Journey Through The Mind – Superminds 9
Jesse Watkins had led an ordinary but adventurous life prior to the day when the doors in his mind opened revealing experiences he had never previously thought possible. At 17 he had gone to work on a tramp steamer, which he remained on during the First World War. His first voyage was to Northern Russia in very rough seas. The ship he was serving on was torpedoed while in the Mediterranean during his first year of service. Later he worked on a square rigged sailing ship, and during the Second World War he served in the Royal Navy as a Commander and Commodore of coastal convoys. From his earliest years he loved sketching and painting, and late in his life became a sculptor. But during his years at sea he experienced shipwreck, mutiny and murder. So he had a varied life, and frequently met danger and the unknown.
The door in the mind
When he was thirty eight Jesse experienced several things that were probably instrumental in opening the doors of his mind. He had moved to different surroundings and changed his way of life. His work was very demanding and he was working seven days a week, often till late into the night. Within himself he felt very low. Then things happened which further distressed him. He was bitten by a dog and the bite would not heal. He was therefore taken to hospital, anaesthetised and his wound attended to. Then his extraordinary journey began.
When Jesse returned home from hospital things looked different. Time seemed to slow down and gradually go backwards, as if he were on some sort of conveyor belt taking him into the past. He said, “This gave me a rather panicky feeling”. He felt he wasn’t controlling what was happening, and he didn’t know where he was being taken. But this changed when he looked in the mirror. He appeared the same but at the same time unfamiliar, and suddenly he felt he was in control of his mind and body in a much more powerful way than ever before. He tried to explain this to his wife, but it sounded to her as if he were ‘rambling on’. This frightened her because he was talking about going back in time, and glimpsing past lives and having new abilities. To Jesse however it seemed clear enough because he was experiencing what he was talking about.
Think of someone who has always seen the world in much the same way as you have, and to whom time, their body and mind have been experienced in much the same way as you experience them. Now imagine how it would feel if they suddenly claim to see and experience things you cannot see and have never heard anyone talk about. It might be quite disturbing.
Jesse’s wife sent for the doctor, and Jesse was taken back to the hospital to be observed. Jesse says that people “looked at me as if I were mad. I could see the look on their faces. I felt it wouldn’t do much good to talk to them because theythought I was round the bend”.
The journey of the mind Jesse was now travelling progressed into even stranger regions. He said that when he got to the hospital, “I felt as if I had died. It seemed to me as if the other people in beds on the ward were all dead too, and waiting to move to the next department of life.”
Alive yet dead
Travelling into the depths of the mind is not an uncommon experience, and is described even in ancient myths and folklore. To get some insight into what was happening, and what caused the feelings Jesse met, it is helpful to think of our personality, our experience of being awake and knowing who we are, as being like water in a goldfish bowl. The water has a shape given it by the restrictions of the bowl. If it had awareness it might say it was round. If we poured the water into the sea or a river however, the person the water knew itself as might feel it was dying as its boundaries melted away. Similarly, Jesse, like most of us, only knew life through the limitations of his body’s senses, and through the things he had be brought up to believe. We too probably believe we ARE the shape of our body, and we can only do what it can do. However, as can be seen from the lives of some of the other people described in this book, our mind can sometimes reach completely beyond the body senses. When we first find the narrow walls of our senses disappearing, most of us feel some panic, and may fear we are dying. Some people having an anaesthetic feel this fear.
Jesse’s journey had not finished. His feeling of extending backwards expanded, and he became aware of directly experiencing life as an animal. In fact he felt he had actually been all sorts of animal, all life forms from the lowest up to the human. So at times he felt like a squirming blob of life without brain, then like a rhinoceros, and a baby. Jesse was fully in each experience, as we are in a dream which we are totally convinced is real. It was completely real to Jesse. However, the difference regarding his experience and dreaming, is that Jesse was awake, without the escape hatch of feeling he was dreaming. Therefore there was no ‘ordinary’ world to escape back to.
As an example of this Jesse’s wife wrote a letter to him while he was in hospital. One of the things she said was, “The sun is shining here.” When Jesse read this his mind was so vast and flowing with feelings and images, that it made him realise that his wife was in a completely different world to the one he was in. He was frightened he would not be able to get back.
In this condition however, Jesse had powers he did not have in his ‘goldfish bowl’ state of mind. When the nurse came to bandage Jesse’s finger he had the feeling he could now govern the way his finger healed. So he said to the nurse, “My finger will be okay if you just leave it.” He took the bandage off revealing the cut right along his finger. He gave his finger what he called “intense attention” and the next day it was completely healed. He tried giving this ‘intense attention’ to some of the other men in the ward who were disturbed, and the men became calm.
I have always existed
Another way of picturing what happened to Jesse is to imagine what it would be like if you had lived in a small town all your life, then one day you went up in a helicopter, high above the town. Suddenly you would be able to see all the different places you had been at different times in your life. It would all be visible in one glance. Not only would you see all the places you had been, but places previously unknown would be visible. Jesse, in his journey into mind, said that “I was more than I had ever imagined myself. Not only was I living my life now, but I had existed from the very beginning of time, from the lowest form of life up to the present. The real me was all that experience. Then at times I could see ahead beyond even the awareness I now had, to where we become aware of it all.” Jesse felt that the new ‘world’ he was experiencing was something humans were moving toward, but most people couldn’t reach at the moment. In that world were beings Jesse called gods, beings who could live and move in that world easily, beings who were not afraid of the enormity of the experience. From this he felt that all the things that happen to us in our life are helping us evolve toward becoming like the gods Jesse met. But it was too much for Jesse. “I had suddenly met something so much greater than myself that I couldn’t take it. So I decided to stop the experience.”
In fact Jesse’s journey lasted ten days. On the tenth day he closed the door in his mind and returned to the world of time and limitations.
Learning from Jesse’s Journey
Ronnie Laing the psychiatrist wrote about Jesse’s journey in his book Politics of Experience. Ronnie and Jesse both believed that Jesse’s experience was not madness, but something above or beyond normal experience. In many older cultures such as the Red Indian, the East Indian and African, a man or woman who went on a journey into the mind as Jesse did, was treated as a holy person, a priest or priestess. The visions they experienced were valued and seen as useful to the community. The timeless place of mind they lived in was seen as the great temple of life. Often a building was erected on the spot the experience or vision happened. Therefore the great work of the priest or priestess was to go in and out of the Great Temple - not the building. They could go into the place beyond time where healing power can be directed to others, where a vast view of life and its meaning is seen and can be described. They could prophecy, see distant things, talk with the dead, heal the sick, see into the inner quality of people and advise them, and be like a window for a world beyond the senses.
Men and women were trained to do this, or supported if they had a gift for it. Jesse had no such training. He was thrown into the Great Temple through working too hard and being ill. For people such as Jesse, thrown in by shock, illness or drugs, there is possible danger, just as there is for someone who is suddenly dropped into deep water without previously knowing about it or learning how to swim. It doesn’t help that in many modern cultures such people are treated as if they are mentally ill.
Training to enter the Great Temple
The Great Temple is not made of bricks or wood. If all of us were rivers, the Great Temple would be the sea we all flow into and blended into each other. It is where our personal mind merges into all other living things like a great ocean of life. The Great Temple has all living things in it, and has been involved in life from the beginning. To see and enter the Great Temple there are things we must learn, skills we must develop.
To open our eyes to seeing we must learn to look beyond single things
Over millions of years the need to survive has developed in us the skill to look at the world to see dangers or opportunities. We see THINGS – a person, a book, an animal or a tree. Our mind and feelings mostly work to see if what we see and hear are of any use to us, whether they are dangerous or helpful. This narrow view of things stops us seeing the web of life in which we are linked. To start seeing like a dweller in the Great Temple, begin by looking at a tree or animal as a separate thing. Then start to recognise how the tree or animal does not have a life distinct from everything around it. For instance what would happen to a tree if there were no air or sun? Take time to recognise as many such links as you can. Don’t think you have ever discovered them all, as there is depth after depth to find. When you begin to detect the links of life, and not only think about them but can feel something about them, try looking at yourself, your parents, or a new born baby. The Great Temple is where we all link. To see it we must see what connects us all.
Receiving strength from the Great Temple
hen we, or people and animals we love, are troubled or ill, we can gather strength from the Great Temple. As your eyes begin to open through looking at links, you may begin to see the Sun and the Earth in a new way. Because you need to eat, your life depends on the death of plants or animals. Without their death you would not have a body. The plants and animals live in the same way, on the death of other plants or animals. But every living thing on earth depends on the dying sun and earth. The sun pours out radiant energy as it is dying. The rocks of the earth break down or ‘die’ also, giving up their minerals and energy. All animals and plants take nourishment from the dying sun and earth.
When you stand in the sun to absorb its warmth, you don’t have to be anybody in particular to receive the gift. You don’t have to act holy or wise. You can be any skin colour, age, sex or condition of health. So it is with the enormous energy poured out to us from the process in nature that lead to the death of sun and earth, processes that produce life and feelings and mind. In Christianity this death and life-giving is symbolised by drinking wine and eating bread in memory of life dying for us. “This is my body” the ritual says. “Eat!”
To get the strength from the Great Temple imagine you are standing in sunlight and letting it go deep into your body. Make no effort, simply open to it. Or hold out your hands like a cup, and imagine the energy that dies and gives us life, is dropping into your hands like a waterfall. Then imagine drinking it, washing in it and have a mental picture of pouring it over friends who need healing or strength.
The secret key to the Great Temple
You grew from a tiny part of your father’s body called a sperm, and a tiny part of your mother’s body called an ovum. These two very different tiny bits of life met and completely blended together so they are now one person, you! They so completely gave themselves to each other they no longer existed separately. This is LOVE!
Love is not clinging to someone because you are frightened of being alone. It isn’t staying with someone because you can’t look after yourself. Love is a deep way of giving yourself to another living thing, or being able to let that other living being enter into you deeply, as the sperm and ovum do. Such love is the basis of your life.
If you gradually learn to see that your life depends on the great giving of the sun and earth, and the plants and animals, if you see the links we all have with each other, then it will be obvious the great key to the Temple is Love.
Learning to love is not easy, because we too must learn to die, like the sun, like the rocks, like the sperm and ovum. Through love we learn to stand out of the way and let the power greater than our small self live through us. When we learn that type of love, a greater life opens to us, one in which death is only a doorway to a wider life.