Shortly after I turned twelve, I had my first out of body experience. It was terrifying. I was not looking to have such an experience, and neither was I prepared for it. An out of body experience is when you find yourself outside your physical body and can typically see your entire physical body as if outside of it. Commonly referred to as an ‘OBE’, it is one of the strangest things we can experience as human beings. A version of OBEs also can happen through trauma, when people suffer a severe accident and pass out. When that happens, it is known as a “near death experience”, or NDE. While the two are related, an NDE is really a special case of an OBE. But more on that on another occasion in future.
On this memorable afternoon, I was alone. After going to the study room to do my homework, I dozed off for a few hours. Next thing I realized, I woke up to very strange circumstances. I was awake, yet this was different from any state of wakefulness I had ever experienced. Although I was fully awake and aware, I was definitely not my normal self. Over on the bed, I saw my entire physical body, a few feet away! Simultaneously, I saw myself looking at another body that I can only describe as a “body of light”, having a translucent humanoid shape. As I gradually became aware of these unusual circumstances, I experienced a major freaking out moment. It was so intense but I could not even scream. Imagine a silent scream fighting to crawl out of my throat, searching for a fitting expression to give words to a state of confusion and horror. I passed out after that.
Another couple of hours later, I woke up in the normal way, but could not shake off this awful, inexplicably weird experience that life had just brought to me. My twelve-year old mind could only conjure up Christian ideas of angels, devils and ghosts. Had I been a ghost? Did I ‘die’? What the hell was that experience?! What business was that? I did not know. So, as life goes, the next best thing I could do was to simply file away the experience and move on. Needless to say, I never slept in the study room again.
Down and down and down the rabbit hole
But life was not done with me. No, not yet. This brief experience was like a prelude to what has turned out to be a major show. I have experienced many weirder things that border on the supernatural, on the metaphysical and basically on the fringe, since this first experience. Yet my life has also been very ordinary and normal in many ways. How did I reconcile these two realities, especially when the greater majority of people in my life are very ordinary or ‘normal’ people? Well, that is what I am here to tell you about.
I had no idea that the frightening experience I had when I was twelve years old was only the beginning. A few years later, as a teenager, I came across another really bizarre bit of information. I somehow came by an old, totally out of place tabloid paper that had a front page story of former US President Dwight D. Eisenhower meeting extraterrestrials, back in February 1954 at Muroc Airfield, which is now Andrews Air force base in the US. Now, we’re talking way back in the early to mid-nineties when I came by this information. This was even before the internet was widespread. I was in Ghana at the time, and I had not even used the internet before. I remember being completely intrigued by this information. At the same time, I was thinking, what is this all about? Is this real or is it a hoax? I had no context or background information to make sense of this new information. So once again, I filed it away and returned to the safety and the comfort of the mundane.
As I entered my 20s, I finally got some answers. I first learned that the Belgian military had chased a UFO and had an official record of it that was open to the public. I also eventually came across Dr. Steven Greer’s work and the Disclosure Project. On another note, I have never been one to be interested in recreational drugs, but I did indulge in a bit of weed for a short period. During my final year at college, I had a friend who enjoyed getting high while listening to Pink Floyd. So I tried it too. For me, it was the first time I felt what people call ‘energies’, and ‘chakras’. Somehow, I could manipulate my ‘energy’ during those few times I was high. I quickly left weed experiences behind in favor of other ways to experience the supernatural. While living in the New York City area for a few years, I took courses at the International Academy of Consciousness to learn how to consciously achieve an OBE. In the end, it took some intense effort to be able to achieve an OBE without chemicals or technology. I fasted for days while at a silent retreat with two other friends at a ranch in the Palm Springs desert in California. And then it happened. I achieved a conscious OBE for the first time.
Living the Story of Plato’s cave allegory
Sometimes life prepares us for intense experiences by handing us samples of what is to come. This is the idea of being shoved into the deep end because that would later become a new norm. I would like to share with you how I have gone through my journey, that I can best describe as living through a modern version of Plato’s “allegory of the cave”. Or you can think of “There and Back Again”, by Bilbo Baggins of Lord of the Rings fame. In my case, I have experienced forays out of mundane consciousness into what I term “otherworldly consciousness” and back into the mundane.
So, the allegory of the cave. What is it? First of all, it can be found in Plato’s work The Republic. This allegory is a conversation between Socrates and Plato’s brother Glaucon. In essence, the allegory describes three prisoners in a cave, shackled since birth, who can only look at a stone wall in front of them. They have never been out of the cave. Behind them, a fire is lit, and puppets are used to project shadows of plants, animals, people and objects from outside the cave, so that all the three prisoners know of as real are these shadow forms.
Socrates then presents Glaucon with a scenario where one of the three prisoners becomes free. Moving toward the light at the entrance to the cave, this former prisoner would at first be blinded by the light, and would be dazzled and confused. Socrates suggests that this individual would be better helped by being introduced to the light in a step-wise fashion, first through shadows, and then through the reflection of people and objects in water, and then then finally to real objects. Then the freed individual would know that the Sun is the source of light outside the cave, and that the world outside is great and vast. Upon returning to the cave, the now freed prisoner would this time be blinded by the cave’s darkness. The other prisoners would not believe the freed prisoner. Instead, they would accuse the freed prisoner of being blind and would try to kill the freed prisoner, should he or she attempt to free them.
When in the dark, deal first with shadows
Now, what does Plato’s allegory of the cave have to do with me, and with my OBE and other experiences? Well, it turned out that as I learned new things, I wanted to tell everybody! I wanted to tell my relatives, my siblings, and at one time, my girlfriend. The results were often disastrous! For example, with a Christian woman I was dating back in 2003, when I was really going into the deep end, I would spend hours trying to have her consider questions such as what if the Bible’s angels and demons that Dan Brown also wrote about in the year 2000 were really references to different types of extraterrestrials? What if angels were avian extraterrestrials that aligned with ‘good’, and demons were reptilian extraterrestrials that aligned with ‘evil’ and what if both sides were in some sort of cosmic battle that ended up as a story in the bible? It didn’t go down well. In fact, she thought I was crazy. With another girlfriend, I tried to get her to ‘feel energies’. I remember on one occasion, she just looked at me, shaking her head with a facial expression that was a mix of scorn and sympathy.
With my family, I fared no better. One time, I wrote a seven-page single-spaced treatise on my discoveries and their implications and emailed it to my entire family. That was another disaster! Oh, that was such a terrible mistake! If you are thinking about coming out to a religiously-inclined family, please consider taking a different approach, perhaps the one I shall shortly outline. Now that I think about it, what I did to my family and to close friends was just like the freed prisoner who returned into the cave, blinded by the darkness. Rather than waiting patiently to readjust to that level of light in the cave order to figure out how to speak in terms of shadows, I instead blasted out information that ended up confusing and sometimes alienating those I held dear to me.
To be fair, I did not experience complete backlash in sharing my new views. I experienced some distant support from some family and friends. Also, I soon made new friends. And having these has been among the greatest joys of my journey to date. As my views changed, some people left my life and new people came in. But family, well, our families tend stay with us for the long term. At least for me, having an African background, that has been the case. They are a great bunch of people. Had I thought about the allegory of the cave as I was going through this experience, I would have saved myself and them a whole lot of trouble. So, here is what I would have done differently, and although your life’s path and circumstances may be quite different, if you have found yourself in a similar situation as me, or ever do, then I hope you would consider this alternative approach.
When back in the cave, first speak in terms of shadows
Socrates, through Plato, teaches us that just as the light blinds the freed prisoner who first moves toward it, and who must first rely on shadows and reflections before facing objects as they are, it may be prudent, when “re-entering the cave”, after adjusting to its light, to again speak in terms of shadows, before even thinking about proceeding further beyond that. I now hold true that I need not save anyone. In fact, I think now that by trying to “save” others or by trying to have them accept me, I failed to respect who they were and where they were at on their own life paths. Even where we are of the same family, of the same race, age, work or college contemporaries, we are all on different paths. We are each at different stages of what we have to learn in life, and our appreciations of the mundane and of the esoteric. So it serves little function to force one’s beliefs on another. In the same vein, we should hold true to our own truth, while remaining open-minded to new information. So, here is what I would suggest to you as a survival guide for coming out with friends or family if you ever need to do so regarding your beliefs:
· First and foremost, remain true to yourself. Ultimately, you should not have to prove anything to anyone, even to those who love you the most.
· Respect yourself and what you know to be true in your new reality, and respect the other for who they are, and where they are at. Respect is a two-sided affair. I really like William Ury’s adage that he shares in his book The Power of a Positive No. He states that “respect is the higher ground between backing down and going on the offensive”. No need to back down, no need to go on the offensive. Just be cool and remain true to you.
· Be strategic in what you choose to share by taking into account your audience. Remain open to learning and sharing, while maintaining an earnest but skeptical mind. For what you choose to share, when dealing with those whose reality is very different from yours, think to first sow some seeds of thought, and then consider how that is received. Speak in terms of shadows, as Plato and Socrates suggest. If you find interest, proceed a bit further. If you find resistance, drop the subject and proceed in some other direction.
· We are social beings so we share information and learn from one another. Rather than close yourself up in fear of rejection or retribution, or alternatively becoming hysterical, driven to proselyting, find some suitable ground between being being closed and being open, that works best for you and for your given circumstance.
…and to close…
Finally, there is a famous Zen saying that states as “before enlightenment, chop wood, carry water. After enlightenment, chop wood, carry water”. This saying reminds us to keep doing things in the mundane world that are important to us, in spite of any new reality that gets added to that of the mundane. I love my mundane family and friends. I still do normal things, and I love being part of society, contributing to mainstream mundane life. But, I will be honest with you. I do have my ‘esoteric’ ‘family’ and friends, some of whom are in ‘the cave’ and others that are ‘outside the cave’. And on occasion, I still leave the cave to enjoy the sprawling fields, the woods, the meadows and the fresh waters of the outside world.