[Following is the preface to my memoir, Outsider's Reverie. It can be purchased from Amazon.com. $10.95 for paperback, $9.95 for the Kindle edition.]
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This project was first suggested by my friend Joseph Soares, now at Wake Forest University, more than twenty years ago. His reasoning was that it would provide an example of a life path far from the money-centered conventionality of the 1950s in which I grew up and might prove helpful, both for its positive insights and its negative ones, to some young people considering alternatives to the commercial mainstream. The idea lay fallow for a long time. Then in the spring of 2008 another old friend, Peter Camejo, called to ask if I would serve as editor of his memoirs. I had known Peter when we were both active in the Marxist movement in the 1960s and 1970s. He in later years ran for governor of California, three times on the Green Party ticket, and served as Ralph Nader's vice presidential running mate in the 2004 presidential elections.
I worked closely with Peter from April 2008 to his untimely death that September. His book, North Star, is slated for publication early in 2010 by Haymarket Books. Working on his manuscript led me to think I should take more seriously composing my own. This book is the consequence.
I spent the majority of my life absorbed by subterranean currents far from the American mainstream. That is not to say these were not venerable schools of thought of some antiquity that exerted influence on the broader culture. I grew up in a home steeped in what is called the Western hermetic tradition, the largely pre-Christian lore of ghostly apparitions, spirit guides, star charts, and the astral plane. An unseen personage my parents spoke of frequently was the dead thirteenth century crusader knight Father Randall, who had personally instructed them in the arcane mysteries before I was born.
In high school in the 1950s, under the influence of Colin Wilson's The Outsider, I decided to renounce any conventional career and commit myself to an esoteric quest for mystic experience, rather like the hero of Somerset Maugham's The Razor's Edge. I explored the doctrines of Gnosticism, the Hellenic mystery religion, visited the coffee houses of the Beats, and, following the example of Aldous Huxley, experimented with peyote.