How does somebody with a Ph. D. in philosophy from Columbia University come to believe in impossible things like flying friars? I’m often asked what got me interested in all the weird stuff—events that seem to break the familiar laws of nature. Some folks might just be naturally curious. But what I’ve seen is that people open up as a result of some mind-blowing experience. Example after example could be trotted out to illustrate.
I won’t try to define the criteria for such experiences, except to say that fundamental ideas about how reality works may be shattered. Let me describe an experience of mine that had such an effect on me. It was April 23, 1971, about 11 PM, a clear night in Greenwich Village, New York. I was in my apartment on the top floor (6th) at 14 Bedford Street, listening to John Coltrane’s “The Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost” with my girlfriend. It was the week I had to defend my dissertation at Columbia University, which was about the Myth of the True Earth in Plato’s Phaedo.