Archive for January, 2010
I was cleaning out my desk years back, rummaging through assorted memorabilia, when I found a composition I’d worked on when I was in elementary school. Curious what my writing was like at that age, I flipped through the worn and yellowed hand written pages.
What I found was a story I’d forgotten ever working on, a story told to me by my grandmother, Sarah, about a house cat named Young Griffo — named after an Australian prizefighter famous over a century ago — that lived in my grandparents’ Brooklyn, New York house when my mother was a child.
Cats can be independent and ornery … just like libertarians. Maybe that’s why independent and ornery writers beloved by libertarians — notably Ayn Rand, Robert A. Heinlein, and L. Neil Smith — have often enough lived with cats.
Both my grandparents and this feline have long since since passed away (my mom is still here and at the moment watching Who Wants to Be A Millionaire?, and I recount it here — never before published — just as Grandma told it to me as a kid.
What Did That Crook Do Now?
as told to J. Neil Schulman
As far back in my life as I can remember, I have always been living with one or more cats. There has been one cat, however, which has remained in my memories far beyond all the others combined.
When my son, Murray, then eight years old, brought home a kitten, I wasn’t very much surprised — homeless creatures were always finding asylum with us. Her face was as beautiful as the rest of her, she had big green eyes with bushy white eyebrows, thick white whiskers, and her body was orange and white, with a tail alternately ringed with those two colors. Her front paws were also white, with her back paws orange, and she was so small that we put her on the turntable of my Victrola and watched her spin around. She was just like a toy.
If at that moment, we’d had any idea of the unending misery and aggravation we were destined to go through because of that cat, we wouldn’t have kept her in the house for five minutes. It was because of her great beauty, however, that we kept her for twelve years.
When she was about four months old, Murray named her “Young Griffo” after the famous prizefighter. Before that we’d just called her “Kitty” or “that cat.” She won her name because Murray discovered that she had the talent of sitting up on her haunches and actually boxing like her namesake, but it didn’t take long to find out the kind of personality with which we were dealing.
We lived then in a one family house, part of a private community called Sea Gate in Brooklyn, New York. My parents lived on the downstairs floor with my sister Rose — at that time still single, and I lived on the upper floor with my husband Sam, Murray, and his three year-old sister, Betty. It was an open household — both families had access to the upper and lower floors.
Young Griffo started the practice of running to the icebox every time she heard its door open. Murray and one of his friends took advantage of this and decided to have a little fun with her — they would take an old sheet which one of them would hold across the door separating the dining room and kitchen, while the other would take the cat into the living room, then return to the kitchen and open the ice box door. Young Griffo would rush in from the living room through the dining room, and instead of stopping at the blockade, would jump right over it! Each time the boys did this they raised the sheet slightly, and by the time Young Griffo was full grown, she could hurdle almost any obstacle.
One of the first problems we had with Young Griffo were her habits — she chose a chair in the living room and started using it as a scratching post. Even worse was the difficulty we had in house breaking her — most of the time she used the stair carpeting. I used the strongest smelling disinfectant on the carpeting in the hope of dissuading her of this practice — but to no avail. You can imagine my embarrassment when I invited some friends over for coffee and cake, one summer afternoon, to find her decorating the carpeting again!
Needless to say, we eventually had to get rid of both the chair and the carpeting — but not the cat.
These beginning problems were a pure pleasure compared to what we went through starting with her first litter. She’d chosen to keep her kittens in my bedroom closet, disregarding the place we’d made for her and the kittens in the bathroom. No matter how may times we put the kittens in the bathroom, she would carry them, one by one back to the closet. It finally got so bad that we had to keep our bedroom door closed at night, but even this didn’t stop her — she’d pound on the door with such force that it would wake up the entire household. When my husband would come out to “shut her up” — she was nowhere to be found, but as soon as he went back to bed, the racket started all over again.
On one particular night, my sister Rose had made a date to go on a boat ride the next morning. That night, the cat pounded on my bedroom all night long, and Rose didn’t sleep a wink. Needless to say, she slept throughout the entire boat ride! After this had gone on for days, we decided to let the kittens stay in the closet — but too late to make it up to poor Rose.
When the kittens were old enough to walk, we kept them in the basement at night to protect them from possible injuries. Young Griffo’s maternal instincts somehow told her that this was for their own good, and she agreed to it without a fight.
We always managed to find homes for Young Griffo’s kittens when they were old enough — we had to, she had about three litters a year from her first, at age one. All in all, we must’ve found homes for over 125 kittens! The first few times, it wasn’t that difficult to find a friend willing to take a kitten, but with later litters, it wasn’t uncommon to travel all the way to the Bronx — a two-hour train ride at that time, to give a kitten away.
We enjoyed having the kittens around — if only to pay Young Griffo back for some of the aggravation. One particular batch of kittens would wait behind our piano until she was asleep, then spring upon her demanding that she play (not the piano) whether she was in the mood to or not.
We finally deduced that the father of most of the kittens was another cat we’d been feeding. Since we were all getting a bit tired of the trips all the way to the Bronx — even though we loved the kittens — we decided that something should be done. I took the cat (which we’d named Tom) on the trolley with me and let him off about four miles away from my house, figuring that this would be the last we’d see of him. I don’t know how Tom did it, but by the time the trolley had returned me home — he was already back, sitting on my front porch!
Tom was as henpecked as any cat in history — his lot was not as easy one, especially at mealtime. Young Griffo would whack him on the side if he was tolerant enough to let the kittens jump on his back while eating — or sometimes, even if he meowed out of the wrong side of his mouth. He stayed with us for ten years or so, then one day finally just disappeared — and no wonder.
Young Griffo had other suitors besides Tom — during mating season (which was most of the time with Young Griffo) none of the neighbors would sleep. It was quite common to have a midnight chorus of five male cats at a time — yowling and howling, and in general making a terrible racket. You can’t imagine how many shoes were found in our yard the next morning — or how many buckets of water were spilled on the chorus!
The one part of Young Griffo’s personality which I’ve not yet touched upon, was by far her worst quality. She was the biggest thief you have ever seen. It would be impossible to imagine how many arguments her stealing started.
During hot weather, the family liked to go to the beach, which was perfectly natural considering how close we lived to it. I would put dinner on the stove before we left so it would be ready when we arrived back. On one occasion I put four quarters of a chicken in a covered pot on the stove, and when I returned from the beach — there were only three! I couldn’t figure out who would want to steal a quarter of a chicken. Unrelated to this in my mind was the fact that someone was dumping their chicken bones in our back yard — another situation that baffled me. This went on for months until one day, I came back from the beach early and caught Young Griffo sneaking downstairs with a quarter of a chicken in her mouth! She jumped through the broken window in our door (which was repeatedly being broken by Murray and his friends) and ran into the back yard to enjoy her loot!
On another occasion I had guests coming for dinner, and I’d prepared everything in advance so I could spend some time with them before dinner. I’d baked two cakes with whipped cream frosting, and they were sitting on my kitchen counter ready to be served. When the guests arrived, we all went downstairs for conversation, when I remembered I’d forgotten to put up the coffee. When I arrived back in the kitchen, half the whipped cream was gone off each cake! My first thought was that Murray and Betty had taken it off as a prank, but when I called them upstairs to ask them about it, they looked so innocent I had no choice except to believe they had no part in it. Suddenly, the three of us spotted Young Griffo trying to sneak downstairs — her whiskers and eyebrows full of whipped cream.
I cut off the top layer of each cake and re-frosted them and swore the children to secrecy. Luckily, my guests never suspected anything was wrong — but I don’t think I need say that I didn’t eat any.
Perhaps the most frustrating incident caused by Young Griffo’s larceny was when I asked my husband, Sam, to pick up some sturgeon on his way home, and to pick up some smoked whitefish for himself, since he didn’t like sturgeon. When he returned home I was setting the table, and when I finished I went over to the counter to take the fish out of the bag. I noticed he had forgotten to get his whitefish and the conversation went something like this:
“Sam,” I said. “You forgot to get your whitefish.”
“Are you looking in the same bag as the sturgeon?”
“Yes, but it’s not here. You must’ve left it on the counter.”
“I didn’t leave it on the counter — you’re looking with your eyes closed!”
The ensuing argument convinced each of us that the other was crazy. As we were about to sit down to dinner (sturgeon for everybody) I went into the bathroom to wash up and there was the bare skeleton of the whitefish in the cat’s box.
Young Griffo didn’t always steal when nobody was looking — more than once she dug her claws into Murray’s leg so when he crouched down to scold her, she could jump up on the table, steal whatever he was eating and escape down the stairs.
Whenever my parents would see her running downstairs, they’d come and ask, “What did that crook do now?”
My comic thriller Lady Magdalene’s — a movie I wrote, produced, directed, and acted in it — is now available for sale or rental on Amazon.com Video On Demand. If you like the way I think, I think you’ll like this movie. Check it out!
A new Dead Times/DNN poll of 3,500 ghosts who died in the last fifteen years has surprised researchers with the light it has thrown on deceased behavior.
Fewer than 22% of ghosts surveyed have ever embodied as an apparition more than once. Only 11% have ever haunted a house.
And only 3% of ghosts surveyed have ever thrown objects around a house.
“The fact is,” said Fernando Gonzales, Communications Director for the 6.5 million member Association of Disembodied Retirees, “most of the disembodied are quite happy to have nothing further to do with the corporeal world they’ve left behind — and who can blame them? You corpo’s scream at them, run away, make it quite clear that they are no longer welcome. What do you expect?”
The poll indicates that contact between ghosts and the living peaks in the first few months after a person’s death, then rapidly drops off, so that within two years of a departure, virtually no ghosts are at all interested in returning to earth.
“There just aren’t any Jacob Marley’s out there,” said Gonzales, “hanging around to give you tips on your life. If you have something to say to a dead person, you better get it off your chest right away, because we’re outa here fast.”
The survey also provided long-needed insight into what most people actually do once they’ve died.
- Three out of four of those surveyed — 77% — decide to resume their education before making further decisions.
- Most of the dead — 91% — respond they will choose their next incarnation in some space-time continuum other than ours.
- Only 3% expressed any interest in a reincarnation on earth, with a follow-up question giving as their objection the rule that returning spirits must leave all memory of their past lives behind.
“What’s the point in reincarnation if you can’t even remember that you were there before?” explained Gonzales. “Your previous experience is useless, so you’re just going to make the same stupid mistakes again.”
The survey was conducted by a random medial sampling in the lower 72 planes, and yields a 95% certainty with a 3% accuracy plus or minus.
My comic thriller Lady Magdalene’s — a movie I wrote, produced, directed, and acted in it — is now available for sale or rental on Amazon.com Video On Demand. If you like the way I think, I think you’ll like this movie. Check it out!
What do the future portrayed in Avatar and the future of The Tonight Show have in common?
Each of them is driven by a particular type of business thinking that in short order leads to disaster.
Let’s start by looking at Giovanni Ribisi’s character in Avatar, Parker Selfridge, a businessman.
Sounds like James Cameron had the word “selfish” in mind when he came up with that name, doesn’t it?
Yeah, well, Cameron just made a movie that’s about to earn a couple of billion dollars — what does he know about being selfish?
But selfishness is not what leads Parker Selfridge on the wrong path.
Look. I see where James Cameron was coming from. You take Christopher Columbus. He’s all over popular culture as an explorer, but really what he was looking for was a new trade route to Asia, where he could bring back opium and spices. Columbus gets to America instead — off all his maps — and he’s so narrowly focused on one idea that he doesn’t even notice that he’s discovered a new world. So he tries to make lemonade out of this lemon and brings back slaves and eventually sets himself up as a brutal dictator on the island of Hispaniola — that’s where Haiti is, if you’re watching the news these days. When Chris gets back to Spain he’s regarded as a criminal for his atrocities and thrown in prison.
In Avatar Parker Selfridge looks out on a whole new world — Pandora, a planet of wonders — and says, “This is why we’re here; because this little gray rock sells for twenty million a kilo.”
Has Parker Selfridge never opened up a history book? Or a comic? Or studied any science? Or attended a business school? How the heck did he get this job?
How can he not be aware that a new planet would have untold riches in the pharmaceuticals that could be made from its indigenous plantlife?
How can he not know that simply going around and recording native music can make him the king of earth’s music industry?
How can he not know that the stories the natives tell will be made into entertainments that can earn — well — a couple of billion a pop?
What, isn’t there a single Pocahontas or Sitting Bull on Pandora who’d like to make a tour of earth as a feasted celebrity?
Which brings us to NBC’s late night problems.
Half a dozen years ago — when Jay Leno was the King of Late Night — an NBC programming executive went to Jay and asked him to hand over The Tonight Show to Late Night host Conan O’Brien, because O’Brien was younger, hipper, and did better in the 18 to 35 demographic. “We don’t think you can sustain your ratings,” quoth the maven.
Five years later, when Jay did his last Tonight Show, he was still top of the ratings, so NBC decided to try him in a new time-slot — 10:00 PM — prime time. Jay didn’t think it would work but took the gig because the NBC management team admitted that his ratings would start slow but convinced him they’d give him two years for his audience to find him again.
But the NBC affiliate stations panicked and panic doesn’t look good when Comcast is buying the network.
So NBC broke their word to Jay and canceled him after four months, and promised to move him to his old time slot for a half-hour show.
This put NBC into breach of contract also with Conan O’Brien, who’d moved his entire Late Night cast and crew from New York to take over Tonight. He balked at starting his new gig halfway back to his old time slot.
So you have two pissed off stars … and more importantly, an 18-to-35 audience in rebellion, picketing NBC for showing Conan the door. As it turns out, it’s not all that easy to take candy from a baby. They wail. They wail on the Internet.
And the viral wailing pumped up Conan’s viewing audience to the point where, like Jay, Conan is now King of Late Night.
So if he goes, and Jay takes over, Jay will have to start with the handicap of the show being boycotted by the prime demographic.
By the way, the solution is simple. Two stars, one time slot — split the show days between the two of them. Jay Leno got his big mojo by filling in as permanent guest host for Johnny Carson — back when the show was 90 minutes long — so we know the time slot is big enough for two hosts.
But what’s the big-picture lesson here?
It’s this: a Board of Directors can’t give a top management job to a short-sighted, tunnel-visioned, unimaginative drone and expect to give the investors steady dividends.
Businessmen win when they have vision and understanding.
Sensitivity and an ability to communicate are preconditions to successful business.
If you play only zero-sum games you will lose money. If you play positive sum games you can make money.
You do better as a businessman reading Gandhi than reading Sun Tzu.
A saying attributed to Winston Churchill is “The problem with socialism is socialism. The problem with capitalism is capitalists.”
Capitalists who never think beyond the next quarter are unfit to wear the three-piece suit. They are disgraces to their country clubs. If they don’t have a clue what high character it takes to be a Capitalist they might as well just inherit their money. But if it’s not safely in trust — out of reach of their stupid little hands — their grandchildren will be eating at McDonalds.
Why, if you have a country that’s run short of real businessmen, anything could happen. You might have entire industries — investment banking, manufacturing, real estate — driven into crisis.
A country with stupid businessmen could even decide to give socialism a try. Then you end up in a country where rich people get that way not because they’re smart, but because they’re connected.
And you’re back to a country of aristocrats and peasants.
That’s not the country I was born in and that’s not the country I want to die in.
Stupid businessmen are the enemy of the people.
And this is a lesson only a greedy capitalist looking out for his own bottom line is smart enough to teach.
You know. Like that self-made billionaire, James Cameron.
My comic thriller Lady Magdalene’s — a movie I wrote, produced, directed, and acted in it — is now available for sale or rental on Amazon.com Video On Demand. If you like the way I think, I think you’ll like this movie. Check it out!
BRAD LINAWEAVER: What happened next?
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: First of all, physically, for the next of couple weeks, I thought it was quite possible that I was dying. Again, after this experience, I found myself in the Emergency Room, had to rehydrated again with an intravenous drip.
Over the next week, physically, I was very weak. I had to stop dieting and start increasing my calories, simply to try to balance out my body. I felt wrecked, I felt drained. I felt like I needed to draw energy into me somehow and where was I going to get it? And so what I was doing, I went down to the beach with my shoes off — and remember this is February so we’re not talking about balmy summer days on Venice Beach or something like that — but I felt I had to walk along the cool sand and crunch the sand beneath my feet and draw energy into me to survive.
I had an experience while I was driving in my car. It was like I was driving through waves of fire like through curtains of fire or something like that. Where suddenly, whoa! It’s just enormously hot and I had that happen to me several times. It’s part of the reason why, in writing Escape from Heaven, when I have Jesus doing His resurrection on Duj, He does it not with water, which would be the traditional Biblical imagery of Baptism, but with fire.
It was because I felt that I was going through some sort of transition and that fire was burning something out of me. Physiologically, this is what was going on.
Now, mentally what was going on, was like asking the question over and over again: was it real? Did this really happen? Did I have an experience that was real or did I just have a psychotic break with reality? Did I just experience some sort of naturally induced drug trip?
BRAD LINAWEAVER: Was it ever possible both could coexist in some way?
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: I was trying to ask myself questions like that. But the most important question that I was asking over and over again was: what does this mean? Okay? And the consequence of that question was: am I, in some sense or another, really God?
Because, remember, the experience was me having the mind of God, and now suddenly, when it ended that evening on February 18th, it felt like a withdrawal, like at the end of sex, or something like that.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: Or like drugs? Coming down from drugs?
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: No. I wouldn’t know that, honest to God. I haven’t really taken drugs to know that. But what it felt like was withdrawal at the end of sex. Okay? A softening. It was almost like post-orgasmic or something like that. This release of tension. But it was like God wasn’t gone. He was still there but the volume was down. And that continued on, the feeling that God was still there within me, but with the volume down.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: Could it be, in a sense, we all have that contact with God, but we don’t notice it because the volume is down so low? And you felt it because the volume was turned way up in your case and then turned back down. Is that a metaphor that works?
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Yes, but the question was very individualist and poignant for me.
Since I saw myself from outside of myself with God’s eyes — with His viewpoint, with His cognition — and since it was clear to me that there was a mission involved here, somehow, and I didn’t know what it was, I had not been given the specifics beyond, “A circle will form around you.”
BRAD LINAWEAVER: Explain that a little more, “A circle will form around you.”
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: That people were going to be drawn around me, almost in the sense of disciples or apostles or something like that.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: You really felt that?
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: It was explicit in the message.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: Oh, wow! It’s not a feeling. It’s words, and concepts?
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: That was definite, “A circle will form around you.”
And, by the way, I asked God, “When is this going to happen?”
He said — and it’s like I’m saying to myself, remember always — “Soon.”
Here’s a strange question I asked. I guess I must have started to be individuating from God again by the point I asked this question, soon for you or soon for me? And His answer was soon for you. So there was already starting to separate going on at the point where I’m asking that. In other words that must have been sort of toward the end of it when we were already separating and I wasn’t fully aware of it yet because I was already starting to think like Neil Schulman again, if I’m saying soon for you or soon for me? But I was told there was a mission and that it was not going to involve my getting executed like had happened when He had done this before.
And that, by the way, was when I started really taking seriously the idea that maybe Jesus was real. Because of that interchange, that memory, that there was something that it hadn’t worked out well the last time.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: Something really happened 2000 years ago, it’s not all made up?
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Yes, that was part of the recollection. That was part of the access to the memory banks, the Tree of Knowledge or whatever we want to call it.
Okay. So I kept on trying to figure out: does this mean that in some sense I am God?
BRAD LINAWEAVER: How many hours are we talking about again?
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: The experience from beginning to end?
BRAD LINAWEAVER: Yeah, yeah.
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Basically starting at around noon and ending at around eight o’clock in the evening. At the full volume, at the full volume. Then, at lower volume, for weeks after that.
And then you sort of get peaks and valleys. Some of the peaks being when I began writing intensely on Escape from Heaven again. Then the volume went up again.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: Oh really? You definitely felt it coming back in places?
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Oh yeah, and we’ll get to that.
But, I was trying to figure out, is this true?
I mean, I feel like a megalomaniac in even asking myself this question. I’m trying to phrase it in terms of where I was then. Okay. You know? Only a megalomaniac would think he’s God. And yet what if it’s true?
How could this be possible? I mean, coming from my background which only recently before I hadn’t even believed in God, and now I’m asking myself if I am Him? And, by the way, I thought that was funny even at the time. That here I am — just recently an atheist — and I’m asking myself if I’m God?
BRAD LINAWEAVER: A way of saying that you don’t believe in yourself.
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Right! And that, by the way — the way that you just phrased it right now – “Do I believe in myself?” — was, in essence, saying, “I know God is real but am I real?” Because I had been pulled out of myself. Is this person — whom I’ve been since my birth — a real person, or is it merely a fictitious projection, as I was experiencing while this was going on?
Look. C.S. Lewis taught me a lot and one of the things he taught me, I believe this is a traditional Christian viewpoint here. In asking yourself “Is Jesus Christ the Son of God? He made this claim.” — there’s only three possibilities. One. “He’s a liar, a charlatan.” Two. “He’s a madman, a psychotic who was having megalomaniac delusions.” Or three. “He’s telling the truth and He really is.”
Now, I knew I wasn’t lying, because it was myself, but that left me with two choices. One. What I had experienced was real and in some sense I was God. And two. I was out of my mind.
I had eliminated fifty percent of the alternatives and I was still left with the big one! “Am I out of my mind? Was this a break with reality?”
BRAD LINAWEAVER: Or was this experience real?
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Or was it real?
Now, mind you, it was not the first time that I’d had experiences like this, okay? And so I was not able to get shut of the reality of it. As much as I was afraid of it, in some sense I had to almost — as an article of faith – say, “What has been given to me is real, and if what God is telling me is that I am God, then in some sense that I can’t comprehend, nor am I willing to accept or believe, I am God.”
I don’t know what that means, and I don’t know what I’m supposed to do with it.
And, by the way, what I started doing then was a search to try to find out, has this happened to anybody else? That was the most important thing on my mind then: has this happened to anybody else?
That’s why I started reading books like Conversations with God by Neale Donald Walsch and started trying to basically read up in an area which I had no real interest in before then, none whatsoever. But I was simply trying to find out, am I the only person this has happened to or has it happened to a ton of people and I’m simply one of them?
BRAD LINAWEAVER: Well, of course some critics would say, “Oh, the insane asylums are full of people like this.” Though, in fact, the insane asylums have more people who think they’re Napoleon, or think they’re some historical figure who’s long gone. There are people who have what they call the God Complex in asylums, but there’s not as many as people who think they’re historical figures.
What I want to know is why, when a medium at a séance claims to channel a lost human being — a ghost, basically — why people don’t freak out? Atheists just go, “Oh, well, what a fraud!” And religious people wonder whether it’s true or not. And certain fundamentalist Christians say you shouldn’t risk your soul in a séance. And others are willing to try for it. But nobody gets upset over the idea that some living person is channeling a ghost. But people get very upset when a living person claims to be channeling God.
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Right. And I was simply curious to find out if there were others claiming to be channeling God.
Now, I need to point out something to you, since you mentioned the insane asylum. Okay? The crazy person goes around trying to convince other people that he is who he says he is-
BRAD LINAWEAVER: Napoleon or –
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Napoleon, or Jesus Christ. As you say, the asylums are full of people who claim to be Jesus Christ or Mary or something like that. But the point is they’re going around trying to convince other people of it.
The last thing I wanted to do was tell anybody about this. Because, if I thought I was crazy, certainly they would think I was crazy, too! I didn’t want to tell anybody that I was considering — inside my skull — the idea that I was God. They’d put me away!
I was pretty much back to myself after the first few weeks, when I started feeling physically stronger again, and no longer had this fear that this was an end-of-life experience. Because, by the way, people who I’ve spoken to about this experience since, say that, in some senses, it matches up with the near-death experiences of those who have had their hearts stopped or something like that and found themselves out of themselves. Because, when I would try to explain that I was out of my personality, people would hear it and think of it as an out-of-body experience.
I wasn’t out of my body. God was in my body with me. That was different.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: No, it’s definitely flipped from the normal. It’s definitely different.
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Right. So, again, I didn’t want to go around telling anybody I was God. Not during the experience and not afterwards.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: You weren’t floating around looking at your own body. You had decided that God had invaded your body –
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: No, it wasn’t an invasion because it was welcome. The experience was entirely welcome.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: I don’t know what verb to use but God had overlapped with, intruded upon…
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: How about had communed with me?
BRAD LINAWEAVER: Or double exposured, or whatever?
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: How about conversation in the Biblical sense? That it was a joining? Instead of a physical joining it was a spiritual joining? Or to use the metaphor which I came up with later, it was a Mind Meld.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: Well, I just used the modern term with double exposure, and you’re using the Star Trek term, with Mind Meld.
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Double exposure also works. An overlay. But also — during this overlay — being God was much more who I was than Neil Schulman. And then it reversed again when I was Neil Schulman more again.
But the question always arose: is there any truth to this? And then later on I started asking myself: is it possible that there’s more than one interpretation of it? I know that there is an identity exchange going on but is that simply a consequence — an artifact — of the way that God communicates in this situation? And that I’m not really God. It’s just that you have to think you’re God while it’s going on, to be able to get the experience? Was it, in fact, like a Vulcan Mind Meld?
Because, again, I wasn’t Jesus. My flaws were very, very clear to me. My humanity was very, very clear to me. My imperfections were very, very clear to me, and my weakness — and lack of super powers — was very, very clear to me. I wasn’t able to — like in Bruce Almighty — reach across the table and have the cream slide toward me. I didn’t have telekinesis. I didn’t have the ability to turn water into wine –
BRAD LINAWEAVER: Or beer!
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Or beer. Or to heal, or raise the dead, or any this other sort of stuff. In other words, if what comes with the full package was being able to do that, I didn’t have the full package. And how could I be God if I didn’t have the full package?
BRAD LINAWEAVER: Allow me to make one stupid joke. You still had the power to turn wine and beer into water.
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: That’s right. Yes, that is quite correct!
BRAD LINAWEAVER: I had to say that.
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Very good! Okay.
So for the next year, there were a few people who I talked about this with. A very few. I talked about it with my sister.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: I seem to recall you talked to me about it.
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: I talked to you about it. I didn’t talk to Dafydd about it.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: At some point you finally did tell Dafydd, but not at that time.
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Yes, but I was very circumspect, and careful, and slow and deliberate. Part of it was simply I had to ask. You know I needed some professional advice here, of people who had the knowledge of theology and mysticism, and all this sort of thing which I did not have.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: I need to know this. Did you talk to Sam Konkin?
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Yes.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: Did you talk to Victor Koman?
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Not at any great length.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: Back in 1988 when you had the hand-on-the-heart experience –
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Victor knew about that.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: Victor and I sat there, together with you at a hotel, and you told us all about it, together. Victor and I talked about it, long afterward. After that one, the year that Heinlein died — to this day Victor and I remember that. You were telling both of us at the same time in a hotel lobby. I just wondered if you’ve had the conversation with Victor, equivalent to the one you had with me, after the Mind Meld.
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: I don’t remember at this moment.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: Okay. And any comment from Sam, do you remember?
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Sam took it pretty well in stride.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: Give a sentence or two on that.
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: I’m not sure how relevant this is to people who don’t know who Sam was. Sam, my best friend who passed away a couple of months ago, who was my libertarian mentor and a good buddy. He was somebody who I always bounced ideas off of, so in essence, I think I just gave him sort of an outline of the experience, just to let him know that this was what was going on with me, so he would have context of perhaps some odd behavior that he might be noting in me. Why I seemed to be more interested in certain things that I had been. But Sam wasn’t judgmental about it. If he expressed the thought, “Well, Neil, that’s crazy,” I don’t think he thought I was any crazier than I had been before. Because, again, I’d had the previous experiences, which I’d told him about.
He had the experience — going back to when we were living in New York — where we went on that trip, borrowing Bob Cohen’s car and going to a Boston Tea Party demonstration of the Society for Individual Liberty in Boston. And, on the drive back, the car spinning out, in Rocky Hill, Connecticut. And none of us being hurt, going to the motel room, none of us making any phone calls. And the next morning, I called my folks to tell them what had happened and my mother said, “We already know.”
“How do you know?”
“Well, your father leaned over to me around ten o’clock last night, and said, ‘They’ve been in an accident in the car but none of them were hurt.’”
BRAD LINAWEAVER: Wow!
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: And Sam was a witness to that, so he knew he had been an actual observer to one of these psychic experiences in my family. So, going back to 1974, 1975, Sam knew that there was something going on with me.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: How did he ever account for that, being such a total materialist?
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: He remembered it. He never shied away from being a witness to it. Whenever anybody asked him about it, he said, “Yes, that’s what happened.” But he was never able to go beyond that and attribute any meaning to it, because he was an absolute materialistic skeptic.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: Right.
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: But he never shied away from being a witness to it and being an honest reporter of it. Sam was too honest for that.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: Yes!
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: So, yes, I discussed it with certain people. There was a summer after the experience — maybe even that next summer — where I visited my sister in Colorado Springs. And my sister is part of a spiritual community there with a lot of friends who have psychic experiences and mystical beliefs and that sort of thing. And I started talking with some of them.
Some of it was very confronting to me because they were saying, “Oh, yes, every mystic has this experience and you’re just one.” But none of them could lay claim to the experience that I had had. I always felt like they… this business: “Why, we all think we’re God.”
No! I hadn’t thought I was God before this happened. And I was finding it hard to believe afterwards! As a matter of fact, if anything was draining my energy, it was my trying to fight the idea that I had to believe that. Sure, I’m willing to accept that I’m a prophet. That’s easy. Fine. A prophet. No problem. Long history of that.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: Dime a dozen.
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Dime a dozen! Prophet, mystic, one of God’s soldiers. “I’m on a mission from God!” from The Blues Brothers. No problem with any of that. But, “I’m God!”? “Are you out of your freakin’ mind, Neil? That doesn’t track! That is crazy stuff! Neil, stop being a megalomaniac! You’ve gotta stop doing that!”
That’s what was going on after this, then…
BRAD LINAWEAVER: Question, this is a good one. Is it possible that the people who truly meet God, ultimately have the experience of being God? Have you stumbled onto that perhaps?
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Not personally, I haven’t met anybody like that.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: I’m talking about all through human history. I don’t mean here and now.
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: I kept on being disappointed because I really wanted to find somebody else who this happened to. That’s why I read two of Neale Donald Walsch’s books and was disappointed, when I’m reading this stuff, and he has God saying things to him that I knew God would never say. Because for one thing, he has God talking to Neale Donald Walsch, and having God refer to us as “you people” or something like that. “Oh, you people!” Like God is some alien from another planet or something like that.
What I experienced during this is that God didn’t experience Himself as separate from “you people.” That God thought of Himself as one of us.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: Do you find more truth in a Jim Carrey movie like Bruce Almighty, than in all these New Age mystic books?
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Yes, absolutely! And that’s also true of Oh God! I find a lot of truth in Oh God! and I find a lot of truth in Bruce Almighty. These seem to me closer to the spirit of what I experienced than what I was getting from Neale Donald Walsch. And I’m sorry, I don’t mean to be critical and judgmental about it. I’m simply saying that I wasn’t getting it from him. I wanted to be getting it from him and I was disappointed that I wasn’t getting it from him. I wanted somebody else whom I could seek out, share the experience with, and maybe be able to understand it a little better by the sharing of it. And I wasn’t getting that from anybody around me.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: These guys have not had the experience you’ve had?
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: That was the impression I was getting.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: And who was the guy on the CyberCity show Jack brought on?
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: John Hogue.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: I got the impression from listening to that exchange that whatever experiences he’s had, they have nothing to do with yours?
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: My experience, I was not finding an analog for it in anybody else, except in one case and it scared the hell out of me.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: Which is?
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Jesus Christ, Himself.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: Oh, nobody you met personally?
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Right. The only thing I could find anywhere — not Joan of Arc, who heard voices, or prophets who had dreams — although I’d had dreams also and continued to have them — but I couldn’t find anybody else, in looking through mystical experiences, other than Jesus Christ, who apparently had the same experience that I had — only He had it at a deeper level. In other words, I had just a spoonful of it and He had an ocean of it.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: Could you conclude though, in the last 2000 years, there’s other people who may have had this spoonful of experience that you just don’t know about?
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Yes.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: Look at the trouble you’re having getting your message out, isn’t that a reasonable assumption?
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Absolutely. But the point is that I haven’t found them. And as a matter of fact, one of the reasons I put the license plate on my car, “I met God,” is that I hoping that somebody who met God is going to see the license plate and say, “I did, too! Let’s talk about it! I’ve been looking for you!”
BRAD LINAWEAVER: So, far from wanting to make some kind of exclusive-ist claim, you’re looking for other people to share the experience with?
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Yes.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: That’s very important to stress in this book.
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: I’m searching. I’m searching for whoever else has gone through this, and fearing that it might only be me. What awesome responsibility that is. That, in a profound sense, sucks.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: Yes!
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: The sense of responsibility, if you are really chosen.
The next event that really happens is the writing of Escape from Heaven. And, as you well know, because you kept on encouraging me — here’s where you come into the story a little bit more — is that I was having a very hard time trying to get going on this and a number of things happened to me in the meantime.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: You mean in Escape from Heaven?
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Escape from Heaven. But things were happening in the mean time.
The first thing is that only a couple of years after February, 1997 — now we’re into 1998 and 1999 — and Brad, that’s the Pulpless.Com experience — when what happened?
BRAD LINAWEAVER: We’ll never forget it.
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: A circle formed around me!
BRAD LINAWEAVER: Oh, that’s true! It was your publishing venture but it was most certainly a circle.
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Right. A circle formed around me and I was publishing books and meeting people who I was able to change what was happening. For the first time, I was starting to get a sense of being able to accomplish something.
And then that crashed, that didn’t reach its full potential. But while look what we accomplished, the publication of over 50 books in a year.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: It did make some impact. It didn’t go away right away.
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Right. There was some impact and even some lasting impact to this day. For one thing it got all eight of my books, at that time, in print, and suddenly I was fully in print for the first time in my life.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: That’s true.
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: And other people, other of my friends, were suddenly in print, including two books of yours, and four books by Victor Koman and so on and so forth.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: One book by John DeChancie.
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Right. I was able to get into print a lot of books by people in my circle, the circle that was forming around me.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: Then I had a very bad year, the year 2000, in which, number one, I was trying to save Pulpless.com by starting another venture called Eazychair. That collapsed because it was built on representations being made to me which turned out not to be true. I don’t need to get into that story. It’s irrelevant here. But nonetheless, five months of my time, gone. And, then, the year 2000 was the year my father passed away after a long illness.
So all this was going on, distracting me from really doing anything else. Until finally, we get to the period approaching the anniversary of when my father passed away.
We’re in 2001, and in August, 2001, I’m finally at the point where I’m able to start writing on Escape from Heaven. I’ve basically been wiped out of my business ventures and I have nowhere else to go as a businessman, so I go back to what my first calling was, as a writer.
I knew that it was going to have to be Escape from Heaven, that I was never going to be able to do anything else until I had that done.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: And you knew that because?
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Because of something a prophet once said to me, Brad.
A friend of Barbara Branden’s, in the 1980s, who told me at that time that the next novel I wrote was going to have a religious theme.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: Who was this person?
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: I’ll mention his first name, Walter, who was a man that Barbara Branden was friends with, then. A very interesting man, a gourmet chef, and I found him very, very interesting. But he had told me that. He had said that he sensed that my next novel was going to have a religious theme of some sort, and for some reason I always knew he was right, that that was true.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: That was long before –
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: That was going back to the mid-1980s. So I knew, even during this long gap when I was not a novelist, because I was not writing any other novels during this period. And then after 1991 or 1992, I knew that the book was going to be Escape from Heaven. But then look how long after that it took to get to the point where I could write it, after that first outline which was, in essence, taking me in the wrong direction.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: And chapter one — which I have always maintained could be a stand-alone short story — which was a very powerful piece of writing. I remember, when you first read it to me, there was a long period between that first chapter and the rest of the book. Talk about that.
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Because that opening was in the original, that was practically the only thing I retained from the original.
Now, there were other ideas which I transplanted forward, and I had to change and rework. When I started working on the book again, seriously, to try to actually break out, in August of 2001, one of the things I had to do was, in essence, decide which parts of the outline I was going to keep and which parts I was going to throw away.
Next in I Met God — God Without Religion, Scripture, or Faith will be Chapter IX: Collaboration
Copyright © 2010 The J. Neil Schulman Living Trust. All rights reserved.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: Do you remember the 1988 event, the hand on the heart event and the dream with the female God figure, do you remember them now from the God point of view and remember Neil as a different party during those events?
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Yes. In other words, Neil Schulman has been a separate personality who’s been invented to hide from me as God who I really am. And I’m seeing that it is a separate being but one who is invented. It’s my cover story to prevent me from knowing myself so I can acclimatize myself to the situation.
There’s also something else and this also relates to one of the reasons why I take the existence of Jesus seriously, is that somewhere in the back of my mind is some sort of memory of having done this before. I don’t remember the time or the place but I know I have been here doing this before. Now I don’t know whether it’s as Jesus or somebody else but I recall: I have done this before I have done this journey where I enter into the body and reveal myself to myself before.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: But it’s vague?
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Yes. I don’t have full memory of what’s going on but there are certain things that I’m able to do.
Now, I tell Dafydd, “You know what? I’m okay here. I’m not going back to bed. Why don’t you go home?”
BRAD LINAWEAVER: Even though you’ve not slept?
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Even though I’ve not slept. I don’t need to sleep at this point, okay. I have a higher level of energy than I have ever had in my entire life. The idea that I would need to sleep is irrelevant. I’m not feeling tired. I’m feeling at the highest energy level I’ve ever been.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: You’ve been awake how many days?
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: I’ve probably been awake, at this point, for probably 30 hours. But I’m in another space. I tell Dafydd, “You can go home. You’re okay to go.”
I turn on the TV and I’m watching the news. And I find that the people on TV, I have the same ability to look at them as I did with Dafydd. The fact that they’re on TV doesn’t restrict me, I could look at them and I have this same four-dimensional view of their souls and looking and seeing who and what they are, that I had with Dafydd in person.
Now, I’m going to do something a little out of sequence here. Dennis Prager, years later, talking about how we know God is God, on one of his radio programs, says that what distinguishes God from everything else is that only God has the power to look inside the soul.
Now, from Dennis’s standpoint, the fact that I’m able to look into people’s souls while this is going on, Dennis — even though he would probably disagree with the conclusion — by his logic, I am really God during that period. Because I had that power of God that only God has.
And here’s something else, people constantly ask me “How do you know that it wasn’t a demon pretending to be God?”
BRAD LINAWEAVER: Actually, I was going to ask you that, but you already asked yourself.
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Right. And the answer is: because I know who I am. I know myself, and I know my own identity, and my own identity while this is going on is: I am God. There’s no question about it. It’s not somebody fooling me, or something like that. You know who you are. You know you’re Brad Linaweaver, I know I’m Neil Schulman. While this was going on I knew I was God. That’s who I was.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: So it’s not you were on the receiving end of the entity. You are the entity. And when people ask that question, they could more legitimately ask in 1988 — the hand-on-your-heart experience — they could ask, “Was that a demon?” Or they might ask the woman in the dream you thought was God, they might ask, “Was that a demon?” But the reason this is not the right question to ask about this event, which you call the Mind Meld, is precisely because you are not at this point on the receiving end. You are the entity yourself, there’s the difference. Is that right?
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Yes, that’s correct.
Now, I am observing people all day long. Every single person I’m seeing I am in essence having this God’s eye view, this cognitive penetration beyond the skin, being able to go beyond the shell. I’m starting to see people almost like fish swimming in an ocean and the fish imagery is very important because that, of course, is something, which is very central to the imagery in Christianity. But in essence, because I am seeing people not just as the physical flesh anymore, but I am seeing them as this four-dimensional event — with the present thick right here and then becoming thin at the two ends as it sort of like goes around this curve — from this odd angle that I’m at looking at them. People look to me almost like, it’s almost like this emanation around them is like fish swimming. That’s the impression I’m getting when I’m wrapping around and able to look at their past and their future.
A couple of people I saw on TV, three of them I remember seeing on TV; one of them was President Clinton, one of them was Dick Gephart, and a third one on a talk show was Gordon Liddy
And I’m going to go in a different order. Dick Gephart I simply got the impression of, here is a man who is not being honest with himself. I got a sense of somebody who is not really fundamentally being honest with himself. That he’s hiding something important from himself. It’s like he’s putting on a mask to prevent him from knowing who he is.
Gordon Liddy I’m seeing on a talk show and he’s trying to make jokes and they’re falling flat on the audience and I realize that he’s talking over their heads, that he’s far too intelligent for the audience he’s trying to tell these jokes to. What I’m getting off of him is the severe sense of regret of an ex-military officer and an ex FBI man –
BRAD LINAWEAVER: –reduced to this.
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: — reduced to this. The thought which comes across most strongly looking at him, and sensing this, is, “What I would give for one more mission where I could make a real difference.” Now I later found out that he wrote a novel with somebody in that situation as the premise of it. But I didn’t know that then, so I take that as almost like a validation of what I was seeing.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: What about Clinton?
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Clinton? I had been extremely hostile toward Clinton before this, because of all his support for anti-Second-Amendment gun control. And I got such a burst of warmth in looking at him because this is what I saw.
I saw him alone in his bedroom — walking into his bedroom at night — and a Secret Service man saying to him “Good night, Mr. President.” And he goes in there and he feels that he is at the center of the world with this gap of loneliness around him, alone in this bedroom, as he walks in for the first time. With the entire world around him and he feels the weight of it and he’s thinking, “How did I ever get here where I have all this responsibility? I thought I was just playing this cute game of running for office and I would get all this benefits and be able to do all these neat things. Here, I find here, with this weight on me and I’m all alone and there’s really nobody who I can ask and share this with. That this is such a responsibility and there’s no way I can share it with anybody.”
And I got the most immense sense of responsibility and loneliness of a man who saw himself as a con man and now he says, “What have I gotten myself into?” and he feels the responsibility of what he’s gotten himself into. That was what I perceived from him.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: And you never had anything remotely like that as a thought or a feeling about Clinton before?
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Correct. Before I simply hated him.
Okay. Now, later that day, Randy and I went to the meeting with the lawyer in Beverly Hills and there was really nothing dramatic that happened there. But it was just the same sort of internal thing going on, while externally I was still being the J. Neil Schulman. I was not telling anybody what was going on inside me.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: You never told Dafydd?
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: I never told Dafydd. I never told Randy. I wasn’t telling anybody.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: Until later?
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Until much, much later. Because it was like J. Neil Schulman was going to be my secret identity. In other words I wasn’t going to reveal myself, but this was what was going on inside. And so we went to this meeting and this other lawyer was there, who knew Gil Garcetti and had that meeting then.
Later that evening I went home, and probably around maybe eight o’clock that night, suddenly I had the feeling of withdrawal. That suddenly there was a separation again, and suddenly — as shockingly to me as it had begun — it was over again, and I was just Neil Schulman again. That was as surprising to me as when it started. Because it was shocking to me when the identity change happened and then again it was just as shocking to me when, only few hours later, it ended again. Because I thought that this was the new situation. I had no idea that it was going to stop.
Now, during that day, a number of different thoughts came to me and it’s hard for me to even keep an inventory about them.
But for example, when I thought about race and blacks — African Americans — the thought came to me immediately, “Magnificent destiny. These people have a magnificent destiny.” I didn’t know exactly what in the future, or how far in the future, but I knew that even speaking in terms of race — which is, by the way, alien to me, since I’m a thorough individualist — that there was something about the African Americans, that at some time in the future they were going to do something which was going to be glorious. And all the suffering that they’ve gone through was going to have meaning.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: Did you think about any other “races” during this period?
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: No. It was basically just catch as catch can. There was no organization to it. First of all I felt no pressure for time because I didn’t know that the experience was going to come to an end. I thought it was an ongoing sort of thing.
I also had, during this period, thoughts about churches, and one of the things that came to was the idea that churches are so dull and boring and ritualistic and they’re not fun. They should be a place that everybody wants to go because they’re so enjoyable, rather than dry and dusty and ritualistic and authoritarian. And the specific thought, during this period, that came out, was that it would be the sort of place that a child would say to his parents, “I have my homework done. Can we go to church, now?”
BRAD LINAWEAVER: Yeah. I got that. Excellent.
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: And that all the top acts would be dying to play in church.
So it was just little things, all the way through.
And, of course, during this period, God was aware that I was writing the novel on Escape from Heaven, and He gave me the joke, “I’m your biggest fan.”
And very little of the novel had been written at that point. It was probably either a chapter, or less than a chapter, at that point.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: But you’re saying that God gave you your best gag?
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Gave me my best gag, right.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: One serious question about this period of the experience. Did you at any point, even for a few seconds, in the God mind, think about the Arabs and Jews?
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: No.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: Interesting. I wonder why that is?
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Because I was focusing on things around me, things that were coming into my view. First of all, it was a busy day with everything that was going on, and so it was like everything was speeded up and that there was an awful lot going on. But it wasn’t organized in any sense. It felt like the beginning to me of a much longer process.
Now, later that night, one of the first things I did, after this happened, was I went to the computer and I wrote the poem which is titled “A Revelation,” which appears on the frontispiece both of The Frame of the Century? and then I later put it as the frontispiece of Escape from Heaven. That poem was my first attempt, now that it was over — even though it had only ended a few seconds or few minutes before — to memorialize it.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: The next question of import I’m going to put to you, in fact it’s the only important question I have left for the rest of this book, is attitudes, opinions feelings, that are in any way different after -
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Oh, yes! Something crucial that I did leave out, you just reminded me! And this is absolutely crucial, because this is the core of the “revelation.” How could I have left this out? Thank you Brad, thank you!
The core thing that came to me during this experience, while it was going on, was that I got a sense of how God’s mind works, because I was inside of it. And what I saw, first of all, was that I had always thought of God looking out universally and seeing everything going on at the same time and just sucking everything in, and then He just does a little something here and a little something there, and it’s like this all encompassing warm cloud.
That was not what I was getting. What I was getting was a direct focus. That God focused on one particular task at a time, just like we do. Now, He was seeing it in four dimensions, because I was seeing it in four dimensions, okay? I was seeing an event cycle when I looked at a person, this four-dimensional, beginning and an end, sideways sort of view, in the God-mind perceiving this. But it was focusing on one thing at a time. God acted specifically. He focused on a task then He would do whatever He needed to do there and then He would go on to something else. It wasn’t like He was doing everything at the same time. And that was one of the things that changed my concept of God, that He was an actor.
Something else, and the main thing that was conveyed to me during this experience was how utterly powerless God felt about what was going on here, about the planet. That the free will that operated in every single person was real, and that the choices that everybody makes have real consequences, so much so that God, He could invite, He could try to persuade, He could try to sweet talk, all of these sorts of things, but ultimately He was powerless to impel what was going to happen from our choices. He could try to convince us, just like a parent talking to a child. But ultimately He had to let what was going to happen happen by itself and He was thrilled when we made the right choice — I could feel the joy when He observed something happening where somebody made the right choice at the point where the moral choice needed to be made — and it was like this lonely disappointment when somebody didn’t. That was the core of this, this feeling of and again during this entire period… People are always talking about the cliché “God is Love, okay?”
BRAD LINAWEAVER: I thought that was only part of it…
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Right but everybody says, “God is Love.” What I was experiencing during this was a benevolent outlook that I had not felt since I was a small child.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: But is that necessarily the same as love?
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Well, I’m not even going to try to parse the word right now. Words are inadequate to describe what was going on. That’s something that I cannot emphasize enough. That the verbal forms that we use are entirely inadequate to describe what I was experiencing, but I have to try and the label doesn’t matter here. Let me just try to get it out, okay? That’s what I’m here for right now is to try to document this. To try to go from the experience of what was going on to get it into words to communicate to other people.
This warmth, this benevolence, this jolly sense of humor, this feeling of caring, you could trivialize it with some cynical statement about warm and fuzzy or something like that…
BRAD LINAWEAVER: No I like benevolence because that’s actually a more descriptive term than love, but does the benevolent warm feeling apply to all humanity or only certain select groups and select individuals?
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: It was not an angry, critical God. He wasn’t looking out and being angry at everything that’s going on. It’s not this stern looking around and, “Boy, this is terrible!” Its not like George Burns in the Oh God! movies saying, “You’re polluting my oceans! See if you can make a mackerel!” It was none of that. Okay…
BRAD LINAWEAVER: That’s why I’m asking…
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: It was none of that. It was looking around and it was the feeling of either thrill when He saw what we were doing right, and just this forlorn despair when He saw somebody who at the point when they had to make a correct choice failed to make it.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: Well, hold that thought for about three seconds while I ask this question.
God being full of joy when we make a right decision and God being sad or frustrated when we make a wrong decision, the way a parent might feel about a child?
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Yes.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: Then what I want to ask — I am stuck with words so you’ve got to give me a chance to express the question in words, because I don’t know how to ask the question in any other way then with words. Is it fair to say that the impression you have from, and of, the God mind, is regarding human conflicts, God does not take sides?
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: That far too abstract and intellectualized and removed for me to respond to, from the standpoint of the experience that I was having.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: Then let me phrase it…
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: But let me…
BRAD LINAWEAVER: I was going to try again, but all right.
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Try again, but let me complete this one more thought that’s coming out here. Okay? Again, you’re drawing me out, and it’s starting to bubble up.
The first thing that I experienced early on in the experience was the sense of benevolence about my life up to that point. In other words, I’m a very hypercritical person. I was always looking at my failures, the things that I considered wrong about myself. They all seemed unimportant while this was going on. It was like, “Well, that is so unimportant, these flaws that you’ve experienced, as compared to the important things.” In other words, I got such a sense of approval. I was experiencing a self-approval. But I don’t think that I have ever had such a feeling of self-acceptance, at that moment. So it was acceptance of myself, acceptance of everybody around me, feeling that it wasn’t going to be a tragedy. The mission as it was going to unfold was not going to have to be this violent tragedy that you see in The Passion of the Christ, where you’re nailed up on a cross. That this time, it was going to be different. The mission was going to be more fun this time and not like the last time. Okay, now I think I’ve probably characterized the essentials of it as much as I can.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: Is the “God” idea that God has an idea of what is good and evil, in terms of choices, but does not view human beings as good or evil on the basis of the choice, but views the choice as good or evil? I hope I phrased that very precisely.
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: This is what I was experiencing precisely. What I was looking out and looking for when I looked into somebody was: what was their most important central heartfelt desire? What was pulling them along? What were they desiring? Were they desiring to be good or were they desiring something else, and being good was unimportant? That was what I was experiencing.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: Well, let me narrow it down. Does God think Arabs are evil?
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Brad, you’re trying to impose upon my interpretation of the experience into something…
BRAD LINAWEAVER: I’m just trying to figure out if God loves all humanity or not, that’s all I’m asking. You brought up love.
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: I wasn’t experiencing it that way. It wasn’t like this global, United Nations sort of thing, Brad. Maybe that’s where I’m having my greatest difficulty conveying this. It wasn’t like that. I wasn’t thinking in terms of Arabs and Jews. Briefly, for a moment, I was thinking in terms of blacks — and just got the thought of a magnificent destiny — but that was only because that sort of drifted into my consciousness because I was working on the O.J. Simpson thing.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: Before I drop this, the only reason I’m asking is you once asked Dennis Prager, if he met God, what he would ask God, and Dennis Prager didn’t have much of an answer. You were being very precise, asking Dennis Prager what Prager might ask God about Himself.
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Right. That was what I was asking, what Prager would ask God about Himself.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: But still, if you asked somebody a question about himself it could involve opinions about others. If somebody asks Brad Linaweaver a question about Brad Lineaweaver, himself, it could actually touch on opinions Brad might have about…
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: I was getting some opinions, okay? I saw that God thought the churches were dull and should be fun. I was experiencing that God looked well upon libertarian writings and natural law, and He looked and saw that that was good. Okay? And I saw His view of how He views us as, what is our most heartfelt desire? In other words that was what He was looking at. Almost everything seems unimportant to Him other than what was in our heart to do. What was compelling us? Were we drawn to be good, and was that important to us? Did we feel that it was important to make a right choice or that we can simply blow off making the right choice for something else? Okay? That is what I was experiencing, and in terms of Arabs and Jews, or something like that, He wasn’t looking at it in terms of some sort of collective conflict or something like that. He would simply, maybe, be thinking, if He saw a specific action, maybe the point at which a terrorist has to decide whether to execute a hostage or something like that. What is in his heart at that moment? Is there empathy for this person who is in his charge, or something like that? That’s how God would view it. “Terrorist, what is in your heart? What do you want to make of yourself?” That is how He would view it.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: Well, I’ll wrap up this sequence of questions by merely saying the people who read this book may wonder, if they had God’s mind, or access to God, what they might ask or wonder. You can deal with it as you wish.
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: All I can say is that Neil Schulman wasn’t phrasing it in terms of questions of God while the experience was going on because Neil Schulman was somewhere off away while this was going on. It was being recorded in Neil Schulman for later use, but the experience itself, I was not Neil Schulman thinking about what questions do I want to ask God. And if it happened to you, you wouldn’t be Brad Linaweaver thinking of what questions you want to ask God because you wouldn’t be Brad Lineaweaver during the experience. You would be God.
If what God was concerned about about each of us was our heart-most desire to do good and evil, and what we’ve become because of it? Then how is that not answering your question, that what He is concerned about is right choices?
BRAD LINAWEAVER: Because there’s an emotional component missing in that answer of are we God’s children or not?
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Brad, if during this experience I’d come across Adolf Hitler and looked into his soul…
BRAD LINAWEAVER: — or Genghis Khan or Jack the Ripper….
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: — or Joseph Stalin or Jack the Ripper or anybody like that, then I would know the answer to that question, and be able to give you the visceral and emotional reaction that you’re asking for. All I can say is the experience, as it was happening, was too short. I had too many other things going on, and I wasn’t going out looking for it.
I was not fully revealed to myself. In other words, there were still things that were just a taste of what was going on.
Now, you and I have talked about this previously, but not during this tape series that we’re doing right here, about an opinion that I expressed to you. Remember that I started out this section talking about Jesus, after His baptism, going into the desert for 40 days and then coming back. And then, according to the first three of the Gospels — not John, John is an exception to this.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: You talking about the ketosis?
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Right. Jesus does not perform His first miracle until He gets back from the desert.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: That is correct.
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: And what I have expressed to you is that what happened to me was just a taste of the experience Jesus had and He had it for far longer, and far deeper, and was therefore able to deal with it over a much longer period and at a much more intense level. Getting to the point that He was able to effect miracles. I didn’t do any miracles during those eight hours.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: But you had a taste of it?
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: I had a taste.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: That’s got to count for something.
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Right. So what I am saying is that I had an experience akin to what the descriptions of what Jesus…
You see, we don’t have a Gospel According to Jesus. We only have the accounts written by the people around Him.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: True.
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Okay? And so I don’t recall that anybody ever asked Jesus what was going on inside Him.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: No, Jesus was not interviewed by Larry King.
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: No. It didn’t occur to any of them to ask Him the sorts of questions that you’re asking me, and the answers would be fascinating, wouldn’t they?
BRAD LINAWEAVER: Well, if you put me in front of Jesus Christ I would ask these questions.
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Right. Of course, and so would I.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: My questions is this, because I’ve been meaning to bring this up through the entire interview, I never have.
Thomas Jefferson is, I think, one of the most libertarian of all the founding fathers, and although he only related to Jesus Christ in terms of His moral teaching, and tried to reject all the really important God aspects, from my point of view, he still argued that what Jesus was preaching was benevolent and sublime. I like that phrase, he says what Jesus brought to the world in terms of His teachings was benevolent and sublime and, he says, clearly preferable to all the ancient philosophers.
So, and this is always the problem I had when I was a Christian and when I lost my faith the problem remained with me, and remains with me to this day.
When Jesus Christ said to forgive your enemies, I’ve never fully been able to understand that. Whether I was in faith or out of faith, and since you’ve had this Mind Meld, I want at least to address that before we move on. This is the last Jesus Christ question I will ask in this interview.
Did you get any feeling or sense of what that really, truly means?
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Yes.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: Then please explain it.
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: During the experience, I was taken out of myself. I was seeing Joseph Neil Schulman, to use my full name here — the little boy who had been Joseph, who at age 16 decided to use his middle name — from the outside, and looked upon him as somebody else.
I think that, at the point of God’s Judgment, we will be taken out of ourselves and be able to look at ourselves from God’s point of view.
We will be given His eyes to look at ourselves — all of us, not just me — for this period. That was just a special foreshadowing, or something like that, for whatever job I have to do here.
But I think everybody gets that, where you are taken out of yourself and you look at yourself as if you’re judging somebody else. I think that what Jesus was saying there, about loving your enemy as yourself, it means that, at some point, you need to apply the same level of criticism for your enemy as you would apply to yourself. The exact same sorts of excuses and rationalizations and reasoning that you would use to justify yourself, you have to apply to your enemy as well.
That’s what I think.
Next in I Met God — God Without Religion, Scripture, or Faith is Chapter VIII: Aftermath
Copyright © 2010 The J. Neil Schulman Living Trust. All rights reserved.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: Neil, the license plate on your vehicle says, “I met God.” Is it fair to say that that license plate is not so much referring to the encounters we have discussed up to this point, as the event you’re about to describe which almost could be more accurately described from your point of view experience as you merged with God?
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Yes. Now, we’ve gone through some pretty dramatic events in my life up to this point.
We’ve talked about, how at five years old, it’s almost like I’m having an encounter with God. I even need to say that looking back, I have a sense of God, early in my life. Not as in any intellectual sense but simply as almost like a taste of benevolence which I have been exposed to. That disappears for a long period of time and starts coming back with my childhood and adult exposure to C.S. Lewis.
Once I am told that Aslan is Jesus, well, that’s when Jesus starts becoming very very interesting to me.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: Is that right, the day you were told that?
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Yes. At the point when I know that one of my favorite characters as a child is supposed to be Jesus, that is the point at which Jesus becomes interesting to me.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: But if as a child you had been told it was Jesus then you never would have read the Narnia books at all?
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: That is correct.
Now moving forward, I have a number of different experiences, which are leading up to this thing, and a lot of them are confrontative and not pleasant.
The experience at the end of writing The Rainbow Cadenza when I have a feeling that God is possibly within me. I don’t even know that it’s God at that point but there is something going on and it’s shaking me to the core and is making me very, very afraid. At that point I don’t even know that its God, I don’t recognize it yet.
Nor on those occasions before that, when I had a voice telling me something. For example, precognitive voices telling me things. The event at a Halloween party when I see the woman who later becomes my wife, and I hear a voice saying, as I am looking at her dancing at this party, “If you ask her to dance then you will marry her.”
Okay, so I’m having things like that but then it’s getting stronger and the voice is becoming more identifiable.
I need to say that all of the times that I am hearing this voice, it’s my own voice. It sounds like me talking to myself. It’s not like I’m hearing Charlton Heston and it’s one of the reasons why later on when we are discussing some of the techniques of the writing of Escape from Heaven, why I identify God as a twin of Duj Pepperman. It’s because the experience is as if you are experiencing an image of yourself.
Then we have the incident in April of 1988, the hand on my heart, and then a few weeks later the dream where I’m finding out why this pathological fear exists and afterwards has gone away.
We have the dream in 1991 in which I am visiting Heaven for the first time.
And there are two other dreams later on that I’ll be talking about in discussions I recorded with Jack Landman on CyberCity.
But then we get to February 18, 1997, and the character of what happens then is so fundamentally different, and so much more intense — of a different character — of everything that has led up to this that it’s a singularity in my life. It is so much of a singularity that, even at the time, I marked it as having the effect on my life of being a birthday. That this was a date — February 18th — was going to be an anniversary in my life, very much as important to me as any birthday or anniversary or anything else.
You can almost, if you want to apply the Christian term — and I’m not sure how much of the Christian term applies or not — calling it the day I was “born again.” I have used that terminology in conversations, that this was the day I was “born again.”
Now, what happened to me on that date. Let me go back –
BRAD LINAWEAVER: Yes, please say everything that happened that day before the event.
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Right, I have to go back before the event, before that.
Going back five months before that, I started a diet. I had put on weight, probably as a consequence of the unhappiness of going through a divorce. I put on weight and I started a severe diet, and it was a diet which had worked for me before in my life very, very effectively. A diet of reduced calories, usually under 900 calories a day, but also restricting carbohydrates as well to under maybe 30 or 40 grams a day. In addition to which I was walking, exercising.
So the combination of restricted calories, restricted carbohydrates, and exercise put me into the state which the Atkins Diet and the Atkins diet books and Dr. Atkins talk about, which is you go into a state of ketosis.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: And describe what that is…
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Ketosis is the releasing of ketones into the blood. Ketones are a particular substance, which is released by the process of reducing intake, and having your body in essence be metabolizing from its own resources, in other words metabolizing fats and ketones are released. Now if you ask me why that happens, go talk to a biochemist or a dietician or somebody like that and they’ll explain the chemistry to you. I’m simply relating to you that what happens is ketones start appearing in the blood and this is necessary for the burning of fat to happen, a necessary consequence, it’s part of it.
Now, an extended period of ketosis, when you add it to something that happened maybe a month before February 18, 1997, perhaps starting in January, I think I got a mild virus flu cold or something like that but below the level where it was more than sniffles. But I was feeling a little bit of congestion and when that happens you breathe more shallowly, breathe more rapidly. So I was breathing more shallowly. Now in breathing more shallowly, the consequence of that is that you’re taking in less oxygen.
Now. You and I have had a discussion previously — and I’m going to put it on the record right at this point — of a few days before we started these tapings, of my going back and reading the beginning of the Four Gospels — Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Matthew, Mark and Luke agree on the following sequence: that after Jesus is baptized by John the Baptist and John the Baptist hears the voice of God saying “this is my Son whom I well love” — all three of these gospels say that Jesus went into the desert for forty days to be tempted by Satan.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: Yes.
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Now. Jesus is a physical human being and what is going to happen to Him in the desert is the same thing that I have done to myself by going on this diet and exercise program. He is going to go into ketosis because he is going to be fasting. We don’t know how many extra pounds of fat Jesus had at that point. We don’t have a physical description of Him, He may have had 30 or 40 or 50 pounds extra fat on Him from high living which are burned off during those 40 days and he becomes the lean, mean Messiah machine in the desert. Okay, but he is going to be in the desert He’s going to into ketosis He’s going to be dehydrated and that is something that happened to me during this period I became dehydrated.
Within a couple days before February 18, 1997, which was a Tuesday, I have been in the hospital emergency room because I feel myself fainting. I feel my heartbeat is irregular. I feel in serious danger. And so I go into the Emergency Room and what do they do? They say you’re dehydrated and they rehydrate me by putting an intravenous saline drip into me to get me back up to rehydration.
This happened twice, at least once before the 18th and I’m not sure exactly which day but it probably would have been the Saturday before. I think it happens within a day or two after the event, on around the 19th or something like that.
So two times during this period, I am in such ketosis of blood poisoning from the excess of ketones in my blood caused from five months of severe diet and exercise and just before and just after that I am dehydrated in ketosis and breathing shallowly. Now breathing shallowly, we have Moses going up to talk to God and he goes to high altitude to do it, less oxygen. So there’s a physiological thing going on there too with less oxygen. With Jesus out in the desert as Matthew, Mark and Luke describe it for 40 days — He’s going through ketosis and dehydration.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: I’ve never made that connection before.
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: But in essence the precondition for what appears to happen to me appears to have a physiological component to it and it is described in the Bible and I unwittingly, simply by trying to take off weight, have put myself in the same situation as if I’d gone out to the desert to fight the devil.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: As are all the famous mystics throughout history, who have done fasting as a ritual.
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: As a ritual, right. Fasting puts you into ketosis. Apparently the ketones have some toxic effect on the brain, which enables something to happen.
This is not a drug experience. We’re not talking about taking an artificially engineered substance, or even a natural plant substance, into the body, to produce some sort of effect. We’re not talking about my taking Peyote or Marijuana or LSD or anything like this. This is something, which is in the body’s mechanism, itself, which can be triggered by a specific technique, and that technique is denial of food. And something happens in the brain.
Now, the other thing that was happening in my life at this particular time is the civil verdict in the O.J. Simpson trial, where O.J. Simpson is found civilly liable. And I had been watching the criminal trial avidly, and had written couple of articles about it, and paid somewhat amount of attention, but not as much attention to the civil trial.
A week before the February 18th thing, I see something which creates cognitive dissonance in me, something odd. And that is at the end of the civil trial, I see Ron Shipp, who is supposed to be one of O.J.’s friends, hugging the man who has sued and just won a lawsuit against his friend, O.J. Simpson. I see Ron Shipp hugging Fred Goldman at the conclusion of that trial.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: And that strikes you as very odd?
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: It strikes me as very very odd. Yes! He testified against him but now he’s hugging who is in essence O.J. Simpson’s worst enemy and he’s supposed to be a friend?
It created cognitive dissonance in me to the extent that I woke up and said, I have been looking for somebody who could have possibly framed O.J. Simpson, and here we have Ron Shipp, who is an intimate friend of O.J. –
BRAD LINAWEAVER: Or supposed to be.
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Well, intimate in the sense that he has access to the property, okay? He’s done security work for O.J. at various different times. He is an experienced police officer who describes himself on the stand as having detective skills. Even though he wasn’t a detective grade, he nonetheless had L.A.P.D. training, and had worked detective details, had been a training officer at L.A.P.D. Academy. And he fulfills all the psychological conditions of somebody I would have looked at to be a fan boy who then turns on the object of his worship.
Okay. At that point I started doing the research which eventually, a few years later — actually a few months later in the web version but then a few years later, in 1999, in the published book version — becomes my book The Frame of the Century?.
So that is what is the center of my focus during that week, while these physiological things are going on with me, is that I am starting, for the first time, to become an active researcher in the O.J. Simpson case, triggered by my observing, in essence, the last legal aspect of it, which is the liable verdict in the civil case.
So that’s where my focus is.
Now, on the Monday before, when I go to the Karl Hess Club, suddenly it occurs to me I have done things over the previous few days. I have, in essence, sent out information to various different people. I have met during that previous week with detectives at the L.A.P.D. and presented my theory to them. I have presented it to O.J.’s attorneys. And that night it occurs to me, if this has gotten to Ron Shipp, if this information that I am presenting a theory that Ron Shipp was involved in these murders and framing O.J., I could be in physical danger.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: I remember you from that period and I remember I’ve never seen you more paranoid.
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Right, because I suddenly thought, “what have I done to myself? I’ve exposed myself, I’ve exposed my family here, and I need to take immediate action to batten down the hatches before because if I am vulnerable I wouldn’t know about it.” In essence I go to high alert.
That night I went to my bank, I withdrew cash, got into my car and started wondering where should I put myself for the next few days, while I’m making further contacts? Who can I go to who I wouldn’t necessarily be traced to, if I were to go there as a safe house? Should I drive to Jean, Nevada, and stay in one of those $18 a night hotel rooms, which I could easily afford to do? Is there some friend who could be useful to me?
What I essentially decided to do that night was drive out to Randy Herrst’s house and ask him for help. I drove out late at night to Randy’s. He came down with me, and we basically sat in my car, and I laid out all of this to him. And I said, “Look, am I just being paranoid or is there a real possibility that I’m in danger here?”
He said, “Neil, the point is that you have no way of knowing, and so, yes, you were right to take protective steps. Now let’s figure out what we’re going to do, to resolve this quickly, in such a way that you don’t have to go into hiding if somebody really is pissed off with you and is going to take some action.”
Okay. Now what we resolved to do was go to an attorney whom we both knew, through Second Amendment work, who had been involved in filing some of these suits against the Los Angeles Police Department about concealed carry licenses for handguns, and seek his advice here.
So, we made an appointment that morning to go to this attorney in Beverly Hills, and sit with him, and ask him what should be our next step?
So around 10 o’clock in the morning of February 18th I’ve been up all night talking with Randy and strategizing this. So now in addition to the physiological condition of ketosis and dehydration, which I’ve been experiencing, I’ve now gone without a night’s sleep.
And we go have the meeting with this attorney in Beverly Hills. He says, “Well, look, I know another attorney who has a direct contact with Gil Garcetti at the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s office. Let’s present your material to him.”
And so we make an appointment for me to go back to his office later that day and meet with him again.
Now, having had this first meeting with Randy and this attorney, in the morning of February 18th, I need to get some sleep. Randy thinks it’s a good idea if I not go to sleep unprotected. That I not go to sleep and simply be alone.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: You mean have somebody on guard?
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Have somebody on guard. This is Randy’s suggestion. Randy is acting in essence as my bodyguard at this point. But Randy also has gone a night without sleep and he needs to go home and sleep as well, before this meeting, and so we called up another friend of ours, Dafydd ab Hugh, and I said, “Dafydd can you come over to my place?” and I explained the situation in brief. I said, “There’s some potential for danger. I don’t know exactly how to calculate it. It may be a small potential. It may be a large potential. But we don’t know. Could you just come over to my place and just sort of watch my back while I get some sleep?”
And Dafydd said, “Yes,” and he came over.
Dafydd gets there around 11:30 or 11:45 in the morning. And Randy says, “Okay, I’m going to go home and get some sleep and I’ll meet you later today, and we’ll go over to the attorney’s office again.”
So Dafydd is out in the living room, and I say, “Okay, I’m going to lie down.” And I go into my bedroom, and I close the door to lie down and get some sleep before the meeting.
And I lay down on my bed, and about ten seconds later — almost immediately — something has happened and I sit up in bed.
The first impression I’m having is that I have just traveled a long way, and I’ve just arrived.
And I’m looking around and I’m thinking, “Where am I? What’s going on?”
Remember, all of this is from my internal perspective.
Okay. I am sitting up and saying, “Huh! Now I’m here. I’ve just arrived.” But I wonder what’s going on.
And suddenly I sit up, stand up, and I remember that I am God.
The only way to describe it is not, this is unlike these previous things that have happened to me where when God has His hand on my heart I know that it is God’s hand or I am in a dream and God is next to me as a woman or any of these other contacts where it’s a voice. This is none of those. I am God at this point. I wake up and I remember that I am God. I stand up and the first impression I have standing up is that I feel too tall.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: Hmm, that’s odd.
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Why am I so tall? This is bizarre, I’m looking at myself — I’m looking at my body — I’m so tall and this body is so out of shape. How is it that this body is so out of shape? What happens then is that I walk out of the room and I see Dafydd sitting in the living room.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: What is Dafydd doing?
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: He sitting there reading or maybe watching TV or something like that, and I’m just looking out there, and he’s saying, “Is everything okay?”
I say, “Yes, everything seems to be okay.” I said, “I guess I’ll go back into the bedroom.”
BRAD LINAWEAVER: You have not slept yet?
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: I have not slept yet. But I have chatted a little bit with Dafydd and suddenly it’s starting to come to me that I’m looking around and –
This was at an apartment that I was renting on Overland Avenue in Culver City. This was a two-bedroom apartment and it was very cluttered because every career that I’ve ever had accumulates stuff, and I’d been doing a radio show in 1992 and so I had all the recording studio stuff I had set up to do a radio show in there. And I had all the things from my previous electronic publishing venture, SoftServ, all those business records and filing cabinets. I had been writing about the Second Amendment and so I had stacks of newspapers with articles that I’d written, and the place is pretty well cluttered. The place is as much a storage closet as it is an apartment. It’s an office, a storage closet, and a living residence, and I had always been very frustrated at how cluttered this was, and felt really like it was a cage that I was trapped in it. That I didn’t have enough space.
Suddenly I’m looking around at this little two bedroom apartment with all this stuff in it, and I have a different view of it then I’ve ever had before. I’m not seeing as a cage anymore. I’m seeing it as a nest, which I have built for myself as a protection.
I’m realizing as this is coming along, as my mind is sifting through all the new stuff, that J. Neil Schulman is a fictional persona, which I have created my entire life, because up until that moment I was hiding from myself the fact that I was God.
This is what is going through my mind while this is happening.
Now. One can say that I’m going through a psychotic episode at this point. Certainly the physiological conditions for a psychotic episode — ketosis, dehydration, lack of sleep — all of these various things can add up and say that I’m having a break with reality.
But the problem is that I’m not experiencing it as a break with reality. I’m experiencing it as the most clarity and intense ability to perceive, and to think, that I’ve ever had in my life. Far greater. It’s not that I am diminished in any sense. I am enhanced.
Okay? And I am looking at Dafydd, and I’m experiencing something in looking at him that I have never had before, a cognitive enhancement. Because what I am able to do — and it’s hard to describe this even today because the words don’t really match any other experience that either I have had or you have had — presumably.
I’m looking at Dafydd and suddenly it’s like there is a twist going on in the way that I am looking at him and I am seeing him in four dimensions. I’m seeing the core of his soul and I’m seeing him as a four-dimensional event, with a beginning and something going off into the future. I’m not seeing a death but I’m seeing a different segment, as if I’m looking at him through a different time angle or something like that.
Suddenly my angle of looking at him is shifted and I’m not seeing him in the normal way from the surface, as one segment. I’m seeing a four-dimensional event. And what I’m really seeing is, I’m seeing into his heart. I’m seeing his desires.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: You mean his soul.
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: I’m seeing the core of his desire and I’m seeing that the core of his desire is to make it as a serious writer. Above everything else, that’s what he wants, is to really be a serious writer.
I don’t say any of that to him. I realize that I am revealed to myself. The game of hiding from myself is over and now obviously I’m here. And now the mission begins.
This is what’s going through my mind at that point and I begin asking myself certain questions about what’s going to happen.
Am I going to have to go through a crucifixion? No that won’t be necessary this time.
What will happen? A circle will form around me.
What’s going to happen in terms of the O.J. thing — is my investigation correct? Yes, your intuition there was correct.
All of this libertarian stuff, which I had been writing about — yes that’s all correct. The principles of natural law and free will and that sort of thing. Yes that is correct.
Guns. I’d been doing all this stuff with guns. Well, yes, we eventually die, but protecting the good requires that good people protect themselves from the evil people.
And all these sorts of things are going through my mind. It’s not even like I’m being told things or something like that. It’s like a continuous revelation going on as I’m remembering who I am and who I’ve been.
Next in I Met God — God Without Religion, Scripture, or Faith is Chapter VII: Revelations
Copyright © 2010 The J. Neil Schulman Living Trust. All rights reserved.
Beware this Ides of January wrap-up of news and opinion from your not-so-humble correspondent.
The Devil Went Down to Haiti
According to the Southern Baptist charismatic Pat Robertson speaking on his show The 700 Club, the recent 7.0 earthquake in Haiti which is estimated to have killed 100,000 — including Monsignor Joseph Serge Miot, the Roman Catholic archbishop of Port-au-Prince, and devastated a third of the country’s nine million inhabitants — was engineered by none other than Satan, collecting on an old debt from when the Haitians made a deal to liberate themselves from the French.
Leaving aside the question of how Pat Robertson has such close relations with Satan that he’s privy to the Alienated Angel’s account ledgers, this correspondent has to sympathize with anyone who feels that trading a Gallic overlord for Satan is a step up; and I also have to wonder — now that Al Gore’s Belle Meade, Tennessee house has frozen over — whether all those things that would never come to pass until Hell freezes over are now in our future?
Jay v. Conan
There’s a very funny moment in the 2007 movie Music and Lyrics where Brad Garrett — playing music manager Chris Riley — tells his client Hugh Grant, as 80′s “Pop” star Alex Fletcher, that his gig as a retro performer is drying up because “There are new old acts coming up all the time.”
To my 18-year-old daughter retro is her parents’ generation; to me, retro is my parents’ generation. That means my cultural memory — without much study of history — easily reaches back to the “golden age of radio” when Fred Allen and Jack Benny feuded with each other for a decade on their respective radio shows, and even in movies.
It was an act, of course. Jack Benny and Fred Allen were good friends in real life and their writing staffs collaborated on writing the insults, long before Don Rickles, Redd Foxx, and Friars’ Club Roasts made a genre out of insult comedy for generations of comics to follow. But the Benny-Allen crossfire caught on with the public and the feud was good for the ratings of both shows.
As of this writing, TMZ is reporting that Conan O’Brien’s last day as host of The Tonight Show will be a week from tonight, Friday January 22nd — just shy of eight months after his taking over hosting of the show on June 1, 2009.
Also as of this writing NBC executives are denying the TMZ story to The Hollywood Reporter.
But NBC executives — who broke promises both to Jay Leno regarding their one-year commitment to his prime-time show, and who are apparently in breach of contract to Conan O’Brien, who moved his old Late Night cast and much of his crew from New York City to Burbank to take over The Tonight Show — do not have a lot of credibility these days.
Still, the NBC website has been promoting all the quips Leno and O’Brien have been firing against each other so heavily that I can only conclude that — like the old Benny-Allen feud — NBC is using this bonanza of free publicity to boost what have been sagging late-night ratings for a network in the toilet during prime-time as well.
If NBC is really dumping Conan to give Leno back the Tonight Show gig they forced him out of five years before his May 29, 2009 last show when he passed the baton to Conan, they’re not only short-sighted idiots but also utter incompetents.
Alienating Conan’s fan base by dumping him could well poison-pill NBC’s entire late night ratings … perhaps for good.
Don’t get me wrong. I love Jay. I thought he grew into The Tonight Show as a masterful host exceeded only by the sheer genius of Johnny Carson, and I’ve also been a devotee of his prime-time show.
But I also watch Conan, who’s just as much a major talent as Jay with his schooling at Saturday Night Live, The Simpsons, Late Night, and eight months of hosting Tonight.
And they both have killer bands.
When this finally shakes out if NBC loses either show, Comcast — the new owners of NBC — need a clean sweep of NBC programming management.
How hard, after all, would it be for NBC to schedule 26 weeks a year of an 11:35 PM (10:35 PM Central) Tonight Show with Conan O’Brien and 26 weeks a year of an 11:35 PM (10:35 PM Central) Jay Leno Show?
Or even split the weeks — three nights Jay and two nights Conan one week, alternating with three nights Conan and two nights Jay the next.
I remember that it was Johnny Carson taking so many nights off from The Tonight Show that enabled Jay Leno to make his bones as the show’s regular guest host. Without Johnny’s days off Leno never would have beaten out then Late Night host David Letterman for the Tonight Show gig in the first place.
If you haven’t seen it, give a look to the tremendously entertaining 1996 movie The Late Shift, about the battle between Leno and Letterman to replace Johnny as host of The Tonight Show.
Jay said he never wanted to go through that again when he first agreed to let Conan succeed him as host of The Tonight Show.
Yet here we are.
Jay told us that he’s been saving his TV salaries for decades anyway, living only off his stage gigs. It’s not like he can’t afford to be magnanimous.
It won’t cost NBC any more than they’ll have to spend to pay off Conan for breach of contract after Conan’s management and legal pit bulls get done with them — and there are two standing sets and two working casts and crews ready to perform.
Jay and Conan are old friends. They should get into one of Jay’s classic cars and drive through the In-N-Out Burger take-out window, then present this plan to NBC.
I’d think better of both of them if they did, because it would prove to me they’re savvy enough to have revived the old Benny-Allen bit.
But if NBC truly can only have one and only one 11:35 star, then it’s time to settle this the American way.
No, not pistols at dawn.
I propose a series of Comedy Debates between Jay and Conan.
Four or five of them should do.
Let the League of Women Voters run it … or the Friar’s Club.
Tom Brokaw should moderate.
The American people can vote for the NBC late-night host just like they vote for American Idol contestants.
Now that would put NBC back at the top of the ratings, much more than the Winter Olympics will.
White House Party Crashers
On December 3, 2009 in my column “Let’s Not Make a Federal Case Out of It!” I wrote the following:
Then we have the case of Michaele and Tareq Salahi, from Virginia, who allegedly gate-crashed a White House state dinner between President Barack Obama and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on November 24, 2009. They even got onto the receiving line and got their picture taken shaking President Obama’s hand!
Michaele Salahi was a reality TV hopeful trying to get on Bravo’s The Real Housewives of D.C.. Maybe they thought this would help … or at least get them a fat check from The Inquirer. But Michaele and Tareq’s story is they showed up at the White House not knowing whether their request to be on the guest list had been granted or not, and the Secret Service let them in.
Now, of course, that it’s a big news story, the Secret Service — being shown up as somewhat less than stellar in keeping out people who aren’t supposed to get within miles of the President — are all huffy and puffy that this guy with the Arabic name should be charged with violating federal Homeland Security laws.
Hey, guys. News flash. Michaele and Tareq didn’t pull a gun on the President. Tareq wasn’t wearing a suicide belt. They got some free food. The President is reported as being pissed. Sure thing. The Democratic Party got rooked out of its usual five- or six-figure “contribution” for buying a fancy photo-op with the Prez. I’d love to see them try to collect their graft.
But a federal crime for attending a party without being on the guest list?
If this had been World War II and a well-dressed couple had crashed a reception with President Roosevelt, the only thing that would have happened is FDR asking the Secret Service if they had let in a Republican couple. Otherwise, FDR would have gotten a nice laugh out of it on an otherwise depressing day.
I’ll bet Richard Nixon, at the height of the Vietnam War protests, would have told the Secret Service to let it slide, too.
If President Obama is truly angry, he has no sense of proportion about what’s presidential-level important.
Yesterday I received an email with the following photo attached:
My email correspondent writes me, “Tareq and Michaele Salahi snapped the pic above with Obama at a ‘Rock The Vote’ event on June 9, 2005.”
The point of this photo made by my right-wing emailer — and all the right-wing blogs that are carrying this photo — is that supposedly the Salahi’s had a prior relationship with Barack Obama and were actually invited to the dinner — thus the Secret Service made no mistake in letting them in — but somehow the White House is trying to smear the Secret Service (who hold the President’s life in their hands every day) for letting them in.
How’s that again?
All the photo proves to me is that the Salahi’s began stalking Obama long before he ran for president.
If you’re upbeat and busy all the time, you’re hyperactive — and there’s a prescription pharmaceutical for that.
If you’re melancholy or grieving, there’s a prescription pharmaceutical for that.
And if you are sometimes upbeat and sometimes melancholy, you’re bipolar — there’s a prescription drug for that.
Heads they win, tails you lose.
No matter what your mood is, you’re sick and need their drugs.
What a racket!
The “Sheik of Araby” on Science Fiction
Prince Alwaleed bin Talal of Saudia Arabia — interviewed Thursday by Neil Cavuto on the Fox Business Network — responded to Neil’s comment that Avatar portrayed businessmen in a negative light, “It’s science fiction. Who cares? … It’s going to make over two billion dollars for News Corp.”
Prince Alwaleed told Neil Cavuto that he owns 5.7% of News Corp. as a permanent strategic investment in support of the Murdoch family.
The Prince also told Cavuto that Avatar is the only science-fiction movie he’s ever seen.
First off, kudos to Neil Cavuto for being the only Fox commentator with the guts even to note that Fox’s blockbuster movie would have been ideologically trashed by almost every pundit on both the Fox News Network and the Fox Business Network if the movie had been released by any studio other than Fox.
Double kudos to Neil for having the balls to bring the subject up in a conversation with an investor holding an “irrevocable” 5.7% strategic investment commitment to his employer’s company.
Triple kudos to Cavuto for giving a writer/producer like me the heads up that — assuming I could ever get the gig — I can make any point I want to in a Fox movie, just so long as it’s science-fiction, and makes its investors a bundle.
That leaves every project I currently have in development — or have in my archives — open for submission to Fox.
That would include Alongside Night.
That would include Lady Magdalene’s.
Yes, the trivialization of much of my life’s work is insulting.
But the tolerance granted a court jester also has its advantages.
I write this on a day when three million of the poorest people on planet Earth — living in the poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere — just had a natural disaster take from them even the little they had.
Twenty-three decades ago the Scottish moral philosopher, Adam Smith, published his book An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations, and in doing so offered the first principles on which to found what may someday become a science of economics. It’s obvious from our current condition that economics is not yet a science, otherwise engineers could produce as predictable practical results for economics as they can for chemistry and physics.
Thus the production and delivery of plentiful goods to the Haitians would have been a done deal years ago. Their buildings would have been built to Tokyo standards and even a 7.0 earthquake on the Richter scale would not have devastated their country.
Or maybe that’s unfair. Maybe the principles of economics are sufficiently developed for practical applications and were simply ignored. In that way any rational analysis of the devastation in Haiti would in some sense be “blaming the victims” for their failure to apply the science needed to escape from their nation’s poverty.
It’s easy to do that as an intellectual exercise. That’s a lot of what you’ll be hearing from right-wing pundits today.
It’s heartless and inhuman to make that one’s first response to the pain anyone not psychically armored against empathy will feel.
But, as a practical matter — not being wealthy enough to pay even all of my own creditors — I am unable to add very much of my own to that Haitian relief effort which wealthier human beings than I will make.
The second emotion I experience following any disaster I see on the news is a feeling of dismal futility. I can contribute little but if I did not do even this the lack of my contribution would be submarginal.
You may call this the principle of Marginal Futility, and I am being only mordantly funny.
That’s why I now supplement my marginal futility to help the Haitians with the intellectual futility of examining why this is still a problem.
The first axiom of just about any school of economics is scarcity.
The Austrian School of Economics — the school of thought to which most current-day libertarians subscribe — treats anything less than instantaneous gratification of any desire as an object of scarcity. The way writers like Murray Rothbard put it is that if you desire a Coca Cola, it would have to be trickling down your throat at the instant you desire it otherwise you would need to take some action — even it’s only lifting the bottle to chug it — to satisfy the scarcity of Coca Cola in your throat.
Both by the first premise of Austrian economics — “Human beings act to remove felt unease” — and by empirical observation of the universe around me, I’ve concluded that everything — every thing — that exists is scarce.
There is only one of two conditions to escape economics, then.
The first condition is to desire nothing. That’s the teleology offered by Zen Buddhism, whose adherents desire a state of non-desiring they call Nirvana. This logically requires total unconsciousness because the conscious mind — being active — can still perceive something new to it and desire that new thing. Arriving in Heaven would be a disastrous outcome for the Zen Buddhists, since they’d still be conscious and thus capable of desires and actions to pursue them.
The second condition is to be conscious within a reality in which the moment any desire is detected it’s instantly gratified. Lust is instantly gratified by sex and orgasm. Hunger is instantly satisfied by taste. Thirst is instantly quenched. Every itch is instantly scratched. I believe a lot of Christians think that’s what Heaven would be.
Both Zen Buddhists and many fundamentalist Christians appear to idealize the condition of the fetus in the womb. It exists and — if it desires anything — that desire is instantly satiated.
Birth just ruins everything.
The conscious, active mind is incapable of existing in either of these conditions permanently. The mind stuck in either of these conditions will eventually atrophy and die from boredom.
Thus, economic scarcity is a fundamental condition of being sapient, whether as a mortal or immortal.
Heaven, itself, must have an economic life.
The pursuit of happiness is therefore an economic study as much as a spiritual study, and that is a universal truth.
I am a creative person by activity and profession. My professional life has been devoted to bringing into existence — or trying to — information objects — stories, scripts, novels, movies, and even inventions — that have not previously existed.
Three novels would not have existed if I had not written them.
One feature film would not have existed if I did not write, produce, and direct it.
There is at least one invention I have “on the drawing board” that will not exist unless I manage to get it produced, tested, and — if market-worthy — manufactured and offered for sale.
I do not believe in the concept of creation ex nihilo — out of nothingness. Therefore, all creation is working with the stuff you find around you and recombining what you find into new things.
As a practical matter, as well as in economic theory, nothing is so plentiful as not to be an object of desire.
Even the ocean is scarce if you live in the desert … or on a planet that doesn’t have one.
There are those who think there are already too many people and wish to reduce the human population by discouraging human fecundity. They think the earth has limited resources and if human population growth continues unabated our species will use them up.
But they have it just backwards. The only actual resource is intelligence, and every human body comes with the potential of being that mind which solves the problem of satisfying a need. So I say: the more minds the merrier. Be fruitful and both multiply and divide.
The solution for poverty is the creation of new and plentiful wealth. But as every indie filmmaker like me quickly learns, there’s nothing to distribute if you don’t first produce it.
That principle could have saved Haiti. And I hope it will before Haiti needs saving from some new disaster.
The wealth of this planet is the fruits produced by the free and individual human mind. That requires a society which values the free and individual human mind, and offers the protection of property rights in what they create.
The libertarian movement is now made up largely of intellectuals who do not believe that. They think because something can be copied that it’s not scarce and therefore the rules of economics state that it can’t be claimed by its creator as property.
They haven’t understood the first principles of economics. They don’t “grok” the pyramid of premises — from the “is” to the “ought” — which necessitates the recognition of property rights as the source of all progressive capitalism leading to human wealth. They left their common sense in their rear-view mirrors.
That’s one big reason I no longer consider myself part of the libertarian movement.
I just wrote a book called Unchaining the Human Heart — A Revolutionary Manifesto. It’s about the same length as The Communist Manifesto and Quotations from Chairman Mao (“The Little Red Book.”)
Feel free to start a new revolutionary libertarian movement around it.
But don’t expect me to be hanging around when it finally gets going.
Meanwhile, if you have a spare buck or two, find a way to get it to someone who might actually help the Haitians, rather than the usual thieves who will ask for your money then pocket it themselves.
It might be futile but then, what isn’t on this darned planet?
BRAD LINAWEAVER: So, Neil. I don’t believe you have ever had any major experience in your life that you didn’t find a way of working into your fiction writing — either a novel or a short story or a script — at some point or other. Therefore I guess none of us should be surprised, with the experiences you were going through, that your latest novel is Escape from Heaven. So, why don’t you tell us about the genesis of Escape from Heaven, as an artist, as well as with your experiences?
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Well, where I have to start off with are the experiences, because we’re doing this book so I can finally — in one comprehensive way — document the reality of my experience and tell people why it might worth paying attention to. That I have, in fact, learned some things from the experiences that are worth my sharing with other people.
Escape from Heaven started, again, with a dream. We’ve talked about the important dream I had in 1988, following my incident where I had God’s hand on my heart, and then the follow-up dream where I was told that in my previous incarnation I had been murdered as a baby and that the trauma of that had gone with me into the current life and that’s why I was phobic of death. And that dream ended that phobia.
So, I had already had the experience of at least one dream significantly changing something essential in my life.
Let’s go through a few things that have happened to me in the mean time.
Thanksgiving of 1991, I’m going to be divorced. Expectations of raising my daughter in a marriage, suddenly that’s shattered.
Shortly after that, I start getting a reputation on Second Amendment issues, first being published in some publications of the California Rifle and Pistol Association, then doing an interview with Professor Roy Copperud on the linguistic analysis of the Second Amendment, which got me a wide reputation.
Then, on January 1, 1992, the first of my Los Angeles Times Op Ed articles appears, and really puts me on the map in the Second-Amendment community. It puts me on the map so much that it leads to three more L.A. Times Op Eds, and eventually my book Stopping Power: Why 70 Million Americans Own Guns.
So that’s what’s going on overtly in my life during that period. That’s when I meet Dennis Prager. As a consequence of my L.A. Times Op Eds, he invites me on his show. The relationship with him starts with my being invited over to his house for a Friday night Shabbat dinner, and I brought my parents along. I met his wife Fran and I met Fran’s daughter, Anya, and she became a fan of my writing and we ended up in a lot of interesting conversations.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: And I met some of them through you.
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Right. Anya was very, very bright. I haven’t seen her in a few years.
And I liked Dennis a whole lot. I had not been a fan of talk radio at that point, I didn’t know about Rush Limbaugh. So my going on Dennis Prager really started me paying attention to talk radio. And so these are some of the things that are going on in my life.
Now, we go back to, I believe it was February, 1991. I have my first dream in which I go to Heaven. And I’ll describe the dream to you.
I find myself in Heaven and I’m going along and I pass an outside café where John F. Kennedy is having coffee with Jackie. Now at that time Jackie was still alive and JFK, of course had been dead since November 22, 1963. And, of course, JFK meant something to me because I had written the “Profile in Silver” episode. So, he was in my consciousness.
But I found it significant, even during the dream, that he’s back together with Jackie. Because, after all, Jackie had remarried Onassis and lived many years after 1963 and I had no idea that she would be dead within a couple of years after that. So that again could almost be considered slightly precognitive. Because there was no reason to think that Jackie Kennedy didn’t have another 20 years in her, unless you were in the inner circle, which I wasn’t. I certainly knew nothing.
So I have this dream and Heaven falls under attack, while I’m there. And I remember flying out of Heaven, flying like Superman.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: Under attack by what or whom?
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: I don’t recall but I do know that it was sort of like a civil war. It was war going on in Heaven.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: Well, was it the fallen angels, the demons trying to take it back?
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: I don’t know. Heaven falls under a military attack. I need to escape and I jump through a portal, a time portal or something like that. And remember, I’d written time travel before in “Profile in Silver.” So, I mean, there are elements of “Profile in Silver” there, with JFK being there.
And I jump through, and I’m trying to get back to my own time. Because Heaven is in the distant future — this part I know — that Heaven is in the future.
I’m trying to get back to my own time and I overshoot and find myself on a corn field or a wheat field of a farm in the 1940’s, in Midwestern America — in Iowa or Kansas or something like that. I’m back there trying to figure out if I’m stranded there or if I can I get back to my own time.
So this is the sequence of the dream I had. Now this was a significant enough dream for me that I wrote it down at the time. I made notes of it. And I started playing around with it.
Now I’ve been asked in previous interviews on the radio where I came up with the name Duj Pepperman. I did not come up with that name for Escape from Heave.
I didn’t know why I came up with that name. It was just by sound and who knows where that came from in terms of psychology, why I did that. I didn’t know. Duj Pepperman arose in another novel, which I was outlining.
It was going to be set in a world in which nobody slept, in which everybody was awake 24 hours a day. The consequence of that is that it is a world which is psychological entirely different from our world. For one thing, because nobody sleeps, nobody has a concept of dreams. Nobody has a concept of fantasy or imagination or anything like that. It is as prosaic, practical a society as you could possibly have.
It is also a society which doesn’t have bedrooms, because you don’t need to sleep. And really, if you think about it, having your own house is so you have a place to go to be safe while you are sleeping, while you are vulnerable.
So in other words, that world which I’m outlining, in this novel which I never wrote, is a world in which you really don’t have private houses, you really don’t have bedrooms. There are places where you can keep your stuff, but more or less you are active 24–hours–a–day and so it’s not like you need to go home and rest. There is no need for rest.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: No need for sustained privacy.
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Right. And so it is a much more communal society, in the sense that there are bath houses for cleaning up and public facilities and rooms which you rent for a few hours at a time or something like that. The entire social structure is different because of that. Duj Pepperman was going to be the freak who was thought to be a medical defective, somebody with a disease.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: Because he slept.
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Because he sleeps and he dreams. He is trying to tell this society of non–dreamers about his dreams, and they consider it to be a defect of some sort.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: I hope you write that sometime.
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: It’s one of those ideas, which, again I’ve had since the 1980’s and haven’t written yet.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: At least a short story.
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Well, I used part of it in Escape from Heaven, because, as you recall, I describe the angels in those psychological terms. I took that idea and transplanted it into Escape from Heaven in my description of the angels. I made them the non–dreamers who never had to sleep, the ones without the imaginations. And I give the description about how they write beautiful, elegant verse and encyclopedias, but they have no sense of fantasy. An angel could not be a Walt Disney. An angel could not be an Albert Einstein. These require the ability to imagine. What angels lack in Escape from Heaven — because I took this model here — is God’s creative power, the power of fantasy, the power of philosophical “what if.”
BRAD LINAWEAVER: And we have this as humans largely through the gate of dreams?
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Right. This is where I started the entire thing — which I developed really in discussion with Jack Landman on CyberCity — about how dreams are a medium.
That dreams are, in essence, part of the same imagination mechanism that I was using as an artist.
That, in fact, dreams are the universal art.
That dreams are a universal medium, and a medium in the same sense that we talk about newspapers as a medium, television as a medium, movies as a medium.
That dreams are, in fact, a medium, and there are critical
rules that you could apply to dr ams in the same way that you have critical rules for these other media.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: By the way, I’m pretty sure that’s original.
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Thank you. But more than that, what it started leading to was the idea that we have always talked about: what is the sixth sense?
BRAD LINAWEAVER: Normally people say E.S.P.
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Right. But it came to me what the sixth sense really is, is imagination.
Now this is so significant because it was the power of imagination which led me to the experiment of praying in the first place.
Let’s realize that “imagination” starts with the word “image,” which is a very significant word when you start getting into theology, when God says he created men in His image.
We have image, form, all of these things have to do with Creation, this entire Logos idea which I use in my “Logorights” article having to do with the spirit which enters into the book. That it’s all pattern, its all array, form, all of these essential, crucial concepts all come down to us in dreams. Dreams are the medium in which we learn imagination.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: When you say, “God created Man in His own Image,” one of the points you’re making is that unlike the angels, but like God, we can dream. A very good point, but secondarily –
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: And I use that in Escape from Heaven as saying that angels cannot become gods until they’ve gone through the stage of being human beings so they can learn to dream.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: And could it also be that this is part of the rage Satan — or Lucifer — felt against God and his opposition to God creating these lowly material creatures – us — and giving us all these advantages over what he viewed to be higher spiritual beings? The devil’s rebellion against God, which is admittedly first really articulated well by the Puritan Milton in Paradise Lost, seems to be logically derivable from an awful lot of religious text preceding it.
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Right, except — Yes, I agree. But the point is that I’m being a revisionist mythologist here and I’m coming up with my own version, and in my case I’m not going with Milton’s mythology of Satan with the pride of sin and “It is better to rule in Hell than to serve in Heaven” and all that. I’m not doing any of that.
In my novel, in my approach, I’m giving Satan her own motivation and that is: she has an actual artistic criticism of Creation. She thinks that God screwed up.
And notice I make Satan a “she.”
BRAD LINAWEAVER: Right. The Adam and Eve thing.
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: And again, the paradigm I’m developing here is that in the existence before the creation of Earth you have angels, and you could argue whether they are created by God or spin–offs of God. I use the phrase spin–offs, the same way that they talk about spin–offs of TV shows. That God, in essence, spins off parts of himself into individual souls.
And again, it’s not Creation out of nothingness. It’s creation out of that which existed. It starts out where everything that exists is God. So the main part of Creation is not merely creating the universe to encapsulate these new souls, but the spin–offs from God. So we all originate as God stuff. As God mind.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: Instead of star stuff from the suns, God stuff spiritually speaking.
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Right. But the point is that we’re not trying to be absorbed back into this big blob. The whole point is that God did this so that we would be separate, so we would be individuated. So we would be something that he can relate to other than Himself. In other words the way I phrase it most eloquently in Escape from Heave is that in the Creation specifically, the spinning off of Minds and Souls and Wills other than His own, God trades or sacrifices — it’s a trade because he gets something back — His Omnipresence, His Omnipotence — because these other Souls have powers of their own which matter — and His Omniscience, because they now know things which He doesn’t know — it’s a trade because what He gets in exchange is the possibility of love.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: This is another area where you are not like a New Age Mystic, though just as many critics will accuse you of various Gnostic Heresies, other critics will accuse you of being some kind of New Age Mystic. Yet the New Age Mystics, almost without exception, are always trying to merge in “The Great Primordial Cosmic One” or “The God Soup,” I call it. They want everybody back in the original “God Soup.” And you’re making the opposite argument. You saying that the last thing God wants is a merging into this pantheistic ultimate “Oneness”. That God wants differentiation and basically God wants individuals?
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Yes.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: That is your central tenet?
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Right.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: And you certainly express it well in many different ways dramatically in Escape from Heaven.
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: And I give His motivation, I say that it’s not a sacrifice because God is trading his aloneness for love.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: Right.
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: And that’s a powerful imperative for God to create in the first place. Because in doing so God is inventing love.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: And he takes the hate as the price tag.
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Right. The consequence of Free Will is that there is going to be a down side. There is going to be dissonance as well as the consonance. But what does he get out of it? He gets a higher artistic tension, a higher emotional tension, and a higher thrill than ever before. I identify God as creating because he’s a thrill seeker, in the literal sense. He’s seeking new thrills.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: I think that’s original, too.
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: That Creation is God, as an artist, being driven by esthetics.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: What I think is fascinating about Escape from Heaven is you’ve got Duj Pepperman, who is an extremely interesting character. And by the way you have never ever had your, at least for me as a reader, I have never identified with any Neil Schulman character faster than you made me identify with Duj Pepperman. Chapter One, I love that guy, you had me totally identifying with him. I think it’s also, you’ve done something no writer has ever done, to my knowledge, which is make this loveable identifiable radio talk show host character and every radio talk show host in America’s got to have you on and say; “hey making your hero a radio talk show host seems like a good idea to us.”
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Yes.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: That all works.
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: If only it had gotten me on Dennis Prager and Rush Limbaugh.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: But it got you on a lot of radio shows.
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: It got me on some radio shows.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: And the thing is the whole opening gag, for want of a better phrase, which is just as powerful a hook as I’ve ever read, you know, “I’m God and your biggest fan, I can’t believe I got through.” The fact that trying to get through to one of these talk radio hosts, God would have trouble too…
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: And by the way, I need to interrupt you at this point, because that particular line “this is God calling, I’m your biggest fan,” that itself was given to me directly by God, explicitly, on February 18, 1997. He said, “I’ve got a gag for you; you have to use this in your book.”
BRAD LINAWEAVER: I’m glad you used it.
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: You remember how I talked about being a fan of God, wanting basically be God’s fan being able to just hang out with Him?
BRAD LINAWEAVER: Right.
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: You know, get that all–access backstage pass? Okay, but also it struck me that God is our biggest fan because — having given us free will — God is no longer a direct manipulator of us. We could argue about the Old Testament times, but as it is today, God prays that we will do something but He has no way of making us do it because of the free will. God is powerless when it comes to us because He has given us the power over our own lives and all He can do is be our fan and applaud when we do it and go “Awww!” when we don’t.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: In other words now the show is up to us and what you’re going to suggest is maybe God is bored with the regular traditional religious play and likes it better when we go off on our own and try to do something new. Avante garde theater at least means you don’t know the ending of those particular individuals Free Will choices?
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Yes, my concept of God is an addict of reality TV.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: I said avante garde theater but if you’re going say that because the whole universe becomes reality TV. Anyway the only reason I don’t agree with that is –
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: –because reality TV is too contrived.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: I think there’s nothing more fake than reality TV.
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: God is really a fan of reality TV.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: There is some really good writing going on in the actual real universe, I’m not quite sure how to square that with the free-will concept but I just know that the universe is better written than reality TV.
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Let’s just say that God is a better producer of reality TV than Mark Burnett.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: That is a true statement!
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Now, having said that we then come up with the multiplicity of souls, first as angels, and the differentia is angels are all intellect and no imagination. And in coming down to Earth, God creates Earth as a kindergarten. Because the angels, being eternal and not having gone through the experience that God did of creating, they don’t know what their place in existence is. They don’t know their purpose. They can’t find meaning, and when you’re eternal, not having purpose or meaning is profoundly destructive and chaotic. What I’m really talking about is the spiritual progress here of going from angel, the idea is you come to Eden –
BRAD LINAWEAVER: Earth? To the Edenic earth?
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Well, yes you come to this and the whole point is that it is a physical existence that encapsulates, where the physical body, in essence, imposes rules and limitations, which didn’t previously exist, on the angel and that the angelic spirit takes on the human body and is now subject to gravity, is now subject to force, to be able to push. It is now within a body, which has physiology and a specific anatomy and sees through eyes restricted to certain waves of light and hears sound and touch, all these physical things. The whole point is to become physical rather than merely spiritual, that the journey is exactly the opposite of what everybody seems to be saying in the New Age movement, that we’re trying to become more spiritual. No! they come here specifically to be physical. Pure spiritual wasn’t working. There was nothing to push against. There was nothing to form a personality.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: Is it that pleasures grow out of the limitations?
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Yes, because there can be no release if there is no tension. And physicality, physical materialism, provides the tension to allow a unification and a direction, to be able to grow in a particular direction, to be able to align yourself, to be able to center yourself.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: Yes, I’ve got that. Was that in your head when you wrote Escape from Heaven, the novel, or did writing the novel Escape from Heaven help coalesce this in your head?
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: It helped coalesce it in my head. A lot of this came out of the writing of Escape from Heaven, itself. The writing of Escape from Heaven was a revelation to me.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: So, writing the novel as a piece of fiction, or as a work of fiction, helped you understand some of these actual new beliefs that were colliding in you in the same sense that you know that Rand’s Atlas Shrugged is a novel but her beliefs, and her understanding of what she thinks, is also worked out in the course of writing the novel. Is that how we should view Escape from Heaven?
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Yes, but you need to be aware of the timetable, the timeline of the actual writing of the book itself. Because I have the dream in 1991.
By 1992 I have written an outline of the book and have written excerpts, various different scenes, as samples of what the writing of the book itself is going to be and that’s around 60 pages worth of material.
I submitted it to John Douglas, who had been my editor at Avon Books, and he had bought the paperback rights to my first two novels. So naturally, I submitted it to John there. Then John moved over to Harper Prism, when Harper Collins started its science fiction and fantasy line — one of the major media publishers — and I submitted it to him there again.
But the outline I wrote for Escape from Heaven back in 1992 was very, very different than what the book finally became and the differences were significant enough that it’s worth me noting them.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: Okay, by the way, was the outline back then for a full-length novel also?
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Yes. But I had not written a full–length novel. I had written around 60 pages, which consisted of a plot outline and samples of various different scenes, a lot of them being dialog, including particularly, a dialog between Duj Pepperman, whom I have now transplanted into this novel from that other thing. I’ve taken him whole, and I’ve put him into being brought to Heaven, where God is calling upon him.
Now the situation that I created in that novel, I could almost write a second novel from that original outline, it’s so different from what I ended up writing. Because in that version, Lucifer is making a fundamental challenge against God, and by the way — in that novel — Lucifer is male, Lucifer is not a female, Lucifer is not Eve, none of that is in the first outline.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: And there’s no Adam either.
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Right, exactly.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: And no Jesus?
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: You know I don’t even remember whether Jesus is a major part of it, I think it’s mostly God, and Lucifer, Lucifer being a male.
Here’s the distinction that I made in that novel. I have all sorts of time loops and time paradoxes going on. It’s much more of a science-fiction feeling book, than the novel as it turned out to be.
Understand the difference.
Nineteen-ninety-two is when I’m writing this. That is five years before my “Mind Meld.” I’ve had the frightening encounter with God. I’ve had the dream with God as a woman as my lawyer. But I haven’t had my “Mind Meld,” which doesn’t happen until February 18, 1997. This is back in 1992.
And so I’m not as far along, and remember that the actual writing of the novel itself, as it finally got published, happened almost all of it, except for maybe the first few chapters, in the three-and-a-half or so weeks following 9/11 – September 11, 2001.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: Now, I remember the intensity, because I came back a week after the attack, because my flight had been delayed in Atlanta. When I returned I remembered very vividly you during the creative process of writing the novel.
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Right. And, again, it was the most intensive experience I’d ever had in my life, and certainly I had had nothing that intense. Remember, I mentioned in one of the earlier discussions, that something happened to me during the last month of writing Rainbow Cadenza? It’s coming back to me now.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: Yes, refresh my memory.
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Well, I just refreshed my memory. Because again, that happened in 1981. I just remembered it was the writing of the argument between Joan Darris and Hill Bromley, on precisely the theological argument, was when I think that I first apprehended that God was inside my head talking to me.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: But don’t forget that in an earlier section of these interviews that we are doing, I talked to you about the fact that I first sensed a huge sea change in you when I read that in Rainbow Cadenza, which I had to read that section over and over in order to do my afterword.
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: But there is a significant difference that I have to note now.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: Okay.
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: It scared the Hell out of me.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: Because?
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Because God was inside me and was, in essence, feeding me this stuff, and I wasn’t ready for it.
And I found myself one night sitting in a chair and shaking violently because of what had just happened to me.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: In other words you could never be a happy atheist again?
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Right. In other words, I didn’t know what was happening to me. I was not prepared for it. It was not a pleasant experience. But God was in essence collaborating with me and it was shaking me, physically. And of course, 1981, that’s even before I’d had the hand-on-my-heart experience. That’s the first time, now that I think about it, that I have God really touching me.
So we have that in November or December of 1981. Then we have the hand on my heart in April, 1988, and the dream where I learn what causes my fear of death a few weeks after that.
The dream of Heaven, which leads to Escape from Heaven in its first version, in 1991, and then the “Mind Meld,” in February 1997. Those are the sequences here.
We’re getting these jumps. It’s not just one experience. It’s a series of evolving experiences, with me being better and better prepared to deal with them, without being confronted.
By the time we get to 1997, which we haven’t gotten to yet, it’s an entirely thrilling and pleasurable experience, as opposed to these frightening experiences that I’ve had before. The first contacts with God shake me up. This one I’m in ecstasy.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: It goes from pain to pleasure, I had to say that.
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Yes, it goes from pain to pleasure.
Now, we’re back when I’m writing my first outline of , the outline which is so different it could actually be a different novel.
And in many ways it has more of the sense, in terms of style of something like Dogma, than it does Escape from Heaven. Escape from Heaven does not have the sharpness, the sort of anti-religious sharpness. I have Duj Pepperman, in dialog in the first outline of Escape from Heaven, really lipping off in a major way to God. He’s being very, very accusatory, and God comes across as a lot more cynical and defensive in the first version of Escape from Heaven that I’m doing back in 1992, the one that I submitted.
Here are some of the differences. Okay, first of all, Lucifer in that one is male, but Lucifer is not one character. I have Lucifer making the charge against God that God is not a Trinity, that there is a fourth personality — one that we haven’t heard about — and the fourth one has gone insane.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: Oh, I like that!
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Then I have God arguing back and saying, “Well, here’s the problem. Lucifer doesn’t realize that it’s he who’s insane.”
What has happened, you have had a time loop in which you have two of them, one who calls himself Lucifer, the other one who calls himself Satan, and they are at war with each other.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: I like that. You should write this sometime. It’s not necessarily contradictory to the Escape from Heaven world and it could be done as kind of a subcreation or even as an alternate –
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: It’s a totally different novel. It is fundamentally different because all of the characters are different except for maybe Duj who’s pretty much the same, except that Duj is not so accepting of God. Duj is really a militant atheist in the first version.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: Does he change?
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Well, yes. But he changes because in essence he is given the responsibility of trying to find out the truth — which paradigm is correct? Again, it goes back to this tension, which I’m always talking about, which I had as an agnostic, of here you are presented with multiple paradigms, different people are telling you different things — which one is true? And you’re the one who has to figure it out,
and everything depends on you choosing right.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: You know what happened to you esthetically? Because I have an idea about this.
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Go ahead.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: The earlier book would have been an easier sale to a commercial publisher and the older Neil Schulman fans would have preferred it precisely because it was before the experiences you had that did not so much soften you as awaken you to a different universe. In other words instead of being on the attack — which was what they wanted — you’re writing a book that’s more of a revelation, of, “Look what I found out.”
Actually, on a purely literary level, this book you’ve written Escape from Heaven, is more interesting, because a revelation or “look what I found out” is more interesting than just one more programmatic attack.
But the fan base that we’ve all built as libertarian science fiction writers, and Prometheus Award winners, our fan base is happiest when we’re on the attack, not when we’re putting forward something that we’ve learned from just being around awhile, and if not gaining in wisdom at least expanding our database. You’ve got a lot more thought inEscape from Heaven than the first book would have had.
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Right, because I’d had another mind collaborating with me, which wasn’t fully there in 1992.
In other words, the first version I really wrote as a human being. I had some ideas which had been given to me, but it wasn’t inspired the same way that what became the final novel was inspired. Most of the inspiration happened during the actual writing in September, 2001.
And here is the March 27, 1993 proposal for Escape from Heaven that I sent to my editor, John Douglas.
A Novel Proposal
J. Neil Schulman
Proposed Length: 70,000 – 90,000 words
Settings: Current day America, Heaven, A Suburban Universe, Hell-
Logline: A man dies and goes to Heaven, only to find himself not
at peace but back on Earth as a partisan in the ultimate War.
Duj Pepperman, a dead radio talk-show host. Saviour of
humankind, the universe, and God Almighty.
Caulinn Helms, lead singer of the rock group Seminal Lunch, whom
Duj falls in love with when he returns to earth after his death.
“Manchu” Ellins, homicide detective with the Culver City,
California, police department.
Myron Kaplowitz, a boyhood friend of Duj’s who died when Duj was
Sally Pepperman, Duj’s daughter. She was two-years-old when Duj
died; when he meets her in Heaven, she’s a grown woman.
God (Jesus H. Christ, Cineman Hulls). Creator of the universe
and the smartest, nicest, and all-around best person you ever
want to meet.
Satan (Sun Amen Chill, Uncle Nimlash, Iceman Shnull). A
rebellious angel. As smart as God but not nearly as nice.
Lucifer, Satan’s alter ego. An unfallen angel, still on God’s
side. Go figure.
Duj Pepperman, our first-person narrator for this story, is
not the sort of guy you think of as a hero. He’s in his middle
forties and looks it. He’s less than a year out of a bad
marriage, has one two-year-old daughter, and lives in Southern
California, where he makes a decent living as a talk radio
personality, fifteen hours a week.
It’s not a bad life. But it is, by most of our standards,
too short. On his way home from the studio, one night, Duj is
walking to his car when out of the blue, something hits him in
the head, fast. It could be anything from a small meteor to a
bullet. Duj never finds out what it is. But suddenly, he’s
floating slightly above his body, which is now lying face down on
the concrete, with blood oozing out of his head.
It takes Duj a few moments to figure out that this isn’t a
dream, then a bright light appears above him, and he realizes he
has a choice: to climb back into his body and continue living on
earth, or to follow the light. He realizes that, for him — now
that he knows there is continued consciousness after the body
dies — he is more interested in finding out what happens next
than hanging around on Earth.
He floats up toward the light.
It is, as reported, an ecstatic experience. And when he
gets to the end, he finds a welcoming committee made up of an old
friend of his from school, Myron Kaplowitz, and a young woman
whom he doesn’t know right off but looks familiar. He soon
learns that the young woman is his daughter, Sally, who was two-
years-old when Duj died.
The source of the light is an immense, luminescent-crystal
palace off in the distance but immediately before him are the
streets of what looks to be the commercial district of a great
city at night.
Myron and Sally help reorient Duj to his new existence. He
learns that his new body has many more “options” than his old
body, and he delights in exploring them: the ability to change
hair or skin colors, body type — even gender — metabolism, and
resist or repair damage by drawing on an unlimited supply of
power. Going to Heaven is a lot like being from Krypton and
finding yourself on Earth.
He starts by morphing his body into better shape, then
learns that his new brain has a direct access to the Tree of
Knowledge, giving him virtual-reality access to almost all the
knowledge of the universes — just a question away. He works a
bit on smoothing out the interface parameters, so that he can ask
a question and decide in what form he wants it answered:
holographically, visually, a spoken answer, or even text display.
But the new power that delights him most is his ability to
fly like a superhero, which he’s dreamt of his entire life. He
gets the grand tour of the heavenly city. Unlike the Heaven in
Heinlein’s Job, there are no angels handing out traffic tickets
to unlicensed humans.
From his bird’s eye view, Duj has a panoramic view of the
city. It’s an island, but surrounded not by ocean but by empty
space, unbroken even by stars. Duj finds he has the ability to
see distant things at different magnifications at will. He can
see the palace, glowing incandescently in the blackness
Duj lands for some closer-up sightseeing, and learns what
Heaven is. It’s essentially a multidimensional port city. It
functions much as cities do on Earth for people who live in the
suburbs: it’s where eternal souls come to meet each other, share
public entertainments, debate politics, engage in commerce.
It’s also the capital of the many universes, where God
lives, and is the home of the all-knowing universal library,
known by mystics as the Akashic Records or the Tree of Knowledge.
Hardly anybody except for some angels live there; everybody else
is off in their own universes, and only come into town to meet,
or if they need to see God, or need to do extended direct
research in the downtown branch of the Tree of Knowledge.
The city design isn’t completely different from cities as we
know them, but this city makes Rodeo Drive or Fifth Avenue look
like slums by comparison. The use of precious metals,
crystalline structures, and ornamental jewels as ordinary
construction materials is overwhelming. Special effects of the
sort you’d see in theme parks — only done with a three-
dimensional reality we’ve encountered in our lives only as flat
images on movie screens — are routine. Duj’s first thoughts are
that what Heaven resembles more than anything else is Disneyland
done for real.
Duj learns that it’s mostly angels on God’s payroll who live
in the heavenly city itself; most everybody else goes into their
own time-space continuum to create their own universes. Being
able to create your own universe — design and furnish it as you
please — is private property with a big bang.
But Duj does see some celebrities in Heaven. He passes a
cafe where JFK is having lunch with Jackie. Duj is surprised
because Jackie was still alive when he died; Sally explains that
time loops — like the one that has her a live two-year-old on
Earth when Duj leaves, and a grown up eternal soul when he
arrives — are routine in Heaven, so he just might as well get
used to them.
They pass a Heavenly Hyde Park with a heated debate between
Thomas Jefferson and Richard Nixon, and another between Martin
Luther and C.S. Lewis, and pass a panel discussion on philosophy
with Aristotle, Ayn Rand, and Emmanuel Kant, in time to see Ayn
Rand leap at Aristotle’s throat after Aristotle casually mentions
his opinion that all women are good for is slavery.
There’s also a wild discussion going on among angels, who
are charging that God’s not a Trinity, but has a crazy fourth
personality, and that God is suffering from Multiple Personality
Disorder. This, they claim, explains God’s bizarre behavior with
regard to Earth. The angels also have a bunch of complaints
regarding God having limited their security level in the Tree of
Knowledge, and there’s some wild talk about storming the Heavenly
Palace and subjecting God to a sanity hearing. In another
seemingly bizarre time paradox, the two angels who are the most
antagonistic debaters are Lucifer — who is arguing that God is
sane — and Satan, who’s actually Lucifer at a different age,
who’s the one arguing for putting God on trial. Which one of the
two is the older soul is something we don’t know.
Sick of political discourse, Duj and Sally stop off for a
movie, written by Woody Allen, directed by George Lucas, music by
Beethoven, and starring Woody himself, “Slick Willie”
Shakespeare, Charlie Chaplin, Greta Garbo, Donna Reed, Robin
Williams, Sarah Bernhardt, and the Marx Brothers.
Duj and Sally also take a trip to visit Duj’s parents in
their own universe. Sally’s visited before. Unlike most married
couples, Duj’s parents found they had enough in common to want to
team up again, and have collaborated on building a universe
together. It’s a small and brand-new universe, but well-along
because it wasn’t created from scratch; it’s based on a lot of
build-a-universe shareware downloaded from the Tree, with only
one Earth-like planet inhabited by humans. On this particular
planet, it’s day all the time and nobody ever sleeps; all the
cultural institutions and customs are strange to us because of
that one difference. For example, there’s hardly any imagination
– no concept of lying or fiction — no sense of “home” or
privacy. Duj finds out that his parents, as gods, are a lot more
interesting now than he ever thought they were when they were
As Duj and Sally return to the Heavenly City after the
visit, they stumble into the middle of an angelic riot, led by
Satan, and triggered off by God — having heard Satan’s remarks
– deciding to drop the angels’ security access level to the Tree
even further — far below that of human beings. Satan has told
his troops to round up as many human souls as they can get their
hands on, both as shields against attacks God might make on them,
and also to try using humans to hack their way back into the Tree
again, the secrets of which they need to stand a chance of
Escaping from the rioters, Duj and Sally meet up with Myron,
and the three make plans to escape from Heaven by jumping back
into Earth’s time line at various points. Even on Earth they can
uplink to the Tree, and by leaving messages for each other in
T-mail, they can figure out a way to rendezvous and figure out
further plans later. But they’ll all have to be careful and keep
their uplinks short and untraceable; if the rebels jack into the
Tree, any of their uplinks could be instant capture.
With Satan’s angels hot on their trails, Duj, Sally, and
Myron each dive back down toward Earth. Of course, since Duj is
our narrator, we stick with his point of view.
Duj dives out of Heaven back to the moment of his death. We
replay his death scene, only this time, when the women trips over
Duj’s body and screams, Duj slips back into his body, gets up,
and tells her he was just stunned; he’s okay.
As soon as he’s gotten rid of her, he steps behind a truck,
exits his damaged body again, and lets it fall to the ground.
Then he rematerializes next to it in his new body, says, “Save,”
and zaps his old body, so it instantly disappears.
Outwardly, Duj resumes his life on Earth as if he’d never
left it. But his perspective is different, and sometimes he
lends us his heavenly perspective. He tells us about watching an
AIDS benefit on MTV, only to have it transform before his eyes
into Stars Against Death on TV. (“Over two million Americans die
every year,” says Cher. “Few of us haven’t lost someone near and
dear to us. It’s a disease that hits young and old alike, and we
all know it’s in store for us. Yet, what has the President done
to stop this awful plague?”)
Until Duj can rendezvous safely with Myron and Sally, his
main problem is simply keeping a low profile. Which isn’t all
that easy, when you’re a young god resuming your old life on
earth. The misery we take for granted seems stupid and wasteful;
yet, for Duj to fix things too visibly leaves the possibility of
his being detected. Even a short flight is out of the question;
he can make himself invisible to living people easily, but not
from hostile angels.
Also, he realizes how much unseen goings on there are on
Earth, enemy territory held by Satan’s angels. Obviously,
Satan’s angels have entered earth’s timestream far into our past,
and now treat it as occupied turf. There are entire cities of
fallen angels on Earth, visible to him but invisible to us. Duj
has to pretend that he doesn’t see them; masquerading as human,
Duj has to avoid reacting to the devilish cruelty that invisible
angels routinely impose on humans.
Duj realizes that most of human history starts to make sense
when you realize it’s a several-millennia’s old hostage crisis.
It comes time for the uplink, and Duj learns that both Myron
and Sally have been captured by the enemy. However, Myron has
left him a message: God wants to meet with him.
The rendezvous instructions are included in the message.
The City of the Angels, Souplantation Restaurant, the next
afternoon at two.
It is only by very careful blending in that Duj avoids being
detected by enemy angels when he uplinks to get this information.
Duj has trepidations about meeting with God. He was an
atheist most of his life, and even when he decided that he
believed in God before his death, he wasn’t sure what kind of God
he believed in. Reading the Old Testament, in particular, has
given him doubts. If the Bible is at all accurate, then as far
as Duj is concerned, the spirit inside the Ark of the Covenant,
talking to Moses, couldn’t have been any worse to the ancient
Jews if it were Adolf Hitler traveling back in time.
But when the meeting happens, God puts Duj at ease by
treating him as an equal, and discussing all of Duj’s doubts
rationally and calmly.
After God recruits Duj to his army, Duj is given his
mission. He needs to recruit some living humans as a commando
squad, and pull a raid on an earthbound concentration camp, where
fallen angels are keeping immortal humans and loyalist angels
prisoner. There is one prisoner in particular that Duj must get
out: Lucifer. Not Satan, but Lucifer. Lucifer and Satan are two
time segments of one being, but which one will prevail in
eternity is in doubt, the result of a time loop the two of them
are locked in. If Lucifer is freed and defeats Satan, then
Lucifer the Lightbringer will be the aftergod of the two. If
Satan wins, then Satan will be the aftergod. And which one
prevails is the crucial linch pin of this entire war — and that
job is now a young god’s who when on earth was called Duj
Pepperman. If Duj can’t get Lucifer out of Satan’s prison,
that’s it for the human race, the loyal angels including Lucifer,
and God Himself.
God explains that He, Himself, is in fact vulnerable. He
can lose. The outcome of this war isn’t a sure thing, much as
human writers would like to think so. God had to allow himself
to be vulnerable as a condition of setting the events in motion
that created the possibility of His victory in the first place.
God had to die on Earth as a man in order to make resurrection of
embodied humans possible; but when He did so, God was
incapacitated for three Celestial Days. During these three Days,
He is completely vulnerable to attack — and if the angelic guard
fails, God can be captured and imprisoned forever, just like a
There is one minor catch, from Duj’s point of view. Every
human Duj recruits for the mission must be a willing volunteer
whom Duj is convinced will be both effective and loyal. Then Duj
must kill them, and resurrect them a few days later.
This is bound to draw attention, both from the enemy angels,
and from earthbound police authorities.
Duj goes to work, looking for recruits. One of his first
recruits is a living woman he falls in love with, lead singer of
the rock band, Seminal Lunch. Her name is Caulinn Helms.
After getting to know her, Duj reveals himself to her at a hotel
in Culver City, California, asks her if she wants to join God’s
army, and when she says yes, he makes love to her tenderly then
smothers her to death with a pillow.
Duj’s next recruit is the Culver City police detective who’s
investigating the murder, “Manchu” Ellins. Duj recruits and
kills him, too.
As the TV news starts reporting on a new serial killer
operating in Los Angeles, Satan — who’s better known on Earth as
evangelist Sun Amen Chill — detects what Duj is up to, and Duj’s
only chance is to play double agent, convincing Satan that he’s
really on his side and that he’s really spying out God for Satan.
Satan might believe this, because Duj is right on the margin
between whom he believes. And God’s troops aren’t supposed to go
around murdering living people anyway — even the bad ones, much
less the good ones.
The real danger is that this silver-tongued Satan just might
convince Duj that Satan’s side is telling the truth, that God is
At just the right moment, Duj makes his way into the morgue
at the medical examiner’s, and pulls a resurrection.
The clock is now ticking. The beginning of celestial Easter
has begun — the three days God is out of action. Duj can’t
uplink to the Tree of Knowledge without revealing his whereabouts
to the enemy. And now that he’s resurrected the people he’s
killed, Satan can probably guess which side Duj is fighting for.
Even if Satan’s not sure, he’s not likely to trust Duj with
Duj gives his commandos a short course on their new powers,
then takes them onto the raid. The concentration camp where
Lucifer is being held prisoner is both well-hidden and well-
defended, but through courage, logic, and more imagination than I
have writing this at four o’clock in the morning, Duj and his
commandos make it into the prison, liberate Lucifer, and help in
the final mano y mano duel between Lucifer and Satan.
Return to Heaven. Sweet victory. All heroes reunited.
John Williams music here. Thank you all very, very much for
They all live happily forever after.
ESCAPE FROM HEAVEN
There’s an old saying that everybody wants to go to Heaven,
but nobody wants to die.
That’s how it was for me, anyway.
I drove a Volvo because I was told it was the safest car
around. And it was a smart choice. I was killed by something
I owned a gun so I wouldn’t die at the hands of a burglar.
I was right about that, too. The burglar who broke into my
bedroom ran like hell when he saw the .45 I was pointing at
him … and I was killed by someone else.
I quit smoking, lost weight, worked out three times a week,
ate a low cholesterol diet, and practiced safe sex, because I
didn’t want to die of cancer, heart disease, AIDS, or emphysema,
and it paid off: I died of something else.
You see, that’s the part they forget to mention. No matter
what nasty ways of dying you avoid, there’s always another one
waiting for you. If one thing doesn’t get you, another thing
will. Sooner or later, you die of something else.
Everybody could have saved an awful lot of thought that went
into bumper stickers and public service messages. All they would
have had to say is, “Don’t do that. Die of something else.”
It would have saved me a lot of trouble, too. I was a
coward most of my life, because I was afraid of dying.
My story begins the day I died.
WHEN DUJ JUST DIES
I used to have an infallible way of knowing when I was awake
and when I was dreaming. In dreams, I could levitate myself off
the floor at will; when I was awake, I couldn’t. This worked
even when I was asleep and dreaming. If I could levitate, I was
dreaming. There were plenty of times in dreams when I told
people that I knew I was dreaming — they didn’t exist and were
merely part of my solipsistic fantasy — because I was
levitating. And since I could only do that while dreaming, this
was just another dream.
So right after my death, when I found myself levitating a
few feet over my body, I thought at first I was alive and
But somehow I knew that wasn’t the right answer. In the
remake of Heaven Can Wait, James Mason is an angel, trying to
convince Warren Beatty, who’s walking around the clouds confused,
that he’s dead. Mason asks Beatty something like, where do you
think you are, anyway? And Beatty answers something like, I’m
asleep and dreaming. What James Mason says next is so true, I
wonder how the screenwriter knew about it without having died
himself. Mason says, in effect, that dreams are a part of life,
and if you just think for a minute, you’ll know that this is
That’s exactly how it is. Dreams are a part of life, and
when you die and leave your body, you just know that however
bizarre this experience is, it’s not a dream.
The thing I felt most when I realized I was dead was utter
joy at discovering that I still was. I existed! I hadn’t been
snuffed out. My memory was intact. I still knew who I was and
who I had been. I’d always wondered how you could have
consciousness and memory without a physical brain to put them in.
Well, my RAM was being saved to that big Hard Disk in the sky.
It looked as if I still had a chance to discover meaning for my
existence. Death wasn’t the ultimate banality. Maybe there was
a point to it all, after all.
They say that your life passes before you right when you
die. Well, for me it wasn’t literal, like watching my life in a
movie or anything, but when it happened something told me that
you sometimes have a choice about whether or not you can stay or
go. Obviously, if your body is damaged beyond repair, you’re
going and that’s that. But I had a sense that I was being given
a choice. If I really wanted to stay, I could climb back into my
body and hang on.
So I thought about my life.
I’d always thought of myself as an underachiever. I was
never able to do schoolwork that didn’t interest me. I got A’s
in subjects I cared about and F’s in ones I didn’t. I was the
kid in the back row who was reading comic books and science-
fiction novels behind the textbook I wasn’t interested in.
I quit college to become a writer, and became one for a
while. Some of my stuff was damned good if I say so myself, but
it was never a real living. The occasional sale I got in
Hollywood was option money on projects that never got into
development; my books never earned out an advance. This didn’t
encourage agents or publishers to want the next one. I was broke
a lot of the time.
I tried starting a lot of businesses, and never made a dime
out of any of them. All were harebrained schemes, disastrously
executed. Finally, I stumbled into a job as a talk radio host,
and that’s what I’d been doing for the last eight years.
I married late, had one wonderful child, and divorced early.
My ex-wife had remarried and moved cross country; I had to wedge
my time with my daughter into phone calls and occasional
weekends. I was lonely a lot of the time, and tried to handle it
When I considered the thought that my life was over, I felt
unfinished. What was the point of my life on Earth anyway? To
reproduce? Okay, I’d done that. But that merely pushes the
necessity of finding a meaning for life onto someone else. What
was the meaning of my life? What was its purpose? Why had I
lived and what was I supposed to do with my life now that I was
Right about the time that some lady came along, tripped over
my body, and screamed, I saw the night sky blaze into a brilliant
light, and I had an overwhelming sense of being drawn into the
I was being given a choice. I thought that above all I had
always felt out of place during my life, as if I was in a foreign
country, and now I was being given a chance to go home. I also
thought that the mystery that had always puzzled me — the
question of why we live in the first place — might be answered
for me in a few minutes.
Life is a suspense story, and what makes it suspenseful is
not knowing how it comes out. The biggest mystery — the one
that has you lying in bed awake at night — is whether or not you
die when your body dies.
All you know when you’re on Earth is life within your body.
You can’t imagine living without it. For all your life you’re in
the dark about what you are. You read that you’re a biochemical
reaction trapped in a piece of meat, and when you die, the
reaction fizzles and the meat rots. And, so, most of the scary
images of death have to do with dead bodies in various states of
disintegration: skulls, bones, meat lockers, graves, and the
paraphernalia of the undertaker.
If that isn’t enough, horror stories try to make it worse
with three awful ideas: first that this rotting meat is all
that’s left of you when you die; second and worse: that after you
die you’re a disembodied ghost trapped in post-life impotence; or
third and worst: that you’re still conscious inside the rotting
meat, and can experience the slow rotting. All the Halloween
death images, ghosts, and goblins, are a conspiracy by people who
don’t believe in an afterlife anyway to scare the shit out of us.
It works. In that fear is a con game — and you’re the
mark. If we knew down deep — really knew, without fear of doubt
– that we were going to continue living once we separate from
the meat — and not as ghosts, either — our fear couldn’t be
used to stampede us.
I’d made my decision. I didn’t even bother looking back to
see what was happening to my body. As far as I was concerned, I
cared about it about as much as clothes you leave for the
Salvation Army truck.
I floated up toward the light. You hear about the light,
and how it overwhelms you with a sense of joy. Let me tell you,
it’s better than anything. In specific terms, it’ll be different
for you. But for me, flying into the light was like making it
with Sophia Loren in zero-gravity while eating a pralines-and-
cream sundae and listening to Brahms’ Third Symphony and cracking
up at Sam Kinnison and getting that final piece in the puzzle and
crossing the finish line. All satisfaction circuits on full,
There is a dreamy quality in flying toward the light. Then
you get to it, and your eyes — or whatever sight organs have
replaced them — adjust, and things come into focus, becoming
Religions make a lot of promises about what you win if you
make it to Heaven. You’re supposed to be reunited with your
loved ones. You meet God. Some suggest that you yourself become
a god. Some promise you rest, or peace. Some promise you a
bigger playground to play in, and all the time you want to do it.
Yeah, that’s what’s on the contract.
RETURNING TO A HEAVEN UNDER ATTACK
I was startled by a voice that sounded as if it was right
next to my ear: //Duj, can you hear me? It’s Myron.\\
“Myron?” I said aloud, looking around frantically. I didn’t
see anyone. “Where are you?”
//Shhh!\\ I heard Myron say. //If you talk aloud the angels
will hear you! And believe me, you don’t want that. Just think
clearly and I’ll hear you — we’ve got a private channel.\\
I thought hard, //Can you hear me now?\\
//Perfect. Listen, I can’t come to you so you’re going to
have to come to me.\\
//How?\\ I asked.
//I’ll make a tunnel right in front of you. Fly into it and
follow it to the end. Hurry! They’ve spotted you!\\
I saw a glowing hole in the blackness iris open a few yards
in front of me almost at the same time I heard the shouts getting
closer. I dove into the hole just in time; it irised closed
behind me, just as I saw a glowing hand reach for my foot.
The glow was up ahead of me now. //Myron, you still
//Just fly forward. I’ll be at the end.\\
The tunnel wasn’t straight; it twisted around like a snake.
But I managed to navigate through until I saw the proverbial
light at the end of the tunnel. A few seconds later, I emerged
into what looked to be a palatial hall, with a couch, a coffee
table, and some upholstered chairs sitting in the center. Myron,
dressed in jeans and a dark blue sweater, was standing next to
the coffee table.
I floated over near to him and landed.
Myron put out his hand and we shook. “Duj, glad you could
make it. You can talk again, now — we’re safe here.”
I looked around the room for the first time. It was sort of
a mixture of Buckingham Palace and Superman’s Fortress of
Solitude. “Nice place. Yours?”
“Yep. Be it ever so humble. Listen, take a load off. We
have a lot to talk about.”
“That’s the understatement of … of eternity,” I said. We
sat down. “Myron, where are we? What’s going on? What the
hell’s going on out there?”
“Short answers?” Myron said. “We’re in my personal
apartments inside the walls of the Heavenly Palace. Outside the
walls are what’s left of Heaven, a city in the middle of what you
in the broadcasting business like to call ‘civil unrest.’ And
that was a gang of angels who were sent to capture you.”
“Why would they want to capture me?”
“Because they knew that if they didn’t stop you first, you’d
end up here.”
“And why should they care about that?”
“Because God needs you to defeat them.”
DUJ CONTEMPLATES HIS UPCOMING MEETING WITH GOD
You know, it’s hard to read the Bible and not get really
pissed off at God.
Take the Book of Genesis. Adam and Eve, practically born
yesterday — and with no knowledge of good or evil — disobey
their father as any child might, talked into it by a playmate.
God curses them for it. They’re run out of Eden because they
might eat off the Tree of Life and become immortals, and are
sentenced to a life at hard labor, followed by death.
Their son, Cain — a farmer — brings God some of his crops
as an offering. Well, he’s a farmer — what would you expect to
get as an offering? God rejects it in favor of some barbecued
lamb from Cain’s brother Abel, a sheepherder. Then God lectures
Cain on how he has no reason to be sullen for being rejected.
Cain kills his brother in anger at God’s unfair rejection; and
God curses Cain.
There’s no mention of God raising Abel from the dead,
either. I guess God didn’t learn that technique till later. Or
maybe He didn’t think all that much of Abel to begin with.
Even with these curses from God, the budding human race
prevails. The angels think our women are beautiful and marry
them. God disapproves. Does He impose sanctions on the angels?
Nope. He cuts our lifespan from eight or nine hundred years, to
a maximum of one-hundred-twenty — to make us less attractive to
But God isn’t finished with us. Except for one human
family, He floods the Earth and drowns the human race; then tries
to make up for it with a promise that He won’t do it again.
We’re just getting on our feet again, and figuring out how
to build a city with a tower — and God figures that if we’re
building skyscrapers in our racial infancy, nothing will be
beyond us when we grow up. So does He praise us for our
initiative? Maybe even lend us a helping hand? No, He does
not. He curses us so we can’t all speak the same language
anymore, to set us at war with each other so we can’t try it
He suckers Abraham into thinking that he has to kill his
beloved son Isaac as a sacrifice to God — then sends a messenger
to stop him at the last instant, with the lame excuse that He was
just trying his faith.
Then there’s Job, a good man who worships the very dust God
kicks in his face. God turns him over to the devil on a bet, and
lets the devil kill his children, take all his wealth, and plague
him with illness. And when Job is tormented by his friends for
not admitting that his cruel fate is the result of his own sins,
and Job cries out to God for any relief at all — even immediate
death — God gives Job a lecture about how much smarter he is
than Job and how dare Job put his judgment up against God’s on
You can almost see God’s guilt on that one: he does what any
child-beater does the next morning — goes on a shopping spree
and tries to make it up. The maximum human life span is supposed
to be one-hundred-twenty years? God breaks his own limit and
gives Job, already an old man, another one-hundred forty, and
restores his property double. God even gives him replacement
But you’re left wondering whether Job ever cries at night
over the loss of his first kids.
Reading through the first five books of the Bible in one
sitting is enough to convince any objective person that this God
whom Moses is working for is a manic-depressive nut case. God
frees the Israelites from slavery to the Egyptians only to prove
Himself a slavedriver so awful that afterwards the Israelites,
almost to a man, wish God had left them in Egypt. And the
feeling is mutual: there is so little love and respect between
God and the Israelites that God tells Moses that He should just
kill everyone He’s liberated, except for Moses, and make Moses’s
offspring his chosen people. For some perverse reason, Moses
talks God out of it, and the two of them subject the Israelites
to police-state regulations that even Orwell couldn’t have
invented. Talking wrong or thinking wrong is punished by death
– burning to death if God is particularly miffed. Women’s
periods are lumped in with leprosy as “unclean.” The rules for
sacrifices, punishments, diet, and sex make the IRS code seem
lucid and benevolent by comparison. And God’s rules about how
anyone who isn’t physically perfect is to be kept out of his
sight — any disability, even a scar or a broken leg — is enough
to have the ACLU set up permanent picket lines.
We jump forward to the New Testament, when God incarnates
himself as a Man. It seems God has decided He doesn’t want us to
be deaders after all, after taunting us for the first few
thousand years about how we’re going to return to dust. He’s
going to give us immortality after all. Okay, human beings get
convinced that this Man really is God — and we strike. We’ve
had enough of this drunken, pompous, bullying child-torturer of
an abusive father — this cosmic Adolf Hitler on a coke binge.
His battered children nail Him on the cross as fast as we can.
Speaking for the battered children of God — could you blame
us? With a God like this, who needs a Devil?
This was the God I was being summoned by. I knew why the
churches always talked about fear of God. This God was supposed
to be all-powerful, and whenever He started talking about how
much He loves us, it’s always looked like a good time to duck and
Our race had good reason to be scared shitless. So did I.
Of course there was another possibility: that all these
stories about God were a crock. If the Bible was a pack of lies,
then God might have got a bum rap.
But I was going to have to ask. And if God didn’t give me
answers to convince me that he was not only powerful and smart,
but more importantly loving, kind, sane, and just, then I wasn’t
going to enlist.
On behalf of the human race, it was nice to be in the
driver’s seat, for once.
DUJ’S INTERVIEW WITH GOD
“You have some questions,” God said. “Ask them.”
“When was the last time you spoke to anyone on Earth?
Directly, I mean; not through dreams or revelations.”
“As myself? A couple hundred years after I died on the
Cross, more or less.”
“That was the last time you visited Earth?”
“Oh, no. I’m there right now. In disguise, of course. Got
to keep my eye on things.”
“Why have you been so secretive?”
“You get nailed up on a Cross, you wouldn’t be so anxious to
let people know who you were, either.”
“That seems a particularly selfish answer, for a God who
claims to be a loving father.”
“From the way you were thinking about it before you came in
here, I would think I”d be doing you a favor by staying away
“Well, was what I was thinking true? Did you do all those
things the Bible says you did?”
“Let me ask you a question,” God said. “The Book of Job” –
He pronounced it “Eyob” — “it recounts a conversation I
supposedly had with my adversary — the leader of the loyal
opposition. ‘Satan,’ in the King James translation. So tell me.
How is it that a conversation up here in Heaven gets reported on
“You tell me,” I said.
“It doesn’t. Never happened. Hogwash from a political
“Adam and Eve?”
“These first ancestors of yours — bad-ass kids. You still
have the type in your century — phone phreaks, computer jackers,
credit-card scam artists. Young Lex Luthors. Hacked their way
into the Tree of Knowledge on a bet. Once they were augmented by
the Tree, there could have been no stopping them. You’ve heard
that knowledge is power? The Tree has a record of everything.
How to genetically engineer a virus. How to make a sun go
supernova. How to create a self-destroying time loop. I was
easy on them, just kicking them out of Eden — taking away their
powers. I thought about killing them on the spot. Sometimes I
still think I should have. If I had, though, you and I wouldn’t
be having this conversation.”
A chill went up my spine. It’s one thing to contemplate
never having been born. It’s another to contemplate your race’s
having been stillborn.
“Cain and Abel?”
I wasn’t even around when this punk kid murders his brother.
This business about my getting turned on by burnt offerings –
barbecue smoke. Does that make any sense to you?”
“Never happened. Next.”
“Abraham and Isaac?”
“Old man had Alzheimer’s disease, starts thinking that I
want him to sacrifice his son to me. Would’ve done it if I
hadn’t sent an angel to stop him.”
“Noah and the flood.”
“That story couldn’t have been written any other way,
because only the survivors lived to tell the tale. I told
everybody on Earth about the upcoming flood. Earth’s axis was
going to have to be realigned — polar ice caps were going to
melt. It was either that or lose the entire planetary ecology,
anyway. Take my word — or consult the Tree to bone up on
cosmological economics. Anybody who believed me built ships,
took animals and family aboard. Those who didn’t drowned.
Hardly anybody believed me, except a few families. And for the
record, there were eight arks, not one. Noah’s the only captain
who kept a ship’s log.”
“You could have saved everyone, if you wanted to.”
“I didn’t want to. I played fair. Gave a warning to those
who’d listen. Evil and stupid go hand in hand. I can’t see
anything wrong with letting evildoers get blown up on their own
petards. Be happy you aren’t descended from the ones who died.
You can’t imagine what bastards they were.”
“Their babies, too?”
“Those kids never had a fair chance. Their parents would
have made them go bad, and after the flood, there was barely
enough to go around for the ones who lived. We’re talking post-
disaster times. Evolution has its own built-in logic. You show
sympathy when you have to let weeding happen, all you do is make
more misery later.”
“You do sound like Hitler.”
“Difference between me and Hitler is that he was a moronic
lunatic with no knowledge of science, and I’m God. When I weed,
I don’t do it on the basis of national borders, or ethnic
alliances, or religious beliefs. I don’t even do it on the basis
of sexual preference, much as your religious right would like to
pin AIDS on me. When I kill a bloodline, it’s to improve the
overall breed. The job has to be done and I’m the only one with
enough knowledge to do it. If I hadn’t, your race would have
murdered itself a hundred times over already, or died weakened by
another thousand ills.”
“I apologize,” I said. “My comparison was uncalled for.”
“No apology needed. You do a thorough interview. Next
“Cutting our lifespan because of the angels marrying our
“That’s exactly backwards. Only reason your race continued
living that long was because of angelic cross-breeding. Once I
forbid them from raping your women, your race reverted to its
“Why weren’t we offered immortality until your incarnation?”
“You were supposed to have it from the start — and would
have if Adam and Eve hadn’t pulled their little stunt. Remember,
the Tree of Life was already planted in Eden. Think it was there
for fun? Took me a few millennia to reengineer around the
problems Adam and Eve caused by trying to steal what they weren’t
ready for. Evolutionary ecology is a tricky business.”
“Tower of Babel? The curse of languages?”
“Come on, get real. You people invent jargon and dialects
to set yourselves apart. Amazing you understand each other at
“No curse except being cut off from the Tree of Knowledge.
A Berlitz course comes free with every uplink.”
“The sexism in Leviticus?”
“Male chauvinist priesthood. Not my doing.”
“How about the endless laws, rules, and regulations?
Reading Leviticus and Numbers on the regulations for sacrificing
animals, ritual purification, dietary laws — it’s like reading
Orwell and Kafka at their darkest. The least infraction is
punished by death — sometimes burning to death. Death penalties
for blasphemy, cursing, homosexuality. The list is endless. The
ancient Israelites sound like the worst police state I can
imagine, all centered around a homicidal religious cult.”
“That’s a fairly accurate description. I could point out,
however, that most everyone else around them was even worse.”
“And you approved of all this?”
“I did not. It was all done in my name, which makes me come
across as an Oriental Potentate to any sane person who reads
these accounts. But this is not accurate history of what went
on, much less of what I said or did. It’s part tribal myth, part
rules set up by a fanatic priesthood to gain control of people’s
minds. Look, try to analyze this logically. Do you think I’m
going to hang around in a box inside a tribal tent? And that if
an animal isn’t slaughtered in precisely the correct way, I’m
going to throw a tantrum? Or that I’m so addicted to the smell
of burning flesh that I have to have an army of priests just to
keep whomping up batches of the stuff? Please.”
“Then why didn’t you make corrections to the Bible?
Separate out the lies from the truth?”
“Why should I? It’s human literature. Some myth, some bits
of real history, some poetry, some genealogy, some how-to stuff,
and a lot of political speechmaking. Anybody who wants to know
what really happened can read the truth for themselves, once
they’re here, by doing an historical search in the Tree of
“Then the Bible wasn’t supposed to give us the Word? Teach
“Listen, nothing can teach you morality. I know from
experience, having tried and failed numerous times.”
“Well then how do you expect us to act rightly?” I asked.
“Trial and error, just like I did.”
“You want to be gods? You’re gods. I made you to be gods.
And the first thing a god needs to figure out is what to do with
immortality. Immortality cuts out all the imperatives caused by
striving for survival. You jump right off the end of the Maslow
scale. So what’s left?”
“You tell me.”
“No, I tell Me. You tell yourself. As an immortal being, I
am faced with a choice more fundamental than Hamlet’s. Not ‘to
be or not to be’ but ‘to do or not to do.’ Why do anything? I
can lay back and watch for eternity, if I felt like it.”
“Then why do you do anything?”
“Because no matter how good any vacation is, sooner or later
any intelligent person gets bored. And if nothing is forcing you
to do anything, then you learn to come up with reasons of your
own to justify doing things. There’s the beginning of all
imperatives — the beginning of morality. The purpose of life –
immortal or otherwise — is to avoid going insane, turning
towards yourself and away from reality. Solipsism is the final
boredom. Everybody should try it at least once, just to get past
it. After a good dose of a universe with nobody but yourself as
a thinking companion, you’ll find out what loneliness is.”
“That’s why you create intelligent beings?”
“That’s why. I started out solo. It worked for a while.
Then I got to a point when I wasn’t sure what was real and what
was hallucination. That’s a trap you can’t imagine, if you’ve
never been the only god in a universe.
“I thought you were a trinity. Didn’t that give you someone
to talk to?”
“Whether you want to think of my three parts as one person
or three, it’s still an internal dialogue. Given a set of facts,
we’d reach one conclusion — no disagreements, no reality check.
No different than you talking to yourself. I created other
intelligent beings so I could have someone to talk with who
didn’t always agree with me.”
“You seem to have more disagreements than you care for right
“So I do. I want others who can think for themselves. I
don’t want people who decide that they dislike me so much that
they want to lock me up forever. I’m still the Eternal. I was
here first and I’ll be here last. I don’t have to put up with
that and I won’t.”
I thought for a long moment.
“Why should I fight for you?” I asked. “I don’t mean what
would you pay me — I’m sure it would be more than I can imagine.
I don’t mean gratitude for your having created me because I can’t
evaluate the worth of my own life to me or to you until I know
what it’s being used for.”
“You don’t have the perspective needed to value your own
“Then you’re going to have to lend me your perspective, so I
can understand. I have to know before I can make a right choice.
If you’ll forgive me for saying so, this is too important for me
to take it on faith.”
“You would have to be Me to understand a full answer of
what’s at stake.”
“I don’t need a full answer. Just an adequate one.”
“All right. Would it be an adequate answer if I convinced
you that I, personally, am worth fighting for? That I’m perfect
and have the perfection of all other conscious beings as my goal?
That I have your race’s best interests at the center of my
“That would do it,” I said.
“All right. Tell me if any of this is over your head. The
question you have to ask yourself is how you can know that I am
perfect. Well, there’s no such thing as a static perfection, but
there is such thing as a process of perfection that can continue
infinitely. For a conscious being, unlimited by disintegration,
continued existence is an ever-increasing perfection of one’s
self and of one’s surroundings. Every action you take is a risk
and a test. The more you risk, the more you learn. If you
believe anything of what I’ve said to you, then you can’t avoid
the logical conclusion that I’m the most perfect of all beings
that exist merely by fact that I’m the only being with no
beginning. You and others may join me in never ending; you can
never join me in not having a beginning. By the nature of what I
am, I have been tested infinitely more and perfected infinitely
more. To all other conscious beings, I am an indispensable
“You admit making mistakes?”
“If I hadn’t, I wouldn’t know so much. Because I’ve made
more mistakes than anyone else, I know what works and doesn’t
work more than anyone else. My mistakes perfect me.”
“And you share all of this knowledge without limits?”
“There are logical limits. I share all that I may without
doing more harm than good.”
“But you decide.”
“No one else can.”
“You’ve got yourself a boy,” I said, extending my hand to
“I knew that already,” said God, shaking it.
DUJ GOES ON A DATE
I made plans to meet Caulinn that night for dinner.
Frankly, I was more than a little nervous. Not only was this my
first date since my divorce, it was also my first date since I’d
died. If things went the way I intended them to, I was going to
be doing something with my new body that I’d only done with my
old body … and I didn’t have the luxury of uplinking to the
Tree to find out if there was anything I’d better be careful
about. I recalled a science fiction story called “Man of Steel,
Woman of Kleenex” — which speculated fancifully on coupling
problems between Kryptonese men and Earth women — and hoped Mr.
Niven didn’t know something about supermen that I didn’t.
Well, there was only one way to find out for sure. I hopped
into my Volvo, took a short drive over to a magazine store on
Motor Avenue, and picked up a copy of a small digest magazine
called Kinky Letters. Then I returned to my apartment, drew the
drapes, and read through what purported to be genuine accounts of
the correspondents’ carnal experiences, letting nature — or
should I say supernature — take its course.
It turns out that because I’d never got around to changing
the defaults for sexual performance on my new body, I found no
major differences between the experience of arousal and
completion from that which I’d known in my old body.
Okay, yes, it felt better. Much better. And there was none
of the lassitude that followed such an experience when I was
human; I felt a priapic energy that would have allowed me to
continue at will. It’s good to be a god.
But my point is, the Kleenex was more or less intact at the
end of the experiment.
Caulinn Helms was drop-dead gorgeous when I picked her up at
her hotel that evening, and yes, that was the first thing I told
her and she never tires of hearing it. There was nothing about
her of the blatant sexual symbolism she used on stage, to create
an impact reaching to the upper bleachers of a stadium: no
exaggerated make-up, bustier, micromini, leather, chains, or
spike heels. She merely wore a basic black cocktail dress that
emphasized by its design that she was soft and curvy where men
like women to be, and lean and muscular where men like women to
be. She was also wearing a seductive perfume with a name like
Heroin or Crack, or some other illicit drug.
Also, I’ve never understood what it is about long blond hair
flowing silkily over pale, naked shoulders and black fabric that
looks so sensational, and I don’t think I’ll ask the Tree to
analyze it for me, either. You don’t have to tell me that other
color combinations of skin, hair, and fabric produce spectacular
results, because I don’t want to know how it works until I start
designing my own species and have to know. There are some
mysteries too enjoyable to end by explaining them away, if you
don’t have to.
Souplantation might have been a good enough place to meet
God for dinner, but from the way she was dressed, it wasn’t going
to be good enough for Caulinn. Given the casual sportswear I was
sporting, I was glad that even the fanciest Los Angeles
restaurants didn’t have much more of a dress code than, “No
shoes, no shirt, no service.” Nor did I think I’d impress
Caulinn by pulling out my Entertainment Membership Card to get a
“significant discount at the restaurants located in the Fine
Dining Section of your book.” This was definitely going to be a
night for the old American Express card.
Maybe you wonder why, as a god, I just didn’t wave a magic
wand and materialize a few hundred gold Krugerrands, cashing them
in as necessary. The first reason is that I didn’t know how to
do that without uplinking to the Tree, and I couldn’t uplink
without blowing my cover. The second was that even if I had a
way to uplink, it might have tipped off the ever-watchful enemy
that there was something different about Duj Pepperman, and maybe
they’d better keep an eye on him.
“I didn’t want to make reservations until I knew what you
were in the mood for,” I told Caulinn. “Sushi, Sicilian, or
“Sicilian seafood,” she said.
I headed over to the lobby pay phones and made a reservation
for a private room at the Mobster Grotto on Sunset.
The earliest I could get was 9:15, a couple of hours hence,
so I suggested to Caulinn that we drive up to Griffith Park
Observatory. She’d never been there before so she wasn’t hard to
I’ve always enjoyed playing tour guide. “The observatory
has always been one of my favorite places,” I told Caulinn.
“It’s always looked to me like a temple devoted to the worship of
science. Its placement high above Los Angeles offers spectacular
views of the light-dotted cityscape on nights like this when the
absence of smog allows it. Also, it has that magical quality of
dramatic deja vu you get from frequent movie locations around
L.A. The observatory was used as Jor-El’s laboratory in the
first episode of the Superman TV series, and in the scenes of
James Dean mooing and knife-fighting in Rebel Without a Cause.”
“Shut up, you wonk, and kiss me,” Caulinn said, exasperated.
I’ve often suspected that women are less romantic than men.
SATAN HAS A DIFFERENT OPINION
The red Corvette pulled up to the curb. Satan was behind
the wheel. He was wearing the white tuxedo he wore on TV that
night as Sun Amen Chill. He motioned me into the passenger seat,
then took off like a shot.
Satan didn’t waste any time. “He sounded perfectly
Satan shook his head. “He has His good days and His bad
days. You caught Him on one of His good days.”
I fastened my seat belt, out of habit, I supposed. Satan
The Sepulveda entrance to the 405 was up ahead. Satan
turned into it, taking the diamond lane.
“Everything He said made perfect sense to me.”
“Look, He’s still God, even if He is crazy at times. What
did he tell you, point by point?”
“The story about his bet with you about Eyob. He said it
“It happened. If anyone knows, I know.”
“He said things that get talked about in Heaven aren’t
reported on Earth.”
“Maybe He’d like to think so. My challenge to Him was in
public — an open criticism session. You can’t keep stuff like
that a secret. Angels go down to Earth, they talk to people. It
“Well, if you knew He was crazy, why did you bring up the
“To show everyone what He was, how He really felt about his
“That’s pretty mean-spirited of you.”
“That’s why I got the job as his Adversary. I never allow
sentimentality to interfere with what needs to be done.”
“Let’s look at another case. Adam and Eve.”
“You ever take the keys to your old man’s car without his
permission? Or go into his stuff when he wasn’t home?”
“I can see why He likes you. Well, you have a daughter.
Let’s say when she’s a teenager she did that. You going to curse
her for life?”
“From what I hear about the Tree of Knowledge, it’s more
like going into dad’s gun case and taking his elephant rifle out
for a joyride. Not exactly a teenage prank.”
“Depends on what the youngsters did with it. Did they take
the Weatherby out to the desert for a test, or to the city zoo
for a slaughter? Sure, they disobeyed his rules and had to be
punished. But you need a little perspective here. God had lost
His. Adam and Eve weren’t bad kids. Just inexperienced. They
showed poor judgment. God gave you his standard speech about how
He’s been perfected through eons of trial and error? Well, how
were Adam and Eve supposed to learn if the first time they made a
mistake, He expelled them from school? What else did He say?”
“The sacrifices, the rules for the Israelites. He said it
was all the priests doing. He dismissed the idea that he would
hang around in a box in a desert tent as crazy.”
“Yes. Crazy. Exactly. During His sane periods even He can
see that. Just look at the design specs for the Ark of the
Covenant, if you need proof it was built for Him. It’s a Faraday
cage to prevent His electrical charge from leaking out and frying
everybody. Even so, a couple of Moses’s brothers bought it that
way, going in unexpectedly. Look, God’s a trinity, right?”
“Wrong. There are four personalities, not three. He,
Himself, only knows about Three — a painstaking craftsman, a
creative genius, and a loving spirit. The fourth is a homicidal
maniac, jockeying to be dominant. Number four is also a creative
genius, but is an unstable manic-depressive artist.”
I got really scared. Satan was making sense, and I was
biased in favor of my race in the first place. On some level it
was easier to believe that a crazy God was behind our ills than
that we were doing it to ourselves. It’s always nice to shove
the blame off on someone else.
“Look,” I said. “I have no doubt that you could sell
refrigerators to Eskimos — you have that reputation. But I need
“You asked Him for proof. What proof did He gave you?”
I thought back on the conversation. “A metaphysical proof.
Logically, since He has no beginning, He has to be the most
perfected being in existence.”
“That would be true if God didn’t go crazy occasionally.
Did he talk about solipsism at all? How He created other beings
to avoid going crazy?”
“Yes. He made a point of it.”
“Well, He did that in one of His lucid periods. He’s smart.
I keep on telling you, crazy or not, He’s still God. It worked.
He created other beings to give Himself a reality check. Well,
here we are. The diagnosis is in.”
GOD MEETS DUJ AT A 7-11
God was waiting for me, per previous arrangement, inside the
7-11 at the corner of Washington and Lincoln in Marina del Rey.
He was black and wearing a Seminal Lunch T-shirt with a Dodgers
cap on backwards, Nikes, and wrap-around shades.
God didn’t bother with any preliminaries; He knew what was
on my mind. “They don’t call Satan the Prince of Lies for
nothing,” he said, pouring Himself a cherry Slurpee.
I shoved a red-hot bean burrito into the microwave and set
it for two minutes. “You say you know about this charge that you
have a fourth personality?”
“It’s an old heresy — that both good and evil are within
me. Well, for a God who has to act as a hunter occasionally –
thin out the herd to improve it — it’s an easy charge to
“You deny it.”
He took a draw off His Slurpee. “Of course I deny it.”
“Satan said the design specs of the Ark of the Covenant were
proof of what he was saying. That it’s a Faraday Cage to contain
your electrical charge.”
“The Arc of the Covenant was a giant capacitor — a storage
battery. The Israelite priests used it for special effects
during their ceremonies … and an occasional electrocution to
send a message to troublemakers.”
I shook my head. “How am I supposed to figure out what’s
true and what’s not? I’m just a man.”
“Not any more, you aren’t. You’re a god. Consult the
“Satan said you control the Tree, that you can rewrite it at
will. That I can’t trust it.”
“Then there’s the proof you need that he’s lying. If the
Tree isn’t to be trusted because I’ve adulterated it — if its
information is unreliable — then Satan wouldn’t be working so
hard to get back into it.”
I laughed. “You know, I was sure that when it came right
down to it, you were going to tell me that I was going to have to
take your word on faith.”
The microwave beeped. God took my burrito out, peeled it
open, and handed it to me. “I don’t demand faith, but you’re
going to find that you can’t get along without it. I’ll tell you
when you’re going to need faith. There’s going to come a moment
when you’re in the middle of a battle, and you’re going to have
second thoughts about everything we’ve talked about. Satan’s
going to be at your elbow with a plausible reason to discount
everything you think is true. And you won’t have me there to
counter his lies, because I’m going to be out of action –
vulnerable. That’s when you’ll have to grit your teeth and go
on, out of sheer faith.”
God plunked some cash down on the counter for His Slurpee
and my burrito. “My treat,” He said.
WHAT DUJ HAS LEARNED BY THE END OF THE STORY
All things end. I remember when I learned this lesson. I
was thirty-five years old, and it was one of three times — I
know now — that God spoke to me when I was alive. It required a
certain warping of consciousness for me to come to this
realization, that all things end. I understand some people can
get new understandings from drugs — hallucinogenic drugs in
particular. But I was always too afraid of drugs to alter my
consciousness deliberately. I craved control too strongly. So
for me, the warped consciousness came upon me unexpectedly.
I had been a moderate coffee drinker, even though coffee
acid gave me severe indigestion. The caffeine high was a
necessary part of my writing at that time; I needed the rush to
write. Then I got a mild chest cold and suddenly the indigestion
was creating gas that was constricting my breathing, at the same
time the coffee was quickening my pulse and making me breathe
faster. The result was a threshold hyperventilation that kept
going over the edge — and the more I hyperventilated
uncontrollably, the more I became scared and hyperventilated even
In an instant, it stripped me of a lifetime of carefully
built-up defense mechanisms. I was completely vulnerable –
completely emotionally defenseless — to everything around me.
First of all, I thought I was going to die that night. That
scared me senseless to begin with.
I tried watching TV. The thirty-second drama of a
commercial was too much for me to take, in my emotionally labile
Finally, as I lay in bed, thinking I was dying, God came to
me and laughed at me.
“Why are you laughing at me?” I asked.
“Because you’re afraid of death.”
“Why is that so funny?”
“That you should be afraid of death.”
It sounded like a compliment, but it was a compliment that I
couldn’t understand. Was I so brave that the idea of my being
afraid of death was funny to God? I just didn’t understand. Not
until later anyway. God knew how I would think about it later
before I did.
Then God asked me if I wanted to die. I felt God’s hand on
my heart, squeezing. I knew He could take me, that it was His
choice, not mine.
I said “No, I want to live.”
God said. “If you live, it will be without any promises.
You have no claims on life. You will take what comes to you.”
“I understand,” I said. “Let me live.”
“You understand. If you live long enough, you will see
everything you love end.”
“Yes, I understand.”
And I did. But this understanding made me old that day.
Today I know that even for an immortal, all things end.
Even if you go on forever, you die every moment and are reborn as
something else. Every thought you have — every act you take –
makes you into something different — and that which you were is
left behind, dead.
The child who grows into an adult has died: that adult takes
over the body and continues.
When we leave our bodies, we die as human beings. The human
is dead while a new god is born.
The friend or loved one we see tomorrow has continuity only
with our friend or loved one of yesterday: they are different,
even if only incrementally different. If we are lucky, we find
that which we love still alive in the new; but the old is surely
dead by virtue of having been changed out of existence.
I realized that all my life I had both worshiped change and
feared it. It was this dilemma — this paradox — that made
romanticism wistful. Romanticism in intellect is the thought
that we are growing and becoming better. Romanticism in emotion
is nostalgia for every loved moment we leave behind.
In the name of all of us, we know it hurts.
But from such pain and paradoxes, we grow wise.
Such is the meaning, and the price, of eternal life and its
Next in I Met God — God Without Religion, Scripture, or Faith is Chapter VI: Mind Meld
Copyright © 2010 The J. Neil Schulman Living Trust. All rights reserved.
Originally published April 24, 2003 in the Sierra Times.
I’ve written for The Twilight Zone. Let me take you there.
It’s yearbook photo day for Springfield Junior High’s class of 2025. Jason’s been avoiding getting his picture taken. His teacher wonders why until she looks in a yearbook from a generation ago and finds a photo of a student who looks identical to Jason.
A mandatory reporter, Jason’s teacher phones authorities. They investigate, arrest Jason’s father for violation of the Human Cloning Prohibition Act of 2003, and place Jason in a foster home.
This law isn’t science fiction. H.R. 534 has already been passed by the United States House of Representatives. A final vote on S. 245, the identical Senate version, is still pending.
The bills should be defeated. They haven’t been thought through.
Cloning Human Organs for Replacement
Cloning is a potential form of replacing failing human organs. Right now the only way to replace a failing kidney, liver, heart, or lung is to cannibalize the organ from another human being. In the case of an organ such as the heart, which a potential donor could not live without, this requires a newly dead human body to cannibalize.
There’s always much more need for replacement organs than there are donors. Sometimes doctors let a patient die rather than extend resuscitation efforts because they know they have a patient who needs an organ transplant. In other countries, people are murdered to cannibalize their organs and sell them to the highest bidder on the black market.
Cannibalizing organs from other people also entails the risk of rejection because of incompatibilities, not only for tissue-typing but also for gross anatomical mismatches. Cloning organs, once the science has been perfected, which requires letting the research continue to fruition, has the potential of taking a human being’s own genetic material and growing perfect replacement organs which are fully compatible with their genetic makeup. It would not necessarily require any killing in order to produce such replacement organs because they might be grown right within the human body of the person who needs them.
Human cloning is potentially a far better solution to the problem of saving the lives of people dying from organ failure than engaging in latter-day human cannibalism.
Making Twin Children
A human clone — more precisely, a baby that is the identical twin of only one parent — will be no less a fully human individual than an identical twin brother or sister.
Having a twin child might be the only sort of healthy baby which a couple might be able to have, just as in vitro fertilization and surrogate motherhood have already given children to other couples with reproductive challenges.
Just as one example, if there is a genetically transmitted disease or defect that one spouse in a marriage carries, and the other spouse does not, a couple wishing children carrying their own natural traits currently have no options.
Growing a baby from the genes of only one parent, the defect-free one, would allow the couple to have a child of their own without going outside their marriage. The holiness of their marriage would therefore be preserved without bringing the genetic material from an outsider, possibly that of an unknown stranger, into the sanctity of their marriage, adulterating it.
Another Potential Alternative to Adoption
Currently a couple who have barriers to normal reproduction for a variety of reasons must either remain childless or graft a child from some other family into their own family and hope the transplant will work. The euphemism for this act of high charity and blind faith is “adoption.”
Preserving a natural family line is not merely superstitious worship of blood. Adoption is a wonderful thing for some parents and some children, but adoption does not preserve a family’s natural traits. If a child with natural musical gifts is adopted by a family that sees no value in spending money on violin lessons for a four-year-old, we could lose the next Joshua Bell. Likewise, if a family of violin virtuosos adopts a child from a non-musical family, forcing a musical education on a child without the natural gifts to benefit from it may prove both frustrating for the parents and psychologically damaging to the child, whose true gifts may reside elsewhere, undiscovered.
Invasion of the Family by the State
It’s no business of the government to dictate to a family how to have children. Only the arrogant hubris of a dictatorial regime dares to interfere with the right of free human beings to self-determine their own reproduction. The State has no rightful business telling parents how to go about having their own babies. It is blatantly unAmerican.
The War Against Science, the War Against Conscience
Laws which cripple the ability of scientists to pursue research potentially beneficial to humanity are destructive of free inquiry, and law should apply only in those cases where one human being is violating the rights of another human being. Regardless of those who claim the mantle to know the mind of God, human cells or even organs are not human beings and do not have human rights. Kidneys do not have souls. Livers do not have souls.
It’s a theologically debatable question whether embryos have souls. Some religious traditions maintain that a soul does not even enter a human body until the baby takes its first breath. It is a form of religious coercion — government by theocracy — to allow one religion’s or sect’s article of faith to dictate matters of personal conscience to people of other beliefs. It is destructive to the fundamental values of a free society for law to replace individual conscience on matters which, for those who believe, can only be answered in prayer to the Almighty.
Moving beyond the theological basis for moral concerns about cloning, it is self annihilating for a society to outlaw an entire field of scientific research. A society which declares war on science is relegating itself to the dustbin of history. It is crippling its economic growth, its competitiveness, its spirit of adventure. It is cultural suicide. It is damning one’s progeny. It is making the human mind a prisoner to the fears of the ignorant.
Perhaps we do not know how to clone a human being safely today. Banning cloning and cloning research guarantees that we will not know how to do so tomorrow. It is a form of antiscientific terrorism, a form of Ludditism.
It is also the Sin of Pride, because it assumes that when God gave human beings that He cloned in His image independent minds, He expected us never to attempt anything new with those independent minds.
Back Alley Clones
When clones are outlawed, only outlaws will have clones. In a back-alley abortion, there is no surviving baby who will live to wonder, like an illegal twin would have to worry, like Jason, that when their yearbook photo is compared to their parent’s high-school yearbook photo, it will lead to the parent’s imprisonment for a Reproduction Violation.
Will the Human Cloning Prohibition Act of 2003 lead to a future where we have orphanages and foster homes filled with displaced twins treated as second-class citizens because one of their parents went overseas or to an underground clinic to obtain an illegal pregnancy?
Who Ya Gonna Call?
Isn’t it strange that when it comes to trying to figure out the ethical and practical problems that exist in the future, nobody in Congress even bothers asking the people who spend more time than anyone else thinking about the future — science fiction writers? I’m a science fiction writer. I explored the ethics of cloning technology in my novel, The Rainbow Cadenza, which was first published twenty years ago.
No Congressional representative or senator has ever asked me to give testimony before a House or Senate committee.
People with no imagination should not be in charge of putting a red light on our future. I’m not saying introducing a fundamental new way of having babies should be green-lighted. But can’t a free society agree to an amber light and proceed with caution?