Rounding a Life’s Work

Written by Steven Barnes

There used to be a bookstore in West Hollywood called The Bodhi Tree—a cornucopia of metaphysical books, worlds of wonder from every imaginable tradition. I spent countless hours in its cubby holes, drinking mint tea.

Amid the stories of immortal yogis and spinning energy wheels inside the human body, I noticed references to things I’d experienced…or glimpsed.

If poets seemed to hint that there were levels of creativity that began with the dissolved ego state and ended in the caverns measureless to man, beyond the shining sea…

If the world’s greatest athletes spoke of some union of mind, body, and spirit that birthed Olympic-level performance…

If the most legendary martial artists spoke of love rather than fear leading to the most magical combative skills…

If the furthest edge of what I had experienced was the nearest edge of these other disciplines…what would that mean?

My thought was that these masters were trying to communicate something that doesn’t quite fit into words. Something about, both the positive and negative potential of the forms of meditation, dance, physical and mental yoga, martial arts, chi gung and other energy systems, prayer, ceremony, spirit journeys, and much much more.

What if they were right? What if that truth had been splintered around the world, so that no one could put it back together again? And what if a single brilliant nerd put the whole thing back together again, taking advantage of computers and the ability to gather printed and video data from around the world. What might happen to this person?

My novel The Kundalini Equation (1986) was born. I always considered it a sort of modern “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” novel, and I wrote it at the absolute edge of my abilities, combining everything I knew or had experienced or could glean from the words of masters further along the path.

And something odd happened. After The Kundalini Equation was published, people started asking me where I’d learned about some of what I’d written about. Who had taught me. They were surprised that I’d created it without teachers or mentors, by connecting everything to that sense within me that this thread and this thread, from different areas of life, felt the same.

A few of them said: let me show you what comes next.

Over the next decades, I earned three black belts, studied NLP and Pancultural Shamanism, apprenticed to a medicine man, became a devotee of a genuine spiritual master, studied sexual magic, and wrote more than two million words of fiction. Lost both beloved parents and had two wonderful children.

At every step, I kept connecting what I learned with what I felt, with the sense of standing still in the midst of chaos, of balancing effort and ease. I went deeper and deeper, finding dead-ends but also open doors.

Some time later I picked up The Kundalini Equation and remembered the young man who had looked out at the world and tried to put his thoughts into a story of science and magic…and wondered if I could do something anywhere near as good, at this stage of my life. What would such a book look like? Feel like? Read like? Could I do honor to my teachers and my experiences? Present something entertaining but also honest?

I didn’t know, but I had to try. My new novel, Twelve Days, is the result of that effort. I do not know if I succeeded. It really isn’t my place to say. But damn, it’s going to be fascinating to see how people react to it.

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