"Weapons cleave It not, fire burns It not, water drenches It not, and wind dries It not.
It is impenetrable; It can be neither drowned nor scorched nor dried. It is Eternal, All- pervading, Unchanging, Immovable, and Most Ancient.
It is named the Unmanifest, the Unthinkable, the immutable. Wherefore, knowing the Spirit as such, thou hast no cause to grieve." —Bhagavad Gita
Once when I was a child I was stricken with fever. It must have been before they invented oral thermometers because the frequent rectal ordeal—truly unpleasant in my weakened state—gave a steady reading of 104 degrees. I had that odd sensation of simultaneously boiling and freezing.
I looked around the room, at the familiar pictures on the walls; at the phosphorescent stars glued to my ceiling; at my mother's worried expression as she replaced the hot, damp washcloth on my forehead with a cool one. At the same time, I seemed to be in another realer world, seated in a loose circle of what I can only call eternal entities. They were both physically and ethereally present and gave the impression of being comprised of stone and light together.
At the time I assumed they were angels.
Much later I recognized a similar quality of super-aliveness in some of the statues dug up from a pit in the center of the Temple of Luxor in Egypt.
This group of entities seemed to be convened in a kind of council; yet it was clear that they had never gathered and would never depart. They were simply there, as though in a dimension of time that was perpendicular to my familiar, linear sense of past, present, and future.
In my delirium I recognized that these entities living in a perpendicular dimension were aware of me. I felt their complete, unconditional regard, as though their vigilance was so stable as to be immune from distraction. It was directed to me in particular, and yet I could tell it was for anyone—everyone—in particular. They beamed out a level of attention and watchfulness that was outside the dyads of focus and distraction, or particular and general. Implicit in the attentive regard was a feeling of hope.
The entities didn't say anything. Indeed, in the present moment encompassing a solid state of all time there was no room for any expression requiring a sequence of words. But they conveyed vast meaning through the total regard and in the intense atmosphere of hope.
The hope the entities broadcast was simple and pure. In retrospect, I call it unconditional, and yet in line with the complete paradox of the experience, it was a hope for something, which itself was no thing. I can only describe it as a hope for being, which in itself includes becoming. Again, as a nine-year-old, I experienced it as a hope for my particular becoming, or growing up,which is to say the coming into a greater or even complete fullness of being.
It was only much later on a visit to a Zen monastery that I heard the expression "you are all, already, Buddha." I recognized the truth of the expression in the experience I had as a child, which revealed the perfect completeness of everything, including myself; and at the same time the possibility of growing and developing into fresh magnitudes of completion.
In my feverish ecstasy I noticed that the entities and their world were only visible when I focused on my breath. When I lost the direct contact with breath the realer world of the entities faded and the familiar room reappeared before my eyes. Somehow it only came visible when I was steadfastly in contact with myself.
In the vision, the entities conveyed an image—a single composite of an acorn, a sapling, and mighty oak—all the stages occurring at once as the singular life of the tree.
Not long after, having recovered from the brief, intense illness, I read Madeleine L'Engle's Wrinkle in Time, in which she describes a living, four-dimensional geometric figure. The tesseract seemed to illustrate the sense of an infinitely expanded present moment embodied by the entities. The difference was that there was a profound feeling accompanying the meaning of their transmission. And together with the feeling and meaning was a sense of action, though of a completely different type than I have known before of since.
The contact with what I called angels has stayed with me almost continuously in my life, for the experience is, in a sense always present, occurring as it did, outside time. When I recollect it, I recognize that inasmuch as what I see before my eyes is real, there is a far more real and permanent world underlying all I see. This is a world of geometric perfection and inbuilt knowledge; of wholehearted, undisrupted feeling; of impeccable action rooted in presence, unfettere by attachment to results.