I Met God — God Without Religion, Scripture, or Faith: Contact
BRAD LINAWEAVER: Neil, when we left off we had just gotten to the point where you moved from atheism to agnosticism and you gave a position on agnosticism having to do with considering the possibility of more than one paradigm being true, kind of a multiple reality-tunnel approach, perhaps.
I am reading from your book Self Control Not Gun Control, where you write “How about a computer metaphor? We are Software in a PC, even if we have a modem to other PC’s or that Great Main Frame in the Sky. Oh, Lord, DeBug Me, Deliver me out of RAM and Save me to Disk, Repairing all my corrupted Sectors, Amen.”
I would like to address the issue that when you moved from atheism to agnosticism I get the impression you did not stay in agnosticism very long, because in your essay, “Why I Am Not A Jew And What I Am Instead,” you did say “I believe in God, but I would believe – and have believed -in goodness per se even in the absence of my belief in God.”
I see that as a reference back to your natural law beliefs that you had I think as far back as you were able to formulate beliefs of any kind. So my question here is: was it a pretty short step from your form of agnosticism to a belief in the God of natural law?
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Let me first try to put the limits on the timeline here, because that might be useful in helping to answer the question. As you were zeroing in yesterday, something happened to me during the writing of The Rainbow Cadenza. I had some sort of event happen to me, probably in the last month of writing, that puts it somewhere in November to December of 1981, and I would say that my atheism was pretty well done at that point because I was seriously running at least a second or third paradigm, at that point. The materialistic view that Rand had given me was in suspension along with other views at that point so I would say I was agnostic by that point. Obviously, by the time I’m writing that statement “I believe in God” – it’s dated March 24, 1992 – my agnosticism is pretty much over.
I also talk about having the experience with God, I don’t think we’ve gotten to it yet in the first part, where I had an experience in 1988 around my birthday in which, I had been praying daily The Lord’s Prayer by 1988 probably for about a year. The 1988 experience I have told you about but I’m going to be putting on the record here and this is as good a place to do it.
But first let me just say that the transition starts to happen during the writing of Rainbow Cadenza when I start playing off the arguments, in my mind, between C.S. Lewis and Ayn Rand, which is characterized in the characters of Joan Darris and the underground “Mere Christian” priest Hill Bromley in The Rainbow Cadenza.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: Right, we talked about that in a previous section.
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Joan Darris is an Objectivist, in our argumentation. Hill Bromley is arguing from the standpoint of what I was reading from C.S. Lewis and he is a priest of the “Mere Christian” Church, taken directly from the title of one of C.S. Lewis’ most famous books Mere Christianity. There is no “Mere Christian” Church. Lewis would have scoffed at the idea that there could be a “Mere Christian” Church because as far as he was concerned denominations had meaning — you just had to choose one.
So, by the end of 1981 when I’m finishing the writing of Rainbow Cadenza I’m going through this transition period. It then starts accelerating so that by 1987, I’ve decided to make the experiment. We can call that period from 1982 to 1986 — at least five years — we can call that my for-sure agnostic period.
In 1987 I decide to make a leap of faith — an experiment — and that is to pray.
During this agnostic period I was running these multiple paradigms and I had the feeling that C.S. Lewis talked about, of being pursued. He talks about this, as I said, in the first section of his autobiography Surprised by Joy. And I had the feeling that there was an active intelligence in me answering my arguments. Whenever I was thinking over the Ayn Rand/Objectivist arguments against the existence of God, I kept on coming back with images and answers and information, which confounded those arguments, which annihilated them. So much so, at the point of 1987, I decided that I was going to start praying and see if anything happened.
Lewis talks about jumping across the chasm. Interestingly, this imagery of the chasm is also used in business. Crossing the Chasmis the title of a book, which has to do with entrepreneuring a new product and going from the early adopters to the mainstream market. So in essence what I was doing was, I saw it as a scientific experiment because the idea was either I was going to find out that there was a real intelligence on the other end by praying, and that this was not simply some psychological event. Of course I was familiar with the idea of bicameral minds and subconscious, and I’d read a lot of Jung during this period. I’d always been interested in psychology, reading Freud’s A General Introduction to Psychoanalysis by the time I was fourteen.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: Oh, I have to ask you a question there. Jung has always been preferred over Freud by those who believe in God, because the archetypes and other aspects of Jung — synchronicity, all these things — tie in with the more religious viewpoint. Whereas Freud has always been a darling — or used to be — of the atheist-materialist until the feminists got so mad at him. Back when you were an atheist, where did your emotions tend to pull you, toward Freud or toward Jung? Or did you not see a conflict?
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Well, I wasn’t thinking of it in those terms. I was thinking of it in artistic terms. I started reading Jung because symbols and imagery were an important part of the artistic motif of The Rainbow Cadenza itself. So I was reading Jung as well as a lot of different writers. I mean I did an encyclopedia’s worth of research on the various fields of Rainbow Cadenza. That is a very heavily research-driven book. Probably in the same way that you had to read every book about the Nazis there was to do Moon of Ice.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: You really taught me things about music and about lasegraphy I never would have known without reading The Rainbow Cadenza
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: I was trying to derive fundamental principles. I don’t want to digress too much here, but there was a fundamental principle that I learned during the writing of The Rainbow Cadenza, which I think of as the theory of everything when it comes to art. And that is the theory of dialectic. The idea that all art in one way or another comes from a collision of opposites, which creates tension and then a resolution, which really leads to release of tension. In drama, it is plot — doubt of outcome leading to resolution of outcome or doubt of intent in suspense leading to resolution of intent. In music, it is dissonance leading to consonance, or a harmonic expectation being fulfilled, such as the third note of a triad being expected and then becoming a full chord. You know things, which are set up to create expectations in drama, in music and all these forms of art, which are dynamic, which move. And I even started thinking of ways, in dancing for another example, contraction and release of the muscles.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: You’ve always agreed with Aristotle’s theory of catharsis?
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Right, but what I was looking for was a universal common denominator to all of them and then having found it in the tension-and-release dialectic, I then applied it to an art form which was just starting out and was not yet using it and that was the Laserium visual light art form. And so what I was able to do was take these principles and draw examples from these various different existing art forms and then apply them, in the novel, to an art form that, in essence, did not yet exist.
But it told me something also basic about all art and that in essence, that’s when I started to think of us as a creation, an existence we were living in, as a work of art. Because I saw the same principles existed in our lives,. The very principle of creation, of procreation, for example, involved a male – or masculine – principle and a female – or feminine – principle uniting to create a synthesis, which is a unique human being.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: Neil you’re not saying kids do better with having a mother and a father are you?
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Yes, I think I would say that. And as a matter of fact, of course, I was way ahead of the curve in discussing that in Rainbow Cadenza, where you do have gay marriages.
But, I’m going into digression after digression after digression here and I do want to develop these points in some coherent fashion.
The very exploration of art in The Rainbow Cadenza started giving me new paradigms having to do with existence itself. I started seeing God, in the sense that Hill Bromley was talking about God, as being an artist. And this paradigm, that’s when it started running alongside in my head, these other paradigms, these purely mechanistic science paradigms. And, of course, there were the quantum paradigms, also, which I was getting from reading things like Illuminatus! and the The Schrodinger’s Cat books by Robert Anton Wilson. And of course Sam Konkin was a theoretical chemist and so I was given some, at least a Sunday supplement version of quantum mechanics and statistical mechanics. Not that I had any mathematical understanding of them, but at least that was one more of the paradigms that was starting to run in my head as I started thinking about quantum uncertainty as possibly having to do something with free will and freeing us from the mechanistic clockwork universe that seemed to be so much a part of the secularists.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: Crucial question, it’ll keep us on track. Are you saying that when you first started seriously thinking about God during this highly creative agnostic period, you first started thinking about God in esthetic terms?
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Yes. Yes. God as an artist, as a creator, was where it’s first coming up. And again it comes because in writing a novel you have to be honest to your characters. I never liked writing straw-man arguments for my characters, I always wanted to have the people I disagreed with having as strong arguments as they could come up with.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: You know I agree with you on that Neil.
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Why yes, Brad. So much so, that I have the villain of The Rainbow Cadenza, Burke Filcher, making arguments that I disagree with one-hundred per cent, but making them so compellingly that to this day I have readers think that those are my actual positions.
So this transition that I was going forward with, again a lot having to do with tension and release and realizing that Creation itself utilized these artistic principles, made me start at least running the paradigm of the created universe alongside the uncreated universe. Again, the contradiction in my mind was how could you have a created universe if existence exists? That existence exists was where Rand was starting out, how could you have a created universe if existence has always existed, how can something come out of nothing? That was one of the main problems that I was trying to resolve in my mind. If there has to be something which is uncreated, how could you have a created universe? Okay, so that was the unresolved problem in my mind.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: You did not like the idea of Creation ex nihilo.
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Right, and to this day I reject the concept of creation ex nihilo.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: But you, of course, have discovered that is not a basis for atheism, though most people think it is, but you’ve discovered that?
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: But it took me a while to get to that point and I would say that the transition during the agnostic period was when these questions were open and unresolved in my mind, when there was all this tension of these various different paradigms bumping against each other and coming out of me and being objectified in the characters in The Rainbow Cadenza.
So, by the time I get to 1987 I’m willing to make the experiment and pray. Interestingly, I chose The Lord’s Prayer.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: Why?
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Jesus seemed cool to me, that’s the only way I can put it. Hanging around all these Christians at the C.S. Lewis Society, Jesus just seemed cool to me.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: By that point had you read C.S. Lewis’ famous remark, but I don’t remember which work it’s in, that Jesus Christ in the Gospel accounts in The New Testament, is equivalent to God writing Himself into His own novel. Had you encountered that Lewis remark by this point?
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: I would say that by 1987, I had probably read the bulk of C.S. Lewis’ nonfiction theological writings.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: It is very possible that Lewis’ observation helped contribute to your choice of The Lord’s Prayer?
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Yes, and so that was the prayer and I started doing it.
Now here’s where I need to lead up to this by giving psychological background on one aspect of myself because it plays a part in the transition that happens in 1988. There’s two things I have to mention then, one of them is I was phobic about death. So much so that it made me a physical coward.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: When did you first discover that about yourself? Let’s go further back in time if necessary.
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: There is an old Yiddish expression which I heard growing up — “Ken dort gehargit verren” — which means you could get killed doing that. And that was pretty much my watchword for a long period of my youth. The idea of deliberately going into a situation where you could get killed was not something I wanted to do. Particularly, you know, because I had no emotional certainty of an afterlife. I was phobic about death. I was phobic about pain, but particularly death. So much so that I had to have nighttime rituals to get to sleep, to blank out almost the obsessive thinking that would happen to me in the stillness and quietness. I would start thinking about my own mortality and freak.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: About what age did this first begin?
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: It was always there. As far back as I could remember there’s always been this phobia about death.
Now something else weird. Remember that I mentioned that I had always had psychic beliefs. I’d had psychic experiences including some precognitive events of my own.
I remember a day in 1970 that I was expecting, all day, a telephone call to come in saying that my grandfather, my father’s father, was dead. That call came around two in the afternoon. I’d been expecting it. This was when we were in the process of moving from Massachusetts to New York.
Our house was for sale. The real estate agents were calling. I was going in with my father to Boston that day for testing at a school which was a tutorial academy with branches in both Boston and New York. I was going to test in Boston and complete high school at this tutorial academy in New York City.
When the phone rang that morning, it was clear in my mind they were calling to say Grandpa Schulman is dead. It wasn’t. It was a real estate agent calling to make an appointment.
I went into Boston with my father, I did the testing. After I was finished the testing they were doing grading on it — the marking on the achievement test to find out what my levels were.
The phone rang. The person who ran the branch of that school in Boston, Alexander Smith Academy, got on the phone and I again thought they’re calling to tell me that my grandfather’s dead. Why should I think that this random phone call, ringing at this academy, had anything even to do with me?
He handed me the phone. It was for me and it was my mother, calling to say that my grandfather had died about an hour before. So my first thing about it happened before he even died because that had happened around 8:30 or 9:00 o’clock that morning. And this was around 2:00 in the afternoon, and my grandfather had died around noon or something like that.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: Important question. Why wouldn’t the view that you’d had when you were fairly young, that the universe might have more going on in it than we immediately perceive with the five senses, which is what precog experiences suggest — extrasensory perception experiences suggest — which is real-time brain-to-brain communication, precog, you get the feeling you have an edge on the future, all these type of experiences. Why wouldn’t any of these experiences, and the fact that you had a number of them over the years, make you less phobic about death for the very simple reason that these experiences, if you don’t just rule them out the way Isaac Asimov would as just statistical and accidental and they don’t mean anything (the old Carl Sagan approach), if you’re drawing the other conclusion, that the universe in weirder than we think, why wouldn’t that make you less phobic about death?
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Because it was at a too deep an irrational level, it was not subject to reason. I could distract myself from it I could not defeat what was going on inside of me. It was a neurosis of some sort.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: And you have no idea where it came from you have just had it for so long?
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Well at that point I had no idea where it came from.
So, here is where I was leading up to my psychic thing. It would have to be sometime in the area of around 1987, when I learned that Robert Heinlein — whom, of course, I’d first met in September, 1973 after doing the interview with him in July, 1973 and had become friends with – when I learned in 1987 that Heinlein was dying of emphysema, which by the way was what killed my maternal grandfather, at the point where I knew that Heinlein was dying of emphysema I did something very, very strange in my own mind. I tried to psychically link my energy to his to keep him alive.
Now that sounds crazy. Why would I have even thought that I could do something like that? And here we come to a year of praying, sometimes more than once a day. Almost clinging to God in a sense “Don’t let me die,” “Don’t let me die,” “Don’t let Heinlein die,” “Don’t let Heinlein die.” I mean this really crazy neurotic mental cycles.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: And this is still when, if somebody asked you pointblank, at that moment, you’d still say you’re an agnostic but you’re running a prayer experiment, perhaps. Because in one of your interviews with Jack, you say years after you have convinced yourself or had the experience of God, years after that experience you told Jack, in one or you interviews, that you think the best way to think of God is God is an experimental scientist.
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Yes.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: So, God is running the experiments?
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Yes.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: And here you were at your end, you were running an experiment on God, the way that you could argue God runs experiments on us?
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Yes.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: Both ends of the microscope.
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Yes.
So, we get to April, 1988 and somewhere in that period, I’m not sure exactly when, I had my last telephone conversation with Heinlein. It was one in which he was talking about Jean Kirkpatrick for president. He must have known he didn’t have much time left but somewhere in the month preceding that I’d had my last telephone conversation with Heinlein, he spoke about that. He also probably shook my anarchism pretty heavily at that point by simply at a certain point he made some sort of offhand comment, “Well, Neil you know that’s crazy.” I think it was when I was telling him the reason why I didn’t vote or something like that because Heinlein, of course, believed in voting. I was coming up with the standard argument that we in The AnarchoVillage — our little libertarian group in Long Beach, California — were always talking about why we were nonvoters, quoting Jack Parr, “Don’t vote. It just encourages them.
Heinlein did something he’d never done before; he basically dissed me on this point. That had an impact on me emotionally, but nonetheless I loved the man.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: Do you remember what your response to him was?
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: I don’t think I even gave him a response.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: You just thought about it.
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: I started thinking about it.
BRAD LINWEAVER: He did that to make you think about it?
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Yes. But also, interestingly, he immediately pulled back as if he had said it unintentionally.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: Ah, because he was so polite?
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: I’m not sure it was politeness, I almost had a sense it was something else.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: But he was a very polite man.
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: I think it was more than being polite. I think it was almost like that he saw what was going on with me and knew that I was going to end up there where he was anyway.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: But it may have been your first helping hand to the recognition that the brilliant observation you have made, you made this in your own words I’ll just through this in here but you say it awfully well: if we say we have the right to defend ourselves with weapons like guns, we recognize — as Emma Goldman always said — that the vote is a weapon also, and why only allow your enemies to wield that weapon?
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: And of course I was taking that directly from the anarchist writers who compared ballots with bullets. So in other words, at the point, a few years later than that, that I started literally endorsing carrying guns around with bullets in them, the arguments that the anarchists made to me came back in the exact opposite direction that they wanted to. If bullets and ballots are the same thing — as you’re always saying — then why can’t I use a ballot defensively like I use a bullet defensively?
BRAD LINAWEAVER: You turn this argument on its head and I have never seen it done better. For all I know it’s an original argument with you. But whether it is or not, your expression of it is very effective and I have not seen the argument from anybody but you.
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Okay. We come to April 1988.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: The year of Heinlein’s death.
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Right. That’s May.
This is a month before that and I was living bicoastal at that point.
My Twilight Zone episode had been aired March 7, 1986, and I started getting pulled back out to the West Coast for work reasons because movie and television production was West Coast. But nonetheless, before that, I had gotten married in July, 1985, and was living in Jersey City, New Jersey, and I needed to return to the West Coast. And that happened at various different stages.
But by that point, in April, 1988, I had already established a second apartment back in Long Beach — not back in the AnarchoVillage but just a few blocks away from it — with a roommate, John Strang.
It was a two-bedroom apartment, and we each had our own bedroom with our own privacy, shared a common living room and kitchen, and when my wife at that time came out to the West Coast, we would stay in my room and had the use of the apartment. That’s where I was starting to run SoftServ, the publishing company out of, the electronic publishing company. So in essence I had two homes again at that point, I was bicoastal.
I need to bring up the physiological component because the physiological component is going to play an important part later on.
I was a very heavy coffee drinker. I seem to have some sort of allergy to coffee which I’ve never fully figured out. I thought for a long time that it had to do with the acid of the coffee, or the caffeine, and it doesn’t seem to be either of those, because acid by itself or caffeine by itself does not do what coffee does to me. It sends me into irregular heartbeat and hyperventilation. It seems to be almost an allergic reaction. I think that it might have something directly to do, that there is some substance in coffee — and Sam Konkin, the theoretical chemist pointed out to me that there are so many substances in coffee that if you put them in a gas chromatograph you can’t even figure out everything that’s in there. They’ve never even been able to do a full analysis of what’s in coffee. So there’s something in there which I think may directly affect the brain in the regulation of breathing and heartbeat. It goes directly to the autonomic functions in some sense.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: And it’s not just the caffeine?
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: It’s not just the caffeine. It’s not the acid. It is something else in coffee.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: And that’s why they used to call it the devil’s brew when it was first introduced into Europe.
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Well, they may be right.
But nonetheless, for the week before my birthday in 1988 — and it even took me a few days to realize that it was coffee that started it — but I had a week where I was uncontrollably and unexpectedly going into hyperventilation.
There was not such a great tension going on that these were panic attacks, although I had just taken out a lease on this apartment so I could work on the West Coast again and my guild was on strike again, was throwing us out on strike sometime in that period. I don’t remember the exact time of the strike. I do remember that it was a very long strike.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: That would be The Writer’s Guild?
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: The Writer’s Guild, yes. But nonetheless I don’t recall that this was a particularly stressful time but this week preceding my birthday in 1988 – my birthday is April 16 – I kept on going into fits of unexpected hyperventilation and they were causing panic attacks, so much so that I was having to carry around a paper bag with me to breathe into it, to try to get myself out of it. I didn’t know what was going on. I stopped drinking coffee after the first day, or something like that, when I realized it was linked. But nonetheless, even after stopping the coffee, it was not stopping and it was going on day after day after day. So by around the fifth or the sixth day I was a wreck.
And I’d started having a very strange thing happening. I’ll use a technical psychological term here. I became extremely emotionally labile. Emotional lability means that you do not have any self-control over your emotional response.
What was happening to me is that I became so emotionally sensitive to everything around me that if I watched a TV commercial with a little mini-drama, in that commercial to sell some product, it became like watching Hamlet or MacBeth. In other words, I was just responding to everything way out of proportion. I was feeling everything. In terms of sound you would think of it as 120 decibels or something like that.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: Total empathy?
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Total empathy.
Now, I had thought of myself as somebody who, if he identified with any character out of Star Trek, it was Spock. I was out of control. Suddenly my emotions were out of control. It was “Amok Time” — or something like that — without the mating ritual.
It got to the point where on the night before my birthday I lay down in bed and this feeling of uncertainty — and remember this combined with this death phobia — I was afraid I was going to die from this, that something was happening in me that was killing me. I didn’t know what it was.
I lay down in bed – and bed for me was a futon on the floor in this bedroom – and I felt a hand on my heart inside my chest. I can’t describe it any other way. I felt a physical presence of a hand, as if it was holding my heart. Not squeezing it but holding it so I could feel it. In my head I heard this voice and it said to me, “I can take you now.”
Suddenly my worst fear, death was coming, you know, God is going to take me. I’m in the middle of a Twilight Zone episode. Hand on my heart. I’m scared to death – literally. And a voice — The Voice, which I knew was God’s voice — was saying, “I can take you now.” And I was scared.
Something unusual happened at that point. The Voice, which had just said “I can take you now,” started laughing at me.
And I said, “Why are you laughing at me?”
And The Voice — God, I might as well just say God, because that’s how I identified it — God said to me then “Because I can’t believe that you’re scared.”
I said, “Why would you be surprised that I’m scared? I’ve always been scared of death. You’re surprised that I’m scared?”
It was totally inexplicable to me that while this is going on, God’s first reaction is to be astonished, and laugh, that I am scared of death. Who am I that God would be surprised that I’m scared of death? I’m not a war hero, who’s been an Audie Murphy who’s charged machine-gun nests, or anything like that. Why on Earth would God be surprised by that? This was one of the things going on while I am, in essence, scared out of my mind.
After He stopped laughing at me, God said “You have to make a choice. I can take you now. You will die now or I can let you live but here’s the thing. No more promises. No more deals. You have in your mind somewhere that you can make a deal with me and I’m going to make everything come out all right and you’re going to be safe from everything and you’re not going to die and the people around you, who you keep on praying for constantly, are not going to die. And if you stay – if I don’t take you now – all bets are off. You stay, unconditionally, with no promises, and whatever happens, you have to let happen.”
And I was more scared of death than of fate. And so I said “I’ll stay.”
And I felt The Hand leave my heart. I had accepted the contract.
I thought, at that point, I wonder if this is simply some sort of psychological event, some fantasy my body is having to tell me that I’m having a heart attack?
BRAD LINAWEAVER: While this was going on, weren’t you thinking about Heinlein’s situation as well as your own?
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Well, I was thinking in terms of everybody. Not just Heinlein, but I was praying for my parents, and my wife, and all my friends, you know, “Don’t let any of them die, don’t let me die, don’t let anybody die.”
BRAD LINAWEAVER: I just remember conversations I had with you at the time. Heinlein seemed to be very prominent in your mind.
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Very prominent, but at that particular moment I don’t know, okay? But again, it was this clinging to God, praying so tight that nobody dies, that no harm comes to everybody. You know this panicked clinging, which was what He was breaking. In essence He was telling me, “Don’t pray so much! because I’d been praying every day, constantly. Not just the Lord’s Prayer, but also the prayers for everybody to be okay – and not in the Christian sense of praying for their soul – but praying for them physically not to die, not to get hit by a truck.
So, God ended that at that moment.
Nonetheless, again, being the rationalist, I’m thinking maybe this is my science-fiction writer’s brain telling me that I’m having a heart attack. So at this point I woke up my roommate and I said, “Call the paramedics, I think I’m having a heart attack.”
The paramedics arrived and they put those sensors on me to do the electrocardiogram, which they do instantly, and they looked at me like I was crazy. They said, “Your heart is perfectly fine. What are you talking about? There’s nothing going on.” One of them asked me an interesting question. He said, “Are you going through a divorce right now?”
“No,” I said, “everything’s fine. My wife is coming out tomorrow to celebrate my birthday. Everything’s great. But I thought I was having a heart attack.”
“No, you’re not having a heart attack. Forget it, you’re fine!”
They didn’t even want to take me down to the hospital for observation. My heart must have been rock steady at that point.
They left. My roommate went back to sleep. And my panic was over.
Whatever had happened – now that I knew that I was not dying — what had been going on for a week, with this recurring hyperventilation, this emotional lability, it stopped at that instant.
It was over. The event was over.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: Now, important question. So what would have been your first contact with God — when it was over you thought it might very well be God but you weren’t one-hundred-percent certain that it was God?
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: I was pretty certain that it was God.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: Ninety percent or one-hundred percent?
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Ninety-eight percent.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: But there was still two percent of doubt?
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Right.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: So you thought very likely it was God but you weren’t totally convinced, just almost.
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Right. There was always that two percent of doubt because I might be crazy. I knew that the human body was capable of doing odd things, and the human brain was capable of doing odd things. I thought that maybe I was suffering from some toxic poisoning from coffee or something like that. Maybe this was some sort of hallucinated experience.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: Now another question. What would be your first encounter with God? Because a lot of people who have known you over the years, when they see your license plate “I met God,” or when they see the title of this book, are going to be thinking about your econd encounter — which we we’re not getting to for a while yet — which you call the Mind Meld with God, which is the most intense meeting with God. But, in fact, this is the first meeting with God?
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: This is the first direct encounter, or actually the first one which I identify as a direct encounter, because I have had experiences –
BRAD LINAWEAVER: But this is not the Mind Meld. That was a later experience?
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: That is correct. This is a frightening and entirely confronting and unpleasant experience.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: And, it’s the most unusual thing about what would be your first encounter of God. The first time you move from agnosticism to pretty damn close to the theistic position, that you now believe there is a God. You’re awful close to it now, that the first thing, in effect, you get out of your first encounter with God is?
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: God telling me to stop praying.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: Right! You don’t normally hear that from somebody who prays, prays, prays — God finally communicates and says, “Stop all that praying!”
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Yes. Bizarre. And also, just as bizarre, God laughing at me because he can’t believe that I’m afraid.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: Right, so there’s two things. The sense of humor, which a large part of your argument about God, you’ve argued. A large part of your novel, Escape from Heaven, and many times on Jack’s show when you’re explaining your real beliefs, your view that God has a sense of humor, is a very, very important part of everything you’ve been building out of these experiences. This was the first time you had the idea that God had a sense of humor, his laughing at your fear?
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Yes. You know a really rough sense of humor.
But two events happen. One of them is Heinlein dies. I let go and a few weeks after that he’s dead. Okay? I’m told that I can’t keep him alive any more and a few weeks later he’s dead. And it’s almost like what was going on with me was not, in fact, a caffeine reaction, or a coffee reaction or something like that. But in essence this link, which I have set up psychically with Heinlein, is killing me, and unless I let go I’m going to die.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: Die along with Heinlein or in place of Heinlein?
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Along with, I’ll go with him.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: Were there were links to others, too? It sounds like there were a couple of links.
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Yes, but the others weren’t dying. I’ve linked up with a number of people and one of them is dying and it’s going to drag me along with it. On the metaphysical level if we want to look at it in these terms, that’s what was happening.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: This psychic link with a dying person, dangerous move.
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Right. And then he dies, May 8th, was that the date?
Now. Something else happens, very significant. I have a dream.
In my dream I am in a courtroom and to my side is my counsel and my counsel is a woman and my counsel is God.
Not, in some same sense, the God who had his masculine hand on my heart a few weeks before that. But God as a female and God is my lawyer.
And there is a panel, a panel of judges up on the judge’s bench, and I’m at the defendant’s table. Although it’s more of a hearing, an inquiry, than a trial, I’m not on trial for having done something wrong. But it is a court of inquiry. And the question before the court, I am told by God, my lawyer who is female, is, “Why was I afraid?”
BRAD LINAWEAVER: The same question repeated?
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Right. What was it, why was I afraid? God is obviously surprised that I could be afraid and apparently it’s something that needs to be resolved.
Here is something very interesting, I am told by God, my lawyer who is female, “The judges need your permission to unlock the records. They are sealed. None of us are allowed to look at them without your permission. Will you give us permission to look so that we can find out why you are afraid of death?”
I said “Yes, permission granted.”
BRAD LINAWEAVER: But God is asking for permission to look at sealed records in effect.
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Not only God but all these judges in this courtroom.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: But what’s impressive is, God won’t look at these records without permission. Do I have this right?
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: That is correct. And I said, “Yes you can look.” And only a few seconds go by — it’s not like court is adjourned, we’ll be back later — a few seconds go by and they have the answer immediately after I give permission.
I am told, “We have just searched the records and what we found out was that in your immediate incarnation before this you were murdered as an infant and died not understanding what was going on, that the imprint of this carried over into your current life as fear, as an irrational fear of death.”
Now, I woke up from this dream and the phobia that had dogged me my entire life up to that moment was gone.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: The phobia was gone?
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: The phobia — something, which had dogged me my entire life – was gone. Okay?
Now what sort of dream is it that you have, that changes your life, that changes something fundamental about you? This was remarkable to me, I have a dream and then suddenly, this thing which I have never been able to go to bed without distracting myself so I wouldn’t think about death, suddenly this is gone?
BRAD LINAWEAVER: The dream reinforced the first meeting with God. You could actually argue that this dream is either an epilog to or a second encounter with God, but it’s logically tied to that first encounter. It is all of a piece with the hand on the heart and that you’ve got to let go what you are afraid of, all of that is a piece of the same experience, the same event. Therefore, at the end of what might be called this first encounter with God, you’ve had a major psychological change and you as somebody who used to be an atheist, and then have gone through this agnostic period, are wondering why the thing that would get you over the hump of such a dire problem, why you of all people ould be imagining that it’s God? Since you’ve never felt for most of your life a need for God.
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Right
BRAD LINAWEAVER: And yet God shows up in this situation and suddenly a huge life problem of yours is resolved. It’s like, what is it eight years later when you have the Mind Meld? There’s a good chunk of a decade that separates this event from the next encounter with God. Which means you’re not just having — like these people who claim they have born again experiences and God’s in their heart and they’re in communication with God all the time — you go through a long period of time from this moment to the next time you have an encounter with God.
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Yes. But something significant happened in between.
Next in I Met God — God Without Religion, Scripture, or Faith is Chapter IV: No Religion, Too
Copyright © 2010 The J. Neil Schulman Living Trust. All rights reserved.
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