One day in the presence of fifteen people I began to fear that one or more of them would be in danger of drowning if they were not careful. I wanted to warn them, and in so doing found myself saying more that I had expected to say.
I said that there would be five deaths from drowning in White Lake that season - first two, then three. I asked them all please to be careful, so that none of them would be included. But Dr. Montgomery and a woman were drowned. That was two. Then the rest of the season passed without mishap, and I assumed with the rest that I had been wrong about the five.
One evening I took Mary Lillian and the children to Montague to attend a birthday party at the home of Joe Apoll. Joe was the one whom I had warned to be careful not to be under anything heavy supported by a chain hoist, for I had had a "daydream" of him in just such a position, and had "seen" a mental close-up of a link of the chain that would break. He did remember my warning when he actually found himself in just such a position, and stepped back, but the link broke and Joe's hand was crushed. He phoned me from the doctor's office and said, "Well, I've got it." And I still have the broken link and an X-ray picture that I took of Joe's hand.
When we arrived for the birthday party, I was told that Joseph Hazeltine had promised to come there to meet me for the first time, but he had been called out on duty as deputy sheriff at the last moment. I was told later that he had been nervous, and had said that he would "much rather have met Mr. Sadony."
At midnight or shortly after, I began to feel very nervous and depressed. I went to the graphophone and played "Nearer, My God, to Thee," which to some of those present seemed a strange thing for me to select at that stage of a birthday party. But as I looked around at the party, it began to take on the aspect in my mind of a funeral. I began to feel bad, but said nothing. I did not know how to interpret my feeling.
About two in the morning we left for home. As we passed along the shore of White Lake, I looked at the rough water and listened to the wind that we ourselves were bucking.
I said to Mary Lillian, "Wouldn't it be terrible to be out there on a night like this?" The feeling persisted, and I added, "What if two or three men were out there hanging on to a boat? God help them, if they are!"
Mary Lillian shuddered, and said, "But surely - who else would ever go out on a night like this?"
No one, of course - unless he had to. But Joseph Hazeltine "had to" - he and two other men who had accompanied him on his duties. He was there instead of at the birthday party meeting me. Was he thinking of me? Was it a coincidence that we were talking about it, and shuddering as we passed the lake in the dark?
But there were the "three," found the next morning. Five deaths in the lake for the season. Was this another "coincidence"?
However, as I had never met Mr. Hazeltine, the incident did not linger long in memory at the time. So when a week later I was putting up a stovepipe, I could see no connection when a thought came to me so strongly that I stopped putting up the pipe and could not finish until I had written it down: "Fanny, I was not murdered. It was an accident. Be happy. Someone will take my place in four years."
I looked at the paper and thought, "But what has that to do with me? Why should I write a thing like that?"
Then something within me seemed to urge, "Sign your name to it." So I signed it "Joe." Still, it meant nothing to me, and I put it away.
Two months later, Mrs. Apoll visited us with a friend. She introduced her as Mrs. Fanny Hazeltine. Instantly everything connected in my mind. It was her husband, Joe Hazeltine, who had wanted to meet me, and who had been drowned instead. Now I realized that she always felt he might have been murdered. I got out what I had written her two months before, without knowing who "Fanny" was.
Mrs. Hazeltine wept when she read it, and swore that she would never marry again.
I said, ‘Oh, but you will. And his name will be Joe too!"
Everybody connected with this affair seemed to be named Joe. Another "coincidence," of course. Because four years later she married again and was very happy. Her husband's name was Joe.
But was it a coincidence that I felt impelled to write, and to say what I did? Is life and everything in it a "coincidence"?
* * * * *
One day while I was writing a letter I heard (or thought I heard) a distinct knock at my door. After a moment of reflection and no further sound, I concluded that a blue jay or a woodpecker had been pecking at the window, and continued with my letter.
A few moments later the sound was repeated; this time there were three distinct knocks at my door. For confirmation I glanced at my dog. He did not stir, as he surely would have done, had there really been a knock.
Yet I had "heard" a knock. So I concluded that my ear must have reflected the memory of a knock in response to some "thought." I determined to test this idea. Who might want to communicate with me by "mental radio"? For the first time in a long while I thought of my father, so I turned over the reign of my imagination to his memory, and proceeded to act out my part in all seriousness.
I went to the door, opened it, let in an afternoon sunbeam, and pretended that it was my father. I said, "Well, Dad, I'm glad you have come. Sit down with me for a while. Is there something I can do for you?"
Then I took my pad and pencil and wrote down what I imagined my father was saying: "Joseph, it is three o'clock in the afternoon of August first. I wish you would build Mother a little nest of three rooms overlooking your valley, so that she may be happy there the last sixteen years of her life. Then I will come and take her with me."
I said, "Okay, Dad, I'll start today."
"Thank you, Joseph. I'll come again."
Then I snapped myself out of what seemed like a bit of idle imagining, and went back to finish my letter.
When I came to clear my desk and throw my notes and a bit of doodling into the basket, I could not leave the room. I rescued the notes of my imaginary conversation from the waste basket and phoned down for Charley to hitch up the team and be ready to help me, because I was going to haul enough gravel and sand out of Lake Michigan (abut two blocks away) to make concrete blocks for a three-room house as a Christmas present for Mother, who was still living at East Lansing with Cristina and Bert King.
Charley and the rest thought that we couldn't do it by Christmas, but I was determined to try, and Mary Lillian was determined to help me. She even climbed up on the roof with me, two days before Christmas, and we finished shingling it in a snowstorm.
Mother knew nothing about all this, but next day she came from East Lansing unexpectedly to visit us. We gave our two small sons a gilded key and told them to show grandma her Christmas present.
The inside was ready for her, all lit up, a goose in the oven - there were even books on a shelf for her to read. When she saw it she fainted. And when I had revived her, I asked her why she felt that way about it.
She said, "Oh, Joseph, you should not have done it!"
"But why, Mother? What makes you say that?"
"Because you can hardly afford it yet, Joseph. And I am responsible for it. One afternoon I went to church and prayed. It was like a complaint. I prayed, thinking that if only your father were here, he would build me a little nest of three rooms that I could call my own. That was all I wanted. And now you have done it."
"When was that, Mother? When did you do that?"
She thought a moment, then said, "It was on August first, your Joseph's birthday."
"Was it in the afternoon?"
"Yes. About three o'clock."
I said, "Well, Mother, maybe Dad is around here, after all.
* * * * *
The intuitive life is not without suffering, but the suffering is that of sensitive nerves exacerbated by discord or tragedy, among other causes. For in order to carry this experiment as far as I did, you must be able to sensitize your nerves and mental clearing house so that the least sound, even that of a pin dropping on a sheet of paper, shocks you as much as an explosion, and nothing less will shock a positive man of intellect who becomes calloused and deaf to all but his objective senses.
I found that at no time was intuition more alive and active than when body and mind were either wholly absorbed and coordinated in creative labor or exhausted with fatigue. In the first case, the intellect of reason and memory were too busy to interfere with intuition, and in the second case, too tired to do so. Therefore I kept pads of paper and pencils everywhere - in boats, in cars, in ships, by every chair where I was likely to rest, and by the side of my bed.
I made it a rule that intuition came first, before any and all other considerations, and that I would always write it down if it was not something that I could immediately execute. If my hammer was raised in the air to strike a blow, or a forkful of food on the way to my mouth at table when a thought was induced by an intuitive feeling, the nail was not to be hit by the hammer, or the food was not to reach my mouth, before I had procured pad and pencil to record it. I stood guard at the "wireless" receiver of my brain night and day, save when unconscious from sleep or sheer exhaustion - and even then could not escape the position I had assumed.
I would wake up out of a deep sleep to find myself reaching for pad and pencil, and on many occasions in the morning found things written there that I had absolutely no recollection of writing. More than five million words accumulated in this way. I did not "think out" one word of it, and was often hard put to it to comprehend what my hand had written. But it was definitely not "automatic writing," so called. It was intuitive writing. The difference between the two is that between night and day.
I could fill several volumes with experiences stemming from thoughts that came to mind while working, or from the wandering of imagination when relaxed and tired after a day of hard work.
* * * * *
Our home would have burned down if I had not obeyed intuition one day. I sent for three large fire extinguishers at a time when running water was available, and the weather being warm, we had no fires. It was thought to be an unnecessary move just at that time, but I carefully filled them and placed them in accessible positions.
That was at eight o'clock in the evening, after supper. Exactly six hours later, at two o'clock in the morning while I was working in my shop, I looked out the window and saw flames through the window of our bedroom. A lamp had been burning there, as electricity was not at the time available. It was the first time anything like that had happened to us, and it was the first time I had ever made such deliberate and apparently unseasonal preparations for it. I had to let everything else go until I had prepared those fire extinguishers. I canceled plans to go out in the evening and stayed home quietly working in the shop, in sight of the window through which the flames were visible. But until I saw the flames, it never occurred to me to expect them. I did not "foresee" what would happen, but I had unconsciously prepared for it. And as time went on, I discovered that this was one of the most important aspects of the intuitive life.
I could see more clearly than ever before what the trouble was with so many people who might just as easily have avoided tragedy, as I did, not only on this occasion, but on many others. My fire extinguishers made quick shift of the blaze. We all possess a "radio" in our minds but seldom use it. Few ever learn how to use it, and many give up and cease trying when they fail.
You cannot force it. You must coax it to perform, and then accept what comes to you, even if it is nothing. It is not an "organ" that you can use at will, like our eyes. It is like radio antennae with which you may attempt to tune in, to "seek, knock and ask." Then - who knows? - you may receive a beautiful program that will illuminate and bless the rest of your life. But beware of this: if you tune in to the world of human thoughts, you shall be a slave to other men who dominate by forceful, positive thinking.
If, however, you use your "human radio" to tune in to the Great Broadcaster of Life, you will serve the purpose of life by responding, not to the skeptical intellectual demands of men, but to those who also tuned in to the Central Broadcasting station of Mankind.
This is the foundation of human brotherhood - the brotherhood that is impossible save between intuitive men, men who know each other before they meet, and who cannot be separated even by death.
* * * * *
Our bodies are but the chemicals of minerals and vegetables constructed by nature to hold, to receive, and to be animated by the soul, which is that part of radiant energy we call God, a law of nature that may be symbolized by a child, chalk in hand, writing its name on a blackboard. The chalk is nature, and what it means is the child. Nature is the chalk, but God moves within; that is the Everlasting Name nature has written in its mystery.
The spirit of man is but an echo of the soul - that repeats but knows not its meaning. The spirit is the graphophone record repeating answers to problems about which it knows nothing, like my psychologist friends with their textbook knowledge - a parrot, a book, or even a prayer of mere words in a language you do not understand, though you repeat it daily for a lifetime. But let the soul express one thought, and poets will write of it for centuries.
For the soul expresses itself in whatever medium it finds available - in music, in color, in form, in the flesh of a man, in tears, in emotion, in love, in prayer - playing upon the strings of whatever instrument you are able to furnish. This is inspiration, intuition, prophetic vision. And this is what the psychologists had eliminated from their consideration, because in observing the behavior of the human graphophone machine, the human radio and television are automatically shut off.
The soul has not got a chance to "put words into your mouth" if you put them there yourself by playing the graphophone records memory, by planning and thinking what you shall do or say.
No, It was definitely impossible to live the intuitive life on the basis of intellectual planning. So I would apply my intuition to a continued search for truth, without hope or expectation of any particular objectives or of financial gain. I would concern myself with economics and industrial problems only to the extent that it was necessary to make the research possible; and thus far things have worked out all right from intuitive beginnings, without worrying about it. I began to see a practical aspect to the faith of the old (saying) that "the Lord would provide," if one obeyed the intuitions by which the Lord might find it necessary to enlist your help in so doing.
The object of my study was the mind of man. This obviously included the whole universe. Not one aspect of science, philosophy, or religion could be excluded from consideration. To establish the truth of the mind of man, I would have to build a new bridge between science and religion, for I saw that all previous attempts to do this had rested on quicksands of purely intellectual speculations. Research in the physical sciences and in the mental sciences must proceed hand in hand on a basis of experience and experiment. One glimpse into the future staggered me. The task was more than I could do. I could only begin it. I dared not look again. I kept my eyes glued to the ground only one short step ahead. Enough that I lived today intuitively in preparation for tomorrow. Enough if I contributed one small but essential block to the structure of a new generation that would tax the skill and specialties of the world's greatest minds.
As time passed it became evident that many chains of events were unfolding here and there throughout the world, and interweaving little threads of thought that seemed to pull on my mind.
One evening, for example, I felt inclined to sit at the organ in the little chapel we had built, and improvise some music. I had spent the day in the world of intellect making a delicate magnetic instrument that I had designed for geophysical research, and before attempting to answer some of the seven or eight thousand letters that had accumulated, I felt the need to woo my way back into the world of intuition again.
I drifted into a strange melody that I had never played before. There was an oriental sadness in it, and suddenly I felt the presence or thoughts of Srikrishna Chatterjee, as if he were dead or in a coma. I had not heard from him or thought of him in a long while.
I wrote him about this and received answer that he had been at the door of death, but was now better. He informed me, however, that it had been predicted in India that he had not long to live.
In explaining my experience, I wrote him: "About the middle of February, while in my chapel, I seemed to feel your presence, just as if you were in that sphere which hovers between death and life, a living dreamland, the sphere which brings me so many thoughts - as if you were in the next world, but still anchored by a silk thread to this one. I began to fear, for I felt that you had something still to complete."
As for the prediction that he had but a short time to live, I told him that I disagreed with it. In answer to it, I predicted that he would recover, make a long journey, and visit many people before his time would come.
Three years later he wrote me: "The journey was undertaken by me in October. I was seized with a desire to see my second boy and his two children and wife at Nasirabad, which must be about fifteen hundred miles from this place. I went to Calcutta, and thence proceeded. I visited Arraha, Pushkar, Chitor, Udaipur, Ujjain, and eight other places in the course of my journey."
The consequence of this journey had repercussions for me that I did not then dream about. Wherever Mr. Chatterjee went, my letter went with him. He presented himself as living testimony that the prediction of his early death (which had been made in India ) was erroneous, and that my prediction for his recovery and journey, made three years before, was being fulfilled. Moreover, I had predicted that India would attain her freedom in 1948, and that by 1940 seven of her provinces would already have gained emancipation. This prediction was privately made, but it spread more widely than I had anticipated.
One day I was looking at a photograph of Tagore that hangs among others of my friends, in my study. I recalled Frederick Fisher's description of Tagore as a stolid mountain compared to Gandhi, who was a rushing torrent. And I was thinking of Frederick's account of a conversation that had taken place in his presence.
Tagore expressed his desire to remove all idols, saying, "If we can do without them, even the lowest can do likewise."
Gandhi replied, "No, you cannot do this. Idols are the poor man's crutches. They cannot walk without them until you supply them strong limbs of understanding."
Now I looked at Tagore's picture, thinking. "Can you do that, Rabindranath ? Can you supply the poor of India with limbs of understanding strong enough to dispense with their crutches of idols?"
I imagined a sad expression coming over Tagore's face, even in the photograph, as if he was saying, "Joseph, I am only a poet. But I try also to teach with my melodies. I am not too strong, myself."
Then I saw a little black ribbon pinned to his picture. It was imaginary, of course. When I looked again it was gone. But every time this happened to me, I put a real black ribbon, a tiny one, where I thought I had seen one. For in every case the person in question had not lived more than six months. Five months and two weeks later, Rabindranath Tagore was gone.
What is the source of this "vision," this "signal"? What tells me that a friend is soon to pass on? More than a score of little black ribbons on photographs of friends bear silent witness without explaining a thing. Among them were Ella Wheeler Wilcox and Marie Corelli, Theodore Roosevelt, and, years later, his wife, Edith, with whom I corresponded until she died; Abdul Baha and Anton Lang, the Conan Doyles and Sir Oliver Lodge, Rudyard Kipling and the explorer Amundsen, General John Pershing, and Lieutenant Governor Evans, Ernest Torrence and Henry B. Walthall, Ossip Gabrilowitsch and Channing Pollock, Jessie Bonstelle, Governor Chase S. Osborn, Benjamin de Casseres, Edwards Davis, and others no less important but too numerous to mention who had left the imprint of their personalities on the Valley of the Pines. When death cast its shadow before it, that too left its imprint, sometimes in advance, and sometimes in the hour.
When 1940 saw the liberation of seven provinces, and 1948 the freedom of all India, I wrote to Gandhi that the book of my vision for India was closed. My predictions of many years before had come to pass. Of the future of India I had nothing more to say, save that she must now make her own future, and he could be of far greater service living than dead. I begged him not to fast again, after India attained her freedom, for if he did so it would lead to his death, even though he was not obliged to fast unto death. I saw the black ribbon, and I saw his death in one way or another, and recorded the fact in confidential communications to a number of witnesses.
Then one day I stood looking out the window in the Valley, for a few moments indecisive, tired, uncertain what to do next, uncertain whether it was worth while to do anything. I thought: This is not me. This is not the way I feel. Some other ‘program' has blotted out my own on my ‘radio.'"
I wondered what it could be. I stood there, groping with my mind, just like insects I have watched groping in all directions with their antennae, searching for some recognizable environment. It seemed dim and far away, so in order to reach it I became more and more sensitive. And in that moment Mary Lillian came quietly into the room, but there was a slight click of the door latch as she opened the door. To me it was like a gunshot, and for a moment I thought I had been shot. I clutched my side and staggered. Mary Lillian ran to me, pale and frightened.
What's the matter, honey? What is it?"
I said, "It's nothing. I was thousands of miles away, that's all. I really thought I was shot."
She said, "I'm sorry. I frightened you."
I said, "No, It was not you. That was just a coincidence. Or was it? I don't know what it is yet. Just forget it."
Later, Mary Lillian told me, "I think I know what it was now. Were you thinking of Gandhi? I've just heard about it over the radio. You went through the same thing in your mind."
Well, I cannot say that with certainty. I was not consciously thinking of Gandhi at the moment. I was still trying to identify the thoughts that distressed me. The experience brought me to earth with such a bang that I dropped the whole thing from my mind like a bad dream, and went to work in my laboratory.
But it lingered. Nothing exactly like that had happened to me before. Was it just another "coincidence"?