I just came across this wonderful article, “Isis Speaks”, by Isis Coble (above).
Isis, also known as Meerkat or TarotMama, is an inuitive/psychic counsellor who does online tarot readings via her tarotmama.com website.
The article was published in Sojourn magazine (Vol 2, Issue 2), in 1998. Sojourn was a magazine for spiritually-minded women writers and artists based in Northern California. In the article—described as an “interview” although there are no questions—Isis tells her life story. The bit I want to relay is about Isis’s first encounter with an Enlightenment Intensive in the ealy 1970s.
For those who don’t know, an Enlightenment Intensive is a 3-day process which is something like a cross between a Zen meditation retreat and a personal growth workshop. Periods of silent meditation alternate with forty-minutes exercises in which you sit facing a partner and take turns to “meditate out loud”. Each person has a question to contemplate. If your question is “Who am I?”, your partner will say, “Tell me who you are.” You then go inside and meditate on that, and then say whatever comes up as a result—be it a thought, a memory, a mental image, or a sensation in your body. What you are seeking is not just a verbal answer, though, but a direct experience of truth itself, your very being. The Intensive also includes walking meditation, working meditation, and some silent sitting meditation. People can and do have enlightenment experiences very quickly through this process.
Here is the excerpt. Note that the Intensive which Isis was on was in the UK and was being run by an American named Charles Berner, who was also the originator of the process.
At my first intensive, I knew I wasn’t going to get it. I was the only black person in a room with eighty white people, and I figured this was something white people could do, but not me. It had nothing to do with black people, and it pissed me off. I thought they were all racist pigs. Charles [Berner] was sitting there at the front of the room dressed in white, interviewing people. He either acknowledged their answer as truth or sent them back with some focus to help them go deeper. Many people were getting it. The wind outside was whipping and howling. It was like a Hollywood movie in Yorkshire.
In the dead of night on the second day, I just wanted to go to sleep and forget about this who am I bullshit. I didn’t know, and I didn’t care. Okay, so I don’t know and I never knew, okay?
Then I saw a woman walk up to Charles. He asked, “Tell me what your question is.” She said, “My question is, Who am I?” And he said, “Tell me who you are.” And she said, mumble, mumble, mumble and he said, “Yes, now go share it.” I was thinking, YES! She’s got the answer! Ah hah! So I got up, and kept an eye on her. She was glowing. I nudged up to her and said, “Would you be my partner in the next round?” She looked me over and said, “Oh yes, ” and I was thinking, Whatever she’s on, it’s got to be pretty good.
I tried to figure out which partner begins—which side of the cold wooden floor to sit on so I could ask her first—the one on the window side or the aisle side? The window! I prayed I was right-please, please, let it be the window. I was sweating. She was glowing. Finally Charles said, “Those of you with your back to the window, give your partner the question.” Inside I felt, I did it!
I looked at her and said, “TELL ME WHO YOU ARE!”
She said, “I’m the creator of all my selves.”
And I said to myself, “I’m the creator of all my selves? I’ve spent two days walking around this cold fucking place for, I’m the creator of all my selves? Jesus H. Christ! What white people will not do! Oh God!”
I listened to her for five minutes, and felt my insides sink. She was beaming at me. The gong sounded; we thanked each other. Then she asked me who I am.
I said, “I’m the originator of all my me’s.” She nodded her head and glowed. And I was thinking, holy shit! So every five minutes I went inside and I told her everything that happened. I was disappointed. We did this for forty minutes.
Then I got in line to confront this motherfucker. When I finally got to Charles, he asked, “What is your question?”
I said, “My question is, who am I?”
He said, “Tell me who you are.”
I said, “I’m the originator of all my me’s.”
He looked me directly in the eye. I was mostly looking down at the floor. He said, “Yes, now fall into it.”
I was thinking, YES? That’s the answer? Fall into it?
That night, I went to sleep thinking, What the hell is he talking about? Finally, about three o’clock in the morning, I had a dream. I was at Stonehenge—not in the valley, but at the top of a hill. Standing next to me was Christ. The sun was coming up, and it was the most beautiful sunrise I’d ever seen. The colors were outrageous. I turned to Jesus to say, “This is what you meant all the time.” I was totally in the moment. I turned to him, and there was no one there but ME! I woke up crying.
I got out of my sleeping bag and sat for hours waiting for everybody to get up. I was so excited. I was there!
The next day was remarkable. I started seeing people’s angelic selves. I was calling it a hallucination, but remarkable things were happening.
I was intrigued, and I did more intensives. Berner went back to the States, leaving us with his master students. A master named Jeff Love eventually agreed to take me as a student. After two years I became the first black woman to receive the stamp of approval as an enlightenment master.
So Isis went on to lead Enlightenment Intensives all over Europe in the 1970s.
As you may have gathered from this Personality & Spirituality website, I regard Enlightenment Intensives as the premier tool for self-discovery and spiritual awakening. I took my first one in 1991 and My wife and I have been leading them since 1993. You can read my main article about them here.
I’ll just end with another extract from Isis Colbe, this time describing the enlightenment experience itself.
Truth is a direct experience. When it happens you’re immediately changed. At the same time, you may start seeing visions, and have other things occur. Once I levitated. The important thing is not the phenomenon but the enlightenment. Once you become enlightened, you can’t lose it. It’s not that you get enlightened once, and that’s all you have to do. You can get enlightened about lots of things. The basic question is, Who or what am I? Most people over forty can tell you that they are themselves, but what that self is is difficult to experience.
The next question—What is life?—really stumps people. Most people have to work through What is death? before they can know What is life? They have to work through their religious training about life being a consequence of wrong-doing and having been thrust out of heaven, or life being a trial they have to go through so they can get back into heaven. People have a lot of misconceptions to meander through before they can directly experience life.
The question What is another? usually puts people into tailspins. But possibly the hardest question is, What is love? I don’t hand it to people who I suspect don’t have the courage to go through the well of what hate is to find out what love is. It’s very difficult to face your own hate, to face the blackness within you. I’m not talking about the void that Zen talks about. You really have to transcend your emotional crippling to find your love. And the question begs for more than heart love. You have to become bigger than yourself to find that love. Only some of us truly yearn for that.