In the New Pastures of Heaven

(This is the second of a series of four articles.)

WHEN the Monday morning session broke up for lunch, the 13 units of humanity clustered into little groups of twos and threes and walked happily down to the lodge. The boy fell in step with his friend Paul, with the ugly Susie, who had been making eyes at Paul all morning, and with a quiet, attractive man who turned out to be Susie's husband.

"I think we hugged someplace back there," the boy said to the man, "but I didn't get your name." He chuckled. It was nice to be out in the open, to feel the warm sun and the sea breeze. The man's name was Jimmy.

It was also nice, as they ate lunch, to be able to talk of commonplace things like schools and homes and jobs, nice for the boy not to worry about what he wanted, what he would do about it, what he was afraid of, which of the old women and ugly young women in the group, if any, had their eyes on his tender young body. A wave of joy enveloped him, carried him through lunch and through the afternoon -- a time of quiet relaxation during which he sat alone, for long periods of time, looking out over the ocean.

But three things would happen to change all this. The first came late that afternoon, when the large group--the group of 40--met together to work with hypnotism and fantasy. They met in a large bare room in the lodge called the gallery. Steve, who led one of the other small groups, was the leader.

THE BOY had been lightly hypnotized a couple of times before, so it was not hard for him to lie on his back with his eyes shut, listening only to the sound of Steve's voice. For a while, Steve led them through a series of sensory awakening exercises, and the boy began to feel individual muscles in his body coming alive and then relaxing. He could feel the vibrations in his toes and feet, feel them running up his legs, feel his whole body giving way and yielding to this warm, lovely flow of energy and life. But he was not ready for what happened next.

"Breathe deeply," Steve said, "and exhale. Now again. Feel your breathing." And the boy felt himself breathing. "I am going to lead you on a fantasy," Steve continued, "and if at any point you become scared, or want to stop, just remember that you are safe in your breathing. No matter what happens, you are safe in your breathing." The boy breathed deeply and felt his stomach and chest expand. Yes, he was safe there.

"I want you to imagine a mountain," Steve said. "I want you to see a mountain in your mind, and then imagine you are standing at the bottom of it." He paused for a minute, and a lovely green mountain floated into the boy's mind and settled in place. "If you look carefully, you can see a cave halfway up the mountain," Steve went on. "But there is a door on the cave. As I count from one to ten, I want you to climb up the mountain to that door. One . . ." In a flash the boy stood in front of the door. No, that was too fast. He forced himself back down the mountain. "Four . . . Now you can make out a handle on the door." Again, instantly, the boy stood before the door. Again, he drew back. "Seven . . . You are very close now. Eight. Nine. You are now standing in front of the door. I want you to open the door. I want you to open the door, and go inside the cave."

Madly, the boy flung open the door, and saw nothing but darkness, infinite darkness, into which he was falling forward, falling over and over, until suddenly the darkness became the sea, and on the sea the boy saw a sailboat. A beautiful little sailboat, with no one in it, sailed before him. Then suddenly the sailboat disappeared and the boy saw his home, and saw himself, ten or eleven years old, happily playing in the driveway.

Steve was speaking again. "Now go out of the cave, and start climbing to the top of the mountain. When you reach the top, look over at the other side." With a kind of desperate frenzy, the boy raced up the mountain. In a second he was there, excited, exhausted, panting, straining to see what lay beyond. But as he looked, once again he saw only darkness. Again he fell forward, into the darkness, but more violently this time. He felt himself tossed around by the darkness, seized and shaken by it, and he waited anxiously, afraid, to see what would emerge.

But he saw nothing, because before the darkness had released him, Steve was guiding them back down the mountain, back toward reality. When the group came out of the hypnosis, many people described what they had seen in the cave and over the mountain. Several people had not been able to open the door. One woman had opened it only to run into a wall, another had found herself in a room with flashing purple lights, and many had found pools of water--which the boy knew from an old English course to be symbols of the death-wish. He wondered what he would have seen when the darkness cleared.

THE SECOND big event of Monday came during the evening session of the boy's group. This was to be the structure of all the days there: small group sessions--usually about three hours long--in the morning and at night, and large group work in the late afternoon.

Monday night it did not take the ugly Susie long to get the attention of the group, and soon she was in the center of the circle. She lay on her back and rubbed her eyes. John leaned over her and put his hand on her stomach, as he had done with Elizabeth that morning.

"What do you feel?" John asked.

"Your hand."