In 1988, a friend of mine had pressed a paperback into my hands, saying, “You should read this, Barry.” The book was called The Candle Of Vision. Its cover sported an unattractive drawing of a celtic torque surrounding a green flame. “What’s it about?” I inquired, flicking the pages with my thumb. “You have to read it,” she replied firmly without any further elaboration.

I didn’t read it. I skimmed through its pages, noting chapter headings, such as “The Memory of Earth” and “Have Imaginations Body?,” that seemed cryptic and pretentious.

But it was a gift, and as I am not the sort to return sweaters the wrong size, or neckties too garish to be seen dead in, I kept the book, despite my disinterest.

The Candle of Vision sat unnoticed on a shelf for ten years.

One evening in late 1998, without any preamble whatsoever, the memory bank of my brain clicked on like a pre-programmed television set. Replaying in my “mind’s eye” was the scene of my friend handing me the book with the green flame cover drawing. “You should read this, Barry,” she said.

 

Insights, I was beginning to learn, can come from almost anywhere at any time. To receive them one need only be attuned to their particular wavelengths. “Of course I should read it!” I said out loud as I ran upstairs to the bookshelf. As I took hold of the book, I experienced a powerful symmetry between the present moment and a “rerun” of the moments, some 30 years before, when I purloined my school’s copy of Jean-Paul Sartre’s Being and Nothingness.

The memory had been buried under a lifetime’s luggage of experience, yet I vividly relived it as I performed an almost parallel action over three decades later. Within minutes, two temporally unrelated moments, not founded in my own volition, connected in a flash of unity. I was struck by a compelling insight. In the 1950s, when I took the Sartre book, I was acting with similar — even the same — intuitive compulsion as in 1998.

These two events, and many others of the same cyclical and symmetrical nature, could not be matters of chance. For years, I had been quietly noticing, but not linking, these “coincidences” — more often than not minor, seemingly inconsequential, happenstances. Although I’d never committed to recording them for analysis, by late 1998 I was vigorously compiling several lists of anomalous personal experiences. I began to recognize that these events held hidden patterns awaiting discovery.