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NOTE: This is really a book of philosophy told mainly as an interview. It is not designed as an action-driven novel, like Darwood & Smitty. So it is a book for thinking more than playing.
A Vampire's Final Thoughts
It was strange seeing vampires come into such popular appeal at the very time when the only vampire I knew was nearing the end of his life. Stranger still that, for all the interest in vampires, few people thought them real; and those that did had such a gross misunderstanding of this wise race. But I knew better because of my own good fortune in knowing Mannaeus.
Those who really know the vampires also know that there is just one area where they mainly live in the United States, and this is where there are some last struggles amongst their kind. But plenty have left this area to avoid these conflicts, and can be found scattered throughout the States in relative seclusion from one another. And they live alongside the human race, almost always more peacefully than humans do with one another.
Differences? Of course there are some. But nothing like the old tales tell. At least, not the living vampires. Mannaeus would point out, though, that there was of course a monster vampire race. That was the nature of the human psyche. But I'll let him explain that.
How did I meet Mannaeus? In a pretty common way. He spoke to a business and economics group I belonged to, and he later told me that many of his kind were engaged in similar talks at the time. It was 2006 and they knew -- they had seen the economic cycles so many times in so many nations, always looking different because of circumstance, but fundamentally being the same. They knew the economic collapse that was about to hit, and they believed it was their duty to warn as many people as possible to take action while they still could. The more people protecting themselves, the better we could weather the storm. No telling how much worse things might have been had they done nothing; no telling how much better things might have been if more people had listened.
Unfortunately for me, my gut heard him loud and clear but my mind ignored him. He had spoken with astonishing authority and easily referenced so many instances in history where similar bubbles had grown and burst. I was so intrigued by his authority that I had to introduce myself afterward and exchange business cards. I even kept his card for a long time in my wallet because I was so captured by its simplicity:
These two lines followed only by a phone number. Nothing more or less. Advisor. What did that mean? What did he advise people on? Was he a business coach? A personal coach? A software consultant? I had no idea. And because of that, I loved the card and kept it.
Yet for all that, I ignored him and started a health practice in 2007 ... in Michigan of all places. It was fun in the beginning when we had cash to hold us over, and for a few months we grew at a surprising pace. But then, by year's end, the calls began to arrive: "Love the work you're doing. But my husband just lost his job. I'm afraid I have to cancel my appointment."
Within a year, I closed the business and went back to writing and marketing full time -- something I'd done since 2001 and honestly had the most passion for. No kidding I learned something about following my gut in those twelve months. I had wanted to write for a living since I was in first grade and turned my back on that to start a different business; and my gut had wanted to listen to Mannaeus about the coming economic reality.
When the business closed and I went back to writing for clients, I sat one day in front of my computer thinking. I pulled my wallet from my pocket and opened it. And then, of course, I pulled out that strange business card that simply said: Mannaeus Stratford, Advisor.
I stared at it for several minutes. What kind of advisor? What else could he foresee, the way he'd seen the economic troubles? And importantly, could I afford him as an advisor?
Finally the whole mind-gut thing became clear. I was trying to rationalize calling him, but my gut had already decided on the call. So justifying it didn't matter. Who cared if I couldn't afford him? What I knew was that I could afford to call and ask what he was all about.
The phone rang three times before he answered. "Mannaeus Stratford," he said.
"Mr. Stratford, my name is Steve McCardell. I attended a talk you gave back in 2006. An excellent talk, and one that I'm afraid I ignored. So by now I've opened and closed a business and accumulated debt that I could have avoided. After your talk, I got your business card, and I'm calling about that. Advisor. What kind of advice do you offer?"
There was a long pause, and I started to wonder whether he was still on the line. I had, after all, burst right into explaining myself and hadn't thought to ask if it was a good time for him. But then he answered my question. "The kind of advice," he said, "that typically goes ignored."
I couldn't tell if he was being funny or serious. He said it deadpan. "Oh, I uh .... Yes. I imagine good advice is often ignored. But I'd like to see if, perhaps, I can turn experience into a lesson. Learn to listen a little better. I'm just not sure what kind of advisor you are."
"You're Steve McCardell the writer, yes? I remember you. I held onto your business card because I felt I would need a writer before long. What advice are you looking for?"
I laughed. "I don't know exactly. I guess the same as everyone. Secrets of success, that sort of thing."
The man I remembered speaking in 2006 was animated and passionate as he spoke. But this fellow on the phone was flat in everything he'd said so far, and he continued that way. "You're speaking of financial success? You do understand there are no secrets to that kind of success, right? The information is all out in the open. But no one can teach action. Either you're willing to take action for success or you're not. Most people do not. This isn't their fault -- it is the stage of human development. So is this what you're after? A financial advisor? A success advisor?"
"Uh ... no," I admitted, surprising myself. "I mean, I love the thrill of business challenges and successes. I might enjoy having the right mentor. But I guess it's bigger than that. When it comes down to it ... I really want to know how I can help to change the world. For the better of course."
"Ah!" he said, brightening just a little over the phone. "Well now that is a different matter, isn't it? Then we can help one another. As I said, I am in need of a writer. And you are in need of answers. So I will give you my address and on Thursday, you can be here at 1 p.m. But bring your computer, because you will need to work."
There's a home not too far from where I live that a lot of people refer to as a castle. It's not gargantuan, but it's definitely spacious and has a couple of small towers as well as a private, gated street leading up to it with a wide open lawn and palatial landscaping out front. This isn't entirely out of character with a lot of the beautiful homes in the county, so it wasn't remarkable enough for people to really wonder who lived there. But it was still a pretty special moment driving down the street as the home grew larger before me, and then knocking on the large oak door, and then being welcomed into a place of luxury.
If the outside of the home was subtle enough for its community, the interior was not. It was beyond impressive, with sweeping stairways into the foyer and rare wood everywhere, beautifully carved along the stair rails. The walls had occasional insets with statues that probably all had stories involving embarrassing costs. Water spilled with a quiet gurgle down the sides of the stairs and slipped quietly into the floor, a kind of feng shui waterfall effect. It was stately, refined, and yet definitely a home. The wood gave it warmth; the water gave it life. Not like the cold marble mansions I'd seen so often on TV.
Mannaeus shook my hand warmly as he welcomed me into his home, and as he closed the door behind me, gestured with his other hand toward his study. The study was in one of the small towers; it was two stories high with a winding stair along the wall taking you to the bookshelves built into the walls on the second story. Many more bookshelves were built into the first floor walls as well, though a large stone fireplace took up much of the wall as well, and a massive antique desk filled another portion. Besides that, a couple of couches, chairs, and side tables met in the middle and gave a place to gather or simply to sit and read. He asked me to take a seat, and as I set my laptop on a nearby table, he sat himself across from me.
"I will tell you," said Mannaeus, "that I began to wonder whether I should call you myself, though I preferred not to be too premature with this project. When you called, I took it as a wink from fate and knew we ought to meet. But tell me more about your hopes for changing the world."
Though he was sitting now, Mannaeus was a tall man, lean, and regal. He wore a dark suit, making my lame attempt to dress up with a buttoned shirt and khakis just disappear beneath his class. That's what I got for being a writer and thinking that anything more than jeans was "black tie." To this day, I don't know how someone could wear a suit in their own home, but he made it look easy.
"Well I think we both know," I told him, "that raising children well changes the world for the better. That doing your job with integrity changes the world. That being honest with people changes the world. Any time we look outside ourselves and do for someone else. I get that, and I'm pretty sure I've done some good from time to time.
"But I also have this belief," I continued, "that I can do much more." I struggled with how to put it into words, so I paused a moment to organized my thoughts, and he remained patient. "I have this honest belief that we can give to the world far more than we're asking from it and still prosper. I don't mean being rich -- I mean having all needs met, and if those needs include riches because you need to touch many lives, then that will happen. But I believe we should be able to give without fear of ever having too little for ourselves. And if we could all do this, the world would be completely different."
"So what's the challenge?" asked Mannaeus, looking sincerely interested.
"Not knowing what to give, or where to give it, or how my own family's needs would be met from the effort."
Mannaeus smiled broadly, sat back -- for he had been leaning forward to listen -- and set his hands firmly onto his armrests. He closed his eyes and nodded. "Yes, I see," he told me. "You know, I will tell you ... I think this is one of the key problems that humans face. All of your great spiritual leaders have talked about it. People discuss it in their churches and synagogues. But the spiritual leaders were misunderstood and the people today discuss it and have no idea what they're really saying."
"What's that?" I asked.
"Faith. People think that they can make a statement of faith and then have that faith. But to be honest, faith isn't something you can decide that you have. Either you do, or you do not.
"Now don't get me wrong," he continued, warming up -- and I could see that this was indeed the animated speaker I had seen several years ago -- "everyone has faith. But most of them have faith in things they don't want to believe in. That is the sad and terrible irony."
"How do you mean?" I asked. His statement was disturbing because, if true, I could only imagine the problems it would create.
"Belief," said Mannaeus, "is something conscious. When you consciously think something is true, then you believe it. Faith, however, is subconsious, and it is the real driver of your entire life experience. And I mean this literally. Whatever you have faith in comes into your life in one way or another. But you cannot know what your faith is by definition, because it's below the threshold of consciousness. So someone can tell you that they believe in some religion or philosophy or theory, and that might be true. Consciously they believe it. But it doesn't mean they have faith in it.
"In fact," he continued, "if you want to know what someone has faith in, observe their life. Their circumstances. It won't be a perfect demonstration of their faith -- especially because you'll interpret it from your own experience -- but it will be a much closer reality of their faith than whatever they tell you they believe in."
I chewed on this a moment, staring at him. "Hypnotherapy," I said, thinking this connected with things I'd learned about that topic. "This is why hypnotherapy has the potential to help so many people. Because it taps into the subconscious and helps redirect their faith."
"Indeed," said he, "to the extent that it's done correctly. In other words, to the extent it has correctly accessed someone's subconscious mind and their faith. But hypnotherapy doesn't always do this correctly, and sometimes it is accessing the collective subconscious, carried by all humans. Changes to that part of the mind only make imperceptible changes to that individual, but they also make imperceptible changes to all individuals. And this is how the media, over time, is able to manipulate the mass consciousness."
"So we do share a consciousness? All humans?" I asked. It was something many people talked about, but I wasn't aware of any proof about it.
"Yes, of course," Mannaeus said plainly. "Humans cannot escape the fact that they exist in animal bodies, and all animals share a mass consciousness. Some do so more obviously than others. And when people fail to use their minds and hearts to raise above the animal nature, then they are easily controlled by those who sway the collective faith. This is why people who question the mainstream message are scorned and marginalized. Those who want to control mass thought cannot have individuals breaking up their effort to direct the collective faith. So they use the media to scorn those who question the mainstream message, scaring off others from doing the same."
"But how does the media manipulate the collective mind, the collective belief system, if this is a subconscious mind? Wouldn't they have to use hypnosis to access people's subconscious minds and plant their stories?"
Mannaeus smiled on one side of his mouth and beamed on me. "Yes," he said, as if he realized what was about to dawn on me. "Hypnosis, by definition, is accessing the subconscious mind. That's all it is. So if they've accessed that mind, then they've hypnotized you. And they're able to do this in many ways. Television is a perfect example -- watching TV reduces the activity and shields of the conscious mind and puts us in a passive, receptive state, you see? So the messages from TV penetrate into the subconscious faith system. Subliminal messages, when used, do a similar thing. Driving long distances -- especially with minimal traffic -- can put people into a kind of trance state too. So whatever we're listening to on the radio can slip into the subconscious.
"But it's beyond just the use of TV and radio. You see, as long as they can shift someone's focus onto the lowest energies of the human -- and by this, I mean the animal nature of the human -- they can insert messages. This is why controlling forces have more power of people if they can drive attention to the body. So anything about sex or physical beauty or physical strength, as well as low energy language and violence and gore, anything about controlling other people, anything that stimulates what we call the lowest energy centers of a person ... all of these open us up to the messages around us. And in those cases, the messages are about sex and physicality, violence, and control. And in tandem with that, we're often exposed to product or brand messaging. So what kind of faith do you think evolves? It's one that believes in violence and control and sex and buying, for instance. A simple example, of course. A simple explanation. But in general," said Mannaeus, "this is true."