the thousandth time."
"Heís probably just jealous. Typical sibling rivalry," Cashing replied.
"Yeah, well, he likes to beat me up. I donít know how typical that is."
"Sometimes older brothers just like to beat up younger brothers. All I can say is try not to let him discourage you. This is truly remarkable. It's one of those things that force people to entertain the possibility that there is something beyond the physical realm."
"What is so strange about this, I mean the figure eight, is that I saw it in my vision several days before I actually saw it in the cards. How do you explain that?"
"Iím no expert, but Iíll tell you what I think. The mind, during meditation, sometimes slips into a timeless state and can see basic patterns, or archetypes. Then, through what some call synchronicity and others call coincidence, the inner vision or mental state is sometimes reflected in the physical world. Most people automatically believe that what one thinks is the result of what one experiences in the physical world. Others would say that what we feel and think ultimately manifests in the material realm, which is basically a reflection of our inner state. Others say that the mind and the physical realm, the self and the nonself, form a combined reality reflecting each other."
Peter looked puzzled.
"Okay, maybe Iím not explaining this very well. Let me try again," Cashing paused. "Imagine that there are different dimensions of reality. There is the physical dimension that we all know and love. But imagine that there are other dimensions that we canít perceive with our senses. Some people believe that there are at least three other planes behind physical existence. Behind the physical is the foundation of all physical manifestation, known as the astral plane. Behind the astral is the archetypal world, which contains the basic patterns for all the forms in existence. And behind the archetypal plane is the spiritual plane. The spiritual Ďworld,í so to speak, generates the basic ideas, which manifest as archetypes, which then manifest as diverse forms on the astral plane, which ultimately manifest in the physical realm as the physical objects and events that we perceive with the five senses. Are you following me so far?"
"Is this the asoteric philosophy you were talking about yesterday?" Peter asked.
"Esoteric, yes." Cashing smiled. "Esoteric means 'for the few' and is often associated with the word 'occult,' which means Ďhidden.í"
"So these ideas are hidden from the average person?"
"Exactly," Cashing replied. "I think most people would agree that there are at least four dimensions to our being. Even college professors, I think, would agree that we are physical, emotional, and mental beings. Our esoteric philosopher friends would say that there is also a spiritual dimension which sometimes intrudes in strange ways upon our sense of reality. Look at it this way. Youíre an artist, right?"
"When you create, you usually start with a basic inspiration, right? Then you create some kind of basic pattern, which as you develop your ideas usually turns into a more complex, concrete idea, which ultimately manifests as an image on the canvas, right?"
"Yeah," Peter replied.
"Well, according to our friends, God works pretty much the same way, except his canvas is the world, or more precisely, the cosmos. According to our esoteric friends, we use the same process because we are made in Godís image."
"So Iím seeing basic patterns--what did you call them, arc of something...?"
"Archetypes. I believe you might somehow be tapping into the archetypal energy of the cosmos, possibly because as an artist you have developed your inner vision," Cashing paused. "Another explanation is that the archetypes are part of the collective subconscious, and we can access them through our own subconscious, the way one might find a channel from a lagoon out to the ocean. In any event, what you have experienced is a kind of synchronicity which cannot easily be explained or explained away. But by all means donít let anyone make you feel like youíre crazy when you have visions. Itís really a gift, a very special gift."
"I doubt anyone else would think so. What do you think I should do?" Peter asked.
"Like I said, Iím no expert. I think, though, that you should continue working with the Tarot cards since something or someone appears to have pointed you in that direction. Here, I'll let you play a game that I made myself called Paths and Thrones. It will help you learn the cards. Memorize them, visualize them, meditate on them. They are rich in symbolism, in archetypal energy, so to speak. Come back and tell me what you think, if you feel like it. I would be very interested in hearing what you have to say."
"Thank you," Peter said, as he was leaving, sincerely grateful. "Iíll tell you everything--that is, if anything happens."
Go to the next door.
Play the game Paths and Thrones.
Meet the Page of Pentacles.
Take a spiritual path.