The Rooster and the Tortoise
It was 6:00 A.M. exactly by the clock tower in the Piazza della
Liberta of Udine when the party of eight Americans left the hotel in
two limousines. Everything in their trip had been planned down to
the last detail in timing and ceremonial.
The date was July 23, and already they felt the high summer heat.
Within 15 minutes they had made their way through the narrow streets
past arcades and porticos, out of the city, and were on the
undulating road down through the coastal plain. Now and again, when
they crested a hill, they caught glimpses of the Adriatic Sea as a
glinting blue band on the horizon. To the far north stood the Alps,
white and on guard.
Their destination was the village of Aquileia (population 1,500)
some ten miles south toward the sea. For Carl, the leader of the
trip, this was to be a homecoming: long ago he had lived, suffered,
and triumphed in Aquileia. For Carl’s seven companions, it was a
pilgrimage to a venerated shrine.
The two men riding with Carl in the first limousine were his friends
and associates; the woman, Maria, had been his assistant for four
years. The four college students in the second limousine were
psychology majors and Carl’s student assistants. Besides being a
highlight in their studies, the trip was a mystical celebration for
In the first limousine, Carl led the conversation in jubilant tones:
“We are on the brink of discovering what Christianity was like
before the Greeks and Romans distorted it.” He was a thick-set man
in his late forties, of medium height, with close-cropped,
coal-black, curly hair and beard; high rounded cheekbones beneath a
high forehead, eyes not merely black, but shining black, like
polished agates. He had a Roman nose, long, straight, with a slight
hump in the middle. The lips were full and sat over a strong
jawline. He was tanned and healthy-looking. He wore a light suit
over an open shirt.
As he spoke, he gestured quietly to emphasize his meaning. The ring
on his right index finger flashed in the morning sun. It was a wide
gold band adorned with a gold image of a tortoise. He toyed with the
two emblems of an ancient Roman god, Neptune, a dolphin and a
trident, which hung on his neck chain.
Carl was a qualified psychologist, with a prior degree in physics.
His studies had led him into parapsychology and research concerning
the nonordinary states of human consciousness. Under the impulse of
his personal gifts as a psychic, he had been experimenting in astral
travel and reincarnation.
After 11 years of intensive work, he was going to Aquileia
accompanied by associates and students. For here, as he and the
others had learned a few months previously during one of Carl’s
trances, he had lived some 1,600 years previously during a former
existence as a public notary named Petrus. In that trance, which had
taken place under controlled laboratory conditions, Carl accurately
described not merely ancient Aquileia-its amphitheater, forums,
public baths, palaces, quays, cemeteries, triumphal arches, and
shops. He had given a detailed account of how the fourth-century
citizens of Aquileia had re-erected a public statue of Neptune which
a religious sect had overturned in the previous century. Some weeks
after that seance, news had come independently from Aquileia telling
precisely of such a statue and of a Latin inscription backing up
Carl had also given details of a mosaic floor that was part of a
fourth-century Christian chapel. And he added something piquant
which fascinated his associates and students: a description of a
very ancient ritual that used to be performed by Petrus and his
companions at one particular spot on that mosaic floor.
The purpose of their present trip was to reenact that ritual on July
23, the summer festival of the god Neptune.
Now, in the first limousine, Carl was again describing that
particular spot and the ritual. The spot was a mosaic medallion
depicting a fight between a red rooster and a brown tortoise.
Apparently Petrus and his companions-“Christians of the original
kind,” Carl commented- used to come and stand in single file to the
right of the medallion. Then, one by one, they used to step on the
Rooster (symbol of the intellectual pride and imperial power-madness
which “had corrupted genuine and original Christianity”), then
kneel, and looking at the Tortoise (symbol of immortality and
eternity), pronounce the Latin formulae: Ave Dominus Aquae vivae!
Ave Dominus immortalis qui Christum fecisti et reduxisti! (Hail,
Lord of Living Water! Hail, Eternal Lord who made Christ and took
It was this corrective religious aspect of Carl’s experiments and
researches that had attracted the interest and attention of many-in
particular, of the group accompanying him this morning.
Norman was reared a Lutheran, but in his late teens had rebelled
against the traditionalism and conservative beliefs of his church.
He became convinced that Luther was a wanton rebel and Lutheranism a
mere sixteenth-century invention having very little to do with the
original teaching of Christ and the first Christians.
Albert, Carl’s second associate, was a former Episcopal priest.
After three years in the ministry, he took up studies in psychology,
convinced that his church was no longer speaking the language of
modern people and no longer delivering the original message of
salvation Christ had preached.
Of the four psychology majors, the group riding in the second
limousine, two were Catholic-Donna and Keith; one, Bill, was Jewish.
Charlie had been baptized in the Presbyterian Church, but had
converted to Judaism two years previously. All four had been
educated in the prevalent idea of their time that Western
Christianity was a product of Greek philosophy and Roman legalism
and organization, and the churches were shams and false
representatives of the genuine church of Jesus.
The group’s plan for this morning was quite simple. Without any
fanfare or fuss, they intended to stand around Carl while he
reenacted that ancient ritual over that particular medallion in the
ancient floor of the cathedral. They had a tape recorder and movie
camera. All Carl’s words and gestures were to be recorded on tape
Norman, a close and longtime associate of Carl and a fellow
psychologist, was to act
as monitor: at each stage lie would announce into the recorder what
during the visit, even as it was being filmed. They half-expected
Carl to be able to
uncover further evidence of Petrus 1 his ancient fellow believers.
Carl and his
companions hoped to obtain some new insights into the
parapsychological from the experience.
Four and a half miles south of the Venice-Trieste freeway, they
entered Aquileia. Everything was drenched in blinding sunlight. All
colors were fused into the brightness of the day. Circumstances were
favorable for Carl that morning in Aquileia.
All trace of modern
life and activity was dormant. On that summer festival of Neptune,
the god of the sea, as they made their way slowly toward the
cathedral, all living humans were asleep and hidden, as if Neptune
had spread his net over them. Even the dogs and chickens were still
asleep. A solitary cat licked and preened itself on a rooftop in the
shadow of a chimney. Maria touched Carl’s hand, smiling. He
responded to her expression of satisfaction with a quick smile, but
he said nothing.
They were all gazing out at the village streets as
they rode toward the square. Houses, taverns, shops became
indistinct shapes in the haze of heat and light. For those with eyes
to see, this twentieth-century time frame was now transparent. In
the boiling quiet they sensed the presence of ancient gods, of
lisping shades, and of all those who once walked there in their
pride, their sorrow, their loves, and their defeats. The village was
almost incongruously dominated by the huge cathedral and its spired
campanile. Aquileia, a 2,000-year-old city, was once the fourth most
important Roman city in the world, after Rome itself and Capua and
Then joined to the Adriatic by six canals, it was the only city
outside Rome empowered to strike its own coins. The capital of a
strategically and economically vital province, it was famous for its
theater and its religious festivals, its celebration of mysteries,
and its curative waters. It was the meeting place of Roman emperors,
popes, synods; residence of its own patriarch; prized by German and
Austrian kings; fought for by Slovenes, Huns, Avars, Greeks, Franks,
Now Aquileia is an obscure little farming community off the beaten
track, a forgotten and inconsequential village not shown on general
maps, and described by sardonic clerics in Rome as “a cathedral with
some streets attached to it.”
Carl’s party drove directly to the cathedral; they had made
arrangements with the guardian. As they got to the door, the student
assistants began the “experiment.”
Donna started the movie camera, and Bill started the tape recorder.
All was set. Every one of them was tense and expectant. A certain
air of happy quest descended on them.
Their course now was to enter the cathedral, walk down its central
nave, turn right at the sanctuary, and descend into the ruins of the
Carl’s behavior changed the moment he stepped out of the limousine.
He was no longer smiling and relaxed. He had that “look” his
associates had come to know so well-his eyes heavy-lidded and almost
closed, the head lifted, hands hanging by his sides, and on his face
a special glow of absorption and reverence they had come to
associate with his “trances.” There were hints of ecstasy and
happiness at the corners of his mouth. The utter calm of rapture
seemed to descend on him: his forehead and cheeks were utterly
smooth, free of wrinkles and lines, as if the skin were suddenly
made young again or drawn tight by an invisible hand.
But the general expression of his whole face was abstracted and
bloodless. There was no hint of a personal expression, no indication
of a word about to be pronounced or of a passion about to erupt,
neither confidence nor fear, neither welcome nor hope of welcome,
neither compassion nor expectation of compassion.
And around the eyes, in a way none of his associates and students
could ever explain, there was what they had come to call the
“twist”-some crookedness, some wry misshapenness, as if the natural
contours of skull, forehead, eyes, and ears had been splayed out of
kilter by some superhuman force residing in him temporarily with
tremendous and awe-full power. It was ungainly and uncomely but
accepted by those around him as inevitable. Carl always referred to
it as “my divine suffering.” For his theory-or rather his belief-was
that during psychic trances a human being with an “open soul,” as he
used to phrase it, was “taken over,” was “possessed” by the
superhuman. The merely physical frame of that human being was
overwhelmed-suffered, in that sense-by the inrush of silent
divinity. The thin wall of reality separating the divine and the
human was temporarily breached, and the human was “marinated” in the
Now all waited. Carl had to move and talk. There must be no outside
interruption, no external stimulus. The minutes ticked by. They
still had not moved from the entrance. Carl’s lips moved, but there
was no audible sound. Then he shifted his stance, turning slowly in
a half-circle, first toward the sea six miles away, then in the
direction of Venice in a southwesterly direction. As he turned, he
had a questioning expression on his face. He seemed to be waiting.
They heard scraps of words and sentences: “. . . the fourth canal .
. . Via Postumia . . . must have the integral number of . . .”
But his voice sank to a whisper and died away completely by the time
he was facing in the direction of Venice. On his face, there was now
a look of thunder and bitterness. His lips were working furiously as
if in heated argument or commentary. But they heard nothing. Again
he turned around, to face the cathedral door.
“Now 0800,” recorded Norman. “Carl is moving into the cathedral. His
right hand is raised in salute, palm turned outward.”
Carl’s face was calm again. His lips had ceased to move. They
entered a great golden-brown sea of silence, sunlight, and color
arched over by the stone ribs of a roof that curved and soared away
out of sight.
Then Carl headed straight down the no-foot nave. Sixty-five feet
wide, the floor was
one, whole ocean of mosaics flanked by solid columns on either side;
it ended in a
semidomed apse where the high altar stood. The sun’s rays were
pouring in through
the nave windows and slanting down upon the expanse with dovetailing
shafts of light
and shadow. Dust shimmered in paths of light, flecking the air with
colors of the mosaics and the surrounding walls, red, yellow, ochre,
purple, orange, green.
For three-quarters of the nave the little group walked solemnly and
steadily over that magic flooring teeming with designs of garlands,
birds, animals, fish, ancient Romans, all glowing with deep tints
and sophisticated forms.
Carl made only one detour: when he reached a particular medallion
set in the floor, he
paused. His lips were moving again: “. . . weakness . . . to prefer
death to strength . . .
prostituting humility of this weak . . .” Then in staccato
repetition under his breath he
uttered the old Roman words for Rome’s cruel strength: “Virtus,
virtus, virtus, virtus
Norman glanced at the medallion. “Carl is circling this mosaic of
the Good Shepherd,” he recorded.
Carl’s own voice tapered off with whispered tones of disgust: “. . .
braying donkey . . .
Alexander’s god ... a braying donkey . . .”
After this, Carl walked on calmly until he reached a broad mosaic
band beyond which they saw a composite picture of the sea. The
ancient artists had depicted boats, fishermen, fish of all sizes,
sea serpents, dolphins, and a recurrent theme: Jonah, the Old
Testament figure, in the mouth of a whale.
Carl’s behavior became erratic at this point, and his face again
mirrored anger together with confusion and contempt. He drew back
with a low hiss of breath, his body almost crouching. Then he bobbed
his head from side to side, as if seeking an exit between dangerous
Norman recorded, his voice stumbling as he followed Carl’s changing
course. “Carl is moving to the left. Slowly . . . now to the center,
now to the right-no, he is moving leftwards again, stepping on a
Jonah medallion.” Then in an aside to Donna, who was still filming
all of Carl’s movements, “Move over in front of him, Donna, move up
front, please.” Donna did so.
Painfully, with sudden stops and cautious steps, Carl made his way
up to the steps of the sanctuary. As Donna directed the camera at
him, his eyes were wide open and blazing with an anger Donna had
never seen in them. “Carl is turning back,” Norman continued to
record. “He is going toward the tunnel door.” This tunnel led down
to the fourth-century chapel over which the present cathedral was
built in the eleventh century.
Donna was the first to reach the rectangular floor of the ancient
chapel. She photographed the arrival of Carl, Norman, and the
others. Carl now walked unerringly forward, but bowed his head
several times as if acknowledging presences the others could not
The floor was another elaborate mass of Roman mosaics-pheasants,
donkeys, fruits, pastoral figures and scenes, flowers. Carl did not
stop until he reached a wide band of orange marble which ran the
width of the chapel.
“Carl is standing at the orange band,” Norman continued his
recording. “Beyond it are many geometric designs.”
After about 30 seconds, Carl’s behavior changed. His face lit up.
His head was lifted high. Both hands were outstretched. He stepped
across the orange band and walked straight to a medallion lying just
beyond the geometric designs. This was the spot where the ancient
ritual was to be enacted. The medallion showed the Tortoise glaring
up at the Rooster.
Carl’s companions gathered around the medallion. Donna stood
opposite Carl, the camera directed straight at him. “Carl’s hands
are joined, palm on palm, at his chest,” Norman whispered into the
microphone. “His eyes are closed. This is it.”
No sooner had Norman said this than Carl opened his arms to full
length on either side of him; he raised his head until his eyes were
directed upward behind closed lids. His companions began to hear
half words and syllables of that ancient incantation he had come to
recite: “. . . aquae viv . . . immortalis . . .”But he seemed to gag
or stutter when he reached the word “Christum.” He never fully
pronounced it. It came out as “Christ . . . Christ . . . Christ ...”
(rhyming with “grist”). And as he stuttered over that first
syllable, his voice got louder and louder, and his breathing became
faster and more labored.
“Here, Bill, take the mike,” Norman said quickly, “but hold it so
that we can still catch my comments and his words.” He had been
instructed by Carl that, if there were any unforeseen block or
difficulty, he was to take Carl lightly by the hand and guide him in
on top of the Rooster.
Carl was still stuttering: “Christ . . . Christ . . . Christ ...”
Donna at her camera noticed the white foam gathering at the corners
of his mouth. Norman reached out to take Carl’s right hand in his.
“God!” he exclaimed in a loud whisper, “his hand is like ice.”
Carl was now struggling. He had ceased speaking. He was like a man
trying to forge ahead and walk against a strong, buffeting wind. His
hand trembled in Norman’s, and his whole body vibrated in his effort
to push onward, to step on to that Rooster in the mosaic medallion.
His lips were drawn back over his teeth in the effort. The skin on
his face tightened and whitened; and although he no longer spoke,
there started in him a low moan like a man expelling his breath in a
vast, heaving attempt to push past an obstacle.
Norman felt the icy cold entering his own fingers and hand,
deadening all feeling there, loosening his grip on Carl.
The moaning rose in volume, changing to a growling, then increased
in volume again until it resembled the shouting of a man through
clenched teeth. Norman had let go of Carl’s hand by now and was
standing back, confused and dazed. The others had drawn back a few
steps in apprehension at this unexpected turn of events. Carl was
now alone, still facing Donna across that medallion.
At the height of that peculiar muffled shout from Carl, a change
seemed to come over him; and the shock was too much for Donna.
Suddenly, it seemed, what had been buffeting Carl closed in around
him like an invisible cocoon. Some unseen bonds and wrappings
tightened around his entire body, squeezing and narrowing him,
binding him in a crunched fashion and bending him. down lower and
lower to the ground. He seemed to diminish in size. The expression
of effort and straining rage on his face was replaced by a look of
crushed, broken helplessness, almost of infantility. It was the look
of one trying to draw into the smallest possible diameter of his own
Donna still held the camera in operation, but she whispered in
panic: “Somebody help me! Please! Quick!” Nobody budged; they could
not take their eyes off Carl. He was whining in an up-and-down
fashion, as if pain and struggle had emptied him. It was a protest
against agony. All this became too much for Donna. The camera slid
from her fingers to the floor. And the last shot taken of Carl shows
him bending forward, his hands locked tightly across his chest, his
head twisted to one side, eyes closed, his tongue between his teeth,
and an expression of resignation, defeat, and repose on his face-the
same that many have seen on those who have been garroted or drowned.
It was an emptied-out look.
The clattering fall of Donna’s camera broke the frozen fascination
of the others. Bill and two students finally rushed to help Donna.
Norman and the others lifted Carl up. As they did, his body relaxed
from its rigid posture and he was carried limp and unconscious out
into the open air.
All were perspiring and shaken. Carl’s body was cold. They poured
some drops of whisky between his lips, and he began to recover.
After a while, he breathed normally and opened his eyes.
“Carl,” Norman spoke quietly, “Carl, it will be better if we go on
to Venice now.”
A little over a week later, back in New York, Carl was far from all
right. Even after a few days rest in Venice and Milan, and the long
flight home, Carl was still in a dazed condition that none of his
associates could understand. He was no longer the commanding,
self-possessed, and self-confident leader he had been. He ate and
slept fitfully, talked very little, canceled all his scheduled
Carl seemed to be reliving again and again the scene in Aquileia,
always in the same way: he muttered and talked, sometimes strode
around the house and garden reenacting each step of that disastrous
morning. And always, at the crucial moment, he went into the same
queer seizure. It was Donna who remarked one day that he seemed to
her to be trying to carry the Aquileia incident past that difficult
moment at the medallion.
Finally Norman and Albert called Carl’s father in Philadelphia. Carl
was taken home.
A long rest was prescribed by the family doctor.
There was no suspicion in anyone’s mind that Carl was possessed or
in the process of possession, until one night when only Carl and his
father were sleeping alone in the big house. His father was suddenly
wakened from sleep. Carl stood by his bedside, crying quietly. He
spoke very clearly, although not all he said seemed coherent to his
father. He evidently wanted help from a priest. He named him: Father
Hartney F., who lived in Newark, New Jersey. And Carl wanted his
father to call the priest then and there. It was after midnight, but
his father was sufficiently alarmed to call the priest. Father was
out, his housekeeper said; she would give the message to him when he
Carl’s father had just hung up when there occurred one of many
peculiar apparent coincidences that marked the case of Carl V. The
telephone rang. The man’s voice at the other end was level and
pleasant. He announced himself as Father F. Yes, he would like to
see Carl; that was why he was calling. No, he was not in New Jersey;
he was in Philadelphia. No, he had not been contacted by his
“Mr. V., I must ask you to trust me as a man and as a priest. I have
something to say to your son which is for his ears only.” His father
looked at Carl, then handed him the telephone. Carl appeared to
listen, tears flowing, his face drawn. All he said was “Yes” a few
times; then a slow “Tomorrow. All right.” He hung up and, without
looking at his father, turned slowly away and left the room.
Carl spent three weeks in New York with Father F., for a first round
of pre-exorcism tests. He was back home by late August. During
September and October he commuted frequently from Philadelphia to
Newark and New York. At the beginning of November the exorcism
Although there are many in the field of parapsychology who deplore
the disappearance of Carl V. from their midst, very few are
acquainted with the circumstances in which he finally renounced all
research and study of this very modern branch of knowledge. Carl was
already a brilliant psychologist when he turned to parapsychology.
Many who knew him and his gifts predicted that he was the right man
in the right place at the right time doing exactly what needed to be
done. They could see the premature termination of Carl’s career,
therefore, only as unfortunate, a loss to the cause of true
Carl was not only very intelligent. He apparently possessed to an
some psychic gifts that are highly valued nowadays and the object of
such powers as telepathy and telekinesis. He found, in addition, a
suitable academic location where he could exercise and study those
gifts. Within that ambient he was surrounded by men and women of
talent, students of ability and acumen. And, to cap his potential,
there were two or three major events in his personal life that
placed him in a category all by himself.
There was first a vision he had had as a teenager. There was, too,
unexpected support of his general ideas about parapsychology from an
unusually reputable quarter with the appearance of Aldous Huxley’s
book The Doors of Perception in 1954. In addition, Carl himself
enjoyed altered states of consciousness at various levels for almost
ten years (1962-72). As early as 1965 he began to have constant
perceptions of the “aura” surrounding objects-the “non-thing aura,”
as he called it. Finally he achieved his first “exaltation” (his own
term) in 1969.
In retrospect, Carl himself now assumes that, while his “exaltation”
had a definite psychic character, at its core it was the threshold
of diabolic possession.
But in the meanwhile, what gave a particular cachet to Carl’s career
was the scrutiny of admiring colleagues who were applying their
scientific principles precisely to such phenomena as altered states
of consciousness, visions, astral travel, telepathy, telekinesis,
What added a new dimension in Carl’s case and in his own work was
the authentically religious bent of his mind. Carl V. did, indeed,
set out to find the truth about religion, Christianity, in
particular. And the combination of psychic gifts, the extraordinary
progress of what seemed to be his personal powers, and his religious
leanings all gave him a peculiarly commanding appeal in the late
19605 and early 19708. For in the decadence of organized and
institutional religion people had begun to switch their active
interest to parapsychology as a possible source of religious
knowledge and even of wisdom.
Indeed, as far as human judgment can go, we can only surmise that
Carl should have achieved much in his chosen field if his life had
not been upset by diabolic possession and the consequent exorcism.
There was little that distinguished Carl either from his two
brothers or from his school companions during his early childhood.
His family had plenty of money and enjoyed considerable influence in
their hometown of Philadelphia. The family was Mainline Protestant
and worshiped at the Episcopal church. Carl’s growing-up was not
particularly difficult. No misfortunes or tragedies hit the family.
Neither the Depression nor World War II affected it very adversely.
Carl did well in school and at sports. He traveled a good deal with
his family, visiting Europe, South America, and Hawaii at various
The first manifestations of any extraordinary psychic gifts came
slowly, and only gradually did his parents realize that Carl had
capacities beyond the ordinary. When Carl was between seven and
eight, they began to notice that when, for instance, his father or
mother were looking for something-a newspaper, a pen, a glass of
water-more often than not Carl would appear almost immediately
carrying what they needed.
They put this down to coincidence at first. But then it became so
frequent and, at times, so eerie that they set out to determine
whether it was merely coincidence. After some weeks of close and
discreet observation, they concluded that Carl did know in some way
or other what they were thinking at times.
They might have brushed even this aside if they had not one day
overheard his brothers asking Carl to bend some nails. Obligingly
Carl bent and twisted two one-inch nails by “feeling” them with his
index finger and thumb.
Carl’s father consulted a psychologist. A long series of discussions
followed. Carl was brought by his parents to that psychologist, to
another psychologist, and to a psychiatrist. The unanimous decision,
after some testing, was that the child had incipient psychic gifts
of telepathy and telekinesis. They maintained that he should not be
made to feel out of the ordinary. His parents should endeavor to get
him to recognize his gifts as nonordinary and to restrict their
The difficulty with all this decision making behind Carl’s back
totally escaped Carl’s parents and even the psychologists. For,
without realizing fully its implications, Carl knew what they all
thought and knew their decision. In a subtle recess of his child’s
mind he decided to go along with the entire plan. But from that day
on there began in him that “aloneness” that marked him in later
Carl obeyed his father’s suggestion that he bend no more nails, that
he no longer tell people what they were thinking, and that he take
no more initiative due to any telepathic knowledge he had of their
wishes. By his eleventh year, as far as his parents could see, all
manifestation of psychic powers seemed to have ceased in his
But, in reality, Carl had now got a command over these powers in
himself that no one realized and that he guarded almost as a jealous
and lonely secret. Only occasionally did he slip. In a fit of temper
he might smash a cup in another room or shout at a companion some
boyish insult to match the insult the boy was about to launch.
In spite of this continued connivance on his part, Carl’s excellent
relationships with his father and mother were genuine. In later
years, after his parents divorced, Carl remained closest to his
As the eldest child, Carl was looked upon by his two brothers,
Joseph and Ray, with something approaching awe. The three of them
had an intimacy and openness with each other that lasted beyond
childhood. It was within that framework of boyhood intimacy that he
told Joseph and Ray of his vision at the age of sixteen.
From their accounts and Carl’s recollections, it appears that the
vision took place in his father’s library one evening as Carl was
preparing his homework. He glanced at the clock. Dinner was served
punctually at six o’clock each evening. He had, he saw, one minute
to go, just enough time to find a particular volume of the
Encyclopaedia Britannica and open it to the article he needed for
his written composition.
After he found the information he was looking for, his consciousness
underwent a peculiar change. He was not frightened; instead, the
change put him in what he describes as a great hush. He no longer
saw the book in his hand or the shelves of books in front of him. He
no longer even felt the weight of the volume in his hand. He did not
feel the floor beneath his feet. But he did not miss them. They
seemed no longer necessary.
He did not perceive all this directly. Only on the periphery of his
consciousness was he aware of perceptual changes and of his lack of
any need for physical feeling of his surroundings. His attention was
riveted on something else, something totally different from, but in
a mysterious way intimate to, all his experience up to that moment
of his life.
It was, first of all, an atmosphere. There was much light, but, he
says, a dark light.
Yet, that darkness was so brilliant that no detail escaped him. He
was not looking at
something or at a landscape; he was participating in it, so clear
was every detail
shown and conveyed to him. What he saw was dimensionless: no “over
“up” or “down” or “large” or “small.” Yet it was a place. Objects
were in that place,
but the place was nowhere. And the objects located in that space
were not found by
coordinates, or seen by the eye, or felt by the hand. He knew them,
as it were, by
participation in their being. He knew them completely. Therefore, he
knew what they were and where they were. And even though they had a
relationship to him and to each other, it was not a relationship of
space and distance and comparative sizes.
Not only was normal spatial dimension in abeyance as nonextended
time. It was not that time seemed to be suspended. There was no
times no duration. He was not looking at the objects for a long or a
short time-it could not have been seconds. Neither could it have
been an infinity of hours or years. There was no sense of duration.
It was timeless. Yet he did clearly, if indirectly, perceive a time.
But it was, again, an internal time and seemed to be the total
existence of himself and of all those objects without perceptible or
receding beginning, and without an ending or an approaching ending.
As for a description of that landscape and the objects “in” it, Carl
could only speak vaguely. It was a “land,” he said, a “countryside,”
a “region.” It had all you would expect-mountains, sky, fields’,
crops, trees, rivers. But these lacked what Carl called the
“obscurity” of their counterparts in the physical world. And,
although it had no apparent houses or cities, it was “inhabited”: it
was full of an “inhabiting presence.” There was no sound or echo,
but the soundlessness was not a silence, and the echolessness was
not an absence of movement. It seemed to Carl for the first time he
was freed from the oppression of silence and rid of the nostalgia
produced’ in him by echoes.
As he took all this in, or as he was embraced by all this-he could
never distinguish exactly which was a truer way of speaking-there
was in him a sudden desire. That desire had a purity and a sacred
immunity that freed it of any aching and did not imply a want in a
way we normally understand. It was a summary appeal, but without
request. It was desire as its own confirmation. It was substantial
hope as its own trust. Yet it was desire. He would describe it at
times as a “Show mel” or a “Give me!” or a “Take me!” or a “Lead
me!” arising in him. But, he said, none of these expressed the bones
and marrow of that desire. And over all his desire and desiring self
there was an all-satisfying acceptance and acceptability.
Carl does not know if the vision would have “lasted” and carried him
farther or not, for he was suddenly jerked out of it. “You’ve
exactly one minute to finish.” It was little Ray. “Hurry up!”
An immense sadness welled up in Carl at that moment, an
indescribable sense of loss. He saw the cold books, the long, hard
shelves, and his little brother’s face. He felt the volume in his
hands and the floor beneath his feet. He glanced at the clock. It
was one minute to six o’clock.
As he hurried to his table, he had tears in his eyes. But,
afterward, he could not make out whether they were tears of pain or
thankfulness. He never knew.
Before going to bed, he confided in Joseph and Ray. “Perhaps it was
Grandma telling you something,” Ray suggested helpfully. Their
grandmother had died the previous year. “No,” said Joseph, “it was
from God. They told us in Sunday school that God sends these things
to show you what’s going to happen.”
Carl often wondered subsequently about this unique event in his
life. What was he to
wait for? Who or what had been talking to him? What had he been so
desirous of at
that moment? But, in spite of these questionings, the vision
remained in his memory with a sweetness that nothing could dispel.
And it made one subtle difference in him which many noticed but few
understood. In his own mind it separated him from all others. He was
never quite “with” others, never fully together with them.
parties, dinners, meetings, lectures, he would see himself
essentially separate from the others and on the sidelines.
He was, indeed, waiting. Only years later did he know what it was he
had been told in the vision to expect.
Carl entered Princeton in 1942, got his master’s degree in
psychology in 1947, his doctorate in 1951, spent six more years
studying and doing research. Four of those years saw him in the
United States and two in Europe. He returned only in 1957, to take
up a permanent teaching post on a Midwest university campus. In
those 15 years, from 1942 to 1957, some major changes took place in
The first and probably one of the most important was due to the
influence of a fellow student, a Tibetan, Olde by name, whom Carl
met in 1953. Olde gave Carl a firsthand introduction to “higher
prayer,” as Olde called it.
Olde had been born in Tibet, reared there until the age of ten, then
educated in Switzerland and Germany, and had come to the United
States for doctoral studies. He claimed to be a member of an ancient
Tibetan religious order, The Gelugpa (“The Virtuous”), and that he
himself, as his father before him, was one of the sprulsku or
Olde’s first personal conversation with Carl took place when Carl
happened to hear Olde reading a precis of the thesis he was writing.
The subject was the relationship between Yamantaka, the god of
wisdom, and Yama, the god of Hell. Carl asked in all innocence why
statues of Yamantaka always showed the god with 34 arms and 9 heads.
Olde’s answer, a seeming nonsequitur, struck a strange echo in Carl.
It was one answer Carl never forgot:
“The more arms and the more heads Yamantaka is seen with, the more
you can see the other. And only the other is real.”
The other? The other? The other? Didn’t he know the other? What or
who was the other?
Carl looked at Olde. And he understood quietly without effort: each
extra arm, each extra head was meant to make nonsense, literally, of
an arm and a head as a real thing. Any thing, an arm, a head, a
chair, a leaf, any thing in itself was unimportant, was significant
and real only because of an other, the other. Thingness was in
itself a negation. It was the non-thing that mattered, because only
the non-thing was real. And he seemed to see also that this was why,
ever since his vision, he had had a tendency to withdraw, to remain
on the sidelines, away from involvement with things, removed from
being wholly occupied with their thingness.
In a gentle dawning within him Carl felt a surge of the same sadness
that had gripped him when little Ray had burst in on him years
before and his vision had been rudely terminated. “It [that moment
with Olde] was the most maturing moment of my life up to that
point,” Carl muses in retrospect today. For, during it, he felt
again not only that sadness, but his ancient boyhood desire, felt
all the pains of nostalgia as a most acceptable suffering, and at
the same time heard again down the corridors of his memory that
still, calm, reassuring “Wait” replete with its promise and
guarantee of fulfillment.
Carl and Olde saw much of each other. And before long Olde was
initiating Carl into
“higher prayer.” From his own family life and Sunday schooling, Carl
had learned the
ordinary modes of prayer. It consisted of set prayers, hymns, and
the occasional spontaneous self-expression used during grace at
meals or when he prayed in private.
Olde overturned all Carl’s ideas and habits. Words, he said, and,
even more importantly, concepts impede “higher prayer” and all true
communication with what Carl as a Christian called “God” and what
Olde called the “All.” Carl, he said, would have to train himself
for “higher prayer.”
Day after day, Carl sat beside Olde, while Olde trained him in the
basic attitudes of body and “tones” of mind. The conditions of body
were simple to grasp. Quietness (early morning before sunrise or
late at night when no sound disturbed the campus), elimination of
any distraction-a comfortable sitting position, loose clothes on his
body, as little light as possible. But all this and the steps still
to come were merely preparatory and temporary. Olde explained that,
if Carl progressed, he would leap definitively over all physical
difficulties to “higher prayer.” And he would be able to “pray”
while surrounded by 20 jackhammers pounding away in the middle of a
bronze-walled room. (This was Olde’s image.)
Carl quickly attained the required physical quietude and
concentration. The next steps took time-and they ushered Carl to the
threshold of parapsychology. As Olde explained it, Carl had to be
clear and clean of any “thingness.” It was easy for Carl to
understand how to void his imagination of images, how to close off
his memory so that no memory images passed in front of his mind, and
how to eliminate even the most peripheral image consciousness of his
body position, of the clothes on his body, of the warmth or the cold
of the atmosphere around him, of his own breathing. But for quite a
while he balked at the ultimate step. Olde instructed him that at
this point he might go around in circles forever and never get any
farther at all. Most people, in fact, did just that.
The ultimate step was to eliminate his own conscious realization
of-therefore his concepts and images of and feelings about-his very
condition at that moment of prayer. For a long time he had no
control over his mind to keep himself from realizing he was emptying
his mind; and he had no control over his will, with which he kept
desiring to empty his mind. It all seemed a vicious circle. You
disciplined your mind to think no thoughts, your imagination to
indulge in no images, your feelings not to feel. And you did this by
your will. But then, it appeared to Carl, his mind was full of the
idea “I must have no thoughts.” His imagination kept seeking images
of itself without images. His feelings kept feeling that they had no
feelings. Around and around he used to gyrate until he emerged tired
and strained and disappointed.
“Don’t give up,” Olde consoled him. He told him it could be worse
and that he was sure Carl would one day find the secret-a mere, a
tiny, an almost unnoticeable adjustment. “When you make it, you will
know.” He repeated these same words again and again to Carl.
But for quite a while Carl made the summary mistake of trying to
make the “adjustment.” He did not and could not know that, if you
made that peculiar “adjustment,” you simply made it. Not with your
mind, not with your will, not with your imagination or memory, but
you as a thinking, willing, imagining, remembering self. All your
thingness suddenly of itself became a transparency through which the
non-thing, the other, clearly appeared. And once through that stage,
you entered a shadowless, formless, thingless region of existence
where only reality reigned, and your unreality, your thingness had
no vogue, no role, except as the counterpart of allness.
The moment Carl achieved that condition of “higher prayer,” Olde
abruptly terminated their association. “Now, when you want to pray,
really to pray,” Olde concluded his instructions, “you know how to
It was Carl’s last year at Princeton as a doctoral student. He had
more leisurely years of study and research in front of him before he
took up a university career. He was avid to go on under Olde’s
direction; and as Olde was staying on as lecturer and researcher at
the university, Carl could see no problem.
But Olde would have no more of him. Why? This was Carl’s question to
Olde as they walked over the campus in the early mornings. Why?
Olde would say very little. He had, he admitted, introduced Carl to
the Vajnayana, “the thunderbolt,” the vehicle of mystic power. But
no persuasion on earth would get him to channel Carl further in
Mantrayana, the vehicle of mystic spells. “What I have done is
enough,” Olde grunted. Then as an afterthought: “What I have done is
Carl still could not understand. He persisted, asking Olde to
explain or, if he could not explain, at least to suggest a direction
Finally one day Olde seemed to have no more answers. Every soul, he
said, which turns to the perfection of Allness is like a
closed-petaled lotus flower in the beginning of its search. Under
the direction of a master or guide, it opens its eight petals
slowly. The master merely assists at this opening. When the petals
are open, the tiny silver urn of true knowledge is placed in the
center of the lotus flower. And when the petals close in again, the
whole flower has become a vehicle of that true knowledge.
Looking away from Carl, Olde said gratingly, almost inimically: “The
silver urn can never be placed at the center of your flower. The
center is already taken by a self-multiplying negation.” A pause.
“Filth. Materiality. Slime. Death.”
Carl was stunned, literally struck dumb for an instant. Olde walked
away from him, still without looking at him. He was about five paces
away when Carl broke down. He could only manage a choking
exclamation: “Olde! My friend! Olde!”
Olde stopped, his back to Carl. He was utterly calm, motionless,
wordless. Then Carl heard him say in a low voice and not
particularly to him: “Friend is holy.” Carl did not understand what
Then Olde turned slowly around. Carl hardly recognized Olde’s
features. They were no longer the soft traits of his friend. Olde’s
forehead was no longer a furrowless expanse as before, and his eyes
were blazing with a yellowish light. Harsh lines crisscrossed his
mouth and cheeks. He was not angry. He was hostile. That picture of
Olde was burned into Carl’s memory. Olde said only this to Carl,
words Carl could never forget: “You have Yama without Yamantaka.
Black without white. Nothingness without something.” It was the last
time he ever spoke directly to Carl.
As Olde turned away again, Carl had a sudden reversal. He seemed for
a few instants to be absorbed in “higher prayer.” His surge of
frustration and anger gave away to contempt and disgust for Olde.
Then as he looked at Olde’s retreating back, he was filled with a
warning fear of Olde and what Olde stood for. Somehow Olde was the
enemy. Somehow he, Carl, made up a “we” and “us” with someone else,
and Olde could not belong to it.
“Enemy!” he suddenly heard himself shouting after Olde.
Olde stopped, half-turned, and peered over his shoulder at Carl. His
face was back to
its usual repose. His forehead, cheeks, and mouth were unruffled and
eyes were calm, wide open, just gentle deeps of impenetrable light,
as they usually
were. The compassion in them hit Carl like a whip. He did not want
compassion. He took a step back, wanted to speak, but could not get
any word out of
his throat. He backed away another step, half-turning away, then
another step and another half-turn, until he literally found himself
moving away. He told himself he had walked away, but deep in himself
he knew he had been repelled, had been turned around and propelled
Apparently Olde too had his own protectors.
His association with Olde had important effects on Carl. Given his
psychic gifts, it was almost inevitable that Olde’s introduction to
Eastern mysticism, with its emphasis on the parapsychological, would
impel Carl down a road of research in the then relatively fresh
field of parapsychology and the paranormal elements of human
Over and above all else, Carl’s time with Olde had sharpened his
extrasensory ability to perceive other people’s thoughts. Before his
instructions from Olde, Carl did not always know each and every
thought of those around. More generally, he knew very accurately
their state of mind-worry, happiness, fear, love, hate, and so on;
and, on occasion, he knew precisely what they were thinking. Olde’s
discipline had brought that more precise part of Carl’s extrasensory
perception into greater use and control. He found it working more
frequently with everybody. And soon he was exercising it at will.
After his “training” with Olde, there were apparently only two
people during Carl’s university career who remained peculiarly
“opaque” for him. He could never read their thoughts, and he rarely
knew their inner condition. The first was a onetime girlfriend,
Wanola P. The second was Father Hartney F. (“Hearty”), a priest who
was sent by his bishop to study parapsychology.
In 1954, one year after his break with Olde, Carl met Wanola P., a
graduate student in psychology. A tall, blonde, attractive
Midwestern girl, Wanola was a good sportswoman, socially quite
popular. Curiously, it was none of these things that attracted Carl,
but rather a mixture of her unusual intelligence, her point of view
regarding his work on religion and the psyche, and, most of all
perhaps, his own inability to get any clear extrasensory perception
of what she thought or felt.
As they began to date, Wanola got to know something of Carl’s
psychic gifts. She was fascinated by them, by his novel concepts,
and his brilliant attack on various puzzles and problems of
psychology. But as she got to know him, her fascination turned to
compassion, and then to a fear for Carl’s own sanity and for his
religious beliefs. It was like a curious echo of Olde’s reaction a
year before, but it all went much more swiftly this time. And his
rather brief association with Wanola left Carl puzzled.
At times, Wanola spoke to Carl at length about some seemingly
offhand remarks he made about “finding” Christianity in its “true”
or “original” state. She remarked on his growing opinion of Jesus as
a simple Galilean fisherman who had been powerfully changed by God
and by his taking over of God’s spirit. But mainly she grew to be
disturbed by Carl’s ambition to subject the very spirit of religion
to controlled laboratory experiment.
Finally one day, just back from a short vacation home to the
Midwest, Wanola came to Carl’s room straight from the airport. She
had a simple bouquet of wild flowers she had picked herself before
catching her plane. Curiously, Carl remembers those flowers in every
detail, although he says that at the very moment Wanola entered his
room and started to talk with him, his interest and attention were
elsewhere. He does remember blue gentians, dogtooth violets,
little-boys’ breeches, starflowers, and Queen Anne’s lace.
But when Wanola walked in with them, Carl did not give her even a
smile or a hello.
He was brandishing a small book just published: The Doors of
Perception, by Aldous
Huxley. She remembers him blurting out the title. Then: “Huxley
knows all about it!
Mescalin! And I don’t need mescalin!”
Wanola listened to his long sermon on Huxley; and when she left, she
took the bouquet of flowers with her.
Carl had made a delicate choice; he had taken a step away from
simple human tenderness. This he understood only after the exorcism.
Wanola had understood at that moment. He called her from time to
time after that day, but to his confusion she never would see him
Carl’s excitement over Huxley’s book was enormous. He grasped
immediately the central point advanced by Huxley: that the mind and
psyche are capable of a knowledge and a breadth of experience of
which men in our civilization have rarely dreamed. Living in our
urban society, the human psyche has learned to siphon its energies
in one direction-coping with the material and tangible world. Huxley
made a plea in his book for the development of a psychedelic
(literally, a psyche-opening) drug, nonaddictive and harmless in its
side-effects, by which men and women could free their psychic
energies and enjoy the full range of their potential.
Carl, in the middle of his studies on dual personality, suddenly
found in Huxley a window opened for him onto a new horizon. Perhaps,
he now saw, what is often called a multiple-personality problem
really was a case of psyche freed-particularly at least-from
conventional bonds? Perhaps at least some so-called schizophrenics
were really enlightened people for whom the shock of enlightenment
has been too much? And perhaps such people exist in an altered state
of consciousness with which they could transcend the material and
tangible world around them, leap over the barriers of space and
time, and enjoy genuine liberty of spirit?