The first time happened when I died.
I was floating, with a body, but without a body. Towards a light that wasn’t a light. Surrounded by gray clouds that weren’t clouds.
Floating, but with direction. Up up up. Closer to the light.
I didn’t feel the warmth people usually describe when they die. I just saw the light, and was curious about it, and was being pulled toward it, like there was an invisible cord attached to my invisible chest pulling me up.
That’s when it happened.
It was a voice, but it wasn’t a voice. It was inside of me, but it was also inside of me. It was me, but it was also someone else.
It’s hard to describe but all those things were true. Like me talking to myself, but the me isn’t me, and the words aren’t words.
And it said in authority, with strength and volume and power, “Now isn’t the time.”
And then it was like the invisible cord was snapped an invisible foot kicked me where it had been attached and I fell down to earth so quickly (except I wasn’t really falling).
I woke up with a start. I sat up in my bed, breathing shallowly, eyes wide, regaining my bearings. I was back in my room. For a moment, a brief moment, I was sane.
At the time, I didn’t know that I had almost died. Or that I was at the height of a two month manic episode. I didn’t even know that I hadn’t been eating or drinking during that time. I didn’t know any of those things, even in that sane moment.
But I did know one thing.
I had just spoken to God.
The second time was when I was in the hospital. The emergency room, actually. They kept me waiting in the waiting room while I was going crazy. Do you know that if you’re crazy they still make you wait?
I was babbling to my friend: “They’re going to take me! Take me to Guantanamo! I don’t want to go! Please don’t let them take me, please, please.”
I looked around with darted glances, waiting for the FBI to appear because they had been bugging me for the last two months, and they were on to me, even though I didn’t do anything wrong. In my darted glances I saw some faces looking at me, some of them concerned, some of them laughing. My friend just smiled and held my hand and promised me everything would be okay.
It was finally my turn, and they brought me in to do some tests. They wouldn’t let my friend come with me, despite her protests. They took my blood I think. They spoke to me about things I didn’t know how to answer them about. They finally shoved me into a white bed with curtains around it and made me lie down there by myself. Next to me, I heard a woman complaining about her ankle.
I looked up at the ceiling, because what else do you do when you’re alone in curtained area on a bed? Last time I looked at a ceiling, I died, but I wasn’t so concerned with that at the moment. The FBI was after me.
Some time passed, and I started to feel panicky. I was alone, all alone. I tried to speak up, but for some reason, I couldn’t voice. It ran away when I wasn’t looking.
In the meantime, all the doctors were helping the lady complaining about her sprained ankle.
That’s when God spoke to me. This time, his voice boomed at me, a stern, strong voice.
He told me I could be the Messiah. But I had to do some things first. I don’t want to share them with you, because they are private, between me and God. But suffice to say, they were things I really didn’t want to do. I begged him, I whimpered, I said, Can’t I be the Messiah without doing those things.
But he insisted, in that strong way. So strong it hurt a bit.
“You must do it.”
This time it was a voice and it wasn’t me and it was outside of me. You know, like normal voices.
It was around this time I started screaming. I screamed and screamed, finally louder than the woman with the ankle, which I think is how they make decisions about who to treat in emergency rooms in Arizona. The doctors rushed in, and surrounded me and my friend was there, and I don’t remember what happened next.
On Insanity And Belief
It’s an interesting experience to have God speak to you twice in maybe a week or two, especially in such different ways. One was gentle, caring, but strong. Within, without. Me, not me.
The other almost angry, ordering, warning me of disaster if I don’t follow his rules.
Now, if I was to speak to most scientific-minded folks, I think they would tell me that both times were in my head. Illusions, apparitions. Perhaps both real to me at the time, but neither with any spiritual validity (since spirituality can’t be real, nor God, nor near death experiences). They were my brain synapses firing in crazy ways, once because of my lack of food and drink and almost dying, and the other because I was just plain crazy, going through an extreme manic episode.
There might be another group out there who would be spiritual-minded, who would say that both times were God. Maybe that messiah stuff could be interpreted this way or that to make a bit more sense. But clearly, if God spoke to me once, he spoke to me the other time. He’s not the kind of God that plays tricks on people.
After all, they say shamans of the past, the spiritual leaders of their people, were probably just bipolar like me, or schizophrenic or had voices in their heads like my friend that I met in the mental hospital after all this.
Clearly that’s what was happening, my insanity had tapped me into a spiritual reality most of us sane folk can’t tap into because we’re just so limited and incapable of true spiritual connection.
I think they’re both wrong. It’s almost the tenth anniversary of my insanity, my death, and my hospitalization. It’s right around this time of year that it first happened. I’ve thought about it a lot, written about it a lot, spoken about it a lot. Not because I want attention for it, but because it feels like something I have to process, have to take into my spiritual digestive system and understand as best I can. When God speaks to you, it seems like something you should pay attention to.
The first time He spoke to me, that within and without, that me but not me… it was so real. It was so real, because it was real. It was real because I know it was real, and because I’m telling you it was real. That’s what ten years of thinking about it have led me to believe. I’m sorry I can’t give you more than that. If you want, you can have a manic episode, almost die, and test it out for yourself, but I don’t recommend it if you have the choice.
The second time, I know it wasn’t God. It’s so clear. And I think that’s what makes this whole saga so important to me. That contrast between gods. One real, one a voice, an apparition. At the time, like I said, I thought the FBI was out to arrest me for some unknown reason and they were bugging everywhere I went. I thought I was the messiah (descended from Jesus, thank you very much). I thought I could predict when the next terrorist attack would be. I bought a knife and almost stabbed myself, not because I thought it would hurt me, but because it seemed like a good idea at the time.
I was undeniably crazy. There is no reason for me to believe that this one particular instance of God speaking to me was actually God speaking to me. It was my insanity reaching its height, the first time a voice came to me.
I know this not just because I was crazy, but because I could contrast it with the other experience. This God was mean. He was outside of me. He was not me. He ordered me to follow him without regard for anything I held dear. He didn’t care about me.
That was nothing like the time I died. Like the time he actually spoke to me, and it was this… natural… feeling. All truth, all reality.
True Truth And Fake Truth
I feel that this time in my life has been so defining partly because it taught me to recognize “true truth” and “fake truth”. It taught me that just because someone claims they know God doesn’t mean they actually do. It taught me that there are times in my life that I need to filter out what I think is reality, with what is actual reality. But also taught me that sometimes, I need to take leaps of faith when every inch of my being tells me something is true, despite what the world says, scientists say, angry commenters, world opinion, or any other factor.
A balance of filtering and full, utter belief when we’re sure we’re sure about what we’re sure about.
A discerning but also absolutely innocent point of view when it comes to what we consider/know as truth.
There are people in the world who want us to only use our minds. There are others who want us to only use our hearts.
The good people, the wise people, will teach us how to process with our mind, and stay steadfast with our hearts.
This doesn’t just apply to when we die or go crazy or have some big drama in our lives. It applies to every moment we live. From deciding whether to trust that big rabbi/priest/leader/person-you-trust-in-general about that one topic to choosing whether you should start that art project/business/novel or keep your job or find a way to do both. All of these things require a combination of discernment and utter faith.
It is only through both of these working in concert, in combination, dancing around each other like polar opposite ends of magnets, never quite touching but always circling, that we reach our personal truths, the ones that are actually true, both objectively and subjectively.
I’ll go to my grave believing that I spoke to God (or that he spoke to me? or that we spoke to each other) the time I died. And I suppose when that happens I’ll know for sure. I’ll also go into that same spot in the ground knowing he didn’t when I was in the emergency room bed.
And in that way, I suppose God was actually speaking to me both times. One directly, one indirectly. Reminding me something I would need to know still ten years later, and share with you after I had finally digested it.
He was telling me when to listen to him and when to think I’m listening to him. I know I did it for that moment. I hope I’m doing it now.