Pelley, William Dudley - Seven Minutes in Eternity With Their Aftermath 05
Type of Spiritual Experience
A description of the experience
“Seven Minutes in Eternity ” With Their Aftermath By William Dudley Pelley
In the years between fourteen and twenty-two I became a smouldering little Bolshevik against every kind of authority — particularly against religious authority which had apparently sanctioned these injustices against me — and picking up the rudiments of a denied education by permiscuous reading, I went far afield from accredited Christianity.
No need to clutter up this article with the books I read, but at twenty-two, in a little town in northern New York I was publishing a brochure magazine of heretical tendencies. Not exactly atheistic but holding few illusions about the Scribes and Pharisees who wail loudly in public praying places and who take good care that their alms are seen of men. I had discovered myself possessed of a certain facility with iconoclastic language, no censor, and the courage of my ignorance. Fresh from a wry, lonely, misunderstood childhood, cluttered up psychologically with the worst sort of New England inhibitions, revengeful that I had been denied social and academic advantages for which my hunger was instinctive, I proceeded to play a lone hand and Make Things Hot for several goodly people whose only indictment was that they represented Authority as aforesaid — and especially spiritual. I know I made existence rather annoying for a number of representative ministers of the faith who saw life as through a glass darkly along with myself but weren’t blatting about it as I was. On maturer perspective I should have been spanked — or educated — but all the theological misfits in forty- eight states and a couple of foreign countries were soon buying my magazine and my twaddle was piling up to give me much heartburn later when I came to see that I took out on God what I should have taken out on an inhibited environment. The Almighty stood the onslaught pretty well, however. I got into newspaper work, and marriage, and fatherhood, and more poverty, and that was the last of the heretical magazine though not of its owners theological complexes. I shopped around in my religions. I read still queerer books. And inevitably the day came when immature intelligence couldn’t stand the pace and instead of digesting I ejected it a la mal de mer. ... For ten years I was one of the worst agnostics that ever had books come to his post-office box in plain wrappers from freak publishing houses. . . .
I had brains enough to see that my life had been started all wrong and was “getting no better fast”, but not the academic or social equipment to alter existence and start myself about-face.
Those were cruel, cruel years — looking back on them now. A couple of my business projects went to whack. So did my marriage. With each additional snarl I got more and more vindictive. The death of my first daughter mellowed me somewhat. I wrote a couple of novels in which love of human nature was largely a reflex from the fearful storm of hatred and despair that was waging inside me.
I knew my life was a ghastly mess, that I was cynical and caustic, that the so-called “friends” whom I could trust could be counted on the fingers of one hand — and most of them would stand watch- ing — that we got nothing in this world unless we fought for it with the ferocity of a Siberian wolf- dog and that without a doubt Death ended every- thing.
America’s entry into the World War found me in the Orient, not at all a healthy place for one striving to escape the biological premise for human existence. I went with the Japanese forces to Siberia, acted as Red Triangle man, consular courier and war correspondent through the Bolshevik- Czech campaign and came back to the United States to face a newspaper business in ruins.
The swarming millions of Asia had not confirmed my faith in the conventional Almighty’s goodness and wisdom — had made me only more skeptical in fact — though I never had anything but remorseful tenderness in my heart for the memory of the Man of Sorrows and what He epitomized in the human scheme of things.
To save my newspaper creditors from loss, I went to Hollywood and laboured among the Flesh Pots. I made a score of motion pictures. I wrote a couple of books which my publishers refused. I fought with them in consequence, still taking life by strong-arm methods. I wrote many stories that editors rejected. I fought with them too. When an editor wouldn’t buy a certain story I sat down to my typewriter and contrived to tell him that I thought him an ass. I even told the editor of The American Magazine that he was an ass — in spite of which he showed his calibre by taking my opinion as painlessly as possible and going right along buying and publishing my better submissions.
That hurt worse than as if he had fought with me. You see, I had the unfortunate complex that the attainment of success meant a knock-down-and- drag-out scrap. It made me a lone wolf at life, getting the least bit mangy as I reached my forties. . . .
Time after time I tried sincerely to correct my psychology and get back certain religious (not theological) cues I felt I had lost with the passing of boyhood. I plunged deeper than ever into eleven- pound volumes on all sorts of racial traits and behaviorism. I was a walking museum of how a man may reach middle life and be the worst internal mess that ever got into “Who’s Who”. . . .
In view of such an autobiographical summary, can you see the significance of my nocturnal experience?
I went about my bungalow in the days that followed as though I were still in a sort of trance — which verily I was. Days of this, with a queer unrest galvanizing me, a feeling that I was on the verge of something, that out of my weird Self Projection onto another plane of existence I had brought something that was working within me like yeast.
Then came experience number two — not quite so theatric and therefore harder to describe.