Alternative Chapter Nine

One of the Boys - Dark Gardening alternative Chapter Nine

Chapter Nine of my novel Dark Gardening ended up being called The Muse. Originally, and under the novels original title of Spiritual Philosophy: the Novel, it was to be called One of the Boys and contained much more information regarding the chatracter Martin Sellers. In the end, I decided that this was more information than the characters place in the novel strictly warranted. However, for completists and simply for those who are interested. I offer the original chapter here. Reading it will give added insight into the world of the Illumination Movement around which the novel is based, and thus deepen enjoyment and inderstanding of Dark Gardening.

Chapter Nine: One of the Boys

 No doubt a fair proportion of you are hoping that I am about to recount every sweaty, sticky, dirty detail of my night of passion with the delectable Oom. Well, I’m not. Suffice to say, that she was every bit as good as she looked; every bit as good as Collingsworth had led me to believe. Actually, she was so good that I couldn’t drag myself away and one night quickly turned into three as I lingered a little longer than was strictly necessary in sunny Pattaya, availing myself of  the whole ’Girlfriend experience’ as Collingsworth so succinctly described it.

Although of course money did change hands, once after that long, sleepless, fantasy fulfilling opening night and again on the morning of my departure for the airport, at no point did I feel myself to be in the hands of a hardened professional. More like a gifted, well practiced and highly willing amateur. I could certainly understand why the whole Thai bar girl thing can become addictive for a certain type of western man. Maybe one day I will write about that at length.

We did sometimes leave the hotel bed, the pretty but overworked and underpaid maids’ needed time to change the sheets and replenish the mini bar after all, and my fondest memory of Oom was actually not at all of a sexual nature. Rather, it was of watching her at the local Buddhist temple, joining the indigenous throng in respectfully and demurely making offerings of burning incense to the large, seated and serene stone Buddha that dominated the altar. On that intensely hot afternoon, all front, all pretence, all sense of a performance enacted for the benefit of my grateful self was, for a few minutes at least, absent as I was given a teasing glimpse of Oom as she truly is.

 It was a highly humbling experience that set me thinking about one of the themes that Uncle Charlie had touched upon in his book, the contrast between the simple, honest folk belief of the devout masses and the complex, high sounding, often soulless religion of the philosophers and theologians. To be honest, this was not a topic that had previously much exercised my thoughts, and that it did so now was perhaps a mark of how far all things Illumination Movement had inculcated themselves into the centre of my existence.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, given Oom’s considerable charms and attributes, I didn’t often think of Lyn during my Pattaya beach sojourn,  and when I did it was little more than the odd passing, rapidly diverted  guilty jolt that usually arrived in the immediate aftermath of ejaculation. I had asked Nazi mum to email me if anything happened and had heard nothing, so presumed that nothing had. I did tell Oom about Lyn, but only in the context of her being my latest. I let her think that the relationship had run its course and that Lyn was now happily going about her life on the arm and in the bed of Mr A.N Other. Again, it was not that I wished to deliberately mislead; after all, although the truth may have made Oom feel slightly less enamoured of me, it is not as if it would have led to her flouncing out of my bed in a righteous Buddhist huff. It was merely that the truth was so fucking complicated that I really didn’t feel like going into it.

Collingsworth was right, in Oom’s case at least, about the girls being just as hung up on the ’illusion of love’ as many of the western men who avail themselves of their expert services. On the morning of my flight back to England, as she wrote out her address in careful, painstaking English, she looked at me with such hopeful, needy eyes that it was obvious that I had come to mean more to her than a few more meat dishes being served up to her grateful and hungry siblings back at her rustic parental, village home. I promised her that I would stay in touch and that we would soon meet again, this time in England. I did not yet know whether I would honour this pledge or not.

If all that I had gotten out of my trip to Thailand had been sexy, sunshine memories, then it would still have been a worthwhile experience. But of course, I got much, much more than that: I got a lot more juice for my story; and that, after all is the reason that I went there. It is the reason, when you really get down to it, that any writer worthy of the name goes anywhere.

I had an open ended ticket so I could have stayed on in Pattaya longer. But I felt it prudent not to abuse the trust that Culshaw had placed in me. Although I had lavished Oom a few gifts as well as hard cash: a new watch; a state of the art mobile phone; some stunning lingerie of which I was the first of a no doubt long line of happy, horny beneficiaries, I had done so out of my own money. I felt it to be wise and politically savvy to return at least a token amount of the expenses that New Century had so kindly advanced me. If I had stayed for longer it would have been for nothing more than the fabulous sex and, well, like I say I’m a writer and when I really get into a story nothing else matters. That’s one reason, amongst others, why I have never sustained a relationship for very long; partners generally expect you to talk to them now and again, and usually about something other than your latest journalistic or literary obsession.

I only saw David once more during my trip, two days after our night at Poppy Bar, the day before my return to England. We met up for lunch and a stroll down the beach whilst Oom was off attending to whatever it was that she attended to during the times that she wasn’t  attending to my manly needs. He didn’t really give me any information that he hadn’t already given me, although he did show a little more interest than previously in my own experience of researching the IM story; how and why I had gotten interested in the first place, my interview with Mary, the minutiae of Jenny’s long email, and so on. With regards to Carl Patterson, he admitted to feeling a tinge of pity.

 “...Because he really believed it. That must be hard, being plucked from obscurity and informed that you are the One, only later to be told ‘sorry old chap but I made a mistake; you are old news now; there’s a new kid on the block, though you’re welcome to tag along and acclaim Him along with the rest of us.’ That’d be a tough one for anyone to handle.”

Most of his interest was reserved for Mary and he quickly launched into one of his by now familiar and passionate monologues as we strolled across the warm sand between the temporary multi-national couples and permanent seaside hawkers.

“She was always an impressive, striking woman. It doesn’t surprise me that she’s still a bit of a looker. To be honest, I hoped that I might be in for the same pupil-teacher treatment that Patterson got; lucky bastard. Unfortunately fate, or at least Smith, had different, much less enjoyable, games for me to play. She’s intelligent too, Mary; the sort of woman who could have been anything, done anything, succeeded in any walk of life. Instead she’s wasted herself chasing rainbows in a little world that has no significance other to those few misguided individuals who pass through it. I don’t know why; maybe she is afraid. Maybe it’s just easier for her to be the Queen of her own little universe, rather than to risk failure in the big, wide world outside. It‘ll all be hers no doubt, such as it is, when Uncle Charlie finally croaks.”

 My own impression of David Collingsworth was contradictory. Here was a man who had money and was very much his own boss; he lived in a beautiful, picturesque, hot and sunny, exotic and exciting location; he had booze on tap and he could have a different beautiful girl in his bed every night, if he so desired. Offer this life to most red blooded heterosexual English men and they would snatch it like a greedy child .But there was a sadness about Collingsworth; the kind of sadness that you see in a lot of exiles; a sense of loneliness, of being cast adrift, of being lost, rootless, nostalgic for an England that no longer existed. I also felt that there was something more, a deeper sense of exile caused by the separation from his younger self, from that strange teenage spiritual seeker who hung around Nigel Smith and joined him in his strange little ‘insight role’ games. I think that Collingsworth was still a man who knew that there was more to life than Matter and Appearance, but who threw himself into the purely physical because he no longer trusted himself to reach out to it.

Arriving back in England I rested up for a couple of days, doing nothing much more than getting lightly stoned, sleeping, and reacquainting myself with good old - bland old English food until the jet lag subsided. Once I felt my strength sufficiently replenished, I at last braved the hospital.

 Nazi mum greeted me with a heartfelt Aryan hug and generally treated me like the long lost son in law I had no attention of ever becoming.

“Looking better, isn’t she?” she said, as we sat by the bed, looking down at the same wired up half-person whom I had chastely kissed farewell only week or so earlier. After Sally, as I was now to call her, had returned temporarily to the no doubt less than comforting shoulder of the still stubbornly absent Nazi dad, I gamely took her place by Lyn’s bedside. Of course, I knew that I should have been speaking, singing, dancing, juggling bed pans, doing whatever might just elicit some small flicker of life from the inert collection of matter whom had once been my girlfriend; but my heart was no longer in it.

Besides, I couldn’t exactly tell her about Oom could I? I didn’t think for a moment that she could hear a word that I was saying; but you never knew, and for the first thing that she became aware of whilst slowly awakening from a long, deep coma to be the sound of her boyfriend graphically describing his recent sexual exploits with an impossibly beautiful and exotic eastern hooker would be so darkly cruel that it would be almost amusing. Instead, I confined myself to softly playing her the West Coast Pop Art Experimental band compilation that I had burnt for her the previous evening, and to speaking a few embarrassed, mumbled platitudes whilst watching the white-starched uniformed nurses wafting enticingly to and thro. To be honest, my mind was really far away, engaged in naked gymnastics with Oom, or alternatively re running my current state of knowledge concerning the Illumination Movement.

I knew more or less where I needed to go to in terms of further research: I needed to talk to one of the boys who had made the initial sex allegations against Smith and Collingsworth, to Sellers or Lyons. I would really love to speak to Ellis and/or Smith, but didn’t know whether either would be possible. Smith in particular was proving to be a much more central figure in proceedings than I had been led to anticipate from the historical record. Whether I got to speak to him or not, I certainly needed to discover more about him.

 As yet I was still unclear as to the sort of story it was that I was constructing. I still hadn’t decided if it was to be fiction or none-fiction, let alone on the final, fully worked out structure of the work. Other questions crowded my mind: where would be found the location of the authorial/narrative voice? How would the story begin and how would it end, and how would I navigate my way from one to the other?  I had no answers but that night, as I left Lyn’s sickly, prone form and headed home through light drizzle and heavy traffic, I knew at least how those answers might begin to be uncovered.

I needed an inspirational tool, something with which to gather and shape the free floating flow of words and concepts that drifted constantly though my mind in ghostly search of a unifying theme. I knew from past experience precisely where such a tool could be located and so, arriving home, I headed immediately to the desk drawer of my study, my hand fumbling through the cluttered darkness, feeling blindly amongst the office bric a brac and half used packets of cigarette papers until it at last it returned to the light holding the small silver cigarette case which contained the single, tiny, brightly coloured square of LSD impregnated card that I had been saving for just such an occasion as this.

 I chewed hungrily and swallowed, my body thrilled with anticipation by the familiar cardboard/metallic hybrid taste. I closed my eyes and waited until I felt the familiar anxiety as my consciousness detached itself from its surroundings.  Through an act of will, I succeeded in preventing my unease from manifesting as a full blown panic attack. I opened my eyes. My dad’s picture, framed on the wall above the stereo, had been transformed from a seemingly random series of interlocking lines, into a large clutter of spiders engaged in group sex, complete with silver, inky trails of arachnid come. I stood up, walked to the kitchen, focussed on making coffee. The light buzz within grew and intensified with the progress of the kettle towards boiling point until, as the switch clicked upwards into the off position, I felt a surge of world altering power that cascaded through my body, violently wrenching open my inner eye.

 Suddenly, it was all there, the whole finished structure of my work in progress, just as the double helix, the structure of DNA, had become visible to Francis Crick under allegedly similar chemical stimulation back in the early fifties. I knew now that I was to create neither a work of fiction nor a work of none-fiction, but rather a novelization of reality in which real people, real events and the results of real research would form the backbone, the springboard for a unique work of the Imagination.

Tripping at my desk, pen in hand, unlined notebook shining brilliantly white under the glare of the art nouveau desk lamp, I set myself a few ground rules: Facts that I knew absolutely from outside sources singular or plural must remain unchanged; anything told to me by participants in the story, by Mary Henderson, David Collingsworth, Jenny Masters and whomever would agree to speak with me later, would be quoted accurately, respectfully, with due regard to their individual legal and moral autonomy. Everything else fell under the terms of poetic license; it could be created and recreated, moulded and manipulated, shaped and sculpted according to aesthetic need. I realised that in order to meet the requirements of this self created brief, I would need to speak from a multitude of viewpoints; and if that meant that sometimes I must seemingly do the impossible by entering directly into the minds of others, then so be it.

In fact, later on that evening, during the inevitable hashish and wine assisted come down, as I lay in bed reading through the notes of my meetings with Collingsworth, and later listening once more on my iPod to the recording of my interview with Mary, I didn’t need to pretend: I really did feel that I could see inside the minds of the main protagonists, could examine in minute detail their motivations past and present, had the miraculous capacity to see far beyond the carefully constructed façade which they (I) routinely present to the world. Of course, these new found powers of empathy and insight could not and did not last. Soon my consciousness moved back inwards, repositioning itself behind the thick opaque barrier which separates Self from Other. And as usually happened on such occasions, this process of walling in, of sealing off, coincided with the melting away of the very thin layer of protection that shields the ego from the knowledge of its own transient irrelevance, leaving ‘me’ face to face with Reality. Although to find oneself in such a place is to find oneself in a place of accelerated learning, it is not a place that one wishes to reside for long. Thankfully, the smoke and the drink soon eased the transition to a different location, a place of dreamless, restorative oblivion.

The next day, once adequate rest, coffee and a good old fashioned Full English breakfast had succeeded in replenishing my dopamine levels to a functional level, I quickly put together and emailed a report to Culshaw of my progress with the story so far. Obviously, I cut out all of the fanciful druggie type stuff; not because he was a saint in such matters, but mainly because it was still too early to say if my structural ruminations of the previous evening would fully withstand the harsh bombardment of everyday, wet Monday morning consciousness. I stuck to what, to him, would appear to be the most interesting thread of the story, the fact that Smith and Collingsworth’s entry into the IM had been a facade, a deception from the beginning. I even threw in Collingsworth’s tit bit regarding Smith’s unsubstantiated claim to have been part of a highly secretive, hidden Order. A bit sensationalist I know, but for a writer to be heard he must sometimes also be a salesman. I told him that I really thought that I was on to something big, and in so doing felt like one of those detectives in a nineteen seventies American cop show, pleading with his immediate superior for more time to crack a complicated case - ‘Just give me twenty four hours boss…’ etc, etc. After a long nervous interval during which I caught up with some of the mundane, tedious personal stuff necessary to the running of a life, Culshaw finally replied, telling me to do what I had to do and enquiring as to if I had got laid in Thailand. I wrote back immediately thanking him for his support and telling him that I had and that I would give him the sordid details face to face at a later stage. I would too; I liked Culshaw.

Over the next few days I set about using the wonders of modern technology to do some digging. Tracking people down has gotten so much easier since every man, woman, chav, conspiracist, deluded artist, frustrated writer and suicidal Goth teenager has found the need and the capability with which to document and parade their entire existence for public display Online.

          It didn’t take long at all for me to find Martin Sellers. He was married with two children, and living, for some undisclosed reason, in Grimsby, North Lincolnshire. I had never previously seen a photograph of the man and so had nothing against which to measure the gaunt middle aged face above his Facebook profile. But from the text accompanying the picture it could only be him. After all, what other person called Martin Sellers could have ended up working as an Exit Counsellor for a Christian organisation that specializes in helping the victims of ’Religious Cults’ and their families?

I temporarily overrode my own bias against such sites by registering and contacting him. I figured that it was best to just come right out and tell him the truth; that I was researching a story on the IM and would very much like to speak to him, to get his opinion of the events that had taken place almost two decades earlier. His reply was awaiting me when I got up, hung over and blurry eyed the next morning. It was brief and positive and to the point and twenty four hours later, after another none-descript day broken only by a brief, pointless, stoned visit to the hospital and another chaste hug from Sally, I was on the road to Grimsby. Well, it can’t all be golden beaches and exotically beautiful, sexually available young women, can it?

 

Martin Sellers and his family lived in a neat three bedroom semi in one of the, relatively speaking, better parts of the town. When I had started my research I had in my mind a picture of both Lyons and Sellers as perpetual scallies, ducking and diving their way through life, frozen physically and emotionally for ever at the age of seventeen. I certainly did not envisage that either of those damaged young men, for I could not think of either of them as being anything other than damaged, aspiring to, let alone achieving the kind of middle class respectability that the suburban location of Sellers home suggested. It was Sellers’ wife, whom I already felt that I knew from the variety of homely poses in the myriad of familial outings documented on their Facebook page, who answered the door.

“Hello. I’m Jane. You must be Paul; please, come in. We’ve been expecting you,” she said.

 Her voice was small and kind in a faintly affected manner. She was in her mid to late thirties, her hair trimmed rather than styled. She was the type of woman who had probably not changed much physically since her late teens; one of those people who grow gracefully into their rather plain physical form as time progresses. The front door opened into a small space that was densely packed with shoes and coats. Jane led me from here into a spacious thick carpeted living room that smelt strongly of lavender air freshener and furniture polish seasoned with a hint of cooked English breakfast. The room contained a newish looking red leather three piece suite, a large but not chavishly large flat screen T.V, a shiny, but aged and well used looking upright piano, a children’s bicycle and a cardboard box overflowing with assorted toys. The only wall decoration in evidence was a large, well framed, Constable style rural landscape print and a silver crucifix above the disused, ornately sealed off fire place.

“Please make yourself comfortable” said Jane as she gestured towards one of the single chairs. I thanked her and sat. She was wearing a baggy, pale blue T- shirt which possibly belonged to her husband, a black, mid calf skirt, and white ankle socks with flip-flop slippers.

“Martin’s in the kitchen, washing up. He’s very New Man,” she said.

 She disappeared through another door and I waited to the accompaniment of muffled voices. Presently a tall, well built man with cropped blonde hair, his body looking considerably younger than his face, appeared. He strode towards me confident of gait, signalling for me not to get up before extending a rough yet clean hand.

“Hi. I’m Martin Sellers; Martin. You must be Paul; you don’t mind me calling you Paul?”

“Of course not; pleased to meet you.”

Martin had a firm grip which he broke at a leisurely pace before stepping backwards and lowering himself onto the sofa facing me.

“Would you like a drink? Jane’s just making one; we’ve got tea, coffee, hot chocolate, fresh orange juice, coke, lemonade. The fizzy drinks are for the kids mainly; we’d prefer that they didn’t, but what can you do? We don’t keep alcohol in the house, I’m afraid. We’re both recovering alcoholics.”

This was too much information for the opening exchanges of a first meeting but it bode well for the future, suggesting that it would not be difficult to squeeze disclosure from him. I only hoped for both our sakes that he wouldn’t turn out to be one of those people for whom a single personal, problematic ’issue’ so dominated their life that it had become virtually their sole preoccupation and topic of conversation.

 I hesitated slightly before replying, smiling, trying to keep the mood light, for now.

“No problem; I’m not in the habit of daytime drinking; not when I’m working anyway. Coffee is fine; two sugars if you’ve got it. If not, I can manage without.”

 Martin disappeared back through the door that masked the kitchen. It was painted white and marked by tiny fingers, a visible manifestation of the joys of parenthood. More muffled voices followed before he returned to park himself opposite me, leaning back into the sofa, legs sprayed outwards before him, feet uncomfortably close to my own, as relaxed as one can only ever be in one’s own home.

“So, you are writing a story about the Illumination Movement?” he asked.

“Yes I am; for my pains,” I replied.

We chatted a little about my being a journalist, about New Century which he’d heard of and seen on the magazine racks, but never read. He said he had done a bit of writing himself over the years, but purely as a therapeutic tool and as a part of his Exit Counsellor work. He asked me if I was married and I said that I wasn’t and didn’t mention Lyn or Oom or any of my litany of brief, broken relationships. After a short silence, Jane reappeared with the drinks, coffee with two for me, a hot black liquid that smelt like strong, milk-less tea for Martin.

“I’m afraid I won’t be joining you. This is my quiet time, chores finished and the children at school. I like to spend it relaxing, reading, recharging my batteries,” said Jane pausing to look intensely into my eyes before continuing:

“Besides, I know all about Martin’s past; everything I need to know about the Illumination Movement.”

She gently informed her husband that she would be upstairs if he needed her. Then she extended a worn, feminine hand in my direction and said how nice it was to meet me. She smiled and turned, and was quickly gone.

In the interest of narrative variety I shall allow Martin’s testimony to flow freely, unencumbered by journalistic questioning and novelistic descriptive asides. Actually, as I had suspected, it didn’t take much coaxing at all to get him to tell his story. Although I have tidied up his syntax to a certain extent, omitting the occasional ‘erm’ or ‘mm’ or element of repetition, his words really did flow freely, as though he had given his account many times, or at least had been in long preparation for the opportunity to do so. Here, in essence, is what he told me:

“Meeting Nigel Smith and getting involved with the Illumination Movement was the best thing that ever happened to me. I know that may sound strange to you, but if it hadn’t have been for that then I would never have met Jane and I would never have found my way to Jesus Christ. I would not have become the person that I am today with my wonderful life, my beautiful family and the chance to help people who are now suffering as I once suffered. I would have remained a lost sheep, living and dying in a state of separation from the Lord; and that is actually the true definition of Hell.

 “Do you know about Andrew Lyons? Sadly, his experience in the IM led him to begin a downward spiral that he could never find the strength to reverse: drink; drugs; abusive homosexual relationships. We stayed in touch for a long time after the IM. I even tried to help him, once I had found my way back to the Light. But I could not reach him; no one could reach him. He died about two years ago. I went to his funeral. There were five of us there.

“I am not sure where to begin my own story. You want to know why people get involved with groups like the Illumination Movement? That’s what people usually want to know.  Well, I think that my story is fairly typical. My parents are as good a place to start as any. Good people, good kind people; but very much products of the sixties. They came of age in a period when rebellion was in the air; when the freedom to do as one wished was starting to become the great good, the great God, for all to aspire to. That decade really does have a lot to answer for: children without father’s; free love and serial monogamy; drugs as a normal part of everyday life; binge drinking; dependency on the state; the routine slaughter of the unborn. Really, it all comes down to the collapse of Christian values; values that had served us well as a society for a Millennia and a half.

“In the sixties, it suddenly became fashionable amongst the young - and they were egged on in this by some establishment figures that really ought to have known better - to sneer at everything that the majority held dear. Mum and Dad, I’m afraid, were very much caught up in that atmosphere and consequently I was a part of that first generation to be raised by those whose values had been formed by this new ‘do your own thing’ climate, and so, like many others,  I never had the benefit of clear moral boundary’s.

“My parents met at university. Dad was studying Politics and Sociology, Mum English and Art History. They were lucky; they came from a good background, went to good schools; had the opportunities denied to most. Of course, this was in the days before university degrees were given away almost as a coming of age gift. Like many others, before and since, they never acknowledged their good fortune. All they could see was a life of hard work and responsibility stretching ahead of them. A life that they, following the fashion, were determined to reject.

 “In common with much of their generation, they were very keen on protesting: against the Vietnam War; against racism; in favour of the right to abortion on demand; against the persecution of homosexuals; against the bomb; in favour of the right to alter one’s state of consciousness at will through the use of drugs, the usual stuff. They experimented with communal living and with having an ‘open’ relationship, until good old fashioned jealousy convinced them that such a manner of living wasn’t really for them. Despite the protesting and experimentation, they both still did just enough studying to qualify as teachers, and soon after they set up home together. I came along not much later than that.

“My parents hoped to avoid the sort of mistakes that their parents had made with regards to their own upbringing, ‘mistakes’ such as attempting to instil the ideals of hard work, moral responsibility and self reliance. After my birth my parents decided that leftist politics was now no longer sufficient to solve the major problems of the world; the answer had to be found within each and every individual. That realisation set them off on what they referred to, as their ’Spiritual Quest’.

 “The two of them tried every religion going over the next few years: Krishna Consciousness; Sufism; Buddhism of the Tibetan, Western and Zen varieties; Scientology; Raelianism; Synanon; everything except for the historic religion of their forebears. Our house was host to all sorts: chanting Indians in colourful robes; earnest young men and women with sharp clothes and heads full of wild theory’s about ‘Thetans’ and ancient Alien ancestors; austere black clad Zen ‘priests’; intense, self obsessed therapy cult junkies. When I was very small I just thought that it was normal to have large groups of people meditating, chanting, singing or engaging in intense and often tearful discussion in one’s front room. Later, I found it embarrassing and stopped inviting friends home.

 “But the kind of ’ideas’ that mum and dad espoused, did slowly but surely inculcate themselves into my mind; and by the time that I hit my mid teens I started taking a genuine interest in some of our strange visitors with their fascinating practices and systems of belief. Of course, Mum and Dad very much encouraged me in this.

“They believed in everything at one time or another; and the problem with believing in everything is that ultimately you believe in nothing; and a belief in nothing, a moral void, is highly dangerous in the hands of the young. We have survived as a civilisation by the passing on of our cultural values from generation to generation to generation. I was passed nothing but an abstract belief in freedom and a burning certainty as to my own uniqueness as an individual. I was like a ship without an anchor and was thus prone to be blown along by whatever winds, ill or good, came my way. Boys like me were made for men like Nigel Smith.

“Smith introduced me to new music, to art, to new ideas, to a new way of looking at and relating to the world. To the young ‘new’ is often just another way of saying ‘better’, as though what is must necessarily be better than what was. Smith seemed to be just about the most content person that I had ever met. With my parents and the various people that orbited their world, for all of their meditation and spiritual pretensions, their seeking never seemed to have a tangible effect, other than to lead them on to further seeking. They were seemingly forever restless; never settled, never truly still. Smith did not seem to have the need to live his life anyplace but the present moment. Whatever the ’It’ is that makes a person whole, Smith seemed to have found it.

“It took a while for him to bring up the subject of the Illumination Movement. Eventually, he gave me Uncle Charlie’s, and it’s funny how even today I can’t help but think of him as anything other than Uncle Charlie, book to read. He didn’t make any great claim for it at the time, just handed it to me casually, said that it was well worth reading and left me to make my own mind up. The soft sell sometimes works much better than the hard and the good salesman knows his customer. The book seemed plausible and interesting. I even gave it to my mum to peruse, once I had read through it; she said that it seemed like something worth investigating further, though she wasn’t interested personally, mainly because at that time my father and she had gotten themselves into a heavy psychological Encounter Group kick. But anyway, I went along to a Meditation and Yoga introductory class and enjoyed it. It was less formal, less dependent on exotic cultural trappings than some of the similar classes that my parents had been involved with.

“I signed up for the ten week Spiritual Philosophy course and the IM members that I met all seemed to be nice, genuine, ordinary, interesting people. Leading figures like Uncle Charlie and Mary Henderson and Smith weren’t weirdoes in the way that some of the people who had passed through our home over the years were. Neither were the vast bulk of the rank and file, certainly amongst the North West membership. It made me think that if this great bunch of people can believe in all of this stuff so passionately, then maybe it’s all true.

“That’s the thing with Cults; they inculcate people into their beliefs by increments, bit by bit, so that they are unaware of the changes that are happening within them. If Smith had presented me with the full range of the Illumination Movement belief system right off, then I would have rejected it out of hand. Of course, if I had been forearmed with a strong moral belief system of my own then I would never ever have accepted it, no matter how carefully it was packaged or how slowly it was poured into me. But that’s how they work: they take the vulnerable, those who are lost in the world without a compass, without a map and slowly but surely spread the net around them.

“At first I thought that the whole idea of David Collingsworth as the Bringer of Light was absurd; he was just a young lad, an ordinary looking young lad who, as far as I could see, never did or said anything at all that might indicate that he was in any way special. But then, after I had started on the course and started to spend almost all of my free time with members of the IM, I began to think that there might just be some truth in it. After all, Jesus of Nazareth himself was from an ordinary family; He too was denied by the majority. The early Christians were ridiculed and persecuted for their belief in His Divinity. After a while my doubts just sort of disappeared without my even noticing it. That is when Smith started to turn up the heat.

“He began to talk to me about the need for all of us to break free from our individual ego’s; to liberate ourselves from what he called the ’Illusion of the Self’. This wasn’t a total surprise. Uncle Charlie had talked about this in his book and we had discussed it at considerable length during classes. Smith seemed to take these core IM beliefs a step further. Looking back, I went along with it because I didn’t really have much of a sense of self to start with. I had no idea who I was really, so the idea of losing myself didn’t seem at all scary. Smith was particularly big on the whole idea of the breaking down of habit. He said that he never got up at the same time, never put his clothes on in the same order; varied his breakfast daily; never travelled the exact same route between two places; read a different newspaper every day; constantly altered the tuning on his guitar so that he could not fall back on the same, tired old chord shapes whenever he sat down to play.

 “It seemed like an interesting way to live and it had a surprisingly powerful effect upon me once I started to engage in such practices. I suddenly became aware of everything that I was doing, like I was an observer of my own life; and also aware of how much I, and people in general, had come to rely on routine, robotic patterns of thought and behaviour. It became like a kind of ongoing meditation and, if that had been the end of it, I suppose it would have been a force for the good. Smith was surely right when he said that most people sleepwalk their way through life; and I did not want to be one of those people. I wanted to be one of the few who are truly alive.

“But, sadly, that wasn’t the end of it. One night, Smith asked me to take hallucinogenic mushrooms with him. He had always claimed to have given up drugs after he joined the IM; but he said that anything that grew naturally upon the Earth could not really be regarded as a drug. Drugs were, according to him, about escaping from reality. ‘Organic Psychedelics’ were a tool for experiencing reality more deeply. Don’t get me wrong, I was no innocent when it came to such matters; my parents regarded drug experimentation as a natural part of growing up; almost as a rite of passage. I’d grown up around cannabis; its’ sweet, sickly smell had been an ever present during my childhood and I think that I was thirteen when I had my first smoke, surreptitiously shaving bits off mum and dad‘s less than secret stash in order to impress a girl called Vanessa , the first love of my life, with my worldliness. I had even taken mushrooms a couple of times before, the first time before going for a magical, scary afternoon trip to Blackpool funfair with a mate, and the second with a later girlfriend called Debbie. Both experiences had been great; funny, exciting, sensual adventures.

“The trips with Smith were different. It was all very intense. He’d read aloud from Uncle Charlie’s book whilst having me concentrate my eyes upon a photograph of David Collingsworth next to a picture of Jesus, until the face of one merged with the face of the other, until I could not separate them in my mind, until I really did believe that Collingsworth was the Christ of the modern era, the future harbinger of a spiritual Golden Age. On another occasion Smith had the two of us sit in silent pitch darkness for hour after hour, totally deprived of outside sensory input so that the mind was forced to turn inwards, deeper and deeper and deeper until I really didn’t know who I was or where I was or what I believed anymore.

“It was during the last time that we tripped together that he turned the conversation around to the subject of sex. Firstly, he told me all about his former relationship with Jenny Masters, going into almost pornographic detail about what they used to do together. She was a beautiful girl and the vivid imagery produced by Smith’s words and the powerful hallucinatory effects of the mushrooms caused me to become physically aroused.

“Smith then started to tell me how all of us, all humans and all animals, are really bisexual; it is only social conditioning that causes the majority of us to identify ourselves solely as heterosexual. He said that so called ’straight’ sexuality was really just another conditioned, habitual response that needed to be broken down if we were to develop into the fully rounded spiritual beings that God intended us to be. He went on to tell me that he had never previously been with a man. I don’t know if that was true or not, but I believed it then and believing it made it easier to accept when he began to touch me, made it seem more like a shared experiment, a shared adventure; a means of mutual advancement along the Path rather than abuse, which of course is what it was.

“That was the first time. It happened a few more times after that, without the drugs. The last time David Collingsworth was there too. Smith said that involving another would further help to break down our conditioning. It shows how well Smith had nurtured me to this point that this all sounded perfectly plausible. As it was, Collingsworth only stayed for ten minutes and didn’t join in at all; just watched, sitting on a chair.

“I’m not going to sit here and pretend that my experiences with Smith were something other than they were. No one forced me to do the things that I did; and I can’t pretend that there was no enjoyment at all involved. For one thing, I felt close to Smith and the sexual contact just seemed to be an extension of that emotional and spiritual bond. When you really get down to it, any sexual contact can be enjoyable on a purely physical level. To have someone, of whatever sex, gently touching, kissing, caressing you is nice. If you lack a moral framework as I did, then any kind of sexual behaviour can seem acceptable, especially if you have been carefully prepared to accept it over a lengthy period of time by somebody highly skilled in the art of persuasion. We can call it brain washing, but another modern word for it in this context is grooming.

“Somewhere deep within I always felt that what I was doing was wrong.

“At first that feeling was very faint, hardly noticeable, hidden away at the back of my mind and very easily dismissed. But it grew just that little bit stronger every time that I engaged in sexual activity with Smith. I think that the presence of Collingsworth that last time, and the vague look of disgust on his face, was the last straw for me; the trigger for me to put an end it. We all have that little voice within that tells us the difference between right and wrong; actually, that voice is the voice of God and it had become too loud and too insistent for me to ignore it any longer. I told Smith the next day that I felt that the experiment had run its course; that I had learnt from it, broken free from my social conditioning, and was ready to move on. He just looked at me and smiled and said yeh, maybe it was time for us to advance to the next level.

“Thankfully, I never got to find out what that next level was. Initially, I did not intend to break with the IM completely; or even to end all contact with Smith. I only wanted an end to the sex stuff and I still went to meetings and classes for a while. But I felt depressed in a way that I had never experienced before and for reasons that I could not quite pinpoint. Then I noticed that Smith and Lyons were starting to spend a lot of time together. I just guessed from the way they were with each other that the two of them were engaged in the same sort of ’spiritual experiment’ that I had only recently concluded with Smith. I suppose that I felt a little bit betrayed, and yes I admit it, more than a little jealous that I was not as special to Smith as I had once thought.

          “So, one night, after meditation class, I approached Lyons. We’d never up to that point been friends, never even had a proper conversation of any length, but we ended up back at his tiny bedsit flat drinking cheap cider long into the night, baring our soul‘s to one another. I had been right about his relationship with Smith, and Smith had used almost exactly the same spiel, the same techniques and the identical quasi-spiritual patter with him as he had with me. Lyons too had been compliant but, like me, he had that little voice telling him that what he was doing was wrong. Having someone to talk to about it opened both of our eyes and we decided that night to collectively leave the IM.

“It was Andrew’s idea to go to the press. I went along with it, but that is a decision that I now strongly regret. Like I said, looking back, it is as if I hardly existed as a person; I was so weak, so easily led. We were paid a few hundred pounds. In my case that went in a two week booze bender. Some of the published stories were true, some weren’t. Some of the untruth came from Andrew, some from the newspapers themselves. I am not aware that I knowingly said anything that was not the truth; but that is hardly the point. It was a mistake to make all of that stuff public. I don’t think that it helped either Andrew or I to heal, to move on with our lives.

 “Many difficult years lay ahead for me: too much booze; too many drugs; a lot of soulless sex with a lot of soulless, lost women. I was in hell, though I did not yet know it. I suppose I hated myself for being so easily taken in by the IM in general and by Smith in particular. But at the same time, and for years afterwards, I missed the system of belief that the IM had given me; it was the only system of belief that I had ever really known; without it, I was just adrift, going nowhere slowly. My parents tried to help, but what could they do? They didn’t have what it was that I needed.

“I only began to find that when I began to attend AA meetings and met Jane. She is my love, my teacher, my soul-mate, and through her I met my Lord and Master, Jesus Christ. Now I love my life. I have a beautiful wife, beautiful children; a job that allows me to use my experiences in the IM as a way of helping others. As I said, meeting Smith and getting involved with the IM was the best thing that ever happened to me. Oh, and do you know what? About two years after I became a Christian, both of my parents did likewise.”

 

I liked Martin Sellers, even though I suspected that he would strongly disapprove of much of my lifestyle. He had a warm, easy going manner that was highly appealing and I was glad that he had found happiness in his marriage and his job and his church. Nevertheless, I could not help but feel that he had merely exchanged one delusionary belief system for another, that he was only postponing the day when he would have to face the truth about life in all of its stark, brutal reality.  

When I returned from my illuminating trip to the historic capital of North Lincolnshire, I found two emails awaiting me. One was from Oom telling me that she loved me. I doubted very much if that was literally true; but I did believe that she had meant it at the moment that she had written it. The other was from Mary Henderson and it invited me, without explanation or preliminaries, to a Liverpool branch meeting of the Illumination Movement; a meeting to take place the following week and to be addressed by Uncle Charles Ellis himself.