This is the second of a four-part series of posts. In the prologue to Part 1 (which can be found here), Douglas is described as being “a mentor and interrogator; a reliable source of both irritations and insights; an occasional enemy; and a best friend. He could be effortlessly charming one moment and fiercely adversarial the next. But above all else, Douglas was fully committed to exploring the interplay between his own unique and pricey calling and the founding vision of Light Morning.”
The Bookworm and the Symposium
“I am evidently not intended to die and leave this world,” Douglas said in the biographical cassette tapes that he recorded for us, “because I’ve been unsuccessful in these attempts. As we can see, there are quite a few people who would not be unhappy with my absence. But there is some force that appears to be more adamant than I in keeping me here, for reasons that are still not known to myself, and are totally unknown to others.”
After an attempted suicide in a Washington, D.C. hotel room, “I was unemployed for some time and very rarely left our apartment. I raised orchids, read books about Edgar Cayce, and saw few people. But in a way, this story is a story of destiny; a story unfolding according to the designs of destiny. And this happens to each of us, if we will but look at it. This is not to say that I was aware of looking at it, for only recently have I started to pay attention to what comes before me, instead of fighting what comes before me.”
What was about to come before Douglas was an unexpected twist of destiny: Douglas was about to become a shopkeeper.
This unanticipated new chapter of his life started with the orchids he was raising. In October of 1969, he and Stan decided to move the orchids — by then there were several hundred of them, all growing in pots — from their third-floor apartment to the basement.
“As the basement did not have any sunlight, we began to figure out how we could get light there for them. This led us to Gro-Lux bulbs, and florescent fixtures, and the money needed to buy such things. Then Stan brought home a large box of the finest kind of stuffed animals, which raised the problem of what the hell to do with them.”
“Stan found a small shop near by that had recently opened. It was called The Bookworm. I went there with the hope of putting the animals on consignment in order to raise money to buy the lights. And this was done. So we moved the orchids down to the basement and it was a successful endeavor for a while: raising orchids, making corsages, and selling the same.
“Within a few weeks it came to our attention that the young lady who had started The Bookworm wanted to go to Hawaii with her partner, a female. I told her I would buy the shop. Strange. I knew nothing of books at that time; I knew nothing of business; I knew nothing about running a shop; and such external activities involving other people would normally scare me to death.
“But I did not think. I had no time to think. Before I knew it, probably in a matter of days, we bought the shop for a payment of one dollar and the promise of several hundred more. The Bookworm re-opened for business on November 1st, 1969. Its shelves were stocked with rejects we bought from a bookstore in Nags Head, North Carolina. But the books were beautiful to me and the walls were filled. There was a wood-stove. Everything was done. Waiting just for me.
“Of course at this time I was still bumbling along with no intellectual thought whatsoever as to what in the hell is going on. In short, I was being led entirely by external events, as I had been all my life up until The Bookworm. Never once did I consider that it might be I who was doing these things; nor had I ever heard such a thought.”
The tug of destiny that inexplicably turned Douglas into a shopkeeper soon brought other searching souls to the shop as well. The Bookworm gradually became an alchemical cauldron. Some who entered that vortex had their lives upended. Others served as catalysts, precipitating and/or accelerating such transformations without themselves being affected. Douglas was both: a significant agent of change whose own life was re-routed in ways he couldn’t have foreseen.
“All during this period, Mr. Cox and Mr. Larson were frequent visitors who would regale me with stories. In the early days I would listen to them as stories and I would say that they were being wasted on me because I had a poor memory. I felt they should be for posterity, for they were tremendously entertaining.
“It was not until I figured out that Mr. Larson invariably showed up at some crisis point and then told a story that I began to understand that the stories had possible meanings other than the story per se. Anyone entering the shop could take the stories any way they wished. Most of them, of course, took them as entertainment and missed their deeper significance.
“But one day, after telling Mr. Larson that his stories should have some better use, he said, ‘Why don’t you have a symposium?’
“I didn’t like that word. Symposium indicated to me a university setting with some professor on a platform giving lectures to a bunch of people sitting in the audience. Larson advised me to look the word up. When I did, I found to my enjoyment that symposium also meant a beer bust; a free gathering of those who would merely exchange ideas; of good fellowship.
“Then those who would fill such a symposium started entering the shop. Some were brought by Mr. Cox; some just showed up. At this point (and still to this day) I was extremely testing these people: to see where they stood; what in the hell they wanted; and what they had to do with me. But invariably I accepted all of them because of — for want of a better word — pressure from Mr. Larson and Mr. Cox, and at this time also from Colonel Page and Mr. Norris.
“As you can see, Douglas Todd has never done anything. I have always been a tool for something else, which to this day I am unsure of, but I am willing to continue in that role. I gave permission (big deal) to have this symposium go on, but I never wanted to be part of it. In fact I refused to be part of it. But I was tricked and cajoled into entering into it, and before you know it I became the dominant idiot in the group.
“We learned much from that symposium. Or some of us did; and I suppose all of us did. It went on in the living room of our house, which was attached to the shop, for I guess about a year.”
I’m working in the garden on a warm summer afternoon in 1975. Looking up from the bed I’m cultivating, I see Joyce coming down from the community shelter with two strangers. Laying down my hoe, I walk over to meet them.
This has recently become more common. Season of Changes, our first book, has just been published and people are increasingly finding their way to ALM to see what’s happening here. ALM is shorthand for Associations of the Light Morning. The name was offered to us in Virginia Beach when we started working with the psychic guidance that inspired the writing of Season of Changes.
“Robert, this is Doug and Stan,” Joyce says. “They’re looking at some land just down the road. Doug, Stan, this is Robert.”
Stan smiles and extends his hand. I shake it. Douglas is gazing at me with a strange intensity. It’s like he’s a bird dog that’s been following a faint but discernible scent. Now the scent has grown suddenly strong and the dog has come to a point. I shrug off the image and we shake hands. Joyce then leads the two visitors up the path toward Temple Hill, a grassy knoll that overlooks the rugged Free State valley.
Only later will I realize how apt my image of a bird dog had been. After getting to know Douglas better, I will see that he almost always follows his nose, wherever it might lead and regardless of the consequences. On that sunny afternoon in 1975, his nose had led him to ALM and to me.
* * *
Douglas firmly believed that a persistent mystery had guided him to the Bookworm; beguiled him into participating in the symposium; and later choreographed his first encounter with ALM.
“Somewhere in the early part of the symposium,” he tells us on one of those biographical cassette tapes, “a woman named Meredith Tillman walks into the shop for the first time and lays a book on my desk.”
“You have to read this,” she says.
“And you can guess the book: Season of Changes. Someone else had earlier brought me Seth Speaks, by Jane Roberts. All the beautiful, blessèd people [there’s a long pause as Douglas processes deep feelings] who have served as the stepping stones of my mind and the catalysts to take me to that place where you are.”
Season of Changes and Seth Speaks were both based on so-called psychic communications. This was nothing new for Douglas. He had long been drawn to the Edgar Cayce readings and had himself received psychic readings from several different sources. One of them had even predicted that he would become part of a group “that would assemble on approximately 250 acres of land, 50 miles south of Roanoke.”
But he would long hold Season of Changes and Seth Speaks in a special place in his heart.
“As the symposium goes along,” Doug continues, “another vacation comes up.”
He and Stan had used earlier vacations to search for good books and antiques in out-of-the-way places in order to re-stock The Bookworm. They had also kept looking in vain for that mythical land “50 miles south of Roanoke.” On this particular vacation, however, they would find both ALM and their land.
“On one of our excursions, antiquing toward Roanoke, all of a sudden we decide to go to ALM. We already had their address, and driving down one of those back roads, I have a flashback. I have seen it before. In Washington. After my attempted suicide. A dream of a woman and I walking down that road. And a feeling — a seeing in my head while walking — of Japan. And cataclysm. But knowing that was the road.”
Arriving at ALM for their first visit, they meet Joyce. Douglas soon asks her who wrote Season of Changes. The readings had been a group effort and we didn’t want to single anyone out, so Associations of the Light Morning had been listed as the author. Joyce nods to where I’m working in the garden.
“I’ll take you down to meet him,” she says.
That’s why, when I first met Douglas, he was looking at me with that bird dog intensity.
The second portion of their improbable, synchronistic vacation comes when Doug and Stan contact a real estate agent in Roanoke. Mr. Larson, their Bookworm and symposium friend, helped make the connection. The agent takes them to see a large tract of land that has just come on the market. It’s two or three hundred acres and you can walk off your own boundaries, ten acres minimum. The land they’re being shown turns out to be two or three miles down the road from ALM!
After walking the land for most of the day, Doug and Stan gravitate to a secluded hilltop with a panoramic view of the cascading ridges and valleys of the Blue Ridge mountains.
“To be standing upon our own hill and knowing — without knowing, but knowing — that that was it. The same feeling I have had all of my life. [Another long pause.] Back to my days in the navy when I would not bow down to that drill instructor. That same feeling of knowing that that was the place, that was the land, and that we must have it.”
The Tuesday Night Group
In the two-year interval between when Doug and Stan bought their land in 1975 and when they relocated there from Norfolk in October of 1977, they visited nearly every weekend. At first they set up a tent on their land. Later they brought in a small camper. They were paying a young friend they met through the symposium to build their house.
This is also when Douglas, while he was back at The Bookworm during the week, recorded those biographical cassette tapes. He wanted us to know who was about to come on board as crew. And he wanted to share his perspective about what we needed to do to prepare for the coming changes.
“We will be wise if we will prepare the intellect to understand what it is that occurs to us,” he tells us. “As I have been a dullard and not too bright, it took me a long time to understand. I hope by saying these words — even though they are not understood or even remembered — that they will be brought back to mind as these things occur, and thereby be recognized.
“The framework set up there at ALM is now a working framework. It will serve admirably if adhered to through the ideal as it is externalized, and in the banter back and forth through this externalization.”
What Douglas had in mind was, in essence, a reformulation of the symposium, but this time using a sustained study of the founding vision and ideals of ALM as a common focal point.
Shortly after Doug and Stan finally moved to Transdyne in the fall of 1997, Douglas suggested that we all meet weekly to discuss the ALM work readings. This thick binder of transcripts contained the guidance we had received in Virginia Beach concerning what our ideals were as a group, how to implement those ideals, and what kind of changes we needed to make if we were to work together as a cohesive team.
We agreed with his suggestion and started to meet one evening a week. What became known as the Tuesday Night Group would continue for many years. Although what we studied together changed occasionally, we did start with the work readings. Our discussions often became free-wheeling. Now and then someone would jot down notes of what was being said.
What follows are some of the brief notes from our first two sessions. They give a good flavor of “the banter back and forth” as we try to articulate a shared ideal and “prepare the intellect” for the stormy seas ahead.
* Doug: Why do we have a body that creates and preserves time? Because the body and time and therefore change creates the dualistic conditioned intellect.
* Doug: Christ is mind. You can only come to god through Christ/mind. Mind is awareness. Mind uses intellect in order to communicate. Intellect is the dual polarities. Intellectual understanding comes when something outside matches something felt within.
* Joyce: Where is our point of power? Inside or outside?
* Pat: Discerning significance in seemingly insignificant happenings.
* Doug: All is god. God is changeless and ever-changing. Therefore all that comes to us is spiritual food.
* Robert: Working with the TV metaphor: content versus medium. Meditation. Point of awareness.
* Kathey: Putting trust out, not knowing whether it will come back. An awareness of projected aspect of self being mirrored back. A willingness to set aside known aspects of self and explore unknown aspects. The difference between the known/sensed/already experienced self and the unknown/not physically sensed or experienced self.
* Doug: Paradox. As ideals change, spirit changes. As spirit changes, ideals change.
* Pat: The paradox depends upon point of awareness; where one is focused. At one focal point, one side of the paradox is operative; at another focal point, the other side is operative.
* Pat: Ego as a screen or filter mechanism. Needful at first, then “headstrong.”
* Doug: Compensation. Being of two worlds: Rome and God. Spirit uses both.
* Joyce: Which god are you serving?
* Ron: Are we trying in this group to formulate individual unfoldings or a group unfolding?
* Joyce: Both
* Pat: They’re inseparable.
* Joyce: Different instruments. Perfecting each. Are we solo artists or parts of a symphony? I believe in symphonies. Yet many questions remain. What can a symphony accomplish that solo musicians can’t?
* Susan: Sensing the larger work. Wanting to tune my instrument to the others’ instruments.
* Joyce: Fear of losing individual identity within the group.
* Ron: Are we merely trying to recreate the past model of working with the ALM readings in 1973?
* Joyce: Desire to recreate the energy and goodness of the ’73 model without the blindness or the fear of being swallowed up by the group. Needing to see our own beauty and the validity of the individual instruments.
*Kathey: The statement of Mary that “my soul doth magnify the Lord.” Needing a group for a greater magnification. My earlier dream of many symphonies tuning up. Then silence. Then the music. Each symphony had its own conductor; yet each also had earphones to hear the other symphonies. The one conductor for all the symphonies had not yet arrived.
* Robert: Soul patterns and psychic blueprints. The need for cooperation between inner purpose or ideal and the conditioned mind.
* Doug: The need for enthusiasm; for being “in god.”
* Robert: Need and assumption determine perception.
* * *
Part 3 of “Who’s Douglas?” will be posted next week.