Mark Walter, sensei.

From the founder

I’ve devoted many years to studying Jiu Jitsu as well as what is often called esoteric studies. Emerging out of my studies have been innumerable experiences. Along the way I’ve taken prodigious notes, which have filled volumes of handwritten and typewritten notebooks. Despite previous attempts, I’m only now really beginning to create what I hope becomes a comprehensive written account. An Opus.

I’ve dedicated the remainder of my life to trying to somehow bring those notes, experiences, ideals and ideas into written form. It is a huge undertaking, hence the decision to set up a series of interrelated sites on Medium. The relationship between the sites kind of helps keep things organized and easier to locate moving forward.

Mark Walter — taken at Huntington Library. Photo by James D. Coleman

Who does what?

While the monastery does, in fact, have a number of real life members besides me, I’m the main person contributing to the site. Why’s that? Well, virtual monks and nuns is similar in a lot of ways to slipping into an actual stone-walled monastery, because we still tend to be rather devout, isolated and private people.

Our philosophy is primarily based on Taoist, Zen, and martial arts traditions. Our membership is informal, and includes atheists, agnostics, Dudeists, Native Americans, Catholics, Protestants and those from the Jewish tradition. Our members decide, each in their own way, the extent of their personal involvement with respect to the monastic life, as well as within the context of social justice and awareness issues. Some members may prefer music, poetry, art, cooking, gardening, solitude or meditation.

Writing and essays

I’ve been writing essays about these issues since the early 1990s, and on the web since 2005. But it’s only been recently that I felt my writing skills had improved to a point that I could undertake a project as massive as what the monastery represents.

Overall, it’s a lot of work. Clearly something must have occurred as a result of all those studies… insights and realizations that would be of sufficient motivation to found a monastic order and create a project of this significance.

My sensei has repeatedly encouraged his hundreds (if not thousands) of students to take notes, and to perhaps find ways to share them. I’ve often felt I’m the only guy doing that, which is sad in a way because they have many valuable experiences and amazing stories to tell.

But I am also extremely sympathetic as to why so few people write of these things. To be clear, I’m not a one-off. Many other people have had realizations and experiences similar to mine. Why aren’t we hearing about all that?

Well, putting aside that writing is in itself a skill that doesn’t come easy to many of us, it’s not because they have not been sufficiently aroused. To the contrary, in my opinion, they have typically been deeply and profoundly moved. And that’s the thing, you see. It’s profound.

In a way, the profundity renders them speechless. Who can they talk to about things that defy describing? And who will listen, without marginalizing the experiencer as well as the experiences? The weight of all this can make a person miserable. There have been countless times I’ve heard the refrain,

“Well, Mark, I don’t doubt for a moment that you truly believe what you are telling me.”

I’ve written at length regarding the danger of belief, in part because once we start sprinkling belief powder in the water, strange concoctions can emerge.

Beliefs aside, the inner journey is both amazing and deeply disturbing. The gnostic Gospel of Thomas put it this way:

“Those who seek should not stop seeking until they find. When they find, they will be disturbed. When they are disturbed, they will marvel, and will reign over all.”

The realization of experiences

The relationship of teacher/apprentice is not widely discussed, nor are first-hand accounts of students who have gone through the so-called mystical sciences readily available. There’s also a similar dearth of accounts from those who have emerged out of the more advanced martial arts experiences.

For my part, I’ve always taken the approach that deeply subjective experiences should be viewed objectively. This whole notion of subjective versus objective needs to cease being a stand-off. Because what it is really about is finding a way to balance in the middle of all that, finding a way to move further away from duality and closer to unity, or what the physicists call “a unified field theory.”

With all this as a bit of a backdrop, I hope you find some value here. I’m not much of a marketer or promoter, so I can only hope that this work will someday, somehow land in the right place, and stir minds and hearts in ways that are meaningful. I hope it means something to you. In the meantime, I’ll keep doing my best.