I had the power to make myself disappear when I was a boy. Strange how so
many of these phenomena appear during adolescence... on the cusp of
acquiring unimagined carnal powers, while losing others, just as extraordinary, in
I haven’t thought about this for years, though it really did happen. "There are
more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your
philosophy." I had read about how to do it in some comic book... the go-to
source, as every adolescent knows but has forgotten, for occult knowledge. It
had to do with completely emptying the mind. I think what appealed to me
about acquiring this staple of super powers was that it didn’t require muscles or
a laboratory. I practiced emptying my mind. Soon I got so good at it, achieved a
level of disassociation so profound, that it actually made my hair stand on end...
and I watched myself, albeit briefly, disappear. I watched it happen in the mirror
on my bedroom door.
It was scary. And fear was its foe. It never lasted. Only years later did I learn
that I had achieved, during these meditations, what Zen masters call the doubt
sensation, a rare achievement, although considered by adepts to be sophomoric
in the long road to enlightenment, in which reflexive consciousness shifts onto a
track in which one's existence is called into question. Its evocation of physical
invisibility, however, appeared to be mine alone. I was unable to find any
reference to the phenomenon in any of the books on exotic cultic practices that I
pored over in those days.
The heroic, or criminal, imagination of a thirteen-year-old doesn’t go very far for
its inspiration. Notions of, once invisible, disabling all the nuclear missiles in the
Soviet Block, of emptying the city pound of its canine prisoners, or the cash
register at the corner gas station of its cash, quickly vanished, along with my
fugitive flesh, in the half-dozen sessions in which I watched myself flicker out of
the visible world. Once invisible, a kind of ecstatic paralysis supervened. I
suppose over time, and with the right tutelage, I could have stood up, passed
through the door, descended the stairs, and entered a privileged world whose
secrets and devices were now laid tenderly bare. But I was not a monk on a
mountaintop. I was an adolescent in an American suburb. The sheer freakyness
of the experience, the impulse to laugh or scream, invariably brought it to an
end. And I was always too frightened to try again, at least for a while.
I agreed to demonstrate this to my two best friends, Larry and Joe. But try as I
might, I couldn’t quite get there with somebody watching. The self-consciousness
of puberty was beginning to undermine my boyhood guilelessness. I think on
some level, I wanted to fly under the radar with this, and feared the hoopla it
would cause. I sat, legs folded in a modified lotus position, in my upstairs
bedroom, Larry standing and Joe sitting on the bed skeptically in front of me.
Turning inward, my mind began to zone in on the nothingness that turned the
world inside out. I began to feel the old sensation. My heart began to slow even
as an unnamable dread washed over me. I felt the hair on the back of my neck
stir. Reality began to shimmer. But as I gazed into the faintly growing surprise in
their faces, a quickening, I felt the weight and density of reality quickly return.
Another try went nowhere. "Sorry, I guess I need to be alone," I said as I got
shakily to my feet. Joe said he thought he saw something. Larry chided him. Joe
and I exchanged furtive glances. Larry tried to kid me about it, but there was a
hint of trepidation, a slight balk, in his voice. The subject was soon dropped.
I never did it again. I think I tried once. But the skepticism of my friends, the
enormity of the possibility that I had done what I thought I had, an instinctive
fear of jumping head first and irrevocably into a shining abyss or insanity, and
an adolescent’s dawning sense of community and his desire to find a place in it,
conspired to consign the experience to its place in my closet among the tattered
comics and dusty toys, they themselves having disappeared, long ago, in the