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About the Author
Jock Whitehouse is the author of The Ledge of Quetzal. A professional writer who studied under Rod Serling, he has spent many years in Mexico, first as a child and later as an adult, where he experienced the mystical native traditions that inform the mythological core of his allegory. He lives in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico.
Having worked as an animator for Walt Disney, and with over 35 years as a sculptor in bonze, Tom Knapp has to his credit more than 20 lifeand heroicsize bronzes in public venues in the USA and around the world, including the Rose Bowl Hall of Fame sculpture commissioned for the front of the Rose Bowl Stadium in Pasadena, CA. Today, Tom specializes in printmaking and illustration, and is actively represented in more than fifteen major galleries in the United States and Mexico. He lives in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico.
Read an Excerpt
The Ledge of Quetzal
A Magical Adventure to Discover the Real Promise of the Mayan Prophecy
By Jock Whitehouse, Tom Knapp
Red Wheel/Weiser, LLCCopyright © 2009 Jock Whitehouse
All rights reserved.
"I've had a vision," Daniel said to his guides.
The guides stirred within him.
"The vision I've had is that we are all divine."
After days of walking and climbing, Daniel was high in the mountains of tropical Mexico. Early morning clouds and mist enveloped him like a shell of pearl. Trees dripped with moisture and the smell of wet soil rose up along the path. High above, beyond seeing, the chilling call of a chachalaca led the way. Daniel was in the company of his guides, who spoke to him with one voice from within. He was on the last days of a journey to the high ledge where the god Quetzal would appear before him. There, he was to receive the final realization of his being.
He had climbed and climbed up into the clouds since before dawn. As he left the village below, Daniel could see in the faint first light of day a small brown and gray snake moving through the grass by the side of the road. Possessed for an instant by total understanding, he picked up the snake gently and fed it into his shirt and around his waist. He could feel it tightening against his skin. Now his sandals were soaked through, chafing his feet. "Do I really belong here?" he wondered, still astonished at how much had happened and how far he had come. To him, this was the land of innocent Indians who went to church, planted corn, and ushered kindling-laden burros along steep hillside paths—of mystical shamans who used peyote, made sacrifices, and did crazed dances in the smoke of the gods.
Through all these years, the guides had led him from his home in the United States to this remote place of transformation. It had been a journey through some of the darkest valleys he had ever known, a journey whose purpose was often revealed through the power of epiphany.
Already, warm air had begun to rise up from the valley, urging the mist before it, but Daniel didn't want the mist to leave. It embraced him and the trees and stones and the mountain, and he felt comforted by its moisture, by the sounds it carried and the smells it awakened. He wanted to breathe in its wholeness. The feeling reminded him of times when he yearned to be joined with all his surroundings—joined in a oneness he couldn't touch. Now, in this instant, he was bathed in it.
The path grew steeper as he ascended. He leaned on his staff and small stones skidded out from under his feet. He looked down and saw his white skin smeared with mud and marveled again that he was in sandals. This was a land of origins and simple things. A land of sandals. He had allowed himself to be drawn into the unfamiliar in order to be transformed. But a part of him feared how terrifying the transformation could become. The bird beckoned ahead. From time to time, his guides spoke to him, urging him to pause, to feel the power of his surroundings. Close to his ears, he heard droplets of dew fall from the trees and pelt the impermeable shell of his jacket. He felt the steepness of the climb and the weight of the pack on his back and he was out of breath.
A number of days ago, when he began this part of his journey, there had been times in the early morning and after sundown when he could barely see the path a few feet before him—a path marked by traces of dark ground occasionally bounded by rocks and grasses and the bare roots of trees. Sometimes the path simply vanished, enveloped in the dimensional whisper of air through pine needles. Where was the heart to follow? The sounds? The dampness? The darkness that covered his eyes? He had to allow his guides to move him through the ferns and around large boulders to find his way once again. In the beginning, years ago, it had always been frightening to let his guides take over, because he had been so utterly lost and knew how lost he could again become. Trust, the guides had said. And each time they led him through darkness into light, his trust grew.
He remembered only a few nights earlier climbing a long path in the dark, up the hill to where the ceremony had taken place. It was a flat, charred piece of ground. There, in the glow of two large fires, he had looked into obsidian eyes, seen dark painted faces, felt their hands all over his body, their hair on his back, and touched their bare feet stomping among coals in the dust. Amid the dancing and the noise, the priest Bartolomeo, a small, frail man, suddenly stepped from the darkness into the light of the fires holding his hands apart. The people became silent. Two women gently pulled Daniel down to his knees before an altar, then knelt on either side of him. A pair of hands rested on his shoulders.
When all was still—as still as the incense that hung in the air—the priest came to him and placed three fingers on his left wrist. He felt his heart begin to pound uncontrollably. Then the priest touched both of his temples. After a suspenseful silence, the priest intoned, "Susto," and a murmur of affirmation swept in from the glow of the fires. For the first time, Daniel noticed that a cross made from grass had been planted atop a small mound of earth that formed the altar. Small flowers were strewn about and candles burned around the front edge of the mound. A tall dish at the center held the smoldering copal. The women beside him began to moan from deep within their throats. They patted their thighs, then put their hands together in a form of prayer with their index fingers folded inward. They patted their thighs once again. The priest held a bouquet of albahaca, a white carnation, a thin branch from a pepper tree, and a large specked egg. One of the men held a cup to the priest's lips and the priest sipped. Then the priest turned and from his mouth sprayed both the bouquet and Daniel's face with the clear liquid. It felt hot and smelled of sour, fermenting plants.
The priest began to grunt with short breaths and passed the bouquet over Daniel's head, then brushed down his front and back, making sweeping motions over his entire body. The moans from the women beside him grew mournful as they grabbed handfuls of dirt and threw them into the air. When the priest had swept even the soles of Daniel's bare feet, he placed the bouquet to the left of the altar and broke the egg into a glass of water. Then he took up another bouquet from the right side of the altar, this one with a red carnation, and yet another egg. Again the priest sipped from a cup held to his lips and spat the fermented juice onto the bouquet and onto Daniel. He could feel the closeness of the priest's body leaning over his own and the heat and grunting of the priest's sour breath.
After what seemed an extended tunnel of time, the priest laid his hand upon Daniel's head and, looking up into the dark heavens, released a long, mournful howl that reverberated from his reedy frame. The women on either side of Daniel took him by the shoulders and shook him violently back and forth and from side to side. Then they went to the altar and each withdrew long strands of grass from the cross and wrapped them around Daniel's wrists and around his head. The priest had now broken the last egg into a second glass of water and was gazing intently through the sides of both glasses. He came to Daniel holding the two glasses before him for Daniel to see. "Su susto," the priest said. In each glass, the whites and the golden yolks, magnified by the water, formed deep symmetrical swirls shot through with burning reflections of the flames that filled the night. Daniel saw the milky threads of his fright that had been cleansed from him. And through the water his fright gazed back at him with the glowing yellow eyes of a great cat.
Now with his guides on the mountainside, he suddenly felt like crying. He stopped. He felt as if he were being taken up into a realm that knew all his secret yearnings—a place that could hold his heart in a light he had never known. In preparation for his journey, the voice that spoke to him when he died told him that, before reaching the ledge of Quetzal, he would experience levels of recollection and realization along the way. Already many levels had been awakened within him. At each one he had stepped outside of time to assimilate the great truth being offered him. They were all similar, and yet different in very important ways. Now, on the verge of crying, there was a part of him that didn't want to move on, but rather wanted to linger here at this edge of becoming, teasing himself with the possibility of total dissolution.
His body surged with energy. The snake felt the energy and stirred for a moment. His arms and shoulders and heart felt full. There seemed to be a force of incredible love rising up from the mountain. He put his hand on the peeling bark of a tree. This is a holy place, he felt. He wanted to give himself to it, to dissolve into the soil and into all his surroundings. His calves ached from the climb, but the pain felt as if it belonged.
This was not a place without contrasts. There were pockets of great suffering left by those who had come before him, and the mixture of suffering and love awakened in him a feeling of compassion. He wanted to merge with it. Living and dying seemed to be the same. Without warning, he burst into tears and laughter, holding the small pouch that hung from his neck as if to steady himself.
Soon, through the trees a few yards down from the edge of the path, he noticed a small pyramid of stones—like an altar, perhaps waist high—that had been mounded up on a piece of ground that seemed to have been cleared and smoothed over for this purpose. As he moved toward it, he saw that a bundle of twigs wrapped in a vine and flanked by two small circles of ashes and charred wood had been placed before the pyramid. "I'm not the only one who feels the power of this mid-way place," he said to himself. "This is a place of preparation."
He crossed his legs and sat before the stones, hands resting palms up on his knees, facing west. Eyes closed, he breathed in deeply to relax his body and drain the churning from his mind. Moist air flowed up around his neck and face. Soon, his breathing settled into a deep and pendular rhythm, and the shell of his awareness extended outward an arm's length beyond his skin. Amid all the sounds and textures of the mountain, he began to find stillness. With the ledge only a half day ahead, for long moments, moments without time, he allowed himself to be, preparing himself to receive. Here, high on this rapturous mountain, he would soon touch the largest truth of his life.
He had come such a long, long way.
There was a time when daniel seemed very happy. He had a wife and children, more than enough money, everything he could possibly want. They lived in a beautiful countryside of rolling green hills, farms with barns and tractors, sheep, dairy cows, and restored old stone houses that spoke of hand-made things when people lived close to the earth. He never mixed with his neighbors. They were farmers and he was a businessman who commuted each day to work. Around his house there were tall oak trees and maples whose leaves turned to brilliant red, yellow, and orange in the fall. Narrow roads were laid out like gray ribbons over the land, their edges defined by pastures and fields of corn and wheat, and fences made from stones. In winter, those same roads became like streams of snow meandering through stubbled fields.
For many years he thought the work he did was important, and that was enough to please him. He had a relaxed manner and got along with everyone. He was able to bring people together and elicit the best from them. Many thought he was headed for the top. He, however, never felt such ambitions, and so he didn't think much about it. Advancements came easily and, if he made it to the top, then so be it.
What he did think was that, even though he enjoyed his work—even loved his work—there was always something missing. Sometimes at night, when he went out to close the garage door, or when he carried the garbage out to the road for early-morning pickup, he looked up into the starlit heavens and felt devastated. It was all so beautiful, so serene, so balanced and complete. There in the night, instead of going back inside to his family, he sometimes walked up to a lushly mown knoll and just lay down, looking up into the infinite sky. So many feelings came over him in these moments—weakness, sadness, emptiness, helplessness. More than anything, and for as long as he could remember, he had wanted to become one with the great panorama that, in those moments, enveloped him. He could not have known then the depth of his yearning or how dramatically its power would change his life.
One afternoon at lunch he asked a friend, "Don't you feel there's more to life than just this?" The friend laughed. "Lots of people feel that way, but not for long," he said. "It's a dangerous thought. It leads to unhappiness. Besides, look how full your life is." The answer made him uneasy.
Not long after that, driving to work, he realized that, for quite some time, perhaps a couple of times a year, he had caught flashing visions of people as empty bodies. They moved around, worked on things that weren't important, and made a fuss about things that had no meaning at all. Beneath that, he saw their aloneness and helplessness—and beneath that, he saw their fear. There, he saw them as children inflicted with great pain. That vision seemed real, much more real than what they had become as adults. The visions were just bursts across his awareness that disappeared as quickly as they appeared.
"Look at mankind," he sometimes said to himself. "Then look at the universe. What are we doing? What am I doing?" The thought made him feel momentarily lost and anxious. Then he just forgot about it. And for a long, long time now, he had forgotten about it. Then—each quite suddenly, although years apart—his life, his work, and his health began to change.
One September evening as he came home from work, his wife met him on the porch. Two packed suitcases stood beside her. "I'm leaving you," she said. Just a week earlier they had dropped their youngest child off at college, and now his wife was saying goodbye. For a long moment, he couldn't understand what was happening. It was as if a wave of scorching air had suddenly rolled through to suck his breath away. Fire rose up from within him, and then he began to rage. "How can you do this? How can you do this?" He waved his arms and strode through the house. "How can you do this?"
By nightfall she was gone. Alone in the house, the waves of anger receded and in the darkness lay bare a wound whose depth and richness would take ten years to explore.
The first nights were filled with long hours of chaos. Daniel was enveloped in an emptiness that seemed to expand infinitely outward. Sensations surged through him and over him—first one and then another, each pure, of one substance, and paralyzing. The tumult was everywhere, flowing over his skin, inside his chest and throat, in the distant sound of a barking dog. There was nothing by which he could orient himself. He was drowning in darkness. He lay in the middle of his bed, large, empty, cold, yet soaked in sweat. Every creak in the house was magnified. Sleep, instead of smothering him into itself, lingered over him, pierced again and again by the realization of what had happened. And when there was sleep, it became a twisted nightmare. He was ushered into a landscape of geometric shapes that didn't fit, a nauseating repetition of equations that didn't equate, endless searches for something he couldn't define. Once awake, his logic broke apart. The structure of his mind seemed to crumble. He was in psychological free fall.
He knew no coherent thoughts at times like these, only unfamiliar visitors that bathed him in the hot and cold of their breath. His arms, throat, and shoulders became conduits for fear, leading directly to his heart. Any lightness and grace he had known seemed to have been driven from his experience, and he wouldn't recognize their absence for months to come. And always, there was a chronic, gnarled hunger in his stomach.
He had never felt so helpless. In spite of his nearly fifty years, he could find nothing he believed in strongly enough to hold on to. This sense of separateness from the universe would take years to heal. Now the darkness opened up beneath him, and it was vast and bottomless. Late on that first night, he dreamed that his body was a massive piece of coal and he awakened to throw up. He had no idea what was happening to him, and happening in such large denominations.
What he felt happening to him was a violation of everything he believed. His family was breaking up in the face of solemn vows to the contrary. In his heritage, divorce was never an option. Now a cloak of decay and impermanence hung over everything he saw.
Nighttime and sleep rolled like a ship in a storm. His dreams were contortions of the real and the unreal, beyond what his mind could grasp. He was experiencing his first conscious encounter with an unknown part of himself and he could find no horizon.
What's more, he was blind to the scale of isolation that engulfed him. Instead of feeling embraced by the universe, a creature of its creation, he stood alone against an immense and impersonal void with nothing more to hold on to than his meager self. When crisis came, it stripped away the familiar and opened a vast wilderness of the unknown. Relationships, proportion, balance, sanity—all seemed like structures from a distorted dream. Whatever had worked in the past suddenly seemed to fall apart; he struggled to form a new cosmic order.
Excerpted from The Ledge of Quetzal by Jock Whitehouse, Tom Knapp. Copyright © 2009 Jock Whitehouse. Excerpted by permission of Red Wheel/Weiser, LLC.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
What People are Saying About This
More than a fine story, this book invites the reader to triumph over fear and experience the universal mysteries of spiritual transformation. (John Major Jenkins, author of Maya Cosmogenesis 2012)
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
It was a struggle to get through this one, which is unfortunate because the premise sounds interesting. However, it came across as trite (the illustrations were horribly cliche). Daniel, the main character, was difficult to empathize with, and from there it was difficult to engage as a result.
The Ledge of Quetzal: Beyond 2012 is a short book took me a long time to read. I just could not stay focused on this story, and kept yearning to read some of the other books I have stacked up around the house. At times I was confused about what was really going on because the story line just jumped from one thing to the next, other times it flowed quite nicely. The only constant was the lack of consistency in the flow of the book, which was quite distracting to me. I did like Daniel, the protagonist. I believe the author did a fantastic job of making Daniel¿s fears and personal growth real. So while this book may not be to my liking, if you like new age personal journey stories you may like this book.
If you do not have a backgrond in the subject matter this book is not for you. It does not explain terms leaving the user to wither research them on their own or just keep reading. The character development is lacking. I ended up putting the book down 2/3 of the way through because I had no vested interest in Daniel or his journey.Perhaps a reader with a different backgroud would have enjoyed this novel more, but I found it neither enjoyable nor engaging.
To be honest, I don't know what I think of this book. It has some excellent ideas in it, but it seems kind of preachy. I'm not sure if that was the format of the story (Daniel is being directly told these things after all) or poor writing. Also, the end seems rather purposely vague, as if "only those who are spiritual enough will comprehend this book". I thought of Siddhartha by Hesse often as I read this book, which I think aspires to it. Both were about man's spiritual journey, both had simplistic structure and obvious symbol. However, the imagery of this book wasn't quite as magical or beautiful as Hesse's work, amd the journey not quite as complete.
In the same way that poetry communicates with the reader on a different level of consciousness, Jock Whitehouse's narrative of his hero's magical journey to ultimate surrender evokes a deeper recognition of truth than any autobiography could have. Using interesting time jumps and juxtapositions, the book interweaves Mayan history, myth and archaeology with the search of Daniel Bancroft for the meaning of the visions and experiences that draw him to the Ledge of Quetzal in Mexico. Daniel tries to fit into society's norms, and fails repeatedly. It is only after a "chance" meeting with the teacher who would connect him to his intuition and his guides that he starts on the path to wisdom and awakening. In a magical experience reminiscent of Indiana Jones, he experiences complete surrender to divinity and is transformed by it. The apocalyptic visions of 2012 become a time of testing for all humanity. Daniel becomes the mirror of our divinity to anyone who has the courage to look and accept it. Will we look in this mirror and see our divine selves and choose the way of love and paradise? Or will we reject this reality and see only chaos and despair? Either way, we will be right, so let us choose wisely.