28 January 2012


We have been taught by DesCartes that the only reality we directly experience is the world of our thought - and by Kant that the world of thought really is the only world there is.  In practice, since all of us (except some Scientologists) must live in the outside world, we live on two levels - what Kant called the phaenomenal level - the level of what we see, hear, feel, smell, taste - and the noumenal level - the level of what our mind makes of these things.  And to most of us, that phaenomenal level is the real one.  The rest is the 'trip' we lay on things - a map of things that works for us.

I had been deeply moved, in reading those two Sigrid Undset novels - Kristin Lavransdatter and The Master of Hestviken - by the conception of Christianity I had seen in it.  I had, in particular, been moved to tears by my understanding, in reading the latter, that Jesus had thought Himself to be God dying for the sins of mankind.

I had been deeply moved, as well, by Candace's talk of a relationship with this Jesus, Who was always with her, would guide her, comfort her, strengthen her, at need.

I had been moved by these things as a fascinating and terribly attractive noumenal map to place on experience - a 'trip,' in fact.

When Candace talked about Heaven, about the New Jerusalem, about eternal life as being the rewards of passing some sort of final judgement by God - I was stunned - and I was filled with fear.  For it suddenly came to me that, if these things were true - true in some sort phaenomenal sense - for the concept of any sort of unified truth was still far from me - that if these things were, as I would put it, really true - why, then, it didn't matter whether I believed them or not.  Whatever reality they represented would overtake me, eventually, regardless of my state of faith.  I might be like a man happily falling from the Empire State Building who did not believe in footpaths.

As I listened to Candace and Greg - Greg whose questions were challenges with a sneering quality, Candace whose answers were full of joy and conviction - I began to know - I must use the word 'know' rather than 'believe' or 'imagine' - to know that, in addition to those two, there were two others listening.  I could see nothing of them.  But Jesus Christ was in the darkness behind Greg on one side of him - and Satan was in the darkness behind him on the other side.  I do not claim this knowledge to be of anything that someone else could verify.  It was certainly not phaenomenal knowledge, for there were no phaenomena - nothing that appeared.  But I was certain - and I knew that I must choose.

I spoke.  I said, "I don't know about Greg, but I need to find out more about this."

This was rather a bombshell.  Greg said, in exasperation, something like, "Oh, my God, no!  Don't tell me you are taken in by this stuff, John?!!"  And, when it became clear to him that I did indeed take seriously the idea that all of this might somehow actually be true, he did say, "Oh, well, we'll have to get round to straightening you out once we have this sector of the galaxy clear."  That is really how Scientologists talk, I'm afraid :-)

Candace and I left.  I had an undergraduate friend at the University that I knew was, in some sense, a Christian.  At least, his father was a pastor and he lived in a room in his father's church.  William Joseph Arnold is his name.  I said we should go there.

Not, perhaps, the most thoughtful time to knock on a friend's door - it was, I think, about 4 or 5 in the morning.  But we went.  Bill (as I knew him then; he now goes by the name Joe) received us.  He, Candace, and I talked.  I was, as they could easily see, in a very excited state - though not so excited that I had no questions to ask.  I do remember being quite concerned about the relationship between evolution and the Bible.  It is good that I was.  It showed that I was unwilling to treat this Christianity as just a trip.

Bill's (very sound) advice was to leave these matters for God to sort out with me later.  The great thing was to trust Him.

How?  I didn't know what to do - and, it seemed, neither did they.  Bill found a cardboard carton full of religious tracts.  One of them - I could wish I had kept it - had, at the end, a prayer, that was, I think, perfect.  The matter of the prayer was straightforward.  God had two claims on me.  First, He had made me.  I was, therefore, His workmanship, His to do with as He chose.  But, second, He had sent His Son to die for my sins to redeem me.  He had thus doubly the right to exact my submission, faith, and obedience.  I prayed acknowledging these things - and told God that I would henceforth be His man.  Whatever He saw fit to do with me was what I wanted.

I remember especially Candace's joy at my conversion.  She had never, she said, brought anyone to the point of faith.

She had come to Hawai'i with a sense that it was God's will for her - and she had a looseleaf New Testament for which she had made a leather cover.  She had felt led to bring it with her.  She didn't know why she should, but she had.  She gave it to me.  I have it still.

22 January 2012


The word 'Christian' had almost no content for me.  I knew the Christianities, rather vaguely, by denomination - somebody was a Baptist, somebody else was a Catholic - and of course the word 'Christian' is part of English - but any reality behind it - well, I knew of none.

I first realised that Candace was a Christian, and that in a shocking sense, when Sue and I, with Candace and their mother, went to dinner at a restaurant.  Candace prayed!  She bowed her head and prayed.  I had seen scenes in movies where a family head said grace before a meal - usually at some special occasion, like Thanksgiving.  But... right here, in front of everybody, all by herself!  I was shocked, and embarrassed.

And provoked to action.

New Year's Eve in 1969 was on a Wednesday, and I couldn't go out then - had to drive taxi, starting at 6AM the next morning.  Greg, one of Airic's Scientology protégés amongst the taxi drivers and a good friend of mine, said he was going to have a New Year's party at his house up in Manoa Valley on the Saturday beforehand, the 27th December.  Greg lived in - perhaps he actually owned it? - a very large old house in the valley.  Would Candace like to go with me?

My request was not innocent.  Perhaps something in Candace's overt Christianity irked me.  Possibly I imagined a pink-and-white world of sweetness and light as her mental world.  Perhaps I thought I would show her what real life was like.  So I asked her - and said that I, and some others, would be on 'acid' - did she mind?

No, she didn't mind, she said.  I took my LSD, we got onto my Yamaha 50 and went to Greg's house.  Arrived there, I introduced Candace to them all, and - maliciously - told Greg that this was Susan's sister - and that she was a Christian.  I then sat down on the couch at the far end of the large living room to watch the fun.

It didn't take long.  Greg - who was not on drugs, since he was doing Scientology auditing - had been brought up a Catholic.  He started in on Candace.

He asked, I suppose, the usual questions about God.  Did she believe that God was a bearded man Who lived somewhere up in the sky?  He went on at some length with this sort of question.  And Candace, instead of responding, in most cases, to what were, after all, not very serious questions, told Greg - and the others, but it was mainly Greg who spoke - about Jesus.  She spoke of Him very personally - and lovingly.  She talked about how wonderful it was never to be alone; always to have Jesus by her side, helping her, comforting her.

So far as I know - perhaps Candace will comment on this post and tell me if I am wrong - so far as I know, she did not know that I was paying any attention.  The house was old and the living room was large, and pretty dark.  I was at the far end of it.  For all she knew I was engaged in meditating the whichness of what, and uninterested in what was going on.

I was, in fact, listening intently.  I remember thinking how very, very moving all this sounded - how wonderful it would be to think - I was still imagining this, you see, as a kind of mental game to play - how wonderful it would be to think that you had an all-powerful, all-loving friend at your side all the time.  That, I thought, would be some trip!  Candace's face began to shine as though it were an icon of a saint, with the highlights picked out in gold leaf.

I imagine some, hearing of this experience, will suppose that, under the influence of LSD, I was unable to tell the difference between reality and hallucination.  I have heard that for some persons, using LSD, this can happen.  I can only say that it never did for me.  I could see the gold-leaf highlights.  I knew they were projections of my mind onto the face of Candace, because of the subject matter and its associations with actual religious pictures I had seen.  I was not deceived; on the other hand, I think that what I saw did, in fact, represent a reality.  Candace was speaking of holy things; I was 'seeing' holy things.

Seeing holy things, but, nevertheless, still thinking of them as a 'trip' - a kind of mind game, one that might be good to play, but a projection of the mind, entirely, including Jesus Himself.

Greg asked Candace if she believed in Hell.  Did she think that he, Greg, was going to be sent to Hell as a punishment for not believing.

Candace responded, not by talking about Hell, but by talking about Heaven.  She talked about it in rather literalistic terms, using language from the Book of the Apocalypse, spoke of crystal seas, of transparent gold, of precious gems.  And she spoke of the Second Coming of Christ - and of the Great White Throne and the Last Judgement.

My life had been one continual sinking into darkness.  It was not always to be night.  The crowing of cocks could be heard.

14 January 2012

Genesis 2:18

Many married men appear able to tell you precisely the moment and circumstances of their proposal of marriage to the woman who eventually became their wives.  I cannot.

It is embarrassing to reflect on the shallowness of motivation of many of my decisions in life.  One might have thought that, having failed in one marriage - entered into with almost no deliberation - I would be a bit more circumspect about a second.

We went to the Creedence concert.  Not long afterwards we went to hear Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young.  Somewhere between the two concerts - both of which, I think, we attended in November, 1969 - I had told Susan that we would get married.

I suppose one reason I don't remember proposing to Susan is that I never did.  Rather, I think, I precisely told her that we would get married.  This, I imagine, might sound romantically forceful.  It was forceful enough, but I do not think it is likely to qualify as romantic.  I blush, now, to think of the fact - and to reflect on the many times during our relationship that my bull-in-a-china-shop approach to things has been hurtful, sometimes damaging.  It is not surprising that only yesterday, as I began to sketch out this post in my mind, did it occur to me to wonder what Susan's inner feelings and thoughts might have been at the time, in reaction to my brutality.  Perhaps she may be persuaded to comment here:

This is Susan again!  As young people we are confident and we need to be.  All things seem possible.  We see the "future" with a clear eye and it all seems to be attainable.  I remember a Snoopy cartoon/poster  in which Lucy or Snoopy says, "How can we fail, when we are so sincere?"

That about summed it up for me - I would just be able to make my mind up, with good intentions, and things would work out. The problem, though, was that I didn't know much about real sincerity.   I had grown up in a family that loved me but I had also witnessed years of unhappiness that finally ended with my parents divorcing.  This had a major effect on me and how I saw things and so I was very wary of any kind of commitment to a long term relationship.  I was flattered that John was interested in me but I was also wanting to see how things would go after I knew him longer.
I had had to take care of myself for quite awhile.  I was definitely in the business of trying to make sure that I was being careful. 

I do not think that Susan said anything like 'yes' or 'all right' in response to my 'proposal.'  She seems to have received it with incredulity.  Nevertheless, over the course of the next few weeks, I took, I suppose, her failure to say 'no' as acquiescence.

Sue continued to live in her flat around Diamond Head, and I in mine in Young Street, but we became a couple.  I pressed her, at this time, to move in with me, but she would not.  The ostensible reason was that her mother and sister were to come to Honolulu in December, around Christmas time.  I myself thought this an inadequate excuse.  What difference did it make where we lived?  This was, I more or less said, some sort of middle-class prejudice.  Nevertheless, she insisted, and stayed where she was.

Virginia (Sue's mother) and Candace (her sister) arrived - when?  Before Christmas?  After?  I don't know.  But when they came, I discovered something about Susan's sister that I hadn't known - something that was, to me, almost bizarre: Candace was a Christian.