1. What is Regaining Paradise about and why did you write it?
Regaining Paradise encourages us to take a hard second look at the extent to which the Judeo-Christian constructs over the past two millennia have influenced our conception of God and heaven, and the relationship we have with God. The extent to which these constructs have motivated us to act for the greater good will also be addressed.
Still, the book advocates that we would have live more fulfilling and nurturing lives if we saw ourselves from a yet broader perspective that would reveal our relationship with the creative force.
Noteworthy to this relationship, the book compellingly directs us to recognize that life only comes from life, as Louis Pasteur proved well over a century ago. That means, by definition and critical reasoning, that we are not products of material processes but are expressions of an otherworldly, infinite creative force.
The Battle for Our Soul
Materials and the majority of scientists argue vigorously that belief in an unnatural force, such as God, is nonsense. We’re inclined to be swayed by their argument that matter-energy, the stuff that makes up our bodies and the world around us, has the capacity to form living things that evolved through the Darwinian and neo-Darwinian processes.
Science, although we may not want to admit it, has reduced our dependency on God. In many cases science has even replaced God. To explain the dynamics by which this came about, we tend to believe the scientists’ claim about the subtleties of materiality that allow it to form life because it resonates with our needs, and, in a true sense, our day-to-day survival. We’re slavishly dependent on the wonders of science. Dependency and survival trumps faith, because faith can be fragile.
More than that, children are introduced to materialism through their indoctrination in Darwinism and neo-Darwinism. This is part of their school curriculum. This influencing of innocent minds was apparent to American engineer and author Willis Harman, who observes in Global Mind Change (1988), that we are literally hypnotized from infancy to perceive the world the way our materialistic culture perceives it.
I ask that we give serious thought to what Harman is saying and recognize that we have been indoctrinated in materialism to such an extent that we have has wounded us on a spiritual level. Believing in the primacy of material reality makes us less inclined to follow the voice of our inner angels.
How can we hear that faint voice while we are coping with life’s ongoing challenges?
To our misfortune, we tend to hear the voice that’s ever-amplified by society. Yielding to that voice, we follow the mantra to become something more than we are. This draws us into a vicious cycle of ever-becoming that, by its very nature leaves us unsatisfied, conflicted, and disillusioned.
Yet at an early time in our lives, everything seemed to be within our grasp. Inner peace, idealism, and contentment were part of our birthright. This claim has been validated by Scientific America’s article “Children have a Sense of Heroic Justice.” William Wordsworth wonderfully illustrates this idyllic state in his “Ode: Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood:”
“There was a time when meadow, grove, and stream.
The earth, and every common sight,
To me did seem
Apparell’d in celestial light,
The glory and the freshness of a dream.
It is not now as it hath been of yore:
Turn wheresoe’er I may,
By night or day,
The things which I have seen I now can see no more.”
But then life as it is, or, to be more accurate, how it was designed to be by the crafters and architects of our society, interceded. As they planned, materialism took center stage, while Justice and Idealism all but faded in the mainstream of the Judeo-Christian world.
It’s painful to ask, but why haven’t the Judeo-Christian constructs, which form the foundation of the Western world, saved us from surrendering our souls to the glitter and trappings of materiality?
This surrendering has allowed the basic weaknesses of human nature to prevail, and this has taken us to a scary place. A group of atomic scientists, after evaluating the conditions of the world, have published in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists that they’ve moved the Doomsday Clock from two minutes to midnight to 100 seconds to midnight, which is the Apocalypse. This is the closest we’ve been to midnight since the inception of the clock in 1947, when it was set at seven minutes to midnight.
It’s time to be honest because time is running short. It’s apparent that the Judeo-Christian worldview upon which our beliefs, attitudes and actions are based has, taking everything into consideration, failed to inspire us enough to act. We have, possibly three or four decades left to alter the path we are on. Trust the scientists who have made that dire prediction.
To change to another path requires us to be motivated. We would have to recognize that one rarely-travelled path can inspire us to realize that we are far more that a physical individual.
Thunderclaps should sound because knowing who we truly are is vital to building a safer, saner, more peaceful and loving world. The ancient Greeks understood this. They etched this message in stone on the archway that led into their most sacred place on Earth, the Temple of Apollo at Delphi: “Know thyself and though shalt know the universe and god.
Knowing yourself as regards to who you truly are, what makes you tick, simply requires that you recognize that your every feeling and every thought, mundane or that of genius that registers in your mind, was ultimately not due to flashing neural energy in the brain being channeled to higher neural networking systems, but from a place beyond the universe. Because as fact, the living second that you’re experiencing cannot be caused by materiality and their accompanying force fields. The conservation laws that are the most fundamental laws in the universe absolutely forbid your experiencing first person awareness solely from matter alone. Tellingly, those laws also forbid physical matter from being the cause of your spaceless, weightless mind, which is not reducible into smaller components, unlike material objects.
You may be sensing what I am suggesting, you actually are—a miracle.. Take note that a miracle is described as being something that cannot be explained through the workings of nature. A miracle is something that was brought about by a force that is beyond the universe—an infinite creating force.
This is what the Nobel laureate Max Planck, the father of quantum mechanics, had to say about the infinite force:
I can tell you as a result of my research about atoms this much: There is no matter as such. All matter originates and exists only by virtue of a force…. We must assume behind this force the existence of a conscious and intelligent mind.
Realizing the infiniteness that radiates at our very core will motivate us to be that esteemed person. We will be inspired because that revelation resonates as a higher truth. Our view of the world and of ourselves will have changed. It will have expanded into the light of heaven. Our needs will be redirected; we will no longer be driven to feed our hungry egos. We will reach out to feed the needs of planet Earth and of all humanity. We will feel fulfilled and we will revel in a sense of wonder. We will have formed a new worldview.
I came to understand our relationship with the infinite force, God at the tender age of ten. (It’s important to note that my parents, my aunts and uncles were unapologetically atheists.)
One night after I had finished my homework, I kissed my parent goodnight and went up the steps to my bedroom. When I turned on the light in the room, the venetian blinds on the window caught my attention. They appeared as they always did, but as I looked at them that night, I heard these words distinctly register in my mind: The places on either side of the blinds are very different from each other.
What could that mean? I wondered. Peering through the blinds before closing them for the night, I looked into the night sky, and I saw the emptiness that extended beyond the stars. The sight shook me to the core. I realized that the empty darkness had no walls, no boundaries. It was never-ending. I knew that I was looking into infinity! At the same instant, I felt embraced by an all-powerful force. I was awestruck as the power pulled me into the never-ending vastness, but I was not afraid. I sensed that this force was infinitely stronger than my parents and that it was watching over me.
The meaning of the words I had heard earlier became clear. The place inside the room was enclosed and limited, while the space outside the blinds was unrestrictedly open. In the next second, I was back in my room, still standing at my window. I looked across the street and saw a glowing haze that resembled fog, but I sensed it was something more. The glow surrounded and clung to the people in the street. I realized the fog was the aura of the life force in each of them.
In a trance, I crossed the room, lay down on my bed, and immediately felt myself rise. I floated to the ceiling and looked down to see my physical body on the bed. I then returned to my body, and in the next second everything in the room beyond my bed—the floor, walls, furniture, and ceiling—was divided into narrow, rectangular sections like the slats of venetian blinds. The slats began to rotate. As they opened, I could see what existed between the long rectangular sections was empty space.
When the slats reached a full quarter-turn, the thin edges disappeared. I lay suspended in sparkling gray, empty space, supported only by my bed. I knew I was in a domain beyond the earthly world but felt at peace because this place welcomed me; it was uncompromisingly blissful. I sensed that this otherworldly place was a natural extension of my familiar world. A few minutes later, my ordinary surroundings reappeared, looking just as they had been before. I knew that I had not physically left my room, yet somehow my conscious self had been taken to a realm far beyond it.
Each night for the next several weeks, I would lie in bed, hoping the vision would return. It did not, but the experience was always fresh in my mind. I didn’t tell anyone about it, feeling that the experience was not to be shared. Nonetheless, I believed that I had received firsthand knowledge of a dimension that certainly extended beyond this world.
This event made me feel, even as a child, a need to hold myself to a high standard of behavior. At quiet moments when I could feel the presence of the higher realm, I saw myself from afar with an objective perspective. I developed a strong sense of responsibility and empathy; I felt keenly the pain of a student who was bullied and the joy of my classmates when they were praised.
At that time I wasn’t aware that I was following the precepts of Jesus. These precepts inspired me to describe our role in life in Regaining Paradise.
2. Tell us about your transcendent experiences at age fifty…
Before I describe the two visions that I experienced at age fifty it’s significant to recognize that the three visions were reviewed by academics. I shared my transcendent experiences with Gregory D. Alles, a former chairman of the Philosophy and Religious Studies Department at Western Maryland College (McDaniel College since 2002). I also shared my experiences with Sister Margaret McKenna, who is an international speaker on non-violence with a PhD in divinity from the University of Pennsylvania. After considering all aspects of my visions, both found my experiences credible. The sister called me a “modern-day prophet,” and as a result of Alles’s review, my experiences were featured in the “Transcendence” section of the Philadelphia Inquirer in an article called “Shedding Light on Visions of the Divine Light.”
Years passed after my vision at age ten. I married, I had a daughter and I bought a pharmacy in center city Philadelphia that was voted “Best in Philadelphia” in a newspaper poll. In 2000, I received the Philadelphia Hero Award for my service to the HIV/AIDS community.
At age fifty, about an hour before bed one night, I became aware that the lyrics of a Gerry Rafferty song (not one of my top five hundred songs, to place it in context) were running through my mind again and again: “Right down the line, right down the line.” The urgency of the repetition was unnerving. I couldn’t focus on anything else or find any particular meaning in the lyrics. But I felt fairly certain that this matter would be resolved in a dream state.
To initiate the process, I silently repeated the phrase when I lay down for the night. In the next second, it seemed, I was taken to another place and time. I was standing on a barren prairie next to a single set of railroad tracks. Looking “right down the line,” I saw a small shack beside the tracks about halfway to the horizon. When I looked directly at the shack, I was instantly there, standing next to it. This all felt natural and not in the least bit surprising.
I gazed down the railroad line, all the way to the horizon and in the next second I felt myself traveling down the tracks, thrust forward by an unknown force with one foot on each rail. Seconds later, I reached the place I had seen as the “horizon,” at which point the tracks left the railroad bed, changing into lines of force (or force lines) that carried me into space. I soared into the unknown.
In a flash, I understood that this uncharted realm was beyond the material world and free of material forces, even the force of gravity. Material existence here was replaced by a higher, more sublime order of existence that was boundless. I was astonished at and beholden to this higher order of existence that included my conscious, personal self.
Carried forward by an ethereal force, I believed that I could fly off in any direction I chose just by sweeping my arms about. But something of greater importance overrode any willful thoughts. I trusted in the force that radiated through me. I felt sublime joy and the exhilarating rush of freedom.
I was also freed from my physical body. My conscious self was translucent and emitting a soft light. I was in what Campbell calls the “zone unknown.” I understood that this was a condition of my traveling in this domain. I was alone in a luminous gray void, propelled forward on the glowing force lines that functioned like energized skis. I felt that I was traveling at great speed, although I had no sensation of motion. I saw that the background shade of steely gray in the realm in which I was traveling was changing, becoming ever-so-brighter. A profound peace engulfed me. More than that, I understood that I was experiencing my death, yet it all seemed so natural.
I felt invigorated, stronger, and more vibrant than I had ever felt before, with a heightened awareness by all of my senses. I was spellbound and eager to see what lay ahead.
As I raced through this dimension, my self-perception continued to fundamentally change. I now thought of myself mostly as an energetic presence. For a moment, I felt uneasy about losing my physical identity, but as I realized that consciousness exists independently of the physical body, my unease faded. I was aware that my consciousness had greatly sharpened and expanded. I felt more in harmony, more sensitive to the coursing force that was taking me onward.
A sound somewhat like music but ranging well beyond tonal composition came from the vast emptiness. The chords in perfect resonance with my deepest sense of self set me at peace. Still, soon I became concerned. Why didn’t I see others who had died crossing over with me? I looked around but saw no one. I searched deeply into the endlessness and eventually saw a spirit-form like me far in the distance also riding on force lines. I turned, looking, and saw another traveler, then a third, and still more all traveling in the same direction. Although their force lines appeared parallel to mine, I could see that our paths were gradually converging. I looked ahead, trying to gauge where they would meet, and realized that was the place to which we were being taken. I felt like a child anticipating a special gift. Time, which had been marking the progression of events, slowed and deepened and then began to expand, intensifying my experiences yet further.
Looking out into the endlessness, I saw a pinpoint of light ahead in the far distance, growing larger as I and the others converged toward it. As I drew nearer, the number of travelers racing toward the light greatly increased, and in the next tick of time our force lines began to intersect. Each time this happened, I experienced the special beauty of another person’s life force just as that person experienced mine.
As we neared the light, the number of souls I touched grew dizzyingly. Our touching was in no way sexual. Although I had at first assumed the other travelers were either male or female, that was not the case. I realized that we were all, to varying degrees, gradually transforming into an encompassing gender state. The process of sexual unification had begun. I felt each being’s unique life force as we rushed toward the whiteness, merging at the point of entry.
Time dramatically slowed even more as I approached the light. The light filled my entire view. Limits became meaningless as I was pulled into the light; I was magnificently consumed, and the light overwhelmed me. The light was alive! It welcomed and embraced me with a love that was pure, perfect, and unconditional. I felt that I was being loved by all the souls in heaven. I becameone with the incandescence. My exaltation spiked to a level beyond human experience or endurance.
Fearing that I would explode into nothingness, I pulled away from the light as if I had touched a hot electrical line. Even though it’s been over thirty years since that night, the glorious, expansive fullness of the love that I experienced still amazes me.
In the next instant, I lay in my bed, trembling. My first thought was to review the information the light had imparted while it was fresh in my mind. The instructions were clear: I would receive nearly unparalleled freedom upon my death but not before I reconsidered my core identity, who I truly was. I needed to think of myself not primarily as a physical being but as a spirit essence whose consciousness was everlastingly linked to the higher force. I knew that if I denied the role of my restless ego and allowed this change in self-perception to take place, a boundless heaven awaited when I died.
Still trembling, I pledged to acknowledge those conditions without reservation. I understood that my relationship with the light depended on the extent to which I cast off the negative, begrudging part of myself, the part based on fear and insecurity. Although I understood that life in this world is filled with questions both big and small, I believed that I could help in resolving the big questions. In this way, I could fulfill my vision quest, complete my journey, and bring this boon to a world that sorely needs it. Only if I gave my very best in these avenues of life would the covenant be fulfilled.
Lying on my bed, I felt the indescribably fulfilling love of the spirit entities that I had touched. I felt humbled by the experience of entering the light, yet more than anything else, I longed to return there for an extended time. I felt sure that this would happen. Although I understood that I was the one who had pulled away from the light, it still didn’t stand to reason that something or some entity would have drawn me to the light only to experience it for a moment.
For the next few weeks, I believed that each night would be the night when, upon going to bed, I would fully enter the light, but that event did not take place. Still, I remained hopeful, trusting that only by my remaining open and receptive would my expectation be met.
A few days later, my wish was granted. On going to bed and closing my eyes one night, I was transported, and I entered the light. I felt like I had become a radiating sun. I experienced the fathomless love of the creating force, and my beloved father, idealized and glistening, stood in front of me. We reached out and held each other, tears streaming.
My family members who had passed on were circled all around me. I embraced my aunts, uncles, and grandparents and came to know their most loving selves.
The same was true with their parents and their parents’ parents. Shedding tears, we expressed our love for each other. The circle widened as the progression continued back over many dozens of generations. My ancestors numbered in the many hundreds, and they were dancing with joy as they hugged me. I felt their individual and profound collective love, which was unlike any love I had ever known.
The light seemed to set no limitations on me. Through the power of thought, whatever I could imagine became my reality. If I wished to be a Nobel laureate receiving the Peace Prize, I would be honored at a glittering ceremony in Oslo. At the same time, I understood if I were to be granted the gift of creative imagination, I had to earn it by helping others on the earthly plane. The gift is not achieved through grace alone but through selfless actions.
I was stunned when I grasped a fundamental condition of heaven: time as I had experienced it on Earth did not exist here. On earth, consecutive ticking seconds comprise our existence. Here, I would live forever! I wondered, If I am immortal, then am I some form of god? That’s ridiculous! It can’t be true, I declared, berating myself for considering such a possibility. I understood, though, that heavenly time proceeds in relation to the achievement of divinely designed goals, such as spiritual growth and the gaining of incomparable knowledge. I realized that the immortality of the spirit is but one of the joys we are destined to experience at this higher level. All people who have ever lived, are living now, or will live in the future have been given the birthright of immortality.
As I continued in the light, a desire for knowledge overwhelmed me. I wanted to learn more about the earthly dimension and that very thought brought me to a thrilling discovery: All the information I sought was here for me in the light and would be streamed to me in a form that allowed my consciousness to absorb and retain it forever.
I would see the creation of the universe at the Big Bang in slowed time, frame by frame, and the same condition would apply to the emergence of subatomic particles, atoms, and molecules, which in time formed giant cosmic dust clouds that gave rise to our galaxy and solar system: the sun, Earth, and other planets. I would see simple life forms coming into existence in the primeval oceans. I would see the first group of Homo sapiens emerge and also receive a full view of human history, followed by knowledge of other star systems and galaxies.
As my vision in the light continued, I realized that I would be able to divide my conscious awareness to enjoy multiple experiences simultaneously, each independent of the others. My consciousness was centered, much like a wheel hub is the center from which its spokes radiate. But here in the light, each “spoke” represented a separate experience. In the same moment of awareness, I could be with any number of people, soaring through constellations filled with blazing stars, while at the same time watching life forms leave the ocean shallows and crawl onto land on stubby limbs. Hundreds, even thousands of people could simultaneously converse with Einstein and feel his genius, and Einstein could be not only with his audience but also with many others, perhaps Sir Isaac Newton or Copernicus, and have such experiences wherever else he chose.
But I also understood that being in the company of esteemed figures such as Einstein, Gautama Buddha, Jesus, or Mohammed, was a privilege that had to be earned. Much that we will experience in heaven depends on the ethical quality of the life we lead on earth. However, when we are in heaven, if the privilege of meeting such figures is denied us at first, we will have the opportunity to grow spiritually until we can realize that wish. This growth will happen through self- reflection, mentored by spirit entities more highly evolved than we are. This spiritual growth could be of relatively short duration, but for those who made others suffer greatly, it will be long and painful.
I sensed that my experience was coming to an end, but before I left the light, I grasped another truth: beyond heaven is another realm, a place even more beatific. I understood that in this higher place, I would be ever-closerto the creating force and gain spiritual knowledge of a yet more extraordinary quality. However, I was in no rush to learn more about this higher level; my earlier driving sense of urgency was gone. I was exceedingly grateful to be right where I was in the white light of heaven.
For several weeks, I lived as if on a cloud, seeing the everyday world from a distance. Gradually, however, my orientation shifted, and I returned to my daily routine with a greater sense of humanness. I was filled with the wonder of life in all its forms, viewing people as magical life expressions.
As I had decided when I was ten, I recounted my journey to no one. I believed it was not the proper time.
Over the following several years, I thought a great deal about what I had witnessed on the other side. Eventually I began to doubt the veracity of my experiences. It was so far separated from day-to-day existence. The need to focus on everyday realities made me wonder if my heaven had been an invention, no more than wish-fulfilling dreams spurred by unconscious yearnings. Yet at times I visualized the higher dimension of heaven, the place I believed I had experienced, and the memory was as clear and vivid as if it had all happened the day before. In terms of the hero’s journey, this is known as the “refusal of the call.”
After considering both possibilities, I made a series of observations about my conflicted thoughts. What I had experienced both at age ten and at fifty was completely unexpected; the happenings gave me no warning or hint to their origin. The content of the visions did not reflect anything I had been doing or contemplating at the time or previously.
What seemed especially significant was that I knew for certain that the place that I first entered at age fifty, from which I traveled to the eternal light on the force lines, was but a facet of the otherworldly level I had entered at age ten.
Considering these conditions, I reasoned that these happenings must have been initiated by a force that operates beyond normal human experience. The exceptional realness and content of these experiences, and the progressive, interrelated series of events that led me to experience the higher level, encouraged me to believe that my experiences were singular and extraordinary.
For an unknown reason, that force or some aspect of that force had sought me out. Both the message about the venetian blinds and the repeated phrase “right down the line” four decades later appeared to be part of an integrated design that implies intention. I believe the other side intended me to experience infinity at age ten and enter the white light of heaven forty years later.
Experiencing the awe-inspiring, never-ending quality of infinity was significant for a number of reasons. The primary one is that the experience releases the mind from its accustomed constraints, allowing it to realize the conditions of endlessness and its association with the connected oneness of holism and symmetry on an unrestricted scale.
This knowledge is critical to understanding the dual nature of the constants of the universe—time and light— and to realizing that we also are of a fundamental dual nature. I realized that this knowledge of infinity I gleaned in my experiences had helped me understand transcendent issues, such as the origin of consciousness and of our relationship with the creating force, the details of which will be described in later chapters.