by Brian Eckert
John Amaru Pinker wore a beige tactical outdoor vest over a southwestern diamond-patterned pullover, a pair of green hiking pants, and a broad-brimmed hat with a hawk feather in it, out of which dangled a white ponytail. He had a goatee and wore an iron ring on his left hand depicting a serpent swallowing its own tail.
I was joined by two women: a chubby, sexless older woman named Jan and a younger hippie chick named Tina. The Seven Ray Order website noted that “tour groups are limited to 3-4 spirit-centered people in order to foster an intimate atmosphere of discovery.”
Wearing a Panama hat, black polarized Ray Bans, sky-blue Nautica button-up with built in SPF, and Timberland sport clogs, with a Nikon D5 camera slung over my shoulder, I was by far the most fashionable group member.
During our brief introductions I presented myself as a photographer. Using that as a springboard, Pinker noted in an impossibly pretentious manner than he hoped “the day’s visions went beyond the mechanical eye to the third eye.” The women nodded and sighed in agreement.
Jan was a nurse, Tina a cosmetologist. Pinker introduced himself as an author, teacher, and researcher.
“I first came to Sedona in 1986, drawn, as you most likely were, by tales of its mystery and power,” he said. “I was directed to go into Sedona’s largest vortex—Boynton Canyon—which we now stand at the entrance to.”
He paused for dramatic effect, looking at each of us in turn with penetrating, almost black eyes.
“The secrets of Sedona reveal themselves to certain people. I’m fortunate to say I am one of them. When I walked into Boynton for the first time I hiked up to a rock shelf and sat down to meditate. A voice commanded me to open my eyes and when I did, everywhere I looked I could see temples—amazing, perfect temples that looked like they had just been built, carved out of the red rock.
“But when I got within 100 feet of a temple it dissolved. Eventually I came to realize that what I’d seen was how the temples looked long ago, when they were first built. The red rock formations are ruins of these temples. But you can still see the temples in their perfection in the fourth dimension.”
Third eyes. Higher dimensions. Visions. Were they actually buying this bullshit? Jan spread her hands to the sky in prayer. Tina rubbed a topaz crystal that hung around her neck. I contemplated the aperture of her pussy. These New Age women generally enjoy a good fuck.
We began walking into the canyon along a path that narrowed as we went in. I walked beside Tina, trying to make small talk. She rebuffed my overtures, completely focused on Pinker. The group stopped at regular intervals so that he could point out a particular feature and continue his spiel.
“After that first experience in Boynton I dedicated my life’s work to figuring out the origins of these temples. My research led me to the Hopi legend of Palatkwapi—the City of the Star People. The legend describes how the extraterrestrial Star People—the Kachinas, as the Hopi call them—taught them the mysteries of the universe, of human evolution. Based on my research, I concluded that the location of Palatkwapi was here, in the Verde Valley.”
We stopped in front of one of his so-called temples. I had to admit, the power of suggestion is strong, as I’d learned from years of womanizing. The key is to present yourself with zero doubt. Leading a cult is, if nothing else, a confidence game.
In spite of my skepticism I began seeing signs of architecture on the rock. I made out an ornate window framed in metallic blue with a holographic patina. I also saw a hieroglyphic-like depiction of what appeared to be a flying saucer. But as I looked closer I saw only rock. I snapped several photos.
“The Hopi believe Palatkwapi was destroyed by a great fire. Prophecy says that one day the Star People will return to the places that they built and lived, places like Sedona, and assist mankind in reaching a higher consciousness and reclaiming their legacy of living in peace and happiness with the Gods and Creation.”
“I can see the temples—I really can,” said Tina, gazing up at a red rock formation. Pinker placed a hand on her arm and said, “That’s good. Perhaps more will be revealed to you.”
These cult leaders are invariably sex fiends, I thought, from Manson to Koresh.
Turning his attention to the group Pinker said, “As a master teacher of the Order and School of the Seven Rays, I can help initiate you into the ancient lost wisdom of the alchemical processes through which you can achieve Godhood and realize your divinity. Female initiates can choose Sisterhood of Sophia training and become a Priestess of Sophia. Males have the option to become a Knight of the Peacock Prince.”
He said this last part looking at me. Yeah, a fucking Knight of the Peacock Prince. That’s what I always wanted to be.
(photo c/o Vacation Soup.)
The group followed Pinker along a path that led into a narrow section of canyon. We scrambled up steep rock to a covered shelf that formed a shallow amphitheater. There was an expansive view of the canyon and surrounding valley.
“This is the spot where I received my first glimpse of Sedona’s mysteries. Please, sit,” he said, gesturing to a natural bench along the rock wall.
“Among the mysteries of the universe the Kachinas taught at Palatkwapi was the Mysteries of the Plumed Serpent, which is the secret of awakening the evolutionary force which we in the West have come to know as the kundalini.”
Kundalini . . . where had I heard that word before? Then I remembered: it was the name of a trendy Asian fusion restaurant on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. Time Out New York had named the restaurant among the city’s best.
“The kundalini moves from the base of the spine, up the spine, opening the chakras, the centers of gnostic awareness. When the kundalini reaches the crown chakra you become connected to your higher self and cosmic consciousness. You experience kundalini awakening.
“Continuing the tradition of the great teachers I would like to lead you in a shamanic chakra mediation meant to awaken the kundalini. Take a moment to get comfortable.”
I continued sitting on the rock with Jan. Tina got off, removed her shoes, and sat yoga style on the ground. I meditated upon the roundness of her ass.
Pinker took a bundle of sage from his bag. He lit the sage and fanned the smoke with a bundle of feathers. He gave thanks to various gods in the four cardinal direction, to Mother Earth and Father Sky. Then he began:
“Imagine a coiled serpent in a slumbering state at the base of your spine with its eyes closed. The serpent represents your primordial cosmic energy. The serpent begins to rouse. A shudder of muscle moves over her coiled body. The serpent lifts her head. Her eyes open. You feel a tingle of energy at the base of the spine.”
I followed Pinker’s hypnotic voice until it filled the whole of my awareness. There was something musical and entrancing about it. My breathing slowed. I began to feel a warmth in my lower regions, like the onset of amphetamines.
“The energy begins to move up the spine. See it building, moving to the first chakra, behind the genitals.”
I became suffused with intense sexual desire. An orgasmic shudder spread out over my body.
“Be free. Don’t be afraid of what you feel. This closes the chakra. The energy becomes blocked. Embrace your feelings. Let the energy flow.”
I saw a fountain of dazzling white light radiating upward. The surging energy seemed to levitate me.
“The energy moves up to the next chakra at the navel, continues rising up to the chakra at the heart, the center of love and compassion.”
I felt the sensation of liquid light moving through my nervous system, entering my brain and taking control of my entire body. Pinker’s voice sounded further and further away.
“…moving up to the throat, entering the higher chakras, nearing its exit at the crown…”
(photo c/o Vacation Soup.)
I saw a narrow opening that revealed stars above me. The view began to pan out, wider and wider. My body was weightless. I was soaring into the stars. Faster and faster I flew, until I was in some sort of wormhole with holographic walls. Colored light twisted into kaleidoscopic patterns. The tunnel ended and I was in complete blackness. I looked down on existence below me, streaming away to a single point of light, and then gone.
Upwards I flew until I broke through into a blue sky. I floated peacefully among clouds. Strange creatures emerged, jeweled nymphs, and gathered around me in curiosity. They cocked their little jeweled heads, opened their mouths, and peeped like birds, but instead of sounds strange characters—hieroglyphics—came out. I reached up and grabbed one from the air and it disappeared. As it did I began to fall down out of the blue sky and into the blackness, tumbling into the wormhole and deposited finally back into my body on the rock shelf.
I thought for a moment that I was in ancient Egypt. There were gilded pyramids and a figure that resembled the sphinx, but with the head of a serpent. Columns of energy rose from the tops of the pyramids, converging to form a portal. A figure appeared from the portal—a god, my intuition told me. The god changed from a luminous being into a corporeal form as it descended. Standing in the center of the pyramids, the figure raised its hands and massive fireballs fell from the sky, consuming the earth in flames. The god-being glowed like molten metal in the flames, and in the midst of the destruction he looked straight at me and said something in a strange language.
I opened my eyes and fell forward with a cry, right on top of Tina, who cradled me in her arms like a baby.
Pinker helped me to my feet. “Are you okay?” he said.
I looked in the direction of my fiery vision, but there was nothing but red rock. The women were looking at me with a mix of concern and admiration. Pinker examined me with interest. I sat back down in a state of confusion.
“What you yelled,” said Jan. “I’ve heard that before. What was it?”
“I don’t know,” I said. “I can’t remember.”
“Koyaanisqatsi,” said Pinker. “It’s a Hopi word meaning ‘corrupted life’ or ‘life out of balance.’”
Brian Eckert lives, travels, and writes in the American West. Learn more at www.brian-eckert.com. His previous story for us was “The Hunting Cabin.”