part two - three - four
"I didn’t try to kill myself! I would never try to kill myself. I turned myself over to my higher consciousness and it tried to kill me!"
She’d had what’s called a one time psychotic break, a spiritual emergency, when she was younger. I had suggested that maybe a psychic I knew named Fred Kimball might help her understand why she had dived off a balcony and nearly died. I shouldn’t have worded it the way I did. "Okay," I said. "Maybe Fred can help you understand what happened."
We visited Fred at his trailer in Gardena. He came out when he heard the car drive up. She went in to use his facilities and right away he started telling me he’d picked up we were a good match. I said that’s good to hear but we didn’t come to ask about that.
"What you got in mind?"
"Just give her a reading. You always get to the point."
They sat facing each other. Fred went through a few warm-up sentences asking her deep consiousness to open up, didn’t ask her anything nor did she say anything other than in greeting, and within a minute or so he asked, "Why’d you tried to kill yourself six years ago?"
She straightened up and gasped with her hand at her chest. "Yes! Yes. How did you know?"
"Well, you’ve got a dark place in your aura over there to the left," he gestured, "and that spot’s about six years ago."
"Yes. But why?"
I calculated. It had indeed been six years.
"Why?" she repeated.
Fred said he didn’t see why either. He spent a little time searching and then said, "I think I’ve got it. Your parents didn’t want you to be born."
"Yes, that’s true, but they wanted me after I was born and they loved me after I was born."
"Yes, but it’s like writing and cement," he said.
They went on for another hour but that’s the part I remember. So it seemed to me that according to Fred it wasn’t that she turned herself over to her higher consciousness and it tried to kill her, but that when her normal mind was gone, her ego defenses turned off, an old subconscious message that she shouldn’t be alive popped up and in her confusion she had created an imaginary drama around it and acted on it. One thing Fred worked on with people was how to get rid of unconscious unwanted programs that might bring them misfortune. He said she’d already taken care of that one.
I’d read a lot about psychic phenomena when I was younger. In our house there were books on that and UFOs, pyramid theories, Atlantis, reincarnation, ghosts, spirits, Western fiction writer Hamlin Garland’s Forty Years of Psychic Research, early self-help books like How to Win Friends and Influence People, Dale Carnegie books, TNT – the Power Within You – material my father had gone through earlier in his quest. I read it all. I’d been to a few psychics in Texas because my mother was into that. They often relate trivial details. Some might be off, some might be on with something that doesn’t matter much. One saw me moving to the west coast surrounded by a lot of people. The one mother liked best was a large black woman across town who wouldn’t see me because, as she said on the phone, "Honey, I’m too old and your vibrations are too strong."
When I first met Fred back in 1966, we sat down and he’s said, "The first thing I like to determine is if you’re planning your own death." Scary pause. And finally, "No, I see a lot of houses, cabins, trailers – you got a lot ahead of you."
But, he told me I had a problem. He said when I was 17 ½ years old I decided I didn’t want to be pushed around anymore. That’s good, he said, but I overdid it, made the command too broad, put up a barrier to communication with my psyche, hobbled intuition. Now I’m searching he said, and if I get rid of those restrictions there’s almost no end to how much help I can get from my own mind because it’s connected to everything. Typical of Fred he used the mundane example of how he changes lanes before there’s an accident in the one he's in or he takes an exit on a hunch when there’s a jam up ahead. He said he was in the merchant marines for decades and during the war could tell if a ship was going to be sunk by looking at it.
A year later my life had changed a great deal. I was in LA shopping for supplies for the San Francisco Zen Center’s new monastery, Tassajara, up in Monterey County. I saw Fred and toward the end of the session asked him about that block he’d seen in me the year before. He didn’t remember but he didn’t see anything like that - I must have cleared the slate. I told him I’d thought about it and decided that there were two aspects to that decision. First, not to let outside authority push me around – such as at school or a government that I was just starting to distrust. And second, not to be bandied about by my emotions. Back then I’d gotten into a period of extreme mood swings. I’d get euphoric for a few days and then crash into an existential angst that would at times, if I was alone, lead to thrashing about on a floor sobbing and gasping in a private primal therapy. The decision stopped all that.
Fred said there are always negative suggestions, instructions, programs, memories floating around which can be misconstrued in the subconscious so it’s good to consciously steer our course toward what we really want. He said one place to look is for ways we might be copying our parents that are not helpful or necessary. He said he’d seen back problems solved by finding out the person didn’t need to have it, that they were just imitating a parent. "With something like that you can just tell yourself to stop and if it gets through it will go away – physical or mental problems often aren’t necessary." He might add, " You can save ten thousand dollars on therapy costs in one session with me,"
At the beginning of our reading I’d asked Fred about Suzuki Roshi without mentioning Zen. I just said, "Tell me about Suzuki."
"Is this that D. T. Suzuki?" he said. "Cause he died last year." I shook my head. Then after a minute, "I see someone surrounded by people. They come to him and say they’re unhappy and he says you’re too fat, you want too much. His body’s weak. But he says that’s okay, I’ve found what I was looking for. He’s content. Says he had a big problem when he was younger but he’s over it. He’s not having any sex either," Fred said disapprovingly. "I have sex every night with my wife. He should too. But he doesn’t care. Says he's got what he wanted."
I told him who the Suzuki I’d asked about was, my teacher at the San Francisco Zen Center. He said that people on a spiritual path should be especially careful because they can come to discount the importance of their body, of health, wealth, happiness, sex. He usually brought up sex. He said that only the conscious mind cares about these things. As for the vast mind we’re not aware of, "It doesn’t care if you live or die. You got to tell it." He suggested that every night before falling asleep and in the morning at waking to repeat mentally or out loud a list such as, "I want to be healthy, happy, wealthy, and have a good sex life." I asked what about enlightened? "Sure, add that too" he said. "You can be enlightened and enjoy life too. Say you want it now. It doesn’t have a sense of time so it can wait forever without a date on the request."
He turned his attention to Zen, exhibiting a degree of disdain for it. Said he’d spent time with Nyogen Senzaki, one of the first Zen priests to come to America. "What’s the sound of one hand clapping and all that crap." His wife Muriel had been married to a man who was a student of Senzaki and their home had been used as a meeting place. She said they always liked it when Fred’s ship came in and he returned with new stories. One day she found her husband floating in their pool. Fred stopped shipping out and a few years later they got married, Fred’s first marriage when he was around sixty.
"Let’s see what you really think about that Suzuki fellow you’ve been studying with," he said looking at me. "Hmm. You say it’s good. You like it. You’re impressed with him. You scratched your right cheek. That’s a sign of affirmation." As soon as he saw that my psyche, higher mind, was onboard with Suzuki, Fred dropped his negative attitude. It was like – oh, okay, I was wrong. Fred said that scratching was a universal language. He’d noticed in his travels, that like auras, scratches signified the same thing everywhere. He’d codified it.
Six and a half years later, when I heard that Suzuki Roshi had cancer in the early fall of 1971, I went to the office at Tassajara to call Fred. I was alone as it was before morning work period. "Fred. Tell me about Shunryu," I said using a name he wouldn’t recognize.
Fred answered quickly. "This man says he can no longer be your teacher."
Fred didn’t tell the future. He told what he saw a person had in mind for their future – in their subconscious and psyche. Fred didn’t over define what the psyche was. He was more clear about the subconscious which he regarded as like a computer. The psyche was to be treated with respect but he called his subconscious "you stupid idiot." He said it would do what it’s told like a dog but has to be properly trained and cared for or it can cause trouble. But he’d dismiss any talk of these minds as being separate from the conscious. "You’ve only got one mind," he said. These words seemed to stand for functions of mind rather than segments.
I didn’t worry about all that, thought it was better not to have too fixed an idea about what’s going on. He agreed, said it was best just to express gratitude. Make it clear what you want and say thank you. Please is good too. But thank you is better – and say thanks for help received in the past. But be careful how you express gratitude and for what. It’s good to learn from suffering and difficulty, but we don’t want to be asking for more. "Oh, so you liked that? I’ll give you more then."
Fred was a big tough guy. He grew up on a farm somewhere East. Ran away from home at twelve. Hated his parents. Said he still did. He’d been a logger, could hear the young trees scream when he cut them down. Older ones didn’t make much of it. Fred had cauliflower ears and a broken nose. He’d been a prize fighter and a wrestler – said all the matches of the latter were fixed but he refused once to lose to a woman. Later he taught bouncers, police, even FBI how to hold guys down, get them through doors, hurt them if you had to. He wanted to show me how to cripple or kill someone quickly and I said that’s alright, I’ll just run – or strip naked and scare them off.
Fred said he first noticed his psychic abilities when he was working on the Panama Canal. He got lost in the jungle and the animals helped him get back He said he started to know where the poisonous snakes and scorpions were. Other workers picked up on that and tended to gravitate toward him. He said there was a time before that he almost drove a car off of Pikes Peak, sticking out over a precipice. That shook him up in a way that made him loose trust in his internal idiot and open up to a broader spectrum.