A white light, the brightest light I have ever known or will ever see again was in place of the skull. It was so bright yet it did not blind me. It was a welcome, calming light. The black spot or curtain was gone. I felt absolute peace of mind and sensed myself floating upward, and I was back. I heard my husband calling me, off in the distance. I opened my eyes but could not see him. Two doctors were at the foot of my bed - both were angry and compassionate at the same time. I was taken to the operating room, given several pints of blood, and was released one week later. Scoffers almost put me in tears.
Everyone laughed at me, including my husband, so I never told my story again - until I wrote to you. It was the most horrendous, yet the most gratifying experience I've ever had in my life. A flood of memories poured forth once Hipple started talking about her experience, including a nearly forgotten incident that had occurred in when she had a tonsillectomy:. I recall being terrified by the mask and the awful smell. I can still taste it as I think about it. As the sedation took hold, there was the vortex, the dizzy spinning sensation, as I was dragged downward into sleep.
I screamed, not knowing what was happening to me. As she compared the two episodes, she recognized that the vortex experienced during surgical anesthesia in childhood was the same as the one she had encountered as an adult - minus the smell and taste. This association underscores what you find in medical literature. It is well known and documented that certain chemicals, especially ether, can cause vortex or spinning hallucinations.
Missing from medical literature, however, is mention of anything more significant than this imagery. No attention is given to possible aftereffects above and beyond chemical side effects. Hipple suffered no side effects from the sedation she was given in , nor any aftereffects from being pulled into the vortex, except for a dislike of ether. But her adult confrontation with the same type of vortex did have aftereffects, the kind associated with the near-death phenomenon. Unlike Eppley, Hipple's hellish near-death scenario was lengthy, intense, fully involved, and resolved in "heavenly" light.
A dream? It also helped me to be less serious about myself. I'm dispensable. I have discovered I do not value 'things' as I once did. I befriend people in a different way. I respect their choices to be the people they want to be. The same for my own family. I will guide, but not demand. As for the "Light" - it was then and remains so, my encounter with the most powerful of all entities. The giver of life on both sides of the curtain. After all, I was given a second chance. I am blessed and cannot ask for more.
A closer examination of Hipple's life reveals the sudden development of unique sensitivities afterward. The pending death of an unborn daughter was revealed to her in an usually detailed vision. When her husband died in a trucking accident at am, she was up and prepared for it, and even heard a thump against her trailer home at the exact moment he was killed some distance away. Strange sensations about her sister awakened her from a deep sleep at the exact moment her sister died. I follow hunches that are sometimes quite accurate. Like Eppley, Gloria Hipple now glows with a special confidence, charm, and wisdom.
She speaks effusively of God and angels. There was nothing more than that, but it changed my life. No drug-induced hallucination ever recorded fostered the kind of life-shift that happened to this woman, and she is one of millions. I hemorrhaged on the operating table, and the doctor said that at three times he thought he was going to lose me. The first day after surgery I had to have transfusions.
During one of the transfusions I started feeling really weird. I felt like if I shut my eyes I would never open them again. I called a nurse. Of course, she said it was all in my head, and left the room. I remember she just walked out the door and I started being pulled through a tunnel. It was a terrible experience because all I could see were people from my past, people who were already dead, who had done or said something to me that had hurt me in one way or another.
They were laughing and screaming, until I thought I could not stand it. I begged and begged that I be allowed to go back. I could see a light at the end of the tunnel but I never really got close to it. All of a sudden I was back in my bed, just thankful I had not died.
They were just coming out of the depression and they already had a baby and could not afford another. When I was born, I was born with a harelip. Mother thought that was her punishment for wanting me dead. Within several days, and without any surgery, my harelip healed itself, and to this day I do not carry a scar. She also told me that when I was only a few weeks old, she came to my bassinet and found me not breathing. I had already turned purple. She grabbed me, shook me, and blew in my face until I started breathing again.
I don't remember this experience, but I do remember being in a bassinet that had no liner. I remember studying my hands and what my hands looked like as an infant. My mother said I couldn't possibly remember this, but I did, and I was right. Until the age of four, Brock survived numerous nearly fatal accidents that caused cessation of breath. Her memory of each is detailed and verified by relatives, even though several occurred when she was only a toddler. Right from her earliest years I suspect from when she was but a few weeks old , she displayed the typical aftereffects of the near-death phenomenon, including stunningly accurate psychic abilities, extended perceptual range, and heightened faculties.
Like Hipple, she has been visited by the dead, "advised" of pending deaths, and has known the exact moment individuals died. Yet Brock has been haunted throughout her life, and not just by the deceased who grabbed at her in death's tunnel. An overshadowing theme of "Why would anyone want to harm me? It's almost as if her mother's prayer that she die imprinted her brain in some manner. I say that because Brock's many brushes with death, even as an infant, were precipitated by acts of self-destructive behavior.
That single overshadowing theme continued to undermine the satisfaction that her many accomplishments in life should have given her. This did not change until after her husband's suicide in At that time, according to Brock, her father and son, long since dead, and her recently deceased husband, physically and in broad day-light, drove up to her front door in an old Cadillac, honked the horn, and called out, "We're together now and we're okay.
We just wanted you to know. This ghostly spectacle gave Brock the reassurance she needed to finally free herself from the "ghost" of her own past. Her mother's death decree, which she had subconsciously been trying to both justify and nullify throughout her life, was finally put to rest when her husband's suicide forced her to confront her own life's issues as she came to terms with his. In Brock's case, her near-death episode was but one in a long series of similar events that finally brought her to that point of peace within herself where true forgiveness and understanding reside.
Our investigation begins with what happened in the spring of to Jennine Wolff of Troy, New York. She was thirty years old at the time. Due to complications from endometriosis, she suffered numerous bouts of hemorrhaging, several surgeries including a hysterectomy , an additional hemorrhage of massive proportions, and, finally, emergency surgery. I felt whole and loved.
My sense of well-being was complete. I heard celestial music clearly and saw vivid colored flowers, like nothing seen on earth, gorgeous greenery and trees. All he said to me was that it was up to me whether to come back to earth or not. I chose to come back to finish my work. That is when I was born again. I am now more aware of people's feelings, beliefs, and needs. I am more compassionate and considerate of others. Also more confident in God's love. When you delve into Wolff's history, a fascinating pattern emerges one of disciplined devotion to the spiritual path.
Raised in a strict but loving Presbyterian home, she suddenly developed the ability to have visions when but a teenager. Her concerned parents took her for evaluation to the spiritualist camp of Lily Dale, located in New York State. These experienced psychics advised them that their daughter had a special gift, and that she must decide whether to go on with a normal teenage life or commit herself to spiritual training. She chose to develop her gift. At the age of twenty-one and after seven years of instruction, Wolff met Sam Lentine, a blind biophysicist.
He had the scientific background; she had the spiritual. Together they formed a professional partnership dedicated to the restoration of true health and wholeness throughout humankind. Fourteen years later, after the partners had made tremendous strides in the health field and were becoming internationally known for their ability to facilitate the healing process, Lentine died. Today, Wolff is a waitress at a senior citizens' facility. I felt like a baby afterward, and, at the age of thirty, was faced with learning about life all over again.
I couldn't stand light at first. When I could, everything became brighter and better than before. My whole perspective drastically improved; I felt more grounded, solid, okay.
My psychic gifts skyrocketed. But it still took me a long time to readjust. The doctors said, Oh, it's just the stress of what you've been through. I disagreed. What I was going through was unrelated to the surgery. My mother and father understood, and, especially, my mother's constant love and support made it possible for me to grasp hold of my new life and deal with it. My death stepped up my original commitment to serve as a healer. I was much more understanding of others. When I went back to work, Sam and I peaked in our performance - we did our best work.
Five years later Sam died. You have to understand how close we were, how bonded our families. Even though I knew death didn't end anything, Sam's transition threw me. I had to readjust all over again. I work with older people now, giving them my love with each touch. I don't know what's ahead for me or where I'll go, but I am taking massage classes - learning to heal in a different way. My life is now in God's hands.
New opportunities for me to serve are opening up. For half a minute I could see both worlds at once. Finally, when the earth was all gone, I stood in a glory that could only be heaven. The tops were snowcapped, and the slopes were adorned with foliage of indescribable beauty. The mountains appeared to be about fifteen miles away, yet I could see individual flowers growing on their slopes. I estimated my vision to be about one hundred times better than on earth. It seemed to be alive.
The whole landscape was carpeted with grass so vivid, clear, and green, that it defies description. To the right was a grove of large, luxuriant trees, composed of the same clear material that seemed to make up everything. They were having a hilarious time holding hands and dancing in a circle - fast and lively.
As soon as they saw me, four of the players left the game and joyfully skipped over to greet me. As they approached, I estimated their ages to be: one, thirty; two, twenty; and one, twelve. Their bodies seemed almost weightless, and the grace and beauty of their easy movements was fascinating to watch. Both sexes had long, luxuriant hair entwined with flowers, which hung down in glossy masses to their waists. Their only clothing was a gossamer loin cloth with a loop over one shoulder and a broad ribbon streaming out behind in graceful curves and curlicues.
Their magnificence not only thrilled me, but filled me with awe. We lived on earth, just like you, 'til we came here. I looked, and it was translucent; that is, I could dimly see through it. Next they had me look at the grass and trees. They were also translucent. It was exactly the way the Bible had described heaven.
It seemed as if I had been here before. I remembered what was on the other side of the mountains. Then with a sudden burst of joy, I realized that this was my real home! Back on earth I had been a visitor, a misfit, and a homesick stranger. With a sigh of relief, I said to myself, Thank God I'm back again. This time I'll stay! The elements don't mix or break down as they do on earth. Everything is kept in place by an all-pervading Master-Vibration, which prevents aging. That's why things don't get dirty, or wear out, and why everything looks so bright and new. Oak St. This email address is being protected from spambots.
Not only did he turn against it, but he started challenging his parents at every turn - including questioning the way they ate. He observed that their farm animals did just fine on a diet of fresh greens and whole grains, yet family members were always suffering indigestion and constipation from the white flour, sugar, and grease they consumed. Behind his parents' back, he cured himself by eating bran flakes. He continued to defy the conventions of his day, switching from atheism to mysticism after his near-death experience at the age of thirty-four, marrying afterwards, and built his own home in Parma, Idaho, from blocks of tuffa pumice he and his sons quarried.
He later became an educator, public speaker, was active in politics, specialized in historical sculpture his work adorns Parma's city park , was a movie extra in several Hollywood films, an authority on organic gardening and nutrition, and was singled out as one of Idaho's "Most Distinguished Citizens. Although a public figure, Yensen was frequently at odds with the school boards where he taught: opposing any procedure that capped a child's creative drive; speaking out against the incarceration of American citizens of Japanese ancestry during World War II; and ignoring school rules by sharing his near-death experience in class as proof to his students that morality matters and life really has a purpose.
Ironically, Yensen was still questioning whether or not he had fulfilled his life's work when he returned "home" in , the quiet benefactor of thousands. This was to keep what blood remained for my heart and lungs. Then they tilted my body so my legs were up in the air and I was standing on my head! I was venting my anger and frustration from the corner of the ceiling on the right side of my body. I can remember the anger vividly, fury at the powerless position this whole event put me in, and I was very 'verbal' about it - silently - up there, as my mind raced to express its reaction, worry, and concern.
Their statements 'We're losing her! We're losing her! I found myself in a place of such beauty and peace. It was timeless and spaceless. I was aware of delicate and shifting hues of colors with their accompanying rainbows of 'sound,' though there was no noise in this sound. It might have felt like wind and bells, were it earthly. I 'hung' there - floating. Then I became aware of other loving, caring beings hovering near me. Their presence was so welcoming and nurturing. They appeared 'formless' in the way I was accustomed by now to seeing things. I don't know how to describe them.
I was aware of some bearded male figures in white robes in a semicircle around me. The atmosphere became blended as though made of translucent clouds. I watched as these clouds and their delicate shifting colors moved through and around us. They said they were my guides and helpers as well as being God's Messengers. Even though they were assigned to me as a human and always available to me - they had other purposes, too. They were in charge of other realms in creation and had the capacity of being in several places simultaneously.
They were also 'in charge' of several different levels of knowledge. I became aware of an ecstasy and a joy that permeated the whole, unfolding beyond anything that I had experienced in my living twenty-five years, up to that point. Even having my two previous children, whom I wanted very much, couldn't touch the 'glow' of this special experience. Everything else seen, the colors, beings, faded into the distance as the Light Being permeated everything.
I was being addressed by an overwhelming presence. Even though I felt unworthy, I was being lifted into that which I could embrace. The Joy and Ecstasy were intoxicating. It was 'explained' that I could remain there if I wanted; it was a choice I could make. I became aware again that I needed to make a choice. Part of me wanted to remain forever, but I finally realized I didn't want to leave a new baby motherless. I left with sadness and reluctance.
There was something skin to a physical bump. As soon as I entered, I heard someone near me say, 'Oh, we've got her back. Morrison-Mays told no one except her husband about the monumental experience she had just had. She managed to squelch any noticeable aftereffects until , when developing psychic sensitivities warned her of a need to make a major change in her life or die. The growth effect was propelling me to move on and develop my own responsibility and talents. I finally listened. My spiritual life was beginning. I divorced and started a career as a musician cellist in a major symphony orchestra.
Twelve years later, because of serious difficulty walking and severe hip pain, she had a right hip osteotomy to reduce arthritic damage the joint in her hip was placed in a different weight-bearing position. The operation went well, but upon reviving, Morrison-Mays entered an altered state of consciousness similar to a near-death episode that she continued to slip in and out of for six months.
Throughout this lengthy visionary experience, she received lessons from The Other Side. These "etheric" teachings covered such topics as the geography of the soul, karma, advanced physics, and the cosmology of the Human Experiment. Again her life was profoundly affected. She began volunteering in a hospice afterward and enrolled in a three-year spiritual psychology course.
A second near-death event seven years later plunked her right back in that same etheric classroom she had "attended" after hip surgery. This occasion was precipitated by the sudden onslaught of a severe type of emphysema and the collapse of her adrenal system Addison's disease. Severe shakes from what she feels was a Kundalini episode complicated the situation.
Traditionally, Kundalini is said to be a powerful energy that lies dormant in a person's sacrum until he or she begins to develop spiritually. Then it supposedly rises up the spine, stimulating the glandular centers until it bursts out a person's head. Morrison-Mays turned to a chiropractic physician when medical treatment failed her and, once more, completely changed her life. She left the world she had created for herself after her divorce and moved bag and baggage to Quincy, Illinois, the city of her birth. Virtually wheelchair bound, and robbed by illness of much of her energy, Morrison-Mays has instituted a series of classical music concerts for the public that are staged in her own living room.
Newspaper headlines label her concerts, "Healing Music. The spiritual guidance I receive makes living this life possible. I have walked through the Dark Side and have no fear of my Shadow anymore. I am here to heal my life and do serious writing, though I'm not certain if I am ready to write about the teachings I have been given. What I want is to do a book about the memories I have of choosing my parents before I was born, my experience in the womb, and my rebirthing through the near-death phenomenon.
A role model for the handicapped, Morrison-Mays has become a living legend. She offered this about the severity of her situation: "There's still a quality of life available. You just have to be open enough to explore it. You can empower yourself. Debbie begins laughing, and the next thing I know we're overtaken by laughter. The giggling stops as we're swept off our feet and dragged downriver. Debbie cries out, 'Steven I can't swim.
I'm drowning. Without any warning, time, as I know it, stops. I'm floating in a vertical position with my arms outstretched and my head laying on my left shoulder. I feel totally at peace and full of serenity in this timeless space. Next I go through a past-life review. It was like looking at a very fast slide show of my past life, and I do mean fast, like seconds. I don't quite understand the significance of all the events that were shown to me, but I'm sure there is some importance.
When this ended, it was as if I was floating very high up and looking down at a funeral. Suddenly I realized that I was looking at myself in a casket. I saw myself dressed in a black tux with a white shirt and a red rose on my left lapel. Standing around me were my immediate family and significant friends. There was Debbie within arm's reach. I grabbed her by the back of her hair and I was able to get us both over to the rocks and out of the water.
After lying on the rocks for a while, I glance over at Debbie and it's like looking at a ghost. As she describes what she went through, it became apparent that we both had the same experience underwater - the golden glow, the serenity, seeing our lives flash before us, floating over a funeral, and seeing ourselves in a casket. That is the only time we ever talked about it. I haven't seen or talked with Debbie since. For the next eleven years, Ridenhour tried practically every drug in the universe in an attempt to recapture the euphoria of his near-death experience, but to no avail.
All he found was loneliness, prisons, and a failed marriage. He entered a treatment center for drug and alcohol abuse in December , and has been in various stages of recovery ever since. Finally, he was able to find a counselor who knew something about the phenomenon he had experienced and she put him in touch with a near-death researcher.
He told his story, then quickly disappeared - unable to face the truth of what he had been through. It wasn't until , after suppressing the aftereffects of his experience for a total of twenty years, that Ridenhour found himself flat on his back because of a work-related injury and with no choice but to surrender. Ridenhour is now in nurse's training, determined to repay society for his previous mistakes and to help heal people. His youth was wrapped around horrific incidents of child abuse and abandonment. He grew up thinking he was unlovable and bad.
His near-death experience so challenged this distorted self-image that, although he wanted the euphoria back, he could not accept the rest of it. Confused and frightened by the incident, he flung himself into a seemingly endless nightmare of self-destruction. I never made the connection between my experience and why I felt so lost.
It took getting injured at work before I stopped trying to run away and just relaxed and let all that love and joy back, and the golden glow. I had no choice, really. I had to accept the truth that there is a power in me, and I can use it to help others. Around B. When at last help came, many were puzzled, for the body of Er had not decayed as had the others. Confused, Er's relatives took him home for burial, but upon the funeral pyre he revived, stood up, and recounted what he had learned while on The Other Side for all to hear. He then set about educating people concerning the spiritual truths that had been revealed to him, teaching them how they could live more fulfilling and satisfying lives.
History leaves in doubt whether the story of Er was created by Plato, or a true report. By , Hung Hsiu-ch'uan, a peasant farmer's son, had failed for the third time to pass the official state examination in Canton, China. He fell into a prolonged delirium, his body wasting away as he lay near death for forty days. He revived after having a miraculous vision that portrayed him and an "elder brother" searching out and slaying legions of evil demons in accordance with God's will.
Six years later Hsiu-ch'uan came across a Christian missionary pamphlet. He used what he read in the pamphlet to "substantiate" his conviction that his vision was real, and that he, as the younger brother of Jesus Christ and God's Divine Representative, was ready and willing to overthrow the forces of evil which he saw as the Manchus and Confucianism. With the help of converts to his cause he established the God Worshippers Society, a puritanical and absolutist group that quickly swelled to the ranks of a revolutionary army.
Numerous power struggles later, Hsiu-ch'uan declared war against the Manchus and launched a civil uprising - the bloodiest in all history - which lasted fourteen years and cost twenty million lives. Both men, Er and Hsiu-ch'uan who changed his name to T'ien Wang, the Heavenly King , were transfigured and transformed by their unusual near-death experiences and became zealous in their desire to "wake up" the deluded of their day. With Er, many were educated about the secrets of heaven, some becoming as transformed as he from "the good news.
Transcendent cases are powerful in both content and consequences, yet they are "risky business" in the way they can affect experiencers' lives. This enigma repeats itself each time an individual is so transfigured and transformed. Modern-day cases are no exception. Not understanding how he could suddenly be airborne, Carter Mills attempted to reenter his body.
Crawling downward in swimlike strokes he had almost reached his goal when a gentle but firm hand tugged his right arm. When he looked up, there were two angels replete with robes, wings, bare feet, and streaming hair - no color but opaque white - and no particular gender. After some confusion on Carter Mills's part the trio left the scene at tremendous speed, leaving the earth behind as if it were a star the size of a pinhead. Their destination was an intensely bright light. Carter Mills questioned, "How come I'm not cold and how come I'm not suffocating this far out in space?
The angels bowed and took their places with two others, each with wings outstretched and hands folded in prayer, at the platform's four corners. Male in mannerisms and voice, the clean-shaven being turned out to be Jesus. Carter Mills could not look Jesus in the face as he perceived himself as naked and unfit for such an audience. After some coaxing from Jesus, he felt more at ease. Instantly Carter Mills's whole life began to play out, starting at birth. He relived being a tiny spark of light traveling to earth as soon as egg and sperm met and entering his mother's womb.
In mere seconds he had to choose hair color and eyes out of the genetic material available to him and any genes that might give him the body he would need. He bypassed the gene for clubfootedness, then watched from a soul's perspective as cells subdivided. He could hear his parents whenever they spoke and feel their emotions, but any knowledge of his past lives dissolved.
Birth was a shock: awful lights, giant people, eyes peering over face masks. His only comfort was his mother. He relived each incident in his life, including killing a mother bird when he was eight. He was so proud of that single shot until he felt the pain the bird's three babies went through when they starved to death without her. Yes, I still eat meat, for in this plane species eat each other to survive, but I bless my food and say thanks for the gift life gives.
If I don't the food sours in my stomach. He was shown that hell is a black blankness without God. Upset, he yelled back, "How can you sit up here on this throne and allow such misery to happen on Earth? I gave you the tools to live by. I gave you free will and free choice. And I allow you to be part of my creation. It is your free will and your free choice that is responsible for starvation, war, and hate. Jesus, the angels and platform, disintegrated into a giant sphere of light once Carter Mills no longer needed their shape or form to put him at ease.
As the sphere grew it absorbed him, infused him with the ecstasy of unconditional love. You are so high. Magnify that to infinity! He had been told before leaving The Other Side, "No hospital, no blood, no operation, God will show you how to heal yourself. Those present verified that he had been dead for twenty minutes. The next morning Carter Mills awoke in a pool of blood. The doctor he went to for aid committed him to a psychiatric ward as insane when he refused surgery. There was gold in Asia, it was thought, and certainly silks and spices, for Marco Polo and others had brought back marvelous things from their overland expeditions centuries before.
Now that the Turks had conquered Constantinople and the eastern Mediterranean, and controlled the land routes to Asia, a sea route was needed. Portuguese sailors were working their way around the southern tip of Africa. Spain decided to gamble on a long sail across an unknown ocean. In return for bringing back gold and spices, they promised Columbus 10 percent of the profits, governorship over new-found lands, and the fame that would go with a new title: Admiral of the Ocean Sea.
He was a merchant's clerk from the Italian city of Genoa, part-time weaver the son of a skilled weaver , and expert sailor. He set out with three sailing ships, the largest of which was the Santa Maria , perhaps feet long, and thirty-nine crew members. Columbus would never have made it to Asia, which was thousands of miles farther away than he had calculated, imagining a smaller world. He would have been doomed by that great expanse of sea. But he was lucky. One-fourth of the way there he came upon an unknown, uncharted land that lay between Europe and Asia-the Americas.
It was early October , and thirty-three days since he and his crew had left the Canary Islands, off the Atlantic coast of Africa. Now they saw branches and sticks floating in the water. They saw flocks of birds. These were signs of land. Then, on October 12, a sailor called Rodrigo saw the early morning moon shining on white sands, and cried out. It was an island in the Bahamas, the Caribbean sea. The first man to sight land was supposed to get a yearly pension of 10, maravedis for life, but Rodrigo never got it.
Columbus claimed he had seen a light the evening before. He got the reward. So, approaching land, they were met by the Arawak Indians, who swam out to greet them. The Arawaks lived in village communes, had a developed agriculture of corn, yams, cassava. They could spin and weave, but they had no horses or work animals. They had no iron, but they wore tiny gold ornaments in their ears. This was to have enormous consequences: it led Columbus to take some of them aboard ship as prisoners because he insisted that they guide him to the source of the gold.
He then sailed to what is now Cuba, then to Hispaniola the island which today consists of Haiti and the Dominican Republic. There, bits of visible gold in the rivers, and a gold mask presented to Columbus by a local Indian chief, led to wild visions of gold fields. On Hispaniola, out of timbers from the Santa Maria , which had run aground, Columbus built a fort, the first European military base in the Western Hemisphere.
He called it Navidad Christmas and left thirty-nine crewmembers there, with instructions to find and store the gold. He took more Indian prisoners and put them aboard his two remaining ships.
'The Masque of the Red Death,' by Edgar Allan Poe
At one part of the island he got into a fight with Indians who refused to trade as many bows and arrows as he and his men wanted. Two were run through with swords and bled to death. Then the Nina and the Pinta set sail for the Azores and Spain. When the weather turned cold, the Indian prisoners began to die. Columbus's report to the Court in Madrid was extravagant. He insisted he had reached Asia it was Cuba and an island off the coast of China Hispaniola. His descriptions were part fact, part fiction:. The Indians, Columbus reported, "are so naive and so free with their possessions that no one who has not witnessed them would believe it.
When you ask for something they have, they never say no. To the contrary, they offer to share with anyone Because of Columbus's exaggerated report and promises, his second expedition was given seventeen ships and more than twelve hundred men. The aim was clear: slaves and gold. They went from island to island in the Caribbean, taking Indians as captives.
But as word spread of the Europeans' intent they found more and more empty villages. On Haiti, they found that the sailors left behind at Fort Navidad had been killed in a battle with the Indians, after they had roamed the island in gangs looking for gold, taking women and children as slaves for sex and labor.
Now, from his base on Haiti, Columbus sent expedition after expedition into the interior. They found no gold fields, but had to fill up the ships returning to Spain with some kind of dividend. In the year , they went on a great slave raid, rounded up fifteen hundred Arawak men, women, and children, put them in pens guarded by Spaniards and dogs, then picked the five hundred best specimens to load onto ships.
Of those five hundred, two hundred died en route. The rest arrived alive in Spain and were put up for sale by the archdeacon of the town, who reported that, although the slaves were "naked as the day they were born," they showed "no more embarrassment than animals. But too many of the slaves died in captivity. And so Columbus, desperate to pay back dividends to those who had invested, had to make good his promise to fill the ships with gold. In the province of Cicao on Haiti, where he and his men imagined huge gold fields to exist, they ordered all persons fourteen years or older to collect a certain quantity of gold every three months.
When they brought it, they were given copper tokens to hang around their necks. Indians found without a copper token had their hands cut off and bled to death. The Indians had been given an impossible task. The only gold around was bits of dust garnered from the streams. So they fled, were hunted down with dogs, and were killed. Trying to put together an army of resistance, the Arawaks faced Spaniards who had armor, muskets, swords, horses. When the Spaniards took prisoners they hanged them or burned them to death. Among the Arawaks, mass suicides began, with cassava poison. Infants were killed to save them from the Spaniards.
In two years, through murder, mutilation, or suicide, half of the , Indians on Haiti were dead. When it became clear that there was no gold left, the Indians were taken as slave labor on huge estates, known later as encomiendas. They were worked at a ferocious pace, and died by the thousands. By the year , there were perhaps fifty thousand Indians left. By , there were five hundred. A report of the year shows none of the original Arawaks or their descendants left on the island. The chief source-and, on many matters the only source-of information about what happened on the islands after Columbus came is Bartolome de las Casas, who, as a young priest, participated in the conquest of Cuba.
For a time he owned a plantation on which Indian slaves worked, but he gave that up and became a vehement critic of Spanish cruelty.
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Las Casas transcribed Columbus's journal and, in his fifties, began a multivolume History of the Indies. In it, he describes the Indians. They are agile, he says, and can swim long distances, especially the women. They are not completely peaceful, because they do battle from time to time with other tribes, but their casualties seem small, and they fight when they are individually moved to do so because of some grievance, not on the orders of captains or kings. Women in Indian society were treated so well as to startle the Spaniards.
Las Casas describes sex relations:. The Indians, Las Casas says, have no religion, at least no temples. They live in. In Book Two of his History of the Indies , Las Casas who at first urged replacing Indians by black slaves, thinking they were stronger and would survive, but later relented when he saw the effects on blacks tells about the treatment of the Indians by the Spaniards.
It is a unique account and deserves to be quoted at length:. Las Casas tells how the Spaniards "grew more conceited every day" and after a while refused to walk any distance. They "rode the backs of Indians if they were in a hurry" or were carried on hammocks by Indians running in relays. Total control led to total cruelty. The Spaniards "thought nothing of knifing Indians by tens and twenties and of cutting slices off them to test the sharpness of their blades.
The Indians' attempts to defend themselves failed. And when they ran off into the hills they were found and killed. So, Las Casas reports, "they suffered and died in the mines and other labors in desperate silence, knowing not a soul in the world to whom they could turn for help.
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After each six or eight months' work in the mines, which was the time required of each crew to dig enough gold for melting, up to a third of the men died. While the men were sent many miles away to the mines, the wives remained to work the soil, forced into the excruciating job of digging and making thousands of hills for cassava plants.
When he arrived on Hispaniola in , Las Casas says, "there were 60, people living on this island, including the Indians; so that from to , over three million people had perished from war, slavery, and the mines. Who in future generations will believe this? I myself writing it as a knowledgeable eyewitness can hardly believe it Thus began the history, five hundred years ago, of the European invasion of the Indian settlements in the Americas.
That beginning, when you read Las Casas-even if his figures are exaggerations were there 3 million Indians to begin with, as he says, or less than a million, as some historians have calculated, or 8 million as others now believe? When we read the history books given to children in the United States, it all starts with heroic adventure-there is no bloodshed-and Columbus Day is a celebration.
Past the elementary and high schools, there are only occasional hints of something else. Samuel Eliot Morison, the Harvard historian, was the most distinguished writer on Columbus, the author of a multivolume biography, and was himself a sailor who retraced Columbus's route across the Atlantic. In his popular book Christopher Columbus, Mariner, written in , he tells about the enslavement and the killing: "The cruel policy initiated by Columbus and pursued by his successors resulted in complete genocide.
That is on one page, buried halfway into the telling of a grand romance. In the book's last paragraph, Morison sums up his view of Columbus:. One can lie outright about the past. Or one can omit facts which might lead to unacceptable conclusions. Morison does neither. He refuses to lie about Columbus. He does not omit the story of mass murder; indeed he describes it with the harshest word one can use: genocide. But he does something else-he mentions the truth quickly and goes on to other things more important to him. Outright lying or quiet omission takes the risk of discovery which, when made, might arouse the reader to rebel against the writer.
To state the facts, however, and then to bury them in a mass of other information is to say to the reader with a certain infectious calm: yes, mass murder took place, but it's not that important-it should weigh very little in our final judgments; it should affect very little what we do in the world. It is not that the historian can avoid emphasis of some facts and not of others. This is as natural to him as to the mapmaker, who, in order to produce a usable drawing for practical purposes, must first flatten and distort the shape of the earth, then choose out of the bewildering mass of geographic information those things needed for the purpose of this or that particular map.
My argument cannot be against selection, simplification, emphasis, which are inevitable for both cartographers and historians. But the map-maker's distortion is a technical necessity for a common purpose shared by all people who need maps. The historian's distortion is more than technical, it is ideological; it is released into a world of contending interests, where any chosen emphasis supports whether the historian means to or not some kind of interest, whether economic or political or racial or national or sexual.
Furthermore, this ideological interest is not openly expressed in the way a mapmaker's technical interest is obvious "This is a Mercator projection for long-range navigation-for short-range, you'd better use a different projection". No, it is presented as if all readers of history had a common interest which historians serve to the best of their ability.
This is not intentional deception; the historian has been trained in a society in which education and knowledge are put forward as technical problems of excellence and not as tools for contending social classes, races, nations. To emphasize the heroism of Columbus and his successors as navigators and discoverers, and to de-emphasize their genocide, is not a technical necessity but an ideological choice. It serves- unwittingly-to justify what was done. My point is not that we must, in telling history, accuse, judge, condemn Columbus in absentia. It is too late for that; it would be a useless scholarly exercise in morality.
But the easy acceptance of atrocities as a deplorable but necessary price to pay for progress Hiroshima and Vietnam, to save Western civilization; Kronstadt and Hungary, to save socialism; nuclear proliferation, to save us all -that is still with us. One reason these atrocities are still with us is that we have learned to bury them in a mass of other facts, as radioactive wastes are buried in containers in the earth. We have learned to give them exactly the same proportion of attention that teachers and writers often give them in the most respectable of classrooms and textbooks.
This learned sense of moral proportion, coming from the apparent objectivity of the scholar, is accepted more easily than when it comes from politicians at press conferences. It is therefore more deadly. The treatment of heroes Columbus and their victims the Arawaks -the quiet acceptance of conquest and murder in the name of progress-is only one aspect of a certain approach to history, in which the past is told from the point of view of governments, conquerors, diplomats, leaders. It is as if they, like Columbus, deserve universal acceptance, as if they-the Founding Fathers, Jackson, Lincoln, Wilson, Roosevelt, Kennedy, the leading members of Congress, the famous Justices of the Supreme Court-represent the nation as a whole.
The pretense is that there really is such a thing as "the United States," subject to occasional conflicts and quarrels, but fundamentally a community of people with common interests. It is as if there really is a "national interest" represented in the Constitution, in territorial expansion, in the laws passed by Congress, the decisions of the courts, the development of capitalism, the culture of education and the mass media. From his standpoint, the "peace" that Europe had before the French Revolution was "restored" by the diplomacy of a few national leaders.
But for factory workers in England, farmers in France, colored people in Asia and Africa, women and children everywhere except in the upper classes, it was a world of conquest, violence, hunger, exploitation-a world not restored but disintegrated.
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My viewpoint, in telling the history of the United States, is different: that we must not accept the memory of states as our own. Nations are not communities and never have been, The history of any country, presented as the history of a family, conceals fierce conflicts of interest sometimes exploding, most often repressed between conquerors and conquered, masters and slaves, capitalists and workers, dominators and dominated in race and sex.
And in such a world of conflict, a world of victims and executioners, it is the job of thinking people, as Albert Camus suggested, not to be on the side of the executioners. Thus, in that inevitable taking of sides which comes from selection and emphasis in history, I prefer to try to tell the story of the discovery of America from the viewpoint of the Arawaks, of the Constitution from the standpoint of the slaves, of Andrew Jackson as seen by the Cherokees, of the Civil War as seen by the New York Irish, of the Mexican war as seen by the deserting soldiers of Scott's army, of the rise of industrialism as seen by the young women in the Lowell textile mills, of the Spanish-American war as seen by the Cubans, the conquest of the Philippines as seen by black soldiers on Luzon, the Gilded Age as seen by southern farmers, the First World War as seen by socialists, the Second World War as seen by pacifists, the New Deal as seen by blacks in Harlem, the postwar American empire as seen by peons in Latin America.
And so on, to the limited extent that any one person, however he or she strains, can "see" history from the standpoint of others. My point is not to grieve for the victims and denounce the executioners. Those tears, that anger, cast into the past, deplete our moral energy for the present. And the lines are not always clear. In the long run, the oppressor is also a victim.
In the short run and so far, human history has consisted only of short runs , the victims, themselves desperate and tainted with the culture that oppresses them, turn on other victims. Still, understanding the complexities, this book will be skeptical of governments and their attempts, through politics and culture, to ensnare ordinary people in a giant web of nationhood pretending to a common interest. I will try not to overlook the cruelties that victims inflict on one another as they are jammed together in the boxcars of the system.
I don't want to romanticize them. But I do remember in rough paraphrase a statement I once read: "The cry of the poor is not always just, but if you don't listen to it, you will never know what justice is. I don't want to invent victories for people's movements. But to think that history-writing must aim simply to recapitulate the failures that dominate the past is to make historians collaborators in an endless cycle of defeat.
If history is to be creative, to anticipate a possible future without denying the past, it should, I believe, emphasize new possibilities by disclosing those hidden episodes of the past when, even if in brief flashes, people showed their ability to resist, to join together, occasionally to win. I am supposing, or perhaps only hoping, that our future may be found in the past's fugitive moments of compassion rather than in its solid centuries of warfare. That, being as blunt as I can, is my approach to the history of the United States. The reader may as well know that before going on. It built enormous constructions from stone tools and human labor, developed a writing system and a priesthood.
It also engaged in let us not overlook this the ritual killing of thousands of people as sacrifices to the gods. The cruelty of the Aztecs, however, did not erase a certain innocence, and when a Spanish armada appeared at Vera Cruz, and a bearded white man came ashore, with strange beasts horses , clad in iron, it was thought that he was the legendary Aztec man-god who had died three hundred years before, with the promise to return-the mysterious Quetzalcoatl. And so they welcomed him, with munificent hospitality.
That was Hernando Cortes, come from Spain with an expedition financed by merchants and landowners and blessed by the deputies of God, with one obsessive goal: to find gold. In the mind of Montezuma, the king of the Aztecs, there must have been a certain doubt about whether Cortes was indeed Quetzalcoatl, because he sent a hundred runners to Cortes, bearing enormous treasures, gold and silver wrought into objects of fantastic beauty, but at the same time begging him to go back.
The painter Durer a few years later described what he saw just arrived in Spain from that expedition-a sun of gold, a moon of silver, worth a fortune. Cortes then began his march of death from town to town, using deception, turning Aztec against Aztec, killing with the kind of deliberateness that accompanies a strategy-to paralyze the will of the population by a sudden frightful deed.
And so, in Cholulu, he invited the headmen of the Cholula nation to the square. And when they came, with thousands of unarmed retainers, Cortes's small army of Spaniards, posted around the square with cannon, armed with crossbows, mounted on horses, massacred them, down to the last man.
Then they looted the city and moved on. When their cavalcade of murder was over they were in Mexico City, Montezuma was dead, and the Aztec civilization, shattered, was in the hands of the Spaniards. In Peru, that other Spanish conquistador Pizarro, used the same tactics, and for the same reasons- the frenzy in the early capitalist states of Europe for gold, for slaves, for products of the soil, to pay the bondholders and stockholders of the expeditions, to finance the monarchical bureaucracies rising in Western Europe, to spur the growth of the new money economy rising out of feudalism, to participate in what Karl Marx would later call "the primitive accumulation of capital.
In the North American English colonies, the pattern was set early, as Columbus had set it in the islands of the Bahamas. In , before there was any permanent English settlement in Virginia, Richard Grenville landed there with seven ships. The Indians he met were hospitable, but when one of them stole a small silver cup, Grenville sacked and burned the whole Indian village. Jamestown itself was set up inside the territory of an Indian confederacy, led by the chief, Powhatan. Powhatan watched the English settle on his people's land, but did not attack, maintaining a posture of coolness.
When the English were going through their "starving time" in the winter of , some of them ran off to join the Indians, where they would at least be fed. When the summer came, the governor of the colony sent a messenger to ask Powhatan to return the runaways, whereupon Powhatan, according to the English account, replied with "noe other than prowde and disdaynefull Answers. Twelve years later, the Indians, alarmed as the English settlements kept growing in numbers, apparently decided to try to wipe them out for good.
They went on a rampage and massacred men, women, and children. From then on it was total war. Not able to enslave the Indians, and not able to live with them, the English decided to exterminate them. In that first year of the white man in Virginia, , Powhatan had addressed a plea to John Smith that turned out prophetic.
How authentic it is may be in doubt, but it is so much like so many Indian statements that it may be taken as, if not the rough letter of that first plea, the exact spirit of it:. When the Pilgrims came to New England they too were coming not to vacant land but to territory inhabited by tribes of Indians. The governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, John Winthrop, created the excuse to take Indian land by declaring the area legally a "vacuum.
The Puritans also appealed to the Bible, Psalms "Ask of me, and I shall give thee, the heathen for thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession. The Puritans lived in uneasy truce with the Pequot Indians, who occupied what is now southern Connecticut and Rhode Island.