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  • Writer's pictureRon Brent

3. Demian

It's a Friday evening in May, and I’m alone at my house in Beverly Glen Canyon.

Normally on a Friday night I'm out on a date or with friends at a local club. However, on this particular Friday evening, I’m in a strange and slightly disoriented mood. Feeling uneasy, I decided to stay home.

Im sitting on top of my bed, when suddenly Demian comes to mind. I immediately go down to the carport and dig the book out from under the clutter in the back of my car.

Resuming my position on the bed, I hold the book in front of me and gaze at the illustration on its cover. I takenote of the ambiguous genders of the figures portrayed there. I’m a bit intrigued by the images, and a little uncomfortable at the same time.

Opening the book to the very first page, I read the following excerpt: “… It was not a boy's face but a man’s; I also felt or saw that it was not entirely the face of a man either, but had something feminine about it, too.”

With the images on the cover fresh in my mind, these words add a bit more intrigue and a bit more to my discomfort. Has the prospect of ambiguous gender triggered some hidden phobia? Or is it something transcendent - beyond appearances? Whatever the case, a rumbling begins to slowly develop down in my depths - like the early stages of a volcano preparing for an eruption.

Reading novels has always been a struggle for me. However, beginning with Thomas Mann’s Introduction, leading right into Hesse’s Prologue, I’m almost hypnotically drawn into the story - drawn in with mixed feelings of excitement and fear. Something tells me I'm about to embark on a journey fraught with danger. A journey that I won't be able to back out of so easily.

As I get deeper into the story, anxiety begins to build. I'm identifying with the main characters, primarily Sinclair, the young protagonist and narrator of Demian. Sinclair is in the midst of one psychological crisis after another, which weighs heavily upon him. Things begin to shift when a new boy enrolls in his school. That would be Demian, who takes on the role of Sinclair’s guide and protector.

Demian is of extraordinary character - wise beyond his years, with a detached, other-worldly presence. Deep down, I identify with Demian as much as Sinclair, but Sinclair's continued struggles dominate my mind. I find it almost impossible to separate my own mounting anguish from his.

Hesse wrote Demian after undergoing a deepening sense of personal crisis, followed by intense psychoanalysis with J.B. Lang, a close disciple of Carl Jung. It’s generally believed that the novel came about as a result of this undertaking.

Consequently, Hesse has unloosed his demons and they appear to be heading in my direction.

My literary trauma continues, yet I can’t seem to put the book down. In an almost trance-like state I continue to read on as my mind begins to conger up all kinds of erotic and frightful images. My breathing intensifies and I sense a panic attack coming on. I have to take a break so I can slow things down.

I get up off the bed and go into the bathroom. I stand in front of the mirror and try to talk myself down off this ledge. This is the ritual I previously went through the few times I had struggled with psilocybin or LSD. On those occasions I would assure myself that I’d taken a psychedelic and would be going through unusual experiences for a couple of hours before returning to normal.

However, I can't give myself that pep talk right now. The knowledge that I haven’t taken anything only adds to my anxiety.

As I gaze at my image in the bathroom mirror, I take note of the heightened awareness of my senses. Looking at my face I can see acute details of each blemish, hair follicle, pore and capillary. I’m fearful, yet amazed by the intricate patterns of my eyes, which stare back at me like textured jewels. An unwarranted psychedelic experience seems to be coming on.

Troubled and confused by what’s happening, I return to my position on the bed and resume with my reading. With mounting anxiety, I'm flooded by wave after wave of disturbing thoughts and images. Helplessly I continue as the terror mounts. Am I going insane? Is this the result of a previous bad trip? Am I ever going to come down from this?

Fueled by fear and uncertainty, these questions hit me as the anxiety mounts. At the same time my heart begins to beat faster and faster. Now it becomes difficult to breathe. Approaching full panic mode, I struggle for air. I'm on the verge of screaming out, when suddenly everything stops.


I lose consciousness of the book, the room, my bed, my body, my mind, my individuality! All that remains is what I’ll call a state of Pure Awareness. Awareness of what, I’m not able to say. I don’t have the words. You could say it’s Awareness being aware of Itself. But those are just words.

I can think of many terms in both English and Sanskrit to use in an effort to tell you what happened in that moment, but I’m not going to try to do that. Some time ago I stopped trying to describe it. Past efforts have only left me with an empty feeling. No words, however eloquent, and in whatever language, are going to do it justice. Words are just pointers, giving hints as to how you might get a glimpse of that State.

To cite one of my favorite quotes: For those who know, no explanation is necessary, for those who don’t, none is possible.

After some time I regained consciousness, and awareness of myself as an individual. If I had to describe my state at that point I would use the word Illumined. My mind was Illumined! There were no answers because there were no questions. However, there were many insights into the nature of Reality. And Bliss!

The Awakened State is really the Natural State. It’s the most relaxed and carefree you’ll ever be. It’s the role you were born to play! It’s Home!

It’s the State that exists when all your false identifications fall away. You still have a distinct personality, it’s just that you don’t have to identify exclusively as it. The increase in awareness that comes as the result of a mild or gentle awakening can be seamlessly integrated into your lifestyle, whereas one of a more dynamic nature can sometimes shake things up quite dramatically.

In some cases an awakening is so dynamic that it changes the course of your life overnight. That’s what happened to me.

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