As a child raised Catholic, the social environment was of Nuns, Priests, church on Sunday, cataclysm. Here the deepest mysteries of the universe were unveiled. Question: What can God do? Answer: ( in 3rd grade class unison ) God can do anything? My father, on the other hand, being a disenchanted Catholic and a proponent of logic would say, "Well then, can he make a rock so big that he can't lift it?" Iconoclast!
It was the late 60's, "The Summer of Love", Timothy Leary, Ram Das, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds" sat on the horizon like a highway mirage; there, but somewhat out of reach for a 13 year old. This was the environment in which I picked up my first six string, and it felt good in my hand and it felt even better to have girls watching me with it in my hand.
On the home front, summers were spent amongst the migrant field workers. We picked berries, cucumbers, lettuces and what ever crop needed harvesting. The money would pay for a better guitar or a better amplifier. Such was the dichotomy of my formative years. Half field worker, half aspiring musical mystic. Then along came Carlos Castaneda and his book, "The teachings of Don Juan". Carlos, with the stroke of a pen, had transformed my Mexican coworkers into shamanic Brujos capable of peering beyond the veils of perception into worlds of power while maintaining the outer veneer of innocent peasantry.
The word crackled out over the Watsonville Highschool PA system that there was going to be a "spirit rally" at 3 PM. Indeed, the minions of Satan, disguised as administrative staff assembled the 2,000 unsuspecting nubile youths into the auditorium for the purpose of sucking out their spirit. The results were cheerleaders and jocks and it was not pretty. 'Twas in these darkest depth of Mordor I met a girl so fair that matrimony was the inevitable path we traveled.
It came to be, about this time, that an interest was developed in the occult. Books were studied, cards where thrown, spells were cast, alters were built and the summoning of demons was brought to a screeching halt when success seemed actually possible.
The years rolled on and there was meeting with remarkable men and women. There were gurus and Kundalini and chakras and The Archetypes of the Collective Unconscious and Iridology and Nietsche, and Jesus Christ Super Star, and astrology and palmistry, and tea leaves and Gurdjieff and Ouspensky and Maurice Nicole, and The Grateful Dead. There was Goeth and Faust, and "Altered States of Consciousness" Aleister Crowley and Wiccans and Pagans and Druids and the years rolled on.
In the 90's I joined with a group of people who practiced neo-shamanism. Joining this group consisted of one year of preparation and learning followed by the final ritual, the vision quest. My vision quest started with long hours in a sweat lodge, chanting while medicine workers invoked the spirits of the vision. This particular sweat lodge was called the "death lodge", being symbolic of the death of the old life in preparation for the vision which was to guide the formation of a new life. Having thus been appropriately sleep and food deprived and steeped in ritual after ritual, I began my trek to the top of Devils Peak in the Desolation Wilderness of the Sierra Mountains with only a canteen of water and my clothes. My mission was to climb the mountain and spend the entire night in ritual only to return the following day. I reached the peak as it was getting too dark to see the pine cones on the ground. Were it not for the occasional flash of lightning, I would not have been able to gather a few sticks together for a small fire. The top of the mountain had proven to be much further and less accessible than expected. I returned the next day at the point of physical exhaustion. During these years, participation in, and leading rituals became the familiar ground. The main trans-formative tool was the sweat lodge. Later, after I had left the group, a tragic accident in the death lodge took the lives of two people. At this point the group was officially disband.
My next foray into a spiritual practice was an involvement with Sufism. I was initiated as a student into the Naqshbandi Tariqa. Again, there were hours of ritual Dhikr or Zikr. The Naqshbandi are a Muslim order and as such, I also practiced Islam and did every devotional practice that Muslims are expected to do; pray 5 times a day, attend juma at the mosque and fast for the holy month of Ramadhan. After several years of practice, my Shaykh, (friend and teacher) died in an ATV accident. I continued the practice for a while but was quite put off by the lectures of Imams at the mosques, and even though the esoteric teachings of sufism along the lines of Rumi seem most attuned to my inner vision, I could never reconcile myself to the social system inherent in the outer practice of Islam. So, I quit.
From this point forward my spiritual journey is my own, I walk the path alone.