When browsing second hand bookshops, one occasionally comes across old hand-written diaries. Now, unless the author was famous, it’s hard to put a value on such a thing. As an historical curiosity they’re clearly worth something, though often contain only self conscious ramblings. So, when I discovered the diary of Thomas Marston at a flea market, I wasn’t expecting much. It’s a thick Quarto sized journal dating from 1870 to 1873 – a lot of spidery ink and faded pencil, pages stained and torn, the cover battered and half missing. Its condition alone suggested a hard life and an epic journey. I was intrigued by it. It cost me £10, and it turned out to be money well spent.
Marston was a captain in the Queen’s Highland Light Infantry, posted to the northern Indian province of Himachal Pradesh. The early part of the diary recounts the minutia of military life on the frontier of Empire, which is interesting enough, but where it gets more interesting is when he describes a hunting trip he made while on leave in the summer of 1873. Since, as far as I’m aware, this diary was never published in print form, the information Captain Marston came into possession of during that trip is now known only to me, and in a moment I’ll be passing it on to you.
Travelling with an Afghan cook and an Indian manservant, Marston spent several weeks working his way up into the Himalayas, along tracks that are now well known to backpackers ascending the peaks and glacial valleys towards Tibet. The hunting was poor, and Marston berates both the weather and the incompetence of his cook. By no means a genial chap, he comes across, at least in the earlier part of his narrative, as a both a racist bigot and an upper class prick.
Eventually, wearied beyond cheering he begs shelter in a remote monastery. Here, a mixture of boredom and curiosity at the “superstitions” of heathen natives leads Marston to observe and describe the meditation techniques of the monks. Though hampered by language difficulties, he is able to make a good accounting of it and, presumably having little else to do, because of the still atrocious weather, tries out the practice himself. At this point the narrative takes on an almost psychedelic tone, as if Marston were suddenly imbibing opium, as he describes the peculiar psychical effects he experiences. What’s also interesting here is the change in Marston’s attitude, as reflected in his narrative – becoming more introspective, and humane, as if we are witnessing the elevation of his consciousness to a more sagely plane.
Marston spent six weeks at the monastery – rather a grand term for what he elsewhere describes as: an unfortunate congregation of mud and stone buildings clinging precariously to an unstable mountainside. He was there from August 23rd, and departed in late September, which suggests either his leave entitlement from the British Army was incredibly generous, or we’re not getting at the whole of the truth here and Marston was in fact some kind of spy. Although this sounds like something from a Kipling novel, it’s not beyond possibility, nor is what happened next.
Marston and his party climbed from the monastery to a ridge overlooking the valley, from where they intended turning West and heading to Kashmir. As they do so, weeks of incessant rain releases a catastrophic mudslide which engulfs the valley below, swallowing the monastery and everyone in it. Marston’s party were lucky to escape with their lives.
From this point Marston seems at pains to detail the meditation method, as if aware now he might be the last man alive who knows anything about it. As a method, it’s very similar to Transcendental Meditation, which aims to still the mind and open the gates to “transcendence” by the repetition of a word or a mantra. In the latterly “trade-marked” Transcendental Meditation, the mantra is considered personal and is passed on to the adept after a period of paid study by the “teacher”, but in Marston’s method, the mantra is derived by taking measurements of the lines on the palm of the hand. The angles between the lines are then reduced by a simple formula into a series of notes or tones that are hummed or even just imagined under the breath. Since everyone’s hand is different, this will yield a different musical “key” to enlightenment for each person.
To the uninitiated, it sounds like an improbable mixture of palmistry and numerology. However, although sceptical at first, I have been practising the method now for several weeks and the results are astonishing. Within the first few sessions I experienced a powerful sense of oneness and transcendence, an experience that has been repeatable and, quite honestly, mind blowing. I could, and probably will write volumes on the potential of this technique, but for now my aim is to bring it to the attention of a wider audience.
Listen up then, all you have to do is this:
Send me a scanned print of your hand, and non-refundable payment (by Paypal only please) of £5000. Then I’ll send you by return your personal mantra as a set of musical notes. I cannot guarantee success of course, as for all I know you may be tone deaf or simply doing it wrong. In the near future I shall also be organising a workshop, by invitation only, to a select group of the most attractive celebrities with whom I plan to share the method for deriving this mantra, since ordinary people are unlikely to possess the qualities necessary for this subtle aspect of the work.
Now, even after swallowing hard at that hefty price tag, I know you really want this method to be true, in spite of your natural born cynicism and the overripe smell coming from the rather cheesy fiction by which I claim to have discovered it. If you’ve not rumbled me yet, then let me say now I have, of course, made the whole thing up, and by doing so hope to have cast a light on our acquisitive natures, and on the all pervading belief that a thing is worthless unless we’ve paid a lot of money for it, also that there has to be a secret special key that will instantly and easily transform what we imagine to be the untidy imperfection of our lives into the solid gold of something infinitely better.
But the good news is you can learn everything you need to know about meditation for nothing. There are thousands of methods to choose from and none worth their salt will carry the label “secret” or a hefty price tag. Simply Google “Meditation Methods”. Explore them, and adopt the ones that appeal to you. Or you can follow my own (again free and fully detailed) method here.
The bad news is there are no short cuts to what we seek, no magic formula. We sit, and we practice, and though we do feel better for it in all sorts of ways, it’s counter-productive to expect transcendence, enlightenment, or any other peculiar psychic happenings, no matter how much we’ve paid our teacher. So, please, to be absolutely certain, don’t send me your hand print, I was being ironic. As for the price tag, there have been bigger scams than that, and always someone desperate enough to pay. So again, just in case: Michael Graeme doesn’t want your money, because, like Captain Thomas Marston, Michael Graeme does not exist, and neither does his secret method to transcendence.
Remember people sometimes might just be telling stories.
Lets be careful out there.