“All the works of man have their origin in creative fantasy.” – C.G. Jung
Think about this for a second: there are people—kids especially—who can venture into other worlds in much the same way Alice plunges down the rabbit hole into Wonderland (Alice in Wonderland), or Lucy climbs into that old mothball-smelling wardrobe and walks straight into Narnia (The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe).
The real-world people, both kids and adults, who can do this kind of thing are called fantasy prone personality types, a trait influenced by both psychological and neurological factors and … Read more
Part 3: The God Chamber
“I prefer the term ‘the unconscious,’ knowing that I might equally well speak of ‘God’ or ‘daimon’ if I wished to express myself in mythic language.” – C.G. Jung
The following story is a work of fiction, inspired by an ongoing “God Helmet” experiment run by Dr. Michael Persinger of Laurentian University in Ontario, Canada.
Peggy is a confirmed atheist and a skeptic when it comes to any supernatural explanation of natural phenomena. So-called mysteries are simply those things which have yet to be explained by science. Today, Peggy has offered herself up … Read more
Part 2: Brian’s Miraculous Moment
“To plead the organic causation of a religious state of mind in refutation of its claim to possess superior spiritual value is quite illogical and arbitrary…” – William James
The following story is a fictional composite derived from case studies of people with temporal lobe epilepsy.
Six months after the surgery to remove a tumor from the right temporal lobe of his brain, Brian still experiences the epileptic attacks his neurologist calls “partial seizures.” They begin with the smell of burning rubber, then he hears bells ringing. Even as these fade, he feels … Read more
“I had…an experience. I can’t prove it. I can’t even explain it. All I can tell you is that everything I know as a human being, everything that I am, tells me that it was real.” – Carl Sagan
An experience of the “Other” is always a profound moment, no matter how you label it: a mystical peak experience, an encounter with the collective unconscious, or coming face-to-face with God. There is a numinous, mysterious, secret quality about it, of having stepped behind the curtain of this world and peeked backstage into another, and perhaps more fundamental, … Read more
“Creativity is the ability to see the ordinary as extraordinary.” – Dewitt Jones
Professional photographer and inspirational speaker Dewitt Jones tells a story about two Medieval masons, each chipping away on a block of marble. When asked by a priest what they’re doing, the first mason says he’s shaping a rock; but the second, his eyes alight with the fire of his passion, says he is building a cathedral.
As I write, I’m watching a YouTube video of Jones winding up his cathedral story before a packed house of rapt listeners: “I’m building a cathedral,” he says with … Read more
“We see not with the eye but with the soul.” – Mike Samuels
Blinded by a freak accident at school one spring day, eight-year-old Jacques Lusseyran (1924-1971) was suddenly confronted by the total absence of light and color: the world had vanished from sight, filling the boy with panic and despair.
Fortunately for Lusseyran, a future World War II French Resistance hero, a profound and life-changing Wow! moment followed soon after, bringing light and color back into his life.
He tells of this moment in his autobiography And There Was Light. One day, out walking with his father, the … Read more
“Synchronicity takes the coincidence of events in space and time as meaning something more than mere chance.” – Carl G. Jung
I’ve yet to meet a person who hasn’t been wowed by the power of synchronicity, that strange interweaving of mind and matter that breaks into our everyday lives every now and then. Maybe you remember the 1983 hit song Synchronicity by The Police: “A star fall, a phone call / It joins all / Synchronicity.”
If you’re unfamiliar with the concept of synchronicity, here’s the short version: Carl Gustav Jung (1875-1961), the Swiss psychologist … Read more
“Gentlemen, I give you a toast. Here’s my hope that Robert Conway will find his Shangri-La. Here’s my hope that we all find our Shangri-La.” – Robert Riskin
Of all the Wow! experiences imaginable, stumbling across a paradise hidden away in some far corner of the world has to rate right up there. And I’m not talking about an unplanned layover on a tropical island in the South Pacific or anything like that. No, I’m talking about finding a way into a real earthly paradise and refuge – a Garden of Eden.
Since the time of Gilgamesh, dreams … Read more
“Happiness is not something ready made. It comes from your own actions.” – Dalai Lama XIV
It’s said that an earnest young man once asked the 19th century philosopher and satirist Thomas Carlyle how he should go about reforming the world, and Carlyle told him to “start with himself.”
The same might be said for making the world a happier place: start with yourself. Decide to be a happier person.
But can one simply decide to be happier? Or, looking at the subject from an even more practical perspective, can one approach something as elusive as happiness as a self-improvement … Read more
Part 3: Twilight of the Gods
“Winds tore over the earth and lightning fell from the sky. When it was quiet, the islanders said that some mighty spirit had passed away.” – Plutarch
The brazier emitted a fierce orange glow. Otherwise, the cell was dim and filled with shadows. Thamus, naked, lay strapped to a plank. His sweat reeked of fear. The questioner held up the red-hot flaying knife for Thamus to inspect. For an instant, the man looked like a blacksmith showing off his work. “What was the message?” asked the questioner. He had a kind voice, but somehow … Read more
Part 2: Signs and Portents
“So there is no navel-stone, center of the earth and ocean; And if there is, it’s known to the gods but hidden from mortals.” – Oracle of Delphi
The morning dawned fair with a favorable wind, as did every morning thereafter. And the merchant ship was wafted from port to port toward its destination – Rome, mistress of the world. For the remainder of the voyage, Thamus’ fellow passengers cut him a wide berth and whispered behind his back. Even Heracleon, though he smiled and spoke as a friend, was short on his … Read more
Part 1: A Voice in the Darkness
“For two are the gates of shadowy dreams, and one is fashioned of horn and one of ivory. Those dreams that pass through the gate of sawn ivory deceive men, bringing words that find no fulfillment. But those that come forth through the gate of polished horn bring true issues to pass, when any mortal sees them…” – Homer
Not all Wow! experiences are joyous. Some might be described as burdens, trials, or even ordeals. I based the following story (fiction) on an essay entitled The Passing of the Oracles by Plutarch… Read more
“All joy…always reminds, beckons, awakens desire. Our best havings are wantings.” – C.S. Lewis
C.S. “Jack” Lewis (1898-1963), author of The Chronicles of Narnia, often spoke of a Wow! moment from his childhood he called being “surprised by joy,” a phrase he later chose for the title of his autobiography.
In short, the story goes something like this…
One day Lewis’ brother tracked him down to showoff a “toy garden” he’d made, which was little more than a biscuit-tin lid covered with moss, twigs, and flowers. Simple it may have been, but Lewis was enchanted … Read more
“Formation, transformation, the eternal mind’s eternal recreation.” – Goethe
Reflections on time, change, and eternity can result in profound Wow! moments and states. The 1985 film Chronos offers just such an experience of devouring time, if you relax and allow it to play out.
As you watch and listen to Chronos, remember the phrase Sum quod eris: “I am what you will be.” For it speaks of continuous change, of eternal transformation, the one constant of life on this Earth. As our planet cycles through the days, years, centuries, millennia, and aeons, change remains the one constant. One … Read more
“In the beginning was alpha, the end is omega, but somewhere in between came Delta, man himself. Man became man by breaking into the daylight of language…” – Walker Percy
On a bright, summer-like day in March 1887, Anne Mansfield Sullivan arrived at the home of six-year-old Helen Keller, who later described the day as the “the most important in all my life…”
Deaf, dumb and blind since she was 19 months old, Helen lived more like a wild animal than a human being (her howling, dish-smashing temper tantrums were legendary). Yet somehow she knew that … Read more
“The earth is a very small stage in a vast cosmic arena.” – Carl Sagan
Thirty years ago, in an episode of his groundbreaking TV series Cosmos, Dr. Carl Sagan imagined radio telescopes on Earth receiving a message from deep space containing a vast Encyclopedia Galactica. An advanced civilization somewhere nearby in the Milky Way, say within 200 light years, had made contact with us at last.
Sagan went on to imagine humanity tirelessly poring over the Encyclopedia Galactica, learning of other intelligent creatures, civilizations, and of the treasure-trove of life-bearing planets – gems set … Read more
“They call us Brislecone Pines. They call me Methuselah.” – Roger McGough
It is the twenty-seventh century B.C.
High up in what will one day be called the White Mountains of California, a bristlecone pine seedling has taken root in the arid soil of a grove set in a hostile landscape. Gnarled old trees surround the young one, eking out an existence.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the planet, pharaohs and gods rule in Egypt upon the River Nile. Across the wide, uncharted world it is an age of immortals – gods who, men believe, will live and rule forever.… Read more
“I want to build a clock that ticks once a year. The century hand advances once every one hundred years, and the cuckoo comes out on the millennium. I want the cuckoo to come out every millennium for the next 10,000 years…” – Danny Hillis
The idea of a clock that ticks for 10,000 years has sci-fi action thriller written all over it. Here’s the concept: Sometime in the future, a party of hikers comes across a crack in the side of a desert mountain in what was once eastern Nevada. They enter to find … Read more
“I think of the self-actualizing man not as an ordinary man with something added, but rather as the ordinary man with nothing taken away.” – Abraham Maslow
A profound Wow! moment is an extraordinary state of mind, which can’t necessarily be induced by following a prescribed set of steps. Whatever your approach – from being an artist to free-falling in zero-gravity – Wow! either happens or it doesn’t.
What I can say with some confidence is that certain attitudes/stances/views/values are more conducive than others to bringing about a Wow! experience. I don’t ask you to take my word … Read more