Reflections on Mt. Shasta

Last night I drove back from Yreka to Mt. Shasta at dusk. I was the only car on a flat highway, headed toward the mountain. Now, I must tell you that Mt. Shasta can be an awesome sight, rising two miles up out of a flat grassy plain, in winter’s dusk. The sunlight’s last rays were a mixture of colors, illuminating the snow-covered mountain and giving it a purplish glow, phosphorescent in the dimming light. The plain extended out from the mountain about five miles in all directions, cleft by the highway. The sight gave my senses the impression of being out at sea, approaching some magnificent Polynesian atoll.

I was mesmerized. Don’t get me wrong; I’m not a mountain Moonie. The mountain probably does not deserve all the attention given to it by the local mountain-worshipers, for it is indeed just a huge hunk of volcanic rock, covered from ten thousand feet up by a dusting of inanimate snow. Nothing inherently magical, it’s sole celestial claim being just the magic it arouses in the viewer’s mind. And heart. And soul.

But yet it caused my spirit to stir, and my mind to reflect. If a tree falls in the forest, and there is no one to hear it, is there a sound? Likewise, if I were not here, would the same indescribable beauty exist? In an instant, I reflected: Yes!

Yes, a thousand times yes! The sight had caused me to leap from the observer to the vastly inspired participant; it caused a reaction in my mindless heart that was not of the material body, or of the material earth. And that reaction, I know, is spirit, and the essence of God is this spirit, and God is yes, inanimate matter, and reflections of the mind, but is also, also…this!

A flash in my mind: If I were to die at that instant, then my body would decompose and take its place with the rock and the snow, but this intangible, indescribable thing within me would live on. And that’s what God is, I thought.

And who would hear the sound of the falling tree in the forest or who would appreciate the mountain at evening if I were gone? And that answer came in an instant – yes, it would appreciate itself! The cold wintry stillness was alive, a living thing unto itself, humming with photons and pi-mesons, appearing and reappearing in some divine microcosmic soup that experienced itself, over and over again.

I was sure of it, that the entire landscape, right down to the frost on the grass, was sentient, that is, conscious, and capable of self-appreciation, a kind of living Gaia. And with this thought came a reassurance that, despite the losses I had seen in my life, that everyone would live on, living in spirit, in the same form as my sense of the awesome, majestic mountain.

Were I younger, I would have sighed or laughed (never wept) but I just kept driving. It was about six o’clock, and it would be dark soon.

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