“A neophyte stands before us with dreams of a fabled land, the world outside the membrane of our thoughts, longing for a point of direct access where all minds converge. He seeks entrance to the temple where this unity partakes of Reality through no dark mediums, where it is not wrapped and warped by the suffocating vines of our senses. He craves a merger with the Chandelier of Consciousness.” Excerpted from Jablonski’s initiation
“Acknowledge that your mind has no independent existence, that it is an ember blown far from a raging blaze, that unless it returns to this primeval source it will twinkle for an instant and turn to ash.”
“Your thoughts and beliefs are sparklers in a dust storm. You would not recognize Truth if you found it, for how would you know? We offer the sacred privilege of returning to the indivisible and eternal Monad of Consciousness described by Detritus. Follow us. Join the Sentinels of the Chandelier.”
“Or return to your solipsistic path and wander it the rest of your misbegotten days, never glittering within the Chandelier of Consciousness, partaking of its ponderings as it illumes the dreadful night of eternity. The secret passageway is forever closed. Darkness is yours.”
Gnostic philosopher Detritus of Leuctra taught that Reality would end when tiny holes* dissolve its fabric. His teachings about the Chandelier of Consciousness form the basis for ceremonies performed by the Sentinels of the Chandelier. Some sources implicate Rasputin, Marx, Thomas Jefferson, Heidegger, and Art Garfunkel as members.
Detritus believed “all minds are connected like crystals in a Greater Light.” His students perfected forms of meditation to access and savor it. Petronius Jablonski went undercover and remains in hiding (note the funny name). His exposé was released as Schrodinger’s Dachshund to avoid punitive legal measures and worse. Judge this book by its back cover.
The following excerpts are based on interviews with numerous Sentinels, some still active. Descriptions of accessing the Chandelier of Consciousness incorporate lyrics from Paean to the Chandelier, which is recited at all their gatherings.
(Approximately 15% of sentinels describe the capacity to join the Chandelier of Consciousness by staring at their own eyes. Some abandon the cult and actively avoid mirrors for this reason. Most say this approach is contraindicated.)
He enters one of the elevators behind the desk and inspects his reflection on the shiny panel above the buttons. His eyes watch his eyes watching his eyes. The regress spirals through a brier maze where gargoyles shield their faces from territory they guard but cannot bear to glimpse. With a world-weary disgust most men need sixty years to develop he kicks the faux gold paneling. “Life doesn’t change after grade school,” he says, realizing past, present, and future are delusions of the same stinking beast from blind men.
“An engaging narrative” Publisher’s Weekly
(This account of accessing the Chandelier of Consciousness is based on descriptions by a man with Asperger’s. Due to limited social skills and a life of systematic isolation, he was unaware that most people never experience anything like this. Few sentinels share this profile.)
With the obstinacy of a voyeur she looks at his eyes. Why must people do that? It’s like holding up a funhouse mirror, distorting his ever-tentative assessments of himself, tormenting him with questions of how he appears to her, asking who “Alex” really is, searching for a shadow with a spotlight.
“What are you thinking about?” she says.
He looks away. If the waitress were a bishop she’d be able to pin the man in the adjacent booth or capture the hostess behind the register. There are thirty-seven bottles on the top shelf of the bar, possessing the intrinsic cohesion of all prime numbers, endowed with the essence of persistence itself. Humankind will morph into something even worse and vanish altogether. The sun will devour the earth and turn to ash and the motley caravan of days will journey no more. But an infinitude of primes will remain, irreducible and imperishable, pulsing with life like bioluminous creatures in a dark sea.
He looks at her eyes a little too long and it happens, an agonizing flash of awareness that she’s thinking about him thinking about her thinking about him. If he doesn’t cut it off it leads through convoluted passages to a dissolving LIGHT, as though each mind is part of a greater one and their uniqueness is an illusion. It’s probably best not to share this on dates. No one else complains of it.
“The Infinite Jest of Security Guards” Goodreads
(The following account is a composite of the “peculiar and unnerving” experiences of two tech support workers who shared a cubicle. They eventually had to be separated. What differentiates the Sentinels is that they willfully seek this state and explain it with the epistemology and metaphysics of Detritus. The phenomena is not uncommon. Most folks consider it indescribable and wonder if others have felt it. Reader, you have. There are men who know how to exploit this ability. Read Schrodinger’s Dachshund to prevent it.)
Tarang turns to him. Dark eyes reflect dark eyes reflecting dark eyes. Each thinks about the other thinking about him thinking about the other. Like amino acids these simple thoughts conjoin and evolve into a greater mind that emerges from the primordial swamp of mundane awareness to explore the jeweled shores of an alien kingdom. Jagajeet looks away. “I am losing my mind,” he says.
No, he’s accessing another.
“Sparse description that suggests more than it tells” PW
“The unusual style packs a wallop, pulls you into its rhythms and edgy approach” ABNA
(This excerpt was based on the testimony of a recovering Sentinel serving five years for a practice sanctioned by Detritus. More than a few sentinels preferred second person POV when speaking about moments of Connection. It’s not due to shame. They’re using an interesting flavor of the No Self doctrine, the subject of a future book.)
She sees you. For this infinitesimal point of her life YOU are the center of the universe, auguring your reign of that strange land within, through which the lonely crystal must journey before merging with the Chandelier. All your life has been a preamble to Now. “What did the city planners have against geometry?” you say, looking up from a map spread between the dashboard and your chest. “How do I find Wisconsin Avenue?”
Star-spangled nails drum the vinyl interior of the door. Pretend to listen while absorbing every detail, fighting all thoughts interfering with the ideal of passive observation. As always, the perception of specificities hinders complete digestion of the moment. Does she know those beauty marks on her arm form a scalene triangle or are you the first to notice? From a galaxy of data you outline the constellation of the Shy Bookworm Nebula, as though an absence of glasses would consign her to a life of pole dancing. Our minds, are they any less subtle than bear traps?
The scent of patchouli sends you gliding through concert halls and candlelit studio apartments. Whiffs hinting she hasn’t showered are more tantalizing. Wasn’t it Napoleon who asked his wife to stop bathing? They judge men by their peers.
She laughs after remembering Sixth Street is closed, which invalidates all instructions heretofore. Her smile has the same shape as a million others, each fashioned by the same artist using the same material, yet it’s as unique as a cloudscape. This moment, a life unto itself, why must it die? The intricate contours of this instant, tangible as a mountain, will soon be pulverized and blown away. What specter of you will live on in her mind? Not even a timid revenant sufficient to ensure that if you met on the street in one year she would say, “I remember you.” Such ghosts are mortal. And all the moments to come will be like this.
In preparation for the mystical homecoming, ponder the eons it took social mores to evolve and solidify like islands formed by cooling lava. To dispel qualms, reflect on the moral calculus declaimed by Detritus, how access to the Chandelier outweighs any ephemeral havoc the journey may wreak. “You shall not stand upon the shoulders of giants,” he said. “You shall become one with the giant.”
Yank the map off your lap. Watch her eyes. She’s thinking you’re thinking she’s thinking you’re thinking she’s thinking. These thoughts ascend spiral stairs into a crystal temple where all thoughts converge. Your tiny crystal glitters within the Chandelier of Consciousness, illuming the dreadful night of the universe, partaking of the reckonings of the Transcendental Mind. All participate whether they know it or not. Most will live and die in solipsistic ignorance of this discarnate union. Not you. Such LIGHT, would you not rather blind yourself than look away?
“Dark, funny, bizarre … disarming, vivid prose” Goodreads
“You … asshole,” she says, as though settling for a simple default after considering every possible term of disapprobation. Her delicious mélange of indignation and curiosity, why has it no name of its own? If only you could halt the pale horse of Time to study her grimaces and gestures, the way one might examine a painting from a variety of angles and in different lights to appreciate every nuance and subtlety. But the mad and inexorable gallop is what makes this moment so precious, so bittersweet.
As your car screeches around the corner, the gentle melody An instant is more than most men will ever taste is overwhelmed by a motif as resounding and triumphant as “Ride of the Valkyries.” Return to the temple. The Chandelier awaits.
She’s crossing a bridge over the river with catwalk grace despite a backpack and a laptop case mummied with duct tape. You buzz down the passenger window, wondering how the jeans from a few years ago devolved into these bizarre things, forgetting that fashion mutates faster than fruit flies. “Excuse me. Do you know where Lake Shore Drive is?”
She has cinnamon skin and one black eye, ferociously beautiful, skinny like a famine survivor medevaced in the nick of time. The breeze lashes long dark hair against her shoulders. Wildly arching eyebrows send a lupine fury cascading down her face to break on pouty lips. She takes a drag off a cigarette, revealing scars like disorganized crop circles on her stringy forearm. Thimbles threaten to pop through her tank-top.
The sight of the neatly spread map transmutes her Spanish beauty into a lupine rage. She must have seen this conjuring trick before. There is nothing new under the sun. Or your map. She yanks the door open and sits down and smacks you in the head with her case. “You’re gonna flash me, huh?”
A contusion shifts the worry lines on your forehead, breaking their symmetry. “This isn’t what you think. All beings share a common mind. There’s only one way to return to the primeval source.”
“You had a messed up childhood, hey?”
“I had a very nice childhood.”
“That proves it wasn’t. The bad stuff gets oppressed.”
“This is about enlightenment.”
“Whatever. So you choose to do this? That’s even more messed up. At least if you were abused you’d have some excuse.”
Just as a fedora or Viking helmet casts a distinct countenance on a face, wildly arching eyebrows give her sad almond eyes a demonic glare. In the way some fish delude others with dots on their tails resembling eyes, her features are designed to attract. They are not the manifestation of an inner essence. What deep message could arise from randomly assembled genetic code?
Your desires, are they not withdrawal symptoms, triggered by a conspicuous manifestation of youth and health and life? These addictions are painful but always broken. There are no relapses. The question to ponder is why she is camouflaged thus. Who or what stands to profit from this deception? Why is so much energy invested in the perpetuity of Life, this ephemeral masquerade?
“Quit staring at me, you freak.”
“I apologize for the misunderstanding,” you say, groping for the Jockeys under the seat but unable to locate them.
“This is your idea of a good time? What if you get caught?”
“The benefits mock the costs. It isn’t about power or sex. I should be free to practice my religion like everyone else. Not all forms of meditation involve sitting on the floor.”
“Did you ever think you’d grow up to be like this? You used to torture animals, didn’t you?”
A hidden memory uncoils like a long black hair in tuna salad. Do those ants and the magnifying glass count?
“Can we drive somewhere?” she says.
“I have to be … somewhere else.”
Her laughter erupts with whoopee cushion intensity. “Let me guess. You’re going to a job interview. Be sure to tell them about your hobbies. Hey, let me drive.”
“Absolutely not. Where do you need to be dropped off?”
“I just had an idea. Maybe I’ll scream at the first person we see that I was kidnapped. Maybe I won’t.”
Standing next to your car with a map wrapped around your waist you suffer an agonizing moment of perfect clarity, recognizing that letting this audacious girl drive is a bad choice and that someone who is standing next to his car with a map wrapped around his waist is no longer in a position to adjudicate between good and bad choices. You lie across the backseat and descend into a dark valley of introspective shadows.
“Don’t worry. I only had three beers.” The car takes off as though punted.
“Are you intoxicated?”
“That’s important, huh? Flashing strangers is no biggy, but driving with a buzz is wrong.”
You cover your eyes. The light is painful, the way it must feel to a creature that resides beneath a rock or log when its home is overturned. If she drove back to the university you could apologize to that poor girl, dispatching a noble Brutus to the kingdom of her thoughts, overthrowing the tyrannical representation of you that presides there. At the very least you could lie in the gutter and let her kick you.
“You know anything about Akron? I got a friend there.”
“No. Seriously, we can’t go that far.”
“As if. Like I’d drive that far with you. Don’t worry. I just gotta take care of something before I get on the bus.”
A sudden stop throws you off the seat. A rocket thrust quashes your efforts to scramble back. The car bounces over what you pray was a curb and thuds to a stop. Leafy branches cover the windows. She leans her head out and screams like some possessed person gargling with holy water.
“No,” calls a voice. It sounds like you. Going into shock is not without its advantages. At a loss to even think of runner-ups, you whisper, “This is the worst day of my entire life. But that’s alright. The path ahead splits in two and I can choose the direction I take.”
She returns your almost-paid-for car to the road. “How do you turn the stereo on? Why is the wheel pulling to one side?”
“I don’t need to glitter within the Chandelier of Consciousness ever again. The moral of Icarus applies to that goal.”
She parks in a section of town where generations of tenants and landlords waged a war with conspicuous acts of neglect. “I just gotta run inside.” She takes your keys and slams the door and runs to a house where a thrifty man improvised with shingles instead of vinyl siding. One of the locals is interested in your car. He approaches, shabby and gray as if partially erased by a remorseful creator, trudging behind a shopping cart packed with paper bags and crumpled cans, talking to no one you can see. A smile contorts his face like the rictus of a stroke victim. Improvise with National Geographic’s advice about bears. Eyes open and rolled back. Arms twisted. Hands clawed. Perfect stillness attained. There is no greater deterrence than Death.
How slowly evening comes. Through the side window the stars look like a snapshot of phosphorescent confetti flushing down a toilet in the dark. Yesterday morning, time of innocence before commencing this doomed odyssey, where is it now? The same void this moment slouches toward. Like wounded beasts they lumber into oblivion. There has to be something behind them, a great Projectionist illuming the still frames of which they consist. And you have seen his LIGHT and it was glorious.
“Are you spazzin’ out?” she says, finally returning. “Are there any major issues you don’t have?”
“It’s a defensive posture. Where the hell have you been?”
She starts the car. The second turn of the key sounds like a thousand fingernails on a blackboard. “What do you call it when you do the right thing even though you know it won’t make any difference?”
“I left a note but my stepdad won’t even care. My ma died when I was twelve.”
“Yeah, it sucked.”
When she parks at the bus stop you retrieve khakis from the trunk. Your colorful loincloth dances away in the wind. The natural opiate of shock dissipates as you inspect green streaks across the driver’s side and dents in the front quarter-panel.
“Your fly is open,” she says.
You regard the extraterrestrial-thin girl, both the same and not the same person she’ll be tomorrow. Her individual days are transparencies overlaying an outline that changes little from one sheet to the next. But groups of them accrue translucency, keeping the picture blurred while maintaining the dubious promise of its eventual clarity. The incandescence within, the Light behind the veils, what energy heats its filament? And when that final overlay is lifted, what will be revealed? Our fondest hope, that a continuum persists between all of our changes, that a tendril connects and tethers them to a final and unseen transformation, is it no different than the gleeful optimism of a child digging through piles of manure in search of a pony?
“Take a freakin’ picture. I’m outta here like last week.”
“Of what, perverted geezers?”
The transitory nature of the deepest moral insights, should it be a source of despair or elation? “Those branching paths on the horizon aren’t what they seem,” you say, driving away, searching the glove compartment for a fresh map.
*According to Detritus, Trypophobia is a natural aversion to the unavoidable destruction of Reality by microscopic holes growing slowly larger. It is an encounter with the deepest truth: Doom and the totality of its nullifications. His followers debate whether the points have always been here, growing from invisible specks until some prophesied Day of Holes when “naked eyes shall see lotus pods everywhere.” The view that they were built-in to Nature rather than the result of some catastrophe enjoys majority support, but consensus in these debates swings with little friction. Let Detritus have the final word:
Don’t look to the stars for mooring, as constants in this carnival of flux. They are no more eternal than breadcrumbs tossed across a dark pond. Permanence is relative; oblivion, patient. Should their mortality bring you comfort, a familial affinity, or despair?
If you don’t choose your thoughts or feelings you choose nothing. You don’t choose your thoughts or feelings.
Recognize the limitations and abject insufficiency of your mind. It has no independent existence. It is an ember blown from a raging blaze. Unless it returns to this primeval source it will twinkle for an instant and turn to ash. Your beliefs are sparklers in a dust storm. You would not recognize the truth if you found it. We offer you the sacred privilege of returning to the indivisible and eternal Monad of Consciousness. Join us. Join the Sentinels of the Chandelier.