I Met God — God Without Religion, Scripture, or Faith: Aftermath
BRAD LINAWEAVER: What happened next?
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: First of all, physically, for the next of couple weeks, I thought it was quite possible that I was dying. Again, after this experience, I found myself in the Emergency Room, had to rehydrated again with an intravenous drip.
Over the next week, physically, I was very weak. I had to stop dieting and start increasing my calories, simply to try to balance out my body. I felt wrecked, I felt drained. I felt like I needed to draw energy into me somehow and where was I going to get it? And so what I was doing, I went down to the beach with my shoes off — and remember this is February so we’re not talking about balmy summer days on Venice Beach or something like that — but I felt I had to walk along the cool sand and crunch the sand beneath my feet and draw energy into me to survive.
I had an experience while I was driving in my car. It was like I was driving through waves of fire like through curtains of fire or something like that. Where suddenly, whoa! It’s just enormously hot and I had that happen to me several times. It’s part of the reason why, in writing Escape from Heaven, when I have Jesus doing His resurrection on Duj, He does it not with water, which would be the traditional Biblical imagery of Baptism, but with fire.
It was because I felt that I was going through some sort of transition and that fire was burning something out of me. Physiologically, this is what was going on.
Now, mentally what was going on, was like asking the question over and over again: was it real? Did this really happen? Did I have an experience that was real or did I just have a psychotic break with reality? Did I just experience some sort of naturally induced drug trip?
BRAD LINAWEAVER: Was it ever possible both could coexist in some way?
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: I was trying to ask myself questions like that. But the most important question that I was asking over and over again was: what does this mean? Okay? And the consequence of that question was: am I, in some sense or another, really God?
Because, remember, the experience was me having the mind of God, and now suddenly, when it ended that evening on February 18th, it felt like a withdrawal, like at the end of sex, or something like that.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: Or like drugs? Coming down from drugs?
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: No. I wouldn’t know that, honest to God. I haven’t really taken drugs to know that. But what it felt like was withdrawal at the end of sex. Okay? A softening. It was almost like post-orgasmic or something like that. This release of tension. But it was like God wasn’t gone. He was still there but the volume was down. And that continued on, the feeling that God was still there within me, but with the volume down.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: Could it be, in a sense, we all have that contact with God, but we don’t notice it because the volume is down so low? And you felt it because the volume was turned way up in your case and then turned back down. Is that a metaphor that works?
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Yes, but the question was very individualist and poignant for me.
Since I saw myself from outside of myself with God’s eyes — with His viewpoint, with His cognition — and since it was clear to me that there was a mission involved here, somehow, and I didn’t know what it was, I had not been given the specifics beyond, “A circle will form around you.”
BRAD LINAWEAVER: Explain that a little more, “A circle will form around you.”
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: That people were going to be drawn around me, almost in the sense of disciples or apostles or something like that.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: You really felt that?
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: It was explicit in the message.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: Oh, wow! It’s not a feeling. It’s words, and concepts?
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: That was definite, “A circle will form around you.”
And, by the way, I asked God, “When is this going to happen?”
He said — and it’s like I’m saying to myself, remember always — “Soon.”
Here’s a strange question I asked. I guess I must have started to be individuating from God again by the point I asked this question, soon for you or soon for me? And His answer was soon for you. So there was already starting to separate going on at the point where I’m asking that. In other words that must have been sort of toward the end of it when we were already separating and I wasn’t fully aware of it yet because I was already starting to think like Neil Schulman again, if I’m saying soon for you or soon for me? But I was told there was a mission and that it was not going to involve my getting executed like had happened when He had done this before.
And that, by the way, was when I started really taking seriously the idea that maybe Jesus was real. Because of that interchange, that memory, that there was something that it hadn’t worked out well the last time.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: Something really happened 2000 years ago, it’s not all made up?
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Yes, that was part of the recollection. That was part of the access to the memory banks, the Tree of Knowledge or whatever we want to call it.
Okay. So I kept on trying to figure out: does this mean that in some sense I am God?
BRAD LINAWEAVER: How many hours are we talking about again?
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: The experience from beginning to end?
BRAD LINAWEAVER: Yeah, yeah.
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Basically starting at around noon and ending at around eight o’clock in the evening. At the full volume, at the full volume. Then, at lower volume, for weeks after that.
And then you sort of get peaks and valleys. Some of the peaks being when I began writing intensely on Escape from Heaven again. Then the volume went up again.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: Oh really? You definitely felt it coming back in places?
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Oh yeah, and we’ll get to that.
But, I was trying to figure out, is this true?
I mean, I feel like a megalomaniac in even asking myself this question. I’m trying to phrase it in terms of where I was then. Okay. You know? Only a megalomaniac would think he’s God. And yet what if it’s true?
How could this be possible? I mean, coming from my background which only recently before I hadn’t even believed in God, and now I’m asking myself if I am Him? And, by the way, I thought that was funny even at the time. That here I am — just recently an atheist — and I’m asking myself if I’m God?
BRAD LINAWEAVER: A way of saying that you don’t believe in yourself.
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Right! And that, by the way — the way that you just phrased it right now – “Do I believe in myself?” — was, in essence, saying, “I know God is real but am I real?” Because I had been pulled out of myself. Is this person — whom I’ve been since my birth — a real person, or is it merely a fictitious projection, as I was experiencing while this was going on?
Look. C.S. Lewis taught me a lot and one of the things he taught me, I believe this is a traditional Christian viewpoint here. In asking yourself “Is Jesus Christ the Son of God? He made this claim.” — there’s only three possibilities. One. “He’s a liar, a charlatan.” Two. “He’s a madman, a psychotic who was having megalomaniac delusions.” Or three. “He’s telling the truth and He really is.”
Now, I knew I wasn’t lying, because it was myself, but that left me with two choices. One. What I had experienced was real and in some sense I was God. And two. I was out of my mind.
I had eliminated fifty percent of the alternatives and I was still left with the big one! “Am I out of my mind? Was this a break with reality?”
BRAD LINAWEAVER: Or was this experience real?
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Or was it real?
Now, mind you, it was not the first time that I’d had experiences like this, okay? And so I was not able to get shut of the reality of it. As much as I was afraid of it, in some sense I had to almost — as an article of faith – say, “What has been given to me is real, and if what God is telling me is that I am God, then in some sense that I can’t comprehend, nor am I willing to accept or believe, I am God.”
I don’t know what that means, and I don’t know what I’m supposed to do with it.
And, by the way, what I started doing then was a search to try to find out, has this happened to anybody else? That was the most important thing on my mind then: has this happened to anybody else?
That’s why I started reading books like Conversations with God by Neale Donald Walsch and started trying to basically read up in an area which I had no real interest in before then, none whatsoever. But I was simply trying to find out, am I the only person this has happened to or has it happened to a ton of people and I’m simply one of them?
BRAD LINAWEAVER: Well, of course some critics would say, “Oh, the insane asylums are full of people like this.” Though, in fact, the insane asylums have more people who think they’re Napoleon, or think they’re some historical figure who’s long gone. There are people who have what they call the God Complex in asylums, but there’s not as many as people who think they’re historical figures.
What I want to know is why, when a medium at a séance claims to channel a lost human being — a ghost, basically — why people don’t freak out? Atheists just go, “Oh, well, what a fraud!” And religious people wonder whether it’s true or not. And certain fundamentalist Christians say you shouldn’t risk your soul in a séance. And others are willing to try for it. But nobody gets upset over the idea that some living person is channeling a ghost. But people get very upset when a living person claims to be channeling God.
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Right. And I was simply curious to find out if there were others claiming to be channeling God.
Now, I need to point out something to you, since you mentioned the insane asylum. Okay? The crazy person goes around trying to convince other people that he is who he says he is-
BRAD LINAWEAVER: Napoleon or —
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Napoleon, or Jesus Christ. As you say, the asylums are full of people who claim to be Jesus Christ or Mary or something like that. But the point is they’re going around trying to convince other people of it.
The last thing I wanted to do was tell anybody about this. Because, if I thought I was crazy, certainly they would think I was crazy, too! I didn’t want to tell anybody that I was considering — inside my skull — the idea that I was God. They’d put me away!
I was pretty much back to myself after the first few weeks, when I started feeling physically stronger again, and no longer had this fear that this was an end-of-life experience. Because, by the way, people who I’ve spoken to about this experience since, say that, in some senses, it matches up with the near-death experiences of those who have had their hearts stopped or something like that and found themselves out of themselves. Because, when I would try to explain that I was out of my personality, people would hear it and think of it as an out-of-body experience.
I wasn’t out of my body. God was in my body with me. That was different.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: No, it’s definitely flipped from the normal. It’s definitely different.
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Right. So, again, I didn’t want to go around telling anybody I was God. Not during the experience and not afterwards.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: You weren’t floating around looking at your own body. You had decided that God had invaded your body —
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: No, it wasn’t an invasion because it was welcome. The experience was entirely welcome.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: I don’t know what verb to use but God had overlapped with, intruded upon…
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: How about had communed with me?
BRAD LINAWEAVER: Or double exposured, or whatever?
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: How about conversation in the Biblical sense? That it was a joining? Instead of a physical joining it was a spiritual joining? Or to use the metaphor which I came up with later, it was a Mind Meld.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: Well, I just used the modern term with double exposure, and you’re using the Star Trek term, with Mind Meld.
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Double exposure also works. An overlay. But also — during this overlay — being God was much more who I was than Neil Schulman. And then it reversed again when I was Neil Schulman more again.
But the question always arose: is there any truth to this? And then later on I started asking myself: is it possible that there’s more than one interpretation of it? I know that there is an identity exchange going on but is that simply a consequence — an artifact — of the way that God communicates in this situation? And that I’m not really God. It’s just that you have to think you’re God while it’s going on, to be able to get the experience? Was it, in fact, like a Vulcan Mind Meld?
Because, again, I wasn’t Jesus. My flaws were very, very clear to me. My humanity was very, very clear to me. My imperfections were very, very clear to me, and my weakness — and lack of super powers — was very, very clear to me. I wasn’t able to — like in Bruce Almighty — reach across the table and have the cream slide toward me. I didn’t have telekinesis. I didn’t have the ability to turn water into wine —
BRAD LINAWEAVER: Or beer!
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Or beer. Or to heal, or raise the dead, or any this other sort of stuff. In other words, if what comes with the full package was being able to do that, I didn’t have the full package. And how could I be God if I didn’t have the full package?
BRAD LINAWEAVER: Allow me to make one stupid joke. You still had the power to turn wine and beer into water.
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: That’s right. Yes, that is quite correct!
BRAD LINAWEAVER: I had to say that.
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Very good! Okay.
So for the next year, there were a few people who I talked about this with. A very few. I talked about it with my sister.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: I seem to recall you talked to me about it.
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: I talked to you about it. I didn’t talk to Dafydd about it.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: At some point you finally did tell Dafydd, but not at that time.
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Yes, but I was very circumspect, and careful, and slow and deliberate. Part of it was simply I had to ask. You know I needed some professional advice here, of people who had the knowledge of theology and mysticism, and all this sort of thing which I did not have.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: I need to know this. Did you talk to Sam Konkin?
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Yes.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: Did you talk to Victor Koman?
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Not at any great length.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: Back in 1988 when you had the hand-on-the-heart experience —
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Victor knew about that.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: Victor and I sat there, together with you at a hotel, and you told us all about it, together. Victor and I talked about it, long afterward. After that one, the year that Heinlein died — to this day Victor and I remember that. You were telling both of us at the same time in a hotel lobby. I just wondered if you’ve had the conversation with Victor, equivalent to the one you had with me, after the Mind Meld.
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: I don’t remember at this moment.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: Okay. And any comment from Sam, do you remember?
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Sam took it pretty well in stride.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: Give a sentence or two on that.
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: I’m not sure how relevant this is to people who don’t know who Sam was. Sam, my best friend who passed away a couple of months ago, who was my libertarian mentor and a good buddy. He was somebody who I always bounced ideas off of, so in essence, I think I just gave him sort of an outline of the experience, just to let him know that this was what was going on with me, so he would have context of perhaps some odd behavior that he might be noting in me. Why I seemed to be more interested in certain things that I had been. But Sam wasn’t judgmental about it. If he expressed the thought, “Well, Neil, that’s crazy,” I don’t think he thought I was any crazier than I had been before. Because, again, I’d had the previous experiences, which I’d told him about.
He had the experience — going back to when we were living in New York — where we went on that trip, borrowing Bob Cohen’s car and going to a Boston Tea Party demonstration of the Society for Individual Liberty in Boston. And, on the drive back, the car spinning out, in Rocky Hill, Connecticut. And none of us being hurt, going to the motel room, none of us making any phone calls. And the next morning, I called my folks to tell them what had happened and my mother said, “We already know.”
“How do you know?”
“Well, your father leaned over to me around ten o’clock last night, and said, ‘They’ve been in an accident in the car but none of them were hurt.’”
BRAD LINAWEAVER: Wow!
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: And Sam was a witness to that, so he knew he had been an actual observer to one of these psychic experiences in my family. So, going back to 1974, 1975, Sam knew that there was something going on with me.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: How did he ever account for that, being such a total materialist?
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: He remembered it. He never shied away from being a witness to it. Whenever anybody asked him about it, he said, “Yes, that’s what happened.” But he was never able to go beyond that and attribute any meaning to it, because he was an absolute materialistic skeptic.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: Right.
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: But he never shied away from being a witness to it and being an honest reporter of it. Sam was too honest for that.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: Yes!
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: So, yes, I discussed it with certain people. There was a summer after the experience — maybe even that next summer — where I visited my sister in Colorado Springs. And my sister is part of a spiritual community there with a lot of friends who have psychic experiences and mystical beliefs and that sort of thing. And I started talking with some of them.
Some of it was very confronting to me because they were saying, “Oh, yes, every mystic has this experience and you’re just one.” But none of them could lay claim to the experience that I had had. I always felt like they… this business: “Why, we all think we’re God.”
No! I hadn’t thought I was God before this happened. And I was finding it hard to believe afterwards! As a matter of fact, if anything was draining my energy, it was my trying to fight the idea that I had to believe that. Sure, I’m willing to accept that I’m a prophet. That’s easy. Fine. A prophet. No problem. Long history of that.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: Dime a dozen.
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Dime a dozen! Prophet, mystic, one of God’s soldiers. “I’m on a mission from God!” from The Blues Brothers. No problem with any of that. But, “I’m God!”? “Are you out of your freakin’ mind, Neil? That doesn’t track! That is crazy stuff! Neil, stop being a megalomaniac! You’ve gotta stop doing that!”
That’s what was going on after this, then…
BRAD LINAWEAVER: Question, this is a good one. Is it possible that the people who truly meet God, ultimately have the experience of being God? Have you stumbled onto that perhaps?
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Not personally, I haven’t met anybody like that.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: I’m talking about all through human history. I don’t mean here and now.
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: I kept on being disappointed because I really wanted to find somebody else who this happened to. That’s why I read two of Neale Donald Walsch’s books and was disappointed, when I’m reading this stuff, and he has God saying things to him that I knew God would never say. Because for one thing, he has God talking to Neale Donald Walsch, and having God refer to us as “you people” or something like that. “Oh, you people!” Like God is some alien from another planet or something like that.
What I experienced during this is that God didn’t experience Himself as separate from “you people.” That God thought of Himself as one of us.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: Do you find more truth in a Jim Carrey movie like Bruce Almighty, than in all these New Age mystic books?
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Yes, absolutely! And that’s also true of Oh God! I find a lot of truth in Oh God! and I find a lot of truth in Bruce Almighty. These seem to me closer to the spirit of what I experienced than what I was getting from Neale Donald Walsch. And I’m sorry, I don’t mean to be critical and judgmental about it. I’m simply saying that I wasn’t getting it from him. I wanted to be getting it from him and I was disappointed that I wasn’t getting it from him. I wanted somebody else whom I could seek out, share the experience with, and maybe be able to understand it a little better by the sharing of it. And I wasn’t getting that from anybody around me.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: These guys have not had the experience you’ve had?
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: That was the impression I was getting.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: And who was the guy on the CyberCity show Jack brought on?
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: John Hogue.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: I got the impression from listening to that exchange that whatever experiences he’s had, they have nothing to do with yours?
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: My experience, I was not finding an analog for it in anybody else, except in one case and it scared the hell out of me.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: Which is?
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Jesus Christ, Himself.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: Oh, nobody you met personally?
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Right. The only thing I could find anywhere — not Joan of Arc, who heard voices, or prophets who had dreams — although I’d had dreams also and continued to have them — but I couldn’t find anybody else, in looking through mystical experiences, other than Jesus Christ, who apparently had the same experience that I had — only He had it at a deeper level. In other words, I had just a spoonful of it and He had an ocean of it.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: Could you conclude though, in the last 2000 years, there’s other people who may have had this spoonful of experience that you just don’t know about?
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Yes.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: Look at the trouble you’re having getting your message out, isn’t that a reasonable assumption?
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Absolutely. But the point is that I haven’t found them. And as a matter of fact, one of the reasons I put the license plate on my car, “I met God,” is that I hoping that somebody who met God is going to see the license plate and say, “I did, too! Let’s talk about it! I’ve been looking for you!”
BRAD LINAWEAVER: So, far from wanting to make some kind of exclusive-ist claim, you’re looking for other people to share the experience with?
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Yes.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: That’s very important to stress in this book.
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: I’m searching. I’m searching for whoever else has gone through this, and fearing that it might only be me. What awesome responsibility that is. That, in a profound sense, sucks.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: Yes!
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: The sense of responsibility, if you are really chosen.
The next event that really happens is the writing of Escape from Heaven. And, as you well know, because you kept on encouraging me — here’s where you come into the story a little bit more — is that I was having a very hard time trying to get going on this and a number of things happened to me in the meantime.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: You mean in Escape from Heaven?
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Escape from Heaven. But things were happening in the mean time.
The first thing is that only a couple of years after February, 1997 — now we’re into 1998 and 1999 — and Brad, that’s the Pulpless.Com experience — when what happened?
BRAD LINAWEAVER: We’ll never forget it.
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: A circle formed around me!
BRAD LINAWEAVER: Oh, that’s true! It was your publishing venture but it was most certainly a circle.
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Right. A circle formed around me and I was publishing books and meeting people who I was able to change what was happening. For the first time, I was starting to get a sense of being able to accomplish something.
And then that crashed, that didn’t reach its full potential. But while look what we accomplished, the publication of over 50 books in a year.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: It did make some impact. It didn’t go away right away.
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Right. There was some impact and even some lasting impact to this day. For one thing it got all eight of my books, at that time, in print, and suddenly I was fully in print for the first time in my life.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: That’s true.
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: And other people, other of my friends, were suddenly in print, including two books of yours, and four books by Victor Koman and so on and so forth.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: One book by John DeChancie.
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Right. I was able to get into print a lot of books by people in my circle, the circle that was forming around me.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: Then I had a very bad year, the year 2000, in which, number one, I was trying to save Pulpless.com by starting another venture called Eazychair. That collapsed because it was built on representations being made to me which turned out not to be true. I don’t need to get into that story. It’s irrelevant here. But nonetheless, five months of my time, gone. And, then, the year 2000 was the year my father passed away after a long illness.
So all this was going on, distracting me from really doing anything else. Until finally, we get to the period approaching the anniversary of when my father passed away.
We’re in 2001, and in August, 2001, I’m finally at the point where I’m able to start writing on Escape from Heaven. I’ve basically been wiped out of my business ventures and I have nowhere else to go as a businessman, so I go back to what my first calling was, as a writer.
I knew that it was going to have to be Escape from Heaven, that I was never going to be able to do anything else until I had that done.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: And you knew that because?
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Because of something a prophet once said to me, Brad.
A friend of Barbara Branden’s, in the 1980s, who told me at that time that the next novel I wrote was going to have a religious theme.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: Who was this person?
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: I’ll mention his first name, Walter, who was a man that Barbara Branden was friends with, then. A very interesting man, a gourmet chef, and I found him very, very interesting. But he had told me that. He had said that he sensed that my next novel was going to have a religious theme of some sort, and for some reason I always knew he was right, that that was true.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: That was long before —
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: That was going back to the mid-1980s. So I knew, even during this long gap when I was not a novelist, because I was not writing any other novels during this period. And then after 1991 or 1992, I knew that the book was going to be Escape from Heaven. But then look how long after that it took to get to the point where I could write it, after that first outline which was, in essence, taking me in the wrong direction.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: And chapter one — which I have always maintained could be a stand-alone short story — which was a very powerful piece of writing. I remember, when you first read it to me, there was a long period between that first chapter and the rest of the book. Talk about that.
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Because that opening was in the original, that was practically the only thing I retained from the original.
Now, there were other ideas which I transplanted forward, and I had to change and rework. When I started working on the book again, seriously, to try to actually break out, in August of 2001, one of the things I had to do was, in essence, decide which parts of the outline I was going to keep and which parts I was going to throw away.
Next in I Met God — God Without Religion, Scripture, or Faith will be Chapter IX: Collaboration
Copyright © 2010 The J. Neil Schulman Living Trust. All rights reserved.
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