I was 56 years old. My outer life seemed pleasant and adequate, but my inner life was partially unfulfilled. After spending the last 30 years nurturing and guiding two sons and four daughters who had grown into responsible adults, I was a successful flutist with many students, but my daily life was almost totally focused on my immediate surroundings. I only practiced meditation irregularly.
When one of my daughters invited me to join her on a walking safari in Kenya and then a trip to Tanzania to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro I eagerly accepted her invitation. After weeks of arranging and preparing, in August 1987 I was in Africa close to the Equator, ready to climb the grand mountain. Although we were at the base of Mt. Kilimanjaro, I had only seen it once when we were many miles away. The huge mass is so large that when one is close to it and clouds surround the top, it appears to be a very wide, gently rising slope that advances into dense haze.
Our adventure finally began as we walked gradually upward through a muddy rain forest to the Mandara Hut 9,000 feet above sea level. Day two was also easy and we spent the time talking as we slowly trekked on a barren, rocky treeless area for ten miles to the Horombo Hut at 12,450 feet.
On the third evening at Kibo Hut we found ourselves at the challenging height of 15,450 feet. I felt fine, but watched helplessly as person after person became ill from the altitude. The final walk to the top began in total darkness at 1:45 a.m. as those of us who were able moved upward in a line rather briskly back and forth across a steep slope of loose rocks. As we climbed, each time one or more unfortunate persons vomited or complained of a violent headache a guide was assigned to lead them down. The curving line of lights from our flashlights grew shorter and shorter as people departed and we moved into gloomy clouds. I was tired and sore, my lungs needed oxygen and it was getting extremely cold, but I willed my body onward – to turn back was unthinkable for I was determined to climb to 19,340 feet and reach the snowy dome of the mountain. Placing one foot in front of the other and focusing on taking ever deeper breaths and small sips of water I slowly moved upward, happy that my head and stomach were not a problem.
As I trudged into the snow around Kibo Cave, I stopped and stared at the amazing site of fluffy pink, yellow and orange clouds far beneath me. Suddenly a tiny edge of the sun appeared and I watched as the small bright object grow larger and larger. All at once the world around me turned from dark to light, from small to enormous. Simultaneously, a bright pillar of light from the sun flashed through my body and I was abruptly struck by an overwhelming sense of the majesty and power around, above and below.
The mystical aspect of this experience continued as I moved upwards along paths cut between immense icy glaciers and finally around the top of the extinct volcano. I seemed to be floating in a blissful, ecstatic state, almost totally unaware of my body. I began to comprehend the vastness and the splendor of the universe that extended up, around and forever onward. My mind opened like a new flower and I realized I belonged to the whole cosmos, not just to the tiny dot that was the Earth.
Airplane travel takes one above the clouds and offers colorful panoramas of sunrises and vast expanses, but one just sits and is carried to the view without expending any effort. I believe the strenuous climb that demanded so much of my body, combined with the effects of the altitude, were responsible for my magical experience on Mt. Kilimanjaro.
As altitude increases, the atmospheric pressure decreases, until, at 18,000 feet, the available oxygen has decreased to 50% of what it is at sea level. The result, unless one takes many days to adjust, is severe stress on the body. Potassium moves out of the cells and they accumulate sodium and water. If one isn’t careful, fluid may collect in the lungs and eventually in the brain. The heart beats faster and one tires more quickly. The blood becomes more alkaline and the balance between gases in the lungs and the blood is disturbed. Obviously these changes affect one’s mind, and in my case, the result was a permanent change in my perspective of the world.
In the past, ceremonies of initiation helped individuals to awaken their awareness, expand their consciousness and increase the subtle energy frequencies of their minds. Depending on the culture, the object of these difficult experiences varied, although the primary focus was to expand the person’s consciousness. Vision quests or initiation ceremonies might include fasting, sleep deprivation, subjecting the body to extreme temperatures and other physically and mentally disturbing trials. During sun dances Native Americans commit themselves to self-sacrifice for others as they undergo a spiritual awakening and become one with the Creator, the Earth and all on it. We may receive scientific explanations for the effects of mystical experiences on the brain from research the Metanexus Institute on Religion and Science is conducting for The Templeton Foundation on the results of spiritual transformation.
The trip down Mt. Kilimanjaro was uneventful, but I was different, and a period of transition followed. As my concept of what is really important changed I thought about how to help others return to a more normal state where the emphasis was on spirituality rather than technology.
I had always believed that ours was not the first advanced civilization on this planet and knew that initially human beings in Atlantis and Lemuria were loving, kind, thoughtful of others. They judged each other by how highly evolved they were rather than their material possessions. The self-confidence I acquired from my successful climb plus the spiritual awakening I experienced in that dramatic event supported me as I began to focus on my ever present hope of sharing my beliefs about prehistory with others.
As a young child I KNEW the name Atlantis. Like a powerful chord sounding within a beautiful musical composition it sent shivers up and down my spine. Atlantis was always with me and one day soon after the event on the mountain top someone said the word. The chord resounded again, just as in my earliest years. Now the desire to learn more and report my knowledge became an obsession.
Driven by curiosity I researched extensively in the libraries of the British Museum, Harvard, Chicago and the Edgar Cayce Foundation in Virginia Beach. The more I discovered about Atlantis, the louder the chord sounded, and yet, the questions, my questions, were not all answered.
I read and traveled extensively, focusing on the prehistory and spiritual beliefs of the areas settled by emigrants from the lost lands. Experiences in the Andes, the jungles of Central America with the Lacandones, Lake Titicaca, and the ancient cities of Tiahuanaco, Macchu Pichuu and Teotihuacan, and in the Pyrenees among the Basques all broadened my prospective. I developed further as I joined monks in ceremonies in age-old gompas deep in the Himalayas.
As I acquired wisdom and information about prehistory I came to believe that it is important to know who we are and where we came from. Our ancestors survived terrible cataclysmic scenes in the past and recovering the unconscious memories of these events will enable us to respond to problems with courage rather than fear. Many of our predecessors survived because they resolutely persevered when earthquakes, floods and numerous volcanic eruptions destroyed their families, their friends, their homes and their land. These survivors were intelligent, innovative and supportive of others but,in their constant struggles to survive, it was sometimes necessary for them to be brutal, cunning and opportunistic. Similar personal characteristics were essential for those who were forced to move to new homelands where they combated human foes as well as natural problems. Brutal behavior to achieve goals in our society is partially a reversion to the conduct of our ancestors who had to fight with all their strength to endure, and their survival traits continue to characterize the human race. The realization that descendants of those survivors live on the Earth today will empower us to cope with our fellow humans’ ingrained aggressive tendencies with increased skill, understanding and compassion.
After many years of research, the chord became so strong as I sought to unravel the mysteries of that distant place, that I could almost “see” its beautiful land and prosperous cities. My great desire was to share what I learned with others and hopefully incite their curiosity to discover more. My continuing self-confidence gave me the strength to write “Atlantis: Insights From a Lost Civilization.” Here I combined information from scientists, scholars and psychics to portray the culture and society of the Atlanteans who lived on land in and around the Atlantic Ocean from 100,000 B.C. to 10,000 B.C.
Enthusiastic readers thanked me for confirming their beliefs, and told me about their dreams and memories of lives in Atlantis. They also asked about Lemuria, the civilization that thrived at the same time in the Pacific Ocean. With the hope of opening and stimulating the minds of others I wrote “Lemuria and Atlantis: Studying the Past to Survive the Future”.
Plato and Edgar Cayce tell us there was a connection between the terrible natural catastrophes which caused the ultimate collapse of our ancestors’ civilizations and the pollution and crime that were prevalent at the time. As people become aware that the turmoil and decay of the human race today are following the disastrous pattern of the past where focus on technology gradually surpassed wisdom and spirituality, I hope they will comprehend the necessity of working toward improving these problems. This must happen first within our hearts, then within our families, work and community.
DePok Chopra said, “We are spiritual beings that have occasional human experiences.” However, most people today are limiting their reality to the modern conveniences of their immediate physical surroundings, rather than focusing on creating a rapport with the natural world and the spiritual aspects of life. Our rapid technological and material progress exceed the wisdom of our internal guidance system. To improve this situation we must start with our children and help them to cultivate the right side of their brains as our distant ancestors did in Atlantis and Lemuria. Children are more open to their psychic senses, since they are still very close to the other side of life and their speech isn’t fully developed. They have to rely on their feelings to relate to the physical world. It is important to respect their insights and dreams and to allow them adequate time to acquire a relationship with their natural environment. This will encourage them to perceive that a great spiritual power created us, the Earth, everything on it, and all that exists in the skies above.
Recently I read that due to rising temperatures, the glaciers of snow and ice on Mt. Kilimanjaro are rapidly melting, and that before long the splendid peak will be bare rock. This seems to symbolize what is happening everywhere on our precious and once beautiful planet. As our engineers continue to advance our technology they must strive to preserve the treasures of the Earth and not regard them as simply available to be carelessly used and depleted for human comfort. All is interconnected.
The far-reaching effects on my inner self from my trip to Africa will always be with me, and I believe they will continue to give me confidence and strength to work toward helping others learn about the mistakes of the past and mindfully avoid them.