The Old Man’s Ninth Secret

 I had met him in a bookstore near the aisle on esoteric religions and mysticism. After a brief conversation he convinced me that he was a mystic. I became his disciple. This was in St. Louis in 1985 when I was a chemist. He told me that I might be destined for greatness—if only I could learn from him the nine secrets that humanity lacked. One by one, he would pass them on to me, when I was ready, he said. But if I were not sufficiently pure, humanity might have to wait another thousand years for a mystic of his degree to be born.

 After my years of repentance and service, he began to share them, one by one. When he told me about linking capacity-building and helping others, for example, he showed me many ways to boost my capacity. When I learned about ongoing personal relationships, it was through our relationship that he taught me. He told me to help people whom I thought were completely unworthy and evil. I experienced horror as I watched them use the skills I had taught them to harm others. I began to have my doubts about this old man. He brushed off my accusation that I had participated in evil by saying that the people who were duped or harmed would, in these cases, ultimately benefit. This did not allay my doubts, even when he had me seek out and serve the people who were engaged in helping others. Nor did my doubts go away when I multiplied the good that they did tenfold or a hundredfold through my ongoing support of them and my guidance on capacity building.

 I reasoned that this old man was a man of power, whether of good or evil, so that if I could learn all of his secrets, I could turn them to good, even if he wasn’t. Then he started to put me through experiences of transformation, putting me in close proximity to suffering people so that I could never forget it. He also introduced me to many people who were obviously kind, wise and good. Curiously, some of these people called him their master when I felt no emanations of love from him. Instead, I sensed only power and craft. But these others had an effect on me. I felt the opening of love in myself. There were sometimes moments when I was overwhelmed by the power of love. The old man came back and bade me to leave these good people, but for a year I delayed.

Then he revealed to me the Inner Golden Rule as he called it, and he had me learn about the systems that life depended on. By then, he was very old. One day he told me that, like many mystics, he knew ahead of time the date and circumstances of his death. There was little time left, he told me. The time that I had delayed might have ruined everything. He explained to me some vicious cycles which relentlessly harm humanity. Then, on a day of joy, he opened my eyes to the chain reaction and its power for humanity. But then he said there was one more tool of power that remained to be learned—the key that would either help inspire people to join the chain reaction and undergo the transformations I had undergone—or prevent them from it. Mysteriously, he told me that it was a key that could be used for good or evil, depending on the will of the ones who knew the key. Currently, many on Earth were using the key for evil and their greedy purposes, for it was a hidden hunger that humanity had.

 One day he commanded me, “Guess which hunger is never quenched for almost all humans. For unless you try and fail, you will not value the key that you see operating every day of your life. But you can guess only once each day. And the time is short, for I will die six days from today. I cannot die here, but on a mountain peak in Switzerland, since a mystic must always die at the top. Pack your bags, for our flight is in two days.”

 “It is sexuality, for that is a fire that is never quenched?”

 “No,” he smiled, “Even though the fire’s never quenched in you, little one.”

 The next day I said, “It is certainly acquisitiveness, for people never cease to want.”

 “No,” he said, “I mean the secret hunger of humanity.”

 The following day as we boarded the plane I said, “It is of course the hunger for God because the saints have said that only in God will our hearts be at rest.”

 “Look around you, fool!  Do any of these people look like they are hungering for God? You have wasted another day.”

 We flew overnight and landed in Zurich in the morning and took a train to Zermatt. It was summer and that first day we sat in the shadow of the Matterhorn at a café while my master sampled various smelly cheeses. I took the opportunity to guess again, “The hunger of humanity is to be loved.”

 My master spoke with his mouth full of cheese and crackers, “You’re right, but that’s no secret. That’s about as obvious as hunger for food. Let’s buy some climbing equipment. You will need rappelling lessons too, I suppose.” In the afternoon we walked to the base of the Matterhorn. With boulders scattered over a barren landscape it was already as dead and forbidding as the moon. I felt a chill as I witnessed the desolation and thought about the fate of humanity if I failed in my mission.

 The next day he showed me how to rappel, and he demonstrated his ability to climb better than me, even though he was 78 years old. As he rappelled masterfully down the side of a hundred-meter cliff, an idea hit me and I shouted down, “The hunger of humanity is for control and self-mastery.”

 “No!” came his shout, and “no!’ came the echo of his shout. That evening over dinner, I thought for a moment and shook my head. “It’s hard to believe that you’re going to die in two days.”

 “Believe it.” he said, and continued to eat, savoring every bite.

 The next day, he spoke to me over a breakfast of walnut muesli and rich creamy milk. “I can tell, little one, that you are far from understanding and will need help. If people have this hunger satisfied during the day, at night they think to themselves, “It was a good day!” but if they don’t get this hunger fed, at night they feel empty, but don’t know why. We took another hike in the afternoon, and as I passed some of the tiny, frail blue gentians that grow in the mountain passes, I said, “The hunger of humanity every day is for beauty, meaning and completion.” Without missing a beat he said, “Here’s another clue. People in power use this hunger to manipulate others and the efforts involve billions of dollars.”

 The next morning, I woke up to find him in the next bed looking very yellow and ill. I offered to call a doctor but he said weakly, “I must fulfill my…destiny.” He was so weak, he could hardly finish a sentence. “What time?”

 It’s “8:20.” I said.

 “Then help me up, and get me a strong cup of coffee. The helicopter will be here in ten minutes!”

 I knew nothing of a helicopter. I had thought we were going to climb the Matterhorn, taking the easier path up. I helped him to a sitting position and called for room service. I helped him put on a pair of pants over his pajamas. And a coat which he zipped up after I helped him to the bathroom. Just as he finished, I could hear a helicopter approaching.  Room service arrived as we got to the door and the old man took the coffee on the way out. ‘Bring the equipment, hats and gloves and follow,” he commanded to the young man who appeared.

I had to sling his arm around my shoulder as I helped him along. He slumped in his seat and then said only one word to the pilot, “Eisendorf.” He closed his eyes and I could tell he was summoning his last remaining strength. A half-hour later, we had landed on top of a small mountain, in a tiny resort town consisting only six buildings, three on each side of a road.

 The pilot had to help me lift him out, and over to a bench where we put a hat and gloves on him and bundled him up against a harsh cold wind. He slowly turned his head and smiled at the beautiful panorama of trees and brilliantly lit snow below and the ring of larger mountains around us. It was another sunny day, but bitter cold on the mountain top.

 He turned to me and every word he spoke was an effort. “With the nine ways, you will be the world surgeon who saves humanity.” He closed his eyes and I grew afraid that he was on the verge of going. I shook his arm, “Master!  What is the ninth secret?”  

 “The secret … is,” he gasped and sputtered and seemed to be looking beyond me into infinity. “…is” he repeated and then he groaned loudly, closed his eyes, and slid down on the bench and was still. I was in shock and the pilot and I looked at each other in disbelief. But then I heard the old man suddenly inhale. He lifted his head to look me in the eye and said, “drama!” He smirked and had a twinkle in his eyes. Then he did look off into forever and dropped his head again, this time for good.



  People seem to need drama the way many animals need to play. Many people are engaged in a drama that could be titled “How much can I get away with and not get hurt, or not get caught?” This drama comes in many forms, big and small: drugs, illicit sex, unprotected sex, overeating, overspending, crime, driving too fast, lying and many other forms of indulgence. It is a destructive drama.

 Instead of taking a chance at self-destruction, why not participate in a creative drama? I can think of three:  “In what way can I rescue someone in need? (through volunteering or personal support)  “How can I transform myself and broaden my horizons?” (This drama includes your spiritual journey and also intimate personal relationships.) And “What can I create that is beautiful or useful to others?” (This is the drama of building or creating.)


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