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After the Golden Age by Alvin Schwartz
Giving a glimpse into the formative years of comics and beyond.

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AFTER THE GOLDEN AGE for 04/02/2007
Vol. 2, #197

Consciousness Visiting (Part II)

Every box and package and product on that table seemed to reveal itself. Not just whether it was appealing or not, but in a much more rounded way. To whom it appealed and to whom it didn't and precisely why. I knew instantly who would be likely to buy the Betty Crocker stuff, who would prefer Duncan Hines, and what everyone was likely to think of the Pillsbury products.

In each instance, I recognized types, backgrounds, attitudes, value systems and preferences of the potential market for every product they showed me. It was something like clairvoyance but less judgmental and less personal. My reactions were as objective as a geneticist counting variations in strains of drosopilia. But I talked for two hours, seemed to have my listeners utterly entranced, and when I had finished I was offered a job as Study Director that almost doubled the money I had been making at the best of times.

So, what had happened? I use the term "consciousness visiting". In Unlikely Prophet, years later, I wrote about getting into the consciousness of an ostrich, of an old woman, and even a flock of flying birds -- not to mention the inner self of a solitary housefly. But it began back then in 1958, at the Center for Research in Marketing, and it's been with me, consciously, ever since.

Now I realize I have some explaining to do. No, I do not read minds. I invade no one's privacy, nor can I. But I can literally sense what it is to be that person or thing or event without in any way influencing it. To be more precise, if a friend tells me a long story about his visit to Africa with his physician father, way back during his childhood, the whole experience becomes alive to me. I am experiencing and seeing Africa exactly as it was experienced by my friend several decades back into his past. But oddly enough, I am not seeing my friend himself.

I am there, in Africa, just as he was there, but I am not inside his consciousness as he tells the story or as it unfolds. I am visiting his consciousness as it relives his African experience. Does that make it any clearer?

Perhaps I should first say a few things about consciousness itself. I have to explain how consciousness brings the so-called material world into being and then interlaces itself through everything and anybody. I know this but I'm not sure I can go much beyond that statement without virtually getting into a book on consciousness theory. Which, someday, I will.

But let me present it another way. Many years ago when I was in New York working on a Warner News TV series, I was sitting around with the whole cast on a lunch break and we were discussing foreign cities. The time, mid-fifties or thereabout, in discussing details with the actors about cities like Munich, for example, or even details almost never known to mere visitors about certain local customs in one of the wine-making regions of France, I suddenly realized, hey, these people probably think I've been to these places myself. So I explain to them, no, I was never there actually. Then how come you know so much about it, they ask. And then I have to explain that I'm picking it up from them in some immediate way, as though in their having been there, I have at that moment managed to pick up all the objective details of their experience without in any way sensing them in it personally. And I didn't really sense them in it personally, only what they were telling me about. But my mind and my imagination were than able to ratiocinate upon and expand their experience, enabling me to see elements in what they told me that they themselves didn't see. It was as though their experiences provided a window through which I could find elements in what they told me that they didn't see themselves and of which they remained steadfastly unaware. Sound strange? Well, not really. Think of it as their providing the window while their attention picked out certain features, and mine, based on my kind of interests, picked out something quite unique to myself in their experience.

Consider this for a moment. It may sound strange at first, but if you can accept well-established extra-sensory capacities such as remote viewing, you should be getting a glimmer of what I mean when I speak of consciousness visiting. It may not be the most perfect term, but it's the best I can come up with so far.

Now, as I started to say, I was, in effect, doing consciousness visiting during my strange interview at the Center. But it wasn't with the consciousness of people directly. It was the consciousness that had been built into those designs and packages by the people who had created them, perhaps out of long discussions and research efforts at the agencies where they worked. In short, I'd look at a package and read to whom its message was directed, either very clearly, in which case the package was "working," or, if I didn't get it, then I'd rule out the effectiveness of the package. But again, this was an exercise in "consciousness visiting." And I'm convinced today the reason I've been called by so many critics "the best Superman writer ever -- " is because even way back then, that faculty was working in me. In a purely imaginative way, I could become the main character well enough to see what he saw, think some of his thoughts, and feel the presence of some of his supercapacities. Only back then, I didn't know I was doing it. Nor do I believe that gift was exclusive to me. I think Don Cameron had it, and I'm sure it was present in Bill Finger even though it was sometimes colored over by certain specific elements of Bill's personal history.

As for myself, as my awareness grew of the nature of consciousness visiting, I found myself able to travel all across the world, in some of the most difficult places to reach -- always by means of personalities who had actually been there. And I also believe that through a combination of circumstances too detailed to set down in these columns, I was able to become acquainted with, influenced by and affected by the otherwise incongruous but no less real, Mr Thongden.

-- Alvin

<< 03/26/2007 | 04/02/2007 | 05/21/2007 >>

Discuss this column with me at my Round Table.

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