Colin Wilson’s preface to Muddy Tracks

How often does one of your literary heroes become a friend? During the 25 years between stumbling upon The Mind Parasites in 1970 and meeting Colin Wilson in 1995, my life changed many times, but I never suspected that one day he would write an introduction to one of my books. But that’s what he did, for Muddy Tracks, published in January, 2001, and here it is:


by Colin Wilson

When Frank DeMarco told me he intended to write a book about his experiences of The Monroe Institute, I immediately offered to write this introduction, for I needed no convincing that Robert Monroe is one of the most important figures in modern paranormal research. What I had not expected was that the book I had so casually offered to introduce, sight unseen, would be itself as remarkable as any of Monroe’s books.

I met Frank on March 17, 1995, in the New York apartment of the distinguished paranormal researcher Alexander Imich. As it happens, it was the day Robert Monroe died. I remember the date because my taxi had got stuck in the Saint Patrick’s Day parade, and I was two hours late for the party. Fortunately, it was still going strong. But the only one of the guests I mentioned later in my diary was Frank DeMarco. And that was partly because he had sent me a novel he had written called Messenger, a sequel to James Hilton’s Lost Horizon, and that, unlike most sequels, it was totally absorbing. It was the story of a young American pilot whose spy plane crashes in Tibet in 1962, and who is taken to the monastery of Shangri-La. It was obvious that DeMarco had written it partly because he felt that James Hilton had missed some important opportunities. His young pilot attempts to escape, but is caught, then decides to make the best of it and begin to practice mental and spiritual disciplines. The book made it clear that DeMarco knew a great deal about such disciplines, and had practiced them himself. And I sensed this as I talked to him—mainly about Monroe—at the party.

Back in England, I reread Monroe’s book Journeys Out of the Body, which I had first read twenty years earlier. The book had deeply impressed me, and I wrote about it in Mysteries (1978), a sequel to The Occult. Monroe was a Virginia businessman who, in the late 1950s, began to have spontaneous out-of-the-body experiences—probably because, as a broadcasting executive, he had been experimenting with sleep-learning using two earphones. What was so interesting about Monroe was that, unlike many classic “astral travelers”—for example, Sylvan Muldoon and Oliver Fox—Monroe set out to discover how to teach others to leave their bodies, through the process he called “Hemi-Sync,” or hemisphere synchronization, the use of patterns of sound to synchronize the left and right halves of the brain, and to induce a deep calm that is conducive to “altered states” and out-of-the-body experiences.

Monroe was able to “project” himself to other locations—like a neighbor’s house—but soon found journeys in “this world” oddly boring. But he quickly discovered a region where he felt more at home, a timeless realm he calls “Locale II,” and which seems to be the place we go to after death. In Locale II there are apparently many thoroughly bewildered people who do not know they are dead. Monroe began to help such people—although he occasionally needed help himself, as he came to realize that Locale II was also peopled by some very strange and occasionally terrifying entities.

Monroe will remind many readers of Emanuel Swedenborg, whose books contain descriptions of a realm beyond death that bears a remarkable resemblance to Monroe’s Locale II. But readers of Heaven and Hell or The True Christian Religion will occasionally experience doubts about Swedenborg, whose Christian standpoint makes us wonder whether he was a religious crank. What is so impressive about Monroe is that his work carries a ring of total honesty, a man who is trying to tell precisely and exactly what he has experienced, insofar as it can be conveyed in ordinary language.

In 1986 I had bought Monroe’s second book, Far Journeys, but had found it disappointing compared to his first, and never finished it. It was full of weird neologisms like “I plied,” “he flickered,” “I smoothed.” But when Frank DeMarco directed me to a strange and fascinating chapter called “Hearsay Evidence,” which offers a symbolic—and uncomfortable—history of why humans were created, I was so impressed that I went back to the beginning and read the whole book. After that I went on to read Monroe’s third and most mind-boggling book, Ultimate Journey, in which he tries to take us just about as far as words can go. It is certainly one of the oddest and most fascinating books I have ever encountered, and I deliberately read it slowly because I was enjoying it so much.

At about this point, Frank sent me an account he had written of his stay at The Monroe Institute in 1992. This I also read straight through, totally gripped, because what he had to say was so amazing. In his younger days, Frank had practiced amateur hypnosis (as described in this book), and become convinced that it was possible to access past lives. He had been to visit Emerson’s house in Concord, and had an impression that he had once visited Emerson there. Now, at The Monroe Institute, he began using Monroe’s techniques to mentally project himself to Emerson’s house.

He says that it was like watching a movie, with realistic playback. He saw himself—as a Dr. Atwood—arrive at the back door and be introduced to Mrs. Emerson, who seemed vaguely familiar. After that he talked to Emerson, until their conversation was interrupted by Thoreau, who at the time lived in the Emerson household, and who seemed to regard Atwood with mild suspicion as a possible rival.

I shall not describe all this further, because it is in this book. But when I came to write a book about the enigma of “alien abduction,” and felt the need to write a chapter on “remote viewing,” I asked Frank’s permission to quote his story, and did so in Chapter 9 of Alien Dawn.

When Frank began to send me chapters of his new book, I felt exactly as I had felt on reading Monroe: that as weird and strange as all this sounded, it made an impression of complete truth and authenticity.

That was in the autumn of 1997. But after that, I gathered the book was not going so well. Although it seemed to me that all he had to do was to keep on telling his story and the book would write itself, he apparently found that this was not so, and was getting himself into that tangle that happens to writers when they have too much to say.

Then, suddenly, it began to flow fast, and he began to e-mail it to me at the rate of more than three chapters a week. This, it soon became clear, was due to the help and support of what he called “The Gentlemen Upstairs” (TGU).

This in itself strikes me as one of the most interesting and important things about this book. Who are “The Gentlemen Upstairs?” Angels? Spirits? His own “superconscious mind”? I suspect that he himself is not quite sure.

If I had read this book in the late 1970s, I would have come down on the side of the “superconscious” hypothesis, for I was at that time fascinated by the phenomenon of multiple personality, and had come to the conclusion that every one of us possesses many levels of personality, and that our evolution as individuals means climbing what I called “the ladder of selves.” But then I came upon the work of Max Freedom Long, particularly that astonishing book with the atrocious title The Secret Science Behind Miracles. Investigating the religion of the Hunas of Hawaii—which had been suppressed by the Christian Church—he learned that the kahuna (Huna priesthood) believed that man has three souls: lower, middle, and high. The middle self is what we call “I,” the everyday personality; the lower self is what Freud called the “unconscious”; but there is also a “high self,” which is as far above the everyday self as the unconscious is below it. This high self can even foresee the future, which must mean that, in a sense, it is outside our time realm.

Long came to feel that the kahuna system explains multiple personality far better than our Western psychology. He cites a case recorded by Dr. James Leapsley of a girl whose original personality alternated with another personality every four years. Experts hypnotized her in an attempt to solve the problem in the standard way, by getting the two personalities to blend, or to persuade one of them to go away. Then an unfamiliar but authoritative voice spoke through the girl’s mouth, identifying itself as the guardian of the two girls. He told the experts that if they did not stop interfering, it would simply withdraw the two girls and leave them with a corpse. The experts recognized that it could do exactly as it said, and gave up.

The case convinced me that many multiple personalities are, in fact, possessed by “spirits.” I agree that sounds like a hopeless backward step into the dark ages of superstition; but since that time, many similar case studies have convinced me that it is true.

So I would be inclined to feel that Frank DeMarco’s “Gentlemen Upstairs” could be either Frank’s own “Higher Self” or another person entirely. But even this may be a simplification. In 1907 an architect named Frederick Bligh Bond was commissioned by the Church of England to try to locate the remains of the ancient chapel at Glastonbury Abbey. He used a medium who specialized in automatic writing, and was soon getting messages from dead monks that enabled him to locate the ruins precisely. And one of these monks remarked, “Why cling I to that which is not? It is I, and it is not I, butt parte of me which dwelleth in the past and is bound to that which my carnal soul loved and called ‘home’ these many years. Yet I, Johannes, amm of many partes, and ye better parte doeth other things. …”

Are we all “of many partes?” Certainly, Frank’s strange story of Katrina suggests as much. If Katrina was one of Frank’s past lives, then how could his present self locate Katrina in “Focus 27” of that parallel world called Locale II? I asked Frank, and he admitted he was by no means sure.

It can be seen why I became so excited about this book, and in spite of a fairly heavy work schedule, printed up every e-mail attachment as soon as it came and read it straight through.

I was particularly impressed by his section describing the effect of taking mescaline as a student. To begin with, the drug produced the same effect described by Aldous Huxley in The Doors of Perception: a deepened sense of reality. Frank writes, “If I were looking at a candle, say, I would really look at it, really see it, for the first time in my life.” Looking at a painting of a boat, it was as if the front half of the boat was sticking out into the room.

“The walls, I realized, were alive! Literally. What I had been taking for dead matter was something much more exciting; it was somehow alive in a way I couldn’t fathom, but couldn’t doubt.”

I was reminded of a passage in a book called The States of Human Consciousness by C. Daly King, a student of Gurdjieff, who describes how, standing on a New Jersey station one morning, he experienced a more intense form of consciousness, in which the dun-colored bricks of the station “appeared to be tremendously alive; without manifesting any exterior motion they seemed to be seething almost joyously inside and gave the distinct impression that in their own degree they were living and actually liking it.”

Even more important, I think, is the comment DeMarco makes about coincidence—that he had always taken it for granted that life was just a collision of forces on the material plane. Under mescaline he suddenly became aware that there is no such thing as coincidence. “Several times in the course of that long Saturday afternoon I watched the interaction of five people come to perfectly orchestrated peaks and lulls. I refer not to anything externally dramatic, but to the temporary clarity of vision that showed me (beyond later doubting) that more went on between individuals than their ordinary consciousness realized. Thinking about the orchestration I saw then, I for a while referred to God The Great Playwright.”

What this passage brought to mind was an interview I had had with the remarkable Australian mystic Barbara Tucker, wife of the painter Albert Tucker, one of whose experiences happened at a party:

“All the people round me were laughing and chatting and doing all the things people do at parties—and then, again, I suddenly saw all the connections between these people—how they all interconnected, how all this show that was going on was not, in fact, idle chatter. It was all interconnecting into their relationships with one another in the most extraordinary way.”

Obviously, Daly King, Barbara Tucker, and Frank DeMarco had all had that same sense that our world is not as chaotic as it looks, but is imbued with an underlying meaning.

This book is not, in the ordinary sense, an autobiography, which seems to me in a way a pity, for Frank’s experience has been in many ways remarkable, and he has a natural gift for making it come alive. This is autobiography only insofar as it is relevant to his interest in The Monroe Institute and Monroe’s own ideas and experiences. When I asked him to let me have a few biographical details for this introduction, he sent me an e-mail ironically entitled “My Fascinating Life.” But it provides the necessary background to this book.

He was born in 1946 in New Jersey, the son of a farmer, and brought up a Catholic. He graduated from George Washington University in 1969, and wrote his thesis on Thoreau. He married in that same year and had a son and daughter. After trying journalism and librarianship, he decided to follow the lead of his hero Kennedy, and ran for Congress at twenty-seven, coming fourth of six in the Democratic primary. For two years he worked for the man who was elected, then became a computer programmer, and finally became the co-founder of the Hampton Roads Publishing Company in Virginia. This was in 1989, and in the following year he made his first trip to The Monroe Institute, and got to know its founder—which is virtually the starting point of this book.

My own work had played a part in his development (as described in the first chapter), which is how I come to be writing this introduction. It helped to crystallize his own feeling that there is something oddly wrong with “this life,” and that there has to be some alternative, some other way. I had experienced the same odd sense of suffocation during my own teens (in the 1940s), and for me it had crystallized in Eliot’s phrase, “Where is the life we have lost in living?” I began to collect material about what I called “Outsiders,” misfits who had experienced this same sense of not really belonging to our down-to-earth reality. The romantics of the nineteenth century felt the same, and often committed suicide, or died of a kind of self-induced despair at the thought that there is no alternative.

What fascinated me so much were these glimpses of overwhelming delight and affirmation, the kind of thing that led Van Gogh to paint “Starry Night” and made Nijinsky write in his diary: “I am God, I am God.” Were they sheer illusion—as Van Gogh believed when he committed suicide? In states of depression and fatigue, it was easy to believe this. But then there were those other moments, states of immense happiness and confidence, in which it was obvious that human beings are far stronger than they realize.

It was this question—what Thomas Carlyle called “Everlasting No versus Everlasting Yes”—that led me to write my first book The Outsider in 1955, whose publication in 1956 led to the vertiginous and not wholly pleasant experience of overnight success—the question that I later dramatized in the science fiction novel The Mind Parasites in the mid-sixties, and that Frank stumbled on a few years later.

Although I became deeply interested in “the occult” in 1969, when asked to write a book about it, and so discovered the work of Robert Monroe, I have never attempted to follow Frank into the exploration of these curious powers of the mind. In fact, although writing The Occult and Mysteries left me in no doubt whatever of the reality of out-of-the-body experience, I remained oddly skeptical about the whole notion of life after death, feeling that perhaps human beings ought to devote their attention to finding out why we are alive and what we are supposed to do now we are here. Writing a book on the poltergeist in the early 1980s convinced me beyond all doubt that poltergeists are spirits, and not some manifestation of the unconscious minds of disturbed teenagers. And finally, researching a book called Afterlife convinced me that human beings somehow survive their death.

Yet what continues to obsess me is the notion that human beings are on the verge of a new step in their evolution, and that it is in the process of occurring at this moment. It seems clear to me that for well over three thousand years, human consciousness has been trapped by survival needs in a narrow “left brain” vision, and that it is now virtually in a cul de sac. Research into a book on the so-called alien abduction phenomena has convinced me that something very strange is happening, and that we are on the verge of some great change. It seems to me that there is much evidence that the “aliens”—or some of them—are attempting to “midwife” the human race to a new stage of consciousness.

Why do I feel that Monroe’s insights are so important to the present time? I can illustrate the answer by pointing to a recent book called The Threat by my fellow researcher David Jacobs, who is convinced that the human race is about to be taken over by the aliens, who will overrun us as the Nazis once hoped to overrun the world. His book left me feeling worried, for thirty years of research have certainly taught him more about UFOs than I shall ever know. Then I thought about Frank DeMarco and his book, and suddenly became aware that Jacobs—with whom I had some interesting conversations at a conference two years ago—is leaving out of account what Monroe knew and what DeMarco knows: that in this strange “multiverse” there are powerful forces for good as well as evil, and that if we remain trapped “downstairs,” in a kind of worm’s-eye view of reality, we shall inevitably take a pessimistic view of the future. What is so important, and so refreshing, about this book is that it provides a remarkable bird’s-eye view of the universe that instantly induces a sense of what G. K. Chesterton once called “absurd good news.”


One thought on “Colin Wilson’s preface to Muddy Tracks

  1. It has been a while since I read Muddy Tracks but I thoroughly enjoyed revisiting this excellent introduction. It is a blessed thing when we are able to actualize a physical connection to someone instrumental in our growth. Particularly relevant to me at this time was the last paragraph about “absurd good news.” There is a plethora of information available today that could lead one to a pessimistic view. However, it is important to be reminded that in this multiverse we live in, there are many forces that are working for our higher “good” as well as the other and that we can all exercise our choice of perspective by viewing reality through this optimistic lens. Thanks, Frank!! Your timing is most excellent!

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