My introduction to how mysterious and seemingly magical the human mind is came from a reading of POWERS OF MIND, at one time a national bestseller written by Adam Smith (a pseudonym for George Goodman, a high-end journalist and editor). I read this book in the mid-1970s.
Powers of Mind was basically a long set of straightforward descriptions of everything from biofeedback and memory quirks to meditation, rolfing, and psychedelics. I was 17 at the time. From there I devoured books by Carlos Castenada, Aldous Huxley, John Lilly, and Ram Daas. My favorite — then and now — was THE CRACK IN THE COSMIC EGG, by Joseph Chilton Pearce.
Needless to say, like so many people back then, I did my own experiments with consciousness, going as far as I felt comfortable on the outskirts of Mind and Reality. This experimentation lasted about six years. By the time I was 22 I just didn’t have the emotional strength and intellectual stomach to run around on the frontier of psychology anymore.
That said, I’ve never stopped thinking about and questioning the mysteries of the cosmic egg and the human spirit. Through most of those days of exploration and then for several decades after, I took the route that a lot of folks do with this stuff. I wanted to know what the underlying mechanisms were. I wanted to know the chemistry of altered states and the physics of energy flows and the cosmological explanations for things like precognition, remote viewing, and ESP. I tried reading books like Jung’s SYNCHRONICITY and the McKenna brothers’ INVISIBLE LANDSCAPES and followed neuroscience and psychology closely (at least as close as a layperson can).
But around the time my first son was born, and then extending out through raising him along with his two younger brothers, I came to the conclusion that understanding the science and math behind the power of the mind is a fool’s game. For some folks, perhaps, it is necessary to get at what is really going on during, for instance, an explosive DMT encounter, or with someone who can communicate with the dead. But for me, the real power of the mind comes from the mysteries that it can behold…just simply behold.
Some people seek profound transformative connections with the cosmos (or God…or whatever). Some understand so much more than I ever will because they practice meditation regularly. Some folks seek that all elusive thing called Enlightenment. And, I dare say, mathematicians, physicists, and neuroscientists may one day chart the full scientific logic of every altered state and mind power we have cataloged. I wrote about that recently HERE.
For me, though, there is a real and astounding magic that can be discovered in so many different aspects of just living on the earth. It is clear to me that the power and magic of the mysteries of life is that they will never be understood adequately. Reason and faith both seem to miss the point.
Encountering the mystery of life not just in the ecstatic or profound moment but in the quiet moments and the hidden corners of my little world is often dumbfoundingly satisfying. As a fiction writer, artistically and poetically, my stories are always about some mystery — whether a middle-aged man is wondering about his sanity or a woman is struggling with enjoying her sense of loneliness. Sometimes the question is bigger, like what are the implications of telepathy, or if the psychedelic experience is real, how is that related to the idea of a higher consciousness?
I’m intrigued most in life by the conundrum of romance. Related to that, I am fascinated with the strangeness of love that dies. I’m also amazed at how hard it is for people to get along and to be rational when it’s so obvious that not getting along and being irrational makes life dangerous and stressful.
Writing about these things, letting my mind wander into regions that are hard to get at, playing with words to create fiction about human realities that we have no language to understand, somehow there is an aesthetic process that goes deeper than intelligence. Writing takes the author and the reader into a realm where both art and emotion have tremendous possibility.
The greatest mysteries, of course, are: the question of God; what happens when we die; and how is it this physical existence actually came to be? Those three mysteries can make you crazy if you try to be rational about them. Thankfully, they will always be impossible for science to grapple with. They should, in fact, make us all humble. Very, very humble. They should shine a light on how limited we really are (even those who are supposedly Enlightened!). But that’s a good mystery too — how is it that so few of us are humbled by such profound questions until it is too late?
It is oddly satisfying to be at peace with these big questions. It is also strange to realize that the power of the mind becomes virtually infinite when you stop groping for answers and just let the beauty of the puzzle of life be what it’s supposed to be — the mind at play, beholding the mysteries, and giving your love to the world.