In 1960, one of my favorite movies was “The Time Machine” based on H. G. Wells’ novel. Perhaps it was the slight crush I had on Yvette Mimieux (unrequited love) or perhaps it was my attunement with old legends about time travel, but the film remains a favorite even though it’s very dated by now.
Now we’re learning more and more about how astronomers’ observations are verifying Einstein’s theories of space/time. My focus on time is more mystic and speculative than science, but I have always thought that one day we would figure out how to do it without breaking Star Trek’s Temporal Prime Directive that prohibits interfering with cultures in a time frame earlier than our own.
For now, though, I’m content to use my imagination as a time machine when I write as well as when I read. My work in progress is set in 1955. Whether it’s the writing or the ongoing research of the period, I feel like I’m bouncing back and forth between 2020 and the 1950s. I feel the same way when I read whether it’s Southern Gothic, which I like a lot, or mainstream historical novels.
I believe in past lives, though I do think they’re occurring simultaneously with our current lives and “future” lives. Aside from that, books do have a powerful ability to transport us to other times and places. How easy it is to fall under the spell of a book or film set in another time and (while reading/viewing) take everything we see and hear as a reality we want to experience.
Do you feel this way when you read? Do you suddenly “see” a period in our nation’s past (or some other nation’s past) as more real than you did before you began the novel? I usually do. It’s almost like magic.
I appreciate it. Your presence has made 2019 a better year and it needed to be better.
Those of us who tell stories–in books, at parties, around the dinner table, or even in blogs like this one–hope that some of the stories will connect with some of those who have come to the storyteller’s place.
Even the storyteller knows not the ending of a story when s/he begins telling it, just as now I am typing this line with no idea what line will follow it.
Is it luck? No, I don’t think so because one thing has become clear over time; stories know where they are going and just need somebody there to serve as a channel to allow them out into the world.
You have your stories, too, even if you don’t put them in books or blogs. Maybe they’re about your life or maybe they come unbidden from your dreams and your imagination. To all who hear and read your stories, the stories and the listeners/readers are gifts.
From the universe perhaps or from your heart and soul.
Sometimes “what’s your story” is a bully’s taunt. Sometimes it’s a provocative inquiry on a first date. More or less, it means “who are you and/or what are you doing here?”
We spend our lives writing our stories. We’re not always aware of the plots or even the themes. We stack up dreams and hopes like cordwood, or even denials and excuses. Perhaps our stories are more transparent to spouses and friends than they are to us. Not all of us can be read like great novels even though we’re impacted by the tales we discover in books and the memories of others shared around a quiet drink or a backyard barbecue.
If one looks at our stories with the combined eye of a mystic, a shaman, a conjurer, an alchemist, and a quantum scientist, the tapestry of the world’s people becomes a little clearer. We see synchronicities rather than coincidences. We toss out the idea of fate, if not destiny, and maybe on nights when the moon is bright and the flowers and birds are quiet, we glimpse the whole of the world’s stories.
As an author, I like to think that the stories in books–fiction and nonfiction–enlarge our perspectives and help us change course or re-dedicate ourselves to the course already chosen. My quantum view is that every story that can happen, will happen in one universe or another and that we can follow the chains of events that best meet our developing needs for the plots in our own stories.
Reading and listening and observing in a spirit of hope and wonder are so necessary for our progress, it’s difficult to understand why a lot of people don’t read or listen or observe. Have they chosen to close their lives off from the world and/or from themselves? I don’t know, but the result of whatever they’re doing doesn’t seem healthy–or helpful to the world.
I see studies from time to time showing that kids benefit from parents who read to them as well as growing up households full of books. Nonetheless, stories are everywhere and if we’re not finding them on the printed page, I hope we’re finding them in films and paintings and TV shows, and what others tell us whenever we ask “what’s your story?”
The world appears to me as a grand storybook with countless chapters, millions of characters, unlimited locations, and possibilities that expand outward at lightspeed. The fate of nations and peoples and justice and Earth itself has not yet been determined because many of us are writing blind or aren’t aware that the daily scenes in our personal stories contribute to the story of our planet. We’re all linked like the characters in the pages of a well-written novel; I think we’ll like where our combined story goes if we realize this and live accordingly.
Like Gordon Lightfoot’s “Minstrel of the Dawn” and Bob Dylan’s “Mr. Tambourine Man,” storytellers are always tempting you to follow them, as though through faerie rings, to the farthest reaches of tall tales, music, and imagination. We can’t promise you’ll return the way you were when you left the everyday land of logic, but you’ll find yourselves reborn in just the way the god of your heart intended.
For temptations from my website, I invite you to click on this picture:
This is the era of the memoir. That’s okay. Everyone has a story to tell. If you’re already famous, so much the better, especially when the real story includes sex, scandals, and heroics that the biographers and fan magazines missed.
I used to tell people I was raised by alligators near the town of Immokalee, Florida and that my dad, Papa Gator, was the inspiration for the section of road through the Everglades called Alligator Alley.
Surprisingly, few people thought this was true even though they appreciated the wisdom of Papa Gator and his attempts to gain respect from the snowbird northern tourists without having to sacrifice his eating habits. There’s no need to talk about that here because most of you would probably file those truths under Too Much Information.
In “real life” I was a college professor’s son in a middle-class brick house in a middle-class neighborhood. I delivered the morning newspaper, had a ham radio receiver and transmitter in my bedroom along with fresh water and salt water aquariums, and was an Eagle Scout. Where I “went wrong” was discovering that I could lie in such a way that people believed me, including my parents, teachers, pastors, and ladies of the evening whom we snuck into the church basement.
See, already you have here the basis for a successful lie. Looking at the previous sentence, most people will assume we snuck in hookers, while others will wonder if–inspire of the Oxford comma–we also snuck in parents, teachers, and pastors. I learned early on that successful lies needed to include enough verifiable facts to make them seem true along with certain areas of vagueness that were misleading. Case in point, when I told my parents I was going to swing by the library, they thought–as I knew they would–that I was actually going to go inside and study. I never said that but I was content with their view of my plans for the evening.
I didn’t like staying inside the house. So, during an evening when I said I was swinging by the library–which was the gospel truth of the matter–my 1954 Chevy and I were likely to be a hundred of miles away from home, usually following sandy roads through national forest lands and visiting places with multiple meanings in their names like the River Styx, Tate’s Hell Swamp, and Florida Garden of Eden.
A family friend wrote a popular book called The Other Florida about the state’s panhandle and I was determined to explore all of it. I thought I was simply getting away from it all. Little did I know I was inadvertently gathering facts and impressions about a series of conjure woman books I would one day write some fifty years in the future.
Of course, fiction and fact blur together. Such is my imagination. Is it a lie or is it fiction? When I write fiction, I always blur the lines between truth and myth, impressions and reality, and night and day. That’s who I am, and it grew out of the need I felt as a child to be secretive and to keep people from knowing who I was or where I was, and so it evolved into a writing style in the genres of magical realism, contemporary fantasy, and paranormal. Yes, I know, the who business might be an early sign of dementia.
All this comes to mind because I’m working on a short story about a man who’s put in a rest home because his kids convince a judge he’s too eccentric to be left alone in his home where he’ll probably spend all the money they want to inherit on frivolous stuff. Not that I think my family would do that. But if they did, I’m sure they’d tell the judge that I think I was raised by alligators or that I snuck a hooker into the church basement.
Writers not only have to worry that their search history on their computer might one day be snagged by the FBI in an attempt to prove they did some hideous thing when, in fact, they were doing research for a book, but they (the writers) also have to worry about being put in a home when people figure out that the stories and novels they publish sound oddly similar to the lies they told their parents when they were kids.
My imagination has always ruled my thinking. It has taken precedence over logic and so-called verifiable facts. I justify my lies by pointing out that quantum mechanics tells us that what can happen, does happen. With that in mind, it’s impossible to tell a lie. Plus, if I appeared to be telling a lie–in “real life” or a memoir–I was simply working on the rough draft for a short story, novel, or alibi.
I suspect that most of my life actually happened. But as I grow older, I’m not sure how or where it happened. Papa Gator seems so real
My parents’ parents read to them. My parents read to me. I read to my daughter. She reads to my granddaughters. I’m pleased to see the tradition continue. It’s almost as though it becomes part of our family’s DNA and the process is continued generation after generation.
When my brothers and I cleaned out our parents’ house after they died, among the memories we found were boxes and boxes of our childhood books. Our parents’ generation inscribed books they gave as gifts, so the dates told us when the books first came into our consciousness. At one point, I thought my granddaughters might like them.
It’s a bit disappointing to discover that the books I enjoyed when I was a kid no longer hold much appeal now. Today’s children’s books are linked to the children’s shows they watch on TV or at the movies. These grab their attention, whereas something I liked 3/4 of a century ago elicits a yawn.
But that’s okay. On the way back from a day trip to Lake Tahoe, my oldest granddaughter was goofing around with stories about imaginary beings, some she made up on the spot, others that might have been prompted from some of the books her parents read to her. We joked about portals between our car and the car with the rest of the family in it as though such portals were a part of our everyday reality.
I doubt that she remembers that conversation any more than I would remember a similar conversation with either of my parents from (give or take) the time of my 5th birthday. But the conversation told me her parents had been reading to her and that she had developed a wonderful imagination. I’m so proud of her for figuring out at her young age that there’s more to see that she can see with her physical eyes.
As a writer, I suppose I have a stake in the tradition of kids being read to by their parents and then discovering the joy of reading as they grow older. But it’s not because I hope they’ll buy my books. It’s because I have felt the power of my imagination in my life and can’t imagine living in the world without it. Reading is a powerful catalyst to thinking outside the box and outside the brainwashing of the political forces of one’s time.
Those with a powerful imagination may not have an easy time of it because they can see what others cannot see. They may grow up and find themselves out of step with the fads of the time. I know I did. But I wouldn’t trade understanding for conformity in spite of the temptations.
When my parents read to me, I doubt they thought the reading would have an impact on my life. They did it because it was fun and because I enjoyed the stories. The same is true when I read to my daughter. These days, we know there are studies that show that kids who are read to by their parents have a better shot at life. Maybe some parents know about those studies and read to their kids as a duty. I can’t say that I approve of that. Reading is such a wonderful way of sharing a story with one’s children, that there’s no other reason to do it. They like the stories. So do we.
Everything else in icing on the cake.
Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of the Florida Folk Magic Series of three magical novels now available as an e-book in mutlipe formats.
While practicing healing and intuition exercises, beginners are told to begin with their imagination and that in time, their imagination will slide away and they’ll be seeing reality. (See Part One.)
Here’s a personal example that surprised me at the time, first that it happened at all, second that it was vivid and intense.
In a discussion group composed of people who at taken one or two Silva Method courses, we often talked about visualizing healing energy flowing from ourselves to other people. Usually, these were people we knew were sick, and the energy was sent after we relaxed our minds and closed our eyes and “saw” the energy as a beam of pure white light flowing toward (and enveloping) the person.
Some suggested we could send energy to people we saw on the street or on a bus or in a room full of people. We’d simply imagine it happening without closing our eyes or using any self-hypnotic countdown of numbers to relax our minds.
Headlights and Tail Lights
I tried this out on a dark country road that had a relatively small amount of traffic. My plan was to send energy to the people inside the cars as represented by pairs of headlights and tail lights ahead of me, on side roads at intersections, or in my rear view mirrors.
When only a car or two was visible, I could “say” in my mind, “Healing energy is flowing into your car for all of you.” When traffic grew heavier, that changed to quickly saying “Energy to you” for each pair of lights.
Even though I wasn’t far from home, the night was very dark, so I couldn’t possibly recognize any of the cars or the people in them.
After doing this for ten or fifteen minutes, I began to “know” how many people were in the cars, whether or not any of them were really sick or depressed or happy or having an argument, and sometimes whether they suddenly felt a “jolt of health” or a “jolt of happiness.” Their thoughts and conversations were becoming strongly apparent.
Soon, I was in tears because the impressions were so strong, the white light of the energy appeared before my eyes like flashes of lightning, and for some of the cars there came a validation that I was sensing actual moments and/or providing (through the energy) a bit of help.
I was an emotional wreck by the time I reached my destination (my house) and sat in the dark driveway for a long time trying to process what had just happened. I have never tried to replicate this experience because the impressions and flashes of lights were so vivid, they were beginning to dangerously impact my driving. I worried that I might close my eyes without realizing it and end up wrecking my Jeep.
So What Did It Mean?
First, it demonstrated that what begins as imagination can become more than that. It also showed me that the shift from imagination to intuition is most likely to happen when one isn’t trying to force it to happen. I thought I was pretending to send energy. Maybe it began that way, but it became an overwhelming validation that the process works.
Second, it gave me the confidence–usually in an easy chair with my eyes closed–to send energy or “see” situations while my mind was in a relaxed (alpha waves) state. The experience showed me what it felt like when intuition has taken over. So, I was going to a place I knew. People using biofeedback to lower their blood pressure while hooked up to a flashing light that indicates their progress, discover (when the light slows down) what it feels like when the biofeedback works. This allows them to do it without the flashing light wired to their fingertips. If you practice intuition and/or various energy healing programs, including Reiki, “what it feels like” is a good guide to how you’re doing, so to speak.
As a writer, artist, musician, or any other creative person who loves to let their imagination run free, I think we all discover in time that whether we’re writing a book or playing mind games, sometimes we learn things we didn’t expect to discover.
Even now, I “know” (even though I’m not thinking about that old exercise) what kinds of people are in the cars represented by headlights and tail lights on the roads at night. Yes, I avoid those who seem malevolent or feel a kinship with those who are happy or depressed. One never knows why kinds of faculties an exercise will unlock.
Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of magical realism novels where the magic and the realism are real.
“Alpha waves are one type of brain waves detected either by electroencephalography (EEG) or magnetoencephalography(MEG) and predominantly originate from the occipital lobe during wakeful relaxation with closed eyes. Alpha waves are reduced with open eyes, drowsiness and sleep. Historically, they were thought to represent the activity of the visual cortex in an idle state. More recent papers have argued that they inhibit areas of the cortex not in use, or alternatively that they play an active role in network coordination and communication. Occipital alpha waves during periods of eyes closed are the strongest EEG brain signals.” – Wikipedia
I have included a quotation here about alpha waves because they represent the level of relaxed brain activity used for intuition. As the Silva Method teaches, your intuition works best at the alpha level–as opposed to the beta level of our usual waking world functioning. I can’t reproduce their technique here other than to say that when you count down from ten to one (or something similar) and visualize yourself becoming more and more relaxed, you will tend to be producing alpha waves.
So, in many ways, what one does first is enter into a state of relaxation conducive to visualization and intuition. That’s a given. Many people have found that recorded guided visualizations help them reach an alpha level.
Assuming you can relax, take a step away from your worries and goals, and silence the ever-chattering voice inside your head, the first step is belief.
Some people see belief as a catch-22 trick foisted on the rest of us by those who write books about magic. The so-called “trick” is, if you don’t believe, the magic won’t work, though until you’ve seen evidence of it working, you have no basis for belief. I suggest approaching this issue in a spirit of play. Pretend you’re playing with the techniques rather than trying to prove anything one way or another the first time out. In time, you’ll begin to think, “hmm, this seems to be working.”
Some people, especially those whose focus is ancient ritual magic, say will power comes first. This is not altogether wrong, though I shy away from saying that because in today’s world, I think will power suggests a brute-force, logical approach. I’d rather use the term “intention.” For magic–however you define it–to work, your intention cannot be scattered with distracting thoughts about daily concerns. Your intention should also be highly focused, that is, on a specific result rather than a vague, open-ended result.
Those of us who believe in magic also believe that belief and intention play a large role in the reality we experience, and that includes the results that we see from our goals, hopes, and dreams. That is, your are already using intention and belief subconsciously, so why not use it “properly” for better results.
“Properly” means not only using relaxation techniques and focusing your process, but avoiding second-guessing it later. A lot of people “undo” their best of intentions by thinking negative thoughts about them the rest of the day. Stop doing that.
Magic also works better when you can imagine the end result. All of us can see things in our mind’s eye. That’s what we do when we remember people we’ve known and places we used to live. We can see all that quite clearly. In the same way, we can imagine what things will be like when our goals–and our magic–come to pass. If you have visualized yourself moving into a better home, think of that place in your idle time: imagine the yard, the gardens, the front door, the entry hall, and the other rooms. Pretend you are there fixing a meal or watching television. What is is like?
Workable magic is usually very dependent on a relaxed level of mind, a belief in what you’re doing, a well-focused intention, and on the ability to imagine what you are creating.
“The Muses are the inspirational goddesses of literature, science, and the arts in Greek mythology. They were considered the source of the knowledge embodied in the poetry, lyric songs, and myths that were related orally for centuries in these ancient cultures. They were later adopted by the Romans as a part of their pantheon.” – Wikipedia
Many of us learned the classical definition of muses in school. We had to memorize their names along with those of all the other Greek and Roman gods, goddesses, heroes, heroines, and ill-defined entities.
When we studied long-dead writers whose books were part of the acceptable canon, we quickly saw that many of their muses weren’t from the pantheon, but were imagined as wispy, ephemeral (real or imagined) women who–when captured by artists–looked like they were dying of consumption or, possibly, syphilis. I told my professors I didn’t want anyone or anything like that hanging around giving me writing advice. This met with disapproval.
Later, when my muse showed up on a dark and stormy night, she turned out to be a whisky-drinking, spell-casting woman who looked (I’m not making this up) like a hell’s angel biker. She had a “write this or else” kind of attitude. It took us a while to come to an understanding.
But now I’m starting to wonder if all those Greek goddesses, consumptive women, and more modern whisky-drinking muses are illusions or, worse yet, aliens taking their instructions from a fully cloaked mothership in orbit around the earth. I often thought cats got their instructions from a similar source, but that’s another post.
So, here we are, slaving away writing fiction, all the time thinking we’re making it up, using our imaginations, joking about what our muses want and don’t want, &c., when it turns out, we’re drones taking dictation from a race of beings from (possibly) the Klingon Empire who want to hack into our brains and influence our destiny via what we perceive to be home-grown works of art, music, drama, and literature. Sort of like the matrix, but worse.
Is there a way to prove this? Of course not. All attempts at proof will–due to the prime directives of our otherworldly muses–sound like fantasy, science fiction, fairy tales, and insanity. I also notice that whenever I try to sabotage my muse as a way of protesting the mothership scenario, I get writer’s block. The only way I’m getting this post written at all was by drinking my muse under the table. (I’m trying to hurry before she wakes up.)
I’ve tried a variety of witches’ and conjure women’s spells, but they seem (so far) capable of getting rid of haints, demons, and the hexes from bad people. Muses are another kettle of spirits. So far–after a lot of dutiful testing–I’ve learned that they’re susceptible to booze. Here’s what that means. You’ve got to practice learning how to hold more liquor than your muse can hold. When she’s drunk and you’re not yet drunk, you can write, paint and compose without interference. For me, that means keeping a bottle of single malt Scotch and/or a quart jar of moonshine on the desk at all times.
If you want to be your own writer rather than the pawn in somebody’s cosmic game of chess, you might want to consider the benefits of this approach. Sure, you might go broke or die of liver failure, but that’s a small price to pay for the sanctity of your art.
Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of “Eulalie and Washerwoman” and “Conjure Woman’s Cat,” novels he wrote while trying to get rid of haints.
The term “scrying’ is often called crystal gazing whether the medium/psychic stares into a crystal ball, a mirror, or the clear surface of a bowl of water to help them “see” the future. I thought of the term while writing about Tarot cards because many card readers use a form of scrying to better understand each card in the Tarot deck.
However, instead of staring at a crystal ball, they stare at the image on the card and, so to speak, imagine stepping inside the card to better see the image. If one does this often, one “sees” more than the symbols and drawings on the card and begins to imagine other things, visions or day dreams, perhaps, that begin as an active process of relaxed imagination and end up supplying information not previously known.
Of course, you can do that with a photograph of a person, a house, an outdoor scene, or anything else and imagine what is going on there.
Many writers do something similar when they write without necessarily thinking there’s anything like psychic ability or mediumship or fortune telling associated with it. What happens is this: when concentrating on a scene in the novel or short story in progress, the writer stops typing to use logic for puzzling out what needs to happen next in the story. They casually think about it. The imagination can be unleashed in much the same way a Tarot card reader’s imagination is given free reign while s/he looks at the image on a card.
When a writer does it, they’re not telling fortunes. They’re better seeing the story, daydreaming it–in a sense–to learn what’s going to happen next.
If you haven’t tried this, you can stare at your writing on the screen, say, an action scene or the description of a room or a character, with a “hmmm” kind of attitude. Basically, you let your eyes blur so that you’re not reading the words on the page over and over. Instead, you’re “looking at” or “stepping into” whatever it is those words are saying. If the words describe a room in a house, you’re pretending to be inside that room. If they’re describing a chase scene, you’re pretending to see the scene unfold before your eyes as though you’re watching a TV show.
If you have a photograph or drawing of a real or imagined place setting where your story is set, you can do the same thing. Look at it and imagine being there and watching the action. Some writers have found this works when they’re doing research and find themselves staring at the words on the page of a book about the subject their novel is about. Suddenly, new ideas for the story begin too come to mind–rather like free association.
Anyone who writes fiction over a period of time will find ways to jump start his or her imagination. Some of us idly think of our stories while driving or doing repetitive tasks. Others think about their stories while listening to music. And then, there’s being a crystal gazer (so to speak). All these things tend to put the author into the scene one way or the other so that the subconscious mind gets involved and shows you what you’re intending to do.
It beats fighting with words on the page while logically trying to brute force the story into place.
Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of magical realism, contemporary fantasy, and paranormal books and stories, including Eulalie and Washerwoman.