I am sorry if any of you were missing me. I’ve been busy. This spring we moved houses again, this time into one with our names on the mortgage. We have had lots of guests, lots of Great Work. I’ve also been involved in a very intimate and deep solar initiation.
You see, I was diagnosed with breast cancer in April. First there was an irregularity on the mammogram. After the mammogram was the biopsy, after the biopsy was the surgery, after the surgery was the radiation therapy…and I’m almost done with that.
This is not an adventure for the faint of heart under any circumstances. It’s painful, frightening, embarrassing, fatiguing, terribly hard. Even if I weren’t sort of spiritually inclined by nature, it would bring into sharp focus the way so many ordinary folks are wandering the world with so much hidden pain.
My fellow cancer-travelers are like me: we have surgery, basically, and get up to go back to work. Some of the ladies in the waiting room worked through their chemo. And they go to baby showers, shop for groceries and mow the lawn in their post-mastectomy gear. Life goes on, and you’d never know about their situation by looking at them. Their husbands come with them sometimes, and they have the fear of losing their life-partners all about them. It’s like a cloying scent, the fear of death is always on the partners.
Never forget that the people in your life have hidden pain. This is a lesson that brings compassion in 55 gallon drums.
I have been lucky. The tumor was small and not very aggressive. I didn’t need classic lose-your-hair chemo. The surgery made a mess, but most everything is still there. Radiation is freaky and turns your skin the most amazing color of red, but that side effect is most likely temporary; in general, I’m told that I have tolerated the treatment well.
And the treatment seems to me to be the most solar of initiatory experiences…
“Radiation treatment” for cancer is exposure to x-rays. Lots and lots of x-rays. It’s performed in the hopes of killing the cancer cells that remained after the surgery, of course, but it doesn’t just kill cancer cells. Normal tissue is also impacted.
My thoughts about my experience changed when I realized that in nature, X-rays are emitted by stars. When the sun throws off solar material in a coronal mass ejection, x-rays are also produced. These particles end up causing the phenomenon called the solar wind, which encounters the gases in our atmosphere to make the aurorae.
On a hermetic level, the experience is also solar because of the intensity and the processing of the impure things out of the system. As Crowley states in Magick in Theory and Practice (bold font mine), “The First Matter is a man, that is to say, a perishable parasite, bred of the earth’s crust, crawling irritably upon it for a span, and at last returning to the dirt whence he sprang. The process of initiation consists in removing his impurities, and finding in his true self an immortal intelligence, to whom matter is no more than the means of manifestation. The initiate is eternally individual; he is ineffable, incorruptible, immune from everything. He possesses infinite wisdom and infinite power in himself. This equation is identical with that of a talisman. The Magician takes an idea, purifies it, intensifies it by invoking into it the inspiration of his soul. It is no longer a scrawl scratched on a sheep-skin, but a word of Truth, imperishable, mighty to prevail throughout the sphere of its purport.’
One of my impurities, it seems, was a tumor. So, it’s gone now, dissected and photographed for posterity. So is the innocence that is related to the visceral health that I previously enjoyed, the feeling of physical immortality. I feel fragile now, even though I am still strong and, tumor notwithstanding, healthy. I am not afraid to die, but very cognizant of the fact that I may well die of something related to the cancer or its brutal treatment.
The only thing to do is to treat it like a message from god. I am being initiated intimately with the solar wind into a different person. It is a literal shamanic death trip. It is necessary for the shaman in training to undergo some type of serious crisis, and I guess this is mine.
In getting ready for the radiation, the technicians put me in a CT machine to figure exactly where the tumor-bed lay in my mangled breast. They marked me with small tattoos in a cross that lays across my breastbone so that they could use lasers to position me the same way each time on the table under the linear accelerator that makes the x-rays.
Every morning, when I lay down to be positioned in the machine, the lasers overlap the tattoos in a three dimensional cross that bisects me in each of three dimensions. And then the treatment starts. The technicians leave the room, of course. It’s lined with a foot of lead in every direction. It is as alone as being in the Alaskan wilderness. The buzzing that indicates that the machines is on, the smell of ozone from the x-rays ionizing the air. That’s all there is in that room.
Every morning, I anoint and bless myself with Abramelin oil. “Bless me, an animate creature of god…” I lay in the machine and perform the Middle Pillar exercise. I feel a presence at times that may be some of the first inklings of K and C. My daily meditations have become sharp and easy, my pranayama practice the same.
My body has been scourged with many whips, but I remain.
Be thou blessed.