I’m an alcoholic. I drank every day for twenty years. Half of that time I was trying to get or stay sober but I found it impossible. I couldn’t leave it alone. Despite the fact that alcohol had brought about my ruin, had destroyed my mental health and self–esteem, had stripped me of everything worthwhile and left me eating out of bins, picking up dog-ends and sleeping in bushes, it was just about bearable compared to the thought of life without a drink.
Like all of us, I am indefinable, but when I look back on my childhood – which has nothing whatsoever to do with my drinking - I can see both the seeds of my alcoholism, and of my recovery from it.
As a boy, I had no doubt that there was a God, and that he had something very special in store for me. No, let me be honest here. I believed that I was put on this earth to teach you lot about yourselves. Special and different? Oh yes. I believed I was more intelligent than you, more capable than you, better looking, better dressed and funnier than you, and Right. I didn’t see humanity and the world as an extension of myself and of God; I saw humanity as a faceless writhing mob and the world as its rubbish dump: I had an ego the size of a small country (or an uptight German with an ill-conceived moustache). Consequently I felt isolated from everything.
The problem with the ego is this: that the bigger it gets, the more isolated we feel from the world around us. We begin to feel either superior or inferior to everybody else (or both); we feel misunderstood, we feel resentful, we feel like a victim, we feel like we don’t belong. We no longer feel one with Life and the Universe, and we cast around madly for a solution to our problem, for something to numb the pain. Some people spend their lives in bitterness and frustration; others chase after money and status in the misguided belief that sooner or later it will bring them happiness; still others join weird cults and allow themselves to be brainwashed so that they don’t have to face reality; one or two become dictators and murder people in industrial quantities. I found my solution in a bottle.
One day when I was about nine I was in Kholi’s shed looking through his stuff (I’ve always had a liking for going through other people’s stuff; sheds hold the promise of dusty adventure, and attics are portals to other dimensions) when I came upon a book entitled “The Orange Book – the Meditation Techniques of Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh”. There was a picture of a pretty mellow looking Indian on the front with a long white beard. He was playing the lute. It was full of possibility. Maybe I will find the answer in here, I thought, and took the book home with me.
I was always looking for a spiritual experience.
Here are a couple of the meditation techniques which I picked up from the Bhagwan.
Get a bucket of water (a bucket, mind, an honest to God bucket), open your throat and drink of much of it down as you can in one go; until it’s coming out your ears; until you’re full to the brim with water.
Now regurgitate the water back into the bucket. This serves to clean out your insides.
Start laughing. That’s right; just start laughing. At first your laughter will be forced and unnatural, in fact it won’t be real laughter at all. It’ll be like trying to laugh at a really unfunny joke that you’ve just been told by your new boss’s wife at dinner. Stick with it though, because eventually you’ll hear yourself, the ludicrousness of the situation will hit you, and your laughter will become real. Do this for twenty minutes or so. Do it every morning. After a few weeks you will find that you’re laughing at pretty much everything, and we’re not talking modest, politically correct chuckling here, we’re talking out of control side-splitting hilarity.
The bank repossesses your house: you’ll be laughing like a drain. Your wife tells you she’s filed for divorce: you’ll be in fits of mirth. They tell you at the EU clinic that you’ve contracted an embarrassing social disease: you’ll be roaring with glee. You’ll see the funny side of everything.
Ensconce yourself in a dark room with a mirror and a single candle. Position the candle so that it’s reflection can't be seen in the mirror, but serves to light up your face. Now gaze into your own eyes, and don’t blink. At first, it is hard not to blink, but with a bit of tenacity you can do it. You’ll have tears streaming down your face for sure, but you can go without blinking for an hour or so, no problem.
What happens? Well, your face starts to change. It melts, like a Salvador Dali painting. It transmutes into other faces. It’s bound to, because if you gaze at anything for long enough you’re going to hallucinate, but that’s irrelevant. What matters is this: the eyes are the windows of the soul. You are seeing your soul. You are in communion with it. You recognise it and know it, and love it. The faces that come and go, it is their soul too. It is unchanging. I think it is the Soul of the World.
Well, I took to this mirror stuff like a duck to water. I was at it every night. I think I was partly excited by the esotericism of it all. In his book, Bhagwan Shree said that the faces were those of your sub-conscious or of previous incarnations or something like that. All I know is that mine all had the look of oppressed South American peasants. And then, inevitably, I saw Hitler.
I say inevitably, because of what I have learned about my ego. It doesn’t believe in shades of grey. It doesn’t believe in half measures. If I’m going to see someone who I perceive to be myself in a past life, you can guarantee it’s going to be either the most evil person I can comprehend (at the time, Hitler), or Jesus Christ.
I don’t believe in evil, anymore, incidentally. People do some messed up stuff when they're consumed with fear and alienation. It makes you do crazy things.