Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Mystical experience

Mystical experience
The question of how I got to this point in my life is difficult to describe. It does not stem from one single factor or influence. In the 1980’s Dr Joseph Campbell gave a series of interviews with Bill Moyer on PBS that moved me to purchase Joseph Campbell’s books and to study his writings and to read many of the books that he cited in his bibliography such as The Golden Bough . Another author who influenced me greatly was Nikos Kazantzakis who wrote a modern Odyssey. Reading these books and related works were the capstone of a lifetime of reading. My parents read to me as a child and our home was filled with books so I read everything I could get my hands on and at times read 2-3 books a week.
At the age of 25 I began searching for something I could not name. By 27 I had bought several SLR cameras and began to go into a nature preserve and photograph animals and observe animal behavior. On the weekend I would walk for four hours or more in the woods stalking deer and photographing every life form imaginable. When stalking deer I became so attuned that I could sense their proximity even when I could not see or hear them. I began to identify with wildlife in a very personal manner. If I could not spend my weekend walking in the woods then I felt deprived. After years of using the camera to capture nature I began to feel like the camera was in the way of my seeing and I put the camera down in the seventh year and absorbed what I saw with the same eye, the eye of a nature photographer. I had developed a strong identification with the natural world and all living things, in religious terms it could be referred to as Jainism. This was my very own intense religion, the only one I have ever had.
Part on what has transformed me was an intense experience of human suffering that went on for years. In 1995 while traveling in Central America I became very ill and developed an autoimmune disease that left me physically disabled and unable to work. I set about doing research and writing books and for the next six years whenever I wasn’t too sick I read books constantly. After four years of a progressive deterioration due to illness I was disabled mentally and physically to the point where for most of an entire year I was reduced to sitting in a chair. My central nervous system was under attack and the symptoms were those of a late stage encephalopathy, a brain disease. My eyes were rolled halfway back up into my head, I could not stand light, or sound, it was physically painful. When I walked from the bed to the chair I had a terror of falling down and not being able to get back up. I could not watch TV or listen to music or read. The sounds and images moved too fast for me to follow and interpret them, it was all a confusing painful blur. I could speak in very short simple sentences but any effort to talk left me exhausted. After months I started to come out of the worst and I gradually recovered by listening to classical music for months. As the cathedrals of sound made sense to me on a deeper level I began to write the music in my head and anticipate the next note while listening to the baroque masterpieces. After months of this slow recovery I began to hear music in my head like I was listening to the radio. I could turn it on or off at will but it had a quality of spontaneity. At first it was music I had heard before but later it was music I was writing in my head. The degradation of my mental capacity and the subsequent recovery listening to music changed the nature of my consciousness. As soon as I recovered I headed up into the mountains where my family had been visiting for several generations. The following is an excerpt from my screenplay.
“I was on my mountain in New Mexico and I sat down on a large boulder in the river. As the first rays of the longest day crested the top of the mountain a faint prism formed above the rapids. Soon a small rainbow was dancing from right to left and back again, 2-3 feet tall on top of the rapids, given birth by the spray. The colors became more brilliant and the light strands became taller as the moments passed. The strands of rainbow light rose gradually higher up into the air so that sitting on the boulder I had to tilt my head back and look up higher and higher at the display 20 feet in front of me. As it slowly grew larger I started to hear music. A magical symphony began playing in my head. Tentative at first and growing stronger. It was my spontaneous music so all I had to do was to listen. The music was some of the most beautiful music I had ever heard. I wanted to grab a pin and write it down but I realized if I went for the pen I'd break contact. I realized I would lose the music as it flowed out of me but it was the only way to experience it. I mourned for a moment for the loss of the incredible music but quickly resigned myself. I started to place notes exactly where the columns of light danced. Gradually the music and light strands became syncopated. The light seemed to dance to the lines of music coming out of my head. It now became my very own light harp that responded to the music playing in my head. The intensity of pure joy that the light harp and the music made me feel was overpowering. It was as if my sense of the beauty of the universe was overwhelming me and making me pass out but I did not lose consciousness, quite the opposite. After about 20 minutes of experiencing this profound sense of wonder at the spectacle I was completely overcome. My eyes started to rise upwards and to slowly roll back in my head and the image of a streaming river of yellow and gold colored light opened in a vision. I was completely unaware of my immediate surroundings. The golden light seemed to flow to me as the river flowed to me and spread across my entire field of vision. After a few moments of traversing the golden yellow zone a far light began to shine. At the far end of the river of yellow and gold there were rays of white light from the opening of a small doorway that grew larger and the distant beacon concentrated itself on me. I felt as if I stood in a presence and that someone was reaching out to me to bestow a communication upon me yet no words were ever spoken. I tipped over completely into another realm of consciousness. I woke gradually as if coming out of a very deep trance. Ever so slowly I realized where and who I was and became more aware of my surroundings. My eyes had been rolled back in my head and I sat in a perfect lotus position with my hands in the lotus position thumb and forefinger forming a circle. My legs were crossed as I had never been able to do before. The sun and shadows were indicating late afternoon not morning. I had no clear idea what had happened in those lost hours. I leaned forward and humbly said thank you. I concentrated hard for the meaning before I moved. Then the central idea that impressed itself upon me was that I would be destroyed, my body and my personality would be obliterated but that something very central to my core being was that same light that I had witnessed and that had transformed me forever. At our core we are all a part of this light that infuses everything everywhere and goes on forever. At our core we cannot be destroyed. I would be physically destroyed and my personality would be destroyed but at my core I would go on forever as part of the ecstatic brilliance I had experienced.”
“After this experience I had premonitions of momentous events before they occurred, usually events that affected millions of people.” “For example, say theoretically that I felt an earth quake was coming… “It is kind of hit and miss because sometimes I don’t know where it will happen and sometimes I do”. “This power is too ephemeral to predict if one can interpret the vision correctly, then to act on it is problematic”. “I close my eyes and concentrate hard and I hear a deep rumbling sound and the earth begins to shake violently and it lasts for about eight seconds.” “I can tell it was morning and the event was about a seven on the Richter scale.” “Many people will be deeply affected by the event”. “Besides knowing that it will happen in about two weeks and the entire world will know...that is about all I can tell about the earth quake event”. “In another premonition of a different earth quake the whole time I knew the location was the New Madrid Fault”. “This power is too ephemeral to predict if one can interpret the vision correctly and then to act upon it.” "I wanted to tell people, to warn them and save lives but could not find the courage to say I was clairvoyant and tell strangers that I knew something bad was about to happen”. “It is as if something is actively stopping me”. “The vision is drawn back down into my unconscious mind to be forgotten even as I fight to retain it”. "Like a strong undertow something sweeps away the memories of the visions".
Joseph Campbell; "Equally, the birth, life, and death of the individual may be regarded as a descent into unconsciousness and return. The hero is the one who, while still alive, knows and represents the claims of the super consciousness which throughout creation is more or less unconscious. The adventure of the hero represents the moment in his life when he achieved illumination –the nuclear moment when, while still alive, he found and opened the road to the light beyond the dark walls of our living death".
I was originally an atheist who did not believe in God but believed in something larger than ourselves as well as the concept of fate. I believed that the parts of the bible that are known as the Gospels were probably largely the true words spoken by a mortal man named Jesus who lived and died. I was searching for the truth of our existence much of my life and focuses my concentration on philosophy and science. I am the original doubting Thomas who only believes in what my five senses tell me, but often I realize even the five sense can be wrong. I refuse to take anything on faith and felt that a strictly religious education was short changing oneself even in Kindergarten and first grade. My parents did not give me a religious indoctrination. My father took me to church infrequently when I was a pre-teen. My mother told me that religion had been the cause of more wars and death than any other cause in history. She told me that she did not believe in organized religion but she never tried to convince me there was no God. I believe that all religions began as the same message and over time and the construction of religious doctrine religions became more distinct and different from each other. It is a process similar to many people sitting in a circle and whispering a message into the ear of the person next to you until at the end of the circle the message has changed. I believe that all religions began as basically the same message and they have become garbled in translation from the original experience. I believe that organized religion is a political and economic organization that is largely about asserting power in society and exerting power over other people. My religion is the result of a singular journey and a singular experience that is difficult to describe much less replicate. I believe that any living sentient being is capable of experiencing God, this includes all human beings and even perhaps members of the animal kingdom.
It is my belief that I have been given this ability to put to the service of mankind at a time of great danger and fantastic possibility. In addition to saving lives I hope to repeat and capture the experience so that it can be reproduced and experienced by anyone who wishes to pass into a higher realm. If this can be achieved it will bring humanity together spiritually in a way that nothing else could. It is such a powerful experience, much like looking out the window while orbiting the earth that it would change people’s lives and I believe people would be more likely to avoid war and work to mitigate other forms of human suffering. I also feel that the human race has reached a moment of decision where it will either come together and identify with each other in a very fundamental and transformational way or it will continue on the current path and ultimately destroy ourselves. For this reason I am proposing a shared humanitarian and scientific initiative to replace militarism.
Marshall Gregory Thomas

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