Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Meditation Helped Me Survive Death Row and 19 Years of Wrongful Imprisonment

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Damien Echols has an interesting article in Motherboard:

I am a magician.

I don’t pull rabbits out of hats, saw attractive young women in half, or wear a tuxedo. I practice magick, spelled with a “k” in order to differentiate it from slight of hand, and once upon a time I was sentenced to death for it.

My name is Damien Echols, and in 1993 I was arrested for three counts of capital murder in the town of West Memphis, Arkansas. Nine months later I was sentenced to death, and spent almost 19 years on death row before being released in 2011 when new evidence came to light.

Prison is a dark and stagnant place. It’s filled with the most cold, horrendous energy you can imagine. It feels like a kind of psychic filth that penetrates into your very soul.

Much of magick is about is learning to change states of consciousness at will. I learned to use meditation and ritual as shields. They prevented the hellish energy of prison from changing me and making me more like the people all around me—people who had given up on even trying to be human.

This is a story about how I kept my sanity.

***

I fell in love with magick when I was first learning to read and realized that such a thing existed. At about the age of twelve I discovered the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, and my life changed forever. The Golden Dawn was an order of ceremonial magicians that lived in the mid to late 1800s in England, and included such luminaries as W.B. Yeats, Pamela Coleman Smith, who painted the artwork we now know as the Rider-Waite tarot deck, and the notorious Aleister Crowley.

Crowley was the person who deigned that magick be spelled with a “k.” He was also a big part of the reason I was sentenced to death.

In 1993, when three eight year old boys were found murdered in my small town, attention immediately turned to me. Why? Because I was the town weirdo. I dressed in all black, had long hair, and listened to heavy metal music. As if this wasn’t enough to make me suspect in a small, hardcore fundamentalist town in the midst of the era of Satanic panic, I also practiced magick. Some of the most damning evidence brought against me during the trial was my love of knowledge of Crowley, and the fact that I owned Stephen King novels.

If you want to know more about the case, watch any of the Paradise Lostdocumentaries about it, as well as West of Memphis, the documentary I myself was a producer on. You could also read my book, Life After Death.

My interest in magick may have contributed to my being sentenced to death, but it was also a huge part of what allowed me to survive for the better part of two decades in the American prison system.

***

For a huge chunk of my incarceration—nearly nine years—I was in a super maximum security unit prison, where I spent 24 hours a day in solitary confinement.

Solitary confinement is like living in a vacuum in which no comforts exist. You spend every single moment alone, with nothing to distract you from the horror of your situation and no contact with anything or anyone that can possibly provide you with a shred of hope. Time ceases to exist, as there is no way to mark its passage. Noon is the same as midnight. Christmas is the same as the Fourth of July. All you can do is sit with your fears, waiting for the next time the guards decide to hurt you.

It was here that I decided to dedicate every single waking moment of my life to delving deeper and deeper into the realm of magick.

I had several teachers I corresponded with, including the priest of a Japanese zen temple who would travel from Japan to the prison in Arkansas to give me ordination in the Rinzai Zen tradition of Japanese Buddhism, the same tradition that used to train the samurai in older times. . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

26 November 2015 at 1:14 pm

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