top of page


Reflections on
Unorthodox Pilgrimage

I can tell you about staring directly into God’s eye.

     Heresy? Absolutely. But the only difference between a heretic and
a hero is how the story is told. And who tells it.

     In Greek mythology, héros were demigods, divinity in human form, and hairetikos meant “the ability to choose”—every hero’s dilemma. Heroes became heretics when they freely chose, in defiance of the gods, to feel the sting of fear, the ecstasy of love and the certainty of death. Everything it means to be truly human.

     I wouldn’t call myself a hero, but I know something about heresy. 
So, I can tell you stories.

     About standing breathless and naked beneath the Stairway to Heaven in Tibet. About stumbling upon ghosts of an unimagined past in the ruins of a Himalayan monastery. About confronting the Destroyer of Illusion at the Axis of the World.

     I can tell you how the stacked skulls and bleached bones of Byzantine abbots smelled in a crumbling chapel on Mount Athos.
How ouzo tasted mixed with my own blood on the summit of Mount Olympus. How an oracle’s kiss felt in the seductive ruins of Delphi.

     I can tell you why battle-hardened mujahiddin weep like children
at the Prophet’s tomb in Madinah. Why pilgrims stone Satan in the concrete hell of Jamarat. And why I risked being crushed to death trying to touch a meteorite embedded in the black veiled Cube of Makkah after hearing it sing to me.

     Through karma, or kismet, or just luck of the draw, you are born into some sort of a belief system and expected to stick with the hand you’re dealt, the mythology that binds you to a prescribed path toward success or salvation, but actually obscures the truth of who you really are. Of course, you’re always free to choose your own path—commit that act of heresy. But there is a price to be paid for every choice.
You may have to lose everything before you discover the truth.
And I mean everything.

     So, I will tell you a story about heretics and heroes.

     What I learned about fear. And love. And death.

     The secret I saw in God’s eye.

     But first, I should tell you about the fire.

Recounting a decade of pilgrimage to remote and sometimes dangerous places considered "sacred" to multiple spiritual traditions, Heretic is a full-length memoir now available as a five-part online serialization, both on Medium (click on links below) and Wattpad. The factual journey of personal search begins with a devastating firestorm in the Oakland Hills and ends on the paradigm-changing day of  9/11. 



ONE: Melting Point

[ The Firestorm • Oakland • October 1991 ]

TWO: Bad Boys & Bodhisattvas

[ The Axis of the World • Nepal, Tibet • June 1994 ]

THREE: Goddesses & Gerontas

[ The Holy Mountain • Greece • September 1997 ]

FOUR: Murids & Murshids

[ The Black Cube • Sa'udi Arabia • March 2001 ]

FIVE: Final Count

[ 9/11 • New York, Oakland • September 2001 ]

Photos from these sojourns to sacred places appear on

Flickr [] © Tom Joyce 2020

bottom of page