“An adventure happens every time we leave the world we live in to venture into unknown universes. We give up our usual security and comfort in exchange for unusual experiences that can take us where we’ve never been before. To venture out is to go beyond yourself. There will be discomforts and dangers. You can’t live an adventure without taking risks. However, nobody can walk if they are stuck in the same place. There is no life without adventure,” explained Starry Song, the shaman who had the gift of teaching the ancestral philosophy of his people through stories and songs.
We also talked about the importance and limits of magical ceremonies, so called because they lead us to altered states of consciousness, allowing us to reach previously unperceived understandings and awaken dormant feelings. “Magic is transformation. Expanding our understanding of the truth and broadening our capacity to love are the most powerful of all magics. If the ceremony doesn’t bring about an intrinsic transformation, it’s just a ritual of communion, which is very important because of the well-being it provokes. However, it didn’t fulfil its evolutionary aspect. You remained in the same place you were, without venturing to go where you’ve never been before within yourself,” the shaman explained as he puffed on his ever-working pipe with its red stone stummel. That conversation had taken place a long time ago.
I remembered it when Nicolau, a monk from the EOMM – Esoteric Order of Mountain Monks – invited me to accompany him on a trip. He was fascinated by the culture of Ancient Egypt, the theories about the exiles of Capela, the inexplicable advances in various fields of science, as well as the mystical knowledge developed by a people with very distinctive characteristics. A culture ahead of its time that disappeared the way it started, vertically and mysteriously. Pieces and monuments left as legacies are like trails for modern civilisations to follow, should they ever want to understand a society without any paradigm in history. Since then, many theses have been developed, all incredible, none definitive.
Although I’d read a few books on the subject and attended several lectures on the subject at the Order, I confess that I’d never got excited about going on a trip to see the famous Pyramids of Giza, whose construction is more than forty centuries old. Nicolau’s encouragement was decisive. He was a great friend and we had a happy and pleasant time together. This was an excellent reason to go on the tour. All the knowledge added to the trip would be welcome.
We arrived in Cairo at an inopportune moment. Demonstrations in favour of social and political change were making the city tense and insecure. As we would only be staying a few days, Nicolau had hired a local guide so that we could make the most of the time available. It was the right decision, but it was actually linked to an unconfessed desire of Nicolau’s: to spend the night inside the Pyramid of Cheops, the largest of the pyramids, something forbidden by Egyptian law. He was thinking of feeling the vibrations and ancestral energies of that fantastic people, where he believed they were anchored. For my friend, it would be an adventure and a magical ceremony. Without telling me, Nicolau had been liaising with the authorities and consular officials for months to obtain such permission. The tour guide also acted as a kind of intermediary for these contacts and connections. I only learnt all these details on the day we were scheduled to visit the monuments. When Nicolau told me his plans, I didn’t believe him at first. Despite the fantastic theories about the pyramids, the idea of sleeping in a mausoleum was bizarre to say the least, especially since it was sacred territory, albeit already vilified, for those ancient people. I don’t think we should behave negligently on holy ground, without the proper precepts and authorisations. I wasn’t referring to contemporary authorities, but to those who were no longer present. It wasn’t a question of fear, but of the purest and most indispensable respect. You have to understand the limits. We agreed that I would wait outside, lying on the desert sands, watching the stars.
When I arrived at the pyramids, I didn’t feel any anchored vibrations, something that surprised me, as this is common in physical spaces guarded by other existential spheres. All the ancestral energy had possibly dissipated some time ago as a result of the mixture of worldly desires driven by greed and other vile interests. The destructive power of dense behaviour to subtle atmospheres is undeniable. At least for me, this was no longer an energy vortex, unlike many others I had known. The pyramids were simply monumental works of ancient engineering. Alone, I fell asleep mesmerised by the beauty of the night in a sky dotted with multiple worlds.
The next morning, I woke up to the first rays of sunlight caressing my face. I smiled with joy. Without delay, accompanied by his guide, Nicolaus returned from the pyramid where they had spent the night. My friend declared himself delighted with the experience and said he had a lot to tell me. With myself, I pondered that perhaps I had made the wrong analysis.
As the unrest in the streets of Cairo grew, we were advised to leave immediately. We got a flight the same day to Portugal. The urgency meant that we had to sit in distant seats on the plane. Only in Lisbon did we find the peace to talk about what had happened inside the pyramid. Seated at one of the pleasant collective tables typical of the Ribeira Market, with two glasses of a good Douro red wine, Nicolau came forward to declare: “I’ve moved up an octave on my evolutionary ruler,” according to the vocabulary he liked to use. “It was great, the greatest adventure of my life,” he added, accompanied by a sigh of satisfaction. I asked him to tell me about the transformative experience that had taken him to another level of consciousness, allowing him to refine his perception and sensitivity, both about himself and about the reality of all things.
Nicolau explained that he found himself enveloped by strong vibrations that he had never felt before. I said that this was marvellous, but I wanted to understand what had changed inside him that had led him to such an improvement. I explained that for an experience to be evolutionary, it needs to be transformative. Otherwise, it will only be pleasant, painful, strange or amusing. Nothing more. As he couldn’t answer my question, my friend became irritated. However, as he was a polite guy, he changed the subject. Later, when I tried to restart the conversation, he changed the subject again. I realised that he no longer wanted to talk about that night in Cairo. I also realised that I had the answer to my question.
That afternoon, Nicholas received a phone call from his wife. His brother had had a health problem. He was hospitalised. The after-effects had been serious and the doctors reported that his health was going through a delicate and indefinite period. A tear escaped to confess a restrained feeling. I gave him a tight hug and, if he felt comfortable, I was willing to listen to his pain. The importance of speaking lies in the possibility of listening to one’s own soul.
Nicolau talked a lot. He told how his brother and he had had a love-hate relationship since childhood. Sometimes they helped each other, sometimes they boycotted each other, and he couldn’t explain why. He confessed that there was a lot of hurt in his heart. I let him talk until he ran out of words. In the end, I explained that it was up to him to decide who would win that battle, love or hate.
If it was hate, it was easier; all he had to do was turn his back. If he wanted love to be victorious, he would have to reconcile with his brother. Something difficult, labour-intensive, but transformative. To reconcile is to find a point of balance and peace with another person; it is to consecrate oneself with someone by becoming sacred through gardened love. To do this, you have to live the adventure of leaving the safe and comfortable world to travel unknown paths, taking risks of rejection and harsh reactions. Without experiencing the danger of the imponderable, no progress will be made. Without facing the darkness, you can’t reach the light. He had a great adventure waiting for him.
Nicholas argued that reconciliation with his brother didn’t just depend on himself. He might not find reciprocity or even goodwill. I agreed, it was a true reasoning. However, by taking on the risk of the adventure of going beyond where he had always been, he might not find on the other side the minimum movement necessary for any progress in that relationship, without reaching a basic stage of harmony. However, as long as it was lived with intensity, the adventure would take him to unimaginable places in unknown and sacred territories. Nicolau would get to know at least one more of the hidden faces of his own soul. Then his perception and sensitivity would improve. I also reminded him to be prepared, because the unusual and the unpredictable will always be present in life’s adventures. Sadness and joy are common elements in evolutionary experiences.
Nicolau didn’t say a word. As our holiday had come to an end, we said goodbye and each returned to our own town.
A year later, the day was still dawning and I was sitting at a table by the window in the monastery canteen. Distracted by a mug of coffee, I thought about the monks who would soon be arriving for another period of study. I heard the sound of a car engine in the car park. A few minutes later, I saw Nicolau entering the canteen. We exchanged sincere smiles of joy. He filled a mug with coffee and sat down next to me. He said he needed to tell me about his brother: “I can’t tell if it was an encounter or another of the many disagreements. My brother’s sorrows were deeper than mine. Although our misunderstandings worsened with each impulsive reaction, devoid of reason and virtue, but driven by resentment, I realised that both he and I were focused only on the other’s mistakes, as a way of denying, or rather hiding from ourselves, our own misunderstandings and obvious difficulties. In truth, we were each lying to ourselves and endeavouring to win a hypothetical and absurd battle: who was the strongest? We didn’t realise that there is no winner when hatred is the instrument of fighting.”
I asked what the breakthrough had been, because I hadn’t understood. Nicolau explained: “So far, none. I hadn’t even understood what I’m putting into words now.” He took a sip of coffee and continued: “A few weeks later, my brother’s wife had a car accident and died. They had no children. As he was bedridden and required a lot of care, my brother was left without anyone to look after him.” He paused again, his eyes watering, and continued: “I confess that I was overcome by terrible doubts. My life was calm and organised. My days were dedicated to doing pleasurable things. Why change a routine that was so pleasant? Why give up the pleasures of life to devote myself to someone who never wanted to get along with me? That’s when I remembered our conversation and asked myself: what kind of pleasures allow hate to win? What kind of pleasures lead us not to consider love in our choices? I decided that I would take care of my brother.”
I asked how Nicolau’s brother had reacted. My friend said: “The worst possible. He rejected me. He said he had the money to hire a nurse. He didn’t need me. His pride was an insurmountable barrier to any help. We had a horrendous argument. However, it was like one of those storms that knock everything down without leaving anything standing.” Concerned, I frowned. Nicolau laughed and clarified: “It was the best thing that ever happened. Since we had destroyed each other, whether through the acidity of our words or the cruelty of our criticisms, there wasn’t a single brick left in our relationship. Hatred had won and our shared history had come to an end.”
He emptied his coffee mug and got up to refill it. I asked him to fill mine too. There were tears in his eyes. Then he sat down and continued: “At that moment I realised that the root of personal conflicts lies in the following question: we want people to be understanding of our limitations, to understand the problems we have and to be patient with our difficulties. On the other hand, we demand perfection from everyone. We don’t offer even a small part of what we demand. So existence becomes insane. And unworthy, because I can’t become the reciever for what I never delivered.”
“I realised this a week later, when I was already convinced that there was no possibility of a relationship. I went back to my brother’s house to talk to him. The total destruction caused by the stormy argument opened up the possibility of building a new relationship, guided by parameters that had never been used before. Our friendship lacked virtues such as tolerance, patience, compassion, softness and humbleness, among many other things. At that moment, we could take the full stop out of the story, put in a comma and start new chapters. Giving love a chance will always be a possible choice.”
“We were tired of suffering. This was the turning point. It didn’t make sense to carry on like this. It’s often only after an overdose of shadows that we begin to understand the healing power of light. We already knew what no longer served us, we just had to figure out how we were going to do it differently.” He sipped his coffee and admitted: “We had a great adventure ahead of us”.
Nicolau said it was simpler than they imagined. As they lived nearby, nobody had to move to another house. He helped his brother hire a nurse, so he could continue working without any problems. Every day, Nicolau prepared dinner and they shared a meal. Most importantly, they talked a lot. They realised their mistakes and, more importantly, how the gaze clouded by sorrow hid the truth from each other. They managed to ascend to a high level of love: forgiveness. Physical movement is very important for the gardening of the mind and heart.” Nicolau recalled another aspect: “It’s impressive how tiny daily doses of hatred, an emotion that we often deny as the ruler of our choices, steal the joy, beauty and lightness of life.” He then pondered. “I realised the importance of being attentive to understanding the fundamentals of the reasons and feelings that move us. Even when I have the best of reasons, I lose the truth if I let myself be driven by dense emotions. I remain incomplete”.
I argued that it had been a valuable evolutionary experience because of the many transformative aspects it had brought about. I then commented: “You don’t have to travel to the ends of the earth to experience a great adventure. We often have it within us every day.”
The monks were beginning to arrive. Then Nicholas ended the conversation with the ultimate lesson: “Understanding love is the greatest adventure of humanity.”
Translated by Cazmilian Zórdic.