I Met God — God Without Religion, Scripture, or Faith
I was an atheist for almost half my life.
When I was an atheist the concept that God could exist was impossible to me, because the cosmology I accepted as evidently true precluded the existence of such a being.
One of the authors who most influenced me in this view was George H. Smith, author of Atheism: The Case Against God. Judging by 258 reviews of this book on Amazon.com, this is a popular book on the subject, and judging that seven out of ten Amazon.com readers’ reviews are four or five stars, I’m not the only person who has regarded this as an important and compelling book on the subject. I knew George personally when we both lived in Southern California in the 1970’s and 1980’s, and I considered George a friend.
It’s easy to be friends with someone you agree with. Disagreements are the test of whether a friendship is real. It’s possible to be friends with someone who has profoundly different ideas if that person is generally congenial and if one has respect for their mind and character. It becomes impossible when congeniality is replaced with rudeness and one has contempt for the other. This isn’t just true for friendships. How many marriages have broken up because one spouse’s good regard for the other has turned to contempt?
I maintain Google alerts to send me email whenever there’s online discussion of my works, my projects, or my web presence. On December 11th Google sent me an email that a discussion had been started on the website “Objectivist Living” with the title, “Is J. Neil Schulman justified (logically) in believing in God?”
In the same queue was an even earlier email from David M. Brown, a fellow libertarian novelist and long-time correspondent, suggesting I participate in the discussion.
I’ve since published a chapter-by-chapter transcript of that audiobook for free reading — retitled I Met God — God Without Religion, Scripture, or Faith — beginning here.
The dedication of my book is:
To Charles Darwin, Madalyn Murray O’Hair, and Ayn Rand
If They Still Know Anything, They Know Whether I’m Right
You can find the Objectivist Living discussion on whether or not I’m a complete whack job here.
I quickly discovered that George H. Smith was participating in the discussion when the second comment was his. George wrote, “Does God ever have nightmares? Yes, according to Neil’s account, and they last for ‘the better part of a day.'”
So much for the respect necessary to maintain a friendship. Buh bye, George.
What distinguishes my approach to God from others is that I’ve never abandoned my view that one should not accept the existence of anything on faith. Nor religious dogma. Nor scripture. Like anything else, I always have viewed existence of God as a fact that needs to be verified or negated. One can negate something by showing how the concept is impossible. But once a proposed existent survives the intellectual challenge that the very idea is impossible, one is still left with the problem of what constitutes sufficient reason to regard it as real.
For someone who is not put off by suspending rational analysis in favor of accepting the truth of a proposition by faith, this is not a problem.
For a rationalist it is.
I was a rationalist when I was an atheist. I’m a rationalist still. What overcame my skepticism were personal experiences that challenged my cosmology, my epistemological premises, my concept of what the nature of God is, and my view of the nature of man and his place in existence, itself.
Yet I did this without abandoning my reliance on any of the axioms or rules of logic that Ayn Rand used to dismiss the concept of God. I thought George H. Smith would have some respect for that.
I was wrong. It just annoyed him all the worse.
The discussion has now gone on for several weeks and now comprises over 22 long web pages.
I’m not going to participate anymore. I’d just be repeating myself.
But for the hearty, curious, and patient, I do recommend reading it, and possibly even continuing the discussion in my absence.
I’ve satisfied myself that I met the gauntlet thrown down at me. Beyond that, some third party not Me and not Them will have to decide whether I’m justified (logically) in believing in God … and whether my challenge to the atheists is deserving of any intellectual respect.
Summation: Objectivist Living Discussion — “Is J. Neil Schulman justified (logically) in believing in God?”
by J Neil Schulman on Saturday, January 15, 2011 at 3:47pm ·
I think the title of this thread asks the wrong question, or at least one which requires other subjects to be addressed long before we ask whether I’m logically justified in “believing” in God.
Here are questions that have been debated in this thread, but I think which have not been resolved to anyone’s satisfaction. These are the premises upon which the question of my logic must rest.
Are there any axioms of existence or known scientific laws which preclude existence comprising multiple continua, some of which are designed, rather than the whole of existence being a single undesigned universe?
Is there any conclusive proof that human consciousness is solely a product of evolutionary biology, or could human consciousness precede evolutionary biology?
Is the human brain a generator of human consciousness, or merely a modulator of it?
Is human consciousness of an identity and nature that it can escape the termination of a human brain?
Could the “afterlife” be an actual physical destination for a human’s conscious identity located in another continuum?
In the event where a phenomenal experience presents itself as paranormal or supernatural, is there anything other than an unproved assumption of impossibility that necessitates interpreting such an experience as unreal?
I repeat that I’m unable to present evidence of the reality of my paranormal experience of a person I’ve identified as God to anyone else.
Nonetheless, my experience has caused me to examine each of these questions and reach my own answers.
I suggest exploring each of these questions with epistemological and scientific rigor is no less of a requirement for anyone else who wishes to assert flat conclusions about the nature of existence and human consciousness.
If one agrees with Richard Dawkins, as I do, that concluding God’s existence should not rely on an act of faith, but should survive a rational thinker’s potent skepticism, one comes to consider Dawkins’ central argument against the existence of God as the creator of our universe.
Dawkins submits to us that the complexity of our universe requires a long chain of prior events to become so complex.
Dawkins further submits that beings capable of creative design are not at the beginning of such a long chain of events but follow such a chain of events.
Dawkins sees human beings as being the result of a long chain of prior events, and sees us as creative designers. So, Dawkins and those who regard God as a creative designer are at least in agreement that such preconditions for a creative designer to exist can be satisfied, since here we are. But could a creative designer create an artifact as complex as an entire universe?
Dawkins submits that for a creative designer to have designed the universe, the creative designer, himself, would have had to have undergone a long chain of events prior to the creation of the universe.
If we regard the universe we perceive as the totality of that which exists, Dawkins has ended the discussion by reducing the thesis of a creator of the universe to absurdity, and his denial of the very possibility of a universe-creating God is justified.
But if a cosmology is possible in which that which we regard as our universe is not the whole of that which exists but is merely a part of existence, the paradox vanishes followed close order by the absurdity of the proposition that the universe could be a created artifact.
The Hebrews identify God in their scripture as being Eternal — as having always existed. If there exists a being with this trait, we can derive from that premise:
1) An eternal being would have sufficient time to develop his intellect, imagination, and other prerequisites of creative design;
2) Such a being would have time to learn a great deal, try out different philosophies, paradigms, methods, and so forth.
The possibility of the Eternal Hebrew God, so long as God’s existence is something additional to the universe as we regard it — that existence is more than that which we regard as The Universe — therefore survives Dawkins’ challenge to our reason.
Dawkins is free to demand a proof that such a being exists, but if, like existence itself, consciousness is a property of existence itself — then like existence, itself, there is no basis to demand a proof for that which would be the self-evident foundation for all further proofs.
We would not therefore be looking for proof of God in the sense of a mathematician deriving one, or in the sense of a scientist conducting experiments to test a thesis, but in the sense of seeing if we encounter such a being who can present us with experiences sufficient to satisfy our doubts.
Dawkins has not had such experiences. I have. Dawkins hasn’t convinced me that my conclusion that my skepticism was sufficiently satisfied was irrational. Unless Richard Dawkins has experiences that personally convince him that his skepticism has been satisfied, it is reasonable for him to continue disbelieving in God until he has experiences satisfactory to his reason.
But Richard Dawkins demand for reason to be applied to the question of God existence is, itself, quite godly, seeing as how to create a universe as complex as the one we find ourselves in one would require a being who is himself a scientist.
J. Neil Schulman, author
I Met God
This article is Copyright © 2007, 2010, 2011 The J. Neil Schulman Living Trust. All rights reserved.
Winner of the Special Jury Prize for Libertarian Ideals from the 2011 Anthem Film Festival! My comic thriller Lady Magdalene’s — a movie I wrote, produced, directed, and acted in it — is now available free on the web linked from the official movie website. If you like the way I think, I think you’ll like this movie. Check it out!
BRAD LINAWEAVER: Neil, given your experiences, and how you’ve used them to help produce this current work, in terms of novel writing and script writing, why do you think there are almost no stories, at least none that I can find, where a character goes to Hell and can just come back the way characters seem to go to Heaven and don’t stay there?
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Well, of course, there’s one classic version of it, and that’s Orpheus in the Underworld, which has been made into various operas. That’s where I first encountered it. I suppose Inferno — both Dante’s version and then the later re-doing of it by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle — is precisely that of a human being who gets to go to Hell and then come back, maybe not necessarily to Earth, but in the case of Dante you manage to get out and go to Heaven.
But in terms of modern stories, I guess the only one I can really think of here is Richard Matheson’s What Dreams May Come, where the hero follows his wife from Heaven into Hell to rescue her, which again is an Orpheus story. But in terms of why it’s not done, I don’t know.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: Well the Persephone story and in the case of Dante’s Inferno you’re kind of getting a tour of Hell, there are the exceptions admittedly. But it seems like there are a lot of stories about people going to Heaven and they don’t stay, which confuses me because if I ever got to Heaven I would not want to leave. And then you have lots of stories, horror stories especially, nobody gets to leave Hell.
I guess the idea is, if you get to leave Heaven, why would you ever choose to? I guess, maybe, you don’t get to leave Hell because it’s a punishment, like you don’t get to leave prison. But why would anybody choose ever to consciously and deliberately leave Heaven?
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Well, only when the writer writes Heaven in such a way that it’s not worth staying. Which means essentially that what we are doing is we’re encountering stories in which Heaven is a device written by a writer who doesn’t believe in it.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: That’s the thing about your novel. You’re very pro-Heaven, and you very much have the idea that Heaven is a place that you want to stay, and yet the title of your novel is Escape from Heaven because of the plot situation that you’ve got, and the ultimate fate of Earth with the political campaign between Jesus and Lucifer.
But it’s interesting that people who might pick up your book, or see the movie that will eventually be made of Escape from Heaven, could expect this more typical modern idea that when you get to Heaven you can’t wait to leave it. I guess it’s dull or something. That is the opposite, actually, of what you’ve written, despite the fact that your work is entitled Escape from Heaven.
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Well, that’s because my fundamental premise about Heaven is different.
Heaven is supposed to be “perfect.”
Well, if Heaven is “perfect,” we know that perfection means that there is no moving forward. I mean, once you are perfect, why do anything except basically sit around and sip tea? You know, there’s nothing to do. You don’t have to do anything. All your needs are fulfilled. You don’t have any wants. There’s no excitement. And it does come across as dull.
In the same way that when we have the concept of God being “perfect” it makes Him static as well, why should God take any action whatsoever? Why should He create? Why should He do anything, if everything is perfect?
Perfection is death. Perfection is an ending. Perfection is saying you’re done.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: But your Heaven is not perfect.
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Right! “My” Heaven is not perfect. My Heaven? My portrayal of Heaven, my map of Heaven.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: You know what I mean.
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Yes. The Heaven in which I am mapping is not mapped to be perfect. The God who I am saying that I have been in communication with is alive, and dynamic, and makes choices, and, therefore, there’s a before and after, better or worse. But there is none of this static idea of perfection. Everything is still alive. Everything is still in play — and I play it that way.
Now. It’s interesting that my view is actually scripturally correct, because not only does the Old Testament show us God changing His mind and “repenting the evil that He thought to do unto His people” — as it says in Exodus — but also, in the last book of the Bible — The Revelation of Saint John the Divine — we are told that there is a war in Heaven, and Heaven is destroyed, and a new Heaven is created afterwards.
People don’t remember that there is a re-creation of Heaven, very much the same way as the restoration of Eden is supposed to be the re-creation of Heaven. There is a fall of Heaven itself, and then a re-creation of Heaven itself, or a new Heaven, a new and better, improved Heaven.
Well, that’s what I portray in my novel.
We have a war in Heaven, which goes back to the dream I had, in which Heaven falls under attack and, in essence, is devastated in this war.
Well, a Heaven which is devastated is not a nice place anymore. It’s not Heaven in the way that we think of Heaven.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: It’s not “Heavenly?”
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: It’s not “Heavenly,” right. But again, this is playing with words.
If Heaven is a real place, then it is a place that can suffer the same destruction as other real places, such as New York City, being hit on 9/11 and having the Twin Towers disappear.
So when Duj goes there — and he has to escape from it because it’s a war zone — then that accounts for both the experience that I had in my dream in which I had to escape from Heaven which had fallen under attack, and then, in the novel, Duj has to escape from Heaven because it’s fallen under attack.
But the title is also a more general metaphor than that, because — in essence — aren’t so many of us in effect escaping from Heaven?
If, in fact, we don’t like the meal that is set before us — and we reject it — if we don’t like the idea that Earth is not perfect but it is perfecting — it is designed to be a tool to perfect us, an environment in which we play a game to get experience points — to use an old gamer’s metaphor — and what happens afterward is a goal we don’t want, we don’t like God’s plan — how many different ways do we escape from Heaven everyday?
If God says that it takes sperm and ova to have babies — and sperm come from a penis and eggs come from an ovary — and the two of them getting together is what sex is — and yet somebody chooses two women or two men, well, that’s an escape from Heaven.
Not that I’m condemning it as evil or anything like that. I’m simply saying it’s not part of the plan because you don’t get babies from it.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: Unless you go to the lab or something like that, which is another escape form Heaven.
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Well, we could argue whether it’s a diversion or part of the learning process, whether it’s Science Lab or not.
Remember, I do believe that we are intended to become gods under God. That is part of the cosmology, and part of the eschatology, that I’m portraying in Escape from Heaven. That, in fact, the whole point of this exercise, both for angels and humans, is that we are going on paths to make us into gods who are capable of having these enormous powers, and using them, and living forever. With all the challenges of that, the challenge of living forever, you have to be the sort of person who can survive living forever without going crazy, in the same way that God had to figure out a way not to go crazy, not to be bored, not to accept perfection as an end.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: Right.
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: So, in essence, it’s also an escape from perfection, and that’s where the story begins.
That’s when things become interesting. And if you believe that we live forever, it basically means that we go through perfection, as a verb, but not end up in it as a noun.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: In other words, “Escape from Heaven” can also mean “escape from the idea of perfection,” because that is static?
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Yes.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: Now, my last question in this sequence, and this is a psychological question, not scriptural, not based on any of the world’s holy texts.
Neil Schulman, before, during, and after these experiences – psychologically — never seemed to accept the idea of Hell. Give me psychological or philosophical reasons but not scriptural reasons — why do you think there is no Hell?
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Wow. Well, for one thing, I guess I’m optimistic enough to think that God, sooner or later, will get through to us. I don’t believe in a punitive or penal philosophy to begin with. I don’t think that God goes out of His way to administer punishment. I think that, sometimes, He steps out of the way and lets us suffer the consequences of our own actions, and that is in fact punishment. But there is no necessity for creating the prison called Hell, to condemn prisoners forever, to accomplish that because what, in fact would be the point?
Let’s look at it in terms of capital punishment here on Earth. Capital punishment is a contradiction in terms, because if you are killed the punishment is over. In fact, you have destroyed the punishment by ending the person who is capable of regret or perceiving it. Once you have eliminated that which is capable of perceiving punishment, you have eliminated punishment.
So, in the same sense, that it is only something which is able to reform the criminal or, in this particular context, the sinner, would there be any meaning to the concept.
Now if you want to argue that Hell is a reform school, a penitentiary — with “penitent” being the root word — that you reach the point where you are penitent for what you have done and attempt to make reparations — if you want to argue that is what Hell is then, okay, I don’t have a problem with Hell. I think the Roman Catholics would call that Purgatory though.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: Yes, I like what you’re saying. It’s like when we talk about libertarian as capital “L” or little “l” or the State as capital “S” or little “s”. What you’re saying is small “h” hell, you can see that, but capital “H” Hell, you don’t see why that would be necessary, and what purpose it would serve for God. Is that right?
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: That is correct. In other words, the idea of eternal punishment — I have said this before — seems to me to be such a dumb idea that only someone who lives a short human lifespan could have such contempt for the idea of eternity as to think of eternal punishment.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: That sets up my final question for I Met God by J. Neil Schulman. Here is my final and obvious question: do you think, expect, or hope that you will meet God again in this lifetime or do you think the next time you meet God will be after this lifetime?
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: You’re asking me about my hope and my expectation.
Well, of course my hope is to meet God anytime I can, and if I can do it while I’m still alive, great. And if I have to wait until after I’m in the next life, great.
I still feel I have work to do here and so, if I were to die soon, I would die regretfully because there are still things I need to do. I have a daughter who I want to see to adulthood. I have a mother who I’m still taking care of. I have works which I still want to write and — very frankly and very selfishly — I want to be here to see Escape from Heaven produced as a movie and done right. That’s something I want to hang around to do.
Also, when I die, I want to die thin. That’s just a very vain thing and, dumb as it is, I’d like to get myself back into shape before I go. Leave a beautiful corpse, as they say, for the short amount of time before it turns back into dust.
But, I’m not ready to go, but if I do go, then I know that where I go next is going to be exciting, and I’m confident that God’s going to be there and it’ll be a return home.
I’ve already been shown my home on the other side. So I know that it’s going to be someplace that’ll be very much like a kid being offered dessert and then turning away from it. You know, “You don’t want dessert?” “No, I don’t want dessert! I want to stay here!” That kind of thing.
So, again, I may not have my phobia about death anymore, but I’m not ready to embrace it yet.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: Thanks, Neil.
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Thank you, Brad.
Copyright © 2010 The J. Neil Schulman Living Trust. All rights reserved.
My comic thriller Lady Magdalene’s — a movie I wrote, produced, directed, and acted in it — is now available for sale or rental on Amazon.com Video On Demand. If you like the way I think, I think you’ll like this movie. Check it out!
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: I think that God, in His original state — I talked about the original state and then the developed state – God in His original state was the one being who violated the first axiom of Korzybskian epistemology. When God was both the only Consciousness and the only Existent, the map was the territory.
At the point where God allowed Himself to think fantasy, in other words to think thoughts which He did not put into effect — for Him to contemplate without taking action — those became in essence, images, maps, those became unreality. I do see a distinction. And that, in essence becomes the beginning of the development.
In other words, where God starts thinking free from His own body, starts thinking of possibilities other than His reality, in essence He becomes non-mundane.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: Okay.
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: So that would be a crucial dividing line between before and after, in God’s time-line, in His own individual personal time-line.
Now after that, however, the idea being that when He fissions off other souls from Himself — or fissions them off and allows them to develop independent from Himself — we’re real. I do not believe that you can have a living intelligence which is not real. I do not believe that you can have an intelligence which is only virtual. There has to be some physical reality to it.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: Well, once you give birth to a child, you can’t just suddenly recall it. And you’re saying, in a way, if we’re all God’s children, we’re all real once we exist. You can’t just suddenly recall your children — well maybe God could but He doesn’t — because you also believe God operates under natural law.
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Yes. And let me explicate on that, since we’re bringing that out.
While I agree with the traditional view of God as the Creator — that God creates natural law, that God is the author of natural law — He is not the author of all natural law.
I can see Him when He, perhaps, goes into the primal atom — or whatever the current scientific paradigm is — before the Big Bang, and in essence designs into it what’s going to happen when the fireworks go off. What the chemical compounds are going to be, whether you’re going to have atoms and electrons and molecules and physics and gravity and space and time and all these sorts of things within a particular closed space-time continuum — or another sort of continuum which may not even have time or space as part of it. Now I can’t conceive of that. Maybe God can. But nonetheless, when God creates a closed continuum, God is the author of the natural laws of that universe and if those natural laws have as part of the primal mathematics within it that it will reach a point where life will evolve, then God is the author of life within that continuum.
I can see a universe in which all of the development of life is in the seed, that God, in essence, puts the DNA for us in the very DNA of the universe itself. I can see that as a possibility.
But where I differ from most theologians — it may even be all theologians I don’t know any other –
Again we have to keep in mind that I’m not a religious scholar. I’m simply a guy who thinks, and who says that God talked with him. So there are vast areas of ignorance in me, dealing with some of the technicalities of other viewpoints, of traditional religions or theologies.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: You have less to unlearn.
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: I have a lot of Zen going for me in that sense.
But what I’m saying is, where I think that I disagree with most others who conceive of God, is that I see God being subject to the Law of Identity, because He exists.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: Which means there’s a meta-natural law that even God subscribes to?
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Right. And we could call that, perhaps, a supernatural law because it is above the natural laws which God creates.
So therefore, the supernatural law is, perhaps starting with some of the laws which Aristotle identified — the Law of Existence, the Law of Non-contradiction, the Law of Identity — these would be laws that God, being an existent, would be subject to, and would not be able to violate.
And I think C.S. Lewis accepted that. When Lewis says that not every sentence that starts with “God can” is a possible real sentence, Lewis himself is putting forward the idea that God can’t do something which is self-contradictory.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: Yes, that’s right. He’s at least suggesting it very strongly.
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Yes. So again, this is why all sorts of theology which as we have discussed — not necessarily in these recordings but which we have discussed — are not necessarily even scriptural, making claims of God of being Omnipotent, Omniscient, and Omnipresent —
BRAD LINAWEAVER: — which you’re not the first to point out —
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: I say He was in His primal state, but not now.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: Yes, you’re not the first to point out those three things can not coexist, in terms of the universe we know.
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: And when I say that the concept of creation out of nothingness — creation ex nihilo — is ridiculous, that it violates the Laws of Existence and the Laws of Identity to which even God is subject, I say that God can create out of very little. He may be able to create out of quantum probabilities — in other words, something that would look to us like practically nothing, like waves or dust or even subatomic something — but nonetheless, He would be starting with something and imposing pattern on it, imposing form on it, and the void would not be totally void — it would just be formless.
So the creation is taking the formless and imposing a new form on it or taking an existing form and reforming it.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: Well, as a matter of fact, the opening line of Genesis describes God “re-creating” the Earth. There is no Biblical scholar worth his salt — Lot’s wife not withstanding — who does not admit that the opening lines of Genesis — “The Earth was without form and void” — it is describing the re-creation of the Earth. There is no doubt.
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Well, I wouldn’t necessarily have to use the word re-creation, in the sense of, would you say that a painter who starts with a blank canvas is re-creating a painting?
BRAD LINAWEAVER: It’s not a blank canvas, “The Earth was formless” suggests that material of Earth is already there.
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Right, the material. In other words, in the same sense that a sculptor comes to a block of marble —
BRAD LINAWEAVER: If you paint a painting on top of an older painting, isn’t that the use of the materials that are there?
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Absolutely! But it is also true that if God were starting with a tabula rasa — if He were starting with a blank slate that —
BRAD LINAWEAVER: It’s works just as well for a re-creation of Earth.
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: It works either way. It’s not a distinction that we find it necessary to concern ourselves with.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: It doesn’t tell us whether this Earth was the only Earth God has created.
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Right. Now, again, I believe that this is possibly His earliest creation of this sort. That He had never done something like this before. And the reason I think that is that His learning curve is so steep.
Next in I Met God — God Without Religion, Scripture, or Faith is Chapter XIII: Heaven
Copyright © 2010 The J. Neil Schulman Living Trust. All rights reserved.
My comic thriller Lady Magdalene’s — a movie I wrote, produced, directed, and acted in it — is now available for sale or rental on Amazon.com Video On Demand. If you like the way I think, I think you’ll like this movie. Check it out!
BRAD LINAWEAVER: We’ve talked about when you were an atheist. We’ve talked about when you were an agnostic. We’ve talked about when you became a theist. What I want to suggest to you in this question — which I think is the most important question I will ask you in this series of questions in this entire interview: isn’t it right to say that after you had contact with God, and started making these discoveries — or started having these experiences — that in one extremely specific sense, when you became a theist you also became an atheist again about one thing?
You are now a more-convinced atheist than even most atheists, of knowing certain beliefs of what God is to be false. In other words, when a person has an experience of God, doesn’t that force him into knowing certain views of God must be untrue. And if that is so, isn’t that the ultimate irony, that the deep experience of God must make you an atheist about other people’s absolutely false impressions, if it runs too counter from what you have experienced?
Clearly your view of traditional religion’s misinterpretations of God, from your experience, would make you an atheist toward many traditional religious views of God, only because you’ve experienced God and he’s not that guy! That is my primary question in this book.
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: It’s a brilliant question. I love the irony of it.
God is an existent. He has His own identity. The law of identity says both what a thing is and what it is not. It is the sum of its characteristics, the sum of its particulars.
And God is the sum of His own particulars, He has a specific identity. The Law of Identity says that a thing is its characteristics.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: Yes.
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: And God is His characteristics. He is a specific thing. Just as you, Brad Linaweaver, cannot, at the same moment, be both a communist and an anticommunist.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: Right.
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: You cannot both be a libertarian and a non-libertarian. You cannot both be wearing charcoal pants and red pants — unless you’re wearing one over the other.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: Right.
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: But the point is, the sum of whatever you are — the fact that you wear glasses, the fact that your hair is a particular color and is a particular pattern — these are the specific particulars that make you you.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: Sure.
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: The choices that you make, the decisions that you make, the opinions that you have, the jokes that you tell. All of this sums up the particulars which become Brad Linaweaver.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: Yes.
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: And God is the same way.
The particulars of His choices, of His thoughts, of the consequences of what He does, are the particulars that make God God as a person.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: But when you meet Brad Linaweaver, you are meeting somebody, and noticing some of those characteristics and noticing some of those particulars, that make up that character. Is that not true?
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Yes.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: And therefore, having an experience of God starts giving you an impression of God in the same way that having contact with a fellow human being gives you an impression of that fellow human being, correct?
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: That is correct. My experience of meeting God is the same as meeting any other human being I’ve ever met with the one difference that there was not, outside of me, an observable physicality.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: So here’s the logical corollary to the other question: here it is.
You are not a New Age mystic, though many people might consider you that, who do not pay attention to what you’re saying. Even if this book is being sold in that part of the bookstore, you are not New Age because you are being Aristotelian and Randian about the Law of Identity. When you are saying that God cannot be a certain thing and its opposite, simultaneously, or anything you want God to be — to be more precise I’ll repeat that, anything you want God to be — at that moment you part company with most of the so-called New Age mystics and it puts you in the company of traditional orthodox religion.
But you are not done because Part Two is that your encounter with the “characteristic particulars” of God show you — from your point of view, which is the only point of view you have to work with — that the claims which traditional orthodox religions make about God are mistaken. They are wrong. They are not talking about the God you have encountered.
And for the same reason, that you cannot be a New Age mystic and say God can be kind and cruel, and wet and hot, and tall and short, all simultaneously — for the same reasons you reject the New Age God–can-be-anything position — you are in direct conflict with all the traditional religions of the world to the extent that the God you have discovered — a God who’s a libertarian, a God who is even subject to natural law himself — is not the God of the Christians, the Jews, the Muslims or any other religion I have ever studied.
That is the corollary to my big question.
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: The God who I have met is the God of the Jews, the Muslims, the Christians and all the others. But they run away.
The doctrines — the articles of faith that you must adhere to – “I accept Israel along with God!” to be a Jew, “I accept Jesus as my personal Savior!” in order to be a Christian. All of these things are external to the attempt to accept the reality of what’s going on.
In the same way, we are told in the Old Testament that the Hebrews went to Moses and said, “Don’t have God talk to us again! Have Him talk only to you! We can’t take this!”
A lot of religion is substituting tradition, ritual, form, performance — anything — to give them the impression that they are obeying this God, but the last thing that they want is the personal contact because that’s dangerous — that’s scary.
Let me put it another way.
Suppose you had a child who was orphaned, and that child always wanted to meet his parents, and then, some day, discovered that he wasn’t, in fact, orphaned, but that he’d been placed in an orphanage and his parents were still alive.
Over his entire life, he has built up all these expectations and beliefs and ideals, and images and stories and fantasies –about what his parents will be and who they will be … when he finally meets his parents.
And he leaves the orphanage, and moves in with them, and his parents are real.
His parents are grownups, and when he does something that they don’t like, they spank him. They’re capable of delivering pain.
And he realizes something about his parents that he didn’t fantasize about: his parents are fundamentally dangerous.
Now C.S. Lewis — when he describes Aslan in The Chronicles of Narnia — a phrase over and over and over again throughout The Chronicles of Narnia is: he is not a tame lion.
When Jill Pole in The Silver Chair meets Aslan — not knowing who He is, she asks, “Do you eat girls?” and Aslan says, “I’ve swallowed up entire kingdoms, boys and girls, men and women.”
This is not somebody who’s trying to make you comfortable with the situation.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: That’s Jehovah’s destruction of people in the Old Testament, isn’t it?
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Yes. God — if real, if not merely a myth, if not just a story, if not a creation of religion — is fundamentally dangerous because He has power and His own will, and we are less powerful and our wills can be conquered by His decisions.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: You know where the phrase “God fearing Christian” comes from?
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Yes.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: They’re afraid of God and think that God is scarier than the devil!
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Right, right. Okay. And the fear of God is, in some sense, something that must be overcome in order to meet God.
Now, let me go back to your original point — which I love — the idea that I’m an atheist who knows God, and is an advocate for God.
If you take it, I am not an a-Deist — I’m not without God — I am an a-theist, in the sense of…
BRAD LINAWEAVER: Without theology! You are without theology!
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Without theology, right!
BRAD LINAWEAVER: This would be a different definition of “atheist” that would actually make more sense than how the word is normally used.
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: In other words, if we look at it not in the metaphysical sense but in an epistemological sense, that I am not rejecting God. I am rejecting the maps.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: Right.
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: That regarding religion’s maps of God, I’m being a cartographer and I’m laying them out on a table. And I’m saying, “Yes, this is right here. This is right here. No, that’s wrong!” I’m correcting the maps.
I’m looking at the maps, and I’m saying, “This matches up with my experience, with what I know. This is wrong. This is impossible. God couldn’t possibly be this, or this, or this.”
So, in essence, I find myself outside the religious traditions, even though I am at the center of all of what they say their core belief is.
Because, I reject Judaism but I accept the God of the Jews.
I reject Christianity but I accept the God of the Christians.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: You can say the same for Islam too.
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: I reject Islam but I accept the God of Islam.
I have been less concerned with labels for a while now, and I had to be, because I realized that I was more concerned with being true to my principles than being true to my label. And again, this is a theme which goes through a lot of what I’m going to say.
I was not concerned: am I still a Jew?
I was not concerned — if I bring Jesus Christ into the picture — am I now a Christian?
It’s interesting to contemplate, but it’s not important to me. What’s important to me is: am I accurately apprehending the reality of what God is and what He is saying?
Both Jews and Christians, today, act as if God and Jesus are historical figures and not active in our daily lives. If you pray, maybe a very tiny miracle might happen, occasionally. But it’s not something to be expected in the same way that you are a blind man walking around when Jesus is doing His ministry. You heard the rumor that here is this man who can cure the blind, and you actually find Him.
And He goes up to you and He can.
Next in I Met God — God Without Religion, Scripture, or Faith is Chapter XII: Supernatural Law
Copyright © 2010 The J. Neil Schulman Living Trust. All rights reserved.
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BRAD LINAWEAVER: Neil, in one of your interviews with Jack Landman on CyberCity, you and he were discussing Escape from Heaven as a book about God, while at the same time being a novel or a work of fiction. The subject came up of the Bible, and also the Dead Sea Scrolls, and you pointed out that the holy books of the world are books about God written by human beings, but that doesn’t mean God does not exist. Just as Escape from Heaven is a novel about God but that doesn’t mean that God does not exist. The point you made was that human characters, people you’ve actually known, you could put into a novel that doesn’t suddenly mean, if you’re writing an historical novel, that all those people cease to have ever existed.
So you were arguing that books about God are interpretations of God but they cannot be taken as the ultimate experience of God in the sense that traditional religious people think they are. But they should be taken more seriously than atheists, who believe that God is a completely fictional construct. With that in mind, I would like to ask you after your experience your epiphany and what you have done in your post epiphany novel, which is Escape from Heaven, and the screenplay, I view those as two separate works. What I would like to know is do you now look at the Bible and the Koran and the Talmud, and all these holy texts of the past, with different eyes than before your epiphany?
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: My viewpoint is — I hesitate to use the word — “evolving.” “Unfolding” might be a better word, for what’s been happening.
I find, going back, looking at what I’ve written over the course of my career, back to when I was an atheist, several of my earliest short stories — two of them in particular “Benny Rich is Dead” and “For the Sake of Ten Men,” both in my short story collection Nasty, Brutish and Short Stories — both of them are dealing with religious themes, with Biblical themes. “Benny Rich is Dead” is a fantasy story which takes place in the Court of God. “For the Sake of Ten Men’ has to do with a general, on the brink of nuclear war, who takes Biblical text to decide what the moral choice for him to do is.
I find that I was dealing with this way back before I had thought of myself as having any religious impulse, or any God-driven impulse. I looked back at Contemporary American Authors, when they gave me the form to fill out in 1979, to describe how I saw myself as an writer. I remember the quote I gave: “It is the birthright of every storyteller to try to save the world … we exist in a messianic competition.”
So I was seeing the thrust of what I was doing — even though I thought of it in a secular sense — as being messianic, even back from the beginning of my writing.
I also have to say that part of what I’m doing here, I have had a great deal of difficulty of expressing, of being able to find the right words, which is strange for an writer who lives and dies by words, trying to find the right words to describe an experience which is almost entirely without external referents.
And the primary axiom of General Semantics, when Heinlein got me to read Count Alfred Korzybski and S.I. Hayakawa — the negative axiom that the map is not the territory, the symbol is not the referent — has been extremely useful to me.
I realize that both fiction and nonfiction are symbol structures. They’re maps. And they are not so different from each other when it comes to the way that they reflect reality. One might be a topographical map and the other one a geopolitical map, but they are both maps of reality using different reference points.
It’s almost like a novel is more algebraic than nonfiction and nonfiction is all particulars, where you attempt to draw every particular from reality, a particular time and place, a particular person. Whereas in fiction, what you try to do is, you try to draw a symbol structure, which applies universally, to a number of different points rather than one particular point, but they are both abstractions.
When you draw a particular in nonfiction, it is not the thing itself. It can’t be the thing itself because you are leaving out a thousand particulars and choosing maybe two or three to focus on. You are editing. The very fact of editing makes every work of nonfiction a map and, in that sense, fictionalized.
The point is the way that I’ve come to view scripture is that part of it is history, part of it genealogy, part of it is myth, part of it is political observation, part of it is rhetoric, part of it is lists of laws, part of it is war stories — and it’s all mixed together. What I’m saying is that we cannot look at it dumbly. We cannot look at it as just one level. We have to look at it as a rich tapestry of different things, and my criticism of my atheist buddies when they look at it, for the most part — and I have to exclude certain close friends from this who were very scholarly when it came to the Bible — but a lot of them simply take the dumbest possible interpretation of the Bible and then they try to debunk it, without seeing the richness of the levels, not merely metaphor, not even taking into account the experience of the peoples at that time, the historicity of it, who were part of the context, you understand, aside from anything else.
Now, I am not a Biblical scholar, I have read scripture, reread parts of it. But I have not read it from cover to cover. I’ve read the important parts of the Old Testament and I’ve read the Gospels and I’ve read some of the latter parts of the New Testament, certainly The Revelation of St. John the Divine. So seeing the Bible as all these different things, I try to interpret them according to what it is.
When I’m reading Genesis, I actually regard Genesis as possibly the most important book of the entire Old and New Testament, put together. It seems to be the one which tells us the most about God. Exodus also tells us a lot about God, but Genesis tells us, almost directly, the most about God and what His original intents were. What His original creative purposes were, what He was like as an artist. Which is how we first meet Him, as an artist, as a creator, as a parent.
I draw a lot from that and when I’m writing, now, Escape from Heaven, I’m taking a lot of what I think was — I’m trying to find the right word here — conveyed to me. The word “conveyed’ is nice and loose and doesn’t really focus on the means by which I gained this knowledge. But information came to me, was implanted in me, was conveyed to me, was told to me — whatever word you want here — went from there to here — and then I am again drawing my own symbol structure, my own map. I am creating a mythology and — as I have said — it may be a revisionist mythology, because I am disagreeing with some particulars of the way the myth has been told in scripture.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: I’ll get to that in a second. Now, I agree with you that Genesis one of the most interesting things of any religious text. The reason I asked you the question, though, about books as interpretations of God — without being necessarily the Word of God — is when you were being interviewed briefly on Jack’s CyberCity, you were asking John Hogue, regarding his epiphany experiences or spiritual or mystical experiences, what some of the concrete details were. You were looking for a “something” out of that. His response was classic Buddhist Nirvana stuff, to tell you that you were off base to look for something, that his first true spiritual experience was nothing — he experienced nothing — and then Jack —
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Yes, but it was not that I was looking for something. It’s that I was getting something.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: Yes, but what I wanted to ask you —
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: I did not try to initiate that experience. That experience was initiated from the other end.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: No, you made it very clear that you did not go seeking the experience that you were on the receiving end, just like Lewis maintained when he was tracked down by a God intervention in his autobiography, Surprised by Joy.
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Precisely!
BRAD LINAWEAVER: I don’t think this guy ever fully grasped that, how much you said you were on the receiving end. You did not seek it out. But when he talked about the big mystical nothing, I realized that, from my point of view, the atheist tracts of the nineteenth century, these superficial, free-thinking tracts, strike me as of more value than this mystical big nothing.
You have never claimed, out of your experiences, a big nothing. On the contrary, you seem to have had an increase in the data inputs from your epiphany, not a decrease or an absence of it.
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: The reason I like the word unfolding or flowering of the experience, is that it’s like certain kernels of very basic axioms were given to me, certain observations, on a very crucial fundamental base level, were given to me. And as these seeds grow, I am able to see more and more of what they grow into.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: Do you have a profound shift in how you view morality from a religious perspective before your experience and after your experience, or is it the same? Because you were a libertarian before — as you and I define the term — and you are a libertarian since, as you and I define the term. So, I’m assuming that nothing in your epiphany experience fundamentally shook or distorted previous libertarian ethics, which I assume you got from natural-law beliefs, which are to some extent religious.
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: I think that the Creator of natural laws would choose as somebody possibly worth talking to, among us, a believer in natural laws, a person who believes that you could look at the universe we’re in and derive the fundamental premises of moral behavior, as Ayn Rand did. It is possible to observe certain fundamental things, which are the roots of morality, without reference to the Ten Commandments. I am chagrined, frustrated, not sure what word I want to use here, when I hear people like Dennis Prager say that our morality comes from the Bible. That without reference to the Bible, people aren’t going to behavior morally. Now, in a practical sense, it may be true. In some practical sense, people with a religious education may have more of a moral sense, simply because they think about it, because morality is on their mind.
And I have to say, simply as an observation, I have not been particularly impressed in the overall world at people who say that their morality is derived from Objectivism, and they go out and cheat and steal, and do not act in a moral sense. But nonetheless, it’s hard to make comparisons because it’s all anecdotal. There’s certainly no shortage of Christians who act shoddily, or people who call themselves Christians, who act shoddily. It’s no guarantee.
But nonetheless, as a believer in natural law, as a believer that the universe is intended — it was created — to be comprehensible, it puts me more on the side with the atheists than with the superstitious religious person who thinks that the universe — and God’s mind — are fundamentally incomprehensible, and therefore all we can do is look at this rule book and do what we’re told like good sheep.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: So you were a natural-law libertarian before and after your epiphany experience.
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: And what’s more, one of the things that came out of the — I’m not sure epiphany is the right word, but I’ll use it — one of the things that came out of the experience was, in essence, God conveying to me that the reason why He was there, or we were together — whatever you want to call it — was because of what I was and where I had come from. That it wasn’t a random sort of thing where in Oh, God! George Burns is talking to John Denver’s character and he says “Well, you’re like the millionth guy through the bridge gets to meet the governor.” It wasn’t random.
That God was looking for something specific and I fit the job description. I had gone through — to use a much more contemporary reference — the winnowing out to become The Apprentice. There were other candidates who I had to beat out, much like I said. We were in a messianic competition.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: Do you think the fact that you were a natural law libertarian —
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: — crucial to it!
BRAD LINAWEAVER: — beforehand, made the experience easier to get through? Because what’s found, from your point of view, is a very strong vindication of the natural-law belief.
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Did I take comfort that God agreed with me? Yes!
BRAD LINAWEAVER: Well, the natural-law God position?
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Yes.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: Now what I want to ask you — because that means that you’ve got things to separate people religiously — certain areas of rule-keeping and laws for their own sake. You don’t have that problem with your C.S. Lewis in terms of the Tao, the Golden Rule, the basic morality level of religion, where different religions have an area of real agreement. A lot of them have an area of agreement.
What I want to ask you, now, is one of the areas that separate people in religion — that mystics sometimes argue against — are the various specific claims that religions make historically. So I want to begin with, do you believe, before or after — I don’t care which or both — do you believe there was an historical Jesus Christ?
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Yes.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: Do you believe he came out of the tomb three days after crucifixion?
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Yes.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: Okay, take it from there, because right there, a lot of people from a Jewish background are going to be screaming for your head at that moment.
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Where I differ from the Christians, I guess what makes me a heretic and not a Christian accepted by any of the churches today, is that I do not believe that there was or is an eternal Trinity. I take the idea of One God seriously and the reason I take it seriously is that it fits in with my metaphysical approach.
My metaphysical approach is that the words “God” and “existence” are two different words for the same referent and there is only one existence.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: Right.
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: No matter how many universes, no matter how many parallel universes, no matter how many probabilities, it all comes down to one existence.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: I Am that I Am, and God being the Alpha and the Omega.
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Right, there is one Existence.
Therefore, how is it that we now have multiple minds?
To me it means that God fissioned. He started splitting off parts of Himself into their own little universes so that they could have free will. But what I’m leading up to is the idea of an emergent Trinity, one which starts out with God fissioning Himself into male and female and then God and Goddess and then out of that, the first angel and the first angel would be the soul which we would identify as Jesus. But who I believe we know Him by the name Adam before then. Because only Adam could redeem his own original sin, and that makes me a heretic to the Christians —
BRAD LINAWEAVER: — and the Jews —
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Well I’m not sure it makes me a heretic to the Jews because it’s almost a Jewish thought.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: Well, every Jew I’ve run it by, who claims to be a religious Jew, claims you’re a heretic. So I think you’re a heretic to the Jews, the Christians, and the Muslims, as far as I can tell. But that makes your theology original.
What I want to ask you is this, because I followed everything you just said, but what I want to ask is this: you really don’t even need the Trinity.
The Trinity was cobbled together for the Nicene Creed, to answer what they deemed to be some contradictions, in problems in terms of how much adoration do you give the Son and how much power does the Son has after He’s Risen and all of this. Isn’t it fair to say that the Neil Schulman theology as applied to the Christian beliefs — I’ll get to some others things in a minute — that the Neil Schulman theology, as applied to the Christian beliefs, is that Jesus is distinct from the Father, to the extent that we ourselves are. To use the old Jewish phrase that upset the priests of the Temple so badly, “the Son of Man,” which only the Jews understood the full significance of “the Son of Man” when Jesus said that.
Isn’t it arguable that Jesus Christ had these supernatural powers, and was therefore able to do things that “normal” human beings couldn’t do, and was truly in that sense more the Son of God than the average Joe — Joseph, the average Joseph — but despite that, is still distinct from the Father? That’s my question. Because you don’t even have the problem of the Trinity, if you have the pre-Nicene Creed approach.
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: I’m not sure that it makes a difference for the following reason: being in flesh, being in a corporeal body, has its own logic because of it, its own consequences, its own effects. God — You take that Mind, and you put it in a human body — and God looks out of the eyes from the body like anybody else, can feel pain, can die, can be mutilated, can eat, can fall in love, can have sex, can suffer dandruff or psoriasis or boils, impotence — any of these things which flesh is heir to — you take God Himself’s soul and figure out a way to put it in flesh — which is, by the way, the reason why Jews consider it blasphemy to consider that, this is what they reject more than anything else — the idea that that Soul could be put into flesh —
BRAD LINAWEAVER: Yes, that’s clear. Every educated Christian knows that’s the ultimate heresy to the Jewish belief.
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: That is the heresy to Jewish belief, that it could happen. But nonetheless, if you believe that God is powerful, that God is a genius, that God who created the Heavens and the Earth might want to experience that — He might figure out a way to do it.
Given that — once He has done it — He is a man and, as a man, He thinks as a Man, He feels as a man — and He’s still God.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: But can there still be a supernatural dimension intruding on that tent of flesh, which are the miracles of Jesus Christ? Yes or No?
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Yes, and I will say exactly how I know. I think that what Jesus experienced was something akin to what happened to me on February 18, 1997 only it was longer and deeper. I had just a taste of it for a few hours, of what it was to have that mind of God inside me.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: So if you had it for 30 years of a mortal life?
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: How about three years? How about His ministry, three years?
BRAD LINAWEAVER: Yes, okay the three years of the ministry.
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Suddenly, He wakes up one day, and He’s the genetic candidate for that time and place. He’s the clone. He’s the chip off the old block.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: The stars are in alignment and into Him it comes.
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Right. And He has, for the next three years, what I had for eight hours, and that means that He has time to develop the powers that I wasn’t able to do in eight hours.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: I consider that a perfectly legitimate view which a lot of traditional religions would call a Gnostic heresy, that I consider a perfectly valid, plausible scenario, every bit as reasonable as anything argued by the orthodox religions. But I repeat, to repeat an earlier statement, I maintain that it’s heresy to the Jews because it’s not just your normal “wizard.” It’s not your normal magic. It’s not Moses having God stuff channeled through him for the purposes of a miracle. It is that full God consciousness in the full human body that you just expressed so beautifully a few minutes ago. It is that that was so heretical to the priests of the temple and made Jesus Christ the ultimate heretic to the Jews. Therefore, I maintain that you are a heretic to all the religions.
Do you see what I’m saying, do you follow this?
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: How dare Man — whether Jew, Christian, Muslim or any of them, these children of God — how dare they instruct God what He may not do?
BRAD LINAWEAVER: That’s exactly right. That’s what they all do, all the traditional religions every last one of them. Sometimes it gets almost funny, with the levels of bureaucratic rules.
It is hilarious that the human institutions pretend to know God’s mind so well, so intimately, and in such excruciating detail, that they can do precisely what you just said. Which makes no logical sense, because these are the same people who turn right around in the next second — you’ve heard it from Dennis Prager — and say that God is unknowable. So how can God simultaneously be so unknowable, and yet all the Jews can know all the rules, all the Christians can know all the rules, all the Muslims can know all the rules? How can you know all the rules and, at the same time, say that God is totally unknowable? That is a total contradiction.
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Right. Here’s the thing, and this is why I love Genesis so much, because Genesis has God telling us about Himself, and by the way so does Exodus. Let’s just talk about those two books, Genesis and Exodus. Forget about the other three books in the Pentateuch. What does Genesis tell us about the nature of God?
Number One, it tells us that he’s not a perfectionist. He looked at His creation and does he say “Perfect”? No. It says, “He looked at it and saw that it was good.” “Good” is good enough for God. “He looked at it and saw that it was good.” That tells us something about His personality right off.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: If it was perfect there would have been no choice in Eden.
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Right and tells me something else, leading into another…
BRAD LINAWEAVER: Point one.
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: But let me make the point with full force. I maintain that perfection is a verb, not a noun. As a noun, it is without referent — including God Himself — because God — being dynamic, being alive, being a chooser, being an experimenter — is a risk-taker, and all action has the risk of imperfect results. Because, if you did not have that possibility, action would be futile.
The very nature of being a living, active, consciously volitional God, means that you have taken this idea — that you’ve had possibly for eons before — of being perfect and whole, and thrown it out for this Grand Experiment called Creation. And that means You’re a risk taker, You’re an experimenter, You’re a scientist, You’re an artist.
You start out being a scientist, and then being an artist. Which, by the way, is the same evolution we see in children, where they come out, and the first thing they do is start exploring and being a scientist, and then later they become artists and they become creative.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: Right
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Well, I say that God went through the same sort of thing. That at the moment He decided to make minds, souls, other than His own who could disagree with Him, results uncertain — experiment started — God at that point is no longer one soul, He has given up being the only one existing. There are now multiple existents, the very multiplication of souls itself makes God’s soul part of a community and is the first step to Him becoming a human being.
Going back to what God tells us about it so that we know Him so that He isn’t ineffable and unknowable.
I just had a Passover service a few ago, and I noticed something that I never noticed before.
God says, I am not going to send my angels to do the tenth plague, the killing of the first born of the Egyptians. I will do it myself. Now, what is the word “Passover” about? It means that God asked the Jews to put a symbol on their doors so that He would “pass over” their doors.
Now, let’s think about this for a second. God’s doing this Himself.
Excuse me? If God’s omniscient, what does He need anybody to mark any doors for Him? If God’s omniscient, He doesn’t know which are the Jews and which are the Egyptian firstborn? He’s going to make a mistake?
No! It means that God is operating within our sphere, within this universe, within the rules of this space-time continuum, and He is capable of making a mistake and so He wants a backup there.
Then why does every atheist use God’s “omniscience” and His “omnipotence” as a contradiction to hang their atheism on, and why do so many theologians demand that if He’s not omniscient, omnipotent, and omnipresent, that He can’t be God?
BRAD LINAWEAVER: Right. Yet Gene Scott was the first TV Christian I ever saw who said there’s no claim in the New Testament, there’s no claim in the Old Testament, there’s no claim in the official holy text of Jews, Muslims or Christians claiming any such thing. You cannot find the verse, because Scott says it does not exist. Now do we agree with Scott on that?
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: We sure do.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: Okay. Now let’s go somewhere with this. When do theologians start coming up with this poison and then when did the atheists start figuring that if they could answer the poison they would have answered the claims of religion? It’s worthy of research.
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: You now what it is? Oh, I don’t know when it happened but I’ll tell you the purpose for it. It’s inflation. If you can blow God up so much that the word becomes meaningless, you no longer have something concrete to deal with. You’re now dealing with the phantasm, or as I like to say, it’s not the worship of God, it’s the worship of Fog.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: So I don’t know where it all began but it’s definitely poison, it’s theological poison, and atheists for generations have felt if they could disprove this crap they’d disprove religion.
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Atheists prefer an impossible definition of God because it makes God impossible. Theologians prefer an impossible definition of God because it makes God whatever they want Him to be for their own political purposes. You really have to have met God before you’re really interested in who God is and what He is, and at that point He’s not ineffable, He’s not malleable – any more than meeting anybody else. Everybody who you meet is somebody, and so is God.
You see, the two hardest things I have, in conveying my experience to people, is that what makes me convinced of its reality is that God is real. He come across to me like a real person — a personality, opinions, thoughts. Not the physical body. The one thing that I didn’t meet was the physical body. It’s not like on Joan of Arcadia where there’s this person showing in a different guise every time, I haven’t had that. I haven’t had the John Denver and George Burns experience where you could see Him and feel Him. It was something inside, behind my eyes.
But everything else is exactly the same as meeting somebody. That means, a person with thoughts, opinions, a style, a sense of life, a sense of humor. And that’s what makes me convinced.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: It seems to me that the God experience you’ve had — and your belief that He split off all these entities that we are because He didn’t want to be alone, He wanted to have other beings to share existence with and to have free will, your origin of us as the fissioning of God model, for want of a better term, I think God fissioning is a good way to describe what you’ve got — is it not possible that God could have performed this operation whether He created space-time or not? In other words, I’ll state it slightly differently. That what we call existence could be eternal and not in need of creating — like the atheists say — and there could still be God creating all of us? Or God could have created the space-time continuum but the essential thing about God’s relationship to us exists independently of whether He created space-time or not? I can rephrase it you want.
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: I understand the question but I’m not sure in reality there’s a distinction. Because I see certain necessities involved. The necessity for free will requires, I think, some sort of actual physical separation from God. Now I’m not sure what the word “physical” means in this context but it may mean in some sense an extra dimension, or an extra universe, an extra continuum. I’m not sure of the right word to use. But for the separation to exist and be real, for us to have a will free from God’s will, thoughts free from God’s thoughts, real actual freedom of choice, that it would require creation of an independent universe for us to exist in.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: Which can logically imply the creation of the universe, but it’s not essential.
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Right, but that’s my thought of why.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: You don’t have a firm certainty on it?
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: No.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: Because you don’t think it’s essential ultimately, to your real discovery.
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Let’s just say it’s above my pay grade.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: Or it’s not essential to your real discovery is another way of putting it.
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Well, not yet, but right now it’s above my pay grade. It’s beyond the detailed understanding that I have.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: Very good. Good answer. You obviously believe there are creatures that are more supernatural that God creates in addition to us. In other words you have no trouble believing in the angels of various religious traditions?
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Right. But as I portrayed in Escape from Heaven, not necessarily superior. Possibly cognitively or physically superior, but not necessarily superior in the sense that we may have capabilities that they don’t have.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: But they may have some we don’t have?
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Right.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: Now having said that, can you accept the idea that, from our human perspective, there’s good ones and bad ones, which we can call angels and demons, for want of a better term?
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Well, inasmuch as angels would have free will —
BRAD LINAWEAVER: That’s a reasonable idea.
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: It necessitates what we would call “good ones” “and bad ones.”
BRAD LINAWEAVER: Now, you don’t doubt that Moses had a God experience, with the burning bush? And Exodus — just like Jesus Christ is an example in human history of a God experience — Moses is an example in human history of a God experience. Do you believe Mohammad was in a cave, as I remember, and he’s supposed to have had contact with angels in a cave?
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Did Neale Donald Walsch have a God experience? Did Mohammad have a God experience? Did Joseph Smith have a God experience? Did David Koresh have a God experience? Did Joan of Arc have a God experience? All of these are different people who, at one time or another, have claimed God experiences.
Now the Bible is the writing of writers. The Koran is the writing of writer or writers. So is The Book of Mormon. So were whatever David Koresh thought he was unsealing. So is what Neale Donald Walsch is writing. These are the writings of writers, writers other than me.
Now I’ve had my own experience, and I have my own interpretations, and I have my own writings, which have come to me because of these. It is with things done by other people who claim contact with God, I am in an odd situation.
I do not do what most religionists do, such as Dennis Prager, or Pat Robertson, or Billy Graham.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: Which is?
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Which is judge their experiences by the written down revelations of other people. I do not judge the reality of what happened to me by what other people have written down. I do the opposite, which is, I judge the reality of what I see in those writings by what I know to be true from what has happened to me.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: You do not let traditions influence your first-hand experience.
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Correct.
I do judge the tree by its fruit and the problem I have with Islam is that any club which says, “Join, obey — or die” — as far as I’m concerned — is not a respecter of free will and not a respecter of God.
I am looking for the truth. I am doing it by trying to extract meaning from my experiences, and apply logic to them, and try to tie them in to the vast writings and cultural experience and all these other things. That’s why I find something like Genesis or something like Exodus or the Gospels relating what Jesus did, to be informative to me, because I find things that have happened to me which has meaning there.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: My earlier statement though — the area where you become a heretic even to the Jews — is I’ve known a lot of Jewish Kabbalistic believers, in science fiction over the years, and their imagination shuts down at the precise moment that your imagination catches fire. You know where that is?
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Where?
BRAD LINAWEAVER: The Jesus story.
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: It’s because I see God as an Artist and, particularly, I see God as a Storyteller and that tells me something crucial.
Genesis, the Creation, is a First Act. It tells the story of a creation. It tells a story of a fall.
Now, I will tell you this much. The granting of a patch of land in the Middle East — surrounded by a billion hostile enemies, without any oil on it — does not strike me as a good Second Act.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: Amen, brother!
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: If you’re going to tell the story of a creation and a fall, you have to tell the story of a resurrection, and Judaism does not tell that story.
Next in I Met God — God Without Religion, Scripture, or Faith is Chapter XI: Doctrines
Copyright © 2010 The J. Neil Schulman Living Trust. All rights reserved.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: And that’s where the God voice — I’ll call it that — turning the volume up, if you will, on the God broadcast — is that where the God voice made a crucial difference in guiding you through what was to be dropped and what was to be used?
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Yes, and let me try to explain the process, the way that it was happening.
First of all, 9/11 happens. I am, at that point, maybe no more than three chapters, maybe four chapters, into the book. Okay, three or four chapters, right near the beginning. okay, 9/11 happens. I am up all night, writing on the book. I’m at my computer in the family room. On the couch next to me, my daughter is asleep. I have the TV on in that room, with the sound muted.
About six o’clock in the morning, I look over to the TV and I see –
BRAD LINAWEAVER: The Twin Towers?
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: I see the Twin Towers. I’m looking at New York live news footage as smoke is coming out of the Towers.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: They haven’t collapsed yet?
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Oh, way before they collapsed. And I turned up the volume, was shocked when they talked about the second plane having hit. Okay, I watched around a half hour, went upstairs, woke up my mother, and said you’ve got to see what’s happening here.
Then around seven o’clock that morning, I called my daughter’s mother and I said, “I’m keeping her out of school today.” I said, “I don’t know, they’re talking about things hitting Washington. I don’t know what’s going to be happening here on the West Coast, if anything, but I’m keeping her out of school today.”
I then got dressed and I went to the nearest supermarket and I did the sort of shopping I had done when everybody was talking about Y2K. I got canned goods, batteries, bottled water – basically, what, living in California, we refer to as earthquake supplies. And then the towers started collapsing while I was at the supermarket. I got back into the car and heard about it on the radio.
Okay. So, I did not see that happen because I was already in emergency mode, trying to protect my family.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: You saw it with the ten million reruns.
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Yes, that’s right.
Now, 9/11 did not stop me from writing the book. It wasn’t like I’m going to stop at this point. I knew I had to continue more than ever.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: It even increased you motivation.
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: It increased my motivation. Now I really felt that I had to get this book done, and get it done quickly. And also, in the back of my mind, was sort of like a promise I had made to my father, that I was going to have this book done by his birthday, which was October 1st, which was only a few weeks away from 9/11. So I felt the pressure on me.
Now I had experienced this period of intense writing the last time in 1981 when I was writing The Rainbow Cadenza. I hadn’t had anything like it since, even working on The Frame of the Century?
BRAD LINAWEAVER: Which is your O.J. book.
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Right, my O.J. book. I’d had bursts of energy, where I was writing maybe 50 or 60 pages but a lot of that book was simply collecting various things and putting them together. It was, in many ways, almost more of an editing job than a writing job, from stuff I had previously written in discussion boards on the Internet, where I was arguing with people, and I was collecting pieces of data.
Writing nonfiction is, in may ways, much more about research than it is about writing.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: Fiction writing and nonfiction writing are different experiences, as you and I both know.
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: So this was like the first time that I was at this level of intensity of creation since 1981. Here I was, 20 years later. It had been 20 years since I’d done this. Plus, I didn’t have the chemical aids which I’d had while writing The Rainbow Cadenza, because every day, my writing formula — when writing Rainbow Cadenza — was to make myself an Irish coffee – and only one Irish coffee because — the way that I said it — the caffeine was focusing my mind and the alcohol was calming down my fear of writing.
Well, I was doing it without the Irish coffee this time, and to get to that level of intensity without it took me a while, and that’s one of the reasons it took me so long to get into the groove again.
So here I am, in the weeks following 9/11, with, of course you know, all this chaos and intensity. And of course, while I’m writing the book, I’m also writing four or five short articles about 9/11 and the impact. I couldn’t disengage from it. I tried to and couldn’t write anything for the first few days but then too much was going on that I couldn’t stay out of it.
So while I’m writing the novel I’m also tossing off these nonfiction pieces.
And then, suddenly, something strange started happening. I abandoned my outline entirely and what was happening to me was that I would write a chapter and end a chapter, having put things in that I didn’t know why I put it there. In essence, painting myself into a corner.
I was laying out problems for myself, putting things in there, and asking myself, “Why is that there?”
Let me give you some concrete examples.
Two things, in particular. I’ll just mention two of them because I think it makes the case very adequately. One of them is that I have Lucifer’s press conference in Heaven, when — having successfully won her coup to take over Heaven and driven God and God’s palace out of Heaven — and by the way, the image of God’s palace being missing from Heaven was directly taken from seeing the Twin Towers gone.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: I think it’s one of the most powerful images in the novel. Please go on.
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: So after she has driven God and God’s palace out of Heaven itself, Lucifer holds a press conference and I say, in describing her, here she was about to announce her victory but she looked sad, as if she had just been defeated.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: And what you mean by that was?
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: I had no idea why I wrote that. Why is that there? Why am I writing that, that she looks defeated even though she is announcing her victory?
Why? I had no idea when I wrote that.
Then, later on, a couple of chapters later, the explanation is given to me as if I’m a reader and I’m reading along and then suddenly I’m reading the answer. And the answer was, it was because — having made an arrangement with God to hold elections on Earth to determine who is going to rule Earth — she had to go back to God, humbly, hat in hand, and say, “Can you help me set up the election? I can’t figure out a way to get the votes of everybody on Earth. Can you solve that problem for me?”
The way that I describe it in the novel, it’s like a rebellious teenager who — having decided to move out in a huff — has to go back to Daddy and say, “Can I borrow your van to move?”
BRAD LINAWEAVER: Right, Right.
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: And that’s why she looked so defeated. But I had no idea, when I wrote that sentence, about why she looked defeated, when she was about to announce her victory at the press conference, I had no idea. That’s one example.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: It came to you later?
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: It came to me later.
Another example. I have Duj Pepperman, when the council forms around him — and again, I took that direct language of “A circle will form around you” and I put it into the novel and gave it to Duj Pepperman —
BRAD LINAWEAVER: It had been Pulpless.Com before and now it’s in the novel?
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Now it’s in the novel, right. And, by the way, I wasn’t even sure, at the time, whether that was the circle or whether that was simply part of a circle. I wasn’t really sure again what “A circle will form around you” actually meant, and still, to this day, I’m not really sure.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: It has multiple meanings. In an occult practice there are circles that have certain arcane meanings as well.
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Right. I have Duj Pepperman have all these famous dead people who become sort of his cabinet – the circle around him —
BRAD LINAWEAVER: H.L. Mencken and everybody else?
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Right, everybody. Ayn Rand, Robert Heinlein, and that sort of thing.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: Even Charles Lindbergh?
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: And it is about Charles Lindbergh that this happens. Because I say, at a certain point, Duj had a special mission for Charles Lindbergh. But that doesn’t come into the story yet.
Now when I wrote that I had no idea what the special mission for Charles Lindbergh was going to be. Not a clue. Why am I writing this? Why am I creating this problem? I’m trying to get this novel done and I’m putting things in there that I have no clue why. How am I going to pay that off? I don’t how I’m going to pay that off.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: Right.
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: And yet, again, a few chapters later it turns out that what Charles Lindbergh’s mission was, was to go into the tunnel, connecting Earth and Heaven, and basically slip in there, to be able to open it up at will when Duj needs to be able to get Jesus to Earth.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: Right.
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: But I had no idea that that was going to happen. I didn’t know what that mission was. But it works out so perfectly when it happens.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: Right.
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Now this was what was starting to give me the idea that God was active within me again, that the volume was up again. Because I was getting all these things and it was just coming through full force with such high pressure that it essentially carried me to the point where, in essence, I think I wrote the last ten chapters of the book in about four days.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: Writer to writer, that’s impressive.
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: I couldn’t sleep. I was only able to sleep a couple of hours a night while this was going on. I was, you know, at full intensity. But unlike what had happened with The Rainbow Cadenza when it was a fearful experience, this time I was ready for it and I was able to handle it. It was pleasurable this time just like it was scary the first time.
My first time where God is directly encountering me, He’s putting His hand on my heart and saying I can kill you now. The second time, it’s this benevolent mind sharing, totally different experience. And here again, I wasn’t fully ready or understanding what was happening the first time. The second time it’s a gas.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: We talked about this earlier, it’s pain into pleasure.
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Right, because I am becoming more the sort of person who is able to handle it. I’m being made into a person who’s able to tolerate it and who actually enjoys it.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: Yes.
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: I’m the one who’s changing, God isn’t changing. I’m changing.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: I will want to ask about the screenplay. But I’ll wait until we finish talking about the novel. This sets up my first question about the screenplay please continue.
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: I started finding out, piece by piece, that there were things put into the novel, great important central symbols, which my religious education had never told me anything about and why was I putting them in there?
BRAD LINAWEAVER: Kabbalistic symbology?
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Right, two things in particular I have as a central part of the book that God has a wife and that that wife was also the mother of Jesus. In other words, and this I took in essence from the mythology of The Book of the Holy Grail, which J.R. Ploughman brought to Pulpless.Com.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: I’ve read it.
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Okay, the idea that you have God who is Erebus, and His wife who is Yse, and that is the god and goddess who are the mother and father of the human race. In fact, they are also the mother and father of Jesus, because they come down and meld their spirits into two human beings. One of them Joseph, who God goes into — who Erebus goes into — and the other one Mary, who Yse goes into, and then as both gods and human beings they procreate and their son becomes Jesus — Yeshua — and that is how God and man, the bloodline is formed on Earth which they then go off — and here is where I become a heretic to The Book of the Holy Grail — they say at that point that the whole point was so this bloodline could be created and therefore Jesus is never crucified and it’s a trick. I want no part of that! But nonetheless, here’s the thing in meeting with J.R. Ploughman in the Summer of 1999, to meet with him and experience his presence, he is saying that he recognizes my God experience as real.
And other people who I met around my sister said they recognized my experience as real, they had a sense that this had happened. And also I started doing some things which almost came to the point of being miraculous. I sat with one of my sister’s friends who is very, very psychic, and she would put a pebble in my hand and suddenly I was getting a flash of where the rocks were from. And this was a collection of rocks which she had taken from all over the place and she told me I was getting one hundred percent. “Yes, this is from there, yes this is from there” and it’s like it was a total psychic connection.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: I remember you and Soleil talking about feeling somebody’s heartbeat at a distance.
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: One of my sister’s friends — a man named Art Barteldt — who was close to being a full blooded, I think, Apache — I’m not sure that that was his tribe. But he was able to do something, in which he would stand across the room from me — at least eight or ten feet away — put up his hand, and say, “Put up your hand, I’m going to send you my heartbeat.” And then I would feel his heartbeat in my hand. Then I could feel his heartbeat thumping in my hand. And that was my first experience with actual magic.
So, in other words I knew that there were more things in Heaven and earth than even I had experienced. In other words I’d had some profound things happen to me, but this was also remarkable.
Okay. So all of this is going on during this period, and then I find out that I have these symbols, and this is post publication.
After the book is already published, after Escape from Heaven is in print, that’s when I start discovering what I put into the book. What God has revealed to me without my even knowing it.
And two things in particular. One is that I got ahold of Leonard Nimoy’s photographic book, Shekhina, and I had never heard the word Shekhina before then. But this is what was interesting to me, and here is the sequence of knowledge and learning here.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: Back to kabbalah…
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Right. Leonard Nimoy was raised Jewish, in Boston, and when he was taken to the Orthodox synagogue, you had the ritual of everybody turns their back so they can’t see the Holy of Holies and I guess the Rabbi holds up his hands and does the Vulcan greeting, as we know, with the two fingers separated into a “V” in the middle.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: “Live long and prosper!”
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: The “Live long and prosper” symbol, which is a representation, Nimoy explains in his book Shekhina, of the Hebrew letter “shin,” if I’m not mistaken, which is the representation of Shekhina. Shekhina being the Holy Spirit, the feminine aspect of God.
And I am learning, when I start now researching this — having learned about it — that it’s God’s wife, the female aspect of God. And here’s the important part: the advocate of man to God.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: I have to ask you a question.
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: But let me, before you ask me the question. I can’t let this go by without emphasizing it too strongly.
We go back to 1988 where I had that dream, the dream that changes my life, where my attorney — my advocate — is God and she is a woman. God was a woman in my dream, okay?
I put that in Escape from Heaven and now I find out that Shekhina, the Holy Spirit in Judaism, is a central part of the hidden kabbalistic doctrines, and I’ve met her in my dream in 1988, and put her in a novel? And only now I find out who she is? That the defender of humanity before God, in essence, represented me?
This is — I’m starting to think — this is a central part of Judaism which I never knew about.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: I always thought it was a hidden part of Judaism.
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Hidden, but you know it’s not something I was taught in the year of Hebrew School.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: That’s what I mean, I always thought it was kind of like secretive.
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: It is. It’s secretive. It is deliberately secretive.
Here is Leonard Nimoy doing a book about it, telling me about it, starting me researching about it, and what I find out is that who Shekhina is, the Holy Spirit, the defender of man before God, was in my dream, defending me in 1988, after I had the experience where I had God — the male God — having His hand on my heart.
I’m blown away when I learn this.
Then something else.
In writing Escape from Heaven, I have the image of God’s palace. Remember the palace that Duj is invited to, so he can have this conversation with God, and be sent back to Earth.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: Yes.
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: And I describe as a giant diamond, two pyramids — one the apex pointing up, the other the apex pointing down — and joined at the middle.
I then start doing a little research and here’s what I find out. That symbol — if you just overlap it a little bit so that the bottom pyramid’s base is sticking out a little bit –
BRAD LINAWEAVER: Star of David!
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: It’s the Tree of Life symbol, and that, when flattened, becomes the two triangles of the Star of David.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: Right!
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: That’s where the Star of David comes from, the three-dimensional representation of the two pyramids opposing each other, and that is the central image of Judaism. Now actually some would argue, some would say it’s the Menorah, but nonetheless, I don’t think we can discount the Star of David as being a powerful symbol, identified with Judaism, and certainly a kabbalistic symbol.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: Yes.
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Okay, now why did I put that in there? I didn’t know anything about that when I wrote that. One of the things that Sam Konkin, that actually impressed him about my description of my experience, is that he knew how little I knew about any of this stuff. That I was never interested in reading about Judaism or theology or any of this sort of stuff. No interest in it.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: In fact Sam and I discussed that on a number of occasions.
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: What did he say?
BRAD LINAWEAVER: What you just said, I’m providing you a third party witness.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: Okay. So, in other words, it’s not like I’m trying to say, “Well this was in there and I was taught it in Hebrew School” or had read up a lot of it. I wasn’t interested, never knew any of this stuff, and here it is, it’s ending up in my book and I’m discovering that it’s there after the fact, after it’s written.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: No, you have me convinced that you did not have any of this kabbalistic background and yet work these images into your book. You did not have the background. You have me convinced of that.
Let me know when I can ask my next question. It does tie in to this.
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: I think we’re at that point right now.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: Okay, here’s my next question, why is it Christianity has been criticized for really being polytheistic by having the Trinity? Remember, there was a God view from various dimensional aspects.
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: And also the sentence that I did want to get out, and that is that I really think it doesn’t matter whether, in my conception, God creates the other two parts of the Trinity, so that there’s three personalities, or since He is fissioning Himself — and what they are are aspects that have always been God and been with God. As Saint John says in his gospel “And The Word was God and the Word was with God.” He’s saying both, so in essence what I’m saying is, is that my view may appear to be heretical to Orthodox Christianity, but I don’t think it really is.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: My question is, why is Christianity criticized for sneaking polytheism back into a monotheistic religion if the original Hebrew religion has a God and a Goddess, the same as Zeus and Hera on Mount Olympus? That is my question.
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Sure. Very good. And more than that, going back to Genesis, God never says He’s the only God, and speaks as if there are other gods. He’s almost talking as if some of the angels are gods.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: May I ask you something about the screenplay?
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Yes, I think we can go to that point.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: When you were writing the screenplay for Escape from Heaven, was it purely your technical skill as a scriptwriter that elaborated certain sections? Dropped certain parts of the novel, then put in new material that’s more dramatic cinematically? Was that just J. Neil Schulman the technician or did — to stick with the earlier metaphor — did the volume turn up again and were you hearing the God voice again, at any point during the screenplay, the way you were during the novel?
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: The volume was turned up again, and particularly in certain things coming together.
For example, in the novel, I have the Beach Boys’ “Good Vibrations” as the song which the angels sing as they take Duj to be transitioned over to Heaven. That’s in the novel, that’s written September 2001. So now I transfer that song into the screenplay for the same scene.
Then at a later point in the book, you see, the way that I structured the novel was not dramatically structured enough to be a screenplay. Too much of it is Duj, his narration, his exposition, his telling things at a distance of what happened. He’s telling it like a storyteller, of events that have happened in the past, and really it’s all in flashback, because he’s a narrator.
So I have to make everything present and open it up and externalize it and make it… and Duj is still the viewpoint character but really, maybe from the standpoint of the novel, I don’t have to have Duj’s personal problems be at the center of it, but I do have to focus it so that we know what the central dramatic conflict is much more sharply in the screenplay than in the novel, and that’s why I decided as a concept in essence to make it a buddy movie between Duj and Jesus.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: But why isn’t that all Neil the technician?
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Because we haven’t gotten to what I’m talking about yet. That is all Neil the technician. What isn’t Neil the technician is things coalescing around November, 1966, when suddenly things start happening. I suddenly find out that the Beach Boys’ “Good Vibrations” came out in November of 1966. When I find out that there was an Elvis Presley recording from his movie Spinout, which came out in 1966, and the song is called “Adam and Evil.” Then I found out that Howard Hughes moved into the Desert Inn, in November 1966.
Suddenly these all points start focusing in on November, 1966, so that I have a sequence in the screenplay of Duj having to time travel back to November 1966, as a centerpoint of the film, and all these sorts of things which become central plot points in the screenplay, particularly having to do with Howard Hughes and the Desert Inn and the song, “Adam and Evil,” which really explicates and motivates the plot moving forward to the second-act climax, and setting us up for the resolution in the third act.
All this started coming together much more elegantly than I was ever able to plan it out.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: When did you write the screenplay, Neil?
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: I wrote the screenplay probably just about a year ago now.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: Okay. See, I view them as different works, and in a few ways I like the screenplay better than the novel, if only because it seems to answer a few more questions. Yet I don’t think it would work as well if you ever tried to rewrite the novel to incorporate the new material from the screenplay. They’re different media and there are certain things you can do in one medium better than another medium.
But I think some of the extra scenes you added to Escape from Heaven, the screenplay — especially some of the scenes in Vegas — and we’re not that far from Vegas now. We’re doing this interview in Pahrump, Nevada. We’re about an hour away from Las Vegas, as I ask this question: did you do it all by yourself or did God give you a little help on the Las Vegas scenes in the screenplay?
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Well, as I say, I was guided toward November, 1966, as the spacetime conclusion for this. For some reason, the idea of Las Vegas on the day Howard Hughes is moving into the Desert Inn, I seemed to be guided there and ended up there with the song “Adam and Evil” as a crucial plot point.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: Right. So do you feel that you now have expressed the full potential of the Escape from Heaven story concept between the novel and the screenplay? And yet there is a possibility of other stories, drawn from these same sources, in the future? This is a question for both Neil the novelist, Neil the screenwriter, and Neil, receiving these experiences.
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: I keep on getting flashes of additional imagery and different plot lines.
I think I know what the first line would be for the sequel to Escape from Heaven, which I list in the forthcoming books in the novel Escape from Heaven, itself, in the front pages, in which I say that the title is Raising Hell. I believe that the first line of that novel is, “Everyone in Heaven smokes.”
BRAD LINAWEAVER: That’s a great line.
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Because, obviously, once you’re in Heaven smoking isn’t going to be damaging to your health anymore. How you can object to tobacco and people smoking, because it’s bad for your health, when you’re an immortal? That’s pretty funny.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: Yes, it is.
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: So “Everybody in Heaven smokes” is a really funny first line for that novel.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: I agree.
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Now I sort of indicate what the plot of Raising Hell would be, and to give just a little foreshadowing of it here.
It would be that the great divorce is over and Jesus, and Jesus’ ex-wife Satan, are back together again — and are Adam and Eve again. And, in essence, Duj Pepperman has been the Jewish Messiah who is bringing Eden back on Earth by opening up the gates. So that Earth is now in full communication with God again and God can walk freely on the Earth again, not having been frozen out anymore during this great interregnum when Satan was able to keep God at bay.
That’s the cosmology and the history I’m giving in the novel, the revisionist mythology. Now that Earth is Edenized again —
BRAD LINAWEAVER: That’s the whole planet?
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: The whole planet, in fact I say: and Earth was returned to its original name, Eden.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: Oh, so you’re arguing Eden was the whole world, not just the garden.
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Right.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: People wandering around, trying to find the location for the Garden of Eden, are missing the point that Earth was Eden.
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Earth was Eden, but then there was the Garden of Eden. But the Garden of Eden was a specific place on planet Eden.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: Beautiful, beautiful.
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Now, the sequel to that, now that that problem is solved and Jesus and His ex-wife are back together again, and she is not in rebellion anymore, she has apologized, she has, in essence, rejoined the team. You still have the problem of what to do with this fallen planet that she has created. Where she, as a demiurge, to basically take the Gnostic heresy and turn it on its head, that in fact the really imperfect god who creates this really imperfect world — which is called Hell — is Satan. Now that she’s good again, she has the job of saving her planet from its misery.
And who does she go to? She goes to her husband, Jesus, who is going to go with her to that planet, and now they have the job of saving Hell, of “Raising Hell.”
Now, who do they call upon to help them? The same crew from the first book, starting with Duj Pepperman.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: I like it. Not everybody listening to this audio book may know, if I may have your permission to explain this.
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Go ahead.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: The demiurge is the idea that Jehovah in the Old Testament is so wicked and evil He can’t possibly be the God who is the father of Jesus Christ in the New Testament. It’s basically trying to say the Jehovah is really another manifestation of the devil or Satan. That is one of the original Gnostic heresies
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: And of course, it’s the Gnostic heresy that Robert Heinlein explicitly plays with in Job: A Comedy of Justice.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: There are other very famous people in recent times who are into it as well.
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Yes. But you see people are always coming at me with various different books before mine —
BRAD LINAWEAVER: The books are endless.
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Yes. Dante’s trilogy, Milton’s Paradise Lost, C.S. Lewis’s The Great Divorce, Robert Heinlein’s Job: A Comedy of Justice, The Last Temptation of Christ by Kazantzakis. All these sorts of previous books. And they try to figure out, well, did I take this from this and this from that? And of course that wasn’t my approach at all.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: No, it was not.
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: My approach wasn’t even to try to make my book kabbalistic or Gnostic.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: No, not at all.
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: The logic of my story — not any of these other things — were what told me that Adam had to redeem his own sin, that the best loved of God would in fact be like an ex spouse. All of these sorts of things and then coming together and saying that would mean that, if Adam has to redeem his own sin, then Adam is Jesus.
And that means that there is this continual spirit that runs through the story, more than we know.
That in fact it makes sense for Eve, the fallen, to, in essence, be redeemed and that could mean that, after her disappointment with Earth, then she becomes Satan, and foments the rebellion because of her profound objection to Creation.
That she has been promised that there’s going to be meaning coming out of it, and she hasn’t found the meaning, and she thinks that God has basically sold her a bill of goods and is a liar.
That’s the rebellion. It is looking at your parents and saying, “You’re not perfect!” And what child hasn’t done that?
When you get to the point where you realize that your parents — as great as you think they are – aren’t perfect. And remember, I worshiped my father — but he wasn’t perfect.
And I’m sure that I’m not perfect to my daughter.
Next in I Met God — God Without Religion, Scripture, or Faith is Chapter X: Heresies
Copyright © 2010 The J. Neil Schulman Living Trust. All rights reserved.
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.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: Do you remember the 1988 event, the hand on the heart event and the dream with the female God figure, do you remember them now from the God point of view and remember Neil as a different party during those events?
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Yes. In other words, Neil Schulman has been a separate personality who’s been invented to hide from me as God who I really am. And I’m seeing that it is a separate being but one who is invented. It’s my cover story to prevent me from knowing myself so I can acclimatize myself to the situation.
There’s also something else and this also relates to one of the reasons why I take the existence of Jesus seriously, is that somewhere in the back of my mind is some sort of memory of having done this before. I don’t remember the time or the place but I know I have been here doing this before. Now I don’t know whether it’s as Jesus or somebody else but I recall: I have done this before I have done this journey where I enter into the body and reveal myself to myself before.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: But it’s vague?
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Yes. I don’t have full memory of what’s going on but there are certain things that I’m able to do.
Now, I tell Dafydd, “You know what? I’m okay here. I’m not going back to bed. Why don’t you go home?”
BRAD LINAWEAVER: Even though you’ve not slept?
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Even though I’ve not slept. I don’t need to sleep at this point, okay. I have a higher level of energy than I have ever had in my entire life. The idea that I would need to sleep is irrelevant. I’m not feeling tired. I’m feeling at the highest energy level I’ve ever been.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: You’ve been awake how many days?
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: I’ve probably been awake, at this point, for probably 30 hours. But I’m in another space. I tell Dafydd, “You can go home. You’re okay to go.”
I turn on the TV and I’m watching the news. And I find that the people on TV, I have the same ability to look at them as I did with Dafydd. The fact that they’re on TV doesn’t restrict me, I could look at them and I have this same four-dimensional view of their souls and looking and seeing who and what they are, that I had with Dafydd in person.
Now, I’m going to do something a little out of sequence here. Dennis Prager, years later, talking about how we know God is God, on one of his radio programs, says that what distinguishes God from everything else is that only God has the power to look inside the soul.
Now, from Dennis’s standpoint, the fact that I’m able to look into people’s souls while this is going on, Dennis — even though he would probably disagree with the conclusion — by his logic, I am really God during that period. Because I had that power of God that only God has.
And here’s something else, people constantly ask me “How do you know that it wasn’t a demon pretending to be God?”
BRAD LINAWEAVER: Actually, I was going to ask you that, but you already asked yourself.
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Right. And the answer is: because I know who I am. I know myself, and I know my own identity, and my own identity while this is going on is: I am God. There’s no question about it. It’s not somebody fooling me, or something like that. You know who you are. You know you’re Brad Linaweaver, I know I’m Neil Schulman. While this was going on I knew I was God. That’s who I was.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: So it’s not you were on the receiving end of the entity. You are the entity. And when people ask that question, they could more legitimately ask in 1988 — the hand-on-your-heart experience — they could ask, “Was that a demon?” Or they might ask the woman in the dream you thought was God, they might ask, “Was that a demon?” But the reason this is not the right question to ask about this event, which you call the Mind Meld, is precisely because you are not at this point on the receiving end. You are the entity yourself, there’s the difference. Is that right?
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Yes, that’s correct.
Now, I am observing people all day long. Every single person I’m seeing I am in essence having this God’s eye view, this cognitive penetration beyond the skin, being able to go beyond the shell. I’m starting to see people almost like fish swimming in an ocean and the fish imagery is very important because that, of course, is something, which is very central to the imagery in Christianity. But in essence, because I am seeing people not just as the physical flesh anymore, but I am seeing them as this four-dimensional event — with the present thick right here and then becoming thin at the two ends as it sort of like goes around this curve — from this odd angle that I’m at looking at them. People look to me almost like, it’s almost like this emanation around them is like fish swimming. That’s the impression I’m getting when I’m wrapping around and able to look at their past and their future.
A couple of people I saw on TV, three of them I remember seeing on TV; one of them was President Clinton, one of them was Dick Gephart, and a third one on a talk show was Gordon Liddy
And I’m going to go in a different order. Dick Gephart I simply got the impression of, here is a man who is not being honest with himself. I got a sense of somebody who is not really fundamentally being honest with himself. That he’s hiding something important from himself. It’s like he’s putting on a mask to prevent him from knowing who he is.
Gordon Liddy I’m seeing on a talk show and he’s trying to make jokes and they’re falling flat on the audience and I realize that he’s talking over their heads, that he’s far too intelligent for the audience he’s trying to tell these jokes to. What I’m getting off of him is the severe sense of regret of an ex-military officer and an ex FBI man –
BRAD LINAWEAVER: –reduced to this.
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: — reduced to this. The thought which comes across most strongly looking at him, and sensing this, is, “What I would give for one more mission where I could make a real difference.” Now I later found out that he wrote a novel with somebody in that situation as the premise of it. But I didn’t know that then, so I take that as almost like a validation of what I was seeing.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: What about Clinton?
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Clinton? I had been extremely hostile toward Clinton before this, because of all his support for anti-Second-Amendment gun control. And I got such a burst of warmth in looking at him because this is what I saw.
I saw him alone in his bedroom — walking into his bedroom at night — and a Secret Service man saying to him “Good night, Mr. President.” And he goes in there and he feels that he is at the center of the world with this gap of loneliness around him, alone in this bedroom, as he walks in for the first time. With the entire world around him and he feels the weight of it and he’s thinking, “How did I ever get here where I have all this responsibility? I thought I was just playing this cute game of running for office and I would get all this benefits and be able to do all these neat things. Here, I find here, with this weight on me and I’m all alone and there’s really nobody who I can ask and share this with. That this is such a responsibility and there’s no way I can share it with anybody.”
And I got the most immense sense of responsibility and loneliness of a man who saw himself as a con man and now he says, “What have I gotten myself into?” and he feels the responsibility of what he’s gotten himself into. That was what I perceived from him.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: And you never had anything remotely like that as a thought or a feeling about Clinton before?
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Correct. Before I simply hated him.
Okay. Now, later that day, Randy and I went to the meeting with the lawyer in Beverly Hills and there was really nothing dramatic that happened there. But it was just the same sort of internal thing going on, while externally I was still being the J. Neil Schulman. I was not telling anybody what was going on inside me.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: You never told Dafydd?
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: I never told Dafydd. I never told Randy. I wasn’t telling anybody.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: Until later?
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Until much, much later. Because it was like J. Neil Schulman was going to be my secret identity. In other words I wasn’t going to reveal myself, but this was what was going on inside. And so we went to this meeting and this other lawyer was there, who knew Gil Garcetti and had that meeting then.
Later that evening I went home, and probably around maybe eight o’clock that night, suddenly I had the feeling of withdrawal. That suddenly there was a separation again, and suddenly — as shockingly to me as it had begun — it was over again, and I was just Neil Schulman again. That was as surprising to me as when it started. Because it was shocking to me when the identity change happened and then again it was just as shocking to me when, only few hours later, it ended again. Because I thought that this was the new situation. I had no idea that it was going to stop.
Now, during that day, a number of different thoughts came to me and it’s hard for me to even keep an inventory about them.
But for example, when I thought about race and blacks — African Americans — the thought came to me immediately, “Magnificent destiny. These people have a magnificent destiny.” I didn’t know exactly what in the future, or how far in the future, but I knew that even speaking in terms of race — which is, by the way, alien to me, since I’m a thorough individualist — that there was something about the African Americans, that at some time in the future they were going to do something which was going to be glorious. And all the suffering that they’ve gone through was going to have meaning.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: Did you think about any other “races” during this period?
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: No. It was basically just catch as catch can. There was no organization to it. First of all I felt no pressure for time because I didn’t know that the experience was going to come to an end. I thought it was an ongoing sort of thing.
I also had, during this period, thoughts about churches, and one of the things that came to was the idea that churches are so dull and boring and ritualistic and they’re not fun. They should be a place that everybody wants to go because they’re so enjoyable, rather than dry and dusty and ritualistic and authoritarian. And the specific thought, during this period, that came out, was that it would be the sort of place that a child would say to his parents, “I have my homework done. Can we go to church, now?”
BRAD LINAWEAVER: Yeah. I got that. Excellent.
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: And that all the top acts would be dying to play in church.
So it was just little things, all the way through.
And, of course, during this period, God was aware that I was writing the novel on Escape from Heaven, and He gave me the joke, “I’m your biggest fan.”
And very little of the novel had been written at that point. It was probably either a chapter, or less than a chapter, at that point.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: But you’re saying that God gave you your best gag?
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Gave me my best gag, right.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: One serious question about this period of the experience. Did you at any point, even for a few seconds, in the God mind, think about the Arabs and Jews?
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: No.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: Interesting. I wonder why that is?
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Because I was focusing on things around me, things that were coming into my view. First of all, it was a busy day with everything that was going on, and so it was like everything was speeded up and that there was an awful lot going on. But it wasn’t organized in any sense. It felt like the beginning to me of a much longer process.
Now, later that night, one of the first things I did, after this happened, was I went to the computer and I wrote the poem which is titled “A Revelation,” which appears on the frontispiece both of The Frame of the Century? and then I later put it as the frontispiece of Escape from Heaven. That poem was my first attempt, now that it was over — even though it had only ended a few seconds or few minutes before — to memorialize it.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: The next question of import I’m going to put to you, in fact it’s the only important question I have left for the rest of this book, is attitudes, opinions feelings, that are in any way different after –
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Oh, yes! Something crucial that I did leave out, you just reminded me! And this is absolutely crucial, because this is the core of the “revelation.” How could I have left this out? Thank you Brad, thank you!
The core thing that came to me during this experience, while it was going on, was that I got a sense of how God’s mind works, because I was inside of it. And what I saw, first of all, was that I had always thought of God looking out universally and seeing everything going on at the same time and just sucking everything in, and then He just does a little something here and a little something there, and it’s like this all encompassing warm cloud.
That was not what I was getting. What I was getting was a direct focus. That God focused on one particular task at a time, just like we do. Now, He was seeing it in four dimensions, because I was seeing it in four dimensions, okay? I was seeing an event cycle when I looked at a person, this four-dimensional, beginning and an end, sideways sort of view, in the God-mind perceiving this. But it was focusing on one thing at a time. God acted specifically. He focused on a task then He would do whatever He needed to do there and then He would go on to something else. It wasn’t like He was doing everything at the same time. And that was one of the things that changed my concept of God, that He was an actor.
Something else, and the main thing that was conveyed to me during this experience was how utterly powerless God felt about what was going on here, about the planet. That the free will that operated in every single person was real, and that the choices that everybody makes have real consequences, so much so that God, He could invite, He could try to persuade, He could try to sweet talk, all of these sorts of things, but ultimately He was powerless to impel what was going to happen from our choices. He could try to convince us, just like a parent talking to a child. But ultimately He had to let what was going to happen happen by itself and He was thrilled when we made the right choice — I could feel the joy when He observed something happening where somebody made the right choice at the point where the moral choice needed to be made — and it was like this lonely disappointment when somebody didn’t. That was the core of this, this feeling of and again during this entire period… People are always talking about the cliché “God is Love, okay?”
BRAD LINAWEAVER: I thought that was only part of it…
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Right but everybody says, “God is Love.” What I was experiencing during this was a benevolent outlook that I had not felt since I was a small child.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: But is that necessarily the same as love?
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Well, I’m not even going to try to parse the word right now. Words are inadequate to describe what was going on. That’s something that I cannot emphasize enough. That the verbal forms that we use are entirely inadequate to describe what I was experiencing, but I have to try and the label doesn’t matter here. Let me just try to get it out, okay? That’s what I’m here for right now is to try to document this. To try to go from the experience of what was going on to get it into words to communicate to other people.
This warmth, this benevolence, this jolly sense of humor, this feeling of caring, you could trivialize it with some cynical statement about warm and fuzzy or something like that…
BRAD LINAWEAVER: No I like benevolence because that’s actually a more descriptive term than love, but does the benevolent warm feeling apply to all humanity or only certain select groups and select individuals?
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: It was not an angry, critical God. He wasn’t looking out and being angry at everything that’s going on. It’s not this stern looking around and, “Boy, this is terrible!” Its not like George Burns in the Oh God! movies saying, “You’re polluting my oceans! See if you can make a mackerel!” It was none of that. Okay…
BRAD LINAWEAVER: That’s why I’m asking…
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: It was none of that. It was looking around and it was the feeling of either thrill when He saw what we were doing right, and just this forlorn despair when He saw somebody who at the point when they had to make a correct choice failed to make it.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: Well, hold that thought for about three seconds while I ask this question.
God being full of joy when we make a right decision and God being sad or frustrated when we make a wrong decision, the way a parent might feel about a child?
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Yes.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: Then what I want to ask — I am stuck with words so you’ve got to give me a chance to express the question in words, because I don’t know how to ask the question in any other way then with words. Is it fair to say that the impression you have from, and of, the God mind, is regarding human conflicts, God does not take sides?
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: That far too abstract and intellectualized and removed for me to respond to, from the standpoint of the experience that I was having.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: Then let me phrase it…
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: But let me…
BRAD LINAWEAVER: I was going to try again, but all right.
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Try again, but let me complete this one more thought that’s coming out here. Okay? Again, you’re drawing me out, and it’s starting to bubble up.
The first thing that I experienced early on in the experience was the sense of benevolence about my life up to that point. In other words, I’m a very hypercritical person. I was always looking at my failures, the things that I considered wrong about myself. They all seemed unimportant while this was going on. It was like, “Well, that is so unimportant, these flaws that you’ve experienced, as compared to the important things.” In other words, I got such a sense of approval. I was experiencing a self-approval. But I don’t think that I have ever had such a feeling of self-acceptance, at that moment. So it was acceptance of myself, acceptance of everybody around me, feeling that it wasn’t going to be a tragedy. The mission as it was going to unfold was not going to have to be this violent tragedy that you see in The Passion of the Christ, where you’re nailed up on a cross. That this time, it was going to be different. The mission was going to be more fun this time and not like the last time. Okay, now I think I’ve probably characterized the essentials of it as much as I can.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: Is the “God” idea that God has an idea of what is good and evil, in terms of choices, but does not view human beings as good or evil on the basis of the choice, but views the choice as good or evil? I hope I phrased that very precisely.
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: This is what I was experiencing precisely. What I was looking out and looking for when I looked into somebody was: what was their most important central heartfelt desire? What was pulling them along? What were they desiring? Were they desiring to be good or were they desiring something else, and being good was unimportant? That was what I was experiencing.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: Well, let me narrow it down. Does God think Arabs are evil?
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Brad, you’re trying to impose upon my interpretation of the experience into something…
BRAD LINAWEAVER: I’m just trying to figure out if God loves all humanity or not, that’s all I’m asking. You brought up love.
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: I wasn’t experiencing it that way. It wasn’t like this global, United Nations sort of thing, Brad. Maybe that’s where I’m having my greatest difficulty conveying this. It wasn’t like that. I wasn’t thinking in terms of Arabs and Jews. Briefly, for a moment, I was thinking in terms of blacks — and just got the thought of a magnificent destiny — but that was only because that sort of drifted into my consciousness because I was working on the O.J. Simpson thing.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: Before I drop this, the only reason I’m asking is you once asked Dennis Prager, if he met God, what he would ask God, and Dennis Prager didn’t have much of an answer. You were being very precise, asking Dennis Prager what Prager might ask God about Himself.
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Right. That was what I was asking, what Prager would ask God about Himself.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: But still, if you asked somebody a question about himself it could involve opinions about others. If somebody asks Brad Linaweaver a question about Brad Lineaweaver, himself, it could actually touch on opinions Brad might have about…
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: I was getting some opinions, okay? I saw that God thought the churches were dull and should be fun. I was experiencing that God looked well upon libertarian writings and natural law, and He looked and saw that that was good. Okay? And I saw His view of how He views us as, what is our most heartfelt desire? In other words that was what He was looking at. Almost everything seems unimportant to Him other than what was in our heart to do. What was compelling us? Were we drawn to be good, and was that important to us? Did we feel that it was important to make a right choice or that we can simply blow off making the right choice for something else? Okay? That is what I was experiencing, and in terms of Arabs and Jews, or something like that, He wasn’t looking at it in terms of some sort of collective conflict or something like that. He would simply, maybe, be thinking, if He saw a specific action, maybe the point at which a terrorist has to decide whether to execute a hostage or something like that. What is in his heart at that moment? Is there empathy for this person who is in his charge, or something like that? That’s how God would view it. “Terrorist, what is in your heart? What do you want to make of yourself?” That is how He would view it.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: Well, I’ll wrap up this sequence of questions by merely saying the people who read this book may wonder, if they had God’s mind, or access to God, what they might ask or wonder. You can deal with it as you wish.
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: All I can say is that Neil Schulman wasn’t phrasing it in terms of questions of God while the experience was going on because Neil Schulman was somewhere off away while this was going on. It was being recorded in Neil Schulman for later use, but the experience itself, I was not Neil Schulman thinking about what questions do I want to ask God. And if it happened to you, you wouldn’t be Brad Linaweaver thinking of what questions you want to ask God because you wouldn’t be Brad Lineaweaver during the experience. You would be God.
If what God was concerned about about each of us was our heart-most desire to do good and evil, and what we’ve become because of it? Then how is that not answering your question, that what He is concerned about is right choices?
BRAD LINAWEAVER: Because there’s an emotional component missing in that answer of are we God’s children or not?
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Brad, if during this experience I’d come across Adolf Hitler and looked into his soul…
BRAD LINAWEAVER: — or Genghis Khan or Jack the Ripper….
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: — or Joseph Stalin or Jack the Ripper or anybody like that, then I would know the answer to that question, and be able to give you the visceral and emotional reaction that you’re asking for. All I can say is the experience, as it was happening, was too short. I had too many other things going on, and I wasn’t going out looking for it.
I was not fully revealed to myself. In other words, there were still things that were just a taste of what was going on.
Now, you and I have talked about this previously, but not during this tape series that we’re doing right here, about an opinion that I expressed to you. Remember that I started out this section talking about Jesus, after His baptism, going into the desert for 40 days and then coming back. And then, according to the first three of the Gospels — not John, John is an exception to this.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: You talking about the ketosis?
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Right. Jesus does not perform His first miracle until He gets back from the desert.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: That is correct.
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: And what I have expressed to you is that what happened to me was just a taste of the experience Jesus had and He had it for far longer, and far deeper, and was therefore able to deal with it over a much longer period and at a much more intense level. Getting to the point that He was able to effect miracles. I didn’t do any miracles during those eight hours.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: But you had a taste of it?
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: I had a taste.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: That’s got to count for something.
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Right. So what I am saying is that I had an experience akin to what the descriptions of what Jesus…
You see, we don’t have a Gospel According to Jesus. We only have the accounts written by the people around Him.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: True.
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Okay? And so I don’t recall that anybody ever asked Jesus what was going on inside Him.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: No, Jesus was not interviewed by Larry King.
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: No. It didn’t occur to any of them to ask Him the sorts of questions that you’re asking me, and the answers would be fascinating, wouldn’t they?
BRAD LINAWEAVER: Well, if you put me in front of Jesus Christ I would ask these questions.
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Right. Of course, and so would I.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: My questions is this, because I’ve been meaning to bring this up through the entire interview, I never have.
Thomas Jefferson is, I think, one of the most libertarian of all the founding fathers, and although he only related to Jesus Christ in terms of His moral teaching, and tried to reject all the really important God aspects, from my point of view, he still argued that what Jesus was preaching was benevolent and sublime. I like that phrase, he says what Jesus brought to the world in terms of His teachings was benevolent and sublime and, he says, clearly preferable to all the ancient philosophers.
So, and this is always the problem I had when I was a Christian and when I lost my faith the problem remained with me, and remains with me to this day.
When Jesus Christ said to forgive your enemies, I’ve never fully been able to understand that. Whether I was in faith or out of faith, and since you’ve had this Mind Meld, I want at least to address that before we move on. This is the last Jesus Christ question I will ask in this interview.
Did you get any feeling or sense of what that really, truly means?
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Yes.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: Then please explain it.
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: During the experience, I was taken out of myself. I was seeing Joseph Neil Schulman, to use my full name here — the little boy who had been Joseph, who at age 16 decided to use his middle name — from the outside, and looked upon him as somebody else.
I think that, at the point of God’s Judgment, we will be taken out of ourselves and be able to look at ourselves from God’s point of view.
We will be given His eyes to look at ourselves — all of us, not just me — for this period. That was just a special foreshadowing, or something like that, for whatever job I have to do here.
But I think everybody gets that, where you are taken out of yourself and you look at yourself as if you’re judging somebody else. I think that what Jesus was saying there, about loving your enemy as yourself, it means that, at some point, you need to apply the same level of criticism for your enemy as you would apply to yourself. The exact same sorts of excuses and rationalizations and reasoning that you would use to justify yourself, you have to apply to your enemy as well.
That’s what I think.
Next in I Met God — God Without Religion, Scripture, or Faith is Chapter VIII: Aftermath
Copyright © 2010 The J. Neil Schulman Living Trust. All rights reserved.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: Neil, the license plate on your vehicle says, “I met God.” Is it fair to say that that license plate is not so much referring to the encounters we have discussed up to this point, as the event you’re about to describe which almost could be more accurately described from your point of view experience as you merged with God?
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Yes. Now, we’ve gone through some pretty dramatic events in my life up to this point.
We’ve talked about, how at five years old, it’s almost like I’m having an encounter with God. I even need to say that looking back, I have a sense of God, early in my life. Not as in any intellectual sense but simply as almost like a taste of benevolence which I have been exposed to. That disappears for a long period of time and starts coming back with my childhood and adult exposure to C.S. Lewis.
Once I am told that Aslan is Jesus, well, that’s when Jesus starts becoming very very interesting to me.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: Is that right, the day you were told that?
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Yes. At the point when I know that one of my favorite characters as a child is supposed to be Jesus, that is the point at which Jesus becomes interesting to me.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: But if as a child you had been told it was Jesus then you never would have read the Narnia books at all?
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: That is correct.
Now moving forward, I have a number of different experiences, which are leading up to this thing, and a lot of them are confrontative and not pleasant.
The experience at the end of writing The Rainbow Cadenza when I have a feeling that God is possibly within me. I don’t even know that it’s God at that point but there is something going on and it’s shaking me to the core and is making me very, very afraid. At that point I don’t even know that its God, I don’t recognize it yet.
Nor on those occasions before that, when I had a voice telling me something. For example, precognitive voices telling me things. The event at a Halloween party when I see the woman who later becomes my wife, and I hear a voice saying, as I am looking at her dancing at this party, “If you ask her to dance then you will marry her.”
Okay, so I’m having things like that but then it’s getting stronger and the voice is becoming more identifiable.
I need to say that all of the times that I am hearing this voice, it’s my own voice. It sounds like me talking to myself. It’s not like I’m hearing Charlton Heston and it’s one of the reasons why later on when we are discussing some of the techniques of the writing of Escape from Heaven, why I identify God as a twin of Duj Pepperman. It’s because the experience is as if you are experiencing an image of yourself.
Then we have the incident in April of 1988, the hand on my heart, and then a few weeks later the dream where I’m finding out why this pathological fear exists and afterwards has gone away.
We have the dream in 1991 in which I am visiting Heaven for the first time.
And there are two other dreams later on that I’ll be talking about in discussions I recorded with Jack Landman on CyberCity.
But then we get to February 18, 1997, and the character of what happens then is so fundamentally different, and so much more intense — of a different character — of everything that has led up to this that it’s a singularity in my life. It is so much of a singularity that, even at the time, I marked it as having the effect on my life of being a birthday. That this was a date — February 18th — was going to be an anniversary in my life, very much as important to me as any birthday or anniversary or anything else.
You can almost, if you want to apply the Christian term — and I’m not sure how much of the Christian term applies or not — calling it the day I was “born again.” I have used that terminology in conversations, that this was the day I was “born again.”
Now, what happened to me on that date. Let me go back —
BRAD LINAWEAVER: Yes, please say everything that happened that day before the event.
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Right, I have to go back before the event, before that.
Going back five months before that, I started a diet. I had put on weight, probably as a consequence of the unhappiness of going through a divorce. I put on weight and I started a severe diet, and it was a diet which had worked for me before in my life very, very effectively. A diet of reduced calories, usually under 900 calories a day, but also restricting carbohydrates as well to under maybe 30 or 40 grams a day. In addition to which I was walking, exercising.
So the combination of restricted calories, restricted carbohydrates, and exercise put me into the state which the Atkins Diet and the Atkins diet books and Dr. Atkins talk about, which is you go into a state of ketosis.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: And describe what that is…
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Ketosis is the releasing of ketones into the blood. Ketones are a particular substance, which is released by the process of reducing intake, and having your body in essence be metabolizing from its own resources, in other words metabolizing fats and ketones are released. Now if you ask me why that happens, go talk to a biochemist or a dietician or somebody like that and they’ll explain the chemistry to you. I’m simply relating to you that what happens is ketones start appearing in the blood and this is necessary for the burning of fat to happen, a necessary consequence, it’s part of it.
Now, an extended period of ketosis, when you add it to something that happened maybe a month before February 18, 1997, perhaps starting in January, I think I got a mild virus flu cold or something like that but below the level where it was more than sniffles. But I was feeling a little bit of congestion and when that happens you breathe more shallowly, breathe more rapidly. So I was breathing more shallowly. Now in breathing more shallowly, the consequence of that is that you’re taking in less oxygen.
Now. You and I have had a discussion previously — and I’m going to put it on the record right at this point — of a few days before we started these tapings, of my going back and reading the beginning of the Four Gospels — Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Matthew, Mark and Luke agree on the following sequence: that after Jesus is baptized by John the Baptist and John the Baptist hears the voice of God saying “this is my Son whom I well love” — all three of these gospels say that Jesus went into the desert for forty days to be tempted by Satan.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: Yes.
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Now. Jesus is a physical human being and what is going to happen to Him in the desert is the same thing that I have done to myself by going on this diet and exercise program. He is going to go into ketosis because he is going to be fasting. We don’t know how many extra pounds of fat Jesus had at that point. We don’t have a physical description of Him, He may have had 30 or 40 or 50 pounds extra fat on Him from high living which are burned off during those 40 days and he becomes the lean, mean Messiah machine in the desert. Okay, but he is going to be in the desert He’s going to into ketosis He’s going to be dehydrated and that is something that happened to me during this period I became dehydrated.
Within a couple days before February 18, 1997, which was a Tuesday, I have been in the hospital emergency room because I feel myself fainting. I feel my heartbeat is irregular. I feel in serious danger. And so I go into the Emergency Room and what do they do? They say you’re dehydrated and they rehydrate me by putting an intravenous saline drip into me to get me back up to rehydration.
This happened twice, at least once before the 18th and I’m not sure exactly which day but it probably would have been the Saturday before. I think it happens within a day or two after the event, on around the 19th or something like that.
So two times during this period, I am in such ketosis of blood poisoning from the excess of ketones in my blood caused from five months of severe diet and exercise and just before and just after that I am dehydrated in ketosis and breathing shallowly. Now breathing shallowly, we have Moses going up to talk to God and he goes to high altitude to do it, less oxygen. So there’s a physiological thing going on there too with less oxygen. With Jesus out in the desert as Matthew, Mark and Luke describe it for 40 days — He’s going through ketosis and dehydration.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: I’ve never made that connection before.
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: But in essence the precondition for what appears to happen to me appears to have a physiological component to it and it is described in the Bible and I unwittingly, simply by trying to take off weight, have put myself in the same situation as if I’d gone out to the desert to fight the devil.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: As are all the famous mystics throughout history, who have done fasting as a ritual.
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: As a ritual, right. Fasting puts you into ketosis. Apparently the ketones have some toxic effect on the brain, which enables something to happen.
This is not a drug experience. We’re not talking about taking an artificially engineered substance, or even a natural plant substance, into the body, to produce some sort of effect. We’re not talking about my taking Peyote or Marijuana or LSD or anything like this. This is something, which is in the body’s mechanism, itself, which can be triggered by a specific technique, and that technique is denial of food. And something happens in the brain.
Now, the other thing that was happening in my life at this particular time is the civil verdict in the O.J. Simpson trial, where O.J. Simpson is found civilly liable. And I had been watching the criminal trial avidly, and had written couple of articles about it, and paid somewhat amount of attention, but not as much attention to the civil trial.
A week before the February 18th thing, I see something which creates cognitive dissonance in me, something odd. And that is at the end of the civil trial, I see Ron Shipp, who is supposed to be one of O.J.’s friends, hugging the man who has sued and just won a lawsuit against his friend, O.J. Simpson. I see Ron Shipp hugging Fred Goldman at the conclusion of that trial.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: And that strikes you as very odd?
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: It strikes me as very very odd. Yes! He testified against him but now he’s hugging who is in essence O.J. Simpson’s worst enemy and he’s supposed to be a friend?
It created cognitive dissonance in me to the extent that I woke up and said, I have been looking for somebody who could have possibly framed O.J. Simpson, and here we have Ron Shipp, who is an intimate friend of O.J. –
BRAD LINAWEAVER: Or supposed to be.
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Well, intimate in the sense that he has access to the property, okay? He’s done security work for O.J. at various different times. He is an experienced police officer who describes himself on the stand as having detective skills. Even though he wasn’t a detective grade, he nonetheless had L.A.P.D. training, and had worked detective details, had been a training officer at L.A.P.D. Academy. And he fulfills all the psychological conditions of somebody I would have looked at to be a fan boy who then turns on the object of his worship.
Okay. At that point I started doing the research which eventually, a few years later — actually a few months later in the web version but then a few years later, in 1999, in the published book version — becomes my book The Frame of the Century?.
So that is what is the center of my focus during that week, while these physiological things are going on with me, is that I am starting, for the first time, to become an active researcher in the O.J. Simpson case, triggered by my observing, in essence, the last legal aspect of it, which is the liable verdict in the civil case.
So that’s where my focus is.
Now, on the Monday before, when I go to the Karl Hess Club, suddenly it occurs to me I have done things over the previous few days. I have, in essence, sent out information to various different people. I have met during that previous week with detectives at the L.A.P.D. and presented my theory to them. I have presented it to O.J.’s attorneys. And that night it occurs to me, if this has gotten to Ron Shipp, if this information that I am presenting a theory that Ron Shipp was involved in these murders and framing O.J., I could be in physical danger.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: I remember you from that period and I remember I’ve never seen you more paranoid.
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Right, because I suddenly thought, “what have I done to myself? I’ve exposed myself, I’ve exposed my family here, and I need to take immediate action to batten down the hatches before because if I am vulnerable I wouldn’t know about it.” In essence I go to high alert.
That night I went to my bank, I withdrew cash, got into my car and started wondering where should I put myself for the next few days, while I’m making further contacts? Who can I go to who I wouldn’t necessarily be traced to, if I were to go there as a safe house? Should I drive to Jean, Nevada, and stay in one of those $18 a night hotel rooms, which I could easily afford to do? Is there some friend who could be useful to me?
What I essentially decided to do that night was drive out to Randy Herrst’s house and ask him for help. I drove out late at night to Randy’s. He came down with me, and we basically sat in my car, and I laid out all of this to him. And I said, “Look, am I just being paranoid or is there a real possibility that I’m in danger here?”
He said, “Neil, the point is that you have no way of knowing, and so, yes, you were right to take protective steps. Now let’s figure out what we’re going to do, to resolve this quickly, in such a way that you don’t have to go into hiding if somebody really is pissed off with you and is going to take some action.”
Okay. Now what we resolved to do was go to an attorney whom we both knew, through Second Amendment work, who had been involved in filing some of these suits against the Los Angeles Police Department about concealed carry licenses for handguns, and seek his advice here.
So, we made an appointment that morning to go to this attorney in Beverly Hills, and sit with him, and ask him what should be our next step?
So around 10 o’clock in the morning of February 18th I’ve been up all night talking with Randy and strategizing this. So now in addition to the physiological condition of ketosis and dehydration, which I’ve been experiencing, I’ve now gone without a night’s sleep.
And we go have the meeting with this attorney in Beverly Hills. He says, “Well, look, I know another attorney who has a direct contact with Gil Garcetti at the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s office. Let’s present your material to him.”
And so we make an appointment for me to go back to his office later that day and meet with him again.
Now, having had this first meeting with Randy and this attorney, in the morning of February 18th, I need to get some sleep. Randy thinks it’s a good idea if I not go to sleep unprotected. That I not go to sleep and simply be alone.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: You mean have somebody on guard?
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Have somebody on guard. This is Randy’s suggestion. Randy is acting in essence as my bodyguard at this point. But Randy also has gone a night without sleep and he needs to go home and sleep as well, before this meeting, and so we called up another friend of ours, Dafydd ab Hugh, and I said, “Dafydd can you come over to my place?” and I explained the situation in brief. I said, “There’s some potential for danger. I don’t know exactly how to calculate it. It may be a small potential. It may be a large potential. But we don’t know. Could you just come over to my place and just sort of watch my back while I get some sleep?”
And Dafydd said, “Yes,” and he came over.
Dafydd gets there around 11:30 or 11:45 in the morning. And Randy says, “Okay, I’m going to go home and get some sleep and I’ll meet you later today, and we’ll go over to the attorney’s office again.”
So Dafydd is out in the living room, and I say, “Okay, I’m going to lie down.” And I go into my bedroom, and I close the door to lie down and get some sleep before the meeting.
And I lay down on my bed, and about ten seconds later — almost immediately — something has happened and I sit up in bed.
The first impression I’m having is that I have just traveled a long way, and I’ve just arrived.
And I’m looking around and I’m thinking, “Where am I? What’s going on?”
Remember, all of this is from my internal perspective.
Okay. I am sitting up and saying, “Huh! Now I’m here. I’ve just arrived.” But I wonder what’s going on.
And suddenly I sit up, stand up, and I remember that I am God.
The only way to describe it is not, this is unlike these previous things that have happened to me where when God has His hand on my heart I know that it is God’s hand or I am in a dream and God is next to me as a woman or any of these other contacts where it’s a voice. This is none of those. I am God at this point. I wake up and I remember that I am God. I stand up and the first impression I have standing up is that I feel too tall.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: Hmm, that’s odd.
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Why am I so tall? This is bizarre, I’m looking at myself — I’m looking at my body — I’m so tall and this body is so out of shape. How is it that this body is so out of shape? What happens then is that I walk out of the room and I see Dafydd sitting in the living room.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: What is Dafydd doing?
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: He sitting there reading or maybe watching TV or something like that, and I’m just looking out there, and he’s saying, “Is everything okay?”
I say, “Yes, everything seems to be okay.” I said, “I guess I’ll go back into the bedroom.”
BRAD LINAWEAVER: You have not slept yet?
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: I have not slept yet. But I have chatted a little bit with Dafydd and suddenly it’s starting to come to me that I’m looking around and –
This was at an apartment that I was renting on Overland Avenue in Culver City. This was a two-bedroom apartment and it was very cluttered because every career that I’ve ever had accumulates stuff, and I’d been doing a radio show in 1992 and so I had all the recording studio stuff I had set up to do a radio show in there. And I had all the things from my previous electronic publishing venture, SoftServ, all those business records and filing cabinets. I had been writing about the Second Amendment and so I had stacks of newspapers with articles that I’d written, and the place is pretty well cluttered. The place is as much a storage closet as it is an apartment. It’s an office, a storage closet, and a living residence, and I had always been very frustrated at how cluttered this was, and felt really like it was a cage that I was trapped in it. That I didn’t have enough space.
Suddenly I’m looking around at this little two bedroom apartment with all this stuff in it, and I have a different view of it then I’ve ever had before. I’m not seeing as a cage anymore. I’m seeing it as a nest, which I have built for myself as a protection.
I’m realizing as this is coming along, as my mind is sifting through all the new stuff, that J. Neil Schulman is a fictional persona, which I have created my entire life, because up until that moment I was hiding from myself the fact that I was God.
This is what is going through my mind while this is happening.
Now. One can say that I’m going through a psychotic episode at this point. Certainly the physiological conditions for a psychotic episode — ketosis, dehydration, lack of sleep — all of these various things can add up and say that I’m having a break with reality.
But the problem is that I’m not experiencing it as a break with reality. I’m experiencing it as the most clarity and intense ability to perceive, and to think, that I’ve ever had in my life. Far greater. It’s not that I am diminished in any sense. I am enhanced.
Okay? And I am looking at Dafydd, and I’m experiencing something in looking at him that I have never had before, a cognitive enhancement. Because what I am able to do — and it’s hard to describe this even today because the words don’t really match any other experience that either I have had or you have had — presumably.
I’m looking at Dafydd and suddenly it’s like there is a twist going on in the way that I am looking at him and I am seeing him in four dimensions. I’m seeing the core of his soul and I’m seeing him as a four-dimensional event, with a beginning and something going off into the future. I’m not seeing a death but I’m seeing a different segment, as if I’m looking at him through a different time angle or something like that.
Suddenly my angle of looking at him is shifted and I’m not seeing him in the normal way from the surface, as one segment. I’m seeing a four-dimensional event. And what I’m really seeing is, I’m seeing into his heart. I’m seeing his desires.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: You mean his soul.
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: I’m seeing the core of his desire and I’m seeing that the core of his desire is to make it as a serious writer. Above everything else, that’s what he wants, is to really be a serious writer.
I don’t say any of that to him. I realize that I am revealed to myself. The game of hiding from myself is over and now obviously I’m here. And now the mission begins.
This is what’s going through my mind at that point and I begin asking myself certain questions about what’s going to happen.
Am I going to have to go through a crucifixion? No that won’t be necessary this time.
What will happen? A circle will form around me.
What’s going to happen in terms of the O.J. thing — is my investigation correct? Yes, your intuition there was correct.
All of this libertarian stuff, which I had been writing about — yes that’s all correct. The principles of natural law and free will and that sort of thing. Yes that is correct.
Guns. I’d been doing all this stuff with guns. Well, yes, we eventually die, but protecting the good requires that good people protect themselves from the evil people.
And all these sorts of things are going through my mind. It’s not even like I’m being told things or something like that. It’s like a continuous revelation going on as I’m remembering who I am and who I’ve been.
Next in I Met God — God Without Religion, Scripture, or Faith is Chapter VII: Revelations
Copyright © 2010 The J. Neil Schulman Living Trust. All rights reserved.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: So, Neil. I don’t believe you have ever had any major experience in your life that you didn’t find a way of working into your fiction writing — either a novel or a short story or a script — at some point or other. Therefore I guess none of us should be surprised, with the experiences you were going through, that your latest novel is Escape from Heaven. So, why don’t you tell us about the genesis of Escape from Heaven, as an artist, as well as with your experiences?
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Well, where I have to start off with are the experiences, because we’re doing this book so I can finally — in one comprehensive way — document the reality of my experience and tell people why it might worth paying attention to. That I have, in fact, learned some things from the experiences that are worth my sharing with other people.
Escape from Heaven started, again, with a dream. We’ve talked about the important dream I had in 1988, following my incident where I had God’s hand on my heart, and then the follow-up dream where I was told that in my previous incarnation I had been murdered as a baby and that the trauma of that had gone with me into the current life and that’s why I was phobic of death. And that dream ended that phobia.
So, I had already had the experience of at least one dream significantly changing something essential in my life.
Let’s go through a few things that have happened to me in the mean time.
Thanksgiving of 1991, I’m going to be divorced. Expectations of raising my daughter in a marriage, suddenly that’s shattered.
Shortly after that, I start getting a reputation on Second Amendment issues, first being published in some publications of the California Rifle and Pistol Association, then doing an interview with Professor Roy Copperud on the linguistic analysis of the Second Amendment, which got me a wide reputation.
Then, on January 1, 1992, the first of my Los Angeles Times Op Ed articles appears, and really puts me on the map in the Second-Amendment community. It puts me on the map so much that it leads to three more L.A. Times Op Eds, and eventually my book Stopping Power: Why 70 Million Americans Own Guns.
So that’s what’s going on overtly in my life during that period. That’s when I meet Dennis Prager. As a consequence of my L.A. Times Op Eds, he invites me on his show. The relationship with him starts with my being invited over to his house for a Friday night Shabbat dinner, and I brought my parents along. I met his wife Fran and I met Fran’s daughter, Anya, and she became a fan of my writing and we ended up in a lot of interesting conversations.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: And I met some of them through you.
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Right. Anya was very, very bright. I haven’t seen her in a few years.
And I liked Dennis a whole lot. I had not been a fan of talk radio at that point, I didn’t know about Rush Limbaugh. So my going on Dennis Prager really started me paying attention to talk radio. And so these are some of the things that are going on in my life.
Now, we go back to, I believe it was February, 1991. I have my first dream in which I go to Heaven. And I’ll describe the dream to you.
I find myself in Heaven and I’m going along and I pass an outside café where John F. Kennedy is having coffee with Jackie. Now at that time Jackie was still alive and JFK, of course had been dead since November 22, 1963. And, of course, JFK meant something to me because I had written the “Profile in Silver” episode. So, he was in my consciousness.
But I found it significant, even during the dream, that he’s back together with Jackie. Because, after all, Jackie had remarried Onassis and lived many years after 1963 and I had no idea that she would be dead within a couple of years after that. So that again could almost be considered slightly precognitive. Because there was no reason to think that Jackie Kennedy didn’t have another 20 years in her, unless you were in the inner circle, which I wasn’t. I certainly knew nothing.
So I have this dream and Heaven falls under attack, while I’m there. And I remember flying out of Heaven, flying like Superman.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: Under attack by what or whom?
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: I don’t recall but I do know that it was sort of like a civil war. It was war going on in Heaven.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: Well, was it the fallen angels, the demons trying to take it back?
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: I don’t know. Heaven falls under a military attack. I need to escape and I jump through a portal, a time portal or something like that. And remember, I’d written time travel before in “Profile in Silver.” So, I mean, there are elements of “Profile in Silver” there, with JFK being there.
And I jump through, and I’m trying to get back to my own time. Because Heaven is in the distant future — this part I know — that Heaven is in the future.
I’m trying to get back to my own time and I overshoot and find myself on a corn field or a wheat field of a farm in the 1940’s, in Midwestern America — in Iowa or Kansas or something like that. I’m back there trying to figure out if I’m stranded there or if I can I get back to my own time.
So this is the sequence of the dream I had. Now this was a significant enough dream for me that I wrote it down at the time. I made notes of it. And I started playing around with it.
Now I’ve been asked in previous interviews on the radio where I came up with the name Duj Pepperman. I did not come up with that name for Escape from Heave.
I didn’t know why I came up with that name. It was just by sound and who knows where that came from in terms of psychology, why I did that. I didn’t know. Duj Pepperman arose in another novel, which I was outlining.
It was going to be set in a world in which nobody slept, in which everybody was awake 24 hours a day. The consequence of that is that it is a world which is psychological entirely different from our world. For one thing, because nobody sleeps, nobody has a concept of dreams. Nobody has a concept of fantasy or imagination or anything like that. It is as prosaic, practical a society as you could possibly have.
It is also a society which doesn’t have bedrooms, because you don’t need to sleep. And really, if you think about it, having your own house is so you have a place to go to be safe while you are sleeping, while you are vulnerable.
So in other words, that world which I’m outlining, in this novel which I never wrote, is a world in which you really don’t have private houses, you really don’t have bedrooms. There are places where you can keep your stuff, but more or less you are active 24–hours–a–day and so it’s not like you need to go home and rest. There is no need for rest.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: No need for sustained privacy.
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Right. And so it is a much more communal society, in the sense that there are bath houses for cleaning up and public facilities and rooms which you rent for a few hours at a time or something like that. The entire social structure is different because of that. Duj Pepperman was going to be the freak who was thought to be a medical defective, somebody with a disease.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: Because he slept.
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Because he sleeps and he dreams. He is trying to tell this society of non–dreamers about his dreams, and they consider it to be a defect of some sort.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: I hope you write that sometime.
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: It’s one of those ideas, which, again I’ve had since the 1980’s and haven’t written yet.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: At least a short story.
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Well, I used part of it in Escape from Heaven, because, as you recall, I describe the angels in those psychological terms. I took that idea and transplanted it into Escape from Heaven in my description of the angels. I made them the non–dreamers who never had to sleep, the ones without the imaginations. And I give the description about how they write beautiful, elegant verse and encyclopedias, but they have no sense of fantasy. An angel could not be a Walt Disney. An angel could not be an Albert Einstein. These require the ability to imagine. What angels lack in Escape from Heaven — because I took this model here — is God’s creative power, the power of fantasy, the power of philosophical “what if.”
BRAD LINAWEAVER: And we have this as humans largely through the gate of dreams?
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Right. This is where I started the entire thing — which I developed really in discussion with Jack Landman on CyberCity — about how dreams are a medium.
That dreams are, in essence, part of the same imagination mechanism that I was using as an artist.
That, in fact, dreams are the universal art.
That dreams are a universal medium, and a medium in the same sense that we talk about newspapers as a medium, television as a medium, movies as a medium.
That dreams are, in fact, a medium, and there are critical
rules that you could apply to dr ams in the same way that you have critical rules for these other media.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: By the way, I’m pretty sure that’s original.
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Thank you. But more than that, what it started leading to was the idea that we have always talked about: what is the sixth sense?
BRAD LINAWEAVER: Normally people say E.S.P.
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Right. But it came to me what the sixth sense really is, is imagination.
Now this is so significant because it was the power of imagination which led me to the experiment of praying in the first place.
Let’s realize that “imagination” starts with the word “image,” which is a very significant word when you start getting into theology, when God says he created men in His image.
We have image, form, all of these things have to do with Creation, this entire Logos idea which I use in my “Logorights” article having to do with the spirit which enters into the book. That it’s all pattern, its all array, form, all of these essential, crucial concepts all come down to us in dreams. Dreams are the medium in which we learn imagination.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: When you say, “God created Man in His own Image,” one of the points you’re making is that unlike the angels, but like God, we can dream. A very good point, but secondarily —
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: And I use that in Escape from Heaven as saying that angels cannot become gods until they’ve gone through the stage of being human beings so they can learn to dream.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: And could it also be that this is part of the rage Satan — or Lucifer — felt against God and his opposition to God creating these lowly material creatures – us — and giving us all these advantages over what he viewed to be higher spiritual beings? The devil’s rebellion against God, which is admittedly first really articulated well by the Puritan Milton in Paradise Lost, seems to be logically derivable from an awful lot of religious text preceding it.
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Right, except — Yes, I agree. But the point is that I’m being a revisionist mythologist here and I’m coming up with my own version, and in my case I’m not going with Milton’s mythology of Satan with the pride of sin and “It is better to rule in Hell than to serve in Heaven” and all that. I’m not doing any of that.
In my novel, in my approach, I’m giving Satan her own motivation and that is: she has an actual artistic criticism of Creation. She thinks that God screwed up.
And notice I make Satan a “she.”
BRAD LINAWEAVER: Right. The Adam and Eve thing.
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: And again, the paradigm I’m developing here is that in the existence before the creation of Earth you have angels, and you could argue whether they are created by God or spin–offs of God. I use the phrase spin–offs, the same way that they talk about spin–offs of TV shows. That God, in essence, spins off parts of himself into individual souls.
And again, it’s not Creation out of nothingness. It’s creation out of that which existed. It starts out where everything that exists is God. So the main part of Creation is not merely creating the universe to encapsulate these new souls, but the spin–offs from God. So we all originate as God stuff. As God mind.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: Instead of star stuff from the suns, God stuff spiritually speaking.
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Right. But the point is that we’re not trying to be absorbed back into this big blob. The whole point is that God did this so that we would be separate, so we would be individuated. So we would be something that he can relate to other than Himself. In other words the way I phrase it most eloquently in Escape from Heave is that in the Creation specifically, the spinning off of Minds and Souls and Wills other than His own, God trades or sacrifices — it’s a trade because he gets something back — His Omnipresence, His Omnipotence — because these other Souls have powers of their own which matter — and His Omniscience, because they now know things which He doesn’t know — it’s a trade because what He gets in exchange is the possibility of love.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: This is another area where you are not like a New Age Mystic, though just as many critics will accuse you of various Gnostic Heresies, other critics will accuse you of being some kind of New Age Mystic. Yet the New Age Mystics, almost without exception, are always trying to merge in “The Great Primordial Cosmic One” or “The God Soup,” I call it. They want everybody back in the original “God Soup.” And you’re making the opposite argument. You saying that the last thing God wants is a merging into this pantheistic ultimate “Oneness”. That God wants differentiation and basically God wants individuals?
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Yes.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: That is your central tenet?
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Right.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: And you certainly express it well in many different ways dramatically in Escape from Heaven.
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: And I give His motivation, I say that it’s not a sacrifice because God is trading his aloneness for love.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: Right.
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: And that’s a powerful imperative for God to create in the first place. Because in doing so God is inventing love.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: And he takes the hate as the price tag.
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Right. The consequence of Free Will is that there is going to be a down side. There is going to be dissonance as well as the consonance. But what does he get out of it? He gets a higher artistic tension, a higher emotional tension, and a higher thrill than ever before. I identify God as creating because he’s a thrill seeker, in the literal sense. He’s seeking new thrills.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: I think that’s original, too.
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: That Creation is God, as an artist, being driven by esthetics.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: What I think is fascinating about Escape from Heaven is you’ve got Duj Pepperman, who is an extremely interesting character. And by the way you have never ever had your, at least for me as a reader, I have never identified with any Neil Schulman character faster than you made me identify with Duj Pepperman. Chapter One, I love that guy, you had me totally identifying with him. I think it’s also, you’ve done something no writer has ever done, to my knowledge, which is make this loveable identifiable radio talk show host character and every radio talk show host in America’s got to have you on and say; “hey making your hero a radio talk show host seems like a good idea to us.”
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Yes.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: That all works.
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: If only it had gotten me on Dennis Prager and Rush Limbaugh.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: But it got you on a lot of radio shows.
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: It got me on some radio shows.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: And the thing is the whole opening gag, for want of a better phrase, which is just as powerful a hook as I’ve ever read, you know, “I’m God and your biggest fan, I can’t believe I got through.” The fact that trying to get through to one of these talk radio hosts, God would have trouble too…
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: And by the way, I need to interrupt you at this point, because that particular line “this is God calling, I’m your biggest fan,” that itself was given to me directly by God, explicitly, on February 18, 1997. He said, “I’ve got a gag for you; you have to use this in your book.”
BRAD LINAWEAVER: I’m glad you used it.
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: You remember how I talked about being a fan of God, wanting basically be God’s fan being able to just hang out with Him?
BRAD LINAWEAVER: Right.
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: You know, get that all–access backstage pass? Okay, but also it struck me that God is our biggest fan because — having given us free will — God is no longer a direct manipulator of us. We could argue about the Old Testament times, but as it is today, God prays that we will do something but He has no way of making us do it because of the free will. God is powerless when it comes to us because He has given us the power over our own lives and all He can do is be our fan and applaud when we do it and go “Awww!” when we don’t.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: In other words now the show is up to us and what you’re going to suggest is maybe God is bored with the regular traditional religious play and likes it better when we go off on our own and try to do something new. Avante garde theater at least means you don’t know the ending of those particular individuals Free Will choices?
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Yes, my concept of God is an addict of reality TV.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: I said avante garde theater but if you’re going say that because the whole universe becomes reality TV. Anyway the only reason I don’t agree with that is —
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: –because reality TV is too contrived.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: I think there’s nothing more fake than reality TV.
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: God is really a fan of reality TV.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: There is some really good writing going on in the actual real universe, I’m not quite sure how to square that with the free-will concept but I just know that the universe is better written than reality TV.
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Let’s just say that God is a better producer of reality TV than Mark Burnett.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: That is a true statement!
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Now, having said that we then come up with the multiplicity of souls, first as angels, and the differentia is angels are all intellect and no imagination. And in coming down to Earth, God creates Earth as a kindergarten. Because the angels, being eternal and not having gone through the experience that God did of creating, they don’t know what their place in existence is. They don’t know their purpose. They can’t find meaning, and when you’re eternal, not having purpose or meaning is profoundly destructive and chaotic. What I’m really talking about is the spiritual progress here of going from angel, the idea is you come to Eden —
BRAD LINAWEAVER: Earth? To the Edenic earth?
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Well, yes you come to this and the whole point is that it is a physical existence that encapsulates, where the physical body, in essence, imposes rules and limitations, which didn’t previously exist, on the angel and that the angelic spirit takes on the human body and is now subject to gravity, is now subject to force, to be able to push. It is now within a body, which has physiology and a specific anatomy and sees through eyes restricted to certain waves of light and hears sound and touch, all these physical things. The whole point is to become physical rather than merely spiritual, that the journey is exactly the opposite of what everybody seems to be saying in the New Age movement, that we’re trying to become more spiritual. No! they come here specifically to be physical. Pure spiritual wasn’t working. There was nothing to push against. There was nothing to form a personality.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: Is it that pleasures grow out of the limitations?
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Yes, because there can be no release if there is no tension. And physicality, physical materialism, provides the tension to allow a unification and a direction, to be able to grow in a particular direction, to be able to align yourself, to be able to center yourself.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: Yes, I’ve got that. Was that in your head when you wrote Escape from Heaven, the novel, or did writing the novel Escape from Heaven help coalesce this in your head?
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: It helped coalesce it in my head. A lot of this came out of the writing of Escape from Heaven, itself. The writing of Escape from Heaven was a revelation to me.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: So, writing the novel as a piece of fiction, or as a work of fiction, helped you understand some of these actual new beliefs that were colliding in you in the same sense that you know that Rand’s Atlas Shrugged is a novel but her beliefs, and her understanding of what she thinks, is also worked out in the course of writing the novel. Is that how we should view Escape from Heaven?
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Yes, but you need to be aware of the timetable, the timeline of the actual writing of the book itself. Because I have the dream in 1991.
By 1992 I have written an outline of the book and have written excerpts, various different scenes, as samples of what the writing of the book itself is going to be and that’s around 60 pages worth of material.
I submitted it to John Douglas, who had been my editor at Avon Books, and he had bought the paperback rights to my first two novels. So naturally, I submitted it to John there. Then John moved over to Harper Prism, when Harper Collins started its science fiction and fantasy line — one of the major media publishers — and I submitted it to him there again.
But the outline I wrote for Escape from Heaven back in 1992 was very, very different than what the book finally became and the differences were significant enough that it’s worth me noting them.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: Okay, by the way, was the outline back then for a full-length novel also?
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Yes. But I had not written a full–length novel. I had written around 60 pages, which consisted of a plot outline and samples of various different scenes, a lot of them being dialog, including particularly, a dialog between Duj Pepperman, whom I have now transplanted into this novel from that other thing. I’ve taken him whole, and I’ve put him into being brought to Heaven, where God is calling upon him.
Now the situation that I created in that novel, I could almost write a second novel from that original outline, it’s so different from what I ended up writing. Because in that version, Lucifer is making a fundamental challenge against God, and by the way — in that novel — Lucifer is male, Lucifer is not a female, Lucifer is not Eve, none of that is in the first outline.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: And there’s no Adam either.
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Right, exactly.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: And no Jesus?
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: You know I don’t even remember whether Jesus is a major part of it, I think it’s mostly God, and Lucifer, Lucifer being a male.
Here’s the distinction that I made in that novel. I have all sorts of time loops and time paradoxes going on. It’s much more of a science-fiction feeling book, than the novel as it turned out to be.
Understand the difference.
Nineteen-ninety-two is when I’m writing this. That is five years before my “Mind Meld.” I’ve had the frightening encounter with God. I’ve had the dream with God as a woman as my lawyer. But I haven’t had my “Mind Meld,” which doesn’t happen until February 18, 1997. This is back in 1992.
And so I’m not as far along, and remember that the actual writing of the novel itself, as it finally got published, happened almost all of it, except for maybe the first few chapters, in the three-and-a-half or so weeks following 9/11 – September 11, 2001.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: Now, I remember the intensity, because I came back a week after the attack, because my flight had been delayed in Atlanta. When I returned I remembered very vividly you during the creative process of writing the novel.
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Right. And, again, it was the most intensive experience I’d ever had in my life, and certainly I had had nothing that intense. Remember, I mentioned in one of the earlier discussions, that something happened to me during the last month of writing Rainbow Cadenza? It’s coming back to me now.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: Yes, refresh my memory.
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Well, I just refreshed my memory. Because again, that happened in 1981. I just remembered it was the writing of the argument between Joan Darris and Hill Bromley, on precisely the theological argument, was when I think that I first apprehended that God was inside my head talking to me.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: But don’t forget that in an earlier section of these interviews that we are doing, I talked to you about the fact that I first sensed a huge sea change in you when I read that in Rainbow Cadenza, which I had to read that section over and over in order to do my afterword.
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: But there is a significant difference that I have to note now.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: Okay.
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: It scared the Hell out of me.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: Because?
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Because God was inside me and was, in essence, feeding me this stuff, and I wasn’t ready for it.
And I found myself one night sitting in a chair and shaking violently because of what had just happened to me.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: In other words you could never be a happy atheist again?
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Right. In other words, I didn’t know what was happening to me. I was not prepared for it. It was not a pleasant experience. But God was in essence collaborating with me and it was shaking me, physically. And of course, 1981, that’s even before I’d had the hand-on-my-heart experience. That’s the first time, now that I think about it, that I have God really touching me.
So we have that in November or December of 1981. Then we have the hand on my heart in April, 1988, and the dream where I learn what causes my fear of death a few weeks after that.
The dream of Heaven, which leads to Escape from Heaven in its first version, in 1991, and then the “Mind Meld,” in February 1997. Those are the sequences here.
We’re getting these jumps. It’s not just one experience. It’s a series of evolving experiences, with me being better and better prepared to deal with them, without being confronted.
By the time we get to 1997, which we haven’t gotten to yet, it’s an entirely thrilling and pleasurable experience, as opposed to these frightening experiences that I’ve had before. The first contacts with God shake me up. This one I’m in ecstasy.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: It goes from pain to pleasure, I had to say that.
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Yes, it goes from pain to pleasure.
Now, we’re back when I’m writing my first outline of , the outline which is so different it could actually be a different novel.
And in many ways it has more of the sense, in terms of style of something like Dogma, than it does Escape from Heaven. Escape from Heaven does not have the sharpness, the sort of anti-religious sharpness. I have Duj Pepperman, in dialog in the first outline of Escape from Heaven, really lipping off in a major way to God. He’s being very, very accusatory, and God comes across as a lot more cynical and defensive in the first version of Escape from Heaven that I’m doing back in 1992, the one that I submitted.
Here are some of the differences. Okay, first of all, Lucifer in that one is male, but Lucifer is not one character. I have Lucifer making the charge against God that God is not a Trinity, that there is a fourth personality — one that we haven’t heard about — and the fourth one has gone insane.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: Oh, I like that!
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Then I have God arguing back and saying, “Well, here’s the problem. Lucifer doesn’t realize that it’s he who’s insane.”
What has happened, you have had a time loop in which you have two of them, one who calls himself Lucifer, the other one who calls himself Satan, and they are at war with each other.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: I like that. You should write this sometime. It’s not necessarily contradictory to the Escape from Heaven world and it could be done as kind of a subcreation or even as an alternate —
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: It’s a totally different novel. It is fundamentally different because all of the characters are different except for maybe Duj who’s pretty much the same, except that Duj is not so accepting of God. Duj is really a militant atheist in the first version.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: Does he change?
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Well, yes. But he changes because in essence he is given the responsibility of trying to find out the truth — which paradigm is correct? Again, it goes back to this tension, which I’m always talking about, which I had as an agnostic, of here you are presented with multiple paradigms, different people are telling you different things — which one is true? And you’re the one who has to figure it out,
and everything depends on you choosing right.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: You know what happened to you esthetically? Because I have an idea about this.
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Go ahead.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: The earlier book would have been an easier sale to a commercial publisher and the older Neil Schulman fans would have preferred it precisely because it was before the experiences you had that did not so much soften you as awaken you to a different universe. In other words instead of being on the attack — which was what they wanted — you’re writing a book that’s more of a revelation, of, “Look what I found out.”
Actually, on a purely literary level, this book you’ve written Escape from Heaven, is more interesting, because a revelation or “look what I found out” is more interesting than just one more programmatic attack.
But the fan base that we’ve all built as libertarian science fiction writers, and Prometheus Award winners, our fan base is happiest when we’re on the attack, not when we’re putting forward something that we’ve learned from just being around awhile, and if not gaining in wisdom at least expanding our database. You’ve got a lot more thought inEscape from Heaven than the first book would have had.
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Right, because I’d had another mind collaborating with me, which wasn’t fully there in 1992.
In other words, the first version I really wrote as a human being. I had some ideas which had been given to me, but it wasn’t inspired the same way that what became the final novel was inspired. Most of the inspiration happened during the actual writing in September, 2001.
And here is the March 27, 1993 proposal for Escape from Heaven that I sent to my editor, John Douglas.
A Novel Proposal
J. Neil Schulman
Proposed Length: 70,000 – 90,000 words
Settings: Current day America, Heaven, A Suburban Universe, Hell-
Logline: A man dies and goes to Heaven, only to find himself not
at peace but back on Earth as a partisan in the ultimate War.
Duj Pepperman, a dead radio talk-show host. Saviour of
humankind, the universe, and God Almighty.
Caulinn Helms, lead singer of the rock group Seminal Lunch, whom
Duj falls in love with when he returns to earth after his death.
“Manchu” Ellins, homicide detective with the Culver City,
California, police department.
Myron Kaplowitz, a boyhood friend of Duj’s who died when Duj was
Sally Pepperman, Duj’s daughter. She was two-years-old when Duj
died; when he meets her in Heaven, she’s a grown woman.
God (Jesus H. Christ, Cineman Hulls). Creator of the universe
and the smartest, nicest, and all-around best person you ever
want to meet.
Satan (Sun Amen Chill, Uncle Nimlash, Iceman Shnull). A
rebellious angel. As smart as God but not nearly as nice.
Lucifer, Satan’s alter ego. An unfallen angel, still on God’s
side. Go figure.
Duj Pepperman, our first-person narrator for this story, is
not the sort of guy you think of as a hero. He’s in his middle
forties and looks it. He’s less than a year out of a bad
marriage, has one two-year-old daughter, and lives in Southern
California, where he makes a decent living as a talk radio
personality, fifteen hours a week.
It’s not a bad life. But it is, by most of our standards,
too short. On his way home from the studio, one night, Duj is
walking to his car when out of the blue, something hits him in
the head, fast. It could be anything from a small meteor to a
bullet. Duj never finds out what it is. But suddenly, he’s
floating slightly above his body, which is now lying face down on
the concrete, with blood oozing out of his head.
It takes Duj a few moments to figure out that this isn’t a
dream, then a bright light appears above him, and he realizes he
has a choice: to climb back into his body and continue living on
earth, or to follow the light. He realizes that, for him — now
that he knows there is continued consciousness after the body
dies — he is more interested in finding out what happens next
than hanging around on Earth.
He floats up toward the light.
It is, as reported, an ecstatic experience. And when he
gets to the end, he finds a welcoming committee made up of an old
friend of his from school, Myron Kaplowitz, and a young woman
whom he doesn’t know right off but looks familiar. He soon
learns that the young woman is his daughter, Sally, who was two-
years-old when Duj died.
The source of the light is an immense, luminescent-crystal
palace off in the distance but immediately before him are the
streets of what looks to be the commercial district of a great
city at night.
Myron and Sally help reorient Duj to his new existence. He
learns that his new body has many more “options” than his old
body, and he delights in exploring them: the ability to change
hair or skin colors, body type — even gender — metabolism, and
resist or repair damage by drawing on an unlimited supply of
power. Going to Heaven is a lot like being from Krypton and
finding yourself on Earth.
He starts by morphing his body into better shape, then
learns that his new brain has a direct access to the Tree of
Knowledge, giving him virtual-reality access to almost all the
knowledge of the universes — just a question away. He works a
bit on smoothing out the interface parameters, so that he can ask
a question and decide in what form he wants it answered:
holographically, visually, a spoken answer, or even text display.
But the new power that delights him most is his ability to
fly like a superhero, which he’s dreamt of his entire life. He
gets the grand tour of the heavenly city. Unlike the Heaven in
Heinlein’s Job, there are no angels handing out traffic tickets
to unlicensed humans.
From his bird’s eye view, Duj has a panoramic view of the
city. It’s an island, but surrounded not by ocean but by empty
space, unbroken even by stars. Duj finds he has the ability to
see distant things at different magnifications at will. He can
see the palace, glowing incandescently in the blackness
Duj lands for some closer-up sightseeing, and learns what
Heaven is. It’s essentially a multidimensional port city. It
functions much as cities do on Earth for people who live in the
suburbs: it’s where eternal souls come to meet each other, share
public entertainments, debate politics, engage in commerce.
It’s also the capital of the many universes, where God
lives, and is the home of the all-knowing universal library,
known by mystics as the Akashic Records or the Tree of Knowledge.
Hardly anybody except for some angels live there; everybody else
is off in their own universes, and only come into town to meet,
or if they need to see God, or need to do extended direct
research in the downtown branch of the Tree of Knowledge.
The city design isn’t completely different from cities as we
know them, but this city makes Rodeo Drive or Fifth Avenue look
like slums by comparison. The use of precious metals,
crystalline structures, and ornamental jewels as ordinary
construction materials is overwhelming. Special effects of the
sort you’d see in theme parks — only done with a three-
dimensional reality we’ve encountered in our lives only as flat
images on movie screens — are routine. Duj’s first thoughts are
that what Heaven resembles more than anything else is Disneyland
done for real.
Duj learns that it’s mostly angels on God’s payroll who live
in the heavenly city itself; most everybody else goes into their
own time-space continuum to create their own universes. Being
able to create your own universe — design and furnish it as you
please — is private property with a big bang.
But Duj does see some celebrities in Heaven. He passes a
cafe where JFK is having lunch with Jackie. Duj is surprised
because Jackie was still alive when he died; Sally explains that
time loops — like the one that has her a live two-year-old on
Earth when Duj leaves, and a grown up eternal soul when he
arrives — are routine in Heaven, so he just might as well get
used to them.
They pass a Heavenly Hyde Park with a heated debate between
Thomas Jefferson and Richard Nixon, and another between Martin
Luther and C.S. Lewis, and pass a panel discussion on philosophy
with Aristotle, Ayn Rand, and Emmanuel Kant, in time to see Ayn
Rand leap at Aristotle’s throat after Aristotle casually mentions
his opinion that all women are good for is slavery.
There’s also a wild discussion going on among angels, who
are charging that God’s not a Trinity, but has a crazy fourth
personality, and that God is suffering from Multiple Personality
Disorder. This, they claim, explains God’s bizarre behavior with
regard to Earth. The angels also have a bunch of complaints
regarding God having limited their security level in the Tree of
Knowledge, and there’s some wild talk about storming the Heavenly
Palace and subjecting God to a sanity hearing. In another
seemingly bizarre time paradox, the two angels who are the most
antagonistic debaters are Lucifer — who is arguing that God is
sane — and Satan, who’s actually Lucifer at a different age,
who’s the one arguing for putting God on trial. Which one of the
two is the older soul is something we don’t know.
Sick of political discourse, Duj and Sally stop off for a
movie, written by Woody Allen, directed by George Lucas, music by
Beethoven, and starring Woody himself, “Slick Willie”
Shakespeare, Charlie Chaplin, Greta Garbo, Donna Reed, Robin
Williams, Sarah Bernhardt, and the Marx Brothers.
Duj and Sally also take a trip to visit Duj’s parents in
their own universe. Sally’s visited before. Unlike most married
couples, Duj’s parents found they had enough in common to want to
team up again, and have collaborated on building a universe
together. It’s a small and brand-new universe, but well-along
because it wasn’t created from scratch; it’s based on a lot of
build-a-universe shareware downloaded from the Tree, with only
one Earth-like planet inhabited by humans. On this particular
planet, it’s day all the time and nobody ever sleeps; all the
cultural institutions and customs are strange to us because of
that one difference. For example, there’s hardly any imagination
— no concept of lying or fiction — no sense of “home” or
privacy. Duj finds out that his parents, as gods, are a lot more
interesting now than he ever thought they were when they were
As Duj and Sally return to the Heavenly City after the
visit, they stumble into the middle of an angelic riot, led by
Satan, and triggered off by God — having heard Satan’s remarks
— deciding to drop the angels’ security access level to the Tree
even further — far below that of human beings. Satan has told
his troops to round up as many human souls as they can get their
hands on, both as shields against attacks God might make on them,
and also to try using humans to hack their way back into the Tree
again, the secrets of which they need to stand a chance of
Escaping from the rioters, Duj and Sally meet up with Myron,
and the three make plans to escape from Heaven by jumping back
into Earth’s time line at various points. Even on Earth they can
uplink to the Tree, and by leaving messages for each other in
T-mail, they can figure out a way to rendezvous and figure out
further plans later. But they’ll all have to be careful and keep
their uplinks short and untraceable; if the rebels jack into the
Tree, any of their uplinks could be instant capture.
With Satan’s angels hot on their trails, Duj, Sally, and
Myron each dive back down toward Earth. Of course, since Duj is
our narrator, we stick with his point of view.
Duj dives out of Heaven back to the moment of his death. We
replay his death scene, only this time, when the women trips over
Duj’s body and screams, Duj slips back into his body, gets up,
and tells her he was just stunned; he’s okay.
As soon as he’s gotten rid of her, he steps behind a truck,
exits his damaged body again, and lets it fall to the ground.
Then he rematerializes next to it in his new body, says, “Save,”
and zaps his old body, so it instantly disappears.
Outwardly, Duj resumes his life on Earth as if he’d never
left it. But his perspective is different, and sometimes he
lends us his heavenly perspective. He tells us about watching an
AIDS benefit on MTV, only to have it transform before his eyes
into Stars Against Death on TV. (“Over two million Americans die
every year,” says Cher. “Few of us haven’t lost someone near and
dear to us. It’s a disease that hits young and old alike, and we
all know it’s in store for us. Yet, what has the President done
to stop this awful plague?”)
Until Duj can rendezvous safely with Myron and Sally, his
main problem is simply keeping a low profile. Which isn’t all
that easy, when you’re a young god resuming your old life on
earth. The misery we take for granted seems stupid and wasteful;
yet, for Duj to fix things too visibly leaves the possibility of
his being detected. Even a short flight is out of the question;
he can make himself invisible to living people easily, but not
from hostile angels.
Also, he realizes how much unseen goings on there are on
Earth, enemy territory held by Satan’s angels. Obviously,
Satan’s angels have entered earth’s timestream far into our past,
and now treat it as occupied turf. There are entire cities of
fallen angels on Earth, visible to him but invisible to us. Duj
has to pretend that he doesn’t see them; masquerading as human,
Duj has to avoid reacting to the devilish cruelty that invisible
angels routinely impose on humans.
Duj realizes that most of human history starts to make sense
when you realize it’s a several-millennia’s old hostage crisis.
It comes time for the uplink, and Duj learns that both Myron
and Sally have been captured by the enemy. However, Myron has
left him a message: God wants to meet with him.
The rendezvous instructions are included in the message.
The City of the Angels, Souplantation Restaurant, the next
afternoon at two.
It is only by very careful blending in that Duj avoids being
detected by enemy angels when he uplinks to get this information.
Duj has trepidations about meeting with God. He was an
atheist most of his life, and even when he decided that he
believed in God before his death, he wasn’t sure what kind of God
he believed in. Reading the Old Testament, in particular, has
given him doubts. If the Bible is at all accurate, then as far
as Duj is concerned, the spirit inside the Ark of the Covenant,
talking to Moses, couldn’t have been any worse to the ancient
Jews if it were Adolf Hitler traveling back in time.
But when the meeting happens, God puts Duj at ease by
treating him as an equal, and discussing all of Duj’s doubts
rationally and calmly.
After God recruits Duj to his army, Duj is given his
mission. He needs to recruit some living humans as a commando
squad, and pull a raid on an earthbound concentration camp, where
fallen angels are keeping immortal humans and loyalist angels
prisoner. There is one prisoner in particular that Duj must get
out: Lucifer. Not Satan, but Lucifer. Lucifer and Satan are two
time segments of one being, but which one will prevail in
eternity is in doubt, the result of a time loop the two of them
are locked in. If Lucifer is freed and defeats Satan, then
Lucifer the Lightbringer will be the aftergod of the two. If
Satan wins, then Satan will be the aftergod. And which one
prevails is the crucial linch pin of this entire war — and that
job is now a young god’s who when on earth was called Duj
Pepperman. If Duj can’t get Lucifer out of Satan’s prison,
that’s it for the human race, the loyal angels including Lucifer,
and God Himself.
God explains that He, Himself, is in fact vulnerable. He
can lose. The outcome of this war isn’t a sure thing, much as
human writers would like to think so. God had to allow himself
to be vulnerable as a condition of setting the events in motion
that created the possibility of His victory in the first place.
God had to die on Earth as a man in order to make resurrection of
embodied humans possible; but when He did so, God was
incapacitated for three Celestial Days. During these three Days,
He is completely vulnerable to attack — and if the angelic guard
fails, God can be captured and imprisoned forever, just like a
There is one minor catch, from Duj’s point of view. Every
human Duj recruits for the mission must be a willing volunteer
whom Duj is convinced will be both effective and loyal. Then Duj
must kill them, and resurrect them a few days later.
This is bound to draw attention, both from the enemy angels,
and from earthbound police authorities.
Duj goes to work, looking for recruits. One of his first
recruits is a living woman he falls in love with, lead singer of
the rock band, Seminal Lunch. Her name is Caulinn Helms.
After getting to know her, Duj reveals himself to her at a hotel
in Culver City, California, asks her if she wants to join God’s
army, and when she says yes, he makes love to her tenderly then
smothers her to death with a pillow.
Duj’s next recruit is the Culver City police detective who’s
investigating the murder, “Manchu” Ellins. Duj recruits and
kills him, too.
As the TV news starts reporting on a new serial killer
operating in Los Angeles, Satan — who’s better known on Earth as
evangelist Sun Amen Chill — detects what Duj is up to, and Duj’s
only chance is to play double agent, convincing Satan that he’s
really on his side and that he’s really spying out God for Satan.
Satan might believe this, because Duj is right on the margin
between whom he believes. And God’s troops aren’t supposed to go
around murdering living people anyway — even the bad ones, much
less the good ones.
The real danger is that this silver-tongued Satan just might
convince Duj that Satan’s side is telling the truth, that God is
At just the right moment, Duj makes his way into the morgue
at the medical examiner’s, and pulls a resurrection.
The clock is now ticking. The beginning of celestial Easter
has begun — the three days God is out of action. Duj can’t
uplink to the Tree of Knowledge without revealing his whereabouts
to the enemy. And now that he’s resurrected the people he’s
killed, Satan can probably guess which side Duj is fighting for.
Even if Satan’s not sure, he’s not likely to trust Duj with
Duj gives his commandos a short course on their new powers,
then takes them onto the raid. The concentration camp where
Lucifer is being held prisoner is both well-hidden and well-
defended, but through courage, logic, and more imagination than I
have writing this at four o’clock in the morning, Duj and his
commandos make it into the prison, liberate Lucifer, and help in
the final mano y mano duel between Lucifer and Satan.
Return to Heaven. Sweet victory. All heroes reunited.
John Williams music here. Thank you all very, very much for
They all live happily forever after.
ESCAPE FROM HEAVEN
There’s an old saying that everybody wants to go to Heaven,
but nobody wants to die.
That’s how it was for me, anyway.
I drove a Volvo because I was told it was the safest car
around. And it was a smart choice. I was killed by something
I owned a gun so I wouldn’t die at the hands of a burglar.
I was right about that, too. The burglar who broke into my
bedroom ran like hell when he saw the .45 I was pointing at
him … and I was killed by someone else.
I quit smoking, lost weight, worked out three times a week,
ate a low cholesterol diet, and practiced safe sex, because I
didn’t want to die of cancer, heart disease, AIDS, or emphysema,
and it paid off: I died of something else.
You see, that’s the part they forget to mention. No matter
what nasty ways of dying you avoid, there’s always another one
waiting for you. If one thing doesn’t get you, another thing
will. Sooner or later, you die of something else.
Everybody could have saved an awful lot of thought that went
into bumper stickers and public service messages. All they would
have had to say is, “Don’t do that. Die of something else.”
It would have saved me a lot of trouble, too. I was a
coward most of my life, because I was afraid of dying.
My story begins the day I died.
WHEN DUJ JUST DIES
I used to have an infallible way of knowing when I was awake
and when I was dreaming. In dreams, I could levitate myself off
the floor at will; when I was awake, I couldn’t. This worked
even when I was asleep and dreaming. If I could levitate, I was
dreaming. There were plenty of times in dreams when I told
people that I knew I was dreaming — they didn’t exist and were
merely part of my solipsistic fantasy — because I was
levitating. And since I could only do that while dreaming, this
was just another dream.
So right after my death, when I found myself levitating a
few feet over my body, I thought at first I was alive and
But somehow I knew that wasn’t the right answer. In the
remake of Heaven Can Wait, James Mason is an angel, trying to
convince Warren Beatty, who’s walking around the clouds confused,
that he’s dead. Mason asks Beatty something like, where do you
think you are, anyway? And Beatty answers something like, I’m
asleep and dreaming. What James Mason says next is so true, I
wonder how the screenwriter knew about it without having died
himself. Mason says, in effect, that dreams are a part of life,
and if you just think for a minute, you’ll know that this is
That’s exactly how it is. Dreams are a part of life, and
when you die and leave your body, you just know that however
bizarre this experience is, it’s not a dream.
The thing I felt most when I realized I was dead was utter
joy at discovering that I still was. I existed! I hadn’t been
snuffed out. My memory was intact. I still knew who I was and
who I had been. I’d always wondered how you could have
consciousness and memory without a physical brain to put them in.
Well, my RAM was being saved to that big Hard Disk in the sky.
It looked as if I still had a chance to discover meaning for my
existence. Death wasn’t the ultimate banality. Maybe there was
a point to it all, after all.
They say that your life passes before you right when you
die. Well, for me it wasn’t literal, like watching my life in a
movie or anything, but when it happened something told me that
you sometimes have a choice about whether or not you can stay or
go. Obviously, if your body is damaged beyond repair, you’re
going and that’s that. But I had a sense that I was being given
a choice. If I really wanted to stay, I could climb back into my
body and hang on.
So I thought about my life.
I’d always thought of myself as an underachiever. I was
never able to do schoolwork that didn’t interest me. I got A’s
in subjects I cared about and F’s in ones I didn’t. I was the
kid in the back row who was reading comic books and science-
fiction novels behind the textbook I wasn’t interested in.
I quit college to become a writer, and became one for a
while. Some of my stuff was damned good if I say so myself, but
it was never a real living. The occasional sale I got in
Hollywood was option money on projects that never got into
development; my books never earned out an advance. This didn’t
encourage agents or publishers to want the next one. I was broke
a lot of the time.
I tried starting a lot of businesses, and never made a dime
out of any of them. All were harebrained schemes, disastrously
executed. Finally, I stumbled into a job as a talk radio host,
and that’s what I’d been doing for the last eight years.
I married late, had one wonderful child, and divorced early.
My ex-wife had remarried and moved cross country; I had to wedge
my time with my daughter into phone calls and occasional
weekends. I was lonely a lot of the time, and tried to handle it
When I considered the thought that my life was over, I felt
unfinished. What was the point of my life on Earth anyway? To
reproduce? Okay, I’d done that. But that merely pushes the
necessity of finding a meaning for life onto someone else. What
was the meaning of my life? What was its purpose? Why had I
lived and what was I supposed to do with my life now that I was
Right about the time that some lady came along, tripped over
my body, and screamed, I saw the night sky blaze into a brilliant
light, and I had an overwhelming sense of being drawn into the
I was being given a choice. I thought that above all I had
always felt out of place during my life, as if I was in a foreign
country, and now I was being given a chance to go home. I also
thought that the mystery that had always puzzled me — the
question of why we live in the first place — might be answered
for me in a few minutes.
Life is a suspense story, and what makes it suspenseful is
not knowing how it comes out. The biggest mystery — the one
that has you lying in bed awake at night — is whether or not you
die when your body dies.
All you know when you’re on Earth is life within your body.
You can’t imagine living without it. For all your life you’re in
the dark about what you are. You read that you’re a biochemical
reaction trapped in a piece of meat, and when you die, the
reaction fizzles and the meat rots. And, so, most of the scary
images of death have to do with dead bodies in various states of
disintegration: skulls, bones, meat lockers, graves, and the
paraphernalia of the undertaker.
If that isn’t enough, horror stories try to make it worse
with three awful ideas: first that this rotting meat is all
that’s left of you when you die; second and worse: that after you
die you’re a disembodied ghost trapped in post-life impotence; or
third and worst: that you’re still conscious inside the rotting
meat, and can experience the slow rotting. All the Halloween
death images, ghosts, and goblins, are a conspiracy by people who
don’t believe in an afterlife anyway to scare the shit out of us.
It works. In that fear is a con game — and you’re the
mark. If we knew down deep — really knew, without fear of doubt
— that we were going to continue living once we separate from
the meat — and not as ghosts, either — our fear couldn’t be
used to stampede us.
I’d made my decision. I didn’t even bother looking back to
see what was happening to my body. As far as I was concerned, I
cared about it about as much as clothes you leave for the
Salvation Army truck.
I floated up toward the light. You hear about the light,
and how it overwhelms you with a sense of joy. Let me tell you,
it’s better than anything. In specific terms, it’ll be different
for you. But for me, flying into the light was like making it
with Sophia Loren in zero-gravity while eating a pralines-and-
cream sundae and listening to Brahms’ Third Symphony and cracking
up at Sam Kinnison and getting that final piece in the puzzle and
crossing the finish line. All satisfaction circuits on full,
There is a dreamy quality in flying toward the light. Then
you get to it, and your eyes — or whatever sight organs have
replaced them — adjust, and things come into focus, becoming
Religions make a lot of promises about what you win if you
make it to Heaven. You’re supposed to be reunited with your
loved ones. You meet God. Some suggest that you yourself become
a god. Some promise you rest, or peace. Some promise you a
bigger playground to play in, and all the time you want to do it.
Yeah, that’s what’s on the contract.
RETURNING TO A HEAVEN UNDER ATTACK
I was startled by a voice that sounded as if it was right
next to my ear: //Duj, can you hear me? It’s Myron.\\
“Myron?” I said aloud, looking around frantically. I didn’t
see anyone. “Where are you?”
//Shhh!\\ I heard Myron say. //If you talk aloud the angels
will hear you! And believe me, you don’t want that. Just think
clearly and I’ll hear you — we’ve got a private channel.\\
I thought hard, //Can you hear me now?\\
//Perfect. Listen, I can’t come to you so you’re going to
have to come to me.\\
//How?\\ I asked.
//I’ll make a tunnel right in front of you. Fly into it and
follow it to the end. Hurry! They’ve spotted you!\\
I saw a glowing hole in the blackness iris open a few yards
in front of me almost at the same time I heard the shouts getting
closer. I dove into the hole just in time; it irised closed
behind me, just as I saw a glowing hand reach for my foot.
The glow was up ahead of me now. //Myron, you still
//Just fly forward. I’ll be at the end.\\
The tunnel wasn’t straight; it twisted around like a snake.
But I managed to navigate through until I saw the proverbial
light at the end of the tunnel. A few seconds later, I emerged
into what looked to be a palatial hall, with a couch, a coffee
table, and some upholstered chairs sitting in the center. Myron,
dressed in jeans and a dark blue sweater, was standing next to
the coffee table.
I floated over near to him and landed.
Myron put out his hand and we shook. “Duj, glad you could
make it. You can talk again, now — we’re safe here.”
I looked around the room for the first time. It was sort of
a mixture of Buckingham Palace and Superman’s Fortress of
Solitude. “Nice place. Yours?”
“Yep. Be it ever so humble. Listen, take a load off. We
have a lot to talk about.”
“That’s the understatement of … of eternity,” I said. We
sat down. “Myron, where are we? What’s going on? What the
hell’s going on out there?”
“Short answers?” Myron said. “We’re in my personal
apartments inside the walls of the Heavenly Palace. Outside the
walls are what’s left of Heaven, a city in the middle of what you
in the broadcasting business like to call ‘civil unrest.’ And
that was a gang of angels who were sent to capture you.”
“Why would they want to capture me?”
“Because they knew that if they didn’t stop you first, you’d
end up here.”
“And why should they care about that?”
“Because God needs you to defeat them.”
DUJ CONTEMPLATES HIS UPCOMING MEETING WITH GOD
You know, it’s hard to read the Bible and not get really
pissed off at God.
Take the Book of Genesis. Adam and Eve, practically born
yesterday — and with no knowledge of good or evil — disobey
their father as any child might, talked into it by a playmate.
God curses them for it. They’re run out of Eden because they
might eat off the Tree of Life and become immortals, and are
sentenced to a life at hard labor, followed by death.
Their son, Cain — a farmer — brings God some of his crops
as an offering. Well, he’s a farmer — what would you expect to
get as an offering? God rejects it in favor of some barbecued
lamb from Cain’s brother Abel, a sheepherder. Then God lectures
Cain on how he has no reason to be sullen for being rejected.
Cain kills his brother in anger at God’s unfair rejection; and
God curses Cain.
There’s no mention of God raising Abel from the dead,
either. I guess God didn’t learn that technique till later. Or
maybe He didn’t think all that much of Abel to begin with.
Even with these curses from God, the budding human race
prevails. The angels think our women are beautiful and marry
them. God disapproves. Does He impose sanctions on the angels?
Nope. He cuts our lifespan from eight or nine hundred years, to
a maximum of one-hundred-twenty — to make us less attractive to
But God isn’t finished with us. Except for one human
family, He floods the Earth and drowns the human race; then tries
to make up for it with a promise that He won’t do it again.
We’re just getting on our feet again, and figuring out how
to build a city with a tower — and God figures that if we’re
building skyscrapers in our racial infancy, nothing will be
beyond us when we grow up. So does He praise us for our
initiative? Maybe even lend us a helping hand? No, He does
not. He curses us so we can’t all speak the same language
anymore, to set us at war with each other so we can’t try it
He suckers Abraham into thinking that he has to kill his
beloved son Isaac as a sacrifice to God — then sends a messenger
to stop him at the last instant, with the lame excuse that He was
just trying his faith.
Then there’s Job, a good man who worships the very dust God
kicks in his face. God turns him over to the devil on a bet, and
lets the devil kill his children, take all his wealth, and plague
him with illness. And when Job is tormented by his friends for
not admitting that his cruel fate is the result of his own sins,
and Job cries out to God for any relief at all — even immediate
death — God gives Job a lecture about how much smarter he is
than Job and how dare Job put his judgment up against God’s on
You can almost see God’s guilt on that one: he does what any
child-beater does the next morning — goes on a shopping spree
and tries to make it up. The maximum human life span is supposed
to be one-hundred-twenty years? God breaks his own limit and
gives Job, already an old man, another one-hundred forty, and
restores his property double. God even gives him replacement
But you’re left wondering whether Job ever cries at night
over the loss of his first kids.
Reading through the first five books of the Bible in one
sitting is enough to convince any objective person that this God
whom Moses is working for is a manic-depressive nut case. God
frees the Israelites from slavery to the Egyptians only to prove
Himself a slavedriver so awful that afterwards the Israelites,
almost to a man, wish God had left them in Egypt. And the
feeling is mutual: there is so little love and respect between
God and the Israelites that God tells Moses that He should just
kill everyone He’s liberated, except for Moses, and make Moses’s
offspring his chosen people. For some perverse reason, Moses
talks God out of it, and the two of them subject the Israelites
to police-state regulations that even Orwell couldn’t have
invented. Talking wrong or thinking wrong is punished by death
— burning to death if God is particularly miffed. Women’s
periods are lumped in with leprosy as “unclean.” The rules for
sacrifices, punishments, diet, and sex make the IRS code seem
lucid and benevolent by comparison. And God’s rules about how
anyone who isn’t physically perfect is to be kept out of his
sight — any disability, even a scar or a broken leg — is enough
to have the ACLU set up permanent picket lines.
We jump forward to the New Testament, when God incarnates
himself as a Man. It seems God has decided He doesn’t want us to
be deaders after all, after taunting us for the first few
thousand years about how we’re going to return to dust. He’s
going to give us immortality after all. Okay, human beings get
convinced that this Man really is God — and we strike. We’ve
had enough of this drunken, pompous, bullying child-torturer of
an abusive father — this cosmic Adolf Hitler on a coke binge.
His battered children nail Him on the cross as fast as we can.
Speaking for the battered children of God — could you blame
us? With a God like this, who needs a Devil?
This was the God I was being summoned by. I knew why the
churches always talked about fear of God. This God was supposed
to be all-powerful, and whenever He started talking about how
much He loves us, it’s always looked like a good time to duck and
Our race had good reason to be scared shitless. So did I.
Of course there was another possibility: that all these
stories about God were a crock. If the Bible was a pack of lies,
then God might have got a bum rap.
But I was going to have to ask. And if God didn’t give me
answers to convince me that he was not only powerful and smart,
but more importantly loving, kind, sane, and just, then I wasn’t
going to enlist.
On behalf of the human race, it was nice to be in the
driver’s seat, for once.
DUJ’S INTERVIEW WITH GOD
“You have some questions,” God said. “Ask them.”
“When was the last time you spoke to anyone on Earth?
Directly, I mean; not through dreams or revelations.”
“As myself? A couple hundred years after I died on the
Cross, more or less.”
“That was the last time you visited Earth?”
“Oh, no. I’m there right now. In disguise, of course. Got
to keep my eye on things.”
“Why have you been so secretive?”
“You get nailed up on a Cross, you wouldn’t be so anxious to
let people know who you were, either.”
“That seems a particularly selfish answer, for a God who
claims to be a loving father.”
“From the way you were thinking about it before you came in
here, I would think I”d be doing you a favor by staying away
“Well, was what I was thinking true? Did you do all those
things the Bible says you did?”
“Let me ask you a question,” God said. “The Book of Job” —
He pronounced it “Eyob” — “it recounts a conversation I
supposedly had with my adversary — the leader of the loyal
opposition. ‘Satan,’ in the King James translation. So tell me.
How is it that a conversation up here in Heaven gets reported on
“You tell me,” I said.
“It doesn’t. Never happened. Hogwash from a political
“Adam and Eve?”
“These first ancestors of yours — bad-ass kids. You still
have the type in your century — phone phreaks, computer jackers,
credit-card scam artists. Young Lex Luthors. Hacked their way
into the Tree of Knowledge on a bet. Once they were augmented by
the Tree, there could have been no stopping them. You’ve heard
that knowledge is power? The Tree has a record of everything.
How to genetically engineer a virus. How to make a sun go
supernova. How to create a self-destroying time loop. I was
easy on them, just kicking them out of Eden — taking away their
powers. I thought about killing them on the spot. Sometimes I
still think I should have. If I had, though, you and I wouldn’t
be having this conversation.”
A chill went up my spine. It’s one thing to contemplate
never having been born. It’s another to contemplate your race’s
having been stillborn.
“Cain and Abel?”
I wasn’t even around when this punk kid murders his brother.
This business about my getting turned on by burnt offerings —
barbecue smoke. Does that make any sense to you?”
“Never happened. Next.”
“Abraham and Isaac?”
“Old man had Alzheimer’s disease, starts thinking that I
want him to sacrifice his son to me. Would’ve done it if I
hadn’t sent an angel to stop him.”
“Noah and the flood.”
“That story couldn’t have been written any other way,
because only the survivors lived to tell the tale. I told
everybody on Earth about the upcoming flood. Earth’s axis was
going to have to be realigned — polar ice caps were going to
melt. It was either that or lose the entire planetary ecology,
anyway. Take my word — or consult the Tree to bone up on
cosmological economics. Anybody who believed me built ships,
took animals and family aboard. Those who didn’t drowned.
Hardly anybody believed me, except a few families. And for the
record, there were eight arks, not one. Noah’s the only captain
who kept a ship’s log.”
“You could have saved everyone, if you wanted to.”
“I didn’t want to. I played fair. Gave a warning to those
who’d listen. Evil and stupid go hand in hand. I can’t see
anything wrong with letting evildoers get blown up on their own
petards. Be happy you aren’t descended from the ones who died.
You can’t imagine what bastards they were.”
“Their babies, too?”
“Those kids never had a fair chance. Their parents would
have made them go bad, and after the flood, there was barely
enough to go around for the ones who lived. We’re talking post-
disaster times. Evolution has its own built-in logic. You show
sympathy when you have to let weeding happen, all you do is make
more misery later.”
“You do sound like Hitler.”
“Difference between me and Hitler is that he was a moronic
lunatic with no knowledge of science, and I’m God. When I weed,
I don’t do it on the basis of national borders, or ethnic
alliances, or religious beliefs. I don’t even do it on the basis
of sexual preference, much as your religious right would like to
pin AIDS on me. When I kill a bloodline, it’s to improve the
overall breed. The job has to be done and I’m the only one with
enough knowledge to do it. If I hadn’t, your race would have
murdered itself a hundred times over already, or died weakened by
another thousand ills.”
“I apologize,” I said. “My comparison was uncalled for.”
“No apology needed. You do a thorough interview. Next
“Cutting our lifespan because of the angels marrying our
“That’s exactly backwards. Only reason your race continued
living that long was because of angelic cross-breeding. Once I
forbid them from raping your women, your race reverted to its
“Why weren’t we offered immortality until your incarnation?”
“You were supposed to have it from the start — and would
have if Adam and Eve hadn’t pulled their little stunt. Remember,
the Tree of Life was already planted in Eden. Think it was there
for fun? Took me a few millennia to reengineer around the
problems Adam and Eve caused by trying to steal what they weren’t
ready for. Evolutionary ecology is a tricky business.”
“Tower of Babel? The curse of languages?”
“Come on, get real. You people invent jargon and dialects
to set yourselves apart. Amazing you understand each other at
“No curse except being cut off from the Tree of Knowledge.
A Berlitz course comes free with every uplink.”
“The sexism in Leviticus?”
“Male chauvinist priesthood. Not my doing.”
“How about the endless laws, rules, and regulations?
Reading Leviticus and Numbers on the regulations for sacrificing
animals, ritual purification, dietary laws — it’s like reading
Orwell and Kafka at their darkest. The least infraction is
punished by death — sometimes burning to death. Death penalties
for blasphemy, cursing, homosexuality. The list is endless. The
ancient Israelites sound like the worst police state I can
imagine, all centered around a homicidal religious cult.”
“That’s a fairly accurate description. I could point out,
however, that most everyone else around them was even worse.”
“And you approved of all this?”
“I did not. It was all done in my name, which makes me come
across as an Oriental Potentate to any sane person who reads
these accounts. But this is not accurate history of what went
on, much less of what I said or did. It’s part tribal myth, part
rules set up by a fanatic priesthood to gain control of people’s
minds. Look, try to analyze this logically. Do you think I’m
going to hang around in a box inside a tribal tent? And that if
an animal isn’t slaughtered in precisely the correct way, I’m
going to throw a tantrum? Or that I’m so addicted to the smell
of burning flesh that I have to have an army of priests just to
keep whomping up batches of the stuff? Please.”
“Then why didn’t you make corrections to the Bible?
Separate out the lies from the truth?”
“Why should I? It’s human literature. Some myth, some bits
of real history, some poetry, some genealogy, some how-to stuff,
and a lot of political speechmaking. Anybody who wants to know
what really happened can read the truth for themselves, once
they’re here, by doing an historical search in the Tree of
“Then the Bible wasn’t supposed to give us the Word? Teach
“Listen, nothing can teach you morality. I know from
experience, having tried and failed numerous times.”
“Well then how do you expect us to act rightly?” I asked.
“Trial and error, just like I did.”
“You want to be gods? You’re gods. I made you to be gods.
And the first thing a god needs to figure out is what to do with
immortality. Immortality cuts out all the imperatives caused by
striving for survival. You jump right off the end of the Maslow
scale. So what’s left?”
“You tell me.”
“No, I tell Me. You tell yourself. As an immortal being, I
am faced with a choice more fundamental than Hamlet’s. Not ‘to
be or not to be’ but ‘to do or not to do.’ Why do anything? I
can lay back and watch for eternity, if I felt like it.”
“Then why do you do anything?”
“Because no matter how good any vacation is, sooner or later
any intelligent person gets bored. And if nothing is forcing you
to do anything, then you learn to come up with reasons of your
own to justify doing things. There’s the beginning of all
imperatives — the beginning of morality. The purpose of life —
immortal or otherwise — is to avoid going insane, turning
towards yourself and away from reality. Solipsism is the final
boredom. Everybody should try it at least once, just to get past
it. After a good dose of a universe with nobody but yourself as
a thinking companion, you’ll find out what loneliness is.”
“That’s why you create intelligent beings?”
“That’s why. I started out solo. It worked for a while.
Then I got to a point when I wasn’t sure what was real and what
was hallucination. That’s a trap you can’t imagine, if you’ve
never been the only god in a universe.
“I thought you were a trinity. Didn’t that give you someone
to talk to?”
“Whether you want to think of my three parts as one person
or three, it’s still an internal dialogue. Given a set of facts,
we’d reach one conclusion — no disagreements, no reality check.
No different than you talking to yourself. I created other
intelligent beings so I could have someone to talk with who
didn’t always agree with me.”
“You seem to have more disagreements than you care for right
“So I do. I want others who can think for themselves. I
don’t want people who decide that they dislike me so much that
they want to lock me up forever. I’m still the Eternal. I was
here first and I’ll be here last. I don’t have to put up with
that and I won’t.”
I thought for a long moment.
“Why should I fight for you?” I asked. “I don’t mean what
would you pay me — I’m sure it would be more than I can imagine.
I don’t mean gratitude for your having created me because I can’t
evaluate the worth of my own life to me or to you until I know
what it’s being used for.”
“You don’t have the perspective needed to value your own
“Then you’re going to have to lend me your perspective, so I
can understand. I have to know before I can make a right choice.
If you’ll forgive me for saying so, this is too important for me
to take it on faith.”
“You would have to be Me to understand a full answer of
what’s at stake.”
“I don’t need a full answer. Just an adequate one.”
“All right. Would it be an adequate answer if I convinced
you that I, personally, am worth fighting for? That I’m perfect
and have the perfection of all other conscious beings as my goal?
That I have your race’s best interests at the center of my
“That would do it,” I said.
“All right. Tell me if any of this is over your head. The
question you have to ask yourself is how you can know that I am
perfect. Well, there’s no such thing as a static perfection, but
there is such thing as a process of perfection that can continue
infinitely. For a conscious being, unlimited by disintegration,
continued existence is an ever-increasing perfection of one’s
self and of one’s surroundings. Every action you take is a risk
and a test. The more you risk, the more you learn. If you
believe anything of what I’ve said to you, then you can’t avoid
the logical conclusion that I’m the most perfect of all beings
that exist merely by fact that I’m the only being with no
beginning. You and others may join me in never ending; you can
never join me in not having a beginning. By the nature of what I
am, I have been tested infinitely more and perfected infinitely
more. To all other conscious beings, I am an indispensable
“You admit making mistakes?”
“If I hadn’t, I wouldn’t know so much. Because I’ve made
more mistakes than anyone else, I know what works and doesn’t
work more than anyone else. My mistakes perfect me.”
“And you share all of this knowledge without limits?”
“There are logical limits. I share all that I may without
doing more harm than good.”
“But you decide.”
“No one else can.”
“You’ve got yourself a boy,” I said, extending my hand to
“I knew that already,” said God, shaking it.
DUJ GOES ON A DATE
I made plans to meet Caulinn that night for dinner.
Frankly, I was more than a little nervous. Not only was this my
first date since my divorce, it was also my first date since I’d
died. If things went the way I intended them to, I was going to
be doing something with my new body that I’d only done with my
old body … and I didn’t have the luxury of uplinking to the
Tree to find out if there was anything I’d better be careful
about. I recalled a science fiction story called “Man of Steel,
Woman of Kleenex” — which speculated fancifully on coupling
problems between Kryptonese men and Earth women — and hoped Mr.
Niven didn’t know something about supermen that I didn’t.
Well, there was only one way to find out for sure. I hopped
into my Volvo, took a short drive over to a magazine store on
Motor Avenue, and picked up a copy of a small digest magazine
called Kinky Letters. Then I returned to my apartment, drew the
drapes, and read through what purported to be genuine accounts of
the correspondents’ carnal experiences, letting nature — or
should I say supernature — take its course.
It turns out that because I’d never got around to changing
the defaults for sexual performance on my new body, I found no
major differences between the experience of arousal and
completion from that which I’d known in my old body.
Okay, yes, it felt better. Much better. And there was none
of the lassitude that followed such an experience when I was
human; I felt a priapic energy that would have allowed me to
continue at will. It’s good to be a god.
But my point is, the Kleenex was more or less intact at the
end of the experiment.
Caulinn Helms was drop-dead gorgeous when I picked her up at
her hotel that evening, and yes, that was the first thing I told
her and she never tires of hearing it. There was nothing about
her of the blatant sexual symbolism she used on stage, to create
an impact reaching to the upper bleachers of a stadium: no
exaggerated make-up, bustier, micromini, leather, chains, or
spike heels. She merely wore a basic black cocktail dress that
emphasized by its design that she was soft and curvy where men
like women to be, and lean and muscular where men like women to
be. She was also wearing a seductive perfume with a name like
Heroin or Crack, or some other illicit drug.
Also, I’ve never understood what it is about long blond hair
flowing silkily over pale, naked shoulders and black fabric that
looks so sensational, and I don’t think I’ll ask the Tree to
analyze it for me, either. You don’t have to tell me that other
color combinations of skin, hair, and fabric produce spectacular
results, because I don’t want to know how it works until I start
designing my own species and have to know. There are some
mysteries too enjoyable to end by explaining them away, if you
don’t have to.
Souplantation might have been a good enough place to meet
God for dinner, but from the way she was dressed, it wasn’t going
to be good enough for Caulinn. Given the casual sportswear I was
sporting, I was glad that even the fanciest Los Angeles
restaurants didn’t have much more of a dress code than, “No
shoes, no shirt, no service.” Nor did I think I’d impress
Caulinn by pulling out my Entertainment Membership Card to get a
“significant discount at the restaurants located in the Fine
Dining Section of your book.” This was definitely going to be a
night for the old American Express card.
Maybe you wonder why, as a god, I just didn’t wave a magic
wand and materialize a few hundred gold Krugerrands, cashing them
in as necessary. The first reason is that I didn’t know how to
do that without uplinking to the Tree, and I couldn’t uplink
without blowing my cover. The second was that even if I had a
way to uplink, it might have tipped off the ever-watchful enemy
that there was something different about Duj Pepperman, and maybe
they’d better keep an eye on him.
“I didn’t want to make reservations until I knew what you
were in the mood for,” I told Caulinn. “Sushi, Sicilian, or
“Sicilian seafood,” she said.
I headed over to the lobby pay phones and made a reservation
for a private room at the Mobster Grotto on Sunset.
The earliest I could get was 9:15, a couple of hours hence,
so I suggested to Caulinn that we drive up to Griffith Park
Observatory. She’d never been there before so she wasn’t hard to
I’ve always enjoyed playing tour guide. “The observatory
has always been one of my favorite places,” I told Caulinn.
“It’s always looked to me like a temple devoted to the worship of
science. Its placement high above Los Angeles offers spectacular
views of the light-dotted cityscape on nights like this when the
absence of smog allows it. Also, it has that magical quality of
dramatic deja vu you get from frequent movie locations around
L.A. The observatory was used as Jor-El’s laboratory in the
first episode of the Superman TV series, and in the scenes of
James Dean mooing and knife-fighting in Rebel Without a Cause.”
“Shut up, you wonk, and kiss me,” Caulinn said, exasperated.
I’ve often suspected that women are less romantic than men.
SATAN HAS A DIFFERENT OPINION
The red Corvette pulled up to the curb. Satan was behind
the wheel. He was wearing the white tuxedo he wore on TV that
night as Sun Amen Chill. He motioned me into the passenger seat,
then took off like a shot.
Satan didn’t waste any time. “He sounded perfectly
Satan shook his head. “He has His good days and His bad
days. You caught Him on one of His good days.”
I fastened my seat belt, out of habit, I supposed. Satan
The Sepulveda entrance to the 405 was up ahead. Satan
turned into it, taking the diamond lane.
“Everything He said made perfect sense to me.”
“Look, He’s still God, even if He is crazy at times. What
did he tell you, point by point?”
“The story about his bet with you about Eyob. He said it
“It happened. If anyone knows, I know.”
“He said things that get talked about in Heaven aren’t
reported on Earth.”
“Maybe He’d like to think so. My challenge to Him was in
public — an open criticism session. You can’t keep stuff like
that a secret. Angels go down to Earth, they talk to people. It
“Well, if you knew He was crazy, why did you bring up the
“To show everyone what He was, how He really felt about his
“That’s pretty mean-spirited of you.”
“That’s why I got the job as his Adversary. I never allow
sentimentality to interfere with what needs to be done.”
“Let’s look at another case. Adam and Eve.”
“You ever take the keys to your old man’s car without his
permission? Or go into his stuff when he wasn’t home?”
“I can see why He likes you. Well, you have a daughter.
Let’s say when she’s a teenager she did that. You going to curse
her for life?”
“From what I hear about the Tree of Knowledge, it’s more
like going into dad’s gun case and taking his elephant rifle out
for a joyride. Not exactly a teenage prank.”
“Depends on what the youngsters did with it. Did they take
the Weatherby out to the desert for a test, or to the city zoo
for a slaughter? Sure, they disobeyed his rules and had to be
punished. But you need a little perspective here. God had lost
His. Adam and Eve weren’t bad kids. Just inexperienced. They
showed poor judgment. God gave you his standard speech about how
He’s been perfected through eons of trial and error? Well, how
were Adam and Eve supposed to learn if the first time they made a
mistake, He expelled them from school? What else did He say?”
“The sacrifices, the rules for the Israelites. He said it
was all the priests doing. He dismissed the idea that he would
hang around in a box in a desert tent as crazy.”
“Yes. Crazy. Exactly. During His sane periods even He can
see that. Just look at the design specs for the Ark of the
Covenant, if you need proof it was built for Him. It’s a Faraday
cage to prevent His electrical charge from leaking out and frying
everybody. Even so, a couple of Moses’s brothers bought it that
way, going in unexpectedly. Look, God’s a trinity, right?”
“Wrong. There are four personalities, not three. He,
Himself, only knows about Three — a painstaking craftsman, a
creative genius, and a loving spirit. The fourth is a homicidal
maniac, jockeying to be dominant. Number four is also a creative
genius, but is an unstable manic-depressive artist.”
I got really scared. Satan was making sense, and I was
biased in favor of my race in the first place. On some level it
was easier to believe that a crazy God was behind our ills than
that we were doing it to ourselves. It’s always nice to shove
the blame off on someone else.
“Look,” I said. “I have no doubt that you could sell
refrigerators to Eskimos — you have that reputation. But I need
“You asked Him for proof. What proof did He gave you?”
I thought back on the conversation. “A metaphysical proof.
Logically, since He has no beginning, He has to be the most
perfected being in existence.”
“That would be true if God didn’t go crazy occasionally.
Did he talk about solipsism at all? How He created other beings
to avoid going crazy?”
“Yes. He made a point of it.”
“Well, He did that in one of His lucid periods. He’s smart.
I keep on telling you, crazy or not, He’s still God. It worked.
He created other beings to give Himself a reality check. Well,
here we are. The diagnosis is in.”
GOD MEETS DUJ AT A 7-11
God was waiting for me, per previous arrangement, inside the
7-11 at the corner of Washington and Lincoln in Marina del Rey.
He was black and wearing a Seminal Lunch T-shirt with a Dodgers
cap on backwards, Nikes, and wrap-around shades.
God didn’t bother with any preliminaries; He knew what was
on my mind. “They don’t call Satan the Prince of Lies for
nothing,” he said, pouring Himself a cherry Slurpee.
I shoved a red-hot bean burrito into the microwave and set
it for two minutes. “You say you know about this charge that you
have a fourth personality?”
“It’s an old heresy — that both good and evil are within
me. Well, for a God who has to act as a hunter occasionally —
thin out the herd to improve it — it’s an easy charge to
“You deny it.”
He took a draw off His Slurpee. “Of course I deny it.”
“Satan said the design specs of the Ark of the Covenant were
proof of what he was saying. That it’s a Faraday Cage to contain
your electrical charge.”
“The Arc of the Covenant was a giant capacitor — a storage
battery. The Israelite priests used it for special effects
during their ceremonies … and an occasional electrocution to
send a message to troublemakers.”
I shook my head. “How am I supposed to figure out what’s
true and what’s not? I’m just a man.”
“Not any more, you aren’t. You’re a god. Consult the
“Satan said you control the Tree, that you can rewrite it at
will. That I can’t trust it.”
“Then there’s the proof you need that he’s lying. If the
Tree isn’t to be trusted because I’ve adulterated it — if its
information is unreliable — then Satan wouldn’t be working so
hard to get back into it.”
I laughed. “You know, I was sure that when it came right
down to it, you were going to tell me that I was going to have to
take your word on faith.”
The microwave beeped. God took my burrito out, peeled it
open, and handed it to me. “I don’t demand faith, but you’re
going to find that you can’t get along without it. I’ll tell you
when you’re going to need faith. There’s going to come a moment
when you’re in the middle of a battle, and you’re going to have
second thoughts about everything we’ve talked about. Satan’s
going to be at your elbow with a plausible reason to discount
everything you think is true. And you won’t have me there to
counter his lies, because I’m going to be out of action —
vulnerable. That’s when you’ll have to grit your teeth and go
on, out of sheer faith.”
God plunked some cash down on the counter for His Slurpee
and my burrito. “My treat,” He said.
WHAT DUJ HAS LEARNED BY THE END OF THE STORY
All things end. I remember when I learned this lesson. I
was thirty-five years old, and it was one of three times — I
know now — that God spoke to me when I was alive. It required a
certain warping of consciousness for me to come to this
realization, that all things end. I understand some people can
get new understandings from drugs — hallucinogenic drugs in
particular. But I was always too afraid of drugs to alter my
consciousness deliberately. I craved control too strongly. So
for me, the warped consciousness came upon me unexpectedly.
I had been a moderate coffee drinker, even though coffee
acid gave me severe indigestion. The caffeine high was a
necessary part of my writing at that time; I needed the rush to
write. Then I got a mild chest cold and suddenly the indigestion
was creating gas that was constricting my breathing, at the same
time the coffee was quickening my pulse and making me breathe
faster. The result was a threshold hyperventilation that kept
going over the edge — and the more I hyperventilated
uncontrollably, the more I became scared and hyperventilated even
In an instant, it stripped me of a lifetime of carefully
built-up defense mechanisms. I was completely vulnerable —
completely emotionally defenseless — to everything around me.
First of all, I thought I was going to die that night. That
scared me senseless to begin with.
I tried watching TV. The thirty-second drama of a
commercial was too much for me to take, in my emotionally labile
Finally, as I lay in bed, thinking I was dying, God came to
me and laughed at me.
“Why are you laughing at me?” I asked.
“Because you’re afraid of death.”
“Why is that so funny?”
“That you should be afraid of death.”
It sounded like a compliment, but it was a compliment that I
couldn’t understand. Was I so brave that the idea of my being
afraid of death was funny to God? I just didn’t understand. Not
until later anyway. God knew how I would think about it later
before I did.
Then God asked me if I wanted to die. I felt God’s hand on
my heart, squeezing. I knew He could take me, that it was His
choice, not mine.
I said “No, I want to live.”
God said. “If you live, it will be without any promises.
You have no claims on life. You will take what comes to you.”
“I understand,” I said. “Let me live.”
“You understand. If you live long enough, you will see
everything you love end.”
“Yes, I understand.”
And I did. But this understanding made me old that day.
Today I know that even for an immortal, all things end.
Even if you go on forever, you die every moment and are reborn as
something else. Every thought you have — every act you take —
makes you into something different — and that which you were is
left behind, dead.
The child who grows into an adult has died: that adult takes
over the body and continues.
When we leave our bodies, we die as human beings. The human
is dead while a new god is born.
The friend or loved one we see tomorrow has continuity only
with our friend or loved one of yesterday: they are different,
even if only incrementally different. If we are lucky, we find
that which we love still alive in the new; but the old is surely
dead by virtue of having been changed out of existence.
I realized that all my life I had both worshiped change and
feared it. It was this dilemma — this paradox — that made
romanticism wistful. Romanticism in intellect is the thought
that we are growing and becoming better. Romanticism in emotion
is nostalgia for every loved moment we leave behind.
In the name of all of us, we know it hurts.
But from such pain and paradoxes, we grow wise.
Such is the meaning, and the price, of eternal life and its
Next in I Met God — God Without Religion, Scripture, or Faith is Chapter VI: Mind Meld
Copyright © 2010 The J. Neil Schulman Living Trust. All rights reserved.