CONFESSIONS OF A TESLA NERD Marc J. Seifer, Ph.D. Box 32,Kingston, RI 02881 February 1, 1997
The year was 1970. I was working as a messenger for DJM Films, which produced commercials, located off Fifth Avenue at the time, and taking courses on filmmaking and also graphology at the New School For Social Research. One day at a local library I chanced upon a book by a man whose name I did not know, Andrija Puharich, M.D., entitled Beyond Telepathy. Puharich, whose "real" first name was Henry, had also written a book about a sacred mushroom that could make a person telepathic, but he was yet to achieve widespread acclaim. That would occur, virtually overnight, about four years later when he published his illustrious biography on Israeli psychic and spoonbender Uri Geller.
Perhaps it was the utter gall of the title that caught my eye. At that time, I didn't even know telepathy existed. Two years later, while preparing for a graduate Masters program at the University of Chicago, I discovered such theoreticians as Wilhelm Reich, who hypothesized that repression was linked to the inability to achieve correct orgasms, P.D. Ouspensky who wrote about a six-dimensional model for the space/time continuum, and Ouspensky's teacher, Georgi Gurdjieff, who taught that higher states of consciousness were directly linked to acts of one's own will power.
By the time I had arrived in Chicago, I had already completed reading a number of heavy esoteric texts, but that was only the beginning of my journey. My Master's thesis, entitled "Levels of the Mind," was an attempt to explore the infinite dimension of the mind beyond Freud's unconscious and Jung's collective unconscious. This led me to Fredrick Meyers and his weighty book Human Personality and Its Survival of Bodily Death.
There's no pulling any punches there. Much like Jung, yet predating him, Myers hypothesized a concept of a universal psyche shared by all humans. This realm became the pathway for extrasensory information and a realm where the departed could communicate with the living.
ESP Due to my studies into the field of psychic phenomena, when I returned to Rhode Island in late 1973, (I had gone to the University of Rhode Island from 1966-70), I decided to offer courses, and began teaching at the schools of continuing education at the University of Rhode Island (URI) and also Providence College. Topics included theories on Atlantis and Lemuria, the structure of the psyche, telepathy, psychokinesis, out of body experiences and life after death, and also such theoreticians as Jane Roberts, Rudolf Steiner, Carl Jung, Wilhelm Reich, P.D. Ouspensky and Gurdjieff.
My friend who I had met while working in Manhattan, Lower East Side artist, Robert Adsit, had a funky gallery on East 9th Street. Often, when I travelled to his place, he usually had yet another occult tome to give me, some written as far back as the mid-1800's. It was in the storefront next to his, however, that a seemingly insignificant event occurred that created a chain reaction that radically changed my life. It was a Tibetan shop that contained authentic artifacts, statues and books. One old 50c paperback captured my attention: The Third Eye, autobiography of a Tibetan lama by Lobsang Rampa, copyright 1956.
On the cover was a 1950's photograph of an overweight Caucasian man who bore a striking resemblance to Orson Welles with a sci-fi glass eye air-brushed into the center of his forehead. What the heck was this guy doing on the cover of Rampa's book? I had no idea, I thought it was a 50's thing, but purchased it anyway and returned to Rhode Island to continue writing my Master's thesis which the University of Chicago was still waiting for.
It was at that time that I met a highly intuitive lanky fellow by the name of Howard Smukler. A polisci major and former electrician, endowed with an exceptional sense of humor and appreciation of the absurd, Howard was teaching a course on UFO's at both the New School in New York and also at URI Extension Division in Providence where I was also teaching. Howard, no doubt, a closet genius, (who is now a successful lawyer in San Francisco), not only had every book I ever owned on parapsychology, and every book I ever wanted, but also about a hundred on a topic I knew nothing about, UFO's. "Here, take this one... or that one," he would say, as he reached into the stack and tossed me another. Essentially unattached to material things, Howard generously offered me such gems as Secrets of the Pyramids, the weighty Roots of Consciousness, The Bermuda Triangle, I Rode a Flying Saucer and another on Sasquatch.
Able to communicate to any echelon on equal footing, and using his ingenuity and great wit, Howard had convinced URI Extension into funding what he called the "Occult Studies Program" which offered courses on ESP, UFO's, Astrology, Tarot and Yoga. The program also offered the academic Journal of Occult Studies, edited by Howard, who was also director of the program, with me as associate editor (which I found out, just recently, has just been resurrected on the internet).
Although we had managed to produce four issues, with articles on pyramid power, synchronicity, Uri Geller, (who was now world famous, because of Puharich's biography), and the physics of consciousness, Howard was not content. One day he returned from New York as editor-in- chief of two separate national magazines, Ancient Astronauts and ESP. He had simply walked into Countrywide Publications and pitched the publisher, Myron Fass, on both topics. "How'd you do it?" I said completely amazed at his most recent coup. "I figured that if the guy could have magazines on remote controlled airplanes and show dogs, they could have one on ESP or extraterrestrials. I pitched each topic, and to my amazement, Myron gave me both! As long as I can keep the circulation above 20,000, he doesn't care what it's on," he said. "You could do one on toilet seats."
FIRST TESLA ARTICLE And so I became a free-lance writer. As we were just starting out, I also wrote a number or articles under a variety of names. Under my late grandfather's, Harry Imber, I did some of my best work, with one treatise on the akashic records and another on life after death. That last one was titled "Messages from the Dead."
The funny thing about the magazines was the one that I thought that bordered on the ridiculous, Ancient Astronauts, was doing fantastically well, with a circulation approaching 30,000. It was ESP that was faltering with a circulation of only about 18,000. "For heaven's sakes," Howard would say, after returning from New York from a meeting with Myron to plead for yet another issue of ESP, "Show Dogs is doing 27, can't we do better?" Myron did not want to continue with the loser, but Howard argued to combine circulations and so Ancient Astronauts kept ESP afloat.
One day as I walked into Howard's room, he worked out of his apartment which was off Hope Street, near Brown University, I saw him eying a shiny golden fragment. "I got a letter here from Lobsang Rampa," he said off-handedly, as he handed it to me.
In the past, Howard had given me letters from Senator Pell, the medium Jane Roberts and J.B. Rhine, the father of parapsychology, but this one from such an esoteric figure, for me, was in a category all by itself. "Can I keep it?"
"Sure. Do an article on him," he said giving me the prized letter without a care. "He may be a fake."
By that time I had discovered that Rampa was the author of over a dozen well-written mini-masterpieces on all different aspects of higher states of consciousness and his life as a Tibetan monk. His first book, which I had in soft cover, when it originally came out in hard back, had sold 150,000 copies, so I was intrigued.
"On the other hand," Howard said, in all seriousness, "I do have a lady right here, from Barrington who has claw marks on her roof which she says comes from a UFO that landed there. You want to go out and interview her with me?" He reached over to another envelope and handed me a photo of one of the most awful-looking individuals I have ever seen.
"I think I'll pass," I said, "however, I will take you up on Rampa. By the way," I said, as I started for the door, "what's that fragment?"
"Oh this," he said, tossing it to me. "Guy from Alabama says it came off a UFO that blew up in a swamp behind his house. I'm bringing it down to the metallurgy department at URI to have it analyzed."
The following day, I took a train down to New York, and went to the public library to check out what I could on Lobsang Rampa.
One of the books I came across was by Margaret Storm. It not only had an article on Rampa, who turned out not to be Tibetan at all, but rather a slightly overweight Caucasian plumber from England who allowed the spirit of a dead Tibetan to take over his body to write these many works; it also had an article about a man born on the planet Venus, who descended to earth to give humans such inventions as the induction motor, AC polyphase system, fluorescent and neon lights, remote control, laser beams, radio and also robotics. His name was Nikola Tesla. The year was still 1976. I was two years out of graduate school, 28 years old, and I had never heard of him.
"You can do one on him, too," Howard said, as he handed me two books. "And while you're working on that, we've got to go down to Geller's apartment in New York. I promised to put him on the front cover of the next issue of ESP, and he said you could interview him and maybe he'll bend some keys for us."
And that was how I got introduced to the works of Nikola Tesla. The first book Howard gave me was John O'Neill's classic biography Prodigal Genius, 1944. which captured so wonderfully the inventor and his life in high style in the Waldorf-Astoria at the height of the Gay 90's. The second, which had a crude drawing of a man aboard a UFO on the cover, was an oversized yellow soft-covered book distributed by the occult mail order house Health Research, from California. Its title was Wall of Light: Nikola Tesla and the Venusian Space-Ship, by Arthur Matthews, 1970. The first half was Tesla's autobiography, which, before that time, I did not know existed, as O'Neill had neatly obscured that all-important reference, and the second half, by the editor/author, Matthews, who at the time was in his 80's, had stated that Tesla, a Croatian born electrical inventor, had not really died in 1943, but was still alive! Further, as explanation to the title, Matthews claimed that Tesla often took him aboard a Venusian spacecraft that frequently landed in Matthew's backyard out where the roads ended in northern Canada. As freaky as the story was, there were articles on Matthews and Tesla from a Canadian newspaper, and also, O'Neill, himself, had quoted Tesla who claimed that he would live to be 140 years old and who did, in fact, believe in extraterrestrials, or at least the necessity for their existence.
As Andrija Puharich had recently returned from Canada from interviewing Matthews on something called the "Teslascope," a device for communicating with extraterrestrials, we went up to Ossining, New York, where Puharich lived, to interview him. We had also met with Geller by this time, who did, in fact, bend two keys in his apartment, and who also did appear on the cover of the September 1976 issue ESP. But, by the time the Puharich interview was completed, ESP had bit the dust, and so it was published partly in Gnostica, which was New Age journal from the mid- west, and partly in Pyramid Guide, which was an occult newsletter out of California, which ran the Matthews' piece in two installments. As far out as Puharich was, and believe me, Puharich could give Matthews a run for his money, he was unable to verify the Teslascope. "I do have a watch that extraterrestrials send me signals through," the doctor confided, "and everything in this room, except the piano has levitated, but it's a no go on the T-scope."
Simultaneously, while working on the Ancient Astronauts article, I also attempted to verify precisely Tesla's role in the etiology of each of the separate fundamental inventions attributed to him. His rather expensive book of patents was available from Health Research, and so I swapped them, for a stack of Occult Study journals. Also by this time, as Howard discovered to his great chagrin that his UFO fragment was fool's gold, I discovered the second major biography on Tesla, Lightning in His Hand, by Wanetta Hunt and Inez Draper which was available at the URI library. I remember clearly the feeling of deja vu when I opened up the pages to find Tesla sitting amongst 60-foot long lightning bolts on the inside front and back covers. There had been no photos at all in the O'Neill text.
This picture, with Tesla sitting amongst the lightning, was so spectacular and so strange. Here was a turn-of-the-century Serbian wizard, so futuristic, into camp and PR. It struck me deeply. Advantages of the Hunt and Draper book, aside from that and other exciting photos, was its extensive bibliography and use of the microfilm correspondence between Tesla and George Westinghouse, who bought Tesla's patents, Robert Underwood Johnson, editor of The Century, who was Tesla's friend, and the great financier, J. Pierpont Morgan. The advantages of the book of Tesla's patents, for me, were even more profound, because here was something concrete and irrefutable that served to anchor me in a reality that had wobbled so radically when I began this journey after reading Puharich's first book on telepathy back six years before that.
A few months later, my article written under my grandfather's name, "Tesla: The Man Who Fell to Earth," appeared in Ancient Astronauts. In it, I discussed the merits of the inventor's life and the obvious connection to Nicholas Roeg's cult classic film The Man Who Fell to Earth which starred David Bowie as the extraterrestrial who descends to the earth to give humans the technology of the 20th century. Much to the dismay of many of our readers, I concluded that Tesla was not born from another planet, but rather, he was a Yugoslav. And further, that although exceptional, he was a mere mortal, but yes, indeed, one of the fundamental creators of our modern age.