Saturday, May 30, 2015

Where My Wild Things Are

My imagination has always run wild. Still does. I've unleashed it again. There was time - a brief time - when I attempted to straight jacket it, but I finally figured out I must be true to myself.

And my true self is a bit of a mystic; a person who finds enchantment and divinity everywhere, in everything.

Every now and then I allow myself to journey back in time; back to a more innocent, relatively uncomplicated time in my life; back to when the world was as I found it, and not as authority figures told me it is or should be.

An important book from my childhood (and there were many, I might add, as I've always been an avid reader) was Maurice Sendak's Where The Wild Things Are. That award winning children's book came to my attention not long after it was written and found acclaim.

The subject of the book, a little boy named Max, was naughty and sent to bed without supper, where, according to book, "a forest grew and grew," until it resembled in my child's mind the scenery from the Tarzan movies my big brother and I loved. He made an ocean voyage, arriving at an island "where the wild things are" and promptly was crowned king.

As with most kids, attention spans are short and Max soon grew tired and wanted to travel back to his home. Which he did, arriving to find his supper waiting for him. It was still warm. Oh, and his room looked again like his room.

What a great story!

But it fueled my imagination. I took many mystic voyages in the privacy and security of my bedroom growing up.

I no longer do that ... exactly. What I do find happening more and more is that I dream of the old house where I was a child. These dreams or "voyages" are so realistic and detailed. I dream things I had long forgotten - at least in my active mind.

The monsters in Max's imaginative journey were a bit different from the monsters that haunted my childhood bedroom.

One, in particular, came out routinely after dark - any time a loud car or piercing siren went by the busy street a half block away. I would lie still, not moving a muscle and trying not to breath. Once it quieted down again the monster, a little black creature with a head shaped on the diagonal, just like Gumby's, would return to his home in the boxes of stuff my mother stored under my bed.

Obviously I was never made king of my beasts. I wasn't quite as rowdy and defiant as Max.

Later, my third grade teacher introduced me to Sendak's wonderful book. It meshed with my psyche right away. I got my mom to buy me my own copy. I read it often in my ninth and tenth years. Then slowly I forgot about it ... for a while. I was busy falling in love with other books and other stories.

In all these years I've never gone back to reread it, never saw any of the animated shorts or the movie based on it. But I never forget the experience of falling in love with it, either. I never forgot how I thought of myself as a toned-down version of Max.

I'm a dreamer, too. I believe there are monsters in life that need to be dealt with. I hid from them as a young child. Now I try to face my monsters head-on. Scary stuff, that.

I learn more about myself in my dreams. I have to work my way through the labyrinth of symbols, and a keep a very loose and open mind about it. Lots of blanks remain to be filled in. Perhaps there will always be those nagging blanks, but through careful, thoughtful analysis, I have filled in many of them.

How much my dreams spill over into reality is anybody's guess. But I think that is true for most of us, if we allow ourselves to look there. It takes a lot of work. I believe dream journals are good to keep, although my memory for dreams is such that the important things stick like glue.

My lady friend often marvels at how intricate and detailed my dreams are. She says she rarely dreams, or at least rarely recalls them. But I think the dream world is a place we have to truly desire to visit in order to get real results. However,only when I allow my filter to shut off am I able to experience the fullness of what is inside my true self.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Three Graves Foretold

I've always been impressed that of the countless brave soldiers who have defended our great country in its various wars, although all must realize there exists the possibility of not returning home alive, a great many receive premonitions they in fact will not.

At first I though that in honor of Memorial Day I would provide some stories from my vast collection of such. But how to whittle the many down to a few that would fit a single blog post and still do justice to the stories?

Instead I have decided to quote an amazingly startling story of soldiery presentiment dating back to the Civil War. It is from a chapter in the old book by the brave and oft-wounded Union officer Newton Martin Curtis, From Bull Run to Chancellorsville: The Story of the Sixteenth New York Infantry Together with Personal Reminiscences:

After landing at the head of York River, the regiment marched a short distance, and stacked arms. After supper was over, the members of Company F were engaged in general conversation when Edwin R. Bishop, a lighthearted and fun-provoking man, rose from the ground and interrupted the conversation by saying, "Boys, if I should fall in the next battle, as I now believe I shall, I wish you would bury me under this tree, where I indicate by these lines." He then proceeded to mark with a pioneer's spade the outlines of a grave.
Immediately Corporal George J. Love, a very sedate man, rose and picking up the spade which Bishop had used, said, "I would like you to dig my grave beside Bishop's, but please dig it with more regularity than his crooked lines indicate; I am the son of a sexton and have helped to dig many." He then proceeded to draw a parallelogram, dropped the spade, and sat down. Then Peter G. Ploof, a lad of twenty, much beloved for bis boyish, winsome ways, picked up the spade, and said "If I fall, dig my grave here beside Love's, and do it as we dig graves at home. Please follow the lines I make for you." He drew the lines of the coffin used in those days, wider at the shoulders and tapering toward the head and foot. Conversation was resumed, and no further attention was paid to the incident.
At three o'clock the next morning, May 7th, Companies F and G were ordered out to the picket line, where, at 9 A.M., they met the advancing lines of General J. B. Hood's brigade, of Whiting's division. These companies could not stay the progress of the overwhelming force brought against them, but they made a manful resistance until the artillery was brought up and made ready for action; they were then ordered back, with 17 per cent. of their number among the killed and wounded. Three members of Company F were killed,—Bishop, Love and Ploof, and their comrades, in paying them the martial honors due the gallant dead, gave to each the resting place he had selected on the night before the battle. Beside them were buried Mummery, Seabury and Waymouth, of Company G.
Interestingly, later in his book Curtis gives his own personal premonition:

I had no fear of death in battle, for before I was mustered into service, I had a presentiment that I should not be killed in the army, but would have my eyesight injured ... In my last battle, I lost the sight of my left eye by the fragment of a shell. Although, in two battles, I was advised by surgeons on the field that I was mortally wounded, I was nevertheless at no time shaken in my belief that I should survive the war.

On this Memorial Day I remember those brave souls who didn't make it back home, especially those who knew they wouldn't yet bravely fought on.

Monday, May 18, 2015

The Little Man Under The Table

If you've been a reader of my blog for very long you must be aware that I have a fondness for the offbeat and Fortean experiences. I'm more an idealist than a materialist; more Jungian than Freudian. I believe in the primacy of mind over matter. Please keep that in mind when you read posts like this one.

My mother's last remaining brother died last year. There was a story about Uncle Harry that I remember from my youth. It fascinated me then, especially when I was a young child. ON Saturday I asked my mom to tell me about it all over again - just to make sure I had remembered it accurately. (Really there isn't that much to it.) It goes like this:

As was common in the depression years of the 1930s and early 1940s, my mother's parents had a small home that was cramped with children. My Uncle Harry slept on a rollaway bed in the kitchen because there weren't enough bedrooms and sleeping spaces in the rest of the house.

One morning, after he had awoke - and he always maintained he was fully awake when this happened - he happened to look at the kitchen table and noticed a small man standing underneath, leaning on one of the table legs. He was dressed in plain clothes and was doing nothing other than leaning. He looked away and looked back and the man was gone.

Okay, so far it's still easy enough to dismiss that as a child's overactive imagination, or maybe, despite his protestations, Harry was not fully awake that morning.

But I learned that this happened in the same house my mother lived in when she and her friend Winkie saw a little man outdoors who, upon being sighted, ducked behind some rocks. Long time readers might remember the post I did about that one, and I tried to dismiss that as my mom's young mind being highly impressed (as I knew it was) by her childhood visit to a local tourist attract (Lookout Mountain's famous Rock City), which is highly decorated with gnomes that were imported from Germany. All this occurred in Hixson, Tennessee, which was quite rural back in the 30s.

My mom is immovable about what she says she saw. And was again Saturday when I discussed this with her. In my whole life she never wavered in the details of her story (or Harry's, which I never had the chance to ask him about because he lived out of state).

Believe it or not, there is a vast amount of accounts of people who claim to have seen fairies and little people of all kinds. It might be easy to dismiss this stuff as lies, delusions, or the product of those who are overly fantasy-prone.

But there is another alternative. That would be to recognize a reality beyond the common or "normal" reality. Before you dismiss me as a crackpot, I would highly recommend a book that has helped me along as I've tried to make sense of the strange and uncanny in my life and in the lives of others I know personally. That books is Daimonic Reality: A field Guide to the Otherworld, by Patrick Harpur. I highly recommend Harpur's book, unless your mind is bolted tight in Western literalism and materialism. I would also recommend that Jung be consulted about archetypes. Those are some good starting places.

Most of you know my background of having been raised by my parents in the Christian Pentecostal tradition. I came from a world of visions, angels, and intense demonology. I know folks who claim to have seen angels and demons. Again, one doesn't have to restrict oneself to the Pentecostal tradition to find accounts of people who have encountered otherworldly beings.

Is there a way to make sense of Fortean experiences without resorting to mental illness as an explanation? I think there is. Sometimes we just need to expand our thinking. 

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Moses On A Twenty Dollar Bill?

At a time when Christianity is apparently on the wane here in the United States, an online petition by Women On 20s is pushing for a woman to replace President Andrew Jackson on the twenty dollar bill, and a poll of Americans interested in the question named Harriet Tubman, a Christian mystic, the most popular choice.

Tubman beat out Eleanor Roosevelt, her closest competition, 118,328 votes to 111,227.

Tubman was an interesting lady. Best known for her humanitarian efforts and active abolitionism as a conductor for the Underground Railroad. She became known as a "Moses" of her people.

Since a head injury in her youth (being hit in the head by a metal weight), she had suffered with headaches, epilepsy and fainting spells. She also experienced visions and dreams which she felt came from God. It was her feeling that she actually left her body during her fainting spells and spent time among the spirits in the spirit world.

When a slave, Harriet Tubman began to pray that God would change the heart of her owner, Edward Brodess, and make him a Christian:

I prayed all night long for my master, till the first of March; and all the time he was bringing people to look at me, and trying to sell me. I changed my prayer. First of March I began to pray, "Oh Lord, if you ain't never going to change that man's hear, kill him, Lord, and take him out of the way."

Much to her shock and later regret, Brodess died a week after she changed her prayer.

Click this link to read an online article dealing with a possible visionary premonition of hers concerning the death of abolitionist John Brown.

Rosemary Sadlier, in her biography of Tubman, Harriet Tubman: Freedom Seeker, Freedom Leader, concluded that Tubman's spirituality "combined African spirituality with her interpretation of Christianity." No biographer I've found ignores Tubman's deep religious faith as it influenced her life's work.

Wanna know something weird? Before I saw this story in the news I had already began researching the dreams and visions of Tubman. I don't know why I had began to do this, but it provided me with source material for this post.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

A Dream Of Tragedy

The year was 1952. Mrs. Bessie Smith of Baltimore, Maryland was at her job as cook at a local restaurant. That restaurant being located beside the local fire station. Back at her home her husband slept with their three young sons, their daughter, and another youth who was staying with them.

As Smith approached her house after her shift ended it became difficult for her to make her way down the hill to her home. The fire equipment and gathering crowd slowed her approach.

Eight months previously Bessie Smith dreamed her children had burned to death. Then seven months later she dreamed her children burned to death on the third floor of the family home. The next day there was a fire in the home which stemmed from a faulty chimney.

Her dream made such an impression as a harbinger of doom that the Smiths had all the stoves removed except for those on the first floor of their three story abode. They had the landlord make repairs on the faulty chimney.

Now, as she came home from work, she found out how true her premonitions had been. 

Her husband Armond had tried to rescue the children. The youngest, their nine-month-old daughter was carried out by her father badly burned. She later died at the hospital. Brave Armond went back in after the others but never made it out. He and two of his sons were found burned to death on the third floor, the children firmly held in their father's arms.

The other son and another girl who was staying with the family managed to escape by climbing out onto the roof and being pulled to safety by a neighbor.

The cause of the fire was undetermined at the time, but fire fighters said it started on the first floor.

I read the newspaper account of this sad story and immediately thought Bessie Smith's dreams might not have been so much prophetic as the result of her legitimate fears, perhaps because of previous problems. But both dreams came before the nonfatal fire which prompted the chimney repairs and stove removals.

As one who has experienced premonitions in my own life, I have no problem with seeing this as a precognitive dream. Especially noticeable was Smith's dream having the children dying on the third floor.

The whole story is sad. And sadder still it is that the Smiths acted on the dreams and were still unable to avoid tragedy.

The newspaper account I used in writing this post can be found here.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

"Please Send Me Purple Pansies"

"If I should crack up, please send me purple pansies, as I like them best."

Those were the words of now mostly forgotten pioneer female aviator Ruth Alexander as she was at the Lindbergh Field in San Diego and spoke with reporters during a plane check. She was making a cross-country flight headed for Newark, N. J.

In my great interest in premonitions of impending death, her story is now added to my collection.

Greater interest in another female aviator, Amelia Earhart, whose even greater aerial accomplishments as well as her disappearance in 1937, eclipsed the tragedy of Alexander's last flight.

Now if the above seemingly offhand remark to reporters were all the evidence of premonition there was it could easily be dismissed a poor joke. But there is more.

Newspapers at the time reported she had left notes for her parents as well as her new husband. These clearly indicated a sense of doom.

To her parents she requested a simple funeral should she die. But to her husband she wrote:

Life is strange, honey. If I have preceded you do not grieve for me, but be content as I am content. Finish your work down here and make me proud of you, as I ever will be at your side. And when you come I will welcome you. Always I will love and wait for you. And, sweetheart, keep my pretty wedding ring always with you, Ruth.

The crash which took Alexander's life was horrific, with wreckage scattered hundreds of feet from her mangled body, one of the plane's wings and its motor. The papers reported that several struts and braces were wrapped around the body. The plane's gas tank had apparently exploded causing the crash.

Hope for the best prepare for the worst, I suppose. Sometimes you have feelings you just can't shake. That was the case with Alexander, I believe.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

The Devil In Material Form

I hate drugs. My life has not been unaffected by them. I've been a supervisor of workers in my career for thirty years now. I could write a book about the things I've seen and how many people have worked for me over the years and have failed, have had their lives come completely unraveled because of drugs: the Devil in material form.

My closest friend in the whole world has been devastated because all three of her sons have been enslaved by drugs. Rehab hasn't broken the hold; prison didn't deter them for long. Reasoning doesn't help the hard-core addict. Shaming doesn't help. Tough love doesn't seem to work. Even begging and crying leaves the addict unaffected ... at least for long.

The devil of drug addiction makes zombies. Addiction kills ambition, destroys character, steals pride and leaves the addict wasted but looking and caring only for the next fix.

There is a story that goes with the above picture. Another one of my friends showed it to me and it made such a visceral impression on me that I asked her if she would email me a copy for my blog. She agreed.

You see, my friend's son had a baby, a beautiful baby boy, with an addict. He now has custody of his baby boy because the mom is out of control. Well, right now she's sitting in jail. Not for drugs. Because of drugs. She got involved in burglary and was caught with stolen property. Druggies do that to help supply their habit.

My friend's son went to the mother's apartment (from which she is about to be evicted) in order to get the baby bed. He was so disgusted by what he saw he took a picture. The above picture. That is the bedside table between the mother's bed and the baby's, where she indulged in her addiction right beside her sleeping baby.

Why would anyone live that way? Why would anyone throw away their family, friends, even their own lives? Is this not demonic possession? Are illicit drugs not the great Satan of today's youth?

I hate drugs because I have seen up close what they do to people. I've seen drug deaths ... up close. I've lost friends, people I went to school with, neighbors, coworkers. I've watched close friends suffer through their children's addictions. Is anything more hellish?

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

A Native American Version Of The 23rd Psalm

As with many folks who live in the southeastern United States, Cherokee blood runs through my family's veins.

My older brother always took especial pride in this heritage, so much so that he regularly purchased magazines devoted to the American Indian. These I would read on the weekends I would spend in his bedroom (which I was allowed to do) when he spent nights away from home.

Always of interest to me was the spiritual outlook of Native Americans, I should have written outlooks, because there are many variations. Common is the view that there is a Great Spirit and that earth is our Mother. I like that. And my forebears, the Cherokees, held a monotheistic animism. I find that interesting as well.

I saved an old newspaper clipping which gives an "Indian" paraphrase of the 23rd Psalm, attributed to Warren Small Bear. I rather like this as well. It seems to me the closer we are to nature, the easier it is to believe in the Great Spirit.

The Great Spirit watches over me in the day and in the night. He understands my needs. In my lodge there is no crying for good. It is good to feel the green grass beneath my feet. The waters of many streams are cool when I am thirsty. He takes away my fears while I sleep. My moccasins walk the path of soft drums when council fires have burned low.

When I come near the shadow of the valley of the long sleep, my spirit will be strong and my heart will soar as the eagle. The Great Spirit has walked with me many days. When my sorrows cause me to sleep, I wake and find them gone. When my enemies would come against me, he makes them my friends. He pours the oils of his love over me until I am completely covered.

I desire only to live in peace with all men. Surely someday I will find that land where our lodges will never have to be moved, and that will be my dwelling place forever. Amen.