Conversations with Tom

An Experience using Practice Element 2
© 1985, © 2000 Copyright Tom Dark, all rights reserved

This is a rewrite of an experience I recorded in my first serious manuscript, PERSONAL MYTHS, PRIVATE LOVE STORIES: Exploring Dreams and the Seth Material. Copyright 1985, by Yours Truly. The chapter I wrote it for is called "Consciousness At Work;" it's an essay demonstrating that you don't need to be an insensitive movie starlet careening down dangerous mountain roads in foreign countries disturbing the natives and behaving like an annoying Ugly American to experience the power of your inner self.

Let's see if I can remember it all without digging up my old notes, which are in a closet or drawer here someplace. I s'pose I'll reproduce 'em when it comes time to produce it for posterity... assuming posterity's interested. Every publisher I've passed the MS to has turned it down, saying "this is out of the scope of our publishing range." Here goes:

I was working as a copywriter in a 10-story building in downtown Houston, Texas. In my spare time, which was pretty ample, I'd started reading THE "UNKNOWN" REALITY and trying out the Practice Elements. This must have been in June of 1979.

One lunch hour, reading in the lunchroom, which I think was on the 7th floor, I thought I'd try Practice Element 2, which seemed easy enough: take any event from that day and imagine it from someone else's point of view who was involved in any way. I'd take an easy event, too: I'd just been across the street to a bank to pick up some matches. Okay, let's use that, I thought.

Mentally, I retraced all my steps, which were not yet five minutes old: down the stairway, out the door, across the street, into the bank, snag a pack of matches from a little basket on a counter, back out the bank door, back across the street, back into my building, up the stairs again, through the lunchroom door, and back into my seat.

I "re-membered" nearly every step in vivid detail. Next step, recall it all again from somebody else's point of view. Whose point of view? Somebody in the lunchroom? Nah. Someone in the lobby downstairs? Nah. The bank guard? Try him. I began imagining the bank guard noticing me walking into the bank; I imagined myself in his bank guard uniform and wearing a thin greying mustache, and so on, then abandoned this choice too. Boring.

I continued the exercise with the suggestion "some other point of view," rather than through the point of view of anyone I'd imagined involved in my momentary trek across the street. I didn't want to lose the pleasant sense of mental momentum I had gathered in imagining re-tracing my steps. It was interesting enough to realize how vividly one can re-live a perfectly ordinary event from a few moments beforehand.

In mind's eye, I stood again on the dusky old burnt-red carpeted bank floor, reaching across the central counter into the little wicker basket for a pack of matches. Out of the corner of my mind's eye, I again saw the bank guard angled behind me, staring elsewhere, and angled to my side, there remained the two old women waiting in a teller's line. Once again, I looked up at the bank ceiling, again thinking of it as a dim copy of rennaisance architecture; I re-lived the thoughts that trailed off indefinitely from that passing thought, as thoughts will.

When I shoved the pack of matches -- black cover, white print -- down into the right front pocket of my cream-white corduroy pants (which had lately become too loose), I noticed the pocket felt much deeper than it had in reality. When I turned around and began walking out of the bank, the floor formed springy, bouncy trampolines of energy under each of my feet.

This "other point of view" had turned my now-vivid short-term memory into a loop of marvelous exuberant energy all its own. I don't now remember whether I turned a somersault in the air to cross the street in a single bound, but I do remember trampolining over the concrete and asphalt to get back to the now rubbery brass doors of Gordon's Jewelry. I floated across the lobby with belly and legs about 3 feet above the floor, smiling at the dour looking people I passed, who ignored me. I put a foot down here and there to skim along back toward the stairway door. I think I remember showing my ID to the security guard again. (As I rewrite this I'm surprised that I don't remember the street names, but they had no significance for me in the course of the experience. Fannin Street was one, I think.)

I sat in the lunchroom amazed and delighted with what my "other point of view" was doing with this exercise. I restrained a giggle; I suppose that anyone looking at me at that moment would have seen me smiling with my eyes shut. I followed my memory back up the stairs. I continued re-collecting every move, determined to finish the exercise all the way back to the lunchroom where I sat, now feeling this brilliant, jubilant temporary self bouncing my way home to my physical body. My consciousness had expanded into two distinct spaces.

The closer my imagined body got to returning to where I sat physically, near the stairway door, the giddier I felt. My brain started doing things. It seemed that between my brain's hemispheres, across the top of my cranium, little sounds and lights were going off.

They were sounds a little like the squeaking of happy toy balloons. The lights seemed to be blood vessels or nerve endings that had somehow expanded, then turned into solid little colored lights of mostly blue and yellow. The inner sounds squeaked and squeegeed , triggering the little toy balloons of colored liquid light to fluctuate and pop, sending the most wonderful multi-sensual feelings through my entire body from head to toe; I held onto myself until I finally imagined my imagined and fully conscious self opening the stairwell door, walking back into the lunchroom, and sitting back down in the metal folding chair where I sat, just as conscious, physically.

POP! When my energetic "someone else" rejoined the imagining me mentally and physically, the squeaking colored lights ceased and my nervous system went off like a champagne bottle from heart outward in all directions. I was not who I had been ten minutes before. I was now a 27-year-old in good physical condition with the sudden exuberance and energy of a 3-year-old.

I wonder if you remember from toddlerhood how it felt to be able to run for sheer squealing elan around and around the living room for 2 hours at a time. That's how I felt at that moment. I sprang to my feet like an unleashed clockspring, noticed a chubby girl to my right staring at me quizzically, and knew I had to get out of there to find someplace private to hop up and down and giggle awhile, at least.

I lit out the door again and bounded down 2 or 3 flights of stairs, two bounds per flight, levering my body from both railings with my hands.

Ah, here's the accounting department on the second floor, I thought. Maybe I can jump around in the men's room here, or wander the floor and pretend to look at the computers... something, anything to keep moving with this fantastic feeling. I opened the door and seemed to have surprised an unhappy looking creature passing by it who was part human, part elf, and all screwed up.

I'd never seen this man before. He was dressed ordinarily, in a white shirt with a print tie and creased tan pants and red-brown loafers. He wasn't tall, but the shape and expression of his face somehow made him look not more than a yard high. His tiny ears curled into points at the tips which dangled outward from his head. His eye-bags were puffed with venom that tinted them an unpleasant grey-black and vague blue.

The condition of his eyes seemed to reflect helpless malice. His forehead was absurdly large, as though too smart for his own good; his chin too small, as though to admit to a cowardly personality; his lips pursed themselves into an unpleasant little button of nothing good ever to say and his brow lay flat across his forehead like a blast shield. If not an embittered elf, he looked like a bitter little monster.

I thought to myself "this man wants to destroy the world." The thought made me laugh. Our eyes met and I smiled at him. Although I was looking at a stranger who appeared to spend his thoughts in miserable fantasies, he did not make a terrifying visage.

A woman passing briefly behind him, however, nearly did. In just a glimpse before I let the door close, I saw the palest, sternest, most joyless old schoolmarm imaginable. She was a real and ordinary human being, but I was seeing her with my perceptions altered by the way I used Practice Element 2.

It's still rather astonishing to remember the way people's appearances changed before my eyes that day; I'm still finding it difficult to pick the right words to describe the changes I saw in front of me.

Except for the two on the lower floor, all were workmates whom I'd known by sight or name for the few months I'd worked there. Maybe I was seeing them, as Jane Roberts put it in PSYCHIC POLITICS, "eccentric versions of themselves."

My vision was fine as usual. All that was different about me was this marvelous sensation of clear, refreshing energy resulting from the left-turn I'd taken with the Seth exercise. What I saw didn't appear to be hallucinations, that is, there was nothing hazy or momentary about them.

I'm trying to avoid using the words "caricature" or "cartoon" or "plasticky," although some of the faces changed shape dramatically... if an artist were to draw them by my description I'm certain the best he could do would make them look like cartoons and caricatures.

But my self from "some other point of view" who was looking at them didn't see them as the least bit out of the ordinary. Therefore, those words don't fit.

Let's be honest. Let me be honest, anyway. On an average day, among ordinary concerns, the people we pass don't all look like gossamer versions of some Eternal Loving God of Creation. On even a fine day, no one radiates divinity's mysterious purposes; and if we were to stop and admit that each passerby is as uniquely different from the other as are snowflakes, we could accuse ourselves of being picayune. People look "ordinary." Their eyes beam the message "ordinary." Expressions advertise "ordinary." Faces of the daily crowd look vaguely anonymous and vaguely meaningless. We brighten some at meeting a friend in the workplace, then adjourn to a day of being ordinary with each other.

Today's world's gurus speak of how beautiful and unique each living person is. Yeah yeah yeah, sure. They CAN say that with what glimpses they get of people through the tinted bulletproof windshields of their personal stretch limousines. Cheering bands of paying customers may indeed look positively gorgeous, on the whole. Their affluence might have them in such magnanimous moods that they might seem really very nice to an individual lucky enough to be singled out from the lumpen masses to meet them personally, briefly.

Honesty be spoken, if people DID look so idealized as all that, we'd probably quash these rewarding visions of each other most of the time. In the daily marketplace, it would seem more prudent to temper our vision with a gauzy lens of caution over what stinkers our fellows can be than to muse over what "immortal symmetrye" was forged by what Divine Hand or Eye. I'd been robbed of wages at 3 different jobs since I'd moved to Houston, for instance, by smiling, snowflake-unique faces. Beautiful faces indeed, to any sleek spiritual leader flying overhead in his personal jet.

Nevertheless: The first human my eyes met when I walked through the doorway of my floor that afternoon was a glimpse of the divinity inherent in individual human beings. I halted in my tracks at the most beautiful Polynesian Goddess that may ever have been praised in South Sea legend and lore.

This was the same somewhat overweight, somewhat-frowsy-haired middle aged Filipino woman who worked at a desk by that door, with whom I exchanged anonymous smiles every morning when I passed. I was now looking at an eternal model of ancient South Pacific womanhood. She may have been the Goddess of the Lost Continent of Mu. Her beauty nearly made my bones jump out of my flesh to kneel in front of her by themselves in adoring recognition.

The tone of her skin had darkened to a bronzed brown. Her fuzzy hair was now straight and long, silky black and thick; the tresses fell alongside a timeless, flawless face and over an exquisitely muscled body, all so perfect that it would render any further beauty contests in the world unnecessary, maybe for once and for all.

I felt an inner awe or humility before the sight of her. There was a wisdom, a living knowledge about her form itself, that spoke her physical presence like a single word of a Great Creator.

It seemed that I stood and admired her for a few minutes, but it was likely only a few seconds. I took this altered perception of time as another of the effects of the Seth exercise. I seemed able to tell that she appeared this way because she loved her life and lived it gracefully. In the snap of one of those seconds came a wonder whether I could feel this godlike at my job as a copywriter. Humbly, I knew I could not.

If this Polynesian Goddess noticed me, she didn't let on. Even so, my impression was that she was perfectly aware of everything within a certain radius, whether she looked up or not. I passed by without saying hello, turned to my right down the aisleway to my department, and then saw a human with the face much like a German Shepherd's seated at his desk, at the glass dividing wall in front of the entranceway. The dog appeared to me to have a quiet case of distemper.

He was wearing his usual iron brown suit jacket and pants, a wrinkled white shirt, and sporting a limp black tie. His skin was police-dog brown and he had a black beauty mark on his jaw just beyond the corner of his mouth. His nose was long and hooked sharply downward, in profile like a scmitar. His ears were pointed and folded neatly against the sides of his head, like a dog's who is about to bark or threaten. I'll call him Mr. Spiker. His actual name was as ironic as the one I've chosen here. I didn't know what his position was or what he did there. I didn't much want to look at him.

His demeanor was not at all like the "negativity" in the face of the little end-of-the-world elf I'd encountered in the accounting department doorway. There seemed to be something genuinely hurtful about this man, or police-dog, as he now showed himself to be. Unlike the elf's unpleasant look, a thing all his own, Mr. Spiker's dog-face seemed from the side to be eager to share some truly unpleasant treatment. I felt embarassed for this man, and passed by quickly. We had never exchanged a greeting since my hiring there.

I learned a few months later from office gossip that Mr. Spiker's job was to fire people. Department heads came to him when an employee needed warned over one thing or another or just fired. I was surprised to also hear that Spiker liked me.

I learned this gossip from my friend Chester, who worked in the glassed-in room next to Spiker's desk. The two of them were friends, about the same ages, in their early sixties. Chester ran the printing department in that room.

At that moment, that afternoon, Chester and his two young women assistants were busy with a deadline. Seeing that, I didn't stop in to chat or exchange witticisms as usual.

He was tall to begin with, but he looked a great deal taller; he was now a woman about 6-feet-3 inches tall, dressed in the proper attire of a wealthy Victorian dowager. His face looked the same as usual, except for the implied silvery hairdo and the dangling diamond earrings.

That Chester's face had not changed much was possibly more surprising than if it had. He looked like a high toned old lady from old New England, but this was how I thought of him anyway. It was, more or less, how he had once described his mother. As to the look of indignation, I'd learned to wonder at him for not being more indignant with life than he seemed to be.

He had a doctoral degree in astrophysics. He had the same degree in music. He was an extraordinary concert pianist, so I had learned one day to my astonishment. He'd come Houston 25 years before to work for NASA and pursue his music. He eventually lost his NASA job in scalebacks in the space program, and he lost his music jobs to rock and roll bands. He now worked for low pay cranking out print about pots and pans and jewelry for sale. Once in awhile he printed out one of his poems for me to look at -- very accomplished -- or copies of an astrology column he wrote for Dell publications. For a music career, he played piano at an old folks' home for nothing on Wednesday nights... except when he was asked to fill in as solo pianist for the Houston Symphony orchestra, which was not often.

I would have thought that Chester's face, from my "other" conscious standpoint, would have looked grotesquely embittered... like a bruised, embittered prune, showing the wounds that vicissitudes like that inflict on the pride of a man with such remarkable talents. Instead it was the usual old Chester, with a hint of his mom bearing an indignity well enough.

In years to come I often contemplated how it must be that while some faces seem much changed in states like that one, a few do not. I've since played games-of-perception with others, and watched faces change from beautiful and idyllic to ugly and lumpy, changing by turns in the soft focus of a gentle trance. All I can conclude, looking back on the experience, is that Chester knew himself better than any other face I looked at that afternoon.

I glimpsed the next two faces on the way to my desk without much curiosity. My boss would probably look like a sick german shepherd too, I thought, and from around the corner, it did. His assistant looked like a big selfish marshmallow. I rather expected that. I sat down at my desk.

My desk rested against a wall next to a door, behind which was a darkroom for in-house photography. The department photographer was named Lloyd. Lloyd was a slim, pale white man in his mid twenties, with a thin face and dark straight hair. He was meticulously clean and he carried a bible with him. Lots of young single Houstonians did that, as a sign for the opposite sex as to whom they would make themselves available, I thought. Lloyd, however, was such a conservative dresser and overscrubbed that I feared he might be on the lookout for converts. I'd rather not have been caught in any more tedious conversations about "the Word of God." I sometimes pretended to be busy, working with face intent on typewriter, just in case. In the months I'd been there, we'd never once acknowledged each other.

This day Lloyd turning past my desk and I looked up at his face from my chair. He now had the jaw of a giant. It drooped from his face down to his beltbuckle. Lloyd needed a jaw that big, and that squared, to support his smile. Here stood the friendliest young man in Texas. I made up my mind in a flash to try an experiment. I stopped him.

"Well how are you, Lloyd," I exclaimed. I stuck out my right hand at Lloyd for a handshake. He took it with only a hint of quizzicality, and we shook hands. He knew what a friendly guy he was. "You know, Lloyd, I like you," I said, emulating the magnanimous behavior I would have expected him to demonstrate with the rest of the world, were he that self-confident.

Lloyd's eyes took on an easy, pleased twinkle of recognition and he replied earnestly that he liked me, too. He stood at the darkroom door and we chatted about work. Two total strangers had transformed in the space of a couple of seconds. From that day forward, Lloyd and I were best work-pals. He'd tell me all about his hobbies and every technical thing he knew. We never discussed the bible.

One week Lloyd passed by daily, bible in hand, going into the darkroom not to work, but to read. He was disturbed about something he didn't want to tell me about. Finally within a few days the department assistant head told Lloyd that Mr. Spiker wanted to see him. I never saw Lloyd again. I contemplated a world where a german shepherd with distemper holds free authority to distress a friendly young giant.

The great energy continued and made the rest of my workday speed by exactly right. At quitting time I took the stairway as usual and traipsed behind a couple from my department who had lately taken a shining to one another. I watched in silent mirth as their hips twirled at each other in circles, like two fish in separate glass bowls, trying to find some way to mate. It was a good thing Mr. Spiker did not have perceptions like this. Dating between employees at this company was an offense subject to termination.

I drove home. Traffic didn't do strange things before my eyes. I spent a pleasant, uneventful evening. Food didn't dance around on my plate or taste out of the ordinary. I seemed to know how to shut the perception off, still feeling the extraordinary energy. I thought of taking a walk to look at faces around my neighborhood, but I'd had enough. It was an astonishing lesson as the result of a very simple exercise.

Considering the sometimes overweaning imagination of this culture regarding such experiences, I suppose I should make a little disclaimer, here: "Drugs" have never been of any concern to me. They weren't part of my life in those days, hardly ever had been, and they aren't now. At age 27 I abstained even from drinking coffee, and almost never drank beer; I had a bottle of wine that Christmas. I had been this way all of my life with the exception of a period of 5 months -- at age 19 I tried marijuana 4 times, and, and some form of artificial mescaline twice. Those were interesting experiences, but nowhere so vivid or as full of direct comprehension as what I've described here.

I learned about LSD from friends who took it. I had no intention of trying it, even before I helped pack off two LSD-soaked friends to the state mental institution in Utica, New York.