About 6 years ago, in Austin, I ran into one of the lawyers who dealt with the case of Rubin Carter, the legal team who finally got him released. He was seeking me out because of a book I wrote (To Fathom The Gist Vol 1). He was very old but still coherent. I already knew the main details of Rubin Carter’s story, but he added some depth.
Rubin “Hurricane” Carter, the former champion boxer spent almost 20 years in prison and came close to being executed for a crime he didn’t commit. You may be familiar with the song about him by Bob Dylan, or the movie version of his life starring Denzel Washington.
Carter stumbled into Gurdjieff and Ouspensky in prison. In particular, he read “In Search of The Miraculous.” (Oddly it’s a book that is commonly found in prison libraries) In Carter’s case it provoked an unusual experience, a revelation.
He spent a lot of time—about a decade, if you can imagine—in solitary confinement because as an innocent man he refused to play by prison rules. He said that all that time spent in the darkness eventually led to his coming to see a deeper level of reality, to his waking up. Here’s an excerpt from a book about him, which tells the story of the portal:
“One very hot day, I decided to go out on the yard. The yard at Trenton State Prison was built over a paupers’ cemetery. It was rectangular, one-eighth of a mile long, and barren. Just dirt. No shade. Gun towers all around. The sun beating down. I walked around the yard once. That was the longest I’d walked in five years, and I was tired. I leaned against the wall to rest.
“While leaning against the wall, I looked across the yard at the wall on the other side, a thirty-four-foot-high brick wall. I saw a pinprick of light in that wall. As I stared at that pinprick of light, it began to quiver and get bigger and bigger. Eventually, I could see through the wall. I could see cars passing by in the street. I could see schoolchildren walking to school. I could see all of that through this wall. I thought I wonder if anybody else sees this. And just as suddenly as the hole had appeared, it disappeared.
“But it left an indelible impression in my mind. Maybe that would be my escape, I thought: through that hole.
“I became determined, right then and there, to find that hole in the wall again. I was going to find it, and this time I was going to walk right through it, even if that hole would deposit me somewhere in infinity. Even if that hole would sear the flesh off my bones, even if that hole meant instant death, I was going to walk right through it. Because anything was better than what I had.
“When I went back to my cell that afternoon, I got rid of all my law books. I had been immersed in law for ten years. My case was the longest-litigated case in the hiistory of New Jersey, and I did a lot of the legal work myself. The briefs that were filed to get me out of prison, I wrote. But I gave my law books to other prisoners. One prisoner was shocked. He said, ‘These are your law books. This is what you’ve been studying for ten years!’
“I said, ‘This is not my way out. My way out is finding that hole in the wall again.’ And I found it. That’s why I’m sitting here in Toronto with you today.”
Rubin Carter realized that not only was he in prison, he was in a prison within a prison. And when he knew that, he knew he would one day walk free. He changed his inner world and that changed his outer world. Perhaps (who can know) he even escaped both prisons…