October, 1973: The world in Washington was as tense as ever.
In July President Nixon had refused to turn over the secret White House tapes recorded in the Oval Office. Egypt had started a war with Israel joined by Syria’s Hafez al-Assad and King Faisal of Saudi Arabia who’d only offered money as support.
There was the threat of an oil embargo and trade boycott and the European nations stopped supplying Israel with munitions so Nixon organized an airlift of munitions to Israel called Operation Nickel Grass. And at home, because of charges of income tax evasion to which he pleaded no contest, Vice President Spiro Agnew resigned the Vice Presidency!
No more of his insults aimed at the media; the media that was critical of the administration and that he said was simply liberally and one sidedly biased!
People were beginning to think that the events of 1973 alone were enough for a decade!
Meanwhile, I was still working like mad and occasionally having to take time out to meet with an art director for another job or to discuss a change in an advertising campaign.
There was always something interesting whenever I had to go out.
Like this man on the subway who was holding a clarinet. Was he going to play it on the subway car or was he going to a station to play it — or was he just a man on the subway holding a clarinet?
There were always interesting things but seldom answers to things that were ambiguous or curious!
And was he with the woman speaking french and was she talking to him?
I changed seats to try to get a better look. But why did I even care? I never knew if something more interesting might happen. Nothing did.
The next week, life got a little bit more glamorous when Claire Burns invited me to a dinner party in Murray Hill.
The party was held at the home of a relative of Claire’s. Decades later, after I’d moved back to Los Angeles I learned that our host was an old friend of a very close older friend of mine who had lived in the East during the 1950s. Unfortunately, anyone with whom I could share this coincidence is no longer living so I have nobody with whom I can talk about this small world occurrence — nobody who knows each of the principal people that is.
My friend, Penelope Bianchi always says: “It’s still a big world — but there’s a small beach on which we all appear to have landed!”
It makes sense to me.
Earlier in the year, David Columbia (DPC) called me from Connecticut where he was now living. He had taken a remarkable course in a version of meditation that went much further than merely meditating,
He told me that it had been recommended to him by Eric Preminger, son of Otto P. and Gypsy Rose Lee. Eric had taken it and found it to be somewhat life changing and after taking it David had felt the same way!
He encouraged me to sign up for it too and even said that if I didn’t want to pay the $400 for it, he would even pay for it! He felt it was that important!
I did take it — even paid for it. And it’s true! It was a life-changer!
It was called Silva Mind Control at the time, but the name has been changed — possibly because of a bad connotation with the term, Mind Control!
It’s now called simply The Silva Method.
I’m not a joiner but I was impressed when I learned that it was being taught by the famous photographer, Wingate Paine. Aside from being a member of a distinguished family going back to the Mayflower, he was one of the best commercial photographers in Manhattan often classed with Irving Penn and Richard Avedon!
He’d also done a book with Francoise Sagan and Federico Fellini — rather rarified collaborators!
The idea that he was teaching a class in self-help meditation gave Mind Control a lot of credibility in my book!
And the class was everything I’d heard about it — and even for me, more!
Wingate was cool and not effusively charming and started the class with visualization exercises. I was having trouble understanding and mentioned it to him. It turned out that he was merely explaining something that was so natural to me that I found it impossible to believe that not everyone was able to do it!
From that we went into self-hypnosis exercises which I also disbelieved until I found myself doing it.
Clearly, there was something to this.
It was a three-day course and we learned to work out of an internally visualized virtual laboratory and have virtual spiritual guides with whom we worked on personal projects!
In meditating, my internal visualized virtual laboratory turned out to be a supremely dreary affair — much like what I imagine the interior of a circular sort of army surplus Quonset hut might be with a bare dusty light bulb coming out of a dull gray-colored Formica curved ceiling with cheap aluminum supports. The work desk was something that might have been left for the trash collector and even the chair was an old pale unpainted wooden roll-away office chair that might have seen better days on top of which was an inadequately filled, thin patchwork pillow!
As other class members described black mirrored basalt chambers on dramatic cliffs overlooking a picturesque sea or similarly thrillingly marvelous spaces, I was left wondering why mine was so low-rent!
Finally I realized that if I had a wondrous virtual environment I’d never be able to properly work on my projects. I’d be too busy admiring the scenery!
And after we had shared the description of our laboratories we told — if we wanted to — who our virtual spiritual guides were. Some had famous movie stars! I remember one person had Clark Gable and Elizabeth Taylor!
However, my psychic virtual spiritual guides — the ones who were always there and supportive — surprised me (but just a little). They turned out to be my own mother and father!
They’d always been supportive without being virtual!
The stunning finale on the third day of the class was pairing off with a partner who each gave us a very tiny bit of information about a particular “subject “ who was going through a health crisis.
They had to know the truth of the subject they were submitting.
With no actual description, while meditating trance-like we were encouraged to scan the physical body of the internally visualized subject and diagnose what the physical ailment was!
Crazy New Age stuff! No?
So I was surprised when I diagnosed an older man who had had a heart transplant but had now developed terminal lung cancer.
And he was really depressed and pissed!
We were encouraged to visualize treating the problem in any way that we felt had psychic power. It might have been chewing gum to treat a broken bone or peanut butter visually smeared on an ulcer! In fact I came out of my meditation with tears in my eyes feeling the subject’s depression and sadness!
The shocking part was learning from my partner that I’d hit the mark exactly! She knew the man and his prognosis!
Wingate said that physical things were real while awake and that non-physical things were just as psychically real when we were in a Rapid Eye Movement dream state! We’d learned in meditation to reach the REM Alpha state — the dream state — but unlike a sleeping dream, this semi-waking meditative dream being able to be guided by us!
Wingate had, with a wink, told us that hypnosis was too quick and Eastern-style mantra meditation was too slow, but using an adaptation of both was more effective in our modern Western world.
I believed him and had just experienced the truth of it!
Most people in the class had the same experience I’d had. In fact one woman was so shocked that she involuntarily wet herself!
One of the best things about going to the class was meeting and becoming a friend of a fascinating older woman named Carly Billings!
She had been named Caroline when she was born (in Los Angeles) but was unable to say it as she was learning to talk. She kept calling herself “Carly” and so it remained. Carly she was!
She was very close to Dick Simon (of Simon & Schuster) and his wife and when their daughter was born they named her after Carly. She is Carly Simon! I don’t remember if Carly Billings was her godmother or not; but if not, she was as close to it as you can get!