Altered States

“When I was twelve I was kept as a slave,” Morris Bentov finally opened up to Dr. William Morely. “It wasn’t sexual, but it was intense. I was kept in a concrete cell” The doctor encouraged Morris to continue. “At that age I had no choice but to obey. later I was able to break away to some extent, but I was never free.”

Time seemed to collapse. Morris watched himself from a distance. “It was all about a quest — my life and my art. I never knew what was real.” The doctor nodded, “Go on.” <> “It was about a quest for something outside ordinary perception. When I was sixteen I read a book, ‘In search for the Miraculous,’ by a philosopher named P.D. Ouspensky. It had a great influence on me.” <> There was a pause. The doctor wanted the conversation to continue, “So you’re saying all the experimentation: the drugs, sex, wrong choices were all due to a book?” <>  “No, not exactly — the book opened a door for me that I never knew even existed. It wasn’t all bad, my choices: I was able to find myself as an artist.” <>  “Yes,” the doctor pushed his patient, “but you never made any money…and no one really took notice of your work, did they?” <> Morrris hesitated before he spoke, “I suppose, but I felt fulfilled working as an artist.” <> Dr. Morely smiled, “Come now, wasn’t it all just an excuse to get high? Seems like you were hooked from the first time you dropped acid. Art was just another drug — isn’t that right?”

He didn’t want to admit that Dr. Morely could be right. His life was a series of traumas, altered states of consciousness (with or without the use of drugs). He’d been on a quest to discover something he lost as a child — altered states helped. But, whenever he came close to an answer or discovery Morris was cut down, poisoned by the mundane circumstances of his life. He had always been at odds with the world. Everything he experienced seemed tainted. The art scene was cut throat, ruled by operators who catered to the rich. Artists had to kiss ass, required to appear at every gallery opening in order to be seen. The promotion of celebrity and spectacle was all that mattered (art was merely a trifle, part of the game).

Morris never fit. His vision alluded him, perhaps because he was easily distracted. His muse was a back alley blow job or a tired prostitute. The real world penetrated like a stiletto, deep into his brain. He needed to escape. He was barely twenty when he first took LSD, but the trip seemed to go on forever. He experienced his own death and was reborn. Life became an altered state of consciousness brought about by drugs, hypnosis, fasting, prayer, Valium, cold medicine, wilderness hikes, repetitive tasks, obsessions, sex, compulsions, TV and virtual reality – all of it – the whole enterprise of living was an altered state. Morris was always high — he suddenly realized everyone was high — it was the human condition to change reality and seek ways to extend or go beyond consciousness. It was a cultural imperative to make everyone think there was a normative reality based on “family,” “state,” and “church.” Culture demanded pigeon-holes to instill good work-ethics. Morris realized the old concepts kept people from true reality, a reality beyond tradition, beyond culture: another Dimension. He had discovered the answer to his quest. He had unearthed his vision. He began to paint and create monsters. He turned to the doctor after delivering his story. Dr. Morely smiled, “Morris, look out the window.” The artist turned — in an instant he was ravished by light that streamed through the open window like a volcano. He was no longer chained to the floor in the concrete cell that had been his home.

Morris Bentov was living in a nursing facility ever since Alzheimer’s Disease stole his memory. It had been ten years. He no longer spoke. He had to be fed and changed. Morris was no longer able to do anything for himself until, by chance, a therapist put a paint brush in his hand. He could paint. Visions seemed to overflow from his brush onto walls, boards and canvases — vast panoramas of color: abstract worlds, portals into other dimensions. Once the story of the Alzheimer-Painter was leaked to the press, his work became a commodity. Paintings sold like proverbial hotcakes. People were making millions from his art. The artist was moved into the best room at the Beverly Sunset Nursing Home. He became comatose although he continued to paint. His consciousness was in another world, an altered state of ravishing light.

Angel 2

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