It was in the late 1980s, when our band Catweazle had already ceased to exist, that Vark, the drummer, called me on the tellingbone. "There is something to do in Utrecht with high intelligence and it will certainly interest you. Do you want to come along?"
For better understanding, the rest of the call made clear that what he really wanted was me to drive him there, not having transport of his own. He refused to explain exactly what would be going on in Utrecht. Having known him for about a decade, I was suspicious. He was a liar and a manipulator of people, as well as a violent sadistic psychopath, who once proudly boasted he had put a certain chemical in his little sister's food to make her vomit, and thoroughly enjoyed watching the result. Impulse control was absent; when contradicted or proven wrong, he would at once begin to hit and kick you as hard as he could, in particular aiming for the testicles. With his air gun, he shot at the neighbours' chickens. On multiple occasions, he purposely damaged and/or stole possessions of mine and others. He would borrow something without the least intention of giving it back, and become physically violent when asked to return it. In present times, such a person would be labelled with A.D.H.D. and antisocial personality. So, despite his persistent attempts to persuade me, I declined the invitation as long as he would not be more explicit about the nature of the event.
It may have been almost a year thereafter when I saw him again. His behaviour had changed to complete monomania. In his flat he had installed a blackboard, and my occasional visits to him became hours-long one-sided lectures on an array of bizarre esoteric theories that were mostly new to me. I could barely get a word in; he just stood there and talked. When I did succeed in making a remark, he would contradict and ridicule me for it, even if it concerned something I had heard him say on an earlier occasion. Once or twice he lectured me on things that he, in turn, had learnt from me longer ago, clearly having forgotten where he had that from. After a few such talks, it was clear to me he had joined a species of occult sect. For better understanding, it must be noted that his father had hanged himself not long ago, and I vaguely suspected that his change of behaviour was a kind of reaction to that.
The word "Emin", apparently the name of the movement or organization, returned frequently in his lectures, as did the pseudonym "Leo", referring to an almost mythical character who had spent his life travelling all over the world studying ancient esoteric books in secret places, inaccessible to mere mortals as I, Vark made me understand. The teachings of "Leo" were disclosed in "papers", the "papers of Leo", and he showed me several of those. They looked like regular A4-sized photocopies of hand-typed originals, filled with rather high-on-the-horse empty rambling, and signed "L." In hindsight, the rise of a cult like this can be understood as part of the revival of occultism toward the end of the twentieth century, but I lacked that perspective at the time; after all, there was no World Wide Web with search engines, and besides, trends can only be identified afterwards. All I knew was what he told me, and what I read in the scarce books on esoteric topics I found in libraries and book stores.
The teachings appeared to be an amalgam of many fields of esotericism and occultism, with a role reserved for the ideas of the mystic Gurdjieff, as betrayed by the use of terms like "the law of one (two, three… nine)" and "man number one (two, three… nine)". Numerology, astrology, colour theory, chakras (called "centres" by Vark), reincarnation, pyramid forces, alien astronauts, almost any popular esoteric "science" one could think of appeared to be covered by his lectures. A favourite Emin word was "electric"; everything was really "electric" in nature, and what we saw through our eyes was mere deception, he explained. If you are about to pick up a glass from the table, you first create an "electric" beam from you to the glass, and it is this beam that actually picks up the glass, the grabbing with one's hand and raising of the wrist being nothing but appearance. Sufficiently advanced persons can indeed see that beam, Vark assured me. Regarding chakras/centres, I recall him claiming there exist nine of them, two of which located outside the physical body but in the astral body; one above the head, the other below the feet. These two external centres are only active in the most advanced of us, this level of advancement being the result of achievement in prior lives, according to Vark. To convince me of the power of pyramids, he related an experiment he had done with a large pyramid construction placed over his bed such that his head was in the location of the King's chamber. After two or three nights, he had gone completely bonkers and broken off the trial, otherwise his brain would have dried out and shrunk, killing him.
What he also did a lot was to confuse imagery with literal language — a notorious flaw of occultists — and silly word-based exegesis, like saying that Genesis (the Bible book) came from "genes of Isis", implying that humans had come into being by some alien astronaut/god named Isis copulating with apes from Earth. After all, I could not seriously believe that those primitive apemen who lived in caves ten thousand years ago had turned into us all by themselves, considering our striped toothpaste and capacity to fly to the moon, could I? When I pointed out that the Bible had originally been in another language so that his exercise was pointless, his reply was, "In English it does work like this, English is the only esoteric language these days. The origin of any English word can be read in the word itself".
He also spoke of "the Emin signal", which was something one ought to "pick up" or "tune in to", or it would end badly with one, seeing the way the world was going. Humans consisted of three parts: (1) the physical body, (2) the spirit or mind, and (3) the astral body or soul. After one's death, the astral body was supposed to leave the physical one and travel to the Van Allen belt high up in the sky (there are really two Van Allen belts, but he did not seem to know that). After a shorter or longer while (this duration depending on one's level of advancement and on the nature of one's death) the astral body (soul) would descend again into a new physical body to undergo another life on Earth, and so on, until the soul had advanced to the point where no further incarnations were needed. Then, the soul would leave Earth altogether for its final destiny, elsewhere in the universe.
Without knowledge as taught by the Emin, much could go wrong in this process, Vark warned me. He vividly recalled the time when he had passed a graveyard and seen the astral bodies of buried corpses floating over it, desperately trying to escape to the Van Allen belt, but hopelessly tied to their respective remains by a sort of umbilical cords. A terrible fate, which inevitably awaited me too, unless I tuned in to the Emin signal, which I was so fortunate to have got in contact with through Vark. Only by joining the Emin, one could learn how to separate oneself properly from the physical body after death, how to advance through successive lives one Earth interrupted by stints in the Van Allen belt, and how to eventually break loose from that series of Earthly incarnations to fulfil a higher destiny.
Clairvoyance was another bonus of the Emin work; after studying the esoteric matter for a while, Vark had discovered he possessed psychic abilities. This was not something striven for, he stated, but just a side-effect of the progress one was making. "Clairvoyance? Thank you!" was how he expressed his attitude toward being granted these powers. Dowsing and aura reading were on his repertoire too, as well as, I remember, healing. Proof of his paranormal skills I have never seen; once, when he visited my parental house, he looked at my father walking by and said, audibly, "Oh my god, your father… he is getting cancer". For information, my father never got cancer but died of a heart attack several years later.
Also handy was the reduced need for sleep, food, and medical care in advanced Emin followers. That all went "electrically", and in the end one required no sleep or food at all any more. Illness became non-existent because one received (electric, of course) healing. ("Thank you, healing!") By way of example, he mentioned some monk in the Far East who had been sitting in lotus position for a number of years without eating and was still alive. To relieve stress, he utilized a special type of entity or elemental — I forgot its exact name — who lived in a corner of the ceiling and looked like a colourful yellyfish. Whenever he needed it, he would sit down in his lazy chair and the entity would extend its tentacles to his head and suck out the stress. It worked like a charm, said Vark. "Call me crazy, but to me that thing is real; I can see it at this very moment over there in the corner". He pointed. I looked. Call me crazy, but there was nothing there.
Once, Vark demonstrated his dowsing by holding two thin iron welding bars in his hands, each with a straight angle in it. When he walked toward the television, they moved to each other and crossed. I tried it too, and the same happened. I suggested that this occurred because the iron bars became induced magnets in the television's magnetic field and thus underwent forces of attraction and repulsion from one another. He laughed and said something about energy from above passing through him to make the bars move. He also tried to let me experience aura reading; he sat down in front of a white wall, and told me to stare at him. Indeed, I saw a colour appear around his head, and explained to him that this was the after-image on the retina that was projected around him as a result of the constant involuntary movement of my gaze. He ridiculed this, and said that could not be it because he was sitting still. He could not understand that it was not about the movement of the object being stared at, but about the movement of the gaze, the stare, the look of the person doing the staring.
Many months later, several years after that first phone call, Vark finally managed to get me to drive to Utrecht and attend an evening session of the Emin. I was to pick him and another Emin enthusiast up in Eindhoven, near a building known as De Bunker. I had been there before with Vark to visit a rehearsing band. Last-minute, Vark called off but told me to go anyway, otherwise the other guy would have no transport to Utrecht. Thus, he had arranged me as a driver for his friend. Such manipulation was typical of him. I went. The Emin adherent in my car, if I recall correctly, was a former bass player from the latter-day stages of Catweazle, when our band was really without name any more. He was studying to be a psychiatric nurse. I myself was going to the music conservatory of Tilburg at the time, and had written my Fugue, dedicated to apathy a few years earlier. In fact, I had played it on the occasion of our visit to the rehearsal in De Bunker, when it was still a fairly new piece.
In the Emin's place in Utrecht I found the atmosphere to be markedly sect-like, with everyone walking around with blissful looks on their faces and having assumed fantasy names, often from astrology or the Old Testament. The lecture would be "packed-full of information" as always, an older Emin member assured me repeatedly. Most people there were quite young, around my age — mid-twenties then — or younger. To my surprise, I recognized several as students of the Technical University of Eindhoven, and also saw Vark's younger brother and sister. Membership cost three hundred guilders per four weeks; about half a month's income for a typical student. It was required to speak English.
The lecturer called himself Sion, and was a tall slim energetically moving man, about thirty of age I think. The room was full of enthusiastic listeners. Now and then someone made a remark or asked a question to Sion, after first standing up and uttering a formula like, "Hello. I am Eve." Everyone in the room then replied, "Hello Eve", after which Eve was allowed to speak. This formal turn-taking is the only thing I liked about the meeting, come to think of it. Randomly interrupting each other is always highly disturbing and counterproductive. The audience appeared to be not only watching Sion but also the walls, ceiling, and corners of the room. Afterwards, some told me they had seen "electric entities" there who gave energy and information to Sion to enable him to give the lecture. After all, I could not seriously believe that any human would be capable of what Sion was doing without such help, could I? In actuality, the contents of the lecture was largely the same claptrap that Vark had been telling me for months, presented in the same "energetic" style, using the same mannerisms and idioms, and the same ridiculizing of conventional scientific knowledge and sound viewpoints. I observed a lot of imitation, as typical of people with herd-mentality, who are suggestible, narrow-minded, limited to concrete thinking styles, and copying chunks of communication seen in others without abstracting it first. They shared a pool of idiomatic expressions, intonations, mannerisms, and attitudes.
At the end of the lecture, Sion had a special treat; he took a large and heavy Webster's dictionary such as one could buy for a few guilders in stores with remaindered books, and let anyone interested ask one question. In response to each question, he opened the book at a random page and blindly put his finger somewhere, with an abundance of "oooooh" and "aaaaah" sounding from the public. Then he read the word where his finger had landed, and briefly spoke, associating the word with the asked question, again under a lot of "oooh" and "aaa". Such associations can always be made easily and I saw nothing special being done. Afterwards, however, one assured me I had witnessed a superhuman feat. Many had seen "entities" around Sion, leading his finger to the right word and passing the correct answer through him.
Eventually, Sion announced it was time for the last question. I stood up and said, "Hello. I am Paul."
"Hello Paul", it went.
"Will I join the Emin?" I asked. Unlike after all the previous questions, Sion remained motionless for some time, and a silence took place. Then he spoke, indignantly:
"This is not fortune telling! I can not predict your future! You may rephrase your question, if you wish."
I reformulated the question as "How shall I decide whether to join the Emin?" Now he did open the book as before, and, under cries of sensation from the audience, placed his finger at a random word. He looked and read:
"To do or believe something." Sighs of ecstasy and disbelief went through the room. Sion went on to explain that I should just make a decision and do something, and that the then following experiences would tell me whether it had been the right decision. The public reacted as if being privy to a miracle.
On the way back, two or three students from Eindhoven rode along with me, next to the bass player/psychiatric nurse. There was a sudden thick fog on the highway from Utrecht to Den Bosch, forcing me to go slowly. I dropped them all off near De Bunker and drove home.
Some time later, maybe one or two months, I saw the bass player again while travelling by train. He told me he was going to the dentist. "The dentist?" I reacted in amazement. "Do you still need that? I thought that all went electrically with you Emin people?" He laughed and said something to the extent that such should not be taken too literally, thus displaying an ability to put things into perspective as I had never seen in Vark with regard to Emin matters.
The last time I saw Vark was two years or so after the Utrecht Emin session, when I was already working as a guitar teacher and just beginning to think of constructing intelligence test problems. Unannounced, he showed up at my parental house, where I still lived, just when I was leaving for work. We talked briefly behind the house. It was then that my father walked out of the back door, and Vark made the false prediction mentioned above. I walked to the building where I was giving guitar lessons, about 800 metres away, and Vark came along uninvited. Having arrived at the classroom, he tried to come in with me to see the lesson. I managed to keep him out and he left.
After that, the only contact I had with him was through a brief exchange of letters late 1994. In a raving high-on-the-horse arrogant style he criticized my behaviour during his last visit. I asked him if he was still in the Emin. He denied, and ridiculed my use of "the Emin", as if he had not been unable to talk about anything but "the Emin" himself for years. His letterhead revealed that he had started a foundation to guide people in developing their personalities. I could not help feeling pity for whoever became his clients.