Thursday, March 17, 2005

In 1997 I met John Mack in New York City. He was in town giving lectures on UFO abductions and had already gained notoriety because of his association with Harvard (In fact, I met him in the lounge of the NYC Harvard club) He gave a small lecture that evening to a small group of us. There were about eight of us there that evening, leaning intently forward in our armchairs, listening to him tell us about the classic symptoms of abduction while he played videos for us of children and other "informants" that he had taped on a recent visit to South Africa.

The children, I recall, had the look not of amazement but of quiet reticence, as if by talking they were breaking a secret promise. One girl calmly told the camera about gigantic objects descending from the sky and opening themselves up to eject a few small dark men who moved like creatures made from lightning and talked to the children in strange tongues.

The story she told was fantastic and yet as she told it, she seemed to be reciting it, laying out a simple set of facts. As I listened to her, it reminded me of when a child tells you an invented story, at once imaginary yet also plainly told, as when they tell you all about the secret double life of a favorite pet.

i also recall that she visibly trembled at one point as she remembered the cold grasp of one of the strangers. What exactly had she seen?


As a child I had that strong will to believe. I had a theory that if the world sometimes seemed mundane it is because adults had wished it so. They had cast out all of the magic from this world in a sort of vast exorcism and magic now lived precariously, warily existing among the shadows.

Its with this frame of mind that I started reading books. To me, Spaceships and Icebergs were as real as Magicians and Demons. They all existed together out there, in a hazy half-reality at the edges of the visible world.


In "The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar", Roald Dahl advises us that this is not a story but a true account. He once met an Indian yogi who had developed a supernatural sense of vision. He had the ability to see right through everyday objects as if they were as transparent as glass.

The yogi instructs us as to how to develop these same abilities. You must stare into a candle flame. Not just stare but really look at it and focus your gaze. The path to supernatural vision is to practice looking deep into the candle flame until you have walked into the flame, until you have walked right through it and your eyes have received the gift of true vision.

Roald Dahl's friend, Henry Sugar, manages to penetrate the fire and develop this magic sight. He takes his gift and heads to casinos where he is now able to look through playing cards. He makes a lot of money but also realizes, as the story descends to its conclusion, how little money really matters. By the end of the story, Henry Sugar is a deeply changed man.

I must have spent hours staring into the flame.


MB said to me the other day:

"In youth, we know nothing. But we do understand that this world is full of rules. Some make sense but most are completely incomprehensible. So what do we do? We start out in this world as mimics, as parrots. Parrots is a good word. Children have the instincts of birds."

I said: But then you grow up?

"But if you have even the slightest sense of depth inside you then you soon discover that these words, these tools, these things exist somehow apart from you. Inside of you is this turbulent mind, full of opposing ideas, of fragments, of vague conceptions and these ideas gather in your head like a storm. But you can't release these ideas into the world because the only form of expression you have are these words and this linear grammar. Words can never convey who you are can they?
They can never convey this You, this secret you."

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