Return of the Pontiac Kiva Four


What's life like after Mystery School? To find out something you already know, it's best to have a meeting. Denise (90-93), Mary (91-92), Shelly (91-92) and I (90-93) got together for a reunion discussion in March of 1994 at Mary's new home in the Riverdale section of the Bronx. I picked Denise and Shelly up where I always had, at the corner of 96th street and Broadway, but in an inconspicuous Ford Taurus -- a far cry the hulking gray 1974 Pontiac Grand Prix we had all ridden to MS in for years. I'd sold Grand Prix to the super of my building who plans to keep it until he retires to Mexico. I still see it sitting ghostlike in a different parking space from the one it was parked in for so many years.

From 90-93 I drove from NYC to Greenkill in this huge, gas guzzling ($20 in gas to make the short trip), 400+ horsepower remnant of pre-oil boycott Americana. Shelly, Mary and Denise were usually along. The Grand Prix was larger than almost anything else on the road except a truck; it made you feel safe. My first weekend at MS though, during the incredible ice storm of Feb. 1990, I managed to destroy the bumper on Jean's Jeep Cherokee without denting the Grand Prix. I stared at the woeful damage to Jean's state of the art four-wheel-drive vehicle in wonder. The only accident of my life -- the first weekend at MS, when I don't know anybody, I whack the "guru's" car! Many people rode with us over the years -- Larimore and Barbara for a half a year or more, Karen , Rosa , Maria , Nancy and many others once or twice. But Mary, Denise, and Shelly were regulars. Originally it was just Denise back in 90, with no other regular riders. On the way to M.S. we talked about our intervening month, on the way back about the impressions of the weekend. These talks became as much a part of going as the weekend itself. When Shelly and Mary joined us we became a mini "kiva". Similar "car-pool kivas" must exist, each with their own ambiance and stories.

When we got together to catch up on what was happening in our lives, we also talked about "going", and "not going" to M.S. What we'd gotten from attending. Most Mystery Schoolers seem to have an inner child; I myself have an inner sociologist. Or maybe it's just the years I've spent bartending; observing and talking to people- -and writing stories about them. I suppose if you tend bar long enough, you have to become either- a psychologist, a drunk, or a golfer.

We all agreed M. S. had a positive effect on our lives, but exactly what and how did it work? Was it a function of being in community, of inspiring lectures, psycho-kinetic exercises, sacred dancing -- the whole gestalt? The divergence of opinion encountered is a tribute to the complexity of what Jean and her helpers have created -- that there could be so many different possibilities.

We also agreed that it was hard to say what was MS and what was something else we might have been doing at the same time (Zen, kung fu), and that the effect of MS was more subtle than shattering; often indirect and hard to discern. For the four of us, anyway, it was less often a matter of stunning revelations than of being immersed in a placental and buoyant sea that supported the emergence of many insights. Some of the effects were utterly unpredictable. Mary said attending MS had given her the courage to leave her dangerous old neighborhood ( we drove once to pick her up in the middle of violent anti-police rioting; big and ugly, the Grand Prix provided us with good cover ) and move to house she had always wanted.

Mary also felt one of the most valuable things at MS was as market-place of ideas -- she'd had encountered Brian Swimme's work there, and felt a deep affinity for it. She has continued to give her slide show lectures, like the one she gave at MS in 92; most recently before the Teilhard Society, but she is also is expanding her work, using her training as biologist and theologian, to write a book on connecting individuals personally with the larger emerging earth story. She is active in the Quakers, draws much from the Quaker style of meditation, and has formed a dream interpretation group which meets once a week. And she is again involved in Jungian psychology.

My own story, at least career-wise, is something like Mary's doing what I always have, but more so. Shelly and Denise however have clearly changed career directions radically. And MS had something to with it even if we can't say exactly what.

Denise took a buy-out from her computer job at NYNEX, and turned what is for many employees a disastrous setback into an opportunity for a new career in nursing. She 's finished half the program for her RN at St. Vincent's hospital, and is planning to do graduate work at in NYU. She remains interested in holistic nursing, but for now is concentrating on fundamentals. While at M.S. she developed an intense interest in shamanistic work which she felt she got a great deal from. She works with shaman Lorna Roberts, as well as traditional South American shamans and teachers. Like many Mystery Schoolers she wonders if and how all her interests and activities will come together.

Shelly has taught English as a second language at NYU for many years. Last December, after more than a decade in New York, she told a group of friends she "felt" California calling; now she's headed for San Francisco. She's been accepted by the Institute of Integral Studies as a Ph.D. candidate in psychology next fall. Shelly is continuing to give psychic readings as she did before MS. She said the experience that had the most impact on her in last year or so was a week of silent "Insight" meditation. She decided she needed a change after she took off three months teaching, only to find herself more bored instead re-invigorated when she returned. She went back up to MS one weekend last year, none of the rest of us have been since leaving.

Career-wise anyway two us are changing careers, two others deepening and being encouraged to move in directions they'd been moving. But that's too simple a picture. For example, while I made sculptures and did wood carvings (the fractal, as Jean would say, was there); making the rattles and shamanistic devices that I begin making during MS was really a quantum jump. And MS deserves more credit than I'd like to give it. Also we tend overlook much when think about the effect of MS, for example the practical aspect. I know people who have found jobs through MS, or true loves (if that's practical), this is standard networking true, but still helpful. In my case I was encouraged psychologically by MS, but also by finding a small, but friendly market for my art work. So the encouragement while mainly psychological, was also practical -- revealing some of the complexity of MS as an experience or the effects of being in a community.

One of the aspects I found valuable about MS was the intellectual stimulation -- Jean's thinking. One need not agree with Jean's ideas to find them invigorating. Over the years my interests and morale had eroded. I'd stopped reading much new work. I kept thinking and observing, but had lost the stimulation of others' thinking. My perspective had narrowed terribly, but I didn't realize how much until I arrived at MS. I was surprised at the* fact* of how broadly Jean was thinking, as much her particular ideas. It was largely this "fact" of how broadly and deeply she was thinking which brought me up short, and set me thinking again.

I think it's fair to say of our Pontiac Four Kiva reunion, that we came together in varying ways and degrees at Mystery School, and we are now four individuals headed in four very different directions. Even physically -- Shelly moves to San Francisco, for example, and we may never to see her again. Then again at M.S, if we learned nothing else, it's that universe moves in mysterious ways -- through hidden as well as visible connections. Or as America's great Spiritual Master once said: "One never knows, do one?"

Stephen Williamson