Saturday, December 15, 2012

Unusual Youths

     One reason why I was able to become a Western Buddhist monk is that I was raised by a weird father. Along with many other things he was an explorer of consciousness who experimented with hypnotism, ESP, psychokinesis, witchcraft, spirit communications, shamanism, etc. As a child, when most other children were watching TV, I would be sitting on my father's lap listening to stories about past life regressions and astral traveling (in addition to many tales of a less supernatural nature like gold prospecting in Alaska and combat against the Germans in WWII). He himself claimed to be a Buddhist, although his version of Buddhism was rather unorthodox---partly, I suppose, because he learned it from a dead Vietnamese monk channeled through his psychic second wife (not my mother). So I grew up a little more open-minded toward alternative ways of looking at reality than most kids in the logging town of Aberdeen, Washington.
     Before he died a few years ago he told me of a book he was writing, a "supernatural autobiography" explaining how he himself came to be so weird. Relatively recently, after a fair amount of trouble, I finally acquired a box of his writings, the only material inheritance I received from him after his death. (Among his papers was a copy of the last will and testament of one of his Southern grandfathers or great-grandfathers, bequeathing, along with his other property, a long list of black slaves, each with a single name, and each with a monetary value of between one hundred and one thousand dollars.) Just a few days ago I started reading my father's book Would You Reap the Wind?, which I am happy to say I helped him name. The title is from a poem recited by the aforementioned dead Vietnamese monk:

          Would you reap the wind?
          First you must sow the seed
          And nurture them to grow
          Where uncharted mental rivers flow
          And when they've grown, then let them blow
          Like thistles back to whence they came
          And only then will you attain
          The things you seek.

     In the book he mentions a boyhood friend who, it was said, appeared intellectually normal up to about age eleven and then simply stopped developing---or at least he stopped developing in the way most people develop. Here is an excerpt from an early part of the book, describing my father's friend James, who served as one of his first exposures to what he later generally called the Occult. (Dad was dyslexic, so I've taken the liberty of fixing his spelling and punctuation.)

     As a new kid [in Cave Springs, Georgia, around 1936] I was an outsider, so I made a buddy out of James, who let's say was different. We were fifteen and I a senior in high school---James was still in the sixth grade, his fourth year there. James was fat and wore glasses with thick lenses. He didn't talk much and before I arrived had no friends. Different I think was not the right word…James was downright strange. Bees would not sting him. Snakes would not bite him. I saw him catch bees and wasps and cup them in his hands, careful not to hurt them, and hold them up to his ear and listen to them buzz and then turn them loose again. The first time I saw him pick up a cottonmouth moccasin [a very poisonous snake] and gently stroke it---it shook me. 
     He would not go fishing if the fish were not biting that day; and if I went without him I would catch no fish.
     "How do you know the fish aren't biting, James?"
     "I don't know, I guess it just ain't a fish bite'n day."
     "How do you know the fish aren't biting?"
     "You didn't catch any, did you? I just know."
     Once I saw him eating poison ivy buds in the early spring. 
     "You're gonna get that stuff in your mouth and stomach!"
     "No: if you eat them this time of year, you don't get poison ivy in the summer."
     "How do you know it?"
     "I just know."
     James was a water witch or dowser. It was limestone country. No water table. Water ran through tunnels or caves, through underground streams; you hit or you missed. He didn't use a forked stick like most others used. He would lay a willow leaf on his wrist and walk around. When he stopped, it was above water.
     "How do you know?"
     "The leaf curls down on my arm."
     "But it didn't: I watched it."
     He shrugged and said, "You don't see it, you feel it."
     Whatever, he never missed.
     His most amazing trick was the way he could find lost objects. He would take a green switch and follow it until he found your pocketknife or whatever else you lost. 
     "I don't know. I just follow the switch."
     And if you hid something, he knew it and wouldn't even look---he just knew it.

     I suppose nowadays in America a boy like James would likely be considered "learning disabled," or whatever the politically correct term is now, and sent to special classes to cure him of his disability, so that he might fit more effectively into society. People like James were probably more common before the educational system and the mass media began homogenizing us. Society is more interconnected now---at a superficial level, that is---and our beliefs have been streamlined to better fit the machine. Mainstream Western consumer culture is likewise overwhelming the various other cultures of the earth, and has recently begun a full-scale invasion of Burma, one of the last remaining "wisdom cultures" remaining on the planet. This is generally considered to be a good thing. 
     Nowadays Science must explain everything, and people like James don't really exist. My father must have got the facts confused. There must be a scientific explanation for it.

     My father was convinced that I am a reincarnation of his own father, which, if true, would make me my own grandfather and cause me to be named David Reynolds two lives in a row. I have no recollection of being my own grandfather, however. Dr. Reynolds, although an ordained Baptist minister and a true intellectual who was working on his fourth doctorate when he died, was also a believer in telepathy; he had had adequate proof to persuade him. Here is Dad's account, from the same book: 

     My father had a firm belief in mental telepathy from an experience he had as a young man (he was 46 when I was born). As a young man he had practiced law in Little Rock, Arkansas; his first wife and young son died of malaria there. My sister Charlotte was in delicate health and the doctors advised him to take her away from the low fever country and back to the mountains, or he was going to lose her too. So he decided to move back to the North Georgia mountains where he had been raised as a boy.
     He had a brother-in-law, John Wallace---also a widower, with two sons---who accompanied him on the train as far as Memphis, Tennessee. John Wallace was his closest friend; he was also a periodic alcoholic, and Memphis was his favorite watering hole. My father advised him, "John, finish up your business and go home or you will get mixed up with your old crowd again and all kicked out of shape for weeks. Give yourself a break and go home."  John promised faithfully that he would.
     On his second night home my dad woke up from a sound sleep with the words "JOHN WALLACE NEEDS YOU" over and over like a telegraph in his brain. He was so upset by this that he could not get back to sleep. A few days after this he got a letter from his and John's mother-in-law. She asked what had happened to John; he hadn't come home. A day later he got her second letter: John Wallace had been killed in a barroom brawl, on the same night and about the same time that Dad had got the message…My father was not given to tall tales or even exaggeration. I was raised on this story and firmly believe it to be true.

     I'll spare you my father's ghost stories, and the account of Cora the cook and her interactions with the three deceased Yankee soldiers (she conversed with only two, as one was without a head), but I will relate our family's brief correspondence with the famous psychic Edgar Cayce:

     Times were hard [this was during the Great Depression, mind you], and my father did not get his usual summer job teaching at the teacher's college. He was despondent and left home swearing that he was going to find some sort of job. He was gone a couple of weeks. My mother did not know where he was. She did not hear from him. Just over the state line in Selma, Alabama, lived a man named Edgar Cayce who was getting some publicity as "the sleeping prophet." My mother felt he must be an [American] Indian, as only they had this sort of talent. Anyway, she wrote him a letter asking about my dad. The letter he wrote back was, "There is really no reason for me to answer this letter. By the time you get this you will have heard from your husband. He will be teaching summer school in Jasper, Alabama." The letter from Dad came the day before the one from Cayce.

     I think strange events like these happen to most people at some time, somehow or another, even though our Scientistic culture in the West cannot explain them; so we often consign memories of such events into a kind of "junk drawer" that is not well integrated with the rest of our store of memories and information. They are seen as anomalies, maybe even a little uncomfortable or embarrassing.
     It is largely because of absorbing such stories as a boy, though, that I have grown up with the idea that Anything Is Possible---including telepathy, clairvoyance, non-physical beings, alternative realities, world peace, and enlightenment in this very life. I don't insist, but I certainly feel that it's possible. And a belief that something is possible makes it much more likely to be possible. 

Edgar Cayce



  1. Nice story. Thank you!
    I think one reason that stories like those get consigned to the junk drawer is that it's so hard to talk about them in a un-sensationalist way.
    But what you tell of your father and grandfather sounds believable (to me).
    Anyway, where's the end of suffering?

  2. You write, ".... and people like James don't really exist." Sure they do, even today and they will continue. It is lovely that you refer to your fathers writings in this as Dad's writings. i.e. "Dad was dyslexic..." as if he is all of our Dad's. :-) It is a nice way to honor him anyway.

    It is wonderful that you were encouraged. I just don't think the mainstream knows how to. It is trusting in things one cannot prove and this is difficult for most people. Believing in miracles or world peace or whatever really does make them more possible!

    Thoughts create reality.