In my late 30’s, I attended a Jungian weekend retreat run by an Episcopal Priest. Two primary experiences occurred to me during this weekend. Either one alone would have changed my life, but they were both just precursors of the tidal wave that was to come. As a result of experiences at this mind-bending retreat, I “saw” the reality of both the individual and the “collective unconscious,” the reality of Symbol as a living design of what lay behind it … a metaphor for the reality of a world hidden behind the visible one in which we live.
I also felt another brush with the question of telepathy and clairvoyance from a young woman participant. For a number of years, seeking ‘proof’ of another reality through parapsychological research, I had, from time to time, come across people who claimed to be ‘psychic’ in some way. I would visit them, take them to lunch or dinner, and probe for some convincing evidence that they were capable of what they claimed. None of those encounters was satisfying.
This woman seemed to have information about me; she could not have known as we had never met before. Oddly, there is no memory for the specifics of that encounter at the retreat. I do recall being intrigued enough to add her to my list of ‘psychics,’ and I made an appointment for two weeks hence.
I returned home Sunday evening, much energized by the retreat. I took out some books on symbolism and, looking at some images, again ‘felt’ them to be representations of a deeper reality. I had a sense of the meaning of Jung’s “collective unconscious.”
A while later, I was sitting with my son David in my arms, rocking him to sleep. The logical thing to say about what ‘happened’ next is that I fell asleep and had a dream. It didn’t feel that way. It felt like I was ‘there’ in another ‘place.’ I felt very lucid.
I was in an oval space, egg-shaped. The inner space was divided horizontally. The ‘upper’ half was a rural scene, distant woods, fields in the foreground, a house in distance to the far right. The sky was blue and full of sun. The ‘bottom’ part of the oval space was the starry void.
Halfway along the horizontal plane that split the oval in half, was a round opening. In the center of that circle and vertical to it was a long straight line, like a pole. There was a man hanging onto the ‘pole’ like a fireman half-way in his slide down the pole at the fire station. The ‘man’ was me. I could see myself on the outside from a distance. I was also inside myself having the experience. The upper half of his/my body was in the sunlight, the bottom half from waist down, was hanging down into the starry void. From the void came ‘voices’ (although I didn’t seem to ‘hear’ them with my ears) but rather in my thoughts. They were speaking to me. They said, “Let go. Let go.” I replied, in my thoughts, that I wanted to, but was afraid. The reply was understanding and patience. They assured me that it was o.k. That when I was ready, there would be help.
I ‘awoke’ with a start. I felt stunned. “What was that?” I wondered in surprise, and maybe, awe. I looked down into my lap. My son had fallen asleep. How long had that experience taken? I put him into bed and immediately felt pressure to “write this down, or I might forget it”! I went into the kitchen to look for paper and pencil. On the counter was a 3 X 5 index card. I felt that would do to start as time was passing, and I feared I would begin to forget if I didn’t write it out quickly. I found a pencil and put it on the 3 X 5 card to write notes. Instead, my hand, all on its own without intention from me, drew an oval with a diagonal, straight line running through it. That’s it, I realized. That is a ‘symbol.’ All I have to do is remember the symbol, and I won’t need to remember words. Everything was contained in the symbol. I put the pencil down. I didn’t write a word. No need. It was all in the symbol.
Then I became paranoid and angry. I wondered if the psychic I had just met was influencing me from a distance and was somehow responsible for this ‘vision.’ Rationally I knew this was absurd, but the feeling remained. The two weeks I would have to wait was at times difficult.
End to Parapsychology
The time came for our appointment. I recall clearly her meeting me at her door and inviting me into her home. She asked me what I wanted from her. I replied that I wanted two things. I wanted to be convinced she could do what she claimed that she could ‘know’ what was not possible for her to know through the senses. I wanted proof to my satisfaction of the reality of ‘psychic phenomena.’ I also wanted to understand how she did this. At the end of the hour, I was satisfied on both counts. Again. I don’t recall the details of the conversation, but it was convincing. She did know my wife was pregnant without any way of having access to this information. (As I write this today, nearly forty years later, I am recalling that she also told me I would someday write a “very strange” book.) I also recognized that she did not, herself, understand how the ‘knowing’ happened. She just ‘saw,’ pictures and hunches in her mind and just ‘knew.’ I saw she was ‘reading’ from the same mental activity that occurred in me, but somehow her ‘images’ and hunches came from an ocean of psychic experiences into which we all contribute.
At that moment, I also recognized that parapsychological research, in which I had long been interested and done some exploration of, was a dead end in terms of understanding the meaning of this phenomenon. Research could perhaps demonstrate a phenomenon at a certain time, but could not replicate it, as psychic phenomena are spontaneous and singular. Investigation into these unpredictable experiences could not, by their very nature, be amenable to the standard scientific research model. In addition, their cause cannot be determined. However, now satisfied as to the reality and the ‘how’ of the transmission, I walked away from parapsychology. It had been an intermediate step and was now no longer needed. The paranoia lifted, and I lost all interest in investigating “Psychics.”
A short time later, perhaps a week, I was sitting with a friend, a physician, in his old farmhouse in a rural mountain valley in western Maine. I had known this man a number of years. For several years, on Thursday evenings, we would gather with a few others to play guitar, banjo, fiddle…smoke some homemade grass-grown behind his barn. It was a wonderful period for me, the camaraderie, and the magic of hearing something resembling music come through my fingers and mouth. The tuning of a guitar provided an epiphany regarding resonance, the blending of vibrations, and the magic moment when one string ‘fell’ into tune with another. This feeling for resonance quickly generalized to an understanding of life and relationships and became central in the next step of my spiritual search about to come.
In conversation, I began to tell him about the Jungian retreat I had experienced. I began by saying that I had been in a strange group recently. He interrupted me to reply that he had also been in some strange groups in the past. He said he had something to show me that might be of interest. Leading me into an adjacent room where I had spent evenings watching him tie homemade fly- fishing lures. He opened a cabinet and selected a book to hand to me.
As I opened the book out, fell a 3 x 5 card with an oval and diagonally slashing line through it. It was the exact image my hand had drawn to symbolize the ‘vision.’ I was stunned, and an immediate wave of anger washed over me. The paranoia that he was trying to fool me flashed and disappeared in a fraction of a second, as I also recognized that he could not have known. No one knew. I had spoken to no one about my experience. “What is this?” I asked him. “Just something I drew when I was thinking about infinity,” he replied.
As I looked at the book, several things happened within the space of no more than two or three seconds. Each was a distinct experience, but so rapid in procession as to be experienced nearly simultaneously. First, I knew/felt I had come home! I had to know everything in this book. Next, my eyes found words on the page to the effect that the Gospels were somehow true attempts to record extraordinary events outside of normal human understanding. I instantly became afraid, because the implication was that I would have to renounce the Judaism of my upbringing and convert to Christianity. The sense of being ‘disloyal’ to my cultural heritage pitted against loyalty to the Truth and to my Soul, was terrifying. Then, I ‘saw’ and ‘felt’ and ‘heard’ a homunculus rip out of my chest and screaming, shoot out into the void and die.
At that moment, my intellectual resistance died. I had always put ‘logic’ before my heart. This time I realized that the moment had come to follow my heart even though I had no idea what was happening or where it would lead. I looked upward and said inside myself, “I surrender.”
I read the book and went back for more. It was electrifying. At some point, I asked my friend where I could learn more about this. He suggested I talk to another physician on the hospital staff, Keith Buzzell. “Keith?” I exclaimed. He was a quiet man I had been around for some time, but never had gotten to know.
I sought out Keith and asked him if he knew about this material. He replied he did know something. I asked if he would teach me. He said no. He wasn’t a ‘teacher.’ but he did have interests, and as long as I shared those with him, we could work together. When our interests diverted, we would part company. Our relationship lasted over thirty-five years, sharing a common passion for this doorway to the hidden world, until his recent passing.
It would be nearly three decades before I spoke of this event to anyone. As the years went by, I repeatedly discovered and re-discovered other symbolic versions of my vision. It is in the “Hanged Man” card 13 in the Tarot. It is images of the ‘cosmic egg.’ I see it in images of Adam Kadman, (the universal man). It is in the Seal of Solomon and the Christian cross.
It is in the work of William Blake and in some of the poems of Tennyson. I had not been aware of this history of images. Now I recognized the universality of my experience. What had called to me had been calling to others throughout the history of mankind.