An Enlightening Encounter
Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some people have entertained angels without knowing it. Hebrews 13.2, NIV
One night, when I was a small boy, I had the following dream: I am being chased along a corridor by an evil and very angry witch. I run as fast as I can to escape her, eventually reaching a door. I grab the handle, turn it, open the door and run through. But there is a second door behind it, and this has an apple for a handle! I frantically grab the apple anyway, open the door and run through that doorway too. On the other side is an abyss, into which I plunge headlong …
That dream has haunted me all my life, every now and then rising to the surface of my mind for an explanation. But given what I know now, I think I finally understand it. The dream was letting me know about a future event, one that would send shockwaves around the world and so far back in time that it would mysteriously give rise to my dream, almost forty years beforehand. What was the event? It was the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, on 11 September, 2001.
The two doors symbolized the twin towers, the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, and even the two cities with which they were associated; the second door with the apple handle was New York, the Big Apple. The witch represented a destructive force bearing down on them. My falling into the abyss represented the fall of the towers. I think the dream was also telling me that I would ‘open the door’ to an understanding of why the attacks occurred and what they represented. The apple could even have symbolized the fact that I am inputting these words on an Apple computer; dreams often combine several meanings in one symbol.
As well as showing up in one boy’s dreams, 9/11 influenced writers, filmmakers, architects, biblical prophets, the course of history and even the movements of the spheres, warping space–time around it like a gravitational singularity. Its staggering message was encoded in detail within the event itself and this message was repeated and expanded upon within one version of the Christian Bible: the New International Version (NIV) 1984 edition.1 The NIV Bible is the most popular modern English version of the Bible and now outsells all other versions, including the KJV Bible. If a modern version had to be used, the NIV was the best candidate. Later I will describe how I was given the NIV Bible's 1984 editionfor decoding (appropriately, it was the 2001 reprint of that edition). I will also relate the story of how I was miraculously given a key that showed me how to unlock the code it contains; I couldn’t have cracked the code without that key.
I was given additional help in many other ways, especially through dreams and through images that came to me as I fell asleep or woke up. Some of these dreams and visions I will continue to relate throughout the book. Indeed my calling to this unusual assignment came through an extended vision, which took place three-and-a-half years before 9/11.
One April morning in 1998 I woke up to find myself in the presence of three radiant lights. These were as dazzling as spotlights to me, even though my eyes were still closed. They also had a presence that I found very unsettling. Face to face with them, I suddenly felt very small and exposed (figure 1)
As you can see, the lights were disc-shaped and arranged to suggest a perfect triangle. They were also differentiated by color. The top disc was a pearly white color, whereas the lower discs had a creamy yellow tinge. For about twenty seconds I lay there, refusing to interact with them. Then, plucking up a little courage (and though my eyes were still closed), I focused on the yellow disc on the right. For one glorious second I made contact with a heavenly realm, filled with softness and love. But a second was all I got, before all three lights simultaneously winked out.
The experience triggered a dramatic change in me, starting with a new belief in the reality of God. By this I mean that I realized I wasn’t really alone in the universe, a skin-encapsulated ego separate from all else, but was connected to something larger. In the past my ideas about God had changed from a simple belief in a Heavenly Father, to rejection of the teachings of my Baptist Sunday school teachers and adoption of the naturalistic worldview offered by science. Lately, however, I had been finding scientific naturalism unbearably drab and restrictive. That April morning a new faith began to blossom in me, like a flower pushing through melting snow. But I wasn’t returning to the simple faith of my childhood, which I had long since outgrown. I was going forward to a new, more adult, understanding of God.
The trio of lights were rich in symbolic potential. My first thought was that they stood for the Trinity, with the white disc standing for the Father and the two yellow discs the Son and the Holy Spirit. However, even if that was true there was further significance, because the three parts of the Trinity are supposed to be ‘co-equal, co-eternal and consubstantial’ and the two-color scheme was suggesting some kind of differentiation. Another possibility was that they represented the Tree of Life, from the Jewish mystical tradition known as Kabbalah. (figure 2)
This diagram shows what are regarded as ten ‘emanations’ of God, properly called sephiroth. My vision may have corresponded to the top three sephiroth. These are collectively known as the supernal sephiroth and are thought to be the highest of the emanations, existing on a plane of divine energy. If the white disc in my vision was the topmost sephirah, called Kether (crown/divine will), the lower two discs would then be the second and third sephiroth, called Chockmah (wisdom) and Binah (understanding). Kether is considered neutral, whereas Chockmah is masculine and Binah feminine.
Students of Kabbalah are numerologists and see special significance in numbers, including those found in the Hebrew Bible (the Christian Old Testament). The word ‘sephiroth’ literally means ‘enumerations’ or ‘counting’ and the first three sephiroth are associated with the numbers 1, 2 and 3. The disc I contacted would then be Chockmah, which is masculine and given the number 2. There is an interesting analogy here with Jesus Christ, who is the second person of the Trinity and of course masculine.
The triangular orientation and two-color scheme of the discs in my vision also suggested a series of numbers, known as triangular numbers. My vision corresponded to triangle 3, the second triangular number. The colors showed how the series builds up, so triangle 3 is 1 + 2. Triangle 10, the fourth in the series, is 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 (figure 3).
Many other series of 2D figures, such as squares, pentagons, hexagons and stars (hexagrams), can be built from discs. Series of 3D figures, such as cubes, tetrahedrons and pyramids, can be built from spheres.
After my vision I felt an irresistible urge to read as much as I could on religion, spirituality, philosophy, the paranormal and similar topics. I had previously given those sections of bookstores a wide berth, convinced that such topics were for those who needed a crutch to get through life. Now I made a beeline for them every time, choosing a title that took my fancy and devouring it in a few days.
As I read these books I began to change inside. For instance, I began to have vivid, symbolic dreams. In one I was a brown trout swimming in a stream, then leaping out of the water onto land, whereupon I turned into a brightly colored eagle, gorging on raw meat and radiating immense power. In another I was a beetle, marching along in clockwork fashion. A hand reached down and lifted me up, at which point I transformed into a multicolored bird of paradise.
More intriguingly, I began to get flashes of future events, coming in dreams or images. They warned me of significant events ahead, including extreme weather, people to watch out for and births or deaths. These events could be just around the corner or far into the future. An example of my precognitions is the dream with which I began this book. Here is another. I am looking at a patch of lawn which has been dug up and has flowers planted in it. A voice twice says the word ‘stroke’. Next day my wife’s uncle suffered a stroke, the first he had ever had, which proved fatal. The dream was obviously a warning of his death and the burial we would attend.
I realized that I was on some kind of spiritual journey, and as I read and experienced more that journey took me to a magical place, where my inner and outer lives merged into one. On Christmas Eve, 1998, I went to the library and borrowed The Road Less Travelled, M. Scott Peck’s famous call to psychological wholeness and spiritual growth. I had noticed it in bookstores for years, but initially had no interest in it. Then I would pick it up for a flick-through, promising myself I would read it one day. Then I saw the book in the library on Christmas Eve and knew that the time was right to read it. That’s how it works with books like that: you have to be ready to receive their wisdom.
That day I had also taped Frank Capra’s It’s A Wonderful Life!, about George Bailey, the do-gooder who is driven to the brink of suicide by his fellow townsman and nemesis, the avaricious Henry Potter. But Bailey is saved by an angel called Clarence, who jumps into the river while Bailey is thinking of throwing himself in, so that he will save Clarence from drowning. Afterwards Clarence shows Bailey how much more of a grip Potter would have had on the town if he hadn’t been born. I watched the film on Christmas night, wondering how I’d managed to miss such a treat before. The final scenes with Clarence took place during a snowstorm on Christmas Eve. Afterwards, I looked outside to see that, at 11:50 p.m. and with snow falling and lying, we had just managed a white Christmas ourselves.
I also read The Road Less Travelled over Christmas, finishing it around midday on 28 December. Then I remembered that my wife, Karen, had asked me to buy groceries, so I set off for a local supermarket. As I entered the shop, thinking over topics discussed in the book, I suddenly hit on an appealing metaphor for what is wrong with many people’s lives and how they can be changed for the better. If a light bulb blows and we are unaware of how it works, we might try creating our own light by burning things. We might burn our possessions, our furniture or even put our house to the torch, just to keep the light going. Of course we are throwing ever more valuable objects into the
flames. But all we really have to do is replace the light bulb, so that the electricity can flow and give us cheap light again. This is how many of us go through life. When the light goes out of our lives we might look to material success for security and fulfillment. We might seek out amusements and diversions. If we are really down we might turn to alcohol, drugs or crime. But these are all temporary fixes, which usually leave us worse off than beforehand and often lead us to exploit or harm others. For real security and fulfillment, all we have to do is reconnect to God, our divine electricity supply. The more I thought the metaphor through, the more apt it seemed to me.
Just then, as I walked along the aisles, buying my groceries and thinking the metaphor over, the strangest thing happened. A little old man stopped me and gesticulated at the light bulbs displayed where we stood, as if he wanted me to get him a pack. I initially got him a single bulb, but he refused it, pointing again at a pack of four bulbs on the top shelf, which I retrieved for him. Thinking nothing of it, I continued with my shopping. When I went to the checkouts to pay, I saw that there were long queues at every checkout except number four, where the little man stood, so I took my place behind him, putting my things down behind his light bulbs. Suddenly, it struck me how unlikely it was that I should be asked for light bulbs when a light bulb metaphor was on my mind. I wasn’t sure if it was anything more than coincidence, though.
At this point I noticed something even odder: the little man, who had a twinkle in his eye I will never forget, was dressed like Clarence in It’s A Wonderful Life!, the film I had taped four days before and watched for the first time on Christmas day. Spooked, I paid for my shopping and went home. Later I realized that the name of the shop, ‘Scotmid’, incorporated M. Scott Peck’s middle name and first initial. In later correspondence with Dr. Peck, he wrote that he collected light bulb jokes.
On 21 February, 1999, I finished Further along the Road Less Travelled (the sequel to The Road), exploring the issues of psychological health and spiritual growth in more depth. Afterwards, I made myself a slice of toast. However, in doing that I managed to set the grill on fire. The sound of the smoke alarm wakened my two young daughters, so I went to their room and settled them down. Then I switched off the bedroom light, so we could all see the phosphorescent stars and planets I had stuck to the ceiling. But at this point something strange happened: as I looked up at the ceiling, the bedroom light twice switched itself on and off. These were deliberate flashes, lasting about a second each, not flickers. I recalled the metaphor I had come up with after reading The Road, about turning to God for Light instead of burning things to create our own light, and came to the stunned realization that I might have just gotten a reminder of its message. I later tried to copy what I’d seen by wiggling the switch, but the light was either on or off.
With some trepidation I borrowed a third book by M. Scott Peck, People of the Lie, finishing it on 6 March, 1999. This is a penetrating study of human evil and how it might be scientifically recognized and overcome. Given the events following my completion of the other two books, I was aware of the possibility of another mysterious communication. I was not to be disappointed. Two light bulbs blew in the house as I was reading the book, so Karen asked me to buy some more. After I’d finished it I went to Scotmid to get them. In addition to the light bulbs I was to get a bottle of wine and a loaf of bread (requested by Karen). I was also going to a local takeaway for fish and chips (requested by my daughters).
Walking through the supermarket, I anxiously waited for something to happen, wondering how this would be possible when I was in a state of acute sensitivity about every action I was taking. I bought the light bulbs, bread and wine then went to the checkout. Then, as I emptied my basket of groceries, I noticed that, along with the light bulbs that connected the experiences, I had bought items with biblical associations: bread and wine. I also realized with a start that I was about to buy a third biblical food: fish. Bread and wine symbolize the body and blood of Christ, and the outline of a fish is an ancient Christian symbol. They are also linked with Jesus’ miracles. His first was turning water into wine (John 2.9). Others were the feeding of 5000 people with a few loaves and fishes (Matthew 14, Mark 6, Luke 9, John 6) and the miraculous catch of 153 fish (John 21.11).
As I was leaving the takeaway a man walked in, apparently on cue, and asked for a black pudding (blood sausage), then changed the order to a white pudding (sausage); black to white suggested evil to good. I asked Karen over dinner that evening what she thought were the three items of food or drink most associated with the Bible. ‘Bread, wine and fish,’ she answered, almost without hesitation.
A month later, Karen and I took an Easter break in St. Andrews in Scotland, during which I read most of In Search of Stones, a semi-autobiographical account of a trip Dr. Peck and his wife had made to the UK, where they toured around looking for standing stones. We returned from our own vacation on Easter Monday itself, which was 12 April, 1999. After unpacking, I read a little more of the book. This included a section describing their visit to the famous Callanish stones, situated on the Isle of Lewis, in the Outer Hebrides. The visit was memorable to him because of an incident involving his wife, Lily. As they drove to the stones, Lily announced that she needed to go to the
toilet. However, there was no toilet at Callanish and the toilets at the nearby Carloway Broch were shut, this being a Sunday and ‘the Sabbath’ still being observed fairly scrupulously on that remote island. The Pecks then had to drive fifteen miles before finding a toilet adjoining a small, isolated church.
Easter Monday was also my father’s birthday, so in the evening we visited my parents to drop off a present for him. My parents had also gone for an Easter break, in their case to the northwest of Scotland (although we had no idea precisely where they’d gone) and had returned on Easter Monday like us. As we walked in the door I asked my parents about their own vacation. To my utter astonishment they told us the following story. They had visited the Callanish stones the day before, which was Easter Sunday. While they were there my mother had needed to go to the toilet, but the facilities were locked so they had to drive fifteen miles before they found a toilet adjoining a small, remote church. This sequence of events was exactly the same as in the passage I had just read about the experience of the Pecks. My parents were also about the same age as the Pecks and had even stayed at the same hotel.
The correspondences between the experiences of the Pecks and my parents constituted the fourth and final message I was given: just as Lily Peck and my mother found ‘relief’ at a church, so we can find relief from life’s difficulties by turning to God. In fact, that’s essentially what all four messages were saying to me, and this unifying theme persuaded me they were real signs from above and not meaningless coincidences. This was something I needed to hear at that time, because my life was filled with conflict, both external and internal, and I felt a lot like George Bailey did before Clarence came to rescue him. But even as I stood in awe and gratitude before a God who was offering himself as my helper and guide, I marveled that he would go to such extraordinary lengths to arrange these events just for my private benefit.
I sensed how unusual my experiences were so I recorded every detail. As I did so, I couldn’t help noticing that the number four seemed to be an integral part of them. I was given four messages in a little over four months (these precisely covering the period from Christmas to Easter), ending in April, the fourth month, and involving four books by M. Scott Peck. The first message was given to me on the fourth-last day of the year and the little man had insisted on four light bulbs and stood at checkout four. The fourth message was also particularly marked with this number: four people were involved (my parents and the Pecks), and it took place four months, less four days, short of my fortieth birthday. The number four had to be important in some way.
I began to gather information on the number four and eventually came across the writings of E. W. Bullinger, an English biblical scholar and Anglican who lived in the 19th century. His classic work Number in Scripture, published on the internet, is a detailed examination of biblical numbers and their spiritual meanings.2 According to Bullinger, four is linked with God’s creations and so it is the number representing the world. For this it is perfectly suited, as for example there are four seasons, four points of the compass and four divisions of the day.
Because of the timings of the encounters I’d had, it occurred to me to count the number of days between them and also to marker dates such as the end of the millennium. When I did that I made a shocking, thrilling discovery. The subject of the third book I had read, People of the Lie, was human evil. Was it just an accident, then, that I finished it on 6 March, 1999, which was 666 days before the end of the second millennium? I had a feeling it wasn’t. 666 is of course the number of ‘the beast’, an appellation used in the Bible’s final, apocalyptic book. The beast is a creature or creatures appearing on the world stage during the end times, empowered by Satan, the fallen angel who opposes God’s plans and actively seeks our destruction. The number 666 and the fact that it related Peck’s book on human evil to the end of the millennium, an ‘end times’ marker date for many Christians, put a prophetic coloring on what I was beginning to see was a mysterious, multilayered communication, concerned with far more than one man’s private troubles.
Around this time I had another dream which affected me deeply. I am standing in a building watching the approach of a devastating whirlwind. A woman is calling my name, over and over. If the whirlwind strikes I may not survive, so I fervently hope it misses. But it heads straight for the building I am in and engulfs me. Another voice speaks, saying ‘Hurricane Vincent’. The name Vincent means ‘victorious’ and comes from the Latin root word vincere, meaning ‘to conquer’. In Christian tradition the wind is associated with the Holy Spirit, which ‘blows where it will’, influencing lives and events for its own purposes. I sensed the approach of that overwhelming force in my own life and wondered what was to become of me.