Editor’s Introduction:

John Burgeson (real name) received his M.S. in physics back in the 1950s and was employed, until retirement, as a physicist by both the US government and IBM. In the latter position he published some 50 papers and programs in IBM publications. As he states, his (repeated) experience is hard to describe. In all the thousands of unusual and transcendent experiences I have heard over the years, I have come across nothing like it.

What Direction Am I Facing?
John Burgeson

As a boy, I “lived” in exactly four different houses, each one facing in a different direction, East, South, West, North. Each one was exactly the same house, peopled by the same persons. There was no difference at all between any of them except the direction they faced.

The “real” house (235 Berkshire Drive in Youngstown, Ohio) faces north, and it is the orientation I grew up understanding. But one day on the way home from school I realized that everything had changed — the orientation was 180 degrees out of phase. Things looked different – yet the same.

Being a kid, I did not think too much of this — “must be a normal thing.” But over many years I was gradually able to recreate the — (I find no word to describe it) so that I could easily switch from one orientation to another, adding the other compass points to the ( ). By the time I was a young teen it was something I could — and did — do frequently. I tried it in other locations, sometimes it worked; usually it did not work. I cannot make it work today, although I did visit the old home street about 15 years or so ago and, again, was able to partially recreate it.

If I ever return to Youngstown again, I’ll probably try it again.

Contributor’s Comments on the Experience

What difference did it make? It was in some respects like entering (switching to) a parallel universe, one in which one might find some things / people strangely different. The neighborhood “looked different,” some streets which were only a vague part of the world I knew as a boy came into sharp focus; others I knew well were hardly perceived. I did this while in the family car driving home on at least one occasion; as we approached our home I kept switching orientations and it was as if I were actually moving from life to life — yet always being the same person.

There was something transforming about these experiences — I always felt (at least after they happened) that there must be something more to life than what I perceived. When I first read the allegory of Plato’s Cave it was an “aha” encounter. That allegory makes sense. I conduct classes on science/faith issues about 2 or 3 times a year — I always use Plato’s Cave as part of the class. The experiences helped me, because they were clearly (to me) extra-material, to sort out the important things of life from the merely urgent.

The experience was also very personal. I recall talking about it to maybe 3 or 4 people over the years, none of whom had any idea what I meant, or how I felt about it. It may well have been nothing at all. But to me it was very real, and the memories of it continue to be real.