About twenty-two hours into Charles Lindbergh’s famous nonstop solo Atlantic crossing, having endured hours of fatigue and boredom, he was visited by the distinct feeling that there were a number of ghostly presences in his plane with him. This story is one of many fascinating encounters with the “third man” from John Geiger’s 2009 book, “The Third Man Factor.”
Lindbergh, of course, had his own understanding of their identities and purpose, and felt perfectly comfortable with their company. As I read, I thought how cool it would be if they were the ancestors of the invention of flight: Daedalus and Icarus, DaVinci, the Mongolfier brothers, Ferdinand von Zeppelin, Wenham, Ader, Maxim, Langley, and the Wright brothers. They would be crowded in there with him, celebrating his grand achievement and guiding him to a successful crossing. Who better to understand the trial of grueling endurance before Lindberg reached his goal? It was a shared victory.
Maybe we all have these sorts of advocates and guides, usually in a far milder form and experienced as hints and intuitions rather than full-blown vistations. It could be a built-in capacity, this porosity to the history of human experience and achievement. Maybe it’s what native people mean when they speak of being connected to the ancestors. Or artists when they refer to the muse as a source of creative inspiration. Or Jungians’ concept of collective unconscious. Or spiritual teachers who speak of “universal intelligence.”
I have felt the presence of someone “other” in the pages of my journal. I don’t necessarily have to be upset or in an altered state (as happens by default when one is in extreme danger). I do have to be relaxed and open to receive. By sitting down and writing every day, I’m actively extending an invitation to my guide to show up. Is this a tame version of the life-threatening situations that Geiger chronicles? The house cat in the bay window as compared with the tiger in the wild jungle?
It’s telling that it takes extreme life-threatening situations to call up the Third Man. We “civilized” folks, with our devout allegiance to the rational, are so steeped in the story that this is all there is: the brain in the head, our primacy, that only we are animate and conscious. The invitation those explorers and mountaineers issued was to surrender to their inevitable death. In other words, along with their hold on life, they gave up the illusion of Separation.
Each of those explorers felt reverence for and from their Third Man, along with awe, calm and peace in his presence. The Third Man is for me an occasional companion, a guide, muse, mentor and Loving Presence. A dispenser of wisdom and reminder of the unconditional love that binds us all.
I like your writing and how you describe this topic, which is near and dear to me… Lots of writers talk about that Muse as they write…
Thanks for posting!
I am re-reading Sandra Ingerman’s book Medicine for the Earth today and I came across the following passage that reminded me of your post.
“My life has been very full of spiritual experiences. Most have come from my shamanic journey practice. Early on in my shamanic work I decided to journey to “the light” (her term for what some call the creator or source). The question I had for the light was: “Why can I only experience you while I am on drugs or near death?” (she has had several near-death experiences). I could only experience the absolute divine love of the light while I was in an extreme situation. To my surprise, “the light” responded to me. Up until then my only experience of “the light” had been impersonal. “The light” responded: “As long as you have an ego, you cannot experience me outside of yourself. To experience me you must go deep inside of yourself as you travel to find me.”
On drugs and during my NDEs I experienced ego death. The profound advice of “the light” was now I had to journey inside myself to truly find God. For me this means going to the deep, still, and silent place inside myself. I use singing, journeying, meditating, and movement practices such as yoga, and chi gong to accomplish this.”
This is brilliant, Duane! Thank you so much for sharing it. It’s so simple – like, DOH!! When you’re in the shower, totally relaxed, the ego feels safe enough to take a breather. That’s when the good stuff comes in. Likewise, with journalling. I’ve been at it for long enough now that my ego is okay with sitting back and seeing what comes forth. Maybe it’s even why dreams are coded in symbolic language – to slip past the literalness and control of ego. Wow. This is a lot to sit with. . . . Maybe another post will emerge. Thanks again.