The Day I Lost My Bigotry

Raised in the 50’s with a southern heritage, I was inculcated with a racist bias.  My grandparents were the grandchildren of slave owners and nigger was just a descriptive like Chinese, Indian or Italian.  My grandpa Underwood called them “neegras,” and their babies were “pickaninnies.”

I remember, in Oklahoma, the separate bathrooms and water fountains marked “colored.” I grew up with the feeling that black cooties were worse than white ones.  You didn’t want to touch anything that a black person had touched; and, you sure didn’t want to eat with the same utensils.

Thankfully, over the years, I have managed to break the molds that formed me.  Over the years, there had been a natural erosion of my racism. I can’t credit that to any specific cause; so, I’ll just say it was due to an innate sense of human equality.  I believed that a lot of who we are is environmental; and, it was easy to see that the black community lived in a completely different environment.

However, in a single day, the racist mold was smashed and ground to dust by a singular event.  And, that’s the story I want to tell you about.

The chain of events that led to my Eureka moment began with a biography of the Dutch Psychic, Peter Hurkos.  I found it lying on my nightstand one night and asked my wife, “What’s this?”

“It’s a book a friend wants me to return to another friend,” she replied.

I picked it up and began reading it.  I found it interesting; maybe even fascinating.  As a Christian, I had never let my mind explore the paranormal.  It was just not compatible with the Christian world view.

Several times in the the book the author referred to another famous psychic, though I had never heard of him, named Edgar Cayce.

I finished the book and it was returned to its owner.

I have always read; but, seldom do I read fiction.  I prefer non-fiction and have read on a wide range of topics.  It was my habit – back when reading meant books or magazines, before the electronic revolution – to walk the aisles of the book store just waiting for something to pop out and catch my attention.  I was doing that barely a week after reading the Herkos biography when a book didn’t just pop out it jumped off the shelf and fell at my feet.  The author was Jess Stearn.  The title was Edgar Cayce – The Sleeping Prophet.

Of course, I bought it; and, I was fascinated by the life of a man Wikipedia describes as a Christian Mystic.  Save me some typing and click here Edgar Cayce to read more about him.

They called him the “Sleeping Prophet” because he was in a self induced trance state when he did his “readings.”  As his career progressed, he began to give “past-life” readings. This fact at first troubled Cayce because of his Christian faith – which of course only recognizes one life and then the judgment.

He was able to reconcile the two by studying his Bible which he reportedly read through in its entirety once every year of his life.  He found verses that strongly suggested that Jesus and his disciples believed in a pre-existing life.

Whether Edgar Cayce’s health readings were efficacious, or whether or not he was actually able to read the “Akashik record” and report on a person’s past life, is not the point.  So don’t get hung up on that.  Keep reading.

I was mulling over what I had read, like I do whenever I’ve found new food for thought, ideas that challenge my current paradigm, when one more seeming coincidence occurred.  I saw a poster in a store front window that read:  PAST LIFE READINGS – Wichita School of Metaphysics.

It gave an address on East Douglas and a time of 3:00 pm the following Sunday.  I was shocked.  I had been bemoaning the fact that Cayce had died the year before I was born so there was no way I could have a health reading, or more importantly a past life reading.  Who wouldn’t want to know who they had been in a previous life?  Most people, of course, were then, just as now, common ordinary nobodies.  But, just the same…

Now, maybe I had a chance.  At least, it looked like the same kind of thing Cayce had done.  I determined to be there and check it out.  Admission was free; and, nothing was said about a reservation.

On the following Sunday at three o’clock, I rang the bell to the old Victorian house on East Douglas. It was the kind with the wide steps leading to a full width porch and three stories tall.  There are rows of them in that part of Wichita and, at the time, they were pretty run down.

A woman answered the door and ushered me in placing her finger to her lips in the universal gesture that means be quiet.  She pointed to an overstuffed chair, one of a large eclectic assortment of chairs and couches encircling a very large living room.  Although I was punctually on time, the session had begun.

Around a dozen people were sitting quietly, their attention focused on a petite blonde woman sitting cross-legged on a long couch situated across the front window.  She was taking long deep breathes and her eyes seemed to be fluttering, with an occasional hint of white, but no pupils.  I imagined they were rolled back.

Once she had entered the proper state of trance, another woman with a clipboard in her hand (I’ll refer to as the director) began to talk to the blonde (I’ll refer to as the reader) and the session began with health readings.

I found the verbiage used by the director to be strange, but succinct.  “You will search for the essence of the entity known as _____ and report on any health issues you find.”

The reader would take a long breath, seem to be looking at something, eyes darting back and forth beneath her eyelids and then begin talking rapidly in a monotone voice without the normal hesitations of ordinary speaking.

I found it strange that the reader used the first person plural – “We see this one blah blah blah…”

After a few health readings, which were of course impossible for anyone to evaluate except maybe the person for whom the readings were intended, the director said, “You will now proceed to the fourth level of consciousness and prepare for past life readings.” Maybe it was the fourth, maybe the fifth… it was a deeper level of trance.

Here is where it got interesting… but, more for me than for anyone else in the room.

The first past life reading, in fact I think the only one of the day, was for young black teenage boy, whose mother was with him.  The director, reading from her clipboard, said to the reader, “You will search for the essence of the entity known as (I have no recollection of the kids name, so let’s call him…) Charles Jackson, and report on a significant past incarnation.”

The reader’s eyes began to move rapidly back and forth, as though viewing or searching something.  Her eyes were closed; but, one could see the bulge of her pupils through the eyelids.  Then suddenly she began, “We see this one in the land known as Virginia in the early 1800’s.  This one is a farmer involved in agriculture… this one… this one… this one.  Frankly, the details were lost to me as soon as she said them.  I guess that was because nothing about this life as a farmer at the turn of the 19th century in Virginia was memorable.  The memorable part was about to hit me like a ton of WTF!

The reader stopped as suddenly as she had begun.  The director turned to the black kid and asked, “Do you have any questions?”

As he paused, pondering, I was wondering what could he possibly ask when abruptly he said “Yeah.  What was my name?”  Good question.

The director turned to the reader and asked the question.  The reader replied, “This one was known as Robert Michael Land.  I felt my heart jump… the kind of jump when a totally unexpected surprise smacks you in the brain.  Why?  First of all, because it is damned nearly my name – Rodney Michael Land.

Nobody in that house new my name.  No one knew I was coming; and, there had not been time for any introductions.  How many surnames are their in the world?  How many given names?  What are the statistical odds that, with the exception of four letters, my three names would be uttered?  I’ll tell you.  Incalculable!

I also thought it extremely unlikely that anyone, even if they had known my name, would have been aware that the Lands would be found in Virginia in the early 1800’s.  My own great-grandfather, Nicholas Rufus Land, was born in Virginia in 1809, and I had seen the 1810 census with my own eyes while researching my family’s genealogy – there were lots of Lands.

For you who believe in coincidences this qualifies as a MEGA-coincidence.  I don’t believe in coincidences.  If you do… fine.  We’re all entitled to our beliefs, and of course there is no way to prove that a book would find it’s way to my nightstand, that would lead me to recognize a book that falls mysteriously off of a bookstore shelf, that lead me to a psychic reading at which my name is pulled out of thin air by total strangers – is anything but a coincidence.  So I’ll leave it to you, the reader, to draw your own conclusion.

Whether coincidence or providence one thing is not debatable – the profound impact that moment had on my spiritual views.

Two profound paradigm changing thoughts occurred to me as I left that house, my mind still processing the import of what I’d experienced.  The first – this black kid, if reincarnation be true, and he was a Land in early Virginia in a past life, could be a reincarnated branch from my own family tree.  In fact, he would have been, since all of the Lands in Virginia were descended from the original immigrant John Land.

The second realization was that, given the above, he was a reincarnated slave owner.  It is almost a certainty that any Virginia farmer from the early 19th century owned at least one slave.  As surely as a modern farmer owns a tractor.

How bigoted can a person be if they truly believe we all have familial roots that run throughout human history? If they believe, not in an abstract we’re-all-members-of-the-same-species way, but in a way that anyone you meet, regardless of their current culture or race could be a progenitor of yours?

Would we not be more careful about hanging a black person if we knew we might one day feel the bite of a rope around our own dark skinned neck?

Believing we are exceptional and forgiven of our sins because we believe in a Bible story does not make this world a better place.  America is living proof of that fact.

The world would change for the better if we believed that we might one day, in a future life, be black… or yellow, or red, or Hindu, Muslim, or… yes… even gay.

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