A week later Cashing received a call.
"My cancer has unexpectedly gone into remission," the landlord said, "which could just possibly be more than mere coincidence, Mr. Cashing. Meet me at my office at ten."
"Only if you don’t beat the crap out of me this time," Cashing replied as the line went dead.
Cashing decided to be fashionably late. When he was ushered into the office at fifteen minutes after ten, the landlord motioned for him to sit down.
"What do you want from me?" the landlord asked.
"Personally, I’d like you to treat all things with reverence," Cashing replied. "But for now I’d just like you to stop developing in the foothills, and I’d like you to decrease the rent at the 20th Century Apartments by thirty percent."
"You’re lucky that we’re friends, Mr. Cashing," the landlord smiled.
"I’m glad you’re in a better mood," Cashing replied.
"I want to meet your friend," the landlord stated.
"I’ll see if I can arrange that, sir," Cashing sneered. "But you see, my friend and his family have been evicted from their apartment. I can’t guarantee that he’ll want to meet with you."
"Tell him that is no longer a problem. In fact, he and his family can stay there rent free until the crack of doom if he is indeed responsible for the good news, but I will need to meet with him before I decide."
"There are a couple of other matters that he would like you to address," Cashing said, taking a big chance. "He would like you to make sure that a few people are taken care of, one an old lady who ended up in the hospital, and the other an artist who was arrested for robbery," Cashing was really starting to sweat now.
"Yes, yes, I’ll take care of it--if he is the miracle worker you say he is. Just leave my secretary with the details. Now, when can I meet the young gentleman?"
"Tomorrow at noon. But he wants to meet with you on the ridge overlooking Sycamore Creek," Cashing said. "I’ll show you how to get there and where to park. You do have a driver’s license, don’t you?"
"Oh, I'm pretty sure I know how to get there. I own it, after all!"
Peter prepared for the healing by touching the four gems in the middle pillar, concentrating especially on the yellow diamond in the center. When he touched the top diamond, his personality was completely erased. He was simply a point of awareness in a vast ocean of consciousness, the observer, the observed, and the act of observation. But he was also filled with light and a sense of peace and total blessing. Peter mentally brought that light down to the middle gem, a yellow diamond, and he summoned a feeling of compassion, which resonated also from the gem until he was filled with compassion and light. He brought that light down to third gem on the middle pillar, a quartz, and suddenly in what seemed like the light of the moon, Peter felt more psychic than he ever imagined he could be, as though he could know everything about anyone he came in contact with. Finally he brought the light down to the bottom gemstone. He was ready.
When Peter and Cashing arrived at the meeting place, the landlord was already waiting, parked in front of the unchained gate. As far as Cashing could tell, no one else was with him.
"Mr. Cashing, what a pleasant surprise!" the landlord exclaimed.
"Peter is only fifteen, sir. Someone had to drive, and I promised his parents that I would make sure he was safe at all times."
"I see. Nice to meet you, Peter. I’m looking forward to learning more about you."
Peter nodded his head and shook the landlord’s hand. Then Peter opened the gate and motioned for them to walk through.
They walked along quietly for half a mile. Then Cashing said, "Why on earth do you have to develop this area? There are so many other places in town where you can build."
"Mr. Cashing, why are so you worried about what I do? There are just too many people in this world right now and that is leading to other problems like mass extinctions and global warming and famine and war. We’ve got so many weapons of mass destruction that we can destroy the whole planet hundreds of times over. Really, I’m just small potatoes in the universal scheme of things. Why do you even bother with me?"
"Maybe because you are so good at adding to the world's misery. Look, you must know by now that Native Americans used to live here. Genocide took place here not very long ago, and now apparently ecocide is soon going to follow. We have got to stop the destruction of the remaining ecosystems, or we might not survive as a species either," Cashing replied.
"Look, somebody else will develop this land if I don't. That’s the beauty of our system of private property. Don't you know that by now? You might keep one owner from doing what he wants with his land, but chances are, you won’t stop the next. What’s the use, Cashing? You didn’t really bring me out here for a debate, did you?" the landlord asked.
"No, we didn’t," Peter said.
They continued walking quietly until they reached the ridge. They followed Peter down the trail to the pounding stone next to the creek. Then they crossed the creek and crawled up the side of the hill to the semicircle of stone.
"We are here so that we can change our karma," Peter said.
Both the landlord and Cashing gave Peter a funny look. "What do you mean?" the landlord asked.
“There is a simple magic that enables people to heal each other with the mind. At first I thought that all I needed to do was drain the negative energy away from a person and then fill that person with light, but then I realized that I had to take the black energy into myself. That is the sacrifice that I must make before I can heal you. That is the sacrifice that the great healers have made before they have healed the masses.
“Most are not born with the knowledge. Many, like my friend here,” Peter said, pointing at Cashing, “have been attacked over and over for their goodness until they know the magic of forgiveness. They learn to become the black cross of sacrifice before they give the terrible energy to a higher power for transmutation and redemption. And, believe me, a healer feels the pain of betrayal on top of everything else because the same people he is helping often would just as soon harm him out of ignorance and fear.
“But you see, our fate is all entangled because we are all connected, not just you and me but the streams and rocks and trees and clouds. They are part of what we are. That is the real magic: We are so connected at the level of the mind that if I change our karma through forgiveness, the karma of the world changes.
“Just like you, though, I am afraid. I’m afraid of the pain, afraid that I’ll fail, afraid that I won’t be able to forgive because I won’t see your spiritual essence. I have failed so often to see that in the people around me. I must see through to the essential harmony and magnificence within you and me and Justin and everyone else on this planet. Please forgive me if I cannot do that.”
The landlord looked surprised. “I forgive you,” he stated flatly.
"Take a deep breath and close your eyes. Try not to think of anything. Just clear your mind. In a few minutes you’re going to feel me touch your head. Just relax and keep your eyes closed. I'm going to cleanse you spiritually, mentally, emotionally. I’m going to heal you completely."
The landlord closed his eyes and started breathing deeply. Suddenly Peter touched his head. The landlord shuddered but did not open his eyes. To Cashing, the landlord appeared to be in deep concentration.
"Tell me what you see," Peter commanded.
"I don't see anything."
"Clear your mind completely. Go back to your first memory. Then remember when you were here before. Remember when you were here before. Clear your mind," Peter said soothingly.
Just when Justin wanted to give up, the landlord started groaning. Justin didn't know what the landlord was seeing, but Justin sensed that the landlord had slipped into an altered state, a state that the landlord would normally consider an illusion. Justin tried to tune his mind to the landlord's reality, but Justin couldn't perceive anything. Suddenly, the landlord opened his eyes and murmured, "I was on this ridge, and I heard gunfire. A lot of people were running around, and soldiers were shooting at them. Oh, my God, they were shooting women and children. I think I was with the soldiers, but not one of them. I think I saw you. You were about to shoot someone with an arrow. Oh, God, I think I shot you in the back."
"Do you know who you were?"
"I was a rancher. I joined the soldiers because I was tired of the Indians stealing my cattle. I didn’t know it was going to be that bad. I swear I didn’t!"
"I want you to know that I was there and that now in this moment I take your pain, and I forgive you. Together we are cleansed with light. Know yourself totally cleansed. I forgive you."
The landlord turned around and clung to Peter. "Oh, my God. I’m so sorry. I’m so sorry! I didn’t know."
"It’s all right," Peter murmured. "Everything is all right. We are cleansed."
"I feel like a new person. I don't know what you did, but I do feel like a new person," the landlord wept.
|Pestle next to Mortar|
Peter slipped into the apartment unnoticed as his mom and dad were chatting at the kitchen table with their backs to the door.
“I’m tellin’ you, Evelyn, I could do some real good with that thing. Cashing is just not smart enough to know how to use it.”
“And just what would you do with it exactly?” Peter’s mother asked.
Suddenly they noticed Peter near the door. “Oh, hey, Peter, how long you been there?”
“I just got home. What’re you talkin’ about?”
“I’m gonna be honest with you, son,” his father stated. “We went over to Cashing’s place when you two was gone and checked it out. We seen that thing on his altar.”
“What? How could you?” Peter groaned.
“Now, we only did it to protect you,” his mother asserted.
“How could you? How could you!” Peter yelled.
“Are you two worshipping that thing? He’s not some kind of pagan, is he? We don’t want you hanging out with some kind of Satan worshipper! Peter, you have got to tell us the truth! We will not, I repeat, we will not let you play with the devil’s tools.”
“Mom! Please! You have no idea what you’re talking about!”
“Tell me then, Peter! What is it?”
“It’s something God made to help us understand all paths to Him!”
“It’s nothing I’ve ever seen in church before,” his mother stated.
“It’s the Tree of Life, Mom. You’ve heard of that, right?” Peter responded.
“Yes, of course I have. But no church that I know worships the Tree of Life. How did he get his hands on it? What church does he belong to?” she demanded.
“That’s not the point, is it? The Tree of Life shows all paths to God,” Peter responded. “Surely God is bigger than every church and every religion put together."
“Peter, how can you say that? You know our church is the one way, don’t you, Peter? We have let that man poison your mind. I do not want you talking to that man ever again.”
“Listen to your mother, Peter. She’s got a good point. We don’t really know what that thing is or how it might warp your mind. Cashing has no right to force his religion down your throat....”
“But he’s not!” Peter interjected.
“But you’re too young to know what he’s really doing, Peter. We know what’s best for you, not him! I am your father, and I’m telling you I know what’s best for you. If you want to be Cashing’s friend, you’ve got to sneak that thing out of his apartment and bring it over here so I can have a better look at it. I need to know what it is and what exactly it can do!”
“But Bill, we never decided that!” Peter’s mother groaned.
“Now, Evelyn, I am the man of the house, and I make the decisions, and I mean what I say. Peter, if you want to remain Cashing’s friend, you’ve got to bring that thing over here so we can have a better look at it. I ain’t sayin’ that it’s all bad. I just feel that it’s my duty as your father to know what’s going on, so bring it over here as soon as you can or you ain’t talking to that man again. And that’s final.”
“Bill?” Peter’s mother asked, a little perplexed.
“You just want it for yourself,” Peter cried.
“Now, how could you say such a thing? You need to learn to obey me, boy. I am your father!”
“Now, Peter, I think what your father means is that we just want to show it to our minister so that we know it’s not a bad thing. We just want to make sure that you are all right. I think your father is just asking you to borrow it for a little while. Can you do that for us?”
“No, I won’t. I won’t do it!” Peter shouted. Peter stormed to his bedroom and threw open the door. His brother, in his mother’s wig and underwear, was sprawled out on the bed.
“Didn’t anyone ever teach you how to knock!” his brother yelled.
Peter slammed the bedroom door shut and grimaced at his parents. Then he grabbed his back pack and dashed out into the courtyard. Peter rushed over to Justin’s apartment.
"You really did a number on the landlord," Cashing said after he invited Peter in. "He’s decreased the rent. He’s helped out just about everyone around here in one way or another. He’s even donating his Sycamore Creek property to a conservancy, from what I understand. You know, I've developed a theory about you. If reincarnation is a real occurance, then it's possible that you are a highly developed soul who is able to do things that you learned in other incarnations, even though you are still so young. But by God, we took a huge chance! You never did explain how you knew he would remember."
"My spirit guide told me," Peter stated flatly.
Cashing laughed, "What else has your spirit guide told you?"
Peter suddenly grew serious and explained what had happened. “And to top everything off, when I opened my bedroom door, I found my brother wearing my mother’s wig and dressed in women’s underwear.”
Justin pondered for a moment. “Sounds to me like each person in your family touched one of the jewels. I’m only guessing, but I think your brother touched the emerald, which is the sephira of Venus. Touching a sphere on the Tree can make a person suddenly experience suppressed desires, and the lack of balance caused by the influx of energy can manifest in ways that people consider socially unacceptable. I think it was Martin Luther who said if you’re going to sin, sin boldly. But that unbalanced energy can lead to far worse things. Pride, bigotry, cruelty, dishonesty, uncontrollable lust--these are vices that can hurt people very, very badly. I hope your parents weren’t affected in worse ways than your brother. I’m really beginning to think that maybe I need to get the hell out of Dodge, ASAP!”
“But what about me?" Peter asked. “My parents are demanding that I steal from you. I’m not going to do that. I need to get out of here too.”
“Whoa, whoa, whoa, wait a minute. Think about what you’re saying. I can’t take you with me. I’d be arrested for kidnapping and God knows what else. I’d be thrown in jail for the rest of my life.”
“But what am I supposed to do?” Peter groaned.
Just then, the landlord stepped through the door. “I have to thank you again for what you have done for me, both of you,” he beamed. “I have a proposition for you that I’m sure you will both consider extremely beneficial.
Peter and Justin gave each other a confused look.
“Sources have informed me that you are in possession of a valuable artifact. I don’t know how you obtained it, and I don’t care, but I am willing to pay you more than what it’s worth if you show me how to use it.... That, I’m sure you know, is quite a bit of money.”
“Sources? You mean my brother?”
“I am not at liberty to say,” the landlord replied. "I would just like you to know that I have read a great deal about the Tree of Life, and I understand its significance, far more than most people. I assure you that I would take very good care of it, that is if you would like to sell it to me. Let me start with an offer. Let's say five million dollars."
“But it’s really not for sale,” Justin hesitated. Peter gave him a strange look.
“Oh, come now, everything has a price. Look at it this way. I have the means to use the Tree of Life effectively, far more effectively than you can in your current circumstances. I can do more good in one day than you can in a lifetime, more good than you can even imagine, and you can be right there to assist me. I can make you both princes, so to speak, princes of peace. All you have to do is accept my gratitude.”
“But it’s more complicated than that. There are many dangers associated with the Tree that you can’t even begin to imagine.”
“Oh, come now, Cashing. I’m a big boy. I deal with far greater problems before you even get up in the morning.”
“But when it comes to the Tree of Life, the people with the most power have the most risk--and the most responsibility. Someone like you can end up doing terrible damage even though you are trying to do good. Very few people are capable of being stewards of the Tree.”
“That’s why I’m asking you to help me. You can be the steward of the Tree, and I can be your pupil,” the landlord replied.
Justin knew that he needed to be extremely tactful. “Look, I know you have the best of intentions, and I applaud you. You and I both know that you are a king when it comes to worldly matters, and I am but a lowly worm, but this is something completely different. We’re talking about spiritual matters here, and very few people in this society even have a clue about what that means. I stand in complete awe and utter humility before the Tree. I don’t pretend to presume how to handle all of its powers, and I’ve been learning how to handle them for decades. I’ve become unbalanced in just about every way imaginable, and I’m telling you that you are risking destruction. You could end up like me, or worse, far worse, especially if you have any worldly desires at all.”
“You’re right about one thing, Cashing,” the landlord replied. “I am something of a king, in this Valley, at least, and I know how to get what I want, sometimes in ways that you might not approve of.”
Justin winced, “Is that a threat?”
The landlord chuckled, “No, no, please don’t misinterpret my words. I truly prefer to work with you, not against you. I’ve seen what kind of power you and the boy have. I wouldn’t presume to know how to handle the forces, but I want you to realize that I am truly serious. Truly, I don’t wish to pressure you, and I’ve already taken up too much of your time. Please, please, at least consider my offer, and believe me when I say that I only have the best of intentions. I mean it,” the landlord smiled reassuringly.
“Absolutely, I have no doubt. Please let us think about it for just a little while, and we'll get right back to you,” Justin replied.
“I expected nothing less. Please, take your time. I look forward to hearing from you,” the landlord stated cordially.
“You’ll be hearing from us soon,” Justin smiled.
After the landlord drove away, Justin said, “We have got to get the hell out of this place, and I mean now!”
“But what about kidnapping and going to jail and all of that?” Peter asked.
Justin grimaced. “This could get a lot worse, if we stay, that is. The landlord could kidnap you and force me to give him the Tree. Go home, put some food and clothing in your backpack and get on your bike and ride out toward the end of Ashlan Ave. I’ll pick you up on the way. I know a place in the mountains where we can stay until this all blows over. You need to write a short note to your parents and tell them that you’re leaving but that you will be back in a few days. We’ve got to disappear for a little while! We’ve got to let everybody cool off and get some perspective. The landlord didn’t even need to touch the gems to feel the unbalancing influences of those forces. I'm not as psychic as you, but I can sense that we're in some deep shit, some really serious danger. Hurry, please, and don't let them see you leaving!”