Thursday, October 18, 2012

Goldenshadow: A Guest Post from Stephen T. McCarthy

A Stephen T. McCarthy vacation memory
         I've had to step back from my blogs for a couple of weeks due to an illness in my family.   My dear cyber-friend and blogging mentor Stephen T. McCarthy is stepping in to help me.  The following is excerpted from a post on his Stuffs blog.  You can also find Stephen at his currently active Ferret-Faced Fascist Friends.

The Set-Up

In the preface to ‘Surprised By Joy’ C.S. Lewis writes this:

How far the story matters to anyone but myself depends on the degree to which others have experienced what I call “joy.” If it is at all common, a more detailed treatment of it than has (I believe) been attempted before may be of some use. I have been emboldened to write of it because I notice that a man seldom mentions what he had supposed to be his most idiosyncratic sensations without receiving from at least one (often more) of those present the reply, “What! Have you felt that too? I always thought I was the only one.”

And later in the book, along the same lines, Lewis writes:

Nothing, I suspect, is more astonishing in any man’s life than the discovery that there do exist people very, very like himself.

I had assumed that by the word “Joy” in the book’s title, C.S. Lewis meant something like “glee”, which is what the word “joy” has always implied to me. And I didn’t know what he was referring to with that allusion to some sensation that might engender a response such as“Have you felt that too? I always thought I was the only one.” But I didn’t have long to wait in finding out. And never in a million years would I have guessed that by “Joy” C.S. Lewis meant what I have always meant when I used the word “Goldenshadow” – a word I had invented to describe a feeling that I always assumed I was the only one to experience, and thus a new word was needed!

The "Goldenshadow" Concept

I considered “Goldenshadow” to be my secret weapon as an artist; it was that one totally indefinable “feeling” that enveloped my life and ran through it going back to my earliest memories. It was a special gift from God. I could use it in my art and in my life. When Warren Zevon sang one of the greatest lines ever committed to song, “There’s a sadness in the heart of things”, I got it! I totally got it and I figured that nobody else did. Certainly I never saw where anyone else ever pointed out what a perceptive, accurate and fabulous line that was. Frankly, I even kind of doubted that Warren Zevon, who wrote the line, really fully understood it. But in one simple yet brilliant sentence, he had captured “Goldenshadow”.

Goldenshadow was my own utterly unique “thing” – a state of mind, a prevailing feeling of the soul that I had and yet no one knew I had it because I wasn’t telling; I wasn’t even going to attempt the impossible and try to explain it to anyone. And no one could ever really understand it anyway because I alone possessed it. Or so I thought.

Shortly after reading ‘Surprised By Joy’ and being shocked to learn that Lewis knew my Goldenshadow (even if he referred to it as “Joy”) I described Goldenshadow to my Brother and Sister and was again surprised to learn that they also knew what I was referring to. So much for my having a “unique gift”, eh?

I had now come to realize that those fleeting feelings of “Joy” or “Goldenshadow” are probably a nearly universal human experience. In fact, my brother Nappy even recognized that Warren Zevon’s line“There’s a sadness in the heart of things” was an excellent description of Goldenshadow, and my Sister said that - as with me - Goldenshadow is sometimes induced in her by certain songs, although the songs that worked on her were different from those that work on me.


In my waking life I have experienced Goldenshadow many times. But undoubtedly the two most powerful encounters I’ve ever had with it took place in the sleep state. Some of you might mistake these experiences for simple “dreams” but I can assure you they were no mere dreams. These were remarkable spiritual experiences.

In one of them, I found myself as an adult back in my paternal Grandmother’s Orange County Mobile Home, where we used to go to spend Christmas Days with her when I was a child. But it didn’t really look like her mobile home did in reality. For one thing, it was considerably larger and most everything was a deep, rich green or glowing gold color. The old-fashioned beauty of it and the longing it created in me to “go back” to those good old days was so strong that it sort of hurt me. It was a mixture of glee and pain – overwhelming! I had that dream many years ago and yet I still sort of feel the emotion it induced in me even as I type this now.

[However, the “good old days” of my Grandmother’s mobile home which I was longing for was merely a symbol for something else. The real “Good Old Days” that this dream was pointing back at took place in a spiritual Kingdom long, long ago.]

The other Goldenshadow “dream” I had was even more powerful. The next morning I wrote about it in the Spiritual Journal I used to keep. Here is a word-for-word copy of my journal entry:

Feb. 4, 1998
I HAD A REMARKABLE DREAM LAST NIGHT; LIKE NONE I HAVE EVER HAD BEFORE! I found myself in a fairly nondescript setting; there were a number of trees in view, and they were, perhaps, lining a dirt path – that’s all this place consisted of – the location for this dream seemed irrelevant. It was my very favorite time of the day, when the sun is finishing its descent toward the horizon, when patchy spots of golden light are contrasted by long shadows stretching toward the east… the last of the day [Note: the “Autumn” time of day], when the world begins to settle into the stillness of evening.

I was admiring the light and shadows in the foilage of the trees when I became absolutely OVERWHELMED BY AN INDESCRIBABLE SENSE OF WELL-BEING! It was as if I had become a part of the serenity around me, and rather than beholding beauty, I HAD BECOME BEAUTY! And instead of inhaling air, it seemd that I was breathing the light and shadows I had been admiring, and had become dusk itself. I was filled with unfathomable peace, although “peace” is really not the right word for it – I was wonderfilled (yes, a slightly better description) and I felt far better than it is possible for a mortal mind to even imagine! I felt so great that it quite literally took my breath away, and I found myself gasping between exclamations of, “OH!...OH!...OH!”

Indeed, I felt so good that weeping seemed to be the only natural and reasonable response, and an act of inexpressable gratitude. Soon I began to experience a pervasive melancholy because there was nobody else present to share this with. It was truly too good for just one person to have, and all that was lacking in this perfect state of being was others. I, one of the great loners, suddenly found that I desperately wanted to have people around me to share this feeling with, and so a deep sadness was mixed with the euphoria.

I thought to myself: I’ll have to remember how this feels so I can tell others about it. But then instantly I realized that this would not be possible, and I answered: No, it’s no use. I’ll never be able to tell ANYONE about this because there aren’t any words that can describe it. This feeling can’t be translated in words!!! And this saddened me further. Soon after, the dream ended.

I have had many unexplainable spiritual experiences in my life, but to this day, I consider that the most powerful one of them all. If, by my description above, you believe you have gotten some glimpse of how I felt in that dream, think again! Because even I, who had the dream, can’t really recreate in me what that felt like. It was something “given” to me but which I couldn’t hold on to and keep and which I can’t truly remember in any worthy way. I can only say that my mortal consciousness was overcome by wonder and Love. And that’s an utterly failed attempt to use words to describe the indescribable.

         Thank you, Stephen, for allowing me to repost this excerpt.  For those of you who wish to read the complete haunting and beautifully written blog post you can find it HERE.   

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Thursday, October 11, 2012

Heavenly Dreams

English: Heaven above...
English: Heaven above... (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
           Recently I had the following dream:

My wife and I are standing at the end of a procession of many people.  I cannot describe the grouping as an orderly line, but merely a large number of people who are proceeding toward a very large gateway.   We seem to be at a high altitude as though on top of a mountain or in the clouds.  We are waiting to be admitted entrance to the gate.  It becomes apparent to me that we are about to enter the gates of heaven.  We have a sense of peace and joy.

Beside us I notice that we are accompanied by a beautiful young girl who appears to be about 10 to 12 years of age.  She has short dark hair and a pure cherubic face that has sparkles as though she has sparkly freckles.  She smiles.  I know that she is an angel.

        In the morning I relate this dream to my wife.  She often has similarly spiritual dreams and is always happy when she has one.  She always tells me about these dreams.  She is thrilled when I tell her my dream and comments that it is a very good dream.   The following morning she asks me to tell her the dream again.

        Have you ever had a dream about heaven or something of a spiritual nature?   How did the dream make you feel?   Do you think dreams like this have any special significance?   

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Thursday, October 4, 2012

Dream Drug Withdrawal

English: Pineal Gland and Pituitary Body Locat...
English: Pineal Gland and Pituitary Body Location inside the Brain (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
         The previous two posts have dealt with disoriented awakenings and witnessing the confused awakening of another.  A dreamer often awakens into a dazed state of mind that takes a while to transition into a state of coherence, and even then the influence of the dream state may linger or even profoundly affect us for some period of time.

         This particular confused state could be attributed to various mental or even spiritual factors.   One might feel regret in leaving a dream that is beautiful or pleasant in some way and wish to cling to that dream experience.   In other cases, the dreaming may have been so vivid as to convincing the dreamer that it has all been very real--the awakening is the juncture of two ambiguous reality possibilities that must be sorted out before continuing into complete consciousness.  And there could be many other scenarios that could come into play.

          My conjecture in this current blog installment is that the dazed and confused state of the awakening dreamer's mind is due to a sort of dream drug withdrawal.  Dreaming may be a way of becoming naturally high.   This waking and feeling groggy and  disoriented may be much the same as one feels after heavy drinking or using certain mind altering drugs.  Are we "drugged" by our dreams?

         Since I am not a doctor, nor one who has done research in this field, nor any kind of expert in this field of oneirology (the scientific study of dreams), I can only base my reflections here on what I have read or heard from those who are acknowledged as experts.  I also make my own suppositions based on personal observations.  I offer these caveats so as not to mislead anyone in what I present here.

         According to some research the brain and body produces a strong psychedelic substance called dimethyltryptamine (DMT).  A release of this substance during sleep may be responsible for dream activity.  DMT is a naturally occurring substance throughout the plant and animal kingdom and research about its effects are ongoing.

          The Pineal gland produces Melatonin and Seratonin, which are two drugs that have been determined to be vital for sleep and apparently highly influential to dreaming.  In all, the brain seems be responsible for the production of as many as fifty drugs with many of those influencing dreaming.

           With all of these drugs in our system is it any wonder that we might wake up from a dream in a dazed and confused state?  Studies have indicated that an imbalance of any of these drugs can lead to mental illness, sleep disorders, and other malfunctioning of the mind and body.  Factors such as diet, physical exercise, mental stretching, and healthy surroundings can all play a role in proper balance of chemicals produced in the brain.

             Do you think the drugs of the brain play a role in muddling our thinking upon waking?   Have you taken any supplements or received treatment for an imbalance of any brain chemicals?   Have you ever experienced the use of a natural substance such as DMT administered other than from your own brain?

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