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From the first novel in the ELYSIUM'S PASSAGE series: THE ASCENT
We are not human beings having a spiritual experience.
We are spiritual beings having a human experience.
Pierre Teilhard de Chardin
I sat there for some time, silently pondering what Eli just said as I continued to relive the horror of what I had experienced in my dream. But what if it wasn’t just a dream? It certainly felt like more, much more.
Finally, I got up and paced across the floor, deep in thought. For the moment, I remained calm, composed, and detached. Perhaps I was more stunned than detached as I attempted to reconcile what they said with what my mind had enacted.
Nothing in my higher learning could have prepared me for this. I felt like I was witnessing some macabre accident where ambulances show up, sirens blaring, as I watch from the sidelines, grateful it wasn’t me stooped over in the car. Except, this time, my mind was saying it was me lying there in my blood. Yet, I remained cool and controlled as best I could. So far, no emotional breakers had blown; no surges in my switching station to melt my nervous circuits.
Stay steady, James, you can work through this, I said to myself. There’s always a reasonable explanation for everything. Perhaps this was just a flashback from some bad drug trip I was on a long time ago. Unlike my past trips, though, this felt just too real not to be real. I was familiar with that fleeting, ephemeral feeling of altered consciousness; however, this wasn’t anything like that.
Then, the images started to surge back in my mind as I slumped down in my chair; my eyes flickered as though drawn into a trance. I no longer heard the crackling of the logs Eli just threw on the fire. I remained entranced by the disturbing scenes that flashed before my mind’s eye. Every fibre of my body felt it was being twisted and turned as it gyrated down the canyon crags. I attempted to recompose the fragments into a linear sequence, but everything seemed to be happening at once.
I don’t know how long I remained in this altered state, but finally, I opened my eyes and spoke in a near whisper. ‘Yes, of course, I remember now… the last step, mid-way across the chasm. It didn’t hold. I forgot…’
‘That’s right, James, it didn’t hold,’ Eli said, ‘but the shock did. And so now you need to come to terms with this, along with all that has happened since. You see, there is still more to the story; much more.’
But I didn’t want to hear more. I just wanted everything to go away. In Shakespeare’s words, I wanted to believe, all’s well that ends well, but in this case I wasn’t sure what that might mean. I couldn’t put the images out of my mind as they continued to haunt me. The more I tried to dismiss them, the more these impressions impinged upon me, over and over. And it was true; I recalled how my life flashed before me as I fell. There was no longer any doubt about it; something serious happened, and yet I didn’t wish to believe any of it.
Still, I wondered what happened before I made that last step. Had I not arrived on the Summit by climbing up an escarpment somewhere to the left of the chasm? I thought I had, but if I didn’t, how did I manage to arrive here without a single bruise or scratch after surviving the fall? Everything was a horrible muddle as I grappled to reconcile everything that might or might not have happened.
‘Okay,’ I said at last, ‘tell me what you think this is supposed to mean. You said you saw what happened.’
‘Indeed, we did,’ Mo said, ‘we saw it all!’
‘Then tell me, what did you see?’
‘What we can tell you,’ Eli said, ‘is that you, the soul essence in your immortal spirit body, parted your mortal body. But don’t worry, it’s not dead, at least not yet.’
I laughed derisively as I picked my mug up from the floor to pour another coffee from the pot on the stove.
‘So, Eli, you seem to be saying I actually left my body and not just in my dream? Well, doesn’t that beat all,’ I laughed nervously. ‘I don’t have a mirror with me, but I remain confident that if I looked, I would be looking back at me.
‘Sorry, but I thought you would know better. Science knows this can’t happen, even though it might seem that way when the human brain, under certain conditions, secretes endogenous opioid neuropeptides.
‘In case you don’t realise this, these chemicals can induce so-called out-of-body experiences that momentarily appear real. I’m sure you must have done something like this at one time or another.’
‘That’s right, James, I do know something of such experiences, only not in quite the same way.’
‘Good, then you can relate to what I’m saying. As I indicated, I have had several illusory drug trips in the past, so I know what I’m talking about. I can tell you firsthand that it’s not logical or scientific for you to tell me my body isn’t here.
‘If it’s not here, neither am I. How could I be? At best, this experience would only be a dream or an altered state of consciousness from whatever location my body would happen to be. But if my body had died from the fall, I wouldn’t be here with you now, would I? I would be dead and gone. However, since I am not.…’
Mo and Eli said nothing as I sputtered along, repeating myself as I attempted to latch onto a reasonable explanation for the strange and terrifying regression I just experienced. Admittedly, my attempts at rationalizing what happened weren’t the best, but their account was even less convincing, if not absurd. If they couldn’t come up with something better, I preferred not to listen. When I couldn’t think of anything else to say, I stood and raised my hands.
‘See these hands before me, how can I take anyone seriously who says these aren’t real?’
‘Oh, they’re real alright,’ Mo said, ‘just not in the way you think.’
A most annoying, evasive answer, I thought. Yet, what more could I say? They were the only ones who saw what happened.
Without responding, I sauntered outside, looking blankly into space. I wished I could find some compelling evidence to solve this mystery. There was nothing in the sky to inspire me: no epiphanies or writings, not even interesting cloud formations. Still restless, I went back inside and poured a drink from a bottle of Russian vodka, ostensibly distilled in St. Petersburg. But who knows if it actually was? Nothing here was certain.
I had to get a grip before things got any further out of control, yet it seemed there wasn’t a damned thing I could do about any of this. What they were saying was an insult to my intelligence, which really agitated me.
‘Partly, I blamed myself; why was I allowing myself to get drawn into their sham world of illusions? I also thought they should at least accept some of the blame for my falling and getting knocked out. If they were standing above me on top, couldn’t they have at least warned me before I attempted to cross the chasm?
As I continued to pace about, glass in hand, I continued to vent my frustrations. They had called my body’s existence into question, which was hardly rational or comforting. But then, I wasn’t entirely reasonable either, reacting as I did, belligerently insisting they were mistaken, yet offering little evidence as to why. That’s just the way anger is: irrational and often incoherent.
‘Not only do you keep evading my questions about everything,’ I said, ‘but you won’t give me some straight answers about this alleged mishap I had off a ledge. Even if you witnessed something, why did you need to tell me? I was fine until then - in fact, ready to begin my descent. But now, you’ve managed to disrupt everything, even causing me to question the state of my ontology. And still, you can’t, or won’t, come clean on anything. Why are you holding out? There has to be a rational explanation for what happened.’
‘There is,’ Eli said, ‘and we already told you. But it seems you don’t care to accept what we have to say. Whether you think it’s rational or not, perhaps you could tell us how you managed to get up here in one piece after such a gruesome fall.’
‘I don’t have a bloody clue,’ I snarled, ‘except I bumped my head against something after I slipped and ended up with a serious concussion! Who knows, I may have been catatonic or in delirium, so I have no memory of how I ended up down there. I just know I made my way up to the Summit through the fissure after a long rest.’
‘Do you, James, by any chance, remember how long you rested?’ asked Mo.
‘As I said, I was probably out for some time; perhaps the best sleep I ever had, or can remember having. It felt like I had been asleep for days. God, I must have been knocked out cold. Perhaps I’m still a bit stunned. If so, that may explain why so many bizarre things seem to have happened: voices in the air, orbs of light flittering about and two strange mind readers on top. Not to mention how you seem to be able to make things appear out of nowhere. That’s extraordinary, but then, probably not to be unexpected if my brain is still a bit scrambled.
‘Obviously, I’m nuts! I need to see a doctor as soon as I get home. Hopefully, this deranged condition is only temporary. Still, I’m not sure how this would explain all the nonsensical things you both keep saying unless, of course, I’m just imagining. However, I can’t make excuses for you, so you’re going to have to take responsibility for what you do and say.’
‘Just curious,’ Mo asked, ‘but do you have any lumps on your head?’
I stroked my scalp to find a lump. ‘Most peculiar… must have been quite the blow to my head, and yet I don’t feel anything. Guess it went away. Wonder how long I was out before I regained consciousness – any idea?’
‘Yes, we have a clear idea,’ Eli said, ‘but are you sure you want to know?’
‘Of course, I want to know,’ I said. ‘I suspect it may have been over an hour, although it could have been longer. I remember the sun didn’t seem to be in the right place when I woke up.’
‘You’re right; it was longer, in fact, much longer,’ Mo said. ‘Sit down, James; you’re making us dizzy, pacing back and forth and get ready to hear the rest of what happened.’
I took my seat to hear what else he had to add to their fantasy. Even if I wasn’t entirely in my right mind, it might be worth listening to before I headed down the mountain.
‘There’s a logical reason why you remain confused about what happened after your fall,’ Mo said. ‘However, it’s not because there’s anything wrong with your mind; just your beliefs. So, here’s what happened: As your body tumbled down the last twenty yards, a Chilean forestry helicopter fortuitously happened to be flying over the ravine en route to a small forest fire they were investigating near the Argentine border.
‘As though by Providence, the pilot noticed your body strewn on the snow. The odds of it being spotted at that critical moment before it convulsed to death with hypothermia was likely less than one in ten million.’
‘So, your saying I was lucky?’
‘I suppose so… if luck had anything to do with it.’
‘Then what happened?’
‘Your body was lifted out.’
‘Lifted out? That’s interesting; no one told me. So where did they take me?’
‘They took your body to a hospital in Santiago.’
‘Really? But why would they return me to the ravine while I was still unconscious? That doesn’t make sense.’
‘You’re right; that doesn’t make sense,’ Eli said. ‘Why would they bring your body back?’
‘You tell me,’ I said. ‘You said you saw it all happen.’
‘We most assuredly did,’ he said
‘Look at me, James, listen carefully to what I have to say,’ he said as he paused for a moment to make sure he had my attention. ‘No one brought your body back here. They took your body away. Far away. Not you… your body! Do you understand the difference?’
I had enough of Mo’s insolence and didn’t wish to hear any more.
‘Okay, that’s just jolly,’ I said. ‘Have things your way if you must. But I’m getting the picture now. You had me going there a while! Most impressive! So, when you aren’t guessing people’s dreams, you do a little comedy routine on the side. Am I right?
‘How much longer are you planning to carry on with your shtick, appearing to violate natural law with rabbit hat illusions while supposedly reading my thoughts with your mind games? A little intrusive, I’d say, but nice work anyway, even if it means manipulating my battered and disoriented brain.
‘But you know something? If I wanted someone to mess with my mind, I would have hired Madame Peyroux, the whacky psychic broad with a studio over the pawnshop, just down the street from where I live. But she’s probably not as whacky as me, considering that I pay her to amuse me with her exotic predictions for my love life – or lack thereof.’
‘Lack thereof?’ asked Eli, with a sly smirk. ‘Would you care to... ah, elaborate on that? I’d be interested in hearing more about this.’
‘I’m sure you would,’ I said.
‘Yes, James, do tell,’ Mo said. ‘Just what do you mean by lack?’
‘Never mind, smart-arses; it’s not so much a case of lack but what is adequate. But I’m in no mood for jesting or having my intelligence insulted. Just give me straight answers about what happened.’
Perhaps I thought that if I ranted on long enough, I might come up with a plausible explanation. And so, after exhausting every argument I could think of, I realised nothing I said was any more convincing than Mo’s account.
To their credit, they sat there listening patiently to me carry on without getting angry or annoyed, even with my biting sarcasm and ridicule. Their silence annoyed me even more since it was apparent that I was even more unhinged than last time. When I couldn’t think of anything else, I thought I’d put them on the defensive.
‘You know,’ I said, ‘if you truly saw me fall, then why didn’t you come down to help me? I’m sure if you wanted to, you could have.’
‘But why would we?’ Mo asked. ‘Take a moment to examine your body. Have you noticed? It’s flawless. If it still seems biological to you, it’s because that’s the only way you’ve remembered it. If you can, try to see your body as more of a holographic projection of your soul’s expression since that’s the only way you can experience yourself as a materialized human form. In which case, why would you, a light being, require our help?’
‘Light being, eh? I’ve been called a lot of things, but I can assure you; never a light being.’
‘Believe it or not,’ Eli said, ‘light is what gives form and substance to this subtle body of yours, an energetically configured pattern of your true essence being.’
‘I’m not sure what that’s supposed to mean,’ I said, ‘but it sounds absurd. Perhaps you’ve been watching too many sci-fi fantasies.’
‘What if fantasy was nothing more than how reality appears on the other side of your boundaries?’ he asked.
‘Yes, what if?’ I replied. ‘In any case, I’m rather certain I wasn’t whisked off anywhere.’
‘That’s true,’ Mo said. ‘You weren’t. But as I keep trying to tell you, your body was. Not long after your fall, it was lifted out by the helicopter. Though it couldn’t land on the slope, the pilot was able to drop one of the crew to where he bundled your body in a sling. After lifted into the fuselage, they rushed it to a hospital in Santiago. A few days later, it was dispatched to London by a Medivac Learjet.’
‘You keep referring to me as it,’ I said. ‘That’s not very dignified.’
‘Nor did it appear so.’ Mo said. ‘And don’t worry about the cost; your university’s insurance plan covered the flight. You may also rest assured that your body is now being attended to by a competent medical team in London. However, it will still require plenty of intensive care since your neck was fractured. Your brain is barely functioning while your body remains in a deep coma.
‘By the way, they were able to identify your body with the ID information on your chain. Now that you know where your ID chain is, all you need to do is find your real identity. Maybe you will be able to find it here somewhere.’
I stared at them in disbelief, thinking how the story just kept getting better... should I say worse?
‘But you know James,’ Eli said, ‘it’s not only your body in London that’s been having a rest. You were in a deep state of soul sleep for some time. That often happens after a trauma such as this.
‘Where you awoke in the ravine was close to where you parted company with your biological body. Your clothes, backpack and its contents manifested according to the expectations of your beliefs. That’s how things work on this side. And oh, just in case you were wondering, your fall happened over two weeks ago.’
‘Oh really – you don’t say?’ Amazing how fast time flies, and my body too. That’s superb; I’ve always wanted to do that. Next time I’ll try to stay awake.
‘But really, gents, do you expect me to believe your stories? It just keeps getting richer all the time. So, can we finally get serious about this, unless, of course, you’re doing a secret video recording of this for some comedy channel? But you know, it’s not funny to joke about something that could have resulted in death. In this case, mine!’
‘You’re right, James,’ Eli said, ‘it’s not, and we’re not. We agree this was serious, and believe us, we’re not joking about what could have resulted from your body’s death. But realise we view life from a very different perspective, so let us assure you there is nothing remotely dead about you or your body. It remains very much alive in its earthly plane of existence, albeit in a diminished condition while currently lying in Room 3017 of your hospital’s Critical Care Unit.’
‘The last we heard,’ Mo said, ‘though marred and twisted, it remains in stable condition. Note that we’re still saying it, not you. Though its lights were knocked out, it’s most fortunate to be alive since you will likely need to access it once again. But believe me, as things stand now, you’re much better off to be here with us. A lot more fun and much less constricting, wouldn’t you say?
‘Your brain’s hardware was severely shaken and so will require time to heal before it can fire up its synapses to activate the neural axons and dendrites. The neurologists say until your neck’s cranial and vagus nervous systems mend, there’s not much they can do for you except to keep your body alive on their life-support system.
‘Provide it survives; it could be a while before you awaken in it. Should the doctors determine that your body won’t likely recover, they can disconnect you anytime. However, from what our informed sources have told us, your body will likely recover, although it could still take much longer for it to regain your consciousness. In other words, for you re-enter the body you think is you.’
‘You two just won’t let up, will you? Did you just say re-enter the body I think I am? Do you know how weird that sounds? Furthermore, what do you mean by our informed sources? We’re way off-grid and a long, long way from any transmitter service, so you can’t possibly be receiving information from any sources unless you have a satellite phone you’re not telling me about.’
‘When you are the grid, you don’t need a phone,’ Eli said, chuckling.
‘When you are the grid – what in bloody hell is that supposed to mean?’
‘What I mean is that there is nowhere that Source is not. And since we’re all part of Source.…’
‘Save the metaphysics for later, Eli,’ I said, ‘I just want to know what’s real and certain.’
‘There’s nothing certain about your fragile mortal body,’ Mo said, ‘and so it’s still possible it may not make it. And then how real will it be? Nothing temporal is real, but you’re not temporal, only your earthly body. You haven’t learned that yet, but you will.’
‘It’s obvious there is only one side. Either you’re dead or alive, not both. For now, I prefer to be alive, and if you please, in this body.’
‘And so you are.’ he said. ‘It’s true; your mortal body must either be dead or alive. For now, it’s alive, but when it’s not, you’ll remain alive wherever you are in whatever form you might manifest.’
‘To the contrary, I think the evidence is apparent that once your body is dead, so is your brain, and with it, your conscious awareness since it obviously comes from the brain.’
‘It’s obvious to whom?’ asked Mo.
‘Neurologists and anyone else with a brain,’ I said wittingly. ‘Perhaps I need to give you a little lesson in philosophy. Ever heard of Descartes’ famous pronouncement, Cogito Ergo Sum: I think therefore I am?” Yes, I’m sure you have. So, my friends, ask yourself, what is it that’s doing the thinking? There must be something that causes it to think since the effect can’t be the effect; it had to have a cause. Hmm, now what could it be? Let me think. Ah, yes, of course; it’s the brain! But then, what else could it be? Something had to do it.
‘Even as I now speak, it's obvious my brain has formulated the very words I’m articulating. Otherwise, I couldn’t be speaking its thoughts! But if you take away my brain, there could be no thoughts for the mind to think, which shows there can be no difference between the thinking brain and the thinking mind. They are the same; the brain and mind are one. It’s all rather simple: the brain thinks, ipso facto, therefore, I am.’
‘And so you are,’ Mo said. ‘At least your I am is, albeit a tad confused thinking it’s only a few pounds of an organ’s flesh. To help you recognise the fundamental nature of your identity, it might be helpful if you subordinate the separate ego-mind that mistakenly believes it’s just a brain of mortal flesh. But your divine I Am mind knows its identity is not of the flesh, but one with its immortal Source.
‘Once you understand this, you will recognise your true identity is infinitely more than just a biological modulating device that remains subject to the laws of entropy and death. You have a mind because you are of Mind. Thoughts didn’t originate in the muddy primordial slime as they would have you believe in your anthropology classes. Mind is divine consciousness from which all thought-forms emerge and evolve into variations and variegations of variations, including that of your earth body.’
I wasn’t sure what he meant by that but didn’t especially care any more than his I am esoterica.
‘You look perplexed, James,’ Eli said. ‘To understand what Mo is saying, you must realise you’re consciousness is not limited to the receiver/transmitter device resting on your earthly shoulders. You know, the one that transduces consciousness to the material plane of human existence. For now, however, it’s not much use to you since its systems are down on standby.
‘That’s not a problem, however. For as long as you’re here, your mind, even in its bewilderment, has never been less encumbered. It just needs you to take the fetters off your beliefs by accepting that your consciousness is not made of material stuff but has, if I may say, a mind of its own.’
Once again, Eli was attempting to be clever, although I wasn’t overly amused with him. What they were trying to convince me of was bizarre, if not delusional!
‘Sorry Eli,’ I said, ‘but I’m not buying any of your twaddle. Possibly you’re not saying what I think you’re saying; perhaps it’s just my befuddled brain recovering from a concussion. But, in any case, I’ve had enough of this for now. The sun’s shining again, so I’m going to take my body, and if you will, my brain, on a short stroll along the summit ridge.’
I needed to decide if I should begin my descent today as planned but hated to leave before finding my pendant. It was almost certain it couldn’t have found its way back to London as they suggested.
I won’t go into everything that was racing through my mind at that moment, but I considered grabbing my backpack, then and there, to begin my long descent. It was increasingly difficult to keep my composure. Besides, I didn’t need to waste any more of my time talking nonsense.
And yet, I had to ask myself, was it nonsense? On the surface, it seemed rather obvious it was, yet as I trekked along the ridge, I wondered if there was something more to what they were saying than I understood. After all, they were both intelligent men, if not brilliant in their own way.
Not only that, it still amazed me that my body had no trace of injury after sustaining a life-threatening fall. Even my most recent cuts and bruises from a few days ago had healed without a trace, as though I never had them. Perhaps I never did, but whatever the case, I couldn’t deny I was in perfect condition now; in fact, never better.
Though I didn’t understand how this could be, at least I knew I had a physical body, with or without scratches. Then what was this tripe about my body being in London? Sure, I may have had a severe fall, but that didn’t render me crazy, at least not entirely. And yet, with everything that happened here, maybe I was. But hopefully not as crazy as these two, at least not yet, which is why I had to get out of here before it was too late!
I turned around at the high end of the eastern ridge where we first met. As I reflected on this morning, it occurred to me that I might have been a bit rude. Perhaps I needed to try harder to have a rational conversation with them to see if we could work through our misunderstanding. A bit of compromise and goodwill might go a long way. Besides, who else did I have to talk to here? They were the ones who witnessed my fall.
I’m aware my temperament has its strengths at times, choleric as it might be, but it wasn’t serving me well at the moment. I was outnumbered, so I had to stay dispassionate and cool, even though I would remain vigorous in challenging them.
It was probably an hour or more before I returned, although I wasn’t sure. In any case, it was perfect timing. A steaming hot meal awaited as if they already knew when I’d return. We sat down for a pleasant time, with no one bringing up anything from our earlier discussions. After our meal, we retired to the fireplace area as Eli filled our glasses with what tasted like Castello Mio Sambuca. How did he know? – My favourite Italian liqueur.
As it turned out, the truce didn’t last, as we picked up where we left off earlier to do battle. At least that’s how it seemed to me since the fate of the universe, or at least my universe, hung in the balance!
After attempting to prove them wrong again, Mo finally said: ‘James, we understand why you continue to resist what we have to say about your current state of bodily existence. Don’t misunderstand us, though; we don’t wish to disagree that you have a body; that’s evident, just as we have bodies. If we didn’t, how could we communicate with each other? By now, it should be apparent to you that we’re not an amorphous fog hovering in the air. You still need to realise your body and ours are not as you think, but forms that give expressions to the spiritual essence of what we are within.
‘In fact, we can communicate in more ways than you can imagine since we don’t have the same limitations as your earth’s physical body. So, what we might be quibbling about here is not the existence of a body but the ways it might manifest. As we have suggested, the body is an energetic pattern that’s projected onto whatever plane you find yourself in.’
‘An energetic pattern, you say? You know, you’re making this a lot more complicated than necessary. Just where would I be without a physical body? I’m not here as a pattern; I’m here as a body.’
‘As we can plainly see,’ Mo said. ‘Most certainly you are here with us… but not from your earth’s state of physical existence. Sorry, it’s gone! Not to dust, not to Jesus, but to London. If you still find that’s hard to believe, you could see for yourself by visiting the hospital where it’s currently residing. We really should do a field trip there someday.’
‘That’s a splendid idea!’ Eli said. ‘We can go there together to check out your shadow. I don’t mean check it out like a library book since it’s not in circulation at this time. Considering all it’s been through; it only seems right we pay it a visit.’
‘However, before we visit who you think is you,’ Mo said, ‘we ought to prepare you, or things might be a bit overwhelming. There’s still plenty of time to prepare you for your reunion since your body won’t be ready to readmit you for some time yet.’
‘Thank you for your consideration,’ I said, ‘but if I want to see my body, I’ll look in a mirror. If there were such a thing as an amorphous spirit body, I would want nothing to do with it. Besides, I’m sure the women like my body just the way it is, hard and firm. And why wouldn’t they? The more they can get, the better they seem to like it. So, don’t try to take that away from them… or me.’
‘I’m sure if you choose, there will still be plenty of women to go around when you slip back into your fallen body. Meanwhile, we’re here to help you adjust to living in your spirit body.’
‘Are you now?’ I asked. ‘You say I no longer have any biological limitations, fine, but what good is that when I don’t have a biological body to bonk a woman, not even a brain to secret testosterone!’
‘Yes, but when you think about it,’ Eli said, ‘sex is a no brainer.’
‘You’re hilarious, Eli. Okay, fine, if you’re not able to answer my question, then at least tell me how I’m able to have memories if I don’t have a brain to store them? You can’t! And please don’t speak to me about inhabiting some etheric light body. That’s rubbish! I think one body is enough. Ask any neurosurgeon about this; they are the bright people who poke around in the brain’s labyrinth of memories to get all kinds of impulses! They should know.’
‘Is the shadow more real than the reality that casts it?’ asked Mo. ‘What comes first, the brain or the mind?’
‘Obviously, the brain comes first,’ I said, ‘or there could be no mind. Had you been listening; I just made that point. If I may use your analogy, the brain is the solid reality that casts the shadow of the mind.’
‘But can any surgeon, scientist or philosopher explain how an intricately configured organ of about three pounds of body mass can generate conscious awareness while evoking exquisite thoughts of love, beauty and truth?’
I wasn’t sure how to respond to his question since I didn’t follow the logic of this red herring. It was evident this conversation wasn’t about to resolve anything. I had taught enough Philosophy of Mind classes to know there are always more questions than answers. It’s a complicated topic.
Still, I wanted to call their bluff rather than getting into philosophical abstracts about shadows, minds, love, beauty, truth and ultimate reality. My problem was I didn’t know what more to say, not being entirely lucid. So, rather than argue, I threw out my challenge to them.
‘Okay, enough of this,’ I said, ‘I don’t wish to argue more about what should be blatantly obvious. These aren’t just epistemic nuances. You’re calling into question the very existence of my physical body. But if I’m not physical, then prove it!’
‘There’s no need for us to prove anything to you, James,’ Eli said. ‘You can prove it for yourself.’
‘Sure, Eli. So how am I to prove what I’m not? That’s just stupid.’
‘We just told you; we’ll visit your physical body in London to prove what you are, not what you’re not. Then you’ll be able to see for yourself that no one is home, at least until you return from vacation.’
‘Oh, that’s brilliant, Eli; you really are a genius, aren’t you? So, what am I supposed to do after I fly back to London in about ten days? Oh, I know. First, I’ll catch a cab from Heathrow then go directly to whatever hospital I’m supposed to be staying in if you can tell me which one I’m in. When I get there, I’ll ask the nurse what room I’m in. She’ll say you’re not really in a room; you’re standing in the reception area.’
‘Then I’ll say, no, I mean my body; you know, the comatose one lying in one of your rooms? What number is it? My friends say I need to see how it’s doing. She will then whisper something to the other nurses there, and they will look at me. They smile politely and ask me to follow them to the elevator as someone makes a phone call.
‘Obviously, they won’t take me to see me since I’m most certainly not there. Instead, they will introduce me to some nice young men dressed in white who outfit me in a tightly fitting garment before escorting me to a room with rubber walls where I’ll be safe.’
‘Actually, that was rather funny; wouldn’t you say, Mo?’
‘Indeed, James can be humorous if he wants,’ Mo replied.
‘But you need not be concerned, James,’ Eli said. ‘When we go to the hospital, no one will see you. They still seem to think you’re the one who’s lying on the bed in Room 3017, where they laid your body. At least we’ll be with you so you’ll have someone with you besides your body. I’m sure that could get boring after a while since your body isn’t the most congenial company to be with these days.’
‘And how are we supposed to get there, in your alien ship?’
‘Think of Dorothy,’ he said. ‘You’re a fan of the Wizard of Oz, are you not? But before we go anywhere, you need to realise you’re no longer in Kansas. But then, you’re not exactly in Oz either, although, at times, it may seem you’re in a place much like that. Trust us; if you knew which dimension you are in, you wouldn’t even think about places like Kansas or London.
‘If you knew all the exotic adventures you could have in this new realm of infinite possibilities,’ Eli said, ‘you would get so excited that we might have to restrain you - not that we could! Then you would finally realise your struggle to extricate yourself from the Lowlands swamps was more than worth your time, effort, and money. Ascending this Mountain is where your real journey begins.’
‘What could I possibly get so excited about that you would have to restrain me?’
‘Have you ever watched a Miss Universe contest on the tele?’ he asked.
‘Sure, the swimsuit part; lots of times… but what’s that got to do with anything?’
‘Just wondering,’ he said.
‘Come on, Eli, what are you getting at… trying to bait me again? It won’t work.’
‘No, not bait you but perhaps to prepare you. Nevertheless, we understand your confusion! It’s perfectly understandable; perfectly normal! But then, this isn’t normal, nor are you,’ he said with a grin, ‘at least not anymore.’
‘Eli’s correct,’ Mo said, ‘you aren’t ordinary, but consider that a compliment. You’re extraordinary! That’s why you climbed this Mountain to be here with us. How many would be willing to do that based on a call you thought you heard in a dream?’
‘Oh please, not that again.’
‘Be honest,’ Mo said, ‘you do remember the call, don’t you?’
‘Of course,’ I said. ‘It was so damned weird, even for a dream. Some exquisite voice, calling from afar, yet reverberating so plainly that it didn’t seem distant at all.’
‘What if that voice in your dream was from us,’ Eli said. ‘But not just of us, others called out to you as one voice.’
‘And why not;’ I said, ‘especially after having a few too many refreshments at the pub that night. Often that’s when voices come to me. But do me a favour and try not to get too caught up with my fantasy. I’m flattered you’re such big fans of my dream, but it seems you’re even beginning to take credit for some of the sound bites at the beginning. That’s hilarious!’
‘What if this call was a response to your haunting vision. Somehow you knew this Mountain was where you could become something more than what you felt in the stifling Lowlands.
‘We answered you by inviting you to join us on a Mountain, the one you occasionally glimpsed through the mists of your mind. Now that you’ve ascended here, I’m sure it all seems unreal. When you discover where you are, you will be able to go further up, far beyond the earth plane. You’re up here now, not down there.’
‘Yes, this is a mountain like I’ve never climbed before,’ I said. ‘And you’re right; it does seem to be a new world; just look at the view, far beyond any plain I’ve seen on earth. Indeed, way up there and out of sight.’
‘I’m not sure you understood me,’ Mo said. ‘Likely, it’s not easy for a modern thinker such as yourself to concede to transcendence after being conditioned and steeped in the narrow presuppositions of mechanistic theorems and linguistic paralysis.’
‘Did you say linguistic paralysis?’ I asked
‘Ah, sorry, I meant analysis. My apologies to Ludwig Wittgenstein, but even he understood the limitations of what he had posited after grasping the higher spiritual realms in which you now exist.
‘After such an illustrious career, many of his colleagues thought he had gone off the deep end. Perhaps one day they might feel the same about you, and in a sense, they would be right; you really did go off the deep end, far beyond what you realise. But that’s what life’s deep chasms are for, to go down far enough to be catapulted to the stars.’
God, I thought, what a curious load of claptrap, and besides, what the bloody hell did Wittgenstein have to do with me and this mountain? Still, I had to admit; Mo had a surprising handle on philosophy, far more than should be expected of anyone.
‘Although I was vaguely aware of Wittgenstein’s esoteric speculations, I wasn’t sure what Mo’s point was. In the future, I would be more careful not to dismiss what he had to say. If I tried to bluff him with specious arguments, he might challenge them, which might, in the end, prove to be rather embarrassing for me.
‘I think you must realise,’ Mo said, continuing; ‘much of last century’s unfortunate philosophical trends have been getting a bit stale even though their reductionist effects continue to spread like a bad virus into many of the natural and social sciences of the Flatlands. Perhaps one day wiser minds will emerge, but unless someone leads them to the Mountain, it may take generations to correct the errors of the world’s prevailing falsehoods. One day, if you are willing, you might help save the world from itself.’
‘Of course, right after I save myself from myself,’ I said with a laugh.
‘Really, Mo,’ I said with a smug smile. ‘Not only are you telling me what to believe, but now you want me to convince the world of what I don’t even believe myself! I’m not even sure the world needs saving. You don’t know me, do you? If you did, you would know that I don’t aspire to be anyone’s hero. Besides, I’m an independent thinker, and so I don’t wish to carry anybody’s torch, not even yours.’
‘We suspect you are very independent,’ Eli said. ‘That’s why you’re here. We realise there’s considerably more to you than you see or know. That’s why it’s more important that you come to know who you are before we do. To help you find out, we will be your mirror to reflect to you who you really are.’
‘That’s a lot of you in a few sentences.’
‘True, but there will always be just one you, even if you remain in doubt who that is. During this identity crisis you’re now passing through; you might become even less assured since there’s still much you fear. Outwardly, you weren’t expecting this side adventure, so you are feeling a bit spooked, confused and at times angry. But then, after what you’ve been through, who wouldn’t be?’
‘I’m certain,’ Mo said, ‘after you spend a bit more time here, you’ll come to understand you’re a much different being than what you thought you were before you left London. Only now, after your fall, will this become increasingly evident. Unfortunately, as long you remain uncertain of who you are, you will remain fearful since all fear is about uncertainty.’
‘What do you expect?’ I said. ‘After experiencing the trauma of my fall, I have every right to feel shaken. But you’re not exactly helping me when you insist I’m out of my body. Now everything about my life is beginning to feel more uncertain than ever. It’s like being told you’ve been evicted from your flat while you’re on vacation.’
‘We sympathize with your concern,’ he said, ‘but realise you haven’t been evicted from your home. Once you find who you are, you will know you’ve always resided in your true home beyond space and time. For a while, your shackles have been removed, although you don’t realise that yet.
‘When you do, you’ll find there’s much more to you than you thought. Rather than just being a body in physical form, you’ll understand you’re a soul that can never die, no matter how many mountains you fall down. If you resist this understanding, you will only prolong your confusion and uncertainty.’
‘I’m not sure it’s just me who’s confused,’ I said cavalierly.
‘Did your world not completely change after the fall?’ Eli said. ‘Not surprisingly, this has left you baffled and bewildered, and we recognise it may take a while for you to accept that you aren’t what you thought yourself to be. As Mo said, you’re much more!
‘In any case, we’re here to help you through this transition. Life may seem different, but your divine essence hasn’t changed. When you come to understand who you are, as an immortal being, you will no longer be uncertain or afraid, but become joyful and confident in your new identity, though you won’t find it on a chain.’
‘That’s mildly humorous,’ I said. ‘But out of curiosity, tell me who you think I am, other than what is obvious.’
‘As we keep saying, that’s for you to discover,’ Mo said. ‘No one can know but you. We can tell you this much though, you are a spirit just like us, regardless of how physical you think you are on the outside. Depending on which realm you exist in, your body will manifest within the resonance with your vibratory essence. For now, we only wish you to accept that you’re more than your body, just as surely as you are more than the clothes on your back.’
‘So, in other words, what you’re saying is that you’re all right, and I’m all wrong about everything. Did I tell you I have a doctorate in philosophy?’
‘With all due respect, James,’ Eli said, ‘most of the things you believe about yourself and the universe are wrong. And if you don’t like the word “wrong,” let’s say an inaccurate representation of the truth to which you have assigned meaning.
‘That’s why, if you are to gain an authentic understanding of reality, you will need to unlearn and re-examine much of what you were taught in the Lowlands. You say you’re an independent thinker; well, the truth is, you can’t be independent and remain in the Lowlands for long. But again, that’s why you’re here and not there.’
‘I hate for this to turn into a rugby pile-on match, James,’ Mo said, ‘but the fact is you are wrong about most everything. It’s not just the old thought patterns you acquired throughout life, but what you were taught in your classes.
‘These remain with you, but that’s about to change. Without realizing it, you came here so you could enrol in our post-doctorate studies at Summit U. If you do your course work, this could include a practicum that will carry on until you return.’
‘I’m not so sure about that,’ I said, smiling. ‘I booked my flight to Chili during my winter break so that I could get away as far as possible from academia.’
‘And so you have... more than you realise,’ he said. ‘What you experience here will be unlike anything you’ve ever learned before. There’s nothing anywhere else in this world like the education you’ll receive at Summit U. It will begin with learning who and what you are. But if you prefer to return home rather than remain under our tutelage, you are free to leave at any time.’
‘Although, I suspect you would find it rather lonely back there,’ Eli said. ‘Not only that, but it might be difficult to get a date when all the women there treat you as if you didn’t exist. Which for them, you wouldn’t.’
‘Think about it,’ Mo said. ‘Should you accept our invitation to enrol, however, your mind must remain tabula rasa. Your lessons will begin tomorrow morning immediately after breakfast. Initially, Eli and I shall serve as your instructors. The first unit of our programme will focus on deconstructing all that you’ve believed to be real, that you might discover the true nature of the universe and your purpose in it.
‘We welcome and encourage you to challenge what we say with whatever rebuttals, protests or outrage you care to offer. That might be good therapy for you, but remember, as a Russian philosopher once said: To know: one must learn from him who knows.
‘And so, James, it would be most advisable if you spend the rest of the evening coming to terms with all we’ve told you today, including your fall and the new realm in which you unwittingly exist.’
Without giving me a chance to reply, they stepped outside and disappeared into the dark just as they had the night before. ‘Buenas noches, hasta mañana mis amigos,’ I called out at the doorstep. But there was no reply; they had already disappeared to who knows where. I returned to the fire and remained there for a very long time, perhaps half the night, as images of my fall continued to flash through my mind.
As I stared into the embers, I thought about how they wished to re-programme me, even after all my years of academic learning. As if I needed their strange indoctrination. Even more annoying was their insistence that I was out of my body, though I wasn’t. In the past, certain girlfriends told me I was out of my mind but never out of my body. After all the shenanigans I had witnessed here, I wondered if, perhaps indeed, I might be out of my mind. But most certainly, not my body too.
I also wondered what Eli was getting at when he asked me if I ever watched any beauty contests. What kind of whacky question was that? It had no context and made no sense: much like the Zen nonsense beatniks used to banter about in a by-gone era. And yet, I suspected there was a reason he asked without telling me why.
 The name of a play by William Shakespeare.
 Ludwig Wittgenstein (1889-1951). Considered to be among the most influential philosophers of the twentieth century. He came to regret much of what he wrote in his Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus (1922), and yet its influence carries on to this day. One of its famous phrases is: Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent. During WW1, he was greatly influenced by the writings of Dostoyevsky and Tolstoy, later becoming a fierce opponent of what he considered Scientism and the reductionism he once championed.
Tabula rasa is Latin, for erased tablet, meaning to keep the mind a blank slate so that it may receive new impressions.
 G.I. For the full quote, refer to Appendix ‘C.’
 As sometimes found in the dialogues of Jack Kerouac’s novels.
Links to other Chapters in the Ascent
1. Prologue to the Series
2. Elysium's Passage: The Ascent. Chapter One
3. Elysium's Passage: The Ascent. Chapter Two
4. Elysium's Passage: The Ascent. Chapter Three
5. Elysium's Passage: The Ascent. Chapter Four
6. Elysium's Passage: The Ascent. Chapter Five
7. Elysium’s Passage: The Ascent. Chapter Six
8. Elysium’s Passage: The Ascent. Chapter Seven
9. Elysium’s Passage: The Ascent. Chapter Eight
To see all posts for the Elysium's Passage blog site, got to Blog Post Links to Elysium's Passage