|Spring, 2000, Volume 24:3|
DAN WOODING INTERVIEWS
Dan Wooding: Tal, if I understand correctly your true life adventure recounted in the just published Avatar Of Night was a best seller in India that created quite a storm of controversy in the mid-1980's. Then apparently the government of India banned the book.
Tal Brooke: Yes, they did during the early throes of what has become rampant Hindu nationalism in India.
Dan Wooding: It is apparently the only book in Indian publishing history ever published by an Indian secular press--Vikas, the largest one at that--that dramatically shows someone, you, immersed in the complete Indian mystical experience right there in India (in this case under their premier miracle-working godman) who --now the shocker-- suddenly discovers that Christ is the only answer right in a South Indian hotel room! It also repudiates all the seductive claims of eastern mysticism, Hinduism, and such related beliefs besieging the West as the New Age Movement. That's quite a threat. How did it get published in the first place?
Tal Brooke: Dan, when I returned to India and went to Vikas publishing in Old Delhi, I was fully aware that it would be almost impossible--apart from an act of God--that this book would ever come into print in India. After all, it claimed that Christ, not Krishna or eastern thought, was the ultimate truth. It also exposed a dark side of the nation's greatest godman. So I was joyously stunned when I was offered a contract by India's biggest secular press, perhaps taking a risky venture to stir up publicity and profits which all happened when the book became a best-seller.
Dan Wooding: I am reading Avatar Of Night now and I'm finding it absolutely riveting--a harrowing drama that is hard to put down. It also speaks with an authority that you don't get with any of the self-appointed Christian experts on the New Age--who evidently learn second-hand in the library or by observing from a safe distance.
Unlike books written by Christians for Christians, your book is uniquely geared to reach sophisticated secular readers, because it speaks with an authority that comes from a level of insight and experience that they cannot repudiate. It is also written at a very high level.
Tal Brooke: That's kind of you to say that. I feel a need to reach our generation of non-Christians rather than recycling material to the already converted.
Dan Wooding: But I would think your experience would enable so many of today's Christians to understand things happening in our world that they don't really understand.
Now, how did you get started down this path?
Tal Brooke: Dan, because I grew up in an agnostic family, and had no real spiritual reference point in my life such as a church, I was on a constant quest to find the meaning to existence. Somewhere in this I developed a consuming curiosity in the supernatural. At 10, just as my father was leaving off to work--he was an American diplomat in London and we lived in Knightsbridge--I asked him to bring me back a Ouija board. He did that evening, perhaps to prove there was nothing to such "superstitious nonsense."
Dan Wooding: Incredible. Apparently the true story on which the film The Exorcist is based began with a child in the Midwest using a Ouija Board.
Tal Brooke: Yes. In my case, as soon as I started to play with the Ouija board I noticed presences in my room at night. We also had a house maid who also worked for a medium. And I would become fascinated in her accounts of the spirit world.
At 11, I started to have what are known as out-of-the-body experiences. Then at 12, when we went back to the United States for home leave, I remember walking by a circular book rack at a drugstore in Georgetown, and seeing a book entitled, The Case For Bridey Murphy. It was about a woman who, under hypnosis, remembered back to a prior lifetime in Ireland. Suddenly I had another reference point for this phenomenon of spirits that not only "float around" but apparently go from body to body from lifetime to lifetime. Of course the concept is known as reincarnation, a decidedly mystical and New Age concept. But those were some of the hooks, the trail of crumbs.
Dan Wooding: And the trail of crumbs led you to India. But what happened in between?
Tal Brooke: The radical events during the 1960's blew the door wide open. The real booster rocket for me was a massive dose of LSD 25, 10 times the normal dosage. I was convinced that I had reached the same level of enlightenment of the great Eastern masters in a brief foretaste--and later read descriptions paralleling my experience in the writings of Ramakrishna, Ramanah Maharshi, Maharishi, Aurobindo and others.
In the end, I had no choice but go to India. I just knew too much to go on with ordinary life pretending I didn't know. And according to the mystical texts, I was that one in a million "advanced soul" whose costly knowledge was like a gift from heaven. I had seen the cosmos with the mask of illusion briefly pulled away in a gigantic mystical experience.
A trip to India seemed my only chance for full cosmic consciousness--the real cosmic door prize. It was such a compelling belief system, Dan, I was hooked and caught by what I knew.
Dan Wooding: Avatar of Night begins as your plane flies over New Delhi, then you "enter the cauldron of India." The description is incredible.
Didn't Academy Award winning director Jane Campion come across your book when she was traveling through India or maybe it was Australia? And didn't she visit you after that?
Tal Brooke: Well the very week Jane Campion won two Academy Awards for The Piano, she flew from Los Angeles to Oakland, arriving in Berkeley in a stretch limo to spend the afternoon with me. She was looking for insights and images for a film she was planning on India. She wanted an insider's perspective from the viewpoint of a Westerner who has undergone full immersion into the subcontinent of India, its belief system and all.
Dan Wooding: The film just came out, correct?
Tal Brooke: Yes, Her film, Holy Smoke, is now out and stars Kate Winslett who starred in The Titanic. Sadly, it is a fully Eastern/New Age film. Campion seemed determined to ignore my own final revelation in order stick with her New Age storyline. At lunch she confessed coming from a Brethren background, and having left the Christian worldview completely. In this film it's the Australian cultural Christians who are demonized and the New Agers who are treated with compassion, in some ways sainted. And of course the brief India segment is hauntingly vivid--and yes, there are some scenes that are clearly from my book.
Dan Wooding: You had time to give her the real picture?
Tal Brooke: As we wandered Berkeley, her husband quietly listening, and had lunch at Chez Panisse, I explained clearly to her how the demonic nature of what I found in India verified the biblical portrayal of reality. That by the end, I was desperate and called out to Christ as the only hope. I think she hid a knowing sneer at that point. Yet I was the very insider she had sought out, now telling her the real story--and she wanted no part of it because the conclusion was not what she wanted to hear.
Dan Wooding: I must say at this point that your epic story should have been the film and not this bizarre thing Campion finally produced. Yet I wonder if Hollywood could ever do your story justice without perverting it somehow. You would need some group like Merchant/Ivory behind it, those who produced Chariots of Fire.
Meanwhile, Tal, our mutual friend and Hollywood agent Terry Porter is convinced it would be an epic film if properly put together on the level of Passage to India.
Tal Brooke: Terry has been another encouragement. But he knows my views that if Hollywood did produce the movie, I have no doubt that I would emerge--not as a converted Christian--but as New Ager returning to the West in saffron robes.
Dan Wooding: The book jacket describes your experience in haunting language:
"Brooke saw and experienced things that seemed to obliterate all Western conceptions of reality as his journey vectored further into an alien universe. What had appeared as the prized state of godlike enlightenment, which seemed just within reach, became a precipice--not of enlightenment--but obliteration, even possession. Brooke was becoming a captive soul of an ancient inner transformation, while Baba's outward divinity concealed a timeless, demonic presence.
After two years of surrender to a Being who claimed to be God on earth, something remarkable happened. The end-game of spiritual powers ensnaring one man's soul turned abruptly and miraculously. Poised on the edge of a precipice, Brooke was rescued from above."
Now I suppose that the thing that check-mated you was your encounter with the forces of evil. Is that right?
Tal Brooke: Absolutely! I had encountered something that was deeply demonic. And the only remedy in the universe, the only means of escape for me during those waning moments, was Jesus Christ. It was so vivid and so real. I had finally reached a point of desperation where I finally saw the truth as spiritual oblivion was closing in on me.
Dan Wooding: There is an incredibly rich scene of the two seasoned missionaries, truly saintly people, who had been in India for over 35 years and suddenly God brought them right into your path at a key moment. Their wisdom and grace as they humbly brought you the gospel was profound. If only some film could portray that!
Tal Brooke: I owe them my life. God used them to bring me the truth in a way I could understand. Timing was critical. I really don't think I could have gotten into the kingdom any other way. The whole experience seemed custom designed for my ultimate conversion. And I am grateful to be salvaged out of that abyss, believe me.
Dan Wooding: People should read this book in droves. It certainly depicts the broad sweep of an era--spanning the beliefs from the 60s, with the various humanisms, the emptiness of modernity, into the New Age and Eastern mysticism of our present time. In that way, your book does what ten books explaining the same things cannot do. Because it is both a rich overview, an engaging experience, as well as a live encounter with a spiritual reality that runs marrow deep and is so convincingly real.
Tal Brooke: Thanks for those encouraging words.
Dan Wooding: Now this very impressive edition that I have--403 pages long with 180 photographs placed in context--I understand you published through a company you started, End Run Publishing. I must say that this trade paperback looks as good as anything Random House or Simon and Schuster might publish.
Tal Brooke: Thanks. I frankly loved doing it. Finally, the complete edition is out--not just the Indian bestseller. But I have included material from the original 800 page manuscript that has never before been published.
Dan Wooding: What finally pushed you to doing it "your way?"
Tal Brooke: I went to New York last year and got the run around from agents and publishers who clearly had reservations about a book with this type of message. As in prior visits, I saw freedom of speech spiked at the editorial and marketing gateways of the publishing monoliths. So I left Manhattan determined to level the playing field through the latest innovations in publishing technology.
Dan Wooding: Where can people get it?
Tal Brooke: There are only a few outlets right now so I don't have to hassle distribution. It can be gotten on the web at the such Internet megastores as: Barnes&Noble.com, Amazon.com, Borders.com, or my own ministry at: www.scp-inc.org. I am sure people can also phone the mega stores and SCP's number is 510:540-0300. We can turn around an order in a matter of days providing the print run has not sold out.
But my options have been limited because costs are high and I am financing it all myself. This was the only way that I could pull off producing the full story in a quality edition--in an attempt to reach our generation in a language they understand.
Dan Wooding: It would be a crime if Avatar of Night were anything less than a bestseller when so many bestselling New Age books--not written nearly as well--are given Carte Blanche into our culture by the big publishers. I think of your real-life experience, in answer to these deceptions--borne from blood, sweat and tears-- ignored by these monopolies because it threatens the reigning beliefs of our day as being the real scandal!
Tal Brooke: Thank you! If God's grace can pluck me out of that dark corner of India, I have to believe that there is always hope on the horizon regardless of the machinations of those who oppose him.
Dan Wooding: Indeed He can. Speaking of which, I saw a mutual friend of ours the other day, Peter Conlan, who was over here from England. Peter told me how the two of you would drive out to Robertsbridge in Sussex to visit the house of one of my heros when he was alive--Malcolm Muggeridge. Muggeridge, without a doubt, was one of the greatest men of letters and thinkers on the English scene in our time. And he himself was converted after a wild ride through life--shaking the liberal establishment to their foundations because he was fearless and had an intellect like a broad sword, cutting anything in its path.
As Peter relates, apparently Malcolm Muggeridge discovered Avatar of Night in India on his final trip there to interview Mother Theresa. He was at a railway stand or a bookstore in Calcutta, and feverishly read parts of it, suddenly declaring it to be a profound and explosive book that had all the earmarks of a classic. This is quite an endorsement from one of the great literary giants of our time--at least from the English perspective.
May more people discover this incredible book--maybe I should say miraculous book--as Malcolm Muggeridge himself did in India!
Tal Brooke: You are kind indeed. Muggeridge's comments will always be a high point in my life. And with allies like you, maybe this book will be discovered in the West.
Dan Wooding: Tal, it has been a pleasure discussing this. I will let the readers read the heart of your story. We don't want to give it away!
I wish you Godspeed and every success. May it bring many into the kingdom, because in the end, that is what it is all about.
Dan Wooding is an award-winning British journalist now living in Southern California with his wife, Norma. He is the founder and international director of ASSIST (Aid to Special Saints in Strategic Times). Wooding is also the author of some 39 books, (the latest of which is a second printing of "Blind Faith" with Anne Wooding, his 91-year-old mother who was a pioneer missionary to the blind of Nigeria -- ASSIST Books and WinePress Publishing). He is also a syndicated columnist and for ten years was a commentator on the UPI Radio Network in Washington, DC. Many of Dan Wooding's articles can be found at the ASSIST website at www.rwcc.com.
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