The Haunted Forest: A Spiritwalk
This essay appeared here in three parts—from November of 2002 to May of 2003. It is perhaps the most personal writing I have ever done. It is the account of one part of my spiritual journey, delving into the detritus of childhood to come to grips with an image that has been with me all my adult life--the image of a peaceful, beautiful second-growth forest of birch trees. I have brought all three essays together in one place for ease of reading.
The ecstatic techniques that I used during this journey were an extension of those I practiced for a time in early adolescence. When I began, there was little information available about shamanism except for dry anthropological studies. If you are interested in incorporating these techniques into your own spiritual quest, I can recommend two books that provide a good introduction to the techniques as they apply to practitioners in modern society: “The Way of the Shaman” by Michael J. Harner and “Where Spirits Ride the Wind” by Felicitas Goodman. The first is a practical how-to guide to basic practices, the second is a detailed account of Dr. Goodman's many years of study of ecstatic techniques. The two books complement each other nicely. Also, for an in-depth study of shamanism in traditional societies there is Mircea Eliade's “Shamanism: Archaic Techniques of Ecstasy.” This is one hefty tome, but like all Eliade's work I've read, it's remarkably accessible to the non-specialized reader.
A note of caution: shamanism and ecstatic techniques are very powerful tools for the exploration of the psyche. It is unwise in the extreme to approach them lightly. They are, in a word, dangerous. I say this not to dissuade anyone from attempting them, but rather to drive home the point that this isn't like puttering with a Ouija board or tarot cards. I would be more than happy to discuss my personal experiences with anyone interested in learning more. If you do choose to try shamanism I urge you to find a guide or mentor who is sympathetic to such practices and to work closely with that person.
Finally, a personal word. Larry Pesavento stood by me throughout this journey. He was the anchor to which I tethered myself when I stepped, once again, into the Otherworld. "Thank you" seems inadequate to express my gratitude.
—Donald R. Walker: Cincinnati, Ohio and The Otherworld, 2003
I have walked through a haunted forest, a beautiful forest of birch. When I am in the forest, it is always the high days of middle autumn, the autumn of memory, when nights are chill and days warm with slanting sunlight. The white bark shimmers where, here and there, the canopy of leaves breaks. It is silent in the forest--no bird sings. Most of the leaves are still green, but in tiny prides that dance in the light, some are bright gold. A few, exhausted by summer and the autumn dance, flutter to the ground. That ground is carpeted with last year's leaves, now brown, and clumps of brilliant emerald moss creep out from rocks and fallen trees onto the forest floor. A stream bed winds along the forest floor, the thinnest trickle of water meandering through the very center of the bed. Here and there the roots of trees are undercut, forming shallow grottos where the stream bends.
If I follow the stream I will come one such grotto that is well known to me. I have visited it in dreams and visions. It has appeared in my writing and I have tried to paint it more than once. In the shadows, if I look closely, I will see the shape of bones, moss covered and mouldering, resting in this grotto for I don't know how long. I wondered about these bones for many years and it was only a couple of years ago that I realized for the first time that they are the bones of a sixteen-year-old boy. They are my bones.
I was raised in a household devoid of spirit. Both my parents were alcoholics who, as the years passed, became increasingly dysfunctional. My father fled from job to job, assisted by a good-ole-boy network that sought to prop up one of their own while ensuring that he screwed up as far as possible from their own backyards. My mother took secretarial jobs to shore up income during my father's increasing periods of unemployment. She was bitterly angry with the world and slipped from bitterness into insanity. My father was equally bitter and also terrified. I never knew what was at the roots of that fear-only that he stank of it, as he stank of cigarettes and cheap wine.
And fear ruled me with an iron grip as well. Every night--EVERY DAMNED NIGHT--my parents would drink themselves into oblivion in their room at the top of the house. My sisters fell asleep to the sound of my father drunkenly bemoaning the growing list of those "out to get him," my mother screaming at him to shut up or to listen to her complaints for a change. These were my sisters' lullabies. I didn't sleep. I stayed awake each night until the raving stopped then snuck up the stairs to make certain they were asleep. Only then would I shut my eyes. Once I carried a loaded gun with me when I went up to check on them. While my father had never offered us violence, I had no faith that this would continue--his ravings became increasingly strident--the list of his "enemies" grew rapidly. They clung to a doggedly material view of the world that offered them no joy or comfort, no purpose beyond existence.
When I was thirteen, however, my own spiritual hunger became sharp, as it often does in adolescence. But I had no guide. My grandmother, responsible for most of the upkeep of my sisters and myself as the family disintegrated was Methodist. That gave her strength but little joy. She ultimately left it behind some years later in favor of finding her own way. Other relatives were wishy-washy Catholics, a couple of Jehovah's witnesses, and a smattering of communists, agnostics, and at least one follower of Dianetics. Neighbors were no help--the outside world is the enemy is situations like ours.
But I found at least the scrap of a roadmap in two books. In seventh grade I was reading “Lives of a Bengal Lancer” by Francis Yeats-Brown. In a chapter about his time as prisoner of the Turks during the First World War, he described Yoga breathing exercises that he used to help control his fears. I studied the techniques, however sketchy his description, and practiced the exercises as he set them forth. They worked. I could relax, even step outside myself for brief periods. It made the nightly wait for silence endurable.
And a few months later, I bought a paperback copy of T. Lobsang Rampa's “The Third Eye.” This book, first published in 1956, purports to be the autobiography of a Tibetan monk. It created something of a stir in the nascent Eastern religions movement born of the late Beats. To this day there are conflicting stories about Rampa's real identity. Some claim he was an Irish plumber out to make a quick pound, others say Rampa was the pseudonym of a genuine lama--I've even heard it was the Dalai Lama!--but it scarcely matters. The descriptions of Tantric rituals and exercises were informative enough to emulate. About the time Tim Leary left Harvard and started on his electric quest, I began experimenting with meditation and trance-induced ecstasy, not the drug, the state.
For about three years I regularly induced a trance state through a combination of breathing, mantras and individual exercises I developed on my own. I had no idea what I was doing, really, except escaping. If there is any one thing I remember about these journeys, it was the incredible sense of freedom I felt--not physical freedom, although there was an element of that, but freedom of the soul. I was not bounded by the grim materialism that formed my parents' prison. They could not follow me into the Otherworld. Here walls were illusions, the earth a stepping stone. Here I was free from fear.
It was during this period that I first began to write and first looked at a painting that had hung in our house for years--done by my uncle when he was still in his teens--and realized how marvelous it was to capture so much feeling on canvas with paint. I began my life as an artist during these times.
But the Otherworld was a perilous refuge, although I didn't know it. When you embrace ecstasy and travel in the Otherworld, you journey in the world of spirit. And without a guide, without some sort of preparation, this can be a frightening journey.
When I was sixteen, I stopped. Until recently, I was uncertain why. I only knew that something happened and I'd left the Otherworld--not to return until middle age.
Within two years, my parents’ demons had staked me out as fresh meat. My senior year in high school, I couldn't start the day without a shot of scotch (and another to get through fifth period math class.) I still made art, but I was locked in a cycle that haunted me for decades--periods of intense creativity and periods of oblivion.
I am telling this because you must know my history to understand what comes next. This is not a "poor me" confessional. I have dealt with much of it, that which I haven't dealt with is finding it harder and harder to hide from my probes. And a couple years ago, as I started to take charge of the demons that haunted me all those years, I embarked upon a renewed spiritual journey. That journey is on-going. In my next installment I will share my thoughts on spirit and the spiritual journey. It is this journey that gave me insight into why those lonely bones rest in the forest; insight to what so traumatized that boy into trying on his father's demons as his own.
After I'd primed my spiritual pump, it wasn't long until I heard the call of the Otherworld once again. One day I was watching the celebration of the Eucharist and I suddenly experienced the Ashvamedha--the Vedic Horse Sacrifice--superimposed over the Anglican ritual. This wasn't an hallucination--the vestments were not magically transformed to the garb of northern India 6,000 years ago, the priests weren't intoning Sanskrit. But the Christian imagery of the Eucharist was stripped away and the deep structure of the ritual--the ancient cycle of death and renewal was manifest. I don't think the Ashvamedha was significant--I was reading a selection of hymns from the Rig Veda at the time--but it could just as easily have been the Greek tale of Demeter and Kore or the Egyptian myth of Isis and Osiris.
Nor did it happen at a cognitive level--it was a mystical experience, an experience of emotion and of spirit. Indeed, choosing to describe my experience as seeing the Ashvamedha, is only a point of reference, inexact words to describe something that is, at its most basic, indescribable. It was a powerful experience, albeit a confusing one. I ruminated about it for several weeks before I decided that it was a calling to revive the ecstatic practices I'd abandoned over thirty years before. And furthermore, I knew my first task was to go back into those woods--that birch forest--and find those bones and deal with them.
When I talked with my therapist about this, he was both supportive and a little dismayed. Supportive in that he saw it as something of a breakthrough--a tap into my spiritual and emotional side that he hadn't been able to peer into as yet. And dismayed because I didn't, at least to his mind, seem properly terrified by what I was proposing. But I wasn't terrified, not in the sense that he wanted me to be, certainly. But that isn't to say I didn't have a profound respect for it all. After all, I'd been through it long before. Then, I went blindly, not cautiously. I had no guidance of any sort, just instinct and a couple of brief passages from two books. I had no real sense that I was touching the world of Spirit.
But now I had decades of reading myths and sacred texts. There were many books dealing with shamanic technique and practices from around the world. The internet was filled with sites ranging from serious scholarship to making the X-Files seem mundane. I programmed my computer with the beat of a frame drum and started my walks.
I'm not going to take up time describing these initial journeys in detail. The experiences were highly personal, in some cases exhilarating, in others harrowing and painful. But in short order I found myself standing once again in that forest, looking down at the bones.
At this point my therapist and I disagreed pointedly about the next step. He was encouraging me to view these bones as symbolic of a psychological "death" a point where I shut myself off from the pain and shame of my parents’ alcoholism. He very much wanted me to attempt to open a dialog with that boy, to get him past the point of "death." What I intended to do was find those bones and give them a decent burial.
I believed then and now, that attempting to "reach" that teenager would have been futile. His death was a true death--not physical of course--I'm here writing this now. Rather it was a spiritual death. I died and my spirit then entered some demon haunted world where it dwelt for a number of years. I didn't know on a conscious level that I was in a demon world. It looked just like the one I'd left. The same people were in it. The sun was as bright, the clouds as gray, but it wasn't the same world. However, at some level, I knew I was in a sort of spiritual afterlife and spent my time alternately working at my art, perhaps as a means of redemption. and seeking oblivion through a gleeful mixing of alcohol and downers.
When I finally realized that I had been, and indeed still was in this Otherworld, my therapist and I disagreed about the nature of oblivion. I had to explain at length, again and again, that this was no quest for the "oceanic," the comforting pre-conscious warmth of the womb. Rather I sought a deeper oblivion, the oblivion that existed before creation--before spirit moved and existence came to be. And with equally gleeful illogic I didn't want oblivion permanently. Suicide, at least physical suicide, was never an option. In fact, I insisted on it being a temporary oblivion. I once referred to these times as "chemical vacations."
I actually stopped the downers by the time I'd reached twenty after a particularly scary blackout involving a motorcycle and the states of Wyoming and Arizona. But it was much longer before booze lost its glamour. And to this day I remained bemusedly bitter about the fact that Quaaludes hit the streets about six months after I'd given up on the downers. My senior year in high school I would have sold my family to white slavers for 'ludes!
So when I found the bones, I erected a small shrine to them, lit a candle to St. Jude on their behalf, and then set about the next phase of my quest--determining what had killed me so long ago.
When I was a very young man, perhaps thirty years ago, I wrote a horror novel. Looking back, I realize that it wasn't very good, although I did save some ideas and snippets of characters for later work. I let my father read the manuscript and at the end, when those characters who'd made it through the ordeal had finally put the enemy down and turned to the ruin of their lives to start up again, the book just ended. My father asked "what is their reward?" "They live," I replied. He looked puzzled, then troubled. "After all they've been through, that's it. There's nothing better for them? Their lives just continue as if nothing had happened?"
He seemed deeply disturbed by this notion, that, after all this struggle and loss, that their eventual triumph brought nothing else. They were not elevated to exalted status. No one stood up, held laurel wreathes over their heads, and called out to the adulating masses "Praise them with great praise!" They weren't given the keys to what was left of the city. No one handed them a cashier's check for a million bucks. But they didn't die, either. And the next morning they knew that today, at least, they weren't going to have to battle for their lives against a faceless power that seemed to know their minds and weaknesses. As I said, the novel wasn't much--I read a couple chapters a few years ago and winced.
But as I wrote the first two essays in this series, as I told about finding the bones of the boy in the woods, as I thought about my father's terrifying descent into alcoholism, and my own years clawing at the edge of that same abyss, I wondered why, in the end, I was able to pull myself out while my father was dragged down and down and down. And I thought of that time, all those years ago, when my father put down the story with grief in his eyes because the characters received nothing more for their pains than life. Life itself was not enough for him. Not that it necessarily was for me, but somewhere, somehow, I saw more potential in "just life" than my father had.
I only remembered this incident a year or so ago. And as troubling as this memory is, I think it was this understanding of how bereft he must have been that finally allowed me to get past the hate and disgust I'd felt for him most of my adult life--hate because of the senseless way he'd abandoned my sisters and me as he retreated into the bottle, disgust as I watched him dissolve into a puddle of gray ooze that was scarcely recognizable as human. And anger and disgust with myself on those occasions when I felt myself being drawn after him, into the same abyss. I realized that he was incapable of synthesizing joy from life. He appreciated beauty, art and music, a peaceful valley on a spring morning, but there was always a melancholy aspect to these things for him, as though they were not part of his life, and never could be. He could see them, respond to them, but somehow, in his heart, they were never "for" him.
Recently, when I'd completed a sculpture and stood back to look at it, I knew that at no point in his life had my father ever truly felt as I did at that moment. He never felt that same sense of completion, of satisfaction that my idea had come to life in my hands and stood before me, very much as I'd seen it first in my mind's eye. He was always the kid with his nose pressed against the window of the candy store, never the kid inside, tapping his coins on the counter to get the proprietor's attention.
At my father's funeral, one of his oldest friends spoke about how the Great Depression had imprinted itself on my father's psyche. The deprivation of those times--that he'd experienced and that he'd seen others experience--had left him with a keen sense of the injustice of the world. It was a sense of injustice that he took personally. But it had done something else as well. It had left him a dogged materialist. He rejected, even despised anything that touched upon the Spirit. In all my life, I never knew him to set foot in a church of any kind--he would stop at the doors as though the hand of God barred him personally. He professed to believe that all who sought the Spirit were deluded, and if they weren't deluded themselves they were charlatans, out to delude others.
And yet he read mythology voraciously. There were over 6,000 books in our house. I know because whenever we moved--and we moved at least once a year from the time I was thirteen until I finally abandoned my family at age nineteen, and sometimes two or three times a year--the largest component of the move was books. Boxes and boxes of books. He would go to liquor stores for their boxes because they were stronger and of a size that, when packed with books, wouldn't be too heavy to lift. I'd first read the Bhagavad Gita when I was ten, in a Mentor edition I found in the bathroom one night. On our shelves you could find several different versions of the Bible, translations of the Koran, the Upanishads, collections of native American legends, African myths, myths of the Greeks, the Romans, the Norse, the Egyptians. Frazer's “The Golden Bough” was perhaps his favorite book. And like Frazer, my father did not see, reflected in all this lore some glimmer of universal spiritual truth, but rather evidence of a great falsehood. He read these myths and tales looking for the material explanations behind them and there had to be a material explanation. Even the notion of metaphor was lost on him because metaphor is immaterial. Simile he could understand but metaphor seemed to him to be one step away from metaphysics and hence was simply wrong.
And still he and my mother, whose spiritual leanings were unknown to anyone, sent me to a Lutheran parochial school for first, second and third grade. Go figure. Both my parents went to their graves without explaining to anyone that peculiar contradiction. My grandmother believed that they wanted the status of saying their son was in a private school. My uncle thought it was because they didn't want me to cross the street. Who knows! I've even had it suggested to me that perhaps he thought that if I saw firsthand what utter nonsense it all was, that it would cure me forever of any religious feelings. And perhaps that suggestion was the closest to the mark, because it damned near did--as least as far as Christianity went.
For decades after those first three years of elementary school the notion of church gave me the habdabs. Oh, I could enter a church, especially a Catholic one, but only during the off hours, when it was quiet. I felt uncomfortable during services, should I go occasionally with a friend or lover. Later, I lost that discomfort with services in general but to this day I have not set foot in a Lutheran church. I can handle Methodists, Baptists, Mormons, Coptics, Catholics, Anglicans, Moravians, and Pentecostals. But if I hear "A Mighty Fortress" booming on the organ, my first gut reaction is to fire off a dispatch to Rome requesting an Inquisitor or two be sent with all possible speed. But, if it was my father's intent to drive any spiritual notions from my head, well, he failed.
As I said, I read the Bhagavad Gita when I was ten, the summer between fifth and sixth grade I read the King James version of the Bible cover to cover. I read about the Norse gods and the Olympians and what I knew--KNEW--was that all these stories were true. I couldn't tell you then how I knew this, or what I even meant by this. I understood that they were not facts, like two plus two equals four. But when I read them I felt something within me vibrate. And I knew that that something was not material, that it was transcendent.
When I announced to my therapist that I was going to seek the primal Spirit, the raw, unedited spiritual experience, what I didn't say to him was that I never expected to find it. In my mind, it was a quest, like the Grail quest, and that the power of the quest was in the quest itself. Through this quest I would make sense of my own spiritual confusions and form some sort of order to them. I believed in my heart that Spirit was something that could only be approached obliquely. You can experience Spirit but never know it, and I knew that the quest was best undertaken, at least at that time, by picking up where I'd left off those many years before, sending myself into ecstatic trances, embracing the world of the shaman.
I followed a sparrow, my totem guide, through a looming black wall that looked like smoke but was as impenetrable as steel. I burrowed into a hill through a cave that became a vagina and was reborn into the forest. I danced through that forest with hundreds of others, naked in the firelight. I found myself splayed on a stone altar while my mother cut my flesh away with a flint knife. And I found myself in a deeper place, where there were no images, no sounds or smells, no sensations at all except the resonance of spirit. It was there, in that place where dark and light have no meaning, where flesh is a myth, that I came to feel something of Spirit.
I came to feel that every true religious, every mystic, every artist, every seeker of whatever calling will, as a matter of course, confront that raw, primal Spirit. It is not an ephemeral quest after all, it is essential. Even Sartre recognized this, although his metaphor was purely materialistic in outlook, when he discussed confronting the essence of existence after purging oneself of all the overlays that we heap upon ourselves in the course of daily life by immersing oneself in ennui.
This confrontation is a transcendent moment, indeed, the word “moment” is simply a metaphorical reference point, because the experience of spirit takes place out of time. The moment might last a heartbeat or eternity, it is impossible to say because it has no analog in the material world. For all Sartre's philosophy to the contrary, it is a thing of pure Spirit.
It is a transforming experience. The literature of saints and mystics, ecstatics and artists, even existential philosophers is rich with accounts of the experience. These accounts shimmer with metaphor but if you try to look beyond the surface for the substance of the encounter, if you look with rational eyes, if you try to explain the experience in terms of neurons and axons, of serotonin and acetylcholine, you will fail. You will fail because, in the end, this experience takes place outside of the physical world, outside of the emotional world.
Jung offers that religions exist, in part, to buffer us from this experience, to provide spiritual sunscreen that keeps us from being burned by the raw power of spirit. In part, I think this is true. But I also believe that these disciplines exist to parcel out the experience a bit at a time, to make it nourishing as opposed to mutating. Bite-sized morsels of this experience are dispensed under controlled circumstances, a piece of bread and a sip of wine, a handful of maize cake, the roasted flesh of the horse. The meditations of monks, the asceticism of Brahmins, the illness of the shaman, the ritual ordeals of tribal initiations, all are designed to prepare the individual for this encounter. To give the mind and psyche and soul a lifeline out of the experience. The experience is useless if, as can happen, it destroys the individual. And all the mystics, all the saints, all the shamans and poets know, if they cannot express, this one essential truth--that the experience is dangerous.
Even with all this preparation the outcome is uncertain, at the moment of spiritual transcendence, anything can happen. A person can emerge from it as Rasputin or Mother Teresa. Indeed, I suspect that all religion, all ritual exists to diffuse the experience, water it down a bit for general consumption, and to forestall the end of days. I can think of no better metaphor of what would happen should a large number of people experience this confrontation with spirit without these buffers than the Rapture anticipated by charismatic fundamentalists. The bumper sticker that reads "In case of Rapture, this car will be unmanned" says it like it is. Boy howdy, does it.
Because it has happened before. Ten thousand years ago something happened to humanity. A social order that had served us for 300,000 years was swept away in a matter of a couple millennia. We entered the experience as small bands of hunter gatherers and emerged living in stone cities. Before this experience we were a part of the world, living essentially the same as our brothers the bears and our sisters the salmon. Then we were cast out, the world had become hostile, a challenge to be overcome. All the tales of the end of days, from Ragnarok to the Kali Yuga to the Revelations of St. John the Divine foretell the future, but they do so because they describe the past. They are all echoes of this transcendent experience for which we, as a species, were unprepared. The whole of the human race experienced this.
Just as I, as a youth, ashamed and desperate fled to the realm of Spirit to escape, and unprepared and uninitiated, turned a corner in the otherworld and ran smack-ass into SPIRIT.
I do not know what happened next, but having thought on this and meditated, prayed and dreamed I think in my innocence, I experienced a moment of Grace. When I came upon spirit it saw me, and in pity did not transform me into a stag, to be run to ground and devoured by my own hounds. Instead, it killed the boy to spare him pain he could not endure and said, "These bones will lie here, at peace in the forest. Seek them and when you are ready you will find them. And then we will see what will be." It left me as dead in my spirit as my father, but with one crucial difference--a spark. The blackness was not total and at times that spark burned as brightly as the star of Bethlehem, at other times it was as faint as the first stars of twilight but it was always there.
And so, I perceived things, however bleak the moment, with a different sense than my father. Life itself was not enough for him because, for whatever reason, he simply closed himself off to a part of life that made it whole. He was like a starving man who is brought to a groaning table, takes a mouthful or two, then turns his back on the rest of the feast, and walks away bitter because he is still hungry. I believe he sought oblivion because some part of him desperately craved spirit but he could never overcome his fears. Perhaps he tiptoed through the woods or jungle, sensing the presence but never daring to part the foliage and in the end, snuck away, ashamed and disappointed. In my ignorance I went whistling through the woods, came around a bend in the path, and stepped into the full presence. I didn't have time to be afraid before the encounter, I had decades afterwards to explore that fear in full.
For years, when he was in his cups, my father liked to tell a tale from his young manhood. While he was in college, he went to a psychiatrist for a year or so. He was troubled with a recurrent nightmare in which he was in a jungle and being stalked by a lion. No matter how he would run, the lion would always catch up to him. Once the therapist asked him, "Do you have a gun?" "Yes," my father replied. "Then why don't you just shoot the lion?" she asked in return. One night he did just that and the dream never came again. He always looked upon that moment as a triumph.
But now I believe that psychiatrist did him a profound disservice. If I could go back and talk to him to him then, I would tell him to throw down the gun, strip himself naked and stand before the lion. I would stand with him. I don't know, but I feel, that had he done so, his life would have been very different from then on. I can find no better expression of my father's plight than to quote from the Isa Upanishad, verse three:
There are demon-haunted worlds,
regions of utter darkness.
Whoever in life denies the Spirit
falls into that darkness of death.*
And that brings us back, in marvelous mandala fashion, to the start where I talked about those characters in my novel. Although the story ended, their lives did not. They were either changed by the experience or they were not. If they were, perhaps some were changed for good and some for ill. Because, at the end of all the questing, the ritual, the prayer, the transcendence, we come back to this--tomorrow the sun will come up and it will be a sunny or a cloudy day or perhaps it will storm. The news will be good or bad. We will brush our teeth and shower and poop and have breakfast. We will go out to make art, or sell widgets, or hunt mastodons. In short, tomorrow life will go on.
And having passed through all this, passing through all this continually, for Spirit never leaves us, it is part of us and we are part of it, whether we know it or not, whether we accept it or not--we are left with life. And if we have truly learned from our quest we will realize that saving face is not important, that slights and insults seem trivial, our pride is supplanted by satisfaction. We learn that life need not be a losing struggle, that Spirit has offered us all a moment of Grace. We cannot suddenly throw down all the trappings of civilization, clothe ourselves in skins, and revert to our primal selves. But we can all look beyond the surfaces of our lives, to the deep underlying currents. We can see past the imagery of the Eucharist or the Ashmaveda and experience, however fleetingly, the deeper truth within.
We can find those bones in the grove, deal with them, and set our feet once again on the path through the forest. And the way may still be dark and dangerous, but the forest is no longer haunted.
Donald R. Walker, 2003
* From the Penguin Classics edition of The Upanishads, translated by Juan Mascaro.