Followers of obsolete unthinkable trades doodling in etruscan, addicts of drugs not yet synthesized, pushers of souped-up Harmine, junk reduced to pure habit offering precarious vegetable serenity, liquids to induce Latah, cut antibiotics, Tithonian longevity serum; black marketeers of World War III, pitchmen selling remedies for radiation sickness, investigators of infractions denounced by bland paranoid chess players, servers of fragmentary warrants charging unspeakable mutilations of spirit taken down in hebephrenic shorthand, bureaucrats of spectral departments, officials of unconstituted police states; a lesbian dwarf who has perfected operation Begagut, the lung erection that strangles a sleeping enemy; sellers of orgone tanks and relaxing machines, brokers of exquisite dreams and memories tested on the sensitized cells of junk sickness and bartered for the raw materials of the will; doctors skilled in treatment of diseases dormant in the black dust of ruined cities, gathering virulence in the white blood of eyeless worms feeling slowly to the surface and the human hosts, maladies of the ocean floor and the stratosphere, maladies of the laboratory and atomic war, excisors of telepathic sensitivity, osteopaths of the spirit. A place where the unknown past and the emergent future meet in a vibrating soundless hum. Larval entities waiting for a live one.
- William Burroughs, July 10, 1953, Lima.
Alas, many a fine mind has been lost to the lure of mysticism. Out of our original party of seven, one has since struck out alone into the desert in search of evidence of molecular telepathy, whilst another has been admitted to a psychiatric institution following what can only described as an episode.
"It wasn't the mushrooms," Murgatroyd says. "It was because he stopped taking his anti-psychotic medication." And Murgatroyd herself has had an epiphany. After succumbing to the effects of time distortion and returning to Perth several days later, she suddenly realised she didn't really need the stress of that job, anyway.
As for Alphonso and i, it seems we abandoned our quest too early, forsaking the fruit of the forest.
Our party is scattered along the Bibbulmun Track, ambling along, heads down, searching amongst the scattered pine needles. In the kitchen of the Origins Centre the honey jar awaits, ready to preserve any suitable specimens. A brook babbles. We pass the enormous oak tree, spreading across a paddock on the other side of the brook. I have been told there are definitely psilocybins to be found at the oak tree, but no-one seems keen to brave the icy and rocky waters of the rushing creek. We push on. The day is refreshingly brisk and clear and the air is scented with pine. I can't help feeling that at any moment a blonde Scandinavian couple will appear out of the forest to extol the virtues of Norsca shampoo. Instead, what i hear is the sound of approaching car. Murgatroyd immediately makes herself invisible behind a tree. She has been sprung here before.
The Balingup interview tape makes for some very interesting listening.
"Yes," Murgatroyd is heard saying. "We've only been in Balingup for a little while. We just stopped to get some supplies."
What kind of supplies? ask the cops.
"Oh, just non-specific stuff."
Can you be more specific?
"Non-specific stuff from the non-specific store."
"The non-specific store on the highway, next to the servo."
You mean the General Store?
"Yes, that's it."
The cops charge her with intent to procure an illicit drug.
"I didn't even have any magic mushrooms on me," Murgatroyd says.
"I was just walking around the bush with a brown paper bag with 'Mushrooms' written on it."
Her lawyer had the case thrown out of court.
The car passes us uneventfully and continues on down Jayes Road.
You mean they can arrest you and charge you just for looking for magic mushrooms, i ask.
"Oh, yes, if they want to," Murgatroyd says.
Her friend Mars is looking down into a hollow stump.
"Well if they find us wandering around looking at the ground, we can just say we were looking for my contact lens," Mars says.
Yes, i tell her. Just tell them you dropped it while you were looking for mushrooms.
Expanding your consciousness is a great thing, but drugs are, or course, the last refuge of the spiritually impoverished. What works for me is reading books, a bit of quiet contemplation, the occasional sudden epiphany, a bit of lysergic acid, and using the wits of others as a mental whetstone. And study is good.
The Origins Centre is a study retreat. Hence my presence here. That, and the opportunity to reconnect with that bent kitten, Murgatroyd. Alfonso and i arrive well before Mars and Murgatroyd, who are delayed by flash flooding and a road weather alert in Perth. I take road weather alerts much more seriously these days. I used to scoff at road weather alerts, but not now. Last week a young man in Albany was killed when the top of his vehicle and his head were crushed by a tree that fell across Mead Road in high winds. I scoff no more.
The doors into the Origins Centre building - a large, high-roofed, rough sawn affair - are closed. Outside is a Zen garden, its pebbles swept and its rocks randomly yet carefully arranged. Inside the building, men and women in woollens shout and gesticulate at each other.
Alphonso takes a look through the window. "Hardcore," he says.
We take a walk around the place, then climb some steep stone stairs onto an open, wide walkway through the middle of the accommodation block, and up some more stone stairs, up the side of the hill into the bush. "Stupa," says Alphonso. I look up. A great golden spire sits, sublimely quiet, atop a formidable white structure amongst the gum trees. "Hardcore," he says.
The stupa, according to a stone plinth inscribed in burmese script and english, was built by the Burmese in the 90s. Next to the plinth is a brass gong and rubber mallet. Also occupying the clearing amongst the trees is a large octagonal building, painted bright blue, brown and red. It is a meditation room, with high ceilings, carpets, a shrine replete with a buddha, and a large conch shell. Alphonso opens the door. A small brass plaque on the threshold is inscribed with the legend look within.
"Hardcore," Alphonso says.
We take a narrow, winding path through the bush, and climb further up the hill. A couple of small huts are perched high on the hillside amongst the trees, their verandas adorned with brightly-coloured Tibetan prayer flags. I look at Alphonso. He says nothing. Tibetan prayer flags, i surmise, are far too suburban to qualify for the epithet 'hardcore'.
At the top of the hill is another large, wooden slab hut with a rambling garden. Overgrown rosebushes. A mosaic path goes seemingly nowhere, circling back on itself. A parable, no doubt. The bush suddenly opens out onto a bitumenised side road. No fenceline.
Back at the main building, we find the volunteer caretaker, Sue. Grey-haired and distracted looking, she speaks in a hoarse voice brought on by too much smoking or too much talking, it's hard to tell which. We mention Mars, and she springs into organisational mode. "Put your names on the chalkboard there we have a meeting of Friends of the Forest but they will be going soon i don't think many are staying there is a communal kitchen but use the composting toilets whenever you can but there is a bathroom with toilets just here men's and women's come down to the office and we'll phone Mars do you know if they are still coming? the rooms are by donation and here are some extra blankets it does get cold there's no answer lets go to the kitchen." We enter the main building. A potbellied stove, low lounge suite, dining table, bookshelves and Friends of the Forest fill the carpeted area that comprises half the space. The Friends are still shouting at one another. On the other side of the open-plan space is a wonderful chef's kitchen. An island in the centre with cookware hanging from a rack above, and an enormous stainless-steel commercial gas range on which we will later cook pasta with a red salmon and capers, cream cheese and eggplant sauce.
Ah, culinary digressions. I think i shall introduce Art Director's Recipe of the Week to this blog.
There are signs here and there explaining the workings of the kitchen. Drinking water from the black poly rainwater pipe above the sink, communal tea and coffee here, recycling here, food scraps for the worm farm there. No citrus, onion or meat. And so on.
"You put your food in these plastic containers and use a plastic tray for the fridge but the top shelf is all communal food don't drink the tap water, it's from the dam but you can if you like but there is rainwater there and of course no alcohol or drugs are allowed and don't put citrus, onion or meat in the food scraps we ask that you help out with the jobs around the place chop some wood or put the rubbish out or look after the worm farm and the meditation room is open to everyone and you can do anything in there anything you like and all the kitchenware is here and there is a microwave around the corner there and if you run out of fridge space here is another fridge everything you need is here you just have to look for it if you want a fruit juicer or a bamix or anything at all it's all here if you can't find anything just ask Andreas."
Sue pauses and fidgets with the subtle nervousness of a smoker trapped indoors.
"Andreas knows where everything is," Sue says with peculiar emphasis. "He's German he's been with us a week so if you are looking for anything at all just ask Andreas he knows where everything is."
Alphonso and i stare at each other. "Tremendous," i say.
After stumbling about the Bibbulmun track, Mars and i eventually strip off our shoes and scramble across the brook, leaving the others on the far bank to feel our way across the cold slippery stones, to forage around the oak tree. Underneath the giant oak it is thick with dry brown leaves. No sign of fungus. I am beginning to doubt the folkloric idea that the legendary Oak Tree of Jayes Road is indeed the font of all metaphysical knowledge.
A couple of days later, after Alphonso and i have returned, sullen and unenlightened, to our desk jobs, Murgatroyd has the simple yet brilliant idea of asking Andreas where the mushrooms are. Andreas knows where everything is.
"In the paddock by the Oak Tree," came his knowledgeable reply. "Go out into the paddock." And thus was the honey jar filled.
And now, even as we speak, Andreas wanders the desert, certain in his knowledge that telepathy exists on a molecular level. Alas, many a fine mind has been lost to the lure of mysticism.