Special to L. Neil Smith's The Libertarian Enterprise
Let's start this with a practical joke that I collaborated on with
Leonard Nimoy as the target.
In May, 1974 I was a young writer living in Manhattan, and I'd just
started working on my first novel, a few years later published as
Alongside Night. One of my friends was Michael Moslow, another
writer who circled around the NYU Science Fiction Society and its two
founders, Samuel Edward Konkin III (at that time an NYU post-graduate
student in Theoretical Chemistry) and another NYU post-graduate
student, Richard Friedman.
One of the advantages of hanging around NYU students and attending an
on-campus club, to non-NYU-students like Mike and myself, was easy
access to the many celebrities who came to lecture. One of them was 1956
Nobel laureate in Physics, William Shockley, who at the time was much
more controversial for his writings outside of his field, on eugenics
and comparing the intelligence of racial groups.
There were, not unexpectedly, major campus protests against Shockley
speaking on the NYU campus, covered widely by all media. It was big
Mike and I did not attend Shockley's lecture. But speaking in the
same NYU auditorium exactly one week after Shockley (and without any
protests) was Star Trek icon Leonard Nimoy, Mr. Spock ... and I
had a sick idea that once I told it to Mike he could not be stopped
doing it. Not that I even tried.
Nimoy began his lecture to a packed house, Mike sitting near the back
of the hall, me seated somewhere nowhere near Mike, because I wasn't a
About twenty minutes into Nimoy's talk, Mike jumps up and shouts, "I
came to hear Shockley. This isn't Shockley! Who's this clown?"
Everyone, including Nimoy, cracked up as Mike marched himself of the
auditorium, still shouting.
At a Star Trek convention not long after that I met Leonard
Nimoy and let him in on the joke, which he remembered and still thought
(This was also the convention where I first met Nichelle Nichols, who
three decades later starred in my first feature film, Lady Magdalene's.)
Look, I'm a Trekkie old enough to have watched Star Trek in
its original first-run NBC broadcasts. A TV Guide
description of the next episode was enough for me to convince my
ninth-grade history teacher to write on the blackboard the episode
"Bread and Circuses," broadcast on the Ides of March, 1968.
In later life I've worked professionally with four actors from
Star Trek series: Nichelle Nichols, Uhura in Star Trek: The
Original Series, starred in the title role of the first feature film
I wrote, produced, and directed, Lady Magdalene's.
Tim Russ (Tuvok in Star Trek Voyager), Garrett Wang (Ensign Kim
in Star Trek Voyager), and Gary Graham (Ambassador Soval in
Star Trek Enterprise) all have featured roles in the second
feature film I wrote, produced, and directed, Alongside Night.
When I spoke with Ayn Rand in August 1973 I asked her about Star Trek.
"She told me that she watched Star Trek and Spock was her
—J. Neil Schulman: "I Met Ayn Rand"
Leonard Nimoy at the 2011 Phoenix Comicon in Phoenix, Arizona.
Photo by Gage Skidmore
So Star Trek has a permalink in my consciousness.
But Star Trek, and Leonard Nimoy in particular, also had a
profound impact on my understanding and describing some of the most
mysterious experiences in my life.
Here's three excerpts from my book The Heartmost Desire,
describing aspects of those experiences.
Now, I had thought of myself as somebody who, if he identified with any
character out of Star Trek, it was Spock. I was out of control.
Suddenly my emotions were out of control. It was "Amok Time"—or
something like that—without the mating ritual.
It got to the point where on the night before my birthday I lay down
in bed and this feeling of uncertainty—and remember this combined with
this death phobia—I was afraid I was going to die from this, that
something was happening in me that was killing me. I didn't know what it
I lay down in bed—and bed for me was a futon on the floor in this
bedroom—and I felt a hand on my heart inside my chest. I can't
describe it any other way. I felt a physical presence of a hand, as if
it was holding my heart. Not squeezing it but holding it so I could feel
it. In my head I heard this voice and it said to me, "I can take you
Suddenly my worst fear, death was coming, you know, God is going to
take me. I'm in the middle of a Twilight Zone episode. Hand on
my heart. I'm scared to death—literally. And a voice—The Voice,
which I knew was God's voice—was saying, "I can take you
now." And I was scared.
Something unusual happened at that point. The Voice, which had just
said "I can take you now," started laughing at me.
And I said, "Why are you laughing at me?"
And The Voice—God, I might as well just say God, because that's how
I identified it—God said to me then "Because I can't believe that
I said, "Why would you be surprised that I'm scared? I've always been
scared of death. You're surprised that I'm scared?"
It was totally inexplicable to me that while this is going on, God's
first reaction is to be astonished, and laugh, that I am scared of
death. Who am I that God would be surprised that I'm scared of death?
I'm not a war hero, who's been an Audie Murphy who's charged machine-gun
nests, or anything like that. Why on Earth would God be surprised by
that? This was one of the things going on while I am, in essence, scared
out of my mind.
After He stopped laughing at me, God said "You have to make a choice.
I can take you now. You will die now or I can let you live but here's
the thing. No more promises. No more deals. You have in your
mind somewhere that you can make a deal with me and I'm going to make
everything come out all right and you're going to be safe from
everything and you're not going to die and the people around you, who
you keep on praying for constantly, are not going to die. And if you
stay—if I don't take you now—all bets are off. You stay,
unconditionally, with no promises, and whatever happens, you have to
And I was more scared of death than of fate. And so I said "I'll stay."
And I felt The Hand leave my heart. I had accepted the contract.
I thought, at that point, I wonder if this is simply some sort of
psychological event, some fantasy my body is having to tell me that I'm
having a heart attack?
BRAD LINAWEAVER: While this was going on, weren't you thinking about
Heinlein's situation as well as your own?
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Well, I was thinking in terms of everybody. Not
just Heinlein, but I was praying for my parents, and my wife, and all my
friends, you know, "Don't let any of them die, don't let me die, don't
let anybody die."
BRAD LINAWEAVER: I just remember conversations I had with you at
the time. Heinlein seemed to be very prominent in your mind.
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Very prominent, but at that particular moment I
don't know, okay? But again, it was this clinging to God, praying so
tight that nobody dies, that no harm comes to everybody. You know this
panicked clinging, which was what He was breaking. In essence He was
telling me, "Don't pray so much! because I'd been praying every day,
constantly. Not just the Lord's Prayer, but also the prayers for
everybody to be okay—and not in the Christian sense of praying for
their soul —but praying for them physically not to die, not to get hit
by a truck.
So, God ended that at that moment.
Nonetheless, again, being the rationalist, I'm thinking maybe this is
my science-fiction writer's brain telling me that I'm having a heart
attack. So at this point I woke up my roommate and I said, "Call the
paramedics, I think I'm having a heart attack."
The paramedics arrived and they put those sensors on me to do the
electrocardiogram, which they do instantly, and they looked at me like I
was crazy. They said, "Your heart is perfectly fine. What are you
talking about? There's nothing going on." One of them asked me an
interesting question. He said, "Are you going through a divorce right
"No," I said, "everything's fine. My wife is coming out tomorrow to
celebrate my birthday. Everything's great. But I thought I was having a
"No, you're not having a heart attack. Forget it, you're fine!"
They didn't even want to take me down to the hospital for observation.
My heart must have been rock steady at that point.
They left. My roommate went back to sleep. And my panic was over.
Whatever had happened—now that I knew that I was not dying—what
had been going on for a week, with this recurring hyperventilation, this
emotional lability, it stopped at that instant.
It was over. The event was over.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: Now, important question. So what would have been
your first contact with God—when it was over you thought it might very
well be God but you weren't one-hundred-percent certain that it was
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: I was pretty certain that it was God.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: Ninety percent or one-hundred percent?
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Ninety-eight percent.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: But there was still two percent of doubt?
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Right.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: So you thought very likely it was God but you
weren't totally convinced, just almost.
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Right. There was always that two percent of doubt
because I might be crazy. I knew that the human body was capable
of doing odd things, and the human brain was capable of doing odd things.
I thought that maybe I was suffering from some toxic poisoning from
coffee or something like that. Maybe this was some sort of hallucinated
BRAD LINAWEAVER: Now another question. What would be your first
encounter with God? Because a lot of people who have known you over the
years, when they see your license plate "I met God," or when they see
the title of this book, are going to be thinking about your econd
encounter—which we we're not getting to for a while yet—which you
call the Mind Meld with God, which is the most intense meeting with God.
But, in fact, this is the first meeting with God?
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: This is the first direct encounter, or actually
the first one which I identify as a direct encounter, because I have had
BRAD LINAWEAVER: But this is not the Mind Meld. That was a later
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: That is correct. This is a frightening and entirely
confronting and unpleasant experience.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: And, it's the most unusual thing about what would be
your first encounter of God. The first time you move from agnosticism
to pretty damn close to the theistic position, that you now believe
there is a God. You're awful close to it now, that the first thing, in
effect, you get out of your first encounter with God is?
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: God telling me to stop praying.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: Right! You don't normally hear that from somebody
who prays, prays, prays—God finally communicates and says, "Stop all
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Yes. Bizarre. And also, just as bizarre, God
laughing at me because he can't believe that I'm afraid.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: Right, so there's two things. The sense of humor,
which a large part of your argument about God, you've argued. A large
part of your novel, Escape from Heaven, and many times on
Jack's show when you're explaining your real beliefs, your view that God
has a sense of humor, is a very, very important part of everything
you've been building out of these experiences. This was the first time
you had the idea that God had a sense of humor, his laughing at your
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Yes. You know a really rough sense of humor.
But two events happen. One of them is Heinlein dies. I let go and a
few weeks after that he's dead. Okay? I'm told that I can't keep him
alive any more and a few weeks later he's dead. And it's almost like
what was going on with me was not, in fact, a caffeine reaction, or a
coffee reaction or something like that. But in essence this link, which I
have set up psychically with Heinlein, is killing me, and unless I let
go I'm going to die.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: Die along with Heinlein or in place of Heinlein?
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Along with, I'll go with him.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: Were there were links to others, too? It sounds
like there were a couple of links.
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Yes, but the others weren't dying. I've
linked up with a number of people and one of them is dying and it's
going to drag me along with it. On the metaphysical level if we want to
look at it in these terms, that's what was happening.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: This psychic link with a dying person, dangerous move.
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Right. And then he dies, May 8th, was
that the date?
Now. Something else happens, very significant. I have a dream.
In my dream I am in a courtroom and to my side is my counsel and my
counsel is a woman and my counsel is God.
Not, in some same sense, the God who had his masculine hand on my
heart a few weeks before that. But God as a female and God is my lawyer.
And there is a panel, a panel of judges up on the judge's bench, and
I'm at the defendant's table. Although it's more of a hearing, an
inquiry, than a trial, I'm not on trial for having done something wrong.
But it is a court of inquiry. And the question before the court, I am
told by God, my lawyer who is female, is, "Why was I afraid?"
BRAD LINAWEAVER: The same question repeated?
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Right. What was it, why was I afraid? God is
obviously surprised that I could be afraid and apparently it's something
that needs to be resolved.
Here is something very interesting, I am told by God, my lawyer who
is female, "The judges need your permission to unlock the records. They
are sealed. None of us are allowed to look at them without your
permission. Will you give us permission to look so that we can find out
why you are afraid of death?"
I said "Yes, permission granted."
BRAD LINAWEAVER: But God is asking for permission to look at sealed
records in effect.
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Not only God but all these judges in this courtroom.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: But what's impressive is, God won't look at these
records without permission. Do I have this right?
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: That is correct. And I said, "Yes you can look."
And only a few seconds go by—it's not like court is adjourned, we'll
be back later—a few seconds go by and they have the answer immediately
after I give permission.
I am told, "We have just searched the records and what we found out
was that in your immediate incarnation before this you were murdered as
an infant and died not understanding what was going on, that the imprint
of this carried over into your current life as fear, as an irrational
fear of death."
Now, I woke up from this dream and the phobia that had dogged me my
entire life up to that moment was gone.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: The phobia was gone?
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: The phobia—something, which had dogged me my
entire life—was gone. Okay?
Now what sort of dream is it that you have, that changes your life,
that changes something fundamental about you? This was remarkable to me,
I have a dream and then suddenly, this thing which I have never been
able to go to bed without distracting myself so I wouldn't think about
death, suddenly this is gone?
BRAD LINAWEAVER: The dream reinforced the first meeting with God.
You could actually argue that this dream is either an epilog to or a
second encounter with God, but it's logically tied to that first
encounter. It is all of a piece with the hand on the heart and that
you've got to let go what you are afraid of, all of that is a piece of
the same experience, the same event. Therefore, at the end of what might
be called this first encounter with God, you've had a major
psychological change and you as somebody who used to be an atheist, and
then have gone through this agnostic period, are wondering why the thing
that would get you over the hump of such a dire problem, why you of all
people ould be imagining that it's God? Since you've never felt for
most of your life a need for God.
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Right
BRAD LINAWEAVER: And yet God shows up in this situation and suddenly
a huge life problem of yours is resolved. It's like, what is it eight
years later when you have the Mind Meld? There's a good chunk of a
decade that separates this event from the next encounter with God. Which
means you're not just having—like these people who claim they have
born again experiences and God's in their heart and they're in
communication with God all the time—you go through a long period of
time from this moment to the next time you have an encounter with God.
—J. Neil Schulman, The Heartmost Desire (Section 2, "I Met God—God
Without Religion, Scrupture, or Faith," Chapter 3: Contact)
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Napoleon, or Jesus Christ. As you say, the asylums are
full of people who claim to be Jesus Christ or Mary or something like
that. But the point is they're going around trying to convince other
people of it.
The last thing I wanted to do was tell anybody about this. Because,
if I thought I was crazy, certainly they would think I was crazy, too!
I didn't want to tell anybody that I was considering—inside my
skull—the idea that I was God. They'd put me away!
I was pretty much back to myself after the first few weeks, when I
started feeling physically stronger again, and no longer had this fear
that this was an end-of-life experience. Because, by the way, people who
I've spoken to about this experience since, say that, in some senses,
it matches up with the near-death experiences of those who have had
their hearts stopped or something like that and found themselves out of
themselves. Because, when I would try to explain that I was out of my
personality, people would hear it and think of it as an out-of-body
I wasn't out of my body. God was in my body with me. That was different.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: No, it's definitely flipped from the normal. It's
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Right. So, again, I didn't want to go around
telling anybody I was God. Not during the experience and not afterwards.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: You weren't floating around looking at your own body.
You had decided that God had invaded your body—
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: No, it wasn't an invasion because it was welcome.
The experience was entirely welcome.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: I don't know what verb to use but God had
overlapped with, intruded upon...
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: How about had communed with me?
BRAD LINAWEAVER: Or double exposured, or whatever?
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: How about conversation in the Biblical sense? That
it was a joining? Instead of a physical joining it was a spiritual
joining? Or to use the metaphor which I came up with later, it was a
—J. Neil Schulman, The Heartmost Desire (Section 2, "I Met God—God
Without Religion, Scrupture, or Faith," Chapter 8: Aftermath)
After the book is already published, after Escape from Heaven
is in print, that's when I start discovering what I put into the book.
What God has revealed to me without my even knowing it.
And two things in particular. One is that I got ahold of
Leonard Nimoy's photographic book, Shekhina, and I had never
heard the word Shekhina before then. But this is what was interesting
to me, and here is the sequence of knowledge and learning here.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: Back to kabbalah...
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Right. Leonard Nimoy was raised Jewish, in Boston,
and when he was taken to the Orthodox synagogue, you had the ritual of
everybody turns their back so they can't see the Holy of Holies and I
guess the Rabbi holds up his hands and does the Vulcan greeting, as we
know, with the two fingers separated into a "V" in the middle.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: "Live long and prosper!"
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: The "Live long and prosper" symbol, which is a
representation, Nimoy explains in his book Shekhina,
of the Hebrew letter "shin," if I'm not mistaken, which is the
representation of Shekhina. Shekhina being the Holy Spirit, the feminine
aspect of God.
And I am learning, when I start now researching this—having learned
about it—that it's God's wife, the female aspect of God. And here's
the important part: the advocate of man to God.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: I have to ask you a question.
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: But let me, before you ask me the question. I
can't let this go by without emphasizing it too strongly.
We go back to 1988 where I had that dream, the dream that changes my
life, where my attorney—my advocate—is God and she is a woman. God
was a woman in my dream, okay?
I put that in Escape from Heaven and now I find out that
Shekhina, the Holy Spirit in Judaism, is a central part of the hidden
kabbalistic doctrines, and I've met her in my dream in 1988, and put her
in a novel? And only now I find out who she is? That the defender of
humanity before God, in essence, represented me?
This is—I'm starting to think—this is a central part of Judaism
which I never knew about.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: I always thought it was a hidden part of Judaism.
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Hidden, but you know it's not something I was
taught in the year of Hebrew School.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: That's what I mean, I always thought it was kind
of like secretive.
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: It is. It's secretive. It is deliberately secretive.
Here is Leonard Nimoy doing a book about it, telling me about it,
starting me researching about it, and what I find out is that who
Shekhina is, the Holy Spirit, the defender of man before God, was in
my dream, defending me in 1988, after I had the experience where I had
God—the male God—having His hand on my heart.
I'm blown away when I learn this.
—J. Neil Schulman, The Heartmost Desire (Section 2, "I Met God—God
Without Religion, Scrupture, or Faith," Chapter 9: Collaboration)
These experiences formed the backdrop of my 2002 third novel,
Escape from Heaven, so when I first received printed copies
of the novel I decided that the man who had told me about the
Shekhina should be given a copy.
Living in Culver City it wasn't far to drive to Leonard Nimoy's
house in the Bel Air section of Los Angeles.
As I drove up the gate was open, and Leonard and Susan Nimoy were
outside their house. Susan approached me. "Delivery for Leonard Nimoy,"
I said. "No signature needed."
Leonard Nimoy's eyes were on me as I handed Susan the package with
the book. I don't have any idea how well he could see me or whether
there was any chance he'd recognize me from our few convention
encounters. But while Leonard Nimoy was looking at me, I gave him the
Vulcan split-finger salute and said, "Live long and prosper."
Susan Nimoy smiled but Leonard Nimoy didn't return the Vulcan salute
and in true Vulcan fashion, he didn't smile as I drove away.
[ There is a little embedded video I didn't include here. See
the original -- Editor ]
J Neil Schulman @ Rational Review