Numenon: A Tale of Mysticism & Money – Silicon Valley’s Corporate Culture Meets a Great Shaman and his People
Have you heard of Numenon: A Tale of Mysticism & Money? You might have. Back in 2009 when it came out, Numenon was Amazon Kindle’s #1 ranked title in three categories of mysticism for about a year. It cruised around the 1,500th level of Kindle sales, which is phenomenal. I did nothing to promote the book and really didn’t think its performance was anything special. Until it was over.
Now I feel about Numenon the way I feel about all those pictures of myself that weren’t taken when I was young and beautiful. “I only I’d known what would happen . . .” Alas, no time for whining.
I’d like to introduce you to Numenon for the first time, or the second or even third. The fastest way to do it is like this:
Numenon is the story of a group of people trying to reach their authentic selves, and God. Its characters include the richest man in the world, Will Duane, and a great Native shaman known as Grandfather. The contingent from Numenon, Inc. travel to a retreat given by the shaman in the New Mexico desert. Many things happen as the team makes its way to the retreat site, a supernatural place which is probably the greatest power spot on the planet. Evil strikes when they’re most vulnerable.
Even with all the hoopla and action, the book is essentially about people seeking to fill the aching void in their hearts with something real.
I’ve written about Numenon in other articles, but I want to talk about new things. Some of these things are pretty obvious, but no one’s asked about them. I also want to show you how it feels to hang out with top Stanford and Harvard MBAs (Master’s in Business Administration), a shaman, and the richest man on earth.
First off, where did I get that hard to pronounce, weird title? What does numenon (or noumenon) mean? It’s the thing-in-itself, reality beyond the material world. We can never know the numenon. All we can know is what comes in through the senses. Our reality is limited to our brains’ interpretation of incoming nerve impulses. We cannot get to the world as it is. Ever. Immanuel Kant laid out the problem in 1783 with The Prolegomena to Any Future Metaphysics.
Why is this important? It’s the Western equivalent of what Eastern philosophy––Hinduism and Buddhism and other schools of thought––has said forever: the world we live in is an illusion.
Why did Will Duane pick Numenon as the name of his corporation? He’s showing that he’s intellectual, and hip. Also, he has close to a major in philosophy as an undergraduate, a course of study that saved his life, as it did mine. He’s interested in the numenon, which we can only infer, and its opposite, the phenomenon, experienced reality, with which we’re stuck.
What’s that image on the cover of Numenon? It is based on the Shiva Nataraj, the Dancing Shiva. Shiva is one of the Hindu trinity, the part representing destruction, but which also has a powerful creative backwash. Shiva is also the all-pervasive aspect of God, existing always and everywhere.
Numenon’s founder and CEO, Will Duane, chose the Shiva Nataraj as his corporation’s logo. Numenon is the largest and most powerful corporation in history, named after a difficult philosophical concept. Its icon is the face of God.
We’re not talking about reality TV or game shows here. I write for grown-ups, about big issues. And I don’t write like a girl. I’d give Numenon an R rating if it were a movie.
Numenon is about the richest man in the world going to a spiritual retreat held by a great Native American shaman. The book is essentially the Native world juxtaposed against Silicon Valley. It’s a search for God and meaning. The story could easily degenerate into a stereotyped tale about the good, spiritual Natives vs. greedy, bad corporate people. It doesn’t.
LET’S TALK ABOUT THE TWO CULTURES REPRESENTED IN Numenon. WE’LL START WITH SILICON VALLEY. I know most about that. I was born in San Francisco and lived in the heart of what became the Valley most of my life: in the towns/cities of Palo Alto, Cupertino, Atherton, and Woodside.
Numenon’s hero is the richest man in the world. Do you know any extremely successful people––those who made the money themselves? They’re a little different than regular folks. I haven’t met Bill Gates or any of the planet’s economic luminaries. I have met my dad. He rose from a penniless immigrant to the owner to the 9th largest residential construction company in the US in its heyday. People do not attain that kind of success because they’re lazy or stupid.
My dad moved as fast as a human being can go, dancing on a razor’s edge. He was brilliant, disciplined, and way beyond hard working. Explosive. Demanding. As inspiring as any minister. He had visions prophetic dreams–he wouldn’t call them that, but I knew what they were when he talked about them. The image of the soulless businessman is incorrect.
What was it like living with him? Like having Secretariat in the kitchen. Thrilling and terrifying.
Will Duane is based somewhat on my dad, and on many other men I knew when I lived in Silicon Valley. He’s not an unusual type, though I think my presentation is unusual in that I present spirituality in a businessman. It shows up differently than it would in a meditation master, but it’s there.
I WAS ASKED HOW I WOULD CAST THE BOOK IF IT WERE MADE INTO A MOVIE.
Starting with the Silicon Valley side:
I’d put Ed Harris in for Will Duane, CEO and founder of Numenon. Ed Harris has the intensity and intelligence, as well as acting ability, to play someone as powerful, and tormented as Will Duane. I will never forget the visceral pain of Harris’s performance as a gay man dying of AIDs in The Hours.
Will’s staff: Will goes to the Native retreat in a caravan of matched RVs, including his own million-dollar motor home. Over-the-top is the Numenon way. He brings a professional and support staff to the retreat, including a world-class chef. “The Best of the Best: That’s Numenon.”
Will only hires first-in-their-class MBAs (Master’s of Business Administration) from top graduate schools for his personal staff. Do you know what it means to be first in your class at the Harvard Business School or the Stanford Graduate School of Business?
Think Secretariat on speed. You have to be around a major graduate school to feel the intensity, intelligence and competitive drive.
Actually, to get the feel of Silicon Valley, go here: Buck’s of Woodside. Literally go there, for breakfast. Buck’s is a zany restaurant in the laid back and incredibly wealthy Town of Woodside.. The elite of the tech world––venture capitalists or VCs–– meet at Buck’s for breakfast; the action is over at 9AM. Netscape and I don’t know how many other tech firms were created over oatmeal and coffee at Buck’s. I walked in one morning and felt like the turkey we deep-fried last Thanksgiving when it hit the oil. Zapped and sizzling. I’m surprised no one was levitating. A geek sat at every table. Laptops were required, ties were not. Everyone had a deal going down. If you can get to Buck’s, be sure and steal the menu. It’s hysterical. Say hi to Jamis McGiven, the owner, for me. We’re old friends. You gotta feel the vibe to get the Valley.
More on what top business schools and their denizens are like: I was in the doctoral program at Stanford’s Graduate School of Business once (“the year I almost got an ulcer”). One of my fellow doctoral students had been first in his Stanford MBA class before deciding to get a PhD. Really nice guy. He’ll probably take over the world one day.
That’s the kind of person I’m describing when I say Hillary Swank could play Melissa Weir, the Harvard MBA who is Will Duane’s protégé. Melissa’s achievement in school and at Numenon is astonishing. Hillary is smart, intense, and a super actress. Plus after playing in Million Dollar Baby, she could knock the bad buys into the next county, just like Melissa.
Choosing a photo of Hillary as Melissa was tricky. Most of the photos show her partially undressed and looking sexy, or beat black and blue as in Million Dollar Baby. Your typical top-of-her-class Harvard MBA might go around partially undressed, but not during working hours. She might feel as though she’d been beaten, but most likely, it wouldn’t show. Stuff that happens in boardrooms may hurt, but it won’t leave bruises. I chose the picture of Hillary Swank above because it has that racehorse at top speed. That’s Melissa Weir.
Russell Crowe would do well as Doug Saunders, Will’s hatchet man and the corporate bad boy. Doug was top of his MBA class at Stanford and has adapted to the Numenon code, which is something like, “If you can screw it, do it.”
Jon Walker is Will Duane’s private chef, “the best chef in the world.” Numenon culture requires that he be the best. Although he looks about twelve years old in the photo, Jon graduated from Le Condon Bleu in Paris, learning culinary technique as well as restaurant and hospitality management. He cooked at top restaurants in New York, Paris, and San Francisco before working for Will Duane. During Numenon, Jon is grieving the death of his soul mate, ‘Rique Maldonado, a top San Francisco interior designer. ‘Rique died of AIDs.
I’m shining the spotlight on Jon because he has a major role in the Bloodsong Series. I’ve just completed drafts to two books in which he is a main character.
WHAT ABOUT THE NATIVE AMERICAN SIDE?
Grandfather, the shaman who is the heart of Numenon and the whole Bloodsong Series, is impossible to cast. I’ve had the good fortune to study with two meditation masters and a tai chi master. I did this over a long time––about thirty years, all told. When I got within ten feet of my first meditation master, my brain would bliss out so that I couldn’t think. People in the meditation hall (including me) routinely had experiences similar to those in the Bible. Visions, raptures, prophetic knowledge. Love overflowed in every direction. The experiences I had in long––all night, sometimes––chants were so intensely pleasurable that I can imagine nothing better, including everything.
What is being with these giants of humanity like? The lift off factor is amazing. If you don’t get a contact high from them, they’re not the real thing. Any actor playing Grandfather should be able to project the ecstasy so that viewers feel it. He’s not just a cute old guy.
I used the painting of Grandfather above as an indication of what Grandfather might look like. The painting is by Lily Nathan, my daughter.
When I was writing Numenon, I modeled Joseph Bishop––the name given to Grandfather by white people in the Indian Schools––after the spiritual masters I have known.
I apparently nailed him. One person who had studied with a Native shaman told me, “You really got the shaman. The man I studied with was exactly like that.” I’ve also had Native Americans tell me, “I want to study with Joseph Bishop.” Sorry, he doesn’t exist.
While a number of actors could portray people from Silicon Valley, no actor could portray Grandfather and his Power.
OTHER NATIVE AMERICAN CHARACTERS: Four thousand people attend the retreat. All but ten are Natives. Many casting opportunities exist. I’ll pick a few.
Wesley Silverhorse has a small part in Numenon. His part is larger in Mogollon, Numenon’s sequel, and keeps going through the rest of the Bloodsong Series. But he could have a one-line part and take over the book. He’s that spectacular.
Wesley Silverhorse is an archetype. The word “archetype” derives from the Greek and Latin, meaning “beginning, origin” and “pattern, model, type.” An archetype is the pattern for a certain type of human being. Many archetypes exist. The earth mother, seductress, child, hero, martyr, wise old man/woman, warrior, mentor, and trickster are archetypes. Oh, yeah, the devil, aka Satan, is an archetype.
The easiest way to explain archetypes is to tell a story. Numenon has been around in draft form since 1995. The character Wesley Silverhorse popped into my mind early on. He is an archetype known as: The Babe. He’s gorgeous. As the Hero, he’s also kind, and smart, empathetic, brave, and as spiritually adept as most saints. He’s an unbeatable Warrior. Because of his spiritual Powers, the People believe he will be Grandfather’s successor. He is so good looking that even old ladies like me swoon imagining his comely form.
Wesley Silverhorse became a fixture in my family’s life. If I was driving with my daughters and saw a fantastic looking, maybe Native, guy, I’d shout out, “Whoa! Is he Wesley?” The girls would respond, “Nah, that guy back on University Ave. was better.”
This developed into a code. A man could be “half a Wesley” or a “quarter of a Wesley.” We never got a full Wesley, no one could be that good-looking, but the search was fun. It was a great way to bond with my daughters. Try it with your kids.
The point being that Wesley can’t exist in the real world. Nothing is as glowing as the contents of consciousness, and Wesley is that––the construction of my subconscious. (A note about this. Archetypes can be dangerous. They are mesmerizing, and very powerful psychologically. If you find someone who looks like Wesley and toss your hubbie of thirty years in a lust-flavored rush, that is almost certainly a mistake.)
So, who would I cast as Wesley Silverhorse? I started by doing basic research, Googling Beautiful Native American Men. This search provided many tantalizing possibilities. Check it out. Everyone needs inspiration.
I quickly settled on (drumroll . . .) Rick Mora. You’ll see him all over (and see pretty much all of him) on his website and the Beautiful Native American Men search. He comes about as close to the fictitious Wesley Silverhorse as I can imagine. (In the interest of scholarly investigation, I will keep looking, of course.)
The only person in the world better looking than Wesley Silverhorse is his younger brother, Benny. Rick Mora could play him, too. (I chose the photo below with a horse peeking out because Wesley & Benny Silverhorse are superb horsemen. Being raised on a ranch in Wyoming will do that.)
Exceptionally beautiful people face a problem: objectification. Admirers turn them into collections of body parts and take away their essence. Beautiful people have many qualities in addition to their looks: moral principles, feelings, values, will, drive, intelligence, loyalty, love, fidelity and many other talents and attributes. Those who focus on looks alone miss all that and reduce human beings to objects. A loss for everyone.
Traditionally, women have been objectified most: Marilyn Monroe and all the Playboy centerfolds. Now men are being objectified by women. Jon Hamm (the astonishingly good-looking star of Mad Men) has complained of this. Here’s an article about it (Don’t be shocked. This article has some pretty explicit discussion. It’s also funny.)
Other Native American cast members: The characters go on and on––this book would be a Native American actors’ Stimulus Package if made into a film. (I’d settle for a mini-series like Game of Thrones . . .)
Elizabeth Bright Eagle, MD, MPH is one of the most important characters in the book. Dr. Bright Eagle is an internationally respected physician and philanthropist. The only things she can do better than heal are shoot and ride. Elizabeth was born and raised on her family’s cattle ranch in southeastern Oregon. She’s my kind of heroine.
Actress Sacheen Littlefeather attained notice when she turned town the Academy Award on behalf of Marlon Brando. Brando was protesting the treatment of Native Americans in films. I think she’d make a great Elizabeth.
Bud Creeman is another of my favorite characters. Constantly underrated by everyone but Grandfather, Bud saves the day. He has a lovely sweetness and essential kindness. Adam Beach could to this role. Unfortunately, to play Bud, he’d have to gain forty pounds and age fifteen years.
Wes Studi could play a few parts. He’s got all the intensity of Ed Harris. Wes could play Dr. Tyler Brand, the very cool Native American professor and spirit warrior. Or Paul Running Bird, Mr. Sleaze.
Tantoo Cardinal could play Leona Brand, Tyler Brand’s politician wife.
Irene Bedard should be in the film just because she’s beautiful. She could play half a dozen parts.
We talked about Wesley Silverhorse being an archetype. Do other archetypes show up? All the characters I’ve discussed are archetypes. There’s another big one: When you’re talking about ultimate good, what arises in response? Ultimate evil. What’s that? The Dark Lord, Satan.
The only thing I like better than writing good guys is writing bad guys. The writing starts to sizzle when the villain appears. The Dark Lord has a bit part in Numenon and a major part in Mogollon, its sequel. Which I’m working on . . .
That’s it. If you want to buy the book, you can get it on Amazon as a hardback or a Kindle version. The hardback is beautiful. You can also get the hardback from me for less than half of what Amazon’s charging.
Why am I telling you this? Because NUMENON’S sequel, MOGOLLON: A TALE OF MYSTICISM & MAYHEM, is coming. You might as well read NUMENON so you’ll be up to speed when all hell really breaks loose.
LINKS TO SANDY’S SIX BOOKS!
They range from wild sci-fi to adorable children’s nonfiction. You’ll find something you’ll like in the list below:
- NUMENON, a novel about the richest man in the world meeting a great Native American shaman
- STEPPING OFF THE EDGE, a modern day spiritual companion
- TECOLOTE, the adorable kids’ book about a baby horse.
- EARTH’S END––the new, three book sci-fi/fantasy/visionary series that takes you to the end of the world, and beyond.
The Angel & the Brown-Eyed Boy––Tomorrow morning, a nuclear holocaust will destroy all life on Earth. Only two people can stop it: a sixteen-year-old tech genius and revolutionary and an angelic visitor from another planet.
Lady Grace––The radiation has cleared. A few survivors make it back to Piermont Manor to start a new life. What they face is a battle more deadly than any they’ve fought. Right away they learn that evolution can work for evil as well as good.
The Headman & the Assassin––He knew her job was murder––murdering people that is. Sam Baahuhd had been the village headman for 22 years when a nuclear holocaust forces him and the ninety plus other villagers into an underground bomb shelter. When Sam carries a naked stranger into the shelter minutes before the bombs go off, he has no idea that she will set his life on fire.