How to reach Enlightenment

#Religion

Tue, Mar 2nd, 2004 03:00 by Brian Newman ARTICLE

It is not everyday you meet an 'Enlightenment Being'. When you do, it is often on the street, where he--it always seems to be a he--is handing out literature, sharing his secret path. The secret always seems to be for a fee, a fact that only gets mentioned later. Usually a large fee. Although Enlightenment would certainly be worth it, don't you think? Somehow Enlightenment 'on sale', offered at a discount doesn't quite seem worth it.

This account is true. This sales pitch did indeed have a price, although not in dollars and cents. Picture a busy downtown street corner. Busy people quickly moving towards where ever they are going. With one guy standing and handing out literature. He seems ordinary and you take one. You give it a quick look. And you stop dead in your tracks.

The literature is three photocopied pages, each of a poorly typed letter. All three are letters, two of which start off "To Whom It May Concern." They are statements of his discovery of the way to "Heaven," an "altered state of mind" of the truly enlightened. The longer letter gives a longer history. The author is an electronic technician, gainfully employed by a high tech firm. He lives a comfortable, fun existence. His past, however, was rocky. He admits to the use, and sale, of illicit drugs. Eventually he found himself penniless and hungry, and checked himself into a Psychiatric Hospital.

He was in and out of such places for the next several years. "Finally," he writes, "I castrated myself." In hospital again, he was injected intramuscularly with scopolamine, 1/75 grams in each arm for ten days. After a period of six weeks--or several months, according to the other letter--he found Paradise. His letters ask that this be "investigated" as he "feel[s] very much alone with what I feel to be an important discovery."

And he notes: "This process in no way detracts from a healthy sex life!" The third letter agrees with the first two, with one contradiction. The first author is no longer "alone." He has a convert! That letter, with a different signature, and an address across the country, shares the same "astounding discovery." He is "coherent, energetic and entirely at peace." He "wants to share my discovery with the world" and he is "not psychotic." He just can't spell or type well.

Again, castration and scopolamine (misspelled). He warns not to take any tranquilizer in the six week waiting period. He assures all that he is not a liar, not crazy, and that this is not a crank letter. I am no expert in the field, but it has always occurred to me, as I look over these letters, that the type looks the same. Not that I'm accusing anybody of anything. And I would hate to deprive any Enlightened Being of any convert.

That should end the story. And maybe it does, and I'm mistaken. But many years later the daily newspaper had a bizarre account of an unfortunate incident. As I shook my head at the story, it popped into my mind that I had seen that name, somewhere before. I didn't save the paper, and it took me several months to make the connection. It took me until the time I came across those three photocopied accounts of enlightenment. The chap named in the newspaper story was the same name signed to two of those letters. Times, it seemed, had turned tough in the recruitment for Paradise business. The newspaper story was plainspoken. Two fellows were having a discussion at a rooming house. One was drinking. Heavily, the newspaper recorded. He passed out. When he awoke his pants were down, and the other had a knife. An 'attempted castration' was in progress.

The newspaper did not report the success of the operation. It did state the name I recognized, the name signed below to of the letters given away in the distant past on that downtown street corner.

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