by Cyrus Etessam
Times were hard for ordinary working folk in the English Midlands between the wars. Boys quickly donned the caps of men. 14 years was age enough to pass through the factory gate. The cost of keeping England’s far flung possessions in check fell heavily on the shoulders of common working people in the form of crushing taxes. Work was scarce and many, in search of a better life, fled to far flung corners of Empire before its dissolution a few decades later. Others came over from Ireland to work in the coal mines. My maternal grandfather, Richard Joyner, came to work in the mines until he died of “black lung” when my mother was very young. He had a beautiful tenor voice and used to sing The Rose of Tralee to her when she was a little girl. My mother, Elizabeth, then had to go to live with her Aunt on the English side of the family. They were, according to her, puritanical, staid middle class people who thought the temperamental child should spend hours listening to boring Sunday School lectures and made her wear the obligatory black Sunday School uniforms which were de rigueur at the time. Spending hours in Sunday school did not sit well with her. She was a Sagittarius, an adventurer possessed of a sharp northern sense of humour and and an Irish temper.
It must have been a dream come true for young adventurous Elizabeth when she met and fell in love with a handsome young Iranian graduate of Birmingham University who was in the RAF. They got married in ’41 and after the war, he got a job at BP (then under a different name). He was sent to Iran to work as liaison for the oil fields there.
His side of the family were a well traveled sophisticated lot belonging to the ranks of doctors, lawyers, ambassadors and the like. My grandfather had a real zest for life and excelled in horsemanship in his younger years. My mother loved him.
Neither of my parents were religious. My father was agnostic and thought all religions were for the ignorant and uneducated. He was nominally Anglican. My mother was saddened by the god-fearing hellfire and damnation thing that she felt Christ’s teachings had been twisted into. Her spiritual leanings were eclectic, mostly gnosticism, Indian mysticism and astrology.
I was born in Iran in ’46. After the Brits pulled out of India, they pulled out of Suez as well. This meant greatly reduced military and navel presence in that area. In ’52 Prime Minister Mossadegh saw his chance to nationalise the oil fields. My father suddenly was seen as a traitor and our home had to be guarded by troops. The political situation seemed to be deteriorating with no end in sight. A few years earlier, my sister was born in England. Now with two small children in the family, my parents decided it was too dangerous to stay in Iran. My father did not want to return to England, complaining bitterly that the country had gone “to rack and ruin” after the war, placing blame mostly on Prime Minister Lloyd George. Because of his knowledge of jet engine design, he eventually landed a job at GE in the States. At that time most planes were either prop or turboprop, but things were changing.
I went through the school system, mostly in Ohio, spending most of my time day dreaming. My father showed me how to convert an old DeWalt AM radio into a short wave receiver. I spent most of my time messing with my short wave and my telescope. I knew all the names of the major stars, their locations, spectral class, average motion, mass, mythology and astrological significance. When my father asked me what I wanted to be when I “grow up”, I told him I wanted to captain a star ship. When I was 16 the local bully bashed my head against the sidewalk. I came home bleeding profusely. My parents, worried about my mediocre performance in school, became further alarmed. In class I listened to and observed everything around me except what the teacher was saying. When I wasn’t ignoring the teachers, I spent a fair bit of time staring out the window. My parents decided that something had to be done and hoped that boarding school would somehow knock some sense into me. Finally it was decided that I be placed in boarding school…in Europe.
After spending some time in Europe and the States, I went off to India where my desire to connect to God-Source intensified. I felt a deep connection with the land. Everything I experienced felt intense and seemed to trigger deep soul memories. I felt as if I was re-living a past life. I joined a band of Sadhus, free spirits of India. We wandered the breadth and depth of the country visiting temples, staying in ashrams and sometimes sleeping in the rough. At one time I was walking alone on my way to Benares(Varanasi). I became very ill and thought I was near death. Penniless, homeless and delirious with fever, I could walk no further and I lay down under an old banyan tree on the outskirts the city. I said to myself, “Cyrus, old son, you’ve lived a varied and interesting life. Time to lie down and die.” Somehow I managed to drag myself into the city. To this day I don’t know how I did it. When I got there I felt like I was in a time warp going back to 3000 BC. It looked like an ancient Vedic city you read about in the Ramayana and other sacred writings. There were temples everywhere. Someone told me that if I drank the Ganges water I would be healed. I crawled down to the burning ghats where they piled dead bodies on funeral pyres and unceremoniously dumped the ashes into the river. Thick black smoke billowed up to the sky and the smell of death was everywhere. The water was filthy and black in colour. I had nothing to lose. I thought if this doesn’t kill me, it’ll surely cure me. I drank the water. It tasted awful. Two hours later I was completely cured and never got sick in India again. Believe me, that is saying something.
Don’t get me wrong. I don’t intend to convey romantic notions about India. It is no place for tourists unless you plan to stay in big air conditioned hotels, eat sterilised food and drink bottled water. If you veer from the tourist traps, you are faced with wall to wall flies, deadly snakes, insects and virtually no sewage system. During the monsoon season temperatures regularly climb to well over 100. It’s like living in a steam bath. Friends had told me that after being on the road in India, you’ll never be the same again. They were right. Every concept I ever had about how things were supposed to be was totally blown.
Back in the States, I eventually settled into a sort of humdrum existence working the usual slave jobs. People told me I was a gifted astrologer, but nah, I was too busy indulging in low self-esteem to be bothered. In Atlanta a learned about trauma clearing and emotional healing. This gave me profound insights on the nature of unresolved emotions and how toxic they can be. I learned how to use trauma clearing tools to acknowledge love and transmute my unresolved emotions. Finally in Atlanta I passed my astrology exams with flying colours and got certified and licensed. I am truly grateful for learning these techniques and I am willing to share them with anyone who may be interested. These days I prefer to do most of my traveling on the inside. When Ramana Maharshi was asked if he should relocate, he answered: “Where can I go? I am here”, thus epitomising the non-local nature of the higher consciousness. I am truly glad to have the gift of life. Every breath feels precious.
With love and gratitude, Cyrus
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