There had been several times when Jack was tempted to introduce a friend of his to Jelly. Or at least ask if Jelly would see him. His friend was Tom, and for many years Tom had been interested in all matters spiritual – meditation, astral bodies, chakras, enlightenment, and many other things that Jack could not bring to mind. Tom’s friends tended to tease him, but it was all in good humor. Jack had never really been interested in these things that seemed to fill Tom’s world, but now he was paying more interest when Tom launched into his riffs about things like telepathy, cosmic consciousness and manifesting one’s wishes.
As Jack still did not have a direct line to Jelly, he got Cedric to ask Jelly if he would see Tom with him. Cedric asked Jack about Tom, and when Jack mentioned topics such as astral travel, mind-altering drugs and enlightenment, Cedric smiled.
Yes, Jelly would see both Jack and Tom together at the next scheduled meeting. Jelly performed his tea ceremony, and smiling at Tom, asked him if he had any questions.
“Jack has told me that you speak about things that are similar to my interests.” Said Tom enthusiastically, “What do you think is the best way to achieve enlightenment Jelly?”
“What exactly is this enlightenment that you talk of Tom?” Jelly asked politely.
Tom thought for a moment and then said, “ Enlightenment is when we see the universe as it really is – in all its glory.”
“How do you know that this is what enlightenment is if you have not experienced it?”
“Oh, I’ve read extensively on the subject Jelly. I’ve got many books on this topic.”
“Do you believe what these people are saying Tom?”
“Well, yes, they are all well known writers on these topics, and some of them have very large followings.”
“So let me see if I properly understand this Tom.” Jelly said without any hint of impatience. “You believe in something that you have absolutely no evidence for, and you are prepared to spend your hard earned money on books, written by so called experts on this topic, and dedicate your time practicing what they suggest, and no doubt paying to attend workshops and other things. Am I correct Tom?”
Tom was stopped in his tracks, and Jack could see he was very uncomfortable with Jelly’s questioning.
“Well there has to be more than this, doesn’t there? These people are simply showing us how to see a different and better reality Jelly.” Tom said hesitantly.
“Well you haven’t answered my question, and I’ll answer your question by asking another one. Why does there have to be more than this? What is wrong with this reality?”
“Well there is so much suffering. Starvation, disease, cruelty, wars, greed, and lots of other things. There has to be more than this.”
Jack was impressed, and moved, by Jelly’s gentle manner.
“I can see the attraction Tom, but let me assure you that this is the real world. There is no other – at least no other physical existence. I’m afraid you are stuck with it. The people selling enlightenment are usually con-artists. And as life becomes tougher, so what these people claim to offer becomes more attractive. It’s good business. I know without asking, that neither you or any other people you know who go chasing after enlightenment have experienced anything at all, except for maybe some pleasant states brought on through meditation. You do meditate?”
Tom looked like he was close to tears. Jelly had nailed it, and Tom knew he was speaking the truth.
“Yes, you’re right Jelly. People do this stuff for years and nothing happens. And yes, I do meditate, and yes, it is sometimes very pleasant, but ten minutes after finishing meditation I find life is as unpleasant as always.”
Jelly took a deep breath, and Jack thought his sad eyes looked even sadder.
“Here is my advice to you Tom. You are a very sincere and honest person, and you are clearly sensitive to the suffering of others. Do not concern yourself with the world, there is nothing you can do about it anyway. Of course, if you are in a situation where someone needs immediate help and you can do that, then do it. But even here be careful. Concentrate on making your world as pleasant as you can. There is nothing wrong with living a pleasant life. Focus on the real things in your life – your job, your car, your partner if you have one, your kids if you have them, your hobbies and whatever else might bring you pleasure. Don’t go chasing after dreams sold by snake-oil salesmen. Dreams of enlightenment are no different from dreams of fame, great wealth, power or the other things that many people aspire to. Meditate if you wish, but just do it for pleasure, and do not think there is anything to gain by doing it. Love yourself Tom; you are worthy of love.”
Tom started to sob. Jack went over to him and put his arm around him. Jelly simply reached for his pipe and lit it.
Once Tom had pulled himself together he thanked Jelly, and Jelly simply nodded. Jack showed Tom to the door and returned to Jelly.
Jack was surprised that Jelly had not talked about the real nature of life, but had simply tried to reassure Tom and steer him away from his futile ambition to become enlightened. Jelly placed his pipe on the side-table and looked at Jack, who in turn found it hard to look into Jelly’s sad eyes.
“Jack, the world is full of people like Tom, pumped up by what they read and hear they go chasing after dreams. It creates a very painful duality in these people. Because life is often painful and difficult, people go looking for escapes. The usual ones are alcohol, drugs and consumerism, but more sensitive types like Tom, and let me say that Tom is a very sensitive person, go chasing after what they call spiritual goals. In the end it is simply desire once again, and an act of the beast all dressed up to look pretty. But the beast all the same. It may be useful for you to sign up to one of these spiritual movements that Tom has followed. Go and take a look for yourself. It is always jam tomorrow, but dry bread today. Dangling the carrot. In fact what many of these people do not realize is that their searching and striving is taking them away from the very thing they want – inner peace and composure. Desires are just desires, it doesn’t matter what fancy wrapping you dress them up with, they are still desires.”
“I was surprised that you didn’t mention the kind of things that both you and Vanessa have talked of in the past.” Jack said eagerly.
“Not everyone can bear the kind of thing you have learned from Vanessa and myself, and certainly Tom could not. He’s a very delicate soul, and he will find life difficult. You really should go and explore the world of the charlatans Jack, you will learn a great deal from it.”
With this Jelly once again lit his pipe and poured a cup of luke warm tea. Jack saw himself to the door, and decided he would ask Tom about some of the people he read and followed.
After a very long conversation in the pub one evening with Tom, Jack came to appreciate the broad knowledge Tom had acquired. One of the more interesting things that Tom had followed was called “The Inner Peace Foundation”. It had an official ring about it, and the word “foundation” made it sound like some sort of official body. When he got home Jack looked on the internet and found a very professional looking web site with a video of the leader of this movement. After the opening sequence showing images of birds in free flight, mountain streams, broad vistas, mountain ranges and the like, and all backed up by Indian sounding music, the leader appeared surrounded by swathes of freshly cut flowers. He had a long beard, swarthy skin, and spoke in soft tones. Inner peace could be got by a simple daily meditation practice, and he even went through the practice in some detail. Jack was surprised that it was so freely given away, expecting everything to have a price attached to it. He explored the web site and found the events page. A free public lecture would be held by this man in London in a few week’s time. He also saw that there was a group of people who followed this guru in Leeds. This was about 45 minutes away from Jack by train, but was doable.
Jack attended the London lecture and found it almost wholly meaningless. It was however very well attended – maybe over a thousand people. The main theme was how we are lost in distractions and how the meditation exercise would eventually “melt the distractions away and leave total inner peace” as the guru put it. In fact the word “melt” was given a great deal of emphasis, and the meditation practice was called the Melting Meditation.
So far there had been no attempt to sell anything, although the web site was full of stuff that could be purchased – books, videos, workshops, and extended retreats, although price was not mentioned. After contacting the group in Leeds, and speaking with a very softly spoken woman, Jack got the OK to attend their next group meeting.
Fortunately the meetings were held in a location just a few minutes walk from the train station in the flat belonging to the woman he had spoken with. It seems she had converted her large lounge into a meeting room, and about a dozen people were already sat on the floor, facing a large poster of the guru, which was in turn surrounded by freshly cut flowers. Incense sticks were burning, and Jack felt quite at home in this unusually sensual environment.
Jack was introduced, and after a brief talk about having gratitude to their guru they started to meditate. After this people were invited to ask questions. One person asked why they were still bothered by the distractions in life. They were told that they had a stubborn resistance within them, and they should consider attending the advanced workshop that specifically dealt with “stubborn resistance”. Although Jack knew nothing about sales and marketing, he knew enough to see how certain phrases were repeated over and over to reinforce the messages. There was an “Advanced Melting Meditation” that could only be learned in workshops and retreats. It was forbidden to talk of it because only a qualified teacher of the Melting Meditation could assess whether a person was ready for the advanced version.
As he left the meeting, and after being handed a brochure that described the workshops, Jack could not help but feel that these very pleasant people were being manipulated. He would talk with Cedric about all of this. Cedric would see straight through it, and understand it from a business perspective.
“Oh yes, I know about these people.” Cedric said with a certain amount of resignation. “It’s a business. Nothing more and nothing less. Their marketing is impeccable – repeated messages, words and phrases, recruitment through free events, and a gradual seduction and build up of commitment until the candidates are ready to spend money. The basic meditation does nothing, and as people invest more in it, so they are willing to spend money on more knowledge and techniques. It is quite possible to entrap someone into an organization of this type for a decade or more, with such a person becoming more and more desperate because they still have “stubborn resistances”.”
Cedric was not smug about all of this, but displayed a certain sadness. Jack had not expected this, and he certainly had not expected Cedric to know so much about The Inner Peace Foundation.
“The great tragedy in all of this Jack, is that organizations of this nature recruit some of the best among us. Sensitive and caring people tend to be seduced by the soft words and easy promises. Sometimes the people who head these businesses know they are charlatans, and sometimes they actually believe their own PR. Either way the results can be truly devastating for the people who are sucked in to these organizations. There is absolutely no difference between The Inner Peace Foundation and Tricky Dicky’s Get Rich Quick course. People who attend these things are driven by desire, want an easy way of satisfying their desire, and expect fast results. In a sense they get what the deserve, but deliberate charlatanism is never excusable. What you saw is fairly innocent compared with the real professionals in the spiritual and self-help industry. And don’t forget that this is a multi-billion dollar industry Jack. The stakes are very high in all of this. The real pro’s create a much more upmarket image. Very expensive country houses are used for meetings, the environment is always minimalist but very expensive. The candidates for these five star spiritual movements are the well-to-do, the educated, the professional classes who have got everything and value nothing. People who have given their very souls to the beast, and think that expensive decor and sophisticated gurus can give them their souls back. They found the cookie jar to be infested with scorpions, but are so addicted to cookies they cannot take their hand out of it.”
Cedric was going to continue, but looking at his watch decided it was time to finish. But Jack was not finished.
“Cedric, I haven’t noticed any desire on your part to take your hand out the cookie jar.”
Cedric laughed and reaching forward patted Jack on the shoulder.
“Jack, oh Jack, you are such a gem. One day soon I intend to make myself quite poor, as poor as you are Jack.”
Cedric smiled a cheeky smile, but Jack could not hide the fact he did not like being called poor.
“Money means absolutely nothing to me Jack. Jelly knows what I intend to do and thinks it is completely unnecessary. So what shall I do with four hundred million pounds? Do you want it Jack?”
Cedric didn’t wait for Jack to answer, but got up and left the pub where they had met.
A few days later Jack was opening the post. He opened his bank statement, which would normally have shown a balance near to zero, but instead it showed just over two hundred thousand pounds. He knew immediately where this had come from, and he was not pleased. In no way could Helen see this, it would be Gucci bags and holidays in the Seychelles – a nightmare as far as Jack was concerned.
He arrived at work early.
“What the fuck is this Cedric?” He shouted as he threw the bank statement on the table.
Cedric took a deep breath and looking up at Jack said, “It’s two hundred grand Jack, and there is much more to come.”
“How dare you? How dare you impose your stolen money on me? Give me your bank details and I’ll transfer it back today.”
“Jelly said I should do it Jack. I have to say I think it is a stroke of genius. You hide away in your safe little world, avoiding anything that takes you away from it. Time to taste the world Jack. Unless you taste it, savor it, and spit it out, you will not see the world for what it is – a fucking zoo. Oh, and by the way, if you transfer the money back, which you are free to do, you will be returning money that your father had bequeathed to you. He made us the trustees, and we were only to release it when we were absolutely sure you did not want it. So you are not the recipient of my stolen money, as you call it. Your father and I often worked together on various projects, and he was a very shrewd man. The total amount he put in trust is over two hundred million pounds. And I have to say he hid this from everyone in the most amazing way. Those extended fishing trips were very profitable.”
Jack was silent, and then he flew into a rage.
“You’re bullshitting me. Two hundred million is half of what you say you have. You fucking liar.”
Cedric stood up.
“Call me a liar again, and our relationship will end, right here and now.”
So Jack had found Cedric’s Achilles heel. He knew it, and Cedric knew it.
“Yes, I’m human too, and I have vanities just like everyone else. And the reason I will not let anyone call me a liar is because that is all I was. I’m sorry Jack, I didn’t mean what I said. But please believe that I am telling the truth.”
Jack did believe him. He had never seen Cedric become emotional before.
“So what am I supposed to do with two hundred million pounds Cedric? Why did my father want to load me with this?”
“For most people power corrupts. This is a tester for you Jack. This money meant nothing to your father other than as means of testing himself. He was a great man.
We will set up a fund and various other financial arrangements and get the money transferred. If you don’t want Helen to see it, then we can arrange for the post to be sent to an accountancy firm. They will manage the whole thing.”
This suited Jack very well. As far as he was concerned the money didn’t exist, and he would never touch it.
This is the final episode. I thought that publishing it might spur me to write more – but it hasn’t. Hope you enjoyed it.