[A book with four interlocking themes:
- how to communicate with the dead;
- the life of a 19th-century American;
- the massive task facing us today, and
- the physical world’s place in the scheme of things.]
Conclusions and beginnings
So much goes on behind the scenes in our lives! Living in one direction, as we must, we often have little idea of the real reason why we’re doing things. When I went to Oregon in September 2005, I hadn’t any idea that a major reason for my trip was to spend an afternoon in a working port on the Columbia River.
Since I associate Oregon with Joseph’s journey in the 1840s, naturally I had him in mind even before I got off the airplane. On my first afternoon in Portland, I tried to find a trace of him in the archives of the state historical museum. As usual, I failed to find anything. That night, after a nice supper with my niece, I abruptly changed plans and decided to head out to the ocean instead of heading toward Mount Hood as I had intended. The next morning, I took a different road than I intended (the one I took being the only one I could easily get onto) and as a result I came into Astoria from the west rather than from the east, which gave me an entirely different sense of it than I might have had otherwise. As Joseph mentioned, I saw it immediately as a working waterfront, much as he would have seen it 160 years earlier.
Six weeks later, I arranged and began a sabbatical to write a book about healing and guidance. Six weeks after that, I went quickly from trying to find some validation of Joseph’s story to being haunted (I don’t know how else to describe it) by the words and tune of “Marching Through Georgia,” and then abruptly I was talking directly to Joseph, thinking while doing so that I was goofing off from my “real” task. That shows how much I know ahead of time about where my life is going! In retrospect, the connections are obvious. They weren’t obvious ahead of time.
And, as the material should have made clear, the journey isn’t over yet! We started out simply thinking to talk to Joseph about his life and perhaps accumulate some clues that would enable me to verify his existence. Before you know it (as Joseph would say) there we were, hearing that our time has a huge task ahead of it and that what we are and what we do is important to the other side.
Big jump, especially considering that even at this end of the process I don’t feel that I have proved anything about Joseph. After all that conversation, all that exploring in public and maybe sawing myself off the limb publicly, still I don’t have enough evidence to hang a dog on. So many things I can’t check! “Jackie and me and Bill and Tom,” Joseph says, I have no idea about any of them beyond their names. And so many details I haven’t checked. Was John Muir’s family in Eau Claire? Did people use terms like dirt busters, tree skinners, river roughs? Did people call it the Supreme Court of Slaveholders? I’ve never heard anyone say something was “as strong and willing as a box of bears,” or that raw corn liquor had been “aged in the ear,” and the way Joseph used the term “skunk hollers” doesn’t seem quite right to me. But how could I know? It might all be right, it might all be wrong. No way for me to prove it either way. I end up where I started up: The material resonates, that’s all I know.
Well, that’s not quite all I know. I also know that the process is worth learning, and that you can learn it yourself if you care to, and that it would please the other side greatly if you were to make the attempt.
What makes me say that you could do it too? Experience. I have been doing this since 1989, experimenting, questioning, doubting, testing, arguing all the way. Fortunately, it isn’t necessary to know ahead of time what you are doing or how it works. I had to learn – and you will have to learn — how to bring it through and not choke it off, that’s the hardest part of it. Once you learn how to balance between making it up and choking it off, the rest is easy. You know, just as it was for me! Seriously, though, once you learn how to bring it in, you will probably face the same issues you’ve seen me face: your need for verification, your worry that some other part of your mind has invented the information and the characters you’re talking to, your temptation to pretty up or tidy up the information – which is a pretty reliable way to go wrong.
All I can tell you is, get the story as best you can, and check it as best you can. Test it, don’t just accept the first thing that comes to you. Ask yourself, repeatedly, does this resonate? The fact that information resonates doesn’t prove that you’re on the right track, but I’d say that if it does not resonate, you can be pretty sure you’re on the wrong one.
The closer I looked, the more I realized that there’s very little we can prove about the source of any kind of knowledge, be it ever so conventional. No matter what we think we know, it can never be absolutely true, and what is true in one context may be untrue in another. Our scientific outlook, our religious outlook, our anti-scientific or anti-religious outlook, whatever, can only be provisional. That’s just the way it is, and you might as well get used to it. “Perception versus story” may not be as obvious in everyday life as in matters of psychic exploration. But consider –
Consider first the sciences. Sciences poke around among phenomena, looking for the reality beyond appearances, seeking to deduce the laws of behavior that produce the phenomena. In other words, a science may be described as the abstraction into “laws” of the deduced causes of observed behavior. As each successive layer of phenomena is abstracted and understood, successively more internal layers are investigated and comprehended. Sometimes the new layers make it obvious that previously accepted rules of thumb (so to speak) were too generalized, too rough and ready, and so the previously formed laws are refined. Sometimes new investigations trigger a landmine that blows up the previous structure, or part of it, as for example the discovery of x-rays.
Now, what is this process but the ongoing construction of story to connect perceptions? The story is modified to fit perception, and is modified repeatedly — and in fact scientists are proud of the process, thinking they are all the while advancing upon “truth” which in a way they are. But they advance less by constructing new story than by discarding previous story! That is, scientific investigation may be looked upon as an ongoing demolition of previous story. (It rarely is looked at that way, of course, but it validly might be.)
The fact that a story can be elaborated and modified and even partially torn down and rebuilt differently is no guarantee that it is anything more than a story connecting perceptions! It should be obvious that the more the elaborations (mathematical and otherwise) on the story, the more persuasive it becomes, and the greater the investment in it people have, particularly those whose livelihood depends on it, and who have invested years of intellectual investment in it. But science is not truth; it is story constructed around perception.
Similarly, metaphysics, and religion. The perceptions are real and cannot be doubted by those who have experienced them — but in the nature of things, the structure built upon them is — story. To say it is story is not to say that it is fiction. It is merely to repeat that it is the result of people playing connect-the-dots around what they know or sometimes think they know. Of course we can’t live in the world without story (express and implied), because story is how we make sense of the world. But it is useful to remember that there is a difference between story and reality.
A society is built upon many stories, and a society that tries to live by contradictory story at the same time wracks itself to pieces, as we see around us. Our sciences are essentially materialist at core; our religions are essentially dogmatic; our arts recognize no responsibility to express the deepest truths they find, nor do they have any firm basis for expressing what they perceive. The arts, sciences, the religions, are all headed in different directions, within themselves and when compared one to another. Does this not tell you that they are ungrounded in reality? They are built upon sand, and the shifting of the sands will destroy them. They cannot build upon rock while their story tells them either that there is no rock, or that they are already upon rock, or that we cannot yet tell whether rock exists, or that whether rock exists is a matter for personal opinion.
And that brings us to the question of the other side’s purpose behind these communications.
I could ask, “why me?” but I know that the answer to that question is that I was (1) able to learn to communicate in this way – I don’t need to feel that I know what I’m doing in order to do it – and (2) willing to do my learning in public, risking embarrassment.
Besides, it isn’t just me. People have been doing this for a long, long time, and in our time others are learning to do the same thing, and are gaining confidence to do so in public, just as I did. One purpose of these communications has been to encourage various readers – you, perhaps – to begin to do the same thing.
And why is that important to those on the other side? Well, they made that clear enough: What we do impacts them. Their reality is affected, as much as ours is, by our struggles – or our lack of struggle – against what Joseph calls “hog-ism” – selfishness in its many manifestations. That thought is startling, perhaps, but after all the world’s spiritual traditions have always insisted that we in material reality do matters to the non-physical world.
Lincoln said that he realized – after death – that America’s destiny was not to become an impossibly perfect society but to become a model of an ever more inclusive society. To some extent we have become that. Yet as he and others have pointed out, we are lacking a vision of what we ought to be struggling for. Struggles of Democrat versus Republican, conservative versus liberal versus radical versus reactionary, do not penetrate to the core of the real issue of our time.
That’s one reason why America was tormented by the race issue and by the question of how to deal with the Indians. Fortunate circumstances. and our own resolution, had freed us of the relics of feudal society that still burdened England and Europe – but the race issue assured that we couldn’t just rest on our laurels, and say that we had achieved about as perfect a society as was possible on this earth. Whatever Jefferson meant to do by stating that “all men are created equal,” and whatever the Continental Congress meant in approving the words, the ultimate effect was to promote a transformation far more broad and sweeping than that could have imagined; a transformation continuing today.
But I don’t know if the guys on the other side care so much about whether our social arrangements are fair, or even sustainable. They’re after larger fish. The spiritual crisis of our time, they’ve said, is not political or ideological or economic, but centers on the ongoing death of materialism and the struggle over what is going to replace it. I well remember Lord Clark (Kenneth Clark) 40 years ago ending his television series “Civilization” with these words:
“The trouble is that there is still no centre. The moral and intellectual failure of Marxism has left us with no alternative to heroic materialism, and that isn’t enough. One may be optimistic, but one can’t exactly be joyful at the prospect before us.”
Well, no, it is hard to be joyful when one can’t see the way ahead, and perhaps that is characteristic of a time when one civilization has not quite died and its successor has not quite been born. But we are forty years on from that point, and we are that much closer to the birth of the civilization that will replace what Clark called heroic materialism. We can see the way ahead a little more clearly. And we can see, a little more clearly, the ways in which we each, as individuals, play our part in the great transformation.
* * *
The guys upstairs have said, more than once, there’s no need to go halfway around the world to find out what we’re supposed to do. The next thing is always right at hand. Take the next step and the way opens.
That’s the way it worked for me, for sure, beginning in 1987 when I first made the acquaintance of my higher self. In short order came stories of past lives and then connection with the guys upstairs. Years of on-again, off-again effort deepened the connection; then came external validation of the stories, and help in unfreezing my latent psychic abilities. More years of work, more practice, and I came to direct connection with Joseph Smallwood. This book that resulted from that contact, though, was not the end of the story. From Joseph and David and a few others my contact broadened until sometimes it seemed I had tapped into the cosmic equivalent of the Internet.
Those communications had a purpose. My visitors weren’t just slumming, and I wasn’t just indulging in idle curiosity. But that’s another story, another book.