Monday, December 05, 2005

A World Beyond

A World Beyond

By Dean Fagerstrom

Chapter 1

One could say of the title that it might read A World Beyond The One We Call Our Own, for in fact this is what this book seeks to express from the ex-periences of childhood to the present time.

A common supposition would suggest that a religious experience is involved in what follows, and yet this book is religious only in the generic sense; the essential element is that of spirituality and the reality which only such a word may imply.
From a very early age I experienced many unusual events and encounters, and in later years I realized that such things were met with a kind of equanimity which can only be said to be ‘usual’, and therefore I never considered such highly unusual experiences as being out-of-the-ordinary since I had adopted these things as a way of life and not as anything unique much less controversial, the latter consequences much later confronted.

Being born and raised in a devoutly religious family environment it might be assumed that anything of an unearthly nature would be welcome and shared with a mutual understanding and appreciation, but this was not the case. By the time I was enrolled in a theological seminary at the age of nineteen I had begun to realize just how little a world of reality beyond my own unreal world really meant. Subsequent experiences during this college-era finally drove me away from organized religious practice and launched me on the lonely pathway of spiritual pursuit. While this may well be the story of many individuals who have become disenchanted with ritualistic religion my later purpose became one of trying to understand why I was so different of disposition, if indeed I was. Thereafter the spiritual pathway I chose became not only self-analysis but also a means of becoming more compassionate of understanding toward those who had once been friends but had become strangers through no apparent reason.

When I was three-and-a-half years of age I lay bed-ridden for the only time in my sixty-nine years. The event of that long-ago time was the worst case of chicken pox the attending doctor said he’d ever witnessed. My entire body was covered with open sores. An aunt, acting as nurse, had to change the bed-sheets daily even as I cried out in pain when the sores clung to the sheets even though I was covered with powder. I was spoon-fed a much-despised cod-liver oil each day, and once the doctor stood at the foot of the bed talking with my aunt and my father, saying that in all of Oregon medical history he had never seen such a severe case of chicken-pox. There was also a rather apprehensive prognosis that I would be badly scarred for life. There is not a single pock-mark on my body.

It was during this bed-ridden time that my first unusual experience occurred. It was common knowledge that at times I lay in a semi-comatose state during the several weeks of this illness. Someone has asked: “Well, if your memory of such things is so acute then tell me what you had for breakfast in the summer of 1935?” My answer is: “If you care to listen I can give you the details.” My Swedish aunt would usually serve me break fast as I lay virtually helpless in bed with a tray across my chest. One morning she asked what I would like for breakfast, and I said watermelon. She scoffed at the idea, saying no one as sick as I was ought to be eating watermelon. But when she left the room to fetch my usual poached eggs and toast my father, having overheard his older sister’s remark, said “Don’t worry, Dean I’ll bring you your watermelon when no one’s around.” Somehow I left my room on one of those brilliant summer mornings and flew right out the window. I wasn’t asleep or dreaming because I was hovering over a beautiful field of flowers. Some were growing atop a stem as high as hollyhocks, or sunflowers, but the flowers seen were of an unusual hue. Some were vividly purple and shaped like butterfly wings, but when they turned in the slight breeze there were other colors visible, intense greens and orange, some pale blue and red. I found myself gliding over these tall rows of flowers with a peculiar sense of non- chalance, not deeming the experience extraordinary but rather a beautiful kind of excursion. By having said ‘nonchalant’ is not meant indifference but rather lacking in any specific desire to probe the adventure more fully. One may right—fully assume that a child of three-and-a-half might not entertain philosophical connotations at such a sight, or one may suppose that this event and many others of similar nature had become an extension of a child’s rather encrypted life, one of dosing and waking, of pain and strange consternation with such a state of life. But the ‘flight’ and the scene of the tall flowers were real and belonged to a world beyond.