The Out-of-the-Body Conference


In 1981, working in New York City with a small group of forward-looking people, I devised a conference in which those wishing to participate--and it was by no means limited to the 200 people specifically invited--might gather together in an out-of-the-body state to co-visualize future alternatives.

We had great fun choosing and then winnowing down to the 200 we had already decided would be those formally invited and then designing the large invitation. Pre-internet, we researched all the addresses of the people we felt would be most intrigued and likely to pass on the idea to others and risking their ire at being included in such an odd conference, decided to send out the invitations cold. We also decided to do it anonymously so that no one of the 200 people included would know which of their number was behind the project.

Using the Queens Chamber in the Great Pyramid of Cheops at Giza as a focus we encouraged the participants to meditate for as long as they felt necessary and within a particular timeframe of 12 hours.

My companion and I had the opportunity to be at the Great Pyramid over the period of the conference. It was heavily guarded on the night of October 12th. -- Anwar Sadat (coincidentally an invitee) had been assassinated a couple of days earlier -- so we were stopped by a military barrier and soldiers with guns drawn as we attempted to climb the road up to the base of the pyramid.

I asked to speak to the senior officer who popped out of his shed to tell me in remarkably polished English that “reasonable people would not go up there tonight.”

“But we are not reasonable people,” I explained with as much authority as I could summon.
“Ah! In that case...” and he ordered his men to let us through.

An enormous full moon lit the pyramid with a sheen of white light. It soared over us, improbably large, as we climbed the curving road. We found ourselves, perhaps stimulated by our encounter with the soldiers, talking animatedly about the roots of violence and whether, as a planetary population we would ever be able to bleed off the contentiousness that seems to be such an aspect of our collective natures.

As we reached the broad stone platform on which the pyramid sat our conversation had taken a turn for the worse and we became locked into the most furious row. Contentiousness, indeed! And on this special night too!

I had already spent a few hours in meditation, carefully greeting each attendee in an out-of-the-body state in the Queen’s Chamber, so I felt that I had accomplished what I had felt I was here to do. And yet, here we were, fighting bitterly amongst ourselves in this surreal situation. It made no sense.

Finally, as dawn lit up the smokey sky over Cairo way off in the distance, we were both struck at the same time by the utter madness of what we’d been engaged in. Of course! It really was very simple. It had been laid out before us with absurd clarity. One of the principle roots of violence had to be the constant clash between men and women. The message was painful but obvious; get that relationship under control, learn to love and nurture that which is most unlike the self and the need for aggression tends to dissipate. No complete answer, of course, but a profound lesson for the two of us.

So, whatever else the conference achieved, it certainly afforded both of us an insight into a practical way to approach what has seemed an almost knee-jerk reaction towards choosing violence as a way of solving our problems. In a very personal way, if we could reconcile and make peace between us, then it was indeed possible for anyone to do it.

Now, almost 25 years later, violence seems to have taken a much more personal turn. Terrorism brings its violence into the cities and homes of America in the way that a distant war can never do. We are being forced, in the Western world, to confront our own violence and the fruits of our collective aggression. Our fears and our reactivity can rise to the surface of our awareness to be examined and released.

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