The Yeti Society

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One of the persistent contemporary American myths is of a giant, hairy, human-like beast, or Bigfoot, predominantly haunting the Pacific Northwest rainforest. But it is not a modern myth - it is a very old one. Long before Europeans arrived, indigenous native tribes across the vast continent had as many as one hundred names for it: Sasquatch being one that survives today. This myth intersects with another, thousands of miles away in the remote Himalayas, equally as old: the Yeti.In more recent times, on the highest mountain range in the world, inexplicable tracks in the snow and ice have left modern mountaineers baffled. These giant footprints uncannily echo those found in North America. Despite modernity and the pushback of nature, all attempts to extinguish the myth of Bigfoot, Sasquatch, the Yeti have failed. It remains a powerful and resilient mystery.

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Chapter One - Mohammad Went to the Mountain

ePub

Mohammad made the people believe he would call a mountain to him, and from the top of it he would offer up his prayers for the observers of his law. So the people assembled; Mohammad called to the Mountain to come to him—again and again, but the Mountain remained still and some of his followers muttered, but he remained unabashed and told his followers to remain patient and then a call came from the Mountain—but only he heard it—it seemed to say to him, ‘Come.’ So Mohammad stood up and declared he would go, and so he went to the Mountain.

‘The Holy Light watches over us.’ That is what Mr. Khan would say to me each time he held this old Quran in his hand. Mr. Khan was old, but no one was sure what his real age was. I lived with him in the Hunza in the north-west of Pakistan—the great mountain range was all around us, but few walked this path, only mountain goats and Taliban fighters. But it was another mountain thousands of miles away that was Jabal al Noor or the Holy Light, where the Prophet received his first revelation and this was the reason why Mr. Khan was here and why we had constructed the tunnels and it was why all the Qurans came from far and wide—from places I never knew or had visited. I would carry the old Qurans for Mr. Khan. We would place them inside the great complex of tunnels that ran for over a mile that lay cut into the rock buried beneath the earth like a fox's lair and black as a starless night. Outside was a standing stone the sun had washed white, that was taller than any man and some said was as old as the mountains themselves. Mr. Khan created the tunnels because God had told him so after his visit to the Holy Light in Mecca. In the revelation, he was told the day of judgement was coming and that he, Mr. Khan, must send out word to all the lands of the Prophet and beyond, that all the words of God in the Holy book that had been damaged by accident, fire or through mischief were to be sent to Mr. Khan. If he could he would repair and then make them whole and send them back out to the faithful. Those that were beyond repair he must bury in a mountain till the day of judgement itself.

 

Chapter Two - The Story of the Great Ape

ePub

The Universal Soul exists in every individual,

it expresses itself in every creature,

everything in the world is a projection of it.

—The Shevetashvatara Upanishad

The Story of the Great Ape, how the wisest of men, the first Buddha, was once born as a great ape and lived as a recluse in the Himalayan forest. He did not look like nor was he like other monkeys, nor did he behave as such. He was kind and virtuous. A time later, a shepherd got lost following his goats into the mountains and reached the secret forest in the hidden valley. He was exhausted and hungry and climbed to the top of a tree to rest and be safe from the tiger that roamed these mountains. From his vantage point he spied the answer to his appetite, a fruit-rich tree. He moved very carefully, almost like a slow monkey, through the great canopy of the forest towards the fruit tree. Coming closer, the chatter of the birds, insects and other animals of the forest fused with the sound of the great river that carved through the valley. Eventually, he was at the tree and when he reached a branch laden with fruit to pluck them, his eyes were bigger than his belly. He took more than he needed for his fair appetite or for his good balance. What's more, he had overlooked the roots of the tree, which had grown out of a sloping cliff over a waterfall. The branch he held with his free hand, sustaining a good part of his weight, gave way. He lost the fruit and none fell into the pit of the crevice where he lay. He was sore but no bones were broken and he was still hungry. It would make no difference to try again as where he had ended up was deep with sheer hard earth and rock walls and no exit seemed possible. He cursed his goats. Then when he looked up, to his annoyance, one of them stared down at him. It was the longest time he had ever looked directly into the face of one of his goats. Even when he had held a ram down forcibly to castrate it, or kill one for meat, he never really looked at his animals or considered them in any way other than as a means to an end. He knew what a goat looked like, of course, but today he seemed to see it for the first time, for he saw much he had never ever noticed before—that the goat did not have a round black centre in its eye, but a horizontal solid black line as a pupil. This goat stared at him for so long that it left him pondering, was it just these goats or did they all look like that? Then he wondered why did his male and female goats both have beards? He had never ever really considered his goats worth looking at, but rather more looking for, if he lost them. Goats after all, he reasoned, would become feral and return to the wild at the first opportunity. He cursed his goat to get him out of his predicament, for he did know goats were as good at getting out of things as getting into them, having once found several of his goats bleating from the top canopy of a very tall tree. But at this, the goat was gone. It was then he remembered that he was chastised by an old woman who told him not to beat his goats so harshly, that the goat was a Vahana, a vehicle of the gods. A black goat, ridden by Kali. This was her realm. He would never have a wife or siddhi (special powers) granted, as the female Shaiva that follow Kali would know, and curse him back tenfold. The shepherd began to feel sorry for himself but still managed to be angry at his goats.

 

Chapter Three - Eve at Bluff Creek

ePub

Bigfoot is real. Absolutely breathes, eats, mates, lives, and they are our brothers and sisters, they are not animals, they are human beings with a soul, just as all humans have.

—Red Elk, of the Blackfoot and Shoshoni Nations

‘Bigfoot is the white man's name, the locals call it See'atko, Skookum, Oh Mah, Sasquatch—but there are as many names for it as there are indigenous tribes of our ancient lands they call North America and these names have been here as long as we have had stories to tell of them, a thousand years and more before the invaders came. That's what Snowstorm, medicine woman of the Karuk peoples told me and I can tell you, if it is a hoax, it is a hoax like no other, and if it is real, it changes everything; either way it is beautiful, real or not.’

That is what Ross said each time he spoke of the scratchy faded colour film. He was a scientist and as rational as they come. He declared himself a sceptic, a believer in nothing. Ross did not even believe his own eyes, having seen an animal up by a creek on the Kalmuth River. It stood up, its back to him, then stepped—he said he thought he saw it take at least one to two steps forward—then it was down on all fours into the woods, disappeared from sight almost immediately. It looked odd, but he then managed to convince himself later it was a bear. But he knew being alone in the woods, amongst bear, coyote, mountain lion and deer, the sound of owls and unidentified bird call, one could easily listen too much to one's own power of suggestion. Sometimes things looked odd in the wilderness. People themselves also became odd, alone in such wild places. Even though Ross was a sceptic he talked endlessly of this film.

 

Chapter Four - Crazy Wisdom

ePub

Drive-in Saturday

In Tibet and Bhutan and parts of Nepal, amongst the respected elder teachers or Rinpoches, sometimes a unique holy man appears. Some say such a man can appear in two places at once, that such a man can manufacture objects or phantoms, conjure things, just through pure thought alone. The respected Rinpoches have a name for such a manifestation and for the secret tantric teaching that goes with it.

It was 7th October 1950, the Year of the Tiger, a Saturday and it was turning to night. Chogyam Trungpa even as a boy of eleven years old was a fiercely intelligent and insightful young monk. He enjoyed constantly questioning his tutors, as well as himself. He was having an encounter with the highly revered Guru Rinpoche, a respected lama from the 7th century—he was not dreaming, just meditating. Earlier that day, and without permission, he had unfurled the large, heavily brocade-framed thangka after invoking, again without permission, the Nechung Oracle, taking out the circular mirror of divination, the Melong, with its sacred mantra, and placed it on his chest. He had wrapped himself with seven layers of clothing, including the final ornate golden silk robe. Heavy for even a healthy adult monk, Chogyam submitted to laying on the floor as he struggled to stand up wearing the 80 pound regalia that crowned the ensemble, along with the harness that held the four flags and three victory banners, all of which was now threatening to nail him to the ground as he struggled on the floor. Laying there he felt a sudden horizontal vertigo, as if he was drowning in the sartorial pool of multiple layers that promised to transport the wearer into the future. Yet Chogyam, as he stared up into the hollow of the stupa, was conversely thinking only of the past. For it was an illustration on an exquisite 16th century thangka roll that had captivated him and he was magnetised by an image of a figure. Unlike the usual deities and multiple demons, saints and monks and lay people, a blue-faced and hairy white bipedal figure, which was oversized in proportion to the mountain which it lay beside, jumped out at him. He had difficulty re-rolling the vast painting and then cramming all the Oracle clothing and its unwieldy equipment back into the impossibly small chest he had pulled it out of. Luckily its location had been revealed to him in a transcendent state, by the deceased Crazy Wisdom master Rinpoche Khenpo Ghanshawr. Quickly he closed the rusted lock he had picked, hiding all evidence in time from his teachers. The excitement of his illicit act, combined with the rush of blood to his head under the weight of the regalia, served to burn even deeper the rendering of the hairy man into his mind. And it was thus that he happened to be contemplating the Yeti or gigantic snowman, or what is known in the west as the Abominable Snowman. Looking back, Chogyam grew a little confused. Was it then, wearing the heavy Oracle clothing flat on his back, or was it a little later while meditating when the visitor from the past appeared. Regardless, the 7th century time traveller asked Chogyam a question. Would he like to join a secret occult order, The Yeti Society? Chogyam, being Chogyam, argued with his time traveller friend and said that occult orders have long lost the significance that was once attached to them in Guru Rinpoche's time, and at this epoch they have ceased being orders at all and have become merely societies, where all sorts of special aims are pursued; for fostering particular vanities and the like, with internal hierarchies and beset with insufferable egos and trapdoors for even the initiated to fall through.

 

Chapter Five - Mistress of the Beasts

ePub

‘Will you go to Circe's hall? Swine, wolves, and lions she will make us all, beasts of her courtyard bound by her enchantment.’

Homer, The Odyssey

Inside China, on the border with Tibet, in a valley, amongst a scattering of smaller moon lakes, beneath a sacred mountain resides The Kingdom of Women. The Mosuo tribe—the last such matriarchal, matrilineal society on earth.

The women live independently of their husbands. All rights in any way related to property, money, land and children rest with the formidable Mosuo women. Women choose their own lovers from men within the tribe but are beholden to none.

Ama, the grand matriarch and sorceress, would, on special occasions bring out and wear her bone apron.

She was not someone you would want to ever fall out with. Rumours abound of bad luck, illness and death around those that were unfortunate enough to end up on the wrong side of her. If this was true or not or if she encouraged this was asked of her by her own granddaughter Lazo one day, and even though Lazo was just six she still got a fierce look from her grandmother Ama for daring to ask such a question,

 

Chapter Six - Mountains as Women

ePub

The Sherpa that inhabit the lands that run off the base of the Himalaya do not have a word for the top or the summit of a mountain, only for the mountains themselves, the highest of which, the greatest of which, they honour with a feminine name, Holy Mother.

Women inhabit mountains and the great mountain, Mount Everest itself, is referred to as Holy Mother. It did have several other local names before being named Everest after the Welsh surveyor Sir George Everest who strongly objected to any attempt to it being named after him. He sensibly protested that his surname had no equivalent in Hindu and that its correct height was calculated by an Indian mathematician Radhanath Sikdar, who had himself started a journal in 1854 for the education and empowerment of women. Sikdar's credit for writing the complex and technical aspects of the great survey manual was erased by his colonial masters. George Everest extolled and supported Sikdar but it did not get him far, neither did his explicit request that on no account should the Holy Mother be named after him. It was ignored by his successor as Surveyor General of India and by the Royal Geographical Society and so to his total embarrassment it became known as Mount Everest.

 

Chapter Seven - In the Beginning Was the Garden

ePub

The first time he saw her, he knew that he was in love. A song was going through his mind,

‘Break on through to the other side.’

And all the while his neighbour's beatbox pumped out.

The soundtrack was in perfect symmetrical stereo, The Doors in his mind and his ears.

He held Eve. He had picked her up at the drugstore.

‘Come,’ she seemed to say.

‘I love you,’ she seemed to say.

He called out her name, ‘Eve.’ But Eve was just a cover girl on the magazine he held.

For $300 a month you get what you pay for—maybe a little less. The Kenmore Hall Hotel—this was his home. One of the few places where somebody, anybody could afford to live, hovering above the poverty line or drowning below on a welfare cheque. Its interior could be summed up in three words: grimy, dirty, ugly. His room housed a bed, mirror and sink. A raw pipe stuck out at the head of the bed with a fire sprinkler on the end. His only concession to comfort being that he had stretched his budget to a room that did not face the main road. However, there was no closet. There was no carpet. Thick heavy brown paint provided the floor covering. A single picture hung above the sink, yet it contained no image, no pastoral scene, just some embroidered words, boxed in a cheap faded plywood frame.

 

Chapter Eight - He Who Sees the Unknown

ePub

ENKIDU and the Epic of Gilgamesh 2,300 BCE.

Enkidu was powerful and fierce. Hair covered his body, hair grew thick on his head and arms and hung down to his waist, like a woman's. He roamed all over the wilderness, naked, and far from the cities of men. He ate grass with gazelles and grazed as other animals, and when thirsty, he drank from the waterholes, kneeling beside the antelope and deer.

One day, a human hunting and trapping animals saw him, drinking with the animals at a waterhole. At the astonishing sight of the man-beast Enkidu, the hunter's heart pounded, his face went ashen, his legs trembled and he was numb with terror. Praying he had not been seen and terrified of the man-beast's wrath—fear gripped him like death: had he seen a god?

He went to his father, ‘Father, I have seen a savage man-beast that is like a beast yet he walks like a man, he drinks with the animals at the waterhole, he has muscles like rock, a back broad like a mountain. He is swift and powerful, I have seen him outrun the swiftest animals. He lives among them and eats grass with the gazelle. He drinks water from the waterholes like them and does not fear even the lion if it drinks beside him. I cannot approach him, I am in fear. He fills the pits I have dug to trap the animals, he tears out the traps I set, he even frees the animals, so I catch nothing. Is this a bad omen? Is this a task that I must slay him or drive him away?

 

Chapter Nine - The Monkey Has No Astrology

ePub

‘There shall be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars’

Christ.

Luke 21:24–26

The signs read: ‘You Are Here’.

So they contemplated cartography. The maps of the land, maps of the oceans, maps of the stars, musical maps, maps of the mind and body, words as maps, the lexicon of maps, the mathematicus of maps, the map of maps, the mother of all fucker maps. I remembered how the Dr. said, ‘A map, in order to be a map, must constitute a minimum of two paths.’

That last day in that lost year, I was on a detour. The Dr. was driving the Pontiac—but not looking at the road, nor at a map—but a book from which he was partly reading aloud, whilst also driving the car. He asked questions to which he also gave the answers—neither waiting nor hinting at any response from me. I was doing my best to ignore him.

‘Are you able to describe exactly the arrangement of rooms, including the position of doors, in the Samsas’ flat in Metamorphosis? Do you know for instance that the first half of Proust's In Search of Lost Time was no fairy tale but a morning spent on opium in his brothel in Paris?’ I momentarily thought about replying, but he was already into his next sentence.

 

Chapter Ten - When the Stars …

ePub

‘Tyger Tyger, burning bright,

In the forests of the night…’

—William Blake

One day Xan awoke and changed his mind about everything.

He had dreamt a strange dream just before dawn, that he was beneath the Tiger's Nest, it was on fire. He saw a man and a woman coming from the flames, riding upon a pregnant tigress and waving a snake as a whip. ‘Wángguó!’ they both cried.

Wángguó is a Chinese word that expresses loss of country, the threat of extinction.

The young Xan collected things, mostly to do with words, books, poems, newspaper cuttings. When he got his first mobile phone he would sent texts, but they would be so long that his friends said they were far too long to read, so would scroll to the end and ignore the greater part. He was frustrated whenever he got a one-line reply by email or even worse just three words or two or one by text. His friends loved computer gaming and it was the only subject they were happy to talk about at any length by text or email. One morning he changed his mind about everything. He started first by experimenting and sending shorter messages of extracts of poems to his friends. His girlfriend laughed at him once and said instead of writing such long emails and texts, and forget about writing books as books are too long to read, he would be better off writing, you know, fridge magnet poetry, posting pictures on Instagram, get some followers Xan, or it's just not worth it. He told her that trying to express the truth was nuanced and took more complex dialogue. She was not impressed: she told him to ’…just make stuff up, pretend you are doing stuff when you are not; most people take one carefully put together photo and use it to build a narrative that they are having a great time, but they are not. You are always complaining Xan, so you are not having a great time anyway, so what's your problem?’

 

Epilogue One

ePub

It is still a long way up, it's a long way down. Despite all the assisted oxygen, guides and modern equipment and NASA inspired hydrated foods, still the mountain claims lives in the hundreds; the harsh rock, ice and snow seriously injures many more, and the vast 2,400 km range of the mountains along with its attendant earthquakes that have helped form it, have a far greater death and injury list; but it is the many man-made wars in its past and that continue in the countries with their shifting borders and nationalist and tribal and religious conflicts that sit on its escarpments and land below that add to the vast toll and far surpass any natural disaster or ‘accident’. The mountains and rocks and ice and snow and plateaus remain uninterested in our human affairs that barely skim its surface, even the odd nuclear test inside a bore-driven deep mine in the Kashmir, and the new tunnelling and road constructions and airports in a competitive frenzy being set up by the rival economic and military emergent powers China and India, were always thought by philosophers to remain insignificant. However, in this new age of the anthropocene that could be finally changing.

 

Epilogue Two

ePub

Erik Weihenmayer is blind. He climbed further than the sighted can see when he reached the summit of Everest in May 2001. Some years later he was contacted by an excellent horse rider Sabriye Tenberken who is also blind with a suggestion that he assist her and six Tibetan children to climb the 23,000ft Lhakpa Ri in the shadow of Mount Everest. All the children were blind. The children were brought up in an orphanage created and ran by Sabriye for Tibetan children who were abandoned by their parents, scorned by the local populace and deemed unclean by some traditional devout Buddhists who see them as incarnated with a disability because they were sinners in a past life. Given none of the advantages and all of the disadvantages, they become street children and beggars in order to survive, open to all kinds of exploitation and cruelty. In Tibet blindness is a problem as some people feel the blind, even children, are possessed of demons. Tibet is a lot more complicated behind the fantasy and undeliverable projections of spiritual awakening and spiritual materialism that afflicts its westerner devotees. The great Himalaya are besieged by climbers and hikers as in the West it's important to be on top, to ascend the very summit. In the East it is not so. Sabriye tells the children the top is not important, it's more important that they are all together and they are having fun.

 

Epilogue Three

ePub

George Mallory and Andrew Irvine were less than a kilometre from the summit of Everest in 1924. They lost their VPK camera—a vest pocket camera. It was long thought if found it would reveal if they were indeed the first humans to reach the summit.

A young Pakistani boy, Mohammed was himself lost in the vast Himalaya after trekking from Hunza into Tibet and down across and into Bhutan. In a shifting glacier at a lower reach of the Holy Mother he found an intact 1920s VPK camera. After he recovered he told his tale of buried Qurans and Taliban, snow leopards, distant cities and Tin in Tibet. But he told no one of the camera he found. Then a year or so later with a darkroom specialist he found a way to develop its contents. Out of the dim red light a faded black and white image of two period-dressed climbers appeared, other images at varying altitudes, both at the summit and on their descent, then two shots of strange oversize footprints in snow and ice, and then one last shot of what looked like the arm of a hairy bear. It was difficult to make out if this was a hairy paw or a hairy hand holding the mountaineer's ration tin? Mohammed did not wait, instead he ran into the street jumping, shouting in all the languages he knew, ‘I Mohammed went to the mountain. I found the Yeti, I found the Yeti with Tin in Tibet.’

 

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