Brother in Yosemite National Park

The Myth of the Mountain

A series of personal reflections from a rowdy priestess

Desire is the creator. Desire is the destroyer.Hari Dass Baba

After weeks of static dark I dream an immense mountain. Below it in the valley: red tents and tattered flags, holy carnival leftovers. Others are with me in front of it and this matters but we don’t yet know why. The journey is already chosen. A hard wind lifts the colors skyward. Fabric flashes over the mountain as we descend together to gather the animals. We make our way towards them: the goats locked inside the rocky walls.

They are restless and scream like humans.

I am trying to explain what this means as we walk across downtown to get coffee and juice. I am reading everything in the process of deciphering. Mountains are associated with revelation and transition. They are ancient places where sacred messages are handed down, where the wise one talks to god and is transformed. My friend doesn’t understand and neither yet do I.

The message lays tattered in my mind.

I tell her how in the dream but also somehow beyond the dream, the landscape remains unchanged. Mythical and monolithic, the mountain is self-evident. It is us who suffer. I say maybe it is this we are here to witness: our movements around its bulk.

Standing in the white-tiled line of the local juicery I remember it all: each conversation leading me here to the room of myself I circle. I am not alone in this room for every myth I have written for myself lives here with me.

The mountain is singular. I am the plurality.

I am in orbit with the myth and something I call me.

It is this I wrestle with: the myth space and how I escape it, for I am also the goat locked inside. If we are to use this sacred language: the quest is writ at birth. The Pueblo sage asked Jung: “Do you not think all life comes from the mountain?” I tattoo its shape on my wrist, upside down with a line down the middle, so I can call the energy inwards. Maybe this will help me understand the wound of being so human. The question informs the action. It turns out when you leave a life all the same pieces still exist.

Only they simply rearrange.

The sacred quest takes one to the center. The mountain is often thought to contain a mother goddess in her belly: uterine metal, a pit we mine for precious things. I consider the sacrifice inside this gift. On my birthday a stone is returned to me: a piece of her body, washed by the wild mouth of the sea.

We are walking along the slow waves, sand in our mouths, violet haze rising off the water ahead. The stone is heavy and speaks to me: smooth and grey, transformed by softness.

But something else enraptures: the two halves cemented by another buried piece, a fine scar down the center. When I run my finger over it I remember the river rolling through my body, the one I feel when I write. The deep place that collapses time. Inside: a profound smoke rising. Bells in a cave.

Memory of another life.

I am learning what to recognize. The ancient goat-god speaks to the lust for living. I feel the throb of history push through me: dust caught in the light. On the train I see how darkness turns a man’s eyes. They roll backward and with two hands he grips the pole in front of me; goes lost inside. What else is there to say? Still downtown LA is bathed golden, the perfect stage for the human spectacle. She calls me Pan on the phone because my eyes are glowing.

It is 3 am on the morning of my birth and I am weeping in the shower. Shaking with the strange joy of leaving everything I have left. Earlier I asked: What’s next? This question informs everything I am and all I still love now behind me, in another timeline. The fabric tatters into a million flags fluttering and the messages blur together, become the myth that breathes me to break me open further. I only know how to walk forward into the nothing, alone but more alive, with less answers than you’d think.

There is no center for long; only the orbit we carve toward it.

Somewhere a sacred law: you can’t break what you don’t own. It is said that the mountain orients us out of the void. It forces us upward. We don’t rise above others — only in ourselves. In Judaic lore and elsewhere, “sins, shame, or illness were magically transferred” onto the goat before it was sacrificed. Translated literally, Pan means the wilderness of the mind. We fear this place for there is no explanation, no logic, no prophecy that will save us. What will happen is already written in a language we can see but can’t read.

Excuses circle the question.

There is another reason to laugh today. In Be Here Now, Ram Dass wrote the following:

“The cosmic humor is that if you desire to move mountains and you continue to purify yourself, ultimately you will arrive at the place where you are able to move mountains. But in order to arrive at this position of power you will have had to give up being he-who-wanted-to-move-mountains so that you can be he-who-put-the-mountain-there-in-the-first-place. The humor is that finally when you have the power to move the mountain, you are the person who placed it there — so there the mountain stays.”

In other words: the mountain moves inside you and you must meet it.

That is the only way to ascend.


Katharine Hargreaves is a writer, facilitator, and culture alchemist living and playing in California. A translator of tectonic patterns of transformation, Katharine invents interactive experiences and social rituals for a new humanity. She is the founder of ARKO, a culture lab for human connection and AWAKYN, a card game changing the world one magic moment at a time. Find more of her writing at The Fearless Experiment: a way to evolve your world through adventure or get on her monthly mailing list for raps from a real life wizard.

Magic. Transformation. Shenanigans.

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