"Monday is a great day for church," Mayhem says. "You can go berserk all weekend, then cleanse yourself of all sin." Her reasoning is impeccable. I finish a long Monday's layout training at The Newspaper, then prepare myself for a thorough purging. Mayhem tells me to bring a flower for the Spiritualists as their payment. Hmm, same currency as the Buddhists. When i got married to Young Mili in '95, we paid them in flowers, too. Unfortunately, we couldn't understand a word the Buddhist monk said during our wedding ceremony. His English was almost non-existent. We just nodded our heads, smelling of bourbon. I think his address took the form of a cautionary, moralising tale, but this is just an assumption based on his tone, and his finger-wagging. He could equally well have been admonishing us for stealing flowers.
On one of the innumerable occasions in our marriage when Young Mili and i split up, i yelled at her: "You never understood a single word that Buddhist monk said, did you?!"
So i wander into the swamp, breaking all the rules by stealing a big, bright orange banksia flower. I stuff it in my backpack, then walk about six kilometres to Mayhem's, with only minutes to spare, and discover flower day at church is some other day of the week altogether. Undeterred, i leap into her 666 Merc and we tear across Highgate. Safari Bob is on my mobile, asking whether he should change some currency for Thailand. I don't really know; last time i went i had no currency to change. "Go with the flow," is the best travel advice i can offer him. I have to go - we are nearly at church. "You're going where for a what?" asks Safari Bob. "A purging? You're having an enema in a church? Are they using Holy Water?" It is a confused conversation.
The Spiritualists are seated in a circle inside the church. Mainly older women, but also three young blokes, one of whom leers openly at Mayhem, with a shit-eating grin. We have missed the first act, but have arrived, frenzied, late and sweaty, just in time for meditation. A large, blond woman dressed in black, a crocheted red shawl across her shoulders, prepares to lead us into la-la land. She briefly explains the process, staring at me the whole while. We must remain seated, both feet planted on the ground, eyes closed, with our hands facing upwards in our lap. "No moving around?" asks Shit-Eating Grin suddenly. He is still staring at Mayhem. "No," says our Spiritual Guide firmly. "No touching?" he pleads. Our Guide shakes her blond head. "No touching." The young man looks crestfallen, and the grin disappears.
What kind of spiritualists' circle is this, i wonder? Not that i have any yardstick with which to compare. I sit and close my eyes. In a soft, melodic voice, our Guide closes off our chakras, one by one. Right up to the white, lotus-shaped ones above our heads. Thus prepared, we are led into a magickal forest. "You are walking through a beautiful forest. The light twinkles through the trees. The air is cool and fresh. You come across a clearing. An old tree stump in the form of a chair is in its centre. You curl up in it, happy and comfortable. Rainbows of light appear, just for you, and they shine down on you through the treetops ..." at about this point, i start thinking about the carburettors on my motorcycle. Should i have them re-jetted, whilst the bike is at the workshop? No. Concentrate on the task at hand. Which, at this point, consists of flying up through the ceiling of the church. Hmm. Tricky. I put my mind to it, and do my best. "You see some archangels, flying down to meet you..." Eventually, our Guide stops nattering, and we meditate.
Meditate, meditate, meditate.
Suddenly, all my life energy streams out and appears, a foot in front of me, in a small, churning, orange ball of fire. Wow, i think. Break out the dmt. Then, just as suddenly, it merges back with my body. Cool, i think. That was pretty wild.
Later, our guide brings us slowly back down into the world. I open my eyes. The ceiling is miraculously intact. Now the really weird stuff begins. We take it in turns to describe our experiences. For me, all that stuff about the forest, floating upwards and meeting strange beings was just a means of relaxing us and easing us into meditation. No; not so. One by one, these freaky spiritualists describe the creatures they met and conversed with on their journey. Apparently, all kinds of goblins, angels and magicians have put in cameo appearances while i sat there with my little orange ball of fire. A relatively sane-looking woman seated on my right describes, in great detail, a little mouse she met. "He had on a little waistcoat, some little trousers, and was sketching on his little drafting board, lots and lots of little lines that didn't make any sense." I throw a glance past her, locking eyes with Mayhem. She is thinking the same as me. We quickly avert our eyes so as not to break the magick mouse spell with spluttering guffaws.
Every single last motherfucking one of them has had some kind of vision, incredible in its detail, like a lucid dream. Frankly, i'm jealous. Our Guide describes how she saw two archangels laying a shawl over Mayhem's shoulders, like some kind of accolade. Which is weird, because on this very day, Mayhem had set out to collect her Degree from the University. When my turn comes up, I tell the gathering about my orange ball of light. This, our Guide explains, is a healing energy. Excellent, i think. I was wondering how to fix my abdominal hernia.
When church is nearly over, Mayhem breaks into a sudden diatribe about Why, the lost dog. We found the notice on the weekend, plastered to a building just down the road from the Progressive Spiritualists Church - strangely enough, the very same building where i photographed Young Mili for an exhibition in New Mexico. Why, the missing canine, is a Chihuahua-Jack Russell cross, as cute as a bug. We sat in the car, picturing his poor, bereft owners roaming the streets of Highgate, crying "Why! Why! Oh, Why!"
Mayhem tells the Spiritualists' gathering how she rang the owners and gave them the phone number of a pet clairvoyant, who finds lost pets by divination. I nod; i heard how this clairvoyant had previously helped the stricken owners of a lost dog recover it, miles from home, in the wilds of Girrawheen. "Do you think they will find their dog?" Mayhem asks.
The Spiritualists stare at us, looking from Mayhem, to me, and back again. Clearly, they think we are insane.