Allegory: The Prophetic Text that Preceded the Tragedy

As most of you already know, I am Laurie Efrein Kahalas, a survivor of Peoples Temple. But the attached text may be unfamiliar – little-known then, even now, a mystery I myself have not fully solved.

“Allegory” was/is a prophetic artwork about the Jonestown Tragedy, dating four years prior to the event. It is also a channeled work. That means that I did not conceive this like a work of fiction or fantasy, but that I listened as it was fed, or “channeled” to me line by line, almost like pulling threads through a needle, to weave a tapestry unknowable at the time. This happened in 1974, when Jonestown was a patch of barely-cleared brush – hardly a haven for mass exodus from the States, as it became three years later, much less the community which perished four years later.

Throughout the channeling, I was aware of an awesome, benevolent Presence who radiated great love. Despite that, the work that He entrusted to me aroused great fear: Namely, that however shrouded in poetic imagery, I was pre-recording the deaths of people I loved, who worked by my side day by day, and would later make their exodus to Jonestown and die; people for whom, with all my heart, I wanted our breakaway community to succeed and flourish.

Nor is there any precedent for an “Allegory.” There are no other “channeled, prophetic artworks” out there – much less of this caliber, specificity, or haunting eloquence. Glimpsing into the future is rare as is. Rarer still, such glimpses snare the weave of history, like the quatrains of Nostradamus; or cut too close to home, like poor Cassandra, whose warnings to her own father, King Priam of Troy, fell upon the deaf ears of ridicule and disbelief. When, in addition, art is factored in (“Allegory” is a full-length, stageable work), there are no known parallels.

But sometimes, indeed, acceptance or not, before our time, incomprehensible, or simply beyond our normal perceptions, we are given a window to glimpse ahead. I was given such an extraordinary glimpse – indeed, much more – into the most devastating event-to-be of my own life, the Jonestown Tragedy, years before it happened, and more startling still, as a profoundly moving work of art – one on the heart level, and of such an anguished intensity, that to this day, I am awed.

I also believe that I was given “Allegory” with great purpose. Notwithstanding its mysterious origin, certainly I do not claim any special powers in this regard. This simply happened to me, and it altered my perspective on reality forever.

I’ve tried to make this elusive genre accessible to the general public in a previous piece, “Premonitions.” That piece also includes an astounding (albeit only partial!) array of uncannily exact correlations between what was pre-written into “Allegory,” and what later materialized in real life.

The present piece, as a complement, tells a story to which Peoples Temple survivors can uniquely relate – how “Allegory” came into being in an environment not conducive to its happening. Indeed, I nearly didn’t write “Allegory” at all. I feared a terrifying, untenable clash if its scenario were wrong, and I also feared a terrifying, untenable clash if it were right! I felt impelled to proceed, but the subject was untouchable.

I was at the beginning of “Allegory” in the fall of 1974. It opens with:

“the wake of unprecedented [= the manner of mass death] devastation”;

Jim Jones stands “at the penultimate hour of tribulation” [= just prior to the suicide ordeal];

It is “dusk,” [it was];

“‘neath the dim fire of dawning stars” [= outdoors];

“clothed in heavy guard” [it was];

A child, “his progeny,” [= the infamous child custody suit] is “by his side”;

“Dusk shrouds each tender [= children] face”;

“There is no known means of escape” [there wasn’t from that remote locale];

“A nation [Jonestown, in expatriation, had become its own “nation”] is dying”;

“.in [such] agony, [that].no one speaks”;

A follower cries out, “Leave this place! [into the world = cry to get plane to go to Russia];

“itinerant one” [= one relocation/expatriation had already happened];

Jim Jones is saying that “no one [i.e., the world] knows why [we] ‘give all’ [= death]”;

“‘though the moment to intercede is past” [= (too late to prevent the assassination];

for the anticipated military invasion [because of the assassination] “has not yet come”;

“No, I am not numb” [= Jones denies drugging], “my nerve fibers bristle” [= claiming full, anguished consciousness;

He watches his people “plunge [= fall down] one by one [= the one-by-one death process], towards the sea” [= into death];

He envisions “the unmarked graves” [later, “a thousand unmarked graves,” of “foul-decaying flesh,” as happened] and explodes in an anguished rage;

“Swallows” [= those who brought a new Spring] instead fall to their deaths;

Everyone is drowning in grief;

It is going deep into the night, towards “thin dawn.”

This is where I was in the work (which was only the beginning!) by the Fall of 1974. Oh, “merely a poem”? Yes, shrouded in hypnotic, hauntingly beautiful language, but barely even “thinly-veiled”. In retrospect, of course, it was/is transparently about Jonestown, clustered with details, each one of which would later materialize exactly as pre-written.

It just was not transparent then. There were no reference points in then present-day reality, for the then-future event. I was rapt with metaphors, overwhelmed with outpourings of grief. I thought my heart would burst, but how could this be a real future event? It was terrifying to even consider.

I panicked. I realized in a flash of horror that, “I’m speaking for Jim Jones, first person, hours before his own death. A death that may not even be ‘real,’ with a leader who would rather barbeque me for the Fourth of July than let me speak for him, much less ‘at the penultimate hour of tribulation.’ I cannot let myself do this.” I did not even know if I could survive – mentally, emotionally, psychologically, organizationally, that is – were I to continue.

Then the strangest thing happened, right then, at the “I cannot let myself do this” point. Jim Jones brushed past me, a chance encounter in a hallway. There was no conversation between us. He stopped a moment in passing, not even looking at me, but spoke in the most gentle, reassuring tones that I had ever heard. It was a “revelation,” but unlike any I had ever heard before or since: “No one will ever understand you. No one ever understands me.” Then he moved on.

The words were simple – the import (albeit I realize, enigmatic) blew me away. But all it meant right then was, “I can let myself do this.” In retrospect, I am unsure to this day that it was “Jim Jones” who told me that, or some Being as mystifying as my Visitor, as it happened in such an eerie way. All I know is that it was spoken, audibly out loud spoken by Jim, and that it released me to channel the work through to completion.

And so the words continued to force their way through me line by line, listening, listening, as each phrase was crafted to perfection. I was relieved when it was finished, but also frightened. So I wrote a plea for help (hoping that explicitly using the word “frightening” [as I did] might secure the needed aid). But I got no response at all, save for a quizzical glare. It was the first fearful glimmer I had that Jim Jones the human being probably did not remember anything that Jim Jones the revelator had said!

I waited, anxious, but an encounter of this magnitude, with its breathtaking text, was not something that I could contain. So I made it known, very small-scale, what I had done, hoping against hope that I would not face devastation from the likes of “presumptuous,” “delusional,” or “wanting the leader dead,” and that organizational paranoia would not gravitate towards me.

My hopes were promptly dashed; my fears as promptly confirmed. I found myself rebuffed with near-brute force, as my “time warp” existence was crushed into silence. After numerous run-ins ending with, “You want me to die, don’t you?” (I didn’t want anyone to die!), the very “terrifying, untenable clash” that I had feared, was upon me! I was clear that no help or clarification, much less compassion, would be forthcoming. I was on my own.

The last thing I had ever wanted was a power struggle with Jim Jones, or even a stand-off. All I wanted was for him to stop killing the messenger. Yet the pull never lessened, from the Presence I could not even name, with His sublime comfort up to the time of the deaths and beyond.

Ironically, the irreconcilable nature of my plight (for how could I renounce a scenario that I had neither created nor had any power to alter?) probably spared my life. I had been forced into deep-freeze denial of what I had done (much less what, if anything, it might mean), with neither guidance nor guideposts. This wasn’t a world of bargaining chips, but of endurance. I forced myself to endure well enough to garner high praise, but only to have it keep crashing down into the likes of (over the P.A. system!), “The people around me are saying, ‘She must want you to die, Father.’ Why don’t you just drop me in boiling oil?” I couldn’t handle a bit of this; but apparently, neither could Jim Jones! Maybe I was just a walking reminder that the star of doom hung over us all.

I suppose (as a context for a drama rather brutally played out) that if you have a secret that you have no power to alter but that you feel threatened by, and you think you’re very powerful, then you either belittle it, or you force it out in the open to be trampled, or you attack some other, unrelated Achilles’ heel to disempower the person, or you try to make the person renounce it, or you make everyone else renounce that person. And so each and every time, you go too far, until finally it becomes all too clear that you are destroying an innocent.

That point was reached for me with his last (impossible to process!) disclaimer, that he had repeatedly attacked me, ostracized me, humiliated me, and dismissed my tears, “out of love, faith, and trust in you.” I was so distraught by then, at having this agony re-packaged as “love, faith, and trust,” that I finally told Mr. Jones, “I’m not that much of a masochist. I’d rather you had put a bullet through my brain,” and that “I have nothing more to prove. If you don’t know what I’m made of by now, when will you ever know?”

I don’t know where I found the strength, but that was ground that our leader apparently couldn’t defend, whereas it was the only place where I could stand and not be felled. Only after many years had passed, did I realize that, however fragile I felt at the time, I held keys to what he feared. At the time, I felt hated and with no recourse (was I “over wanting the leader dead”?; when did I “stop beating my wife”?); now I wonder if I had just become a hot button for the war within himself.

But for me, it had nothing to do with power. It was just the heartbreak of tragedy-in-the-making, its seeming inevitability, and the need for a universe which was loving, accepting, compassionate, not cruel. Sometimes all I wanted was for someone to put an arm around my shoulder and say, “It’s all right. We know that you love our people and that you don’t want anyone to die.”

Nevertheless, since I had braved the gauntlet and emerged standing erect, I was given real trust – namely, to decide for myself the only thing that really mattered – whether or not to go to Guyana: “You can go or you can stay – whatever you like.” I so wanted for our beautiful community to succeed, and was heartbroken when it came under attack. I loved every soul who died – even Jim Jones, with his 25-year record of so much good, before veering so disastrously over the edge. But I was no longer “his.” I stayed.

I’ve written about all this in my book, “Snake Dance: Unravelling the Mysteries of Jonestown,” which I would be happy to send to any survivor who requests it. It will be worth the request. I’ve been as honest as honest can be about my life in Peoples Temple. People died, so the least anyone owes anyone else is honesty.

(“Allegory” itself, I copyrighted quite shortly following the tragedy, although I did not publish the text until its inclusion in “Snake Dance” in 1998.)

Several links accompany this introduction:

There was reason it happened then. I had been shown Jim’s death in a dream just two months before the end, and it shocked me into re-surfacing “Allegory,” which I then brought to Marceline. Marceline (exquisite empath that she was) then insisted that I keep the work, not destroy it: “It’s beautiful. You keep it.” I don’t know what may have been racing through her mind (she looked shaken), but I will never forget how extraordinary she was, and I honor her always.

The second link: is the text of Allegory itself, which can be followed along with the audio file. Only one line was ever altered from the original pre-tragedy text, on the first page, but for aesthetic reasons only. There is no change in meaning or interpretation.

The third link: is “Premonitions” which originally appeared in my “jonestown.com” website, which is now archived in full on this website. It includes a partial catalogue of match-ups to the event as it would later materialize.

The fourth link: is What Will I Be Listening To?” It is designed to give the reader keys to the phenomenon of “channeling,” and specific impressions as to how this happened to me and how the voices emerging in the text might be processed.

The fifth link: is “Interpretative Keys,” is designed to clarify the enigmatic but powerful allusions to myth threaded here and there throughout the work.

I believe that this text, with its universal overtones, was given as a gift of sublime compassion (as well as a call to awakening!), not only for our own tragic straits, but for a world which may be dangerously close to the edge. There are outcries in “Allegory,” like the thrice-repeated “Why have you slept?,” and the final outcry of “No. It is worse you’ve made travesty of My Spirit!!” that speak to far more than that relatively small contingent of pioneers in Guyana.

We live in a world which currently seems more headed towards darkness than towards Light. But what I want people to recognize, is that in what seemed like a world wholly dark in the aftermath of our own doom, however inscrutable it may seem that the people of Jonestown could be both surrounded by darkness and by such a Light of Divine Love, it was so. Of that I am certain.

To convey that much would be worth the telling; and I believe that “Allegory” is at least a partial testament of that. That for all anyone may have ever despaired that “no one cared,” that was not so. Someone (with a capital “S”) did care wholly, fully, and with a greater love than we could ever fathom. Even the most seemingly insignificant person who perished wasn’t “insignificant” at all. Everyone mattered. Everyone.

Of course, I did not know myself, way back in 1974, Who my sublime Visitor was. When I was finally told His name, it was foreign and unknown, but (as I discovered through research, and was much surprised) it is pervasive in Theosophical literature. (Theosophy is not a religion per se, but reveals a spiritual hierarchy overseeing our physical plane and encompassing the framework of major religions.)

I have also come to believe that the passionate interest in our plight on the part of our Overseers may have had to do, in part, with the tempering of human Will and Power with Divine Wisdom and Love, and a unitary consciousness incorporating humanity’s plight within our own, and our own within that of humanity.

Be that as it may, it always was/is a gift knowing that for all the isolation, castigation, grief and despair we all endured, that isolation, at least, is an illusion that we can transcend. I could never explain what comfort that knowing was to me then (albeit never blocking the enormity of the grief); and very much to this day, knowing that we (“global outsiders,” “the kool-aid people” in the eyes of the world) are neither separated nor rejected on some greater, more loving, inclusive canvas than we are normally able to perceive.

Meanwhile, on the low end of the global inclusion scale, people have criticized, even castigated me personally because, it seems, they think that I have not sufficiently judged the tragedy, nor judged Jim Jones. (“Judge not lest ye be judged” is something that most of the world has yet to embrace!) At times I could barely navigate between the people who think that I am too judgmental, and the people who think that I am not judgmental enough.

I’ve had to learn a lot about judgment myself; and I value as needed, even the painful of those lessons, which at times is to tread more carefully in judging others. But it is an unwarranted assumption that the opposite of judgment is approval. The opposite of judgment can well be sorrow; it can be revelation of higher truths; it can be transformation of negative energies or redemption of errant souls. Parameters that may require integration of our comprehensions, rather than a perennial war between them and within us.

In the Bible, Jesus is said to have responded to the query, “Why is this man born blind?” with, “So that the glory of God may be revealed.” Did that mark God as cruel? Irrational? Did it mark “well” people as more in need of revelation than “disabled” people? Was the blind man’s purpose his own chastening, or the enlightenment of others? The very answer given is an enigma; and the world of cosmic energies, with whatever what may be its relevance to our lives, is probably no less so.

Please note that I don’t have the answers – just potent questions! I experienced an epiphany that I could not mediate at the time; there are still aspects beyond my capacity to mediate now. Even in the attached text, there are future and/or cosmic references to yet decipher. Yet I offer within this context:

That I know that there is, and always has been, an immensity of Love from higher planes, for us still here and for the fallen amongst us, with equally immense frustration that it may not always be accessible to the people whom it might comfort the most. Yet I also hope with all the sincerity of my heart, that this text and its reading will impact in a good way, a freeing way, for any to whom a spiritual level of reality is meaningful.

All I ask is that anyone reading this takes some time out of whatever is their busy day, to listen to the attached audio file. Maybe it will touch you, and you will know within your own heart (as I have always known within mine) that there are awesome, benevolent Beings far beyond us, Who did and do care. It is why I wrote in “Snake Dance”:

“Did the Angels ever come for my friends at Jonestown? Was their sacrifice recorded and known? Those who in their hearts died for a better world? I believe their sacrifice is recorded and known. I believe it because I am human. I believe it as a child of God. Because I heard the Angels weeping for Jonestown, and I am haunted by Their song.”

As always, all feedback is welcome. And to anyone who might provide insights beyond those offered here, I assure you that they will be welcomed.

(Laurie Efrein Kahalas, a long-time Temple member and author of Snake Dance, created the website www.jonestown.com which now appears on this site. Her complete collection of writings for the jonestown report may be found here. She may be reached at dan_laurie44@comcast.net.)

Last modified on August 19th, 2014.
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