5. That is the Fool that is Singing
During my junior high school and after that I lived in Budapest with my father and mother, my brother and sister. Nevertheless, I spent my school vacations in the countryside with my grandparents. Thus, I remained in contact with Tamas Bacsi. I often think back about my experiences with him. Because of the war I arrived in the Western Europe, and having lived in Maastricht (southern Netherlands) for eight months, I went to live in Belgium in 1946. Tamas Bacsi died during the war. As I was told later, he was feeling weak, went to bed, and said that would not get out of bed again. According to his way of thinking, it meant that he wanted to die. He was feeling the approaching sickness and weakness, and did not want to bother anybody. Therefore, he decided to die a couple of weeks or months earlier.
It is commonplace in shamanism that shamans feel their approaching death, the end of their strength. Then they finish what they have to do, and sometimes they just leave the body. Because that is what life is for, to experience death without it being a surprise. Actually one passes on in sound, into a higher vibration, and that you can only experience in the here and now.
It is important not to get into a dream state when dying, but to remain awake, and experience the waking state of the spirit, of the spirit which is independent of the body. The body is only necessary to advance further and to communicate with others.
Tamas Bacsi did not die, but left his body consciously a couple of weeks or months before his normally would have died. When I went on vacation in Hungary in 1965 I wanted to see where he was buried. The area of the cemetery where he was buried was completely neglected and overgrown with weeds.
I asked for the circumstance in which he died, and they told me that years before he had ordered the construction of the totem pole for his grave. He had told people that they didn’t have to worry about making one, because it was already under his bed!
There were other farmers who did this. When they were about 50 years of age, they had themselves made a totem pole, and from time to time they rubbed it with oil, because they didn’t keep it under the bed but in a room or in a stable.
He also had said that he didn’t want to be buried in a coffin, but in his Küpelland suba, that is a jacket without sleeves, made from sheepskin, and is primarily worn by shepherds. This was the way he wanted to be buried, in his undershirt and his suba. Actually, he wanted to be hit and burned up by lightning.
Later I remembered that he told me that there are five different ways of being buried, according to the five elements. In earlier times, the psychopomp, the person who guided the deceased and executed the death rituals, determined to what element a person belonged, ad how that person would return to that element.
Some people were buried into the earth, other were thrown into the water, or burned to move into the air. The latter happened a lot in Siberia where shamans were put on a lattice, on which the body dried up or was eaten by the birds. This also happened with some North American Indians. In Tibet also the body was cut into pieces, and when the lama who performed the ritual of death blew on his horn, vultures came and feasted. That is the fourth element, the air.
The fifth element is life itself, that is, when you leave your body consciously like Tamas Bacsi. Sometimes it happened that the body was not to be found, that somebody would go into the mountains and went into meditation and dies that way. In ancient times it was custom in Hungary that old men and women who felt that they were going to die, organized a feast, a death feast, and the night after the feast they disappeared and did not come back anymore. Probably they died on in a desolate area, in a cave, or in the woods, and were eaten by wild animals.
There are also stories of people entering caves and coming into contact with supernatural forces which take them away. According to Hungarian folklore, some shamans disappear into the earth, sometimes even when they are in full strength. The mystery of disappearing can be found in all cultures, but what happens is not known. That is the fifth element, to enter the eternal life consciously.
Tamas Bacsi often said that he would like to be hit by lightning. I often saw him walk outside during a heavy thunderstorm, because he had to do something, in an effort to be consumed by the heavenly fire. In Hungary, there are violent thunderstorms in the summer, during which you think it is the end of the world. People would say: “Don’t go outside, you might get an accident.”, because sometimes cows and horses were hit by lightning. But he always found it the right time to go do something outside, or to go somewhere. Then he reversed his Küpelland suba, with the skin outside and the wool inside, and then he left. He probably hoped to get hit by lightning but that never happened. He was a man of fire, but cremation did not exist at that time in Hungary. They only buried people.
In old times, fishermen were thrown into the water. A stone was strung around the neck, and one at the feet, and then they were slid in their underwear into the river, given to their own element. I myself was present at the burial of a fisherman. To my surprise, after the deceased was put into the grave, his friend threw a bucket of water into the grave.
I left Maastricht in 1946, and went to Belgium because it looked easier living over there. But a little later the socialist government came to power, and the big slogan was “to win the mining of the coals”. The brought up the idea that all immigrants from East Europe must work in the coal mines for five years, if not to would be sent back. Because I didn’t want to go back to Hungary because of the Russian occupation, I signed that contract.
My spiritual development continued. I continued to work on myself. That became an inner driving force, to come into contact with myself and the surrounding things. That was a continuing process of development that gave me great inner stability in difficult times. It helped me to keep my balance, or to achieve more balance.
In these coal mines I had special experiences of silence and darkness. When the miners, at 1.30h, left by the 3 or 4 km long tunnel to get to the elevator, I stayed behind and turned off my lamp. I stayed there for an hour in total darkness, until the next shift came. It is an extraordinary experience, because you can’t see anything. The only thing you hear is the movement of the wooden structures in the corridors, tak, tak, tak… You smell the odor and you are feeling vibrations that shift your consciousness.
There, I was able to distinguish for the first time three kinds of vibrations: the vibrations that come from above, those who come from below, and a third one that moved through the corridors. I was feeling the fine vibration of the air, and of this was warm or less warm. That was quite an experience for me.
At that time, I also had the first experience of a light being. Suddenly the image came up of Christ as he said: “I am the resurrection, the life.” It was so suddenly, that I became afraid, and for weeks I didn’t dare to stay behind, but I went with the other workers up to the surface. After that, I continued. It was quite an exceptional opportunity to work on my spiritual development in these circumstances.
I also realized why certain people retreat into caves for a short or long time. In these places one has such super-sensual, supernatural experiences, or rather non-ordinary experiences. I understood that supernatural perception does not exist. It is actually a higher level of perception, a kind of ‘feeling’. That guarded me against the wrong kind of mysticism. I stayed sober, a kind of spiritual materialist, or a material spiritualist. I experience the spirit as a level of vibration anywhere, also in matter.
I recommend everybody to find such a cave, and stay there for a long time, without light or sound. Then we can also feel that the quality of the air is different at different depths. The air consists not only of oxygen and nitrogen, but contains many fine gases. The shaman, the mystic person and the yogi concentrate to draw only certain substances from the air. This way one can work on different abilities within oneself. Thus, one can experiment at different levels of the cave to see how the brain cells react to the different air compositions. That was a real special experience that I have tried to expand and practice since that time.
When I was working in the coal mines, I met a painter who was also professor at the academy. His name was Marcel Delmotte. I was drawing the totem figures I remembered from the protestant graves, and later the Christ image as light being from the coal mines. I also began to experience the sounds as graphic forms, a kind of rune writing, but then of the sound which is in it in the literal sense.
The three aspects of my art can be connected with different chakras. The totem figures are connected with the first and second chakra. The inner movement, the sound images of the sound that one hears not only with his ears but experiences with his entire body, they work at the third, fourth and fifth chakra. The light beings relate to the sixth and seventh chakra.
From that time period dates my first exposition in Galerie du Parc in Charleroi (1950). Since then, I had regular expositions. At that time I was still working in the coal mines, and later in the steel industry. When I had the time, I went to Delmotte to paint. One day he said: “I have here a couple of students who have great talent to become a portrait painter or landscape painter. But you have such nice memories of your youth, you have to paint these!”
He imagined these as anecdotal paintings, because he himself was a surrealistic painter. For example: “Shaman is dancing, or jumping above the fire.” But I felt that I had to give the old shamanic forms new shapes, and those shapes presented themselves spontaneously, first in my dreams, and then as experience. First I looked at the white paper, and then I thought of my master, and then the images came. Sometimes I smeared the shavings of the pencil over the paper, I looked at it, and I drew what I was seeing. That was a Rorschach test. I was seeing all kinds of natural and fantastic elements, demons and people.
I noticed the difference between looking, imagining and perceiving, or hearing and perceiving. Perceiving is something that comes up, not out of the past or fantasy, but by itself, spontaneously. At that moment the seven sensory perceptions melt together into one function, and at the same time it is a practical spiritual exercise.
I lived in Charleroi from 1956 to 1965, and then I moved to Brussels. In Brussels, I occupied myself only with painting. My wife actually wanted that. She was making enough money as a translator in English, French and Spanish. She said: “Continue what you are doing.” Of course, she hoped that my work would become famous, and that I would be able to earn money with it. I had regular expositions, and in 1970 they made a color film of thirty minutes of my paintings. But to become famous, other things are needed. Talent by itself is not sufficient. In any case, what I earned from my paintings was not enough to sustain a family, despite the fact that I was mentioned in a lot of art books. But I continued painting because I noticed that when I stopped painting for about ten days or two weeks, I got a headache that was so severe that no painkiller worked. It had to come out. I had to paint.
Joska drawing the light-sound beings, while he lived in Brussels:
Art is a spiritual exercise for me, like the zen monks who do calligraphy or paintings as an exercise. That is why I already have hundreds of paintings, and I keep on working. I am convinced that they will find their way.
One day it went wrong. I remember it very well, it was October 3rd 1975, because it was a protestant holiday. That is the day when Luther nailed the 95 dogmas of the Reformation on the church door of Wittenburg. That day my wife came back from Mexico City, where she had attended a Congress as a translator. And yes, she had a hotel boy over there, who was working at the bar, a boy of 26 years old, and she was 40. That was the fear of getting old. She came back and told me that couldn’t live with me anymore, and she wanted to return. That was a catastrophe and it was so suddenly. We were happily married for 16 years, and we had a daughter. So, in every sense we had a happy marriage. For me it was a tremendous catastrophe. I had all kinds of dark thoughts: to kill her, to commit suicide, to kill us all. I wanted to destroy everything.
Then I started to drink, but that lasted only two weeks because I noticed that it would not solve anything. I felt cornered, and whatever I did, did not solve the problem. Then the sound came up in me. I began to shout as a wounded animal. I remembered that my master Tamas Bacsi did this also when something terrible happened to him.
For example, he had a horse that he loved so much, that it didn’t have to do anything. All it did was being in the meadow. It was never saddled, or used to pull a wagon. One day it broke its leg, and I was present when they told Tamas, because somebody was running through town and shouting: “His gray horse has wounded his leg.”
Nobody knew how this happened, but everybody wanted to see how the Old One would react. That is why I was running along, with about ten other people. When we arrived, and he listened to the news, he didn’t say anything. He took his knife, a large knife that was used to kill pigs, and went to the meadow. There his gray horse was lying.
He was kneeling with the horse, and began to caress the neck of the horse, and whispered in its ear. He caressed the horse with his left hand, and then suddenly…this was not crying, he shouted, extremely wild, as a wild animal that is getting killed. At the same time he trusted the knife in the heart of the horse. The horse made two or three reflex movements, and it was over. It suddenly came up, that shouting.
That also happened another time. He had a granddaughter who had diphtheria, and her throat was being squeezed shut slowly. He couldn’t heal her. I didn’t see it happening, but others told me. He stayed with her and sang softly. When the child had her last convulsions, Tamas shouted violently, as an animal. That shouting also came up in me when I was feeling so powerless.
I picked up a large aluminum cake bottom, and started to hit it. First I wanted to destroy everything around me, But I thought “It is too valuable.” I was able to think that clearly. Then I took an aluminum baking tray, and hit it until it was broken, completely broken. I was shouting as loud as I could. Then I took a second one, but I hit it less hard, so it would last longer, but that one broke too. Then I took a plastic bucket. That was my first drum. A kitchen bucket. All means are OK. It doesn’t have to be a real drum. It can be something that is around, on which you can make sound, to express yourself and even to destroy it.
In this way, I was drumming for a couple of weeks. The neighbors were saying: “That is the fool that is singing.” Of course, they knew the situation with my wife, and they showed a lot of understanding for my pain. “He will stop.”, they said. Actually I didn’t stop, but I stopped shouting that loud.
One day, a spiritual friend came to visit me, a woman I had known since 1969. It was the first time that I did that when someone else was present. That was my first deliberate shamanization.
During the singing, I was feeling like I was in a large forest, and I saw a wild boar approaching me, and it wanted to crush me. Suddenly I felt a great power behind me, what was not part of me, as if my guardian spirit or my master was present behind me. I don’t know who it was, but its presence made the boar dissolve before it could reach me. At that moment I heard a bird singing on the branch of a tree, still during that shamanization. After that I felt relieved and lighter. I felt that the worst evil had been dissolved or atomized, and that the sound came from above, from higher spheres.
My friend was there when I described and imitated to her the wild boar and the bird.
She said: “Take it all in, as a documentary for yourself.” The next time she came with a tape recorder. Since that time I have recorded all my shamanizations on tape, for myself. At present, I have 445 big four track spools of tapes, each with 200 minutes, on which everything has been recorded.
After that I wanted to bring myself in balance psychologically and psychically. I tried to use the sound for practical things, to get my wife back who had returned to Mexico. I felt that I could get her back by the sound, independent of her will. But the inner voice said: “You can do that, but after a certain time, after a couple of months, the same thing will happen, and then it will be worse. It is better to leave it behind, not to repair it, do nothing. Let it happen.”
It is important to respect the free will of people, even when they do something that is against their own well-being. It is necessary to help them when they ask for it. One should not interfere when they reject or resist help.
In the course of a couple of weeks these negative forces gradually diminished. Other sounds arose, and I began to perceive. That is a process. One cannot make spiritual progress when one has not liberated oneself from human tensions and conflicts. This is the first step, to free oneself. When that has happened one comes into contact with different levels of consciousness, the different spheres of consciousness.
In the spring of 1981 I went to London. That was a kind of call, like I sometimes feel that I have to retreat for a while. I had the feeling that there was an experience waiting for me.
First I went to visit the museums and the churches, because churches also have a great concentration of power. Several times I also went to the oldest cemetery of London, Bunhill Fields, which goes back to the 16th century, and where great men are buried like Cromwell and William Blake.
I often returned to the cemetery to experience it. I had learned that from Tamas Bacsi, that the simplest way to make contact with the ancestors is to go to the cemetery, especially to the oldest part, where often enough there are old grave sings. Since that time, wherever I go as a tourist, I find the shortest way to the cemetery. That is a special experience. That connects to the work as a psycho pomp. There one can also help people, because it is one’s duty to help others, even the deceased.
One day, I arrived at Portobello Road where all the junk shops are. I saw all kinds of Tibetan ritual objects. I knew that Tibetan Buddhism was connected with shamanism, but I had not been interested. When I saw these objects I was getting a very strange feeling. A kind of memory surfaced in which I had not only seen these objects before but I had also handled them.
I asked if one could see more of those objects somewhere else. They told me to go to the Victoria and Albert museum. I went there, and I looked at the different objects for a long time and with interest. I noticed that there was a man who was watching me for a long time, and then he approached me and asked if I was interested in those objects. Luckily he spoke better French than spoke English. I told him I was a descendant from a shaman clan, and that I felt very attracted to these objects. He gave me an address to go to, and to tell them that he had sent me.
It was the address of a Tibetan antique dealer, a young man of about 35 years of age, who was in contact with a group of lamas who sold all kinds of objects to him, which probably were part of their personal luggage when they had fled Tibet.
When I arrived at the address, he expected me because the other person had called him. After he closed the shop, he told me that there was a small Tibetan community in London. They had an eating place where he took me. That was a small house were many Tibetans came to eat and drink, and sometimes there were monks present too. This way I made contact with the Tibetan community. Once in a while there were non-Tibetans who had spiritual interests in Lamaism.
This way I came into contact with the red hats of the karmapa order. With them I attended my first singing meditation. This way I kept my connection with them. I noticed that every time there was a monk on a chair in a corner who did not participate. I was asking myself why he did not sit with the others. Suddenly I felt that he was watching us, that he was sitting there to observe us. The next time I smiled at him, and he understood that I knew why he was there.
I regularly attended, and we talked about different aspects of Lamaism. They asked me what I had experienced, especially about the ritual of the psycho pomp. They made a Tibetan horoscope of me from which they concluded that I was a Tibetan lama in a previous life, and before that a Chinese mandarin and Taoist. They executed a ritual to bring me and a couple of others in contact with our genetic past, but I was not allowed to be present the entire time. That was quite an experience. I intended to stay in London for 2 months but I ended up staying for 5 months.
They also used singing bowls. They even had a small bowl made of real quartz crystal, and another one that was 80% gold. The other bowls were made from a special bronze, five of them, which were hit and rubbed by a kind of stick with a piece of felt at the top. This gave a dry and penetrating sound.
When I asked if I could buy one, but a small one, they said: “No, they are not for sale, but if you feel attracted to them, we have others.” They took me to a kind of storage room, with all kinds of bowls stacked on top of each other, from which I could choose. I said: “I rather that you choose them for me.” Thus, they choose the bowls for me. They also had a very big bowl that was placed on a stand, and which they hit, not strongly but short and dry. The monk listened to it, and when the sound came back he hit it again, and a third and a fourth time, just at the right moment. That sounded incredible, like a motor. He said to take the sound inside of us. I felt myself attracted in an incredible way as if I had found a piece of myself. With them I experienced a special atmosphere that changed the direction I was going in. They gave me a particular direction to go. They also confirmed that one can sing a mantra without the fixed words, to sing it spontaneously.
They proposed that I would go into a retreat of three years, three months and three days in a monastery in northern Scotland. I wanted to reflect on it, and I felt that I did not need that. When I returned after a week, and before I could say anything, I was gently told by the lama astrologers that they had read in my horoscope that I did not need it. He said: “You don’t need a ritual anymore.” That is true, when you are in the sound, you don’t need ritual.