We all have life changing moments. Mine hit in the wee morning hours of December 29, 2006. I remember it well. My wife Jean (now my ex) and I had been to a Houston Rocket NBA basketball game. Before retiring for the evening I checked an on-line news feed and found that the deposed Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein had been executed. The feed contained video of a jubilant crowd firing weapons into the air and toppling his statue in front of a mosque. Someone’s death is an occasion for celebration?
As I dropped off to sleep my last thoughts concerned the war that was taking place in Iraq. It began some nine months earlier when a United States led coalition force toppled Hussein’s government (and continued for another eight years as insurgents arose to resist the replacement government). Now, from what I read, Hussein was a really evil guy. Untold thousands were executed in his regime. Still, I oppose the death penalty no matter what the circumstances. Of even more concern was the collateral damage that was caused by the war. Innocent people were being killed, families separated, homes destroyed. The images of rag-tag children running around looking for family hounded me. The disaster war was fueled by a false intelligence report that Hussein was developing nuclear capability. The conflict was all the more repugnant to me by then Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld’s flippant and arrogant remarks toward the destruction and chaos, something to the effect that “in war things get broken.”
So, I went to sleep with a worried and a troubled mind. I had just completed a perfect day. Golf with my buddies, lunch, all of the lies about how good we used to be at the game—the older we get the better we used to be—the obligatory nap, dinner out, an entertaining basketball game, cozy bed to sleep in and a soft hand to hold on to. Life was good. In the meantime, in another part of the world people were going through a living hell. “What,” I asked “should I be doing?” Surely more than pay taxes which were used to finance the conflict.
The voice showed up at precisely 3:00 AM, generally known as the hour of the wolf. I know because I looked at the clock. “Abercrombie!” “Abercrombie!” “Abercrombie!” On and on and on. It wouldn’t let up. The sound was unique to me. Jean couldn’t hear it. A voice recorder would not have picked it up. The pounding cut short my morning jog. Later that morning Jean and I talked about it and the only thing we could come up with was the clothing retailer Abercrombie and Fitch. Abercrombie and Fitch was a strange connection for I had never been in one of their stores. And, still haven’t. So, I googled the term “Abercrombie and Fitch.” The search results produced a corporate profile, an advertisement of the big sale, employment opportunities and so forth. Then, there it was, maybe the fourth or fifth line down: the website of Neil Abercrombie. As it turns out, Neil Abercrombie was a ranking member of the United States House of Representatives Armed Services Committee. When I clicked on his website I quickly found numerous ways to support our troops. And, just as quickly, the voice went away.
It returned several times but with less intensity. I realize the story may sound strange but the entire incident was so surreal to me. It is not something I can effectively communicate. It has to be experienced. “Where,” I keep asking, “did the voice come from, and why?” With time I came to understand that the messages were instructions to seek. I became a student of the Gospel of Thomas and found favor in it over the canonical Gospels. Before Abercrombie arrived I was heavily invested in Catholic liturgy. While I don’t remember which ministries I was involved in at the time Abercrombie came knocking, over the course of time I taught Catholic education to parish youth, was on the School Board, moderated Bible studies, functioned on the Stewardship Committee, headed an Aid to the Sick Ministry, headed a Prison Ministry, chaired the Pastoral Council and was team leader for a Eucharistic Ministry for early morning Sunday Mass. Shortly after Abercrombie came to town I resigned all ministry duties and became connected with a Buddhist organization known as the Ligmincha Institute. Ligmincha is a global organization that preserves the Buddhist Bön tradition. It has a Houston, TX chapter. The transition (partial) from Catholicism to Buddhism was in accord with a main Gospel of Thomas teaching which, in turn, connects to the Buddha’s teachings. Here, Jesus tells His disciples that those who seek should not stop seeking until they find. When they find they will be disturbed. When they are disturbed they will marvel, and will reign over all.
Seek I did and man, was I disturbed. Still am. The seeking brought me to the Tibetan rainbow body tradition wherein the bodies of spiritually perfected people vanish from sight at death. Why was I not told of this phenomenon? A well-known, highly regarded, highly educated, ordained Catholic priest named Father Francis Tiso investigated a well-documented rainbow body death in 1999, a short one year after the death took place. Why were his findings kept under wrap? It seemed to me that the phenomenon connected with another frequently referenced vanishing act called Jesus’s resurrection. The silence coming from the Sunday morning pulpit was deafening. My attempts to bring Father Tiso’s findings to the attention of my local parishioners were adamantly denied. Clearly, I am in possession of information that the Catholic Church does not want its adherents to know. I cannot be part of a covert organization such as that so I ceased all financial support and eliminated Church services from my spiritual practices.
I am not Buddhist, nor am I Christian in the classical meaning of the word. I am a follower of Jesus but not the Jesus in the Gospels. I follow the man behind the Gospel of Thomas.
Clearly, I am in possession of information that the Catholic Church does not want its adherents to know.
Fourteen years later I still I ponder the word Abercrombie. The fact that my wife couldn’t hear the word means that there was no encoded pressure fluctuation in the air. Voice induced pressure fluctuations in the air are the vehicle by which humans normally communicate with one another. The vibration sets off an electrochemical, neuron to neuron, chain reaction in the brain out of which “voice” emerges. In my case, the chain reaction in the brain must have been induced by something other than a third party “voice.” How or why I know not. Or maybe it was not due to the technical gyrations that normally produce sound. Maybe it just was. I have not the slightest idea. But, I can tell you this. I now have a much deeper appreciation of the shadowy nature of the line that separates the material and spiritual worlds.
Bottom line, I am blessed that it happened. Through it all I now know who I am, why I am here on the planet, how I got here, what I am supposed to be doing while here and what happens when I am gone.
I also understand the fallacy of dualistic thinking. In essence, everything is the same. Treating others as one would like to be treated is a heck of a lot easier when one understands that doing into others is the same as doing into self.
Can you say bullet-proof?