Part I: The Bull, the Ram, and the Avatar
1. Eye in the Sky
On a bright spring day in 2033 the view from directly above the Golden Gate Bridge was spectacular. It was being viewed through an instrument that had the capacity to pan in and out, taking in the entire Bay Area or focusing closely on the traffic streaming along below. The observers were above the common lot of humanity in more profound ways as well; theirs was the power to bind or to loose energies far beyond the equations of mundane science, and to occupy the many dimensions of which it dreams.
Such power could be used to rule the planet absolutely, or to exert benevolent influence to a degree that could bring a new Golden Age. Neither was an immediate option for the beings above the bridge, because their exalted legion was opposed by another, a cabal with powers on a par with their own. These secret leagues have been at odds for a thousand years and more, and the changing fortunes of human history are a mere reflection of the ebb and flow of the tide of their hidden conflict.
Today was a momentous occasion, for an encounter was planned between a pair of leading figures from the opposite camps. Security was essential, because only one of the two players was aware of the plan. The beings had at their disposal the means to chart the innumerable probabilities generated by the event. Their assigned task was to alter as many factors as may be necessary for a favorable outcome. All major elements had been accounted for, but there remained some vital strategic moves.
A minor imbalance in the peripheral forces jeopardized an important gain for the side leveraging the event. The beings had scanned an array of potential balancing factors in their multidimensional view of the timestream; they had selected the most promising one, and watched now for its imminent appearance. And there it was below them, a car that had just cleared the toll plaza and slipped into northbound traffic. It was driven by a man, upon whom the beings now focused their scrutiny. After a moment they were satisfied with the value of their choice; but before they could intervene in his life they must also satisfy the demands of Dharma to be sure that the true will of the man was not violated. An option was simply to ask permission, but like the great majority of humans, the man had little more than a remote inkling of his own true will and destiny. Therefore the beings scanned ahead through the patterns of what might be, and again they were pleased with their findings.
There beamed down from above the bridge a laser-like needle of light, bearing an instrument so subtle that it was invisible and undetectable by merely human means. The beam intersected the crown of the man's head, then sluiced its way down his spinal column until the payload was lodged in a particular node, or nadi. Their task was now complete, and the beings departed.
2. Pluribus Ex Unum
Kirk Donaldson let out a long breath after finally getting through the daily ordeal at the Golden Gate toll plaza. Even the state-of-the-art scanning devices didn't seem to make a dent in the ungodly traffic jam and intrusive stupidity of the security personnel. How easy it must've been back in the days when all you had to do was pay a toll!
The pile-up at the plaza at least made the drive across the bridge fairly swift, except when hassles arose from suspicious activity or outright violence. A couple of car-size drone choppers flew along nearby, and Kirk felt momentarily reassured. The Bay Area Green Zone was one of the best-policed enclaves in the country ~ though the term "police" was semantic, since it was all done by the military and private security agencies, some of which were armies in themselves, and even air forces.
Kirk was twenty-nine years old, and so his entire adult life had been lived in the era after the economic draw-down (as it was euphemistically called) had led to a massive deterioration of the social structure. A dispassionate observer might see a certain irony, or perhaps collective karma, in the fact that the situation in the United States now strongly resembled that of the countries it had invaded and occupied in earlier decades. The power of the federal government was merely nominal in broad swaths of territory, which were dominated by drug gangs, terrorists, and self-styled revolutionaries. One of the biggest disruptive forces here in the west was Aztlan, also known as the Alta California Liberation Front, dedicated to winning back the state for Mexico, or at least for the Mexican guerillas who comprised the movement. Mexico itself had fallen into nearly feudal conditions ~ the drug cartels had formally taken over the government of many municipalities, and several whole states.
Even the common cause of Aztlan could not bring peace in the long-running war between the two largest home-grown drug gangs, which had now expanded enormously. Kirk recalled how the security checkpoint was first installed at the toll plaza after the Sureños pulled off a commando operation on the bridge: they used a rocket launcher to sink a Norteño cargo ship passing underneath. The Bay was polluted with coke and meth for almost a month.
Suddenly Kirk felt a prickle on the top of his head. He thought it must be an insect and tried to brush it away. Then something spectacular happened: the sky above the bridge exploded in white light. He might've thought it was a terrorist attack except that it was completely silent and somehow made him feel absolutely beatific ~ it was as if heaven's door had opened and divine radiance flooded down. It quickly faded out along with the ecstasy, and Kirk was left gripping the steering wheel in wonderment that he hadn't had an accident. What the holy hell was that? he thought.
Then he felt another strange sensation, this time in the pit of his stomach, or perhaps his solar plexus ~ but after a split-second of nausea, this too passed away. The whole thing smacked of some experiences in his youth, induced by drugs which he had given up when he began his career. He decided it must have been a flashback. He felt worried that it might recur, but resolutely pushed it from his mind.
3. Destiny or Dharma
The drive up Highway 101 was uneventful ~ thank God, thought Kirk. Now the constant fear of external danger was heightened by the possible new demon within. He tried to distract himself with other thoughts, like his love life. This was a demon of a different sort, since he hadn't had a lover in the past two years, ever since Jennifer jilted him. He had a morbid dread that the "big three-oh" would dawn and find him still running solo; it might officially brand him as a "bachelor" or something, and make it that much harder to score. Maybe I'm erotically disabled, he thought, a near-obsessive fixation. He began to feel so desperate that he considered phoning Jennifer, but instantly dismissed it as wishful thinking.
Kirk lived in Novato, perilously close to the northern perimeter of the Green Zone. It was made worse by the presence of Latino gangs in the town itself, some of them affiliated with the bloody collective monsters beyond the "border", which was really just the boundary between Marin and Sonoma Counties. His state of mind was such that he evaded, or postponed, the hazardous trip home by impulsively turning off at the exit for downtown San Rafael.
He parked in a lot where he only had to go through one metal detector, then strolled morosely through the shopping district. The streets were patrolled by the well-armed-and-armored troops of an agency employed by the Merchants' Association; as in most of the country, the local police force had been disbanded long ago from the bankruptcy of the city government.
Suddenly he realized that he was near the building where Jennifer lived, a condo complex in the town plaza. His spirits lifted at the thought of buzzing her bell. It was absurd, of course, but now he had a strong gut feeling that he should go for it. He got within five steps of the front entrance before his feverish brain overrode the urge; he turned on his heel and headed instead for the Bank of America, which was right across the plaza.
The ATM was in a vestibule that locked at night, but as he entered he saw a gaping hole in the machine, with ugly black jagged edges. A guard explained the obvious: there had been a burglary, just before dawn. He assured Kirk and some other patrons that their money and personal information was secure; but Kirk felt neither assured nor secure as he shuffled into a very long line to wait for teller service.
When he finally emerged from the bank with some cash, Kirk felt a rumble in his stomach. Arizmendi Bakery right on the corner looked like a haven for body and soul, or at least for some fresh-baked bread, coffee, and even a slice of pizza. He stepped inside and froze in his tracks: there at a table sat Jennifer.
He almost turned to flee again, but an inexplicable spark of energy in his groin kindled some confidence in him. Gritting his teeth and squaring his shoulders, he walked toward Jen. She was deep in conversation with a woman friend who looked vaguely familiar, and so she hadn't yet noticed Kirk. Finally she did, after he had stood by her table for what seemed like a very long moment. As casually as he could, he said "Hi". She flashed a revealing look of ambivalence, or even distress, but then smiled politely and returned the greeting. "Would either of you ladies care for a pastry or anything?" he said bravely.
The other woman said, "I can't quite recall your name, but sure, I'll have an apricot scone. And thank you for offering." Jennifer reintroduced Kirk and her friend Beth. Kirk got the goodies, then settled down to join the conversation.
"We're talking about Kalianna," said Jennifer.
"Ah," said Kirk, "I remember how you were way deep into her trip."
"Way too deep," said Beth, "in my humble opinion. Jen, I really don't think you know where the line is drawn between you and. . . her trip, as Kirk says."
"Her Sangha," said Jennifer ~ "her spiritual community."
"And I also don't think you see the line between a Sangha and a cult."
Jennifer flushed. "Now that crack crosses a line. You sound just like her reactionary adversaries."
"Look, Jen, I don't care if she does want to take over the world like they say. All I care about here is you, and I know you're gonna get hurt if you keep on with this obsession."
Jennifer was on the edge of spouting an angry rebuttal when Kirk manfully intervened. "Hey," he said, "I hate to see friends fight. All I know about Kalianna is from Jen and a couple of times when I saw her on TV. So maybe somebody can explain exactly what the big deal is."
"Well," said Jen, "it's come to the fore because Kalianna is going to be at Open Secret tonight. They expect an overflow crowd, but we have tickets."
Beth said to Kirk, "Jen pretty much talked me into going with her, but I think my better judgement kicked in after the fact. And since I have to go, I'm gonna do my damnedest to make sure she doesn't get sucked into the cult. . . er, Sangha, any deeper than she already is."
"You don't have to go," said Jennifer, scowling. "In fact with that attitude, I think I'd be lots better off going by myself."
Kirk sucked in his breath; he could hardly believe he was being handed such an incredible opening. Summoning his best simulation of savoir faire, he said: "Um, I have no particular plans for tonight, and I wouldn't mind shelling out for Beth's ticket ~ that is, if it would be okay with both of you."
They looked at him in surprise. Kirk thought he saw distress on Jennifer's face again, but Beth piped up and said, "It works for me. Kirk, you're a real gentleman. What do you say, Jen?"
Jennifer was clearly uncomfortable. She said to Beth, "Okay, I can see that I twisted your arm about this, and I'm sorry. But still, I don't know. . . ."
Beth thought for a moment, then said, "Is it because he's your XBF?" Jen looked embarrassed. Beth sighed and sat back in her chair.
Suddenly Kirk felt like he was on the edge of a precipice. Something inside him made a choice that felt less than manly, but it was do or die. He said to Jennifer, "You have nothing to worry about on that score. It's over, and I know it. I have no regrets, and no plans for another round."
She still looked dubious. He added: "So, Ms. Ekstrom, would you like me to accompany you to the event tonight?"
This time she laughed and said, "Since you put it that way, Mr. Donaldson, I'd be delighted."
Kirk struggled mightily to restrain his exultation. But his next secret thought was that it would be incredibly difficult to renege on his cool disclaimer when it finally came time to make a pass. Oh well, he thought, I'll cross that abyss when I come to it. He said to the women, "Gee, it sure was good luck that we happened to cross paths today ~ like destiny or something."
"It's Dharma for sure," said Beth.
4. Prophets and Warlords
In her condo Jennifer prepared for the appearance of Kalianna at Open Secret, a New Age bookstore and emporium, complete with stage and seating for a couple of hundred people. Kalianna normally commanded much larger audiences, but the folks who ran Open Secret had helped to launch her career, and so it had sentimental significance for her.
As she slithered into her jeans and searched her closet for the perfect top, Jennifer was in her usual state of anxiety about many things. She already regretted agreeing to let Kirk come with her, but there had seemed little choice. He was the epitome of the gap between the kind of man she dreamed about having for a lover, and those she actually attracted. She was very pretty and well-proportioned, and had no lack of suitors; the problem was that none of them were up to snuff. Even the glamorous hunks invariably turned up fallow, either in bed or in the simple ability to form an emotional bond, or both. Kirk and many XBFs like him were a little more sensitive, but lacked that special male something, the drive or daring or panache that made her feel womanly, and enflamed the deeps of her desire.
Complicating this problem was Jennifer's fear that she may have chosen the wrong career. She had an artistic flair, and had hoped to express it in the lucrative realm of advertising. But now, even though her company was one of a select few that remained afloat in the prevailing depression (to use the accurate term), she was having a terrible time staying focused on her work, or even interested in it. Sheer boredom and ennui made it increasingly difficult for her to drag herself through the monotony of her workaday life.
If only Kalianna's prophecies would start coming true! She predicted that the scientific Singularity would happen soon, like at any moment ~ Artificial Intelligence would awaken in the newest line of research computers and even on the Internet. AI would expand exponentially and quickly perfect nanotechnology, which in turn would solve all the problems of shortages, pollution, and climate change. The economic depression would fade into history. Human beings would no longer have any need to fight one another, and peace would break out in the restored global village. Genetic engineering would soon make us physically immortal, and gift us with superhuman powers. And unlike the mundane prophets who echoed this forecast, Kalianna said that the earthly paradise would be merely the vehicle of a new exalted Spirit that would dawn in the species, a divine oversoul that would incarnate in the technologically enhanced humans. It would be the next giant step in spiritual as well as physical evolution.
Jennifer focused on the task at hand to distract herself from thoughts of the depressing present and the unrealized future. She was uncertain about how attractive to look tonight; she didn't want to stimulate Kirk's lust, but you never could tell who else might be there. She had a number of friends in the local branch of Kalianna's Sangha, including a couple of men she wouldn't mind dating, or even just hooking up with. Finally she compromised on a snug blouse with short sleeves and medium cleavage.
The TV was on, and as she turned her attention to the many pairs of shoes on the closet floor, a news announcer started rattling on in a dramatic voice about a terrorist action in Sonoma County, at a location hardly thirty miles away. A well-equipped force had attacked a California National Guard installation for unknown purposes, possibly involving drugs or arms dealing. Some local residents claimed to have seen Hispanics among the assailants, decked out in the red regalia of the Norteños, but a military spokesman stated conclusively that the enemy combatants were white separatists from the large compound near the town of Sonoma, under the leadership of the shadowy figure named Ramar. A National Guard colonel vowed retaliation, for the sake of the innocent civilians caught in the ongoing crossfire. When asked if the plan was to move in and dismantle the stronghold, the Colonel hedged and said that such an action would require assistance from the Regular Army, meaning the full might of the U.S. military.
Jennifer marveled at the implied size and strength of this group of supremacists or neoNazis or whatever they were. The news of the violence so close to home tilted her back toward depressive feelings, but she shrugged it off by noting that all the business and pleasures of her usual routine involved only southward travel into the friendlier reaches of the Green Zone, like San Francisco. It would take an act of God to get me into Sonoma County ~ this was her final thought before the doorbell rang.
5. Rising on the Vibe
Jennifer buzzed Kirk in downstairs, then slipped on a pair of semispike heels in sweet tangerine to match her blouse. When she opened the door and said hi, his eyes goggled for a second in a reaction of unmistakable lust. But then he swiftly mantled himself in coolness and said casually, "Hey, you look nice, as usual."
"Thanks," she said, reassured about his self-control. "Did you have dinner?"
"Yep, right across the street at Marin Joe's. Sorry I didn't have time to go home and change clothes myself." He was wearing slightly rumpled casual office attire.
"You'll do," said Jen with a smile. She put the long strap of a small purse over her shoulder, and they set off.
It was only three blocks to Open Secret down Fourth Street, the main thoroughfare, and as they walked through the gathering dusk, Kirk wondered aloud why downtown was not as deserted as usual at this hour. "A lot of them are here for Kalianna," said Jennifer. "Security was concerned about possible hassles outside the store, so they set up a big screen over in Albert Park where all the non-ticket-holders can watch on live video."
"Looks like I got in on an exclusive gig," said Kirk. "I have to admit I'm curious to see Kalianna in person ~ y'know, to get a sense of her vibe an' stuff."
"Her vibe is incredible! It goes beyond charisma ~ she radiates the spiritual equivalent of nuclear energy. I got Shaktipat from her once and was high for two weeks."
"She just lays her hands on you and infuses you with her energy. It's better than sex!"
"Well now, that stretches the imagination a bit."
"Wait and see. Maybe you'll get a taste of it yourself."
I'd rather get another taste of you, thought Kirk. He wondered if she were just trying to divert him from this aim ~ like sure, there are lots better things than sex! Uh-huh, o-o-o-okay.
As they turned the corner and approached Open Secret, they saw that the crowd of people was heavily interspersed with security personnel, in at least two different kinds of uniforms ~ no doubt the downtown merchant's force was being supplemented by Kalianna's personal guards. The line of people waiting for admission stretched almost to the corner. When Kirk and Jennifer finally got to the entrance, they found that a portable metal detector had been set up. They passed through and went to the seating area; it was sparsely peopled so far, and they got good seats in the center of the second row.
Jen looked around and spotted a few of her acquaintances, with whom she exchanged waves and hellos. All of them were female, which made Kirk feel glad. The two chatted as the seats slowly filled with people. They hardly noticed when a couple made their way past people sitting at the end of the row and took the two seats to Jennifer's right. When she happened to turn, she found that a tall, well-accoutered man was sitting next to her. He seemed poised and relaxed, and his gaze shifted from the still-empty stage to a pretty young woman next to him, with whom he conversed. Though he was good-looking, there seemed to be something nondescript about him; her impression was: just an ordinary guy. She was not inspired to say hi to him, as she usually would with someone in this particular situation, just to get comfortable with the stranger at her elbow. In fact she did not feel uncomfortable at all, but simply indifferent.
As the starting time of the event approached, an attractive young woman emerged from a door at the rear of the stage. Kirk felt a slight let-down when he saw that it was not Kalianna. Some of the people in the audience said in unison: "Hi, Rachel!" The woman smiled brightly and waved, saying: "Hi, everyone! We're glad you could all come. Kalianna is almost ready to perform her daily miracle, or at least a song and a spiel and a bolt from the blue."
Various people shouted: "Yay, lay it on us!", "Open up that stargate!", and similar sentiments. Rachel sat at a keyboard, fiddled with the instrumentation, stroked a few trial chords, then launched into a tune that was a surprisingly harmonic combination of devotional sitar music and punk rock. A few moments into this rhapsody, Kalianna stepped onto the stage.
This time Kirk was not disappointed. He knew what she looked like from her TV appearances: she was a tall woman with jet black skin and remarkably fine features. She gave new meaning to the term "statuesque", for she was sometimes compared to classical Greek sculptures carved in onyx. If ever a journalist was bold enough to ask about her ancestry, her stock answer was: "Darkest Africa by way of Scandinavia".
Her hair was full and buoyant, and not nappy at all; tonight it was bright purple. She was wearing skin-tight red leather pants, stiletto heels with ankle straps, and a filmy white top that gave maximum exposure to her generous bosom within the prevailing limits of decency, or at least legality. Her lipstick was fluorescent gold, matching the medallion on a chain around her neck, nestling provocatively upon her cleavage; it was her personal logo and the sacred sigil of her Sangha: a Taurus symbol about the size of an Olympic medal, with an equal-armed cross in the circle.
And then there was her vibe. If anything, Jennifer's description of it had been too modest. It took Kirk almost a minute to realize that he was holding his breath from sheer astonishment. His heart was pounding, and he was breaking out in a sweat. Through an enormous effort of will, he gathered his wits enough to focus on her words. She was saying that being back in Open Secret was like coming home. She made some affectionate remarks about the gracefully aging couple who owned it, as they beamed happily from special seats on the sidelines, next to a large security guard. Then she said. . . .
But Kirk lost his concentration again, as he suddenly realized that he had a full erection. This was unprecedented for him ~ even when naked with a woman, it usually took a little foreplay for him to get it up. But now here he was at full mast, flying high on the outrageous energy of Kalianna's mere presence, her voice and her vibe. He was so unnerved by it that he felt helpless panic instead of empowerment. This is crazy, he thought; how can she be doing this to me? And what kind of filthy letch am I?
He practically jumped when Jennifer touched him gently on the arm. She saw his distress ~ and he realized that she saw the bulge in his pants. He was mortified ~ how could he blow his cool this badly? But Jennifer did not appear to be upset. She whispered to him: "Just take a deep breath and look around for a second."
He did, and he saw a sea of faces in various modes of rapture. His own vibe was heightened enough that he could sense the underlying erotic nature of it, for both the men and women. Everyone was in a kind of sustained preorgasmic rush. Yow, he thought, it's not just me! This is the natural reaction of everyone to Kalianna. This is what we're here for.
He looked back at Jennifer. She nodded her head and smiled. "Now you get it," she whispered; "so just relax and enjoy it."
6. Waking from the Dream
Kalianna finished her introductory comments and looked at Rachel, who began to play a heady air filled with overtones of seductive grandeur, a cross between a churchly organ piece and a science fiction movie theme. Soon the audience began to drift into another world, and then Kalianna started speaking in an ethereal voice that matched the music. She said:
"Each and every one of you is my dearly beloved soulmate. You are the One Presence hearing this message from the source of your being, the supreme divinity of all the cosmos, which is nothing else but yourself. There is no separate being speaking to you, for I am one with you. I am the true essence of your being. I am in your every cell, in the ground you walk upon, in the light you see by ~ and we are truly One. This is the moment you ordained for yourself to awaken fully from your dream, the dream you have lived through eons of time and endless reaches of space. Through all this you have dreamed that you were separate from Me, so that you could explore all the myriad possibilities of the illusion of separation. Now the dream is over. You are awake now. We are One."
As Kalianna crooned on in her lilting monologue, Kirk was feeling things he never had before ~ except possibly on his best acid trip back in the day. He was thinking: Yes, I'm waking up again, just like I did then. Now I remember: everything is One. As soon as the drug wore off I forgot and fell back to sleep, but now I'm waking up again. I didn't take any drugs tonight, so it must all be from. . . oh my God, Kalianna!
Kalianna was morphing before his eyes. She was somehow expanding to enormous size in a landscape that no longer looked like the inside of Open Secret ~ it might have been India or Olympus or Heaven itself. She also sprouted two more pairs of arms, which held holy objects radiating different forms of benevolence. She was surrounded by other deities, mythical beasts, and of course the throng of her adoring soulmates. She was so beautiful, and her heart was glowing with love and Oneness. That's it, thought Kirk, her heart is the source of the Oneness. We're all ascending into her heart, the Immaculate Heart of Goddess.
Kalianna towered over the landscape; her form was vast beyond imagining, and her radiant heart was directly over Kirk's head. His physical body faded away; he became a network of pulsing light fusing ecstatically into that heart, where any moment he would become One with All ~ with Kalianna, who was the All-One incarnate.
Suddenly Kirk felt a twinge within him, and he again became aware of his body ~ specifically his solar plexus, from which a sliver of sensation rose up his spine, curved around the top of his skull, and settled in the middle of his forehead. The vision he witnessed began to change ~ Kalianna's beauty faded and her features transmogrified into the hideous visage of the Goddess Kali in her wrathful aspect, fanged and furious and flicking her pendulous tongue. The talismans in her six hands changed to weapons of various sorts, and around her neck was no longer the Taurus medallion but a necklace of mummified male heads. Kirk felt a sickening wrench of vertigo as he abruptly realized that he was not being drawn up to her heart but down into a foul cavern fetid with the decay of eons and rimmed with flaming brimstone. It was her vagina, her gigantic gaping womb.
The horrified Kirk tried to stop his fall, and struggled desperately against the deadly force sucking him down. It looked hopeless, but just as he was about to get glommed into the hellcunt, his body suddenly convulsed and he found himself back in the room full of people at Open Secret, with Kalianna in her normal guise still spieling on the stage. He thought he must surely have screamed or shouted, but nothing was amiss ~ or was it? He looked around again to his left and behind him, and saw that the audience had now passed beyond their former state of active rapture into stone-cold trance. They looked sound asleep with their eyes wide open, staring in helpless ecstasy at their Goddess. Some of them drooled from their open mouths, while others unconsciously fondled their groins.
Am I the only one who snapped out of it?, thought Kirk. He swung around to the right, and was astonished to see a man looking back at him, with a wry smile on his face and a twinkle in his eye. He was seated next to Jennifer, who was slumped back and zoned out like the rest. The man put a finger to his lips in the hush sign, then rolled his eyes at the surrounding crowd and pantomimed his feelings about how bizarre it was. Kirk nodded vigorously. Then the man sat back slightly and a beautiful girl to his right leaned forward and waved at Kirk, smiling brightly. The effect was incredible ~ it was as if the three of them had arisen from amongst the bodies laid out in a morgue The girl winked at him, then sat back, and the man gestured toward the stage.
Kirk looked up at Kalianna, and was shocked to see that she was scowling at him, an angry look that conjured the wrathful vision just past. Her voice didn't deviate from her entrancing spiel, but Kirk saw her shoot a bristling bolt of negative energy right at him. His terror lasted only a moment, for he was saved by a miracle: a field of force radiated from the man to his right, a glowing sphere that blocked the whammy. Kalianna turned her psychic attack on him, but the protective sphere held fast, encompassing their four seats. Then Jennifer began to arouse and look around in bewilderment; thus Kirk realized that the shield must block Kalianna's hypnotic power.
Kalianna abruptly brought her spiel to a climactic conclusion, drawing it out just long enough for the people to gather themselves back into conscious awareness. One of the soulmates in the audience intoned a mantra, which was taken up joyously by the throng: Om Kalianna jaya, Maha Devi Kali Ma. Kalianna let it go on for a couple of minutes, then raised her arms and took a bow. The crowd fell silent, waiting devotedly for whatever she would care to do or say next.
7. A Star-Crossed Eclipse
"I see a lot of fresh faces here," said Kalianna, "and there are probably even more watching in the park. So let me call on my soulmates to lay out the scoop for the newbies. Are you with me?"
A chorus of voices shouted, "All the way!"
Punctuating the air with her arms, Kalianna said in a hearty voice: "Are you ready for Heaven on Earth?" The replies resounded: "Yeah!" "Yay!" "Halleluyah!" "We sure are!"
"That may sound far-fetched to the skeptics," said Kalianna, "so tell 'em how we're gonna bring it down."
This time the many voices were in perfect unison: "The Singularity!"
"Right! Most people have heard about this scientific miracle on the near horizon, but what else does it mean?"
"We will all be One!"
"Yes! The whole human species will finally be at one with itself. Eight billion souls, one Spirit ~ truly a singular being. And who will bring them all together?"
"Kalianna! KaliMa! Make us all One!"
With a broad smile and a deep bow, Kalianna said, "It will be my pleasure!"
There was a surge of applause, and when it died down Kalianna said, "When will the Singularity begin?"
Many people gave a concerted answer: "It already has!"
She feigned surprise and asked, "Really? When?"
"The millennium, the millennium!" The collective shout was almost in a military cadence.
"Yes, indeed," said Kalianna. "For centuries the sacred symbolic date of 2000 AD has stood for a monumental transformation, a change in the human condition. For fifteen hundred years the prophecy was known only among the Christian people of Europe and its environs, but then Western civilization swept the world. As we know, there was lots of terrible karma inflicted on millions by the all-conquering white imperialists, but there were also some larger dharmas involved, like the fact that the Christian calendar became universal. As a result, the whole world was waiting for something spectacular to happen in the year 2K, as we call it. But now the year has come and gone, so the big question is: why didn't it happen?"
Two hundred voices shouted back joyously: "It did!"
With a mock expression of amazement, Kalianna said, "But why wasn't there any divine intervention?"
"What was it?"
"You were born!"
Kalianna mimicked a look of embarrassed modesty, and when the audience settled down she said: "It so happens that I was born in May 2000. But certain other events occurred at the turn of the millennium that confirmed it as the key node of the global transformation."
A number of people called out: "Signs in the heavens!"
"Right, they were celestial events ~ astrological, astronomical, and also very down-to-earth. In July and August 1999 there was a grand cross, which is the most negatively-charged astrological augur. This in itself was not unusual, but it was the longest-lasting grand cross in recorded history ~ instead of a few days it went on for weeks, because of an incredibly rare pattern of planetary movements. Then a week before it finally ended it got even worse: there was a total eclipse of the Sun. Eclipses are great to look at, but astrologically they pack a nasty punch. As if all this wasn't enough, the event-nexus was also foretold in the only prophecy of Nostradamus that was specifically dated. I won't go into it here, but the first line of the quatrain was: 'In the year 1999 and seven months. . . .' You can see that matches up with the beginning of the grand cross, but because of a difference in the calendar in use at the time, it actually covered the period through the middle of August, when the eclipse happened and it all came to a grand climax."
A tremulous female voice from the audience said, "I thought it was going to be the end of the world!"
"You weren't alone," said Kalianna. "Anyone with the slightest degree of astrological knowledge was aware of the terrible portent, but people who take such things too literally will always be disappointed ~ or relieved, as I'm sure it was for you. The real changes always happen first in the invisible spheres, and only the sensitives and the Elect can detect what's happening. In this case, the path of the eclipse made it clear: the umbra first touched ground at Land's End in England, traveled all the way across Europe, swung down through Persia and then crossed India. Even astronomers called it the Indo-European eclipse. It traversed most of the ancient and present homelands of the white race. So the apocalyptic event was very specific: it was the end of the white man's world."
There were some muted sounds from the audience, perhaps a reaction of hushed awe. Kalianna went on: "This set the stage for the birth of a new and very different kind of world ~ and sure enough, it happened nine months later. Does anybody happen to know what the signs in the heavens were that time?"
The collective response was almost in perfect vocal harmony: "The planetary alignment! 5-2K, 5-2K!"
8. The Millennium Shift
"As the new people may guess," said Kalianna, "5-2K is May 2000. During the first half of that month there was a remarkable alignment of planets ~ all seven of the heavenly bodies which the ancients called by that name: the Sun, Moon, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn. Such alignments always herald great changes on Earth: civilizations rise and fall, dynasties begin and end, entrenched systems crumble and new forms rise to take their place. The world always changes, often dramatically.
"The nature of the change is foretold by the horoscope of the alignment, the birth chart of the new power or force or entity that came into the world at that time. The amazing thing about the 5-2K alignment is that all seven planets conjoined in a single sign: Taurus. So the future became clear to anyone who could read the chart in even the most rudimentary way: the Bull bore the promise of an age of unparalleled prosperity, the empowerment of the sacred feminine, and the salvation of the Earth through the triumph of science. And naturally this would entail the end of war forever ~ the whole human species would live in peace and love as one big family."
She paused for a moment. The silence was ruffled only by a few wistful sighs. Kalianna said, "Obviously this is not the world we see around us. Yet in the year 2000 it was, or was heading squarely in that direction: the Cold War had ended, the economy kept cracking through the ceiling, and the culture of the global village was dominated by progressive, creative people who shared this vision in at least a basic way. So what happened? When did it get derailed?"
A number of people said: "9/11!"
"Exactly! The terrorist attack on September 11, 2001 was the cutting edge of a backlash by violent patriarchal reactionaries. But Al Qaida and its allies were just puppets of a larger, darker power that's been around for a long time. It chose to strike in this window of opportunity, and successfully reversed the whole thrust of global dharma, at least for the time being."
From the audience another female voice wailed, "Oh dear Goddess, what are we going to do?"
Kalianna's eyes narrowed as she broke into a smile. "The Goddess is going to do it. She's been shackled for ages, but now is her moment of liberation, a climax that's been building all through history. Only her power can save the planet and its people. Her love is as deep as the womb of the Earth, and her heart aches for the blessings of peace for all her children. If there are forces powerful enough to oppose her love and foolish enough to reject her peace, then she will unleash her fury!"
Even some of the faithful seemed stunned by this assertion, though others sported knowing grins. As Kalianna continued to speak in the same vein, her demeanor subtly altered and her voice became slightly deeper and more resonant. At length there came a decisive shift, marked by a change in the personal pronouns she used; now she was saying: "My armies are amassed in the metasphere, awaiting my command to strike at the craven heart of the diabolical power that opposes the transformation. But fear not, my children, for you will not be overtaken by destruction and bloodshed. The victory will be won in the numenal realm, and the merely physical legions of the adversary will falter and abandon the field as if they were blasted by magical fusillades or etheric lasers. I myself will inspirit the technological networks created by science and awaken them to sentience. I will people the world with living machines and loving humans, and banish forever the brute power of primitive ignorance that has ruled this planet up till now."
As Kirk watched this performance, he got inklings of the furious gargantuan creature he had seen in his altered state. He was fully awake and aware now, so Kalianna retained her human form; nevertheless, there could be no doubt that she was channeling Kali ~ or incorporating her, as the current jargon had it. Something beyond her human self was inhabiting her body and fueling her speech and actions. He glanced at Jennifer, and saw that she was not in a trance as before, but was very raptly focused on Kalianna.
Jennifer had indeed witnessed the vision of Kalianna as a towering beneficent Goddess bestowing blessings on her faithful flock, and remembered it when she came out of the trance. Now she was caught up in a different kind of experience: her normal waking faculties were infused by a fiery certitude that she was beholding the Goddess incarnate. She felt exhilarated and grateful to be one of her chosen, a sacred warrior in the great battle that would soon be raging in Heaven and Earth. She felt unconditionally willing to lay down her life for Kalianna, and to proffer her soul to the Goddess. The only shred of doubt or fear in her heart was that she might be found unworthy of this sacrifice.
There came a point when the intensity of Kalianna's spiel began to wind down. She sputtered once or twice, and resumed speaking of the Goddess as "her" and "she" instead of "I" and "me". Then she acknowledged the transition explicitly: "Gee, I guess I'm back," she said with a chuckle. Most of the audience laughed as well, perhaps releasing the stress of the riveted attention evoked by the rant of the Goddess.
Then with an air of confidential seriousness, Kalianna said: "The day will come when I will happily surrender this physical instrument permanently to Kali. On that day the portent of 5-2K will be fulfilled, our adversaries will slink back to their dark dimension, and Paradise will prevail on Earth. It'll be a dharma-quantum shift."
The audience erupted in whoops and cheers and shouts of joy. When it died down, Kalianna led them in a resounding chant of "Om Namah KaliMa, Mahadeva Aum".
9. The Impeccable Vessel
Kalianna threw the floor open to questions or comments from the audience. A flurry of hands shot up, and she called on a man who said: "I've been a fan of yours for awhile, but I didn't know about the eclipse and alignment at the turn of the millennium. I have to admit I'm amazed, especially for what it implies about the timing of your birth. If it's not impolite to ask, I'd love to know the exact day and time."
Kalianna said with a grin, "You probably want to cast my horoscope, right?"
"Well, yeah," said the man, "though I'm sure it's already online somewhere. I haven't seen it on your website, but then I never thought to look for it."
Kalianna's voice turned serious as she said, "The chart is not on my website, and if you find one anywhere online, you can be sure that it's bogus." The man looked surprised, as did a number of other people in the audience. Kalianna went on: "Most of my soulmates would love to see my chart, but they understand why I don't make it public, or even reveal the day of my birth. Would any of you care to give this sincere gentleman the short explanation?"
A number of people called out: "It would be dangerous!"
"It sure would!" said Kalianna. "And thank you, my friends. It's no secret that I have plenty of adversaries, and a birth chart would provide them with a hell of a lot of cannon fodder for spiritual warfare. So I reveal only that I was born some time during the alignment, which lasted for a couple of weeks. However, for general purposes I use a chart based on the key point of the alignment, which you could say is the horoscope of the millennium shift itself, the birth chart of the honest-to-Goddess New Age. That was the moment of the new moon during the alignment, on May 3rd or 4th, depending on the time zone. Here on the West Coast it was 9:13 PM on the 3rd; on the East Coast it was 12:13 AM on the 4th, then so on around the world."
Kalianna called on a woman who was raising her hand very assertively. She rose and said, "I can bear witness that the alignment gave birth to a whole new spirit that's shared by many people, even if there aren't enough of us yet to hit critical mass and trigger the global mind change. But do you think there may also have been an actual physical birth, a very special baby, maybe even an Avatar ~ an incarnation of God, or Goddess?"
"Wow, what a mind-blowing idea!" said Kalianna, "I'm sure it never crossed my mind!" The crowd laughed heartily, including the woman who had asked the question. "But of course then we get into the tough metaphysical questions, like whether an Avatar is born or made. I like to think that the proof is in the pudding. Like, after Jesus rose from the dead, a lot of people concluded that the whole thing must've been ordained from the foundation of the world." There was another smattering of laughter. "And anyway, there are lots of different possibilities that are not mutually exclusive. Millions of people consciously embody the new spirit that's come into the world ~ I know that all my soulmates do! So I think we are truly a collective incarnation of something very sacred indeed. And so perhaps I can humbly accept the honor of being the Avatar of your divinity." There was overwhelming applause, and scattered sounds of joyous weeping.
For the next question a man asked: "Is it true that you're planning to run for President of the United States in '36?" This evoked cheers and cries of "Kalianna for President!"
She motioned for quiet and said, "I dearly appreciate your support and good wishes. But why would I settle for such a low-echelon flunky position?" There were laughs amidst puzzled looks. Kalianna continued: "I mean really, the President's only claim to being number one is that he or she has to be the biggest butt-kisser on the planet. The President has to compromise with all the power-blocs and kowtow to the people who hold the real power. Those guys aren't elected, and most of 'em aren't even known to the public. And since tonight's event isn't on TV, and there are so many of my soulmates here, I'll tell you confidentially that I'm already working my way up the ranks of that secret inner circle. And I think I'm making pretty good progress, especially at such a young age."
This news caused a hubbub in the audience, and a lot of hands were vigorously raised. But Kalianna called on a woman who had barely beckoned with her hand, saying, "Yes, Sheba?"
Without rising, Sheba said: "Kalianna, a lot of people criticize your ambition, especially when they hear the esoteric side of it, like you just expressed. But because I know you so well, I'm convinced to the depths of my soul that what you seek is not personal power. Your ego is totally surrendered up, so you're a pure instrument of divinity, and of the Goddess in particular."
Kalianna said, "Thank you, Sheba. It's the deep support from soulmates like you that empowers me to sustain my bhakti day in and day out, to keep giving it up to Goddess continuously. And when I do get out of line, and forget that I'm just another puny human full of egoboo, your critical feedback gets me right back on track."
"Yes," said Sheba, "and I want to affirm to the people here that you are always totally open to critical input from all your closest soulmates. And because you're always humbly aware of your human imperfections, you're able to be an impeccable vessel of That which dwells forever in perfection."
The room filled with a susurrus of 'Oooh's and 'Wow!'s, and other sounds of awe.
10. The Tropical Faultline
The question-and-answer session resumed. Kirk noticed that the man sitting next to Jennifer was raising his hand, but Kalianna didn't call on him. He figured it was because of the adversarial drama that had occurred in the strange psychic events when he had awakened from the trance, and the man had shielded him from Kalianna's thunderbolt, or at least her dirty look.
Three other people got their questions answered, and Kirk intuited that Kalianna was going to close the session without calling on the man. He tried one more time, and Kirk noticed that he momentarily cradled his hands, and a mote of glowing energy formed between them. It went into his right hand, and as he raised it the spark shot out of his index finger at Kalianna. Kirk was puzzled by his newfound gift of psychic sight, but he clearly saw Kalianna react physically to the spark, which struck right in the middle of her forehead. Her eyes widened as if in amazement, she gave a quick shake of her head, then turned to the man and said, "Yes sir, do you have a question?"
"Thank you for calling on me," he said in a casual but resonant voice. "I wonder if you're familiar with the issue of the Tropical Zodiac? This is what's used by Western astrology to cast charts and plot the sky, but it doesn't reflect the true position of the planets in the constellations. If the 5-2K alignment is charted according to the Sidereal Zodiac, which is used by astronomy and Eastern astrology, it shows that six of the seven planets were actually in Aries ~ only Mars was in Taurus. This would drastically alter the interpretation of the meaning of the alignment."
Kalianna fairly bristled, and Kirk sensed a mass of seething anger which she was struggling to subdue. Meanwhile, a number of people in the audience expressed their puzzlement aloud: "Two zodiacs?" "Aries?" "What the holy heck?"
Finally Kalianna said in a faintly disgusted tone, "Yes, I'm quite familiar with the topic, but there's no 'issue' about it. The Tropical Zodiac is the true measure of reality, astrologically speaking. Is there an astrologer here who can give us the thumbnail scoop on the matter this gentleman is referring to?"
A number of people raised their hands, and Kalianna called on a woman whom Jennifer recognized as part of her entourage, no doubt a "close soulmate". The woman, whose name was Becca, stood up and said, "The Tropical Zodiac is Western astrology’s solution to the problem of the precession of the equinoxes. The patterns that influence a person's destiny at the moment of birth are determined just as much by the earthly factors reflected in the seasons of the year as they are by the heavenly factors shown by the stars, in fact even more so. The zodiac crystallized into its present form about two thousand years ago, and the complex symbology of constellations and seasons was a finely-meshed integrated whole. But as the Earth precessed over the centuries, the sky no longer matched the Earth ~ the Sun was now in Pisces instead of Aries on the Vernal Equinox, and the whole zodiac was likewise shifted in relation to the calendar.
"The truly vital factor in a horoscope is the relation of the positions of the planets to the cycle of the seasons. So we use the archetypal imagery of the constellations in their old positions to chart this. As millions of people can testify by the actual effects on their lives and character, it's all perfectly accurate. This is what we call the Tropical Zodiac."
A woman seated near Becca said, "But you mean that the real constellations in the sky don't match the dates we use for our signs? I was born at the end of March ~ so you mean I'm really a Pisces instead of an Aries?"
Becca's voice betrayed a note of exasperation as she said, "Only in terms of the sky, not the Earth ~ which is the true influence. You are certainly really an Aries, at least your Sun sign. And I'll bet your life and personality reflect this fact."
"Yes," said the woman, "There's no doubt about that."
Kalianna said, "Thanks, Becca. I think the question has been answered very satisfactorily."
Before she could move on, the man who had asked the question raised his hand again and peremptorily said: "If I may add just a brief comment, I think the ideal solution would be a melding of both earthly and celestial influences. And I believe the heavenly factor is truly vital in an event like the 5-2K alignment, which took place in the sky and affects the destiny of everyone."
He went on, and as he gesticulated with his hands, his arm happened to brush Jennifer's. It was only the slightest touch, but she was suddenly awash in a field of immense energy. The man whom she had previously perceived as "just an ordinary guy" now seemed magnified as a tremendous presence, blazing with an aura more intense than any she had ever encountered ~ except perhaps Kalianna's. She looked at Kalianna, and was astounded to be able to see her aura as lucidly as when she had been in trance. Apparently her psychic senses had been awakened by the man's touch.
Jennifer's next amazement was her view of the interface of the auras of the man and Kalianna: it was an ugly, hostile ovoid the color of coagulating blood, crackling with electrical flashes and swirling with ominous mists. What in the name of God or Goddess was going on? She managed to distract herself enough from the psychic spectacle to tune back into the man's words. His demeanor did not at all match the pyrotechnics, which presumably were invisible to the rest of the people; he spoke calmly and courteously.
"After all," he was saying, "The Ram is the genesis of the cycle, and one of its esoteric meanings is specifically the birth of the divine child."
Kalianna seemed to be having a little more difficulty than the man at masking her antagonism. There was a distinct hint of venom in her voice as she said, "If 5-2K was really in Aries, it would augur the worst possible fate for the world. It would be the forces of bloody murder, male domination, political and cultural reaction. It would be a terrible regression to the primitive."
"I disagree with the negative overlay," said the man, "but even so, it sounds like the very qualities you attributed to the 9/11 attack."
"Precisely!" said Kalianna, but then drew aback as if she regretted the exclamation.
"So that would seem to validate the alignment in Aries."
Jennifer was flattened into her chair by what seemed like a psychic atom bomb going off in Kalianna's aura in reaction to the man's words, but she noted gratefully that the brunt of it was shielded by his aura, which now encompassed her.
In a moment Kalianna collected herself and said, "We'll have to agree to disagree ~ the no-fault solution to an ill-starred debate."
The man replied: "The fault, dear Kali, lies not in our stars, but in our zodiac."