Plagued with inexplicable dreams, Albert had not slept in days. To compound his malaise, he missed Mileva, who had stayed with her parents. He took in a deep breath, then reluctantly pushed himself out of his warm cocoon. As the covers fell aside, a tattered flyer landed on the floor. “Discover the Secrets of The Mystical Travelers” it proclaimed. An illustration of a dignified-looking man of indeterminate age with a hint of a mischievous smile bore the inscription, “Pater Benjamin, A Great Spiritual Master.”
Albert negotiated the books and the litter-strewn path to the washstand where he cringed as he poked a hole in the crust of ice that had formed overnight in the pitcher by the washbasin. With a vacant gaze and bloodshot eyes, Albert frowned into the oval gilt mirror above the coarse, soap-scrummed porcelain. He patted down his unkempt hair that was currently standing up at odd angles, and he stroked the wiry growth under his nose.
Why am I having these nightmares? He took in a ragged breath and tried to reason with himself. When I attempt to do thought experiments, I discover myself in another universe with Johann. Am I going insane? I cannot concentrate on my studies. Albert poured some cold water into the basin, splashed it on his face to clear his head, and prepared to shave.
* * *
Nearly every oak seat in the teaching hall at Polytechnic was filled. Albert had arrived early and positioned himself in the middle of the second row. On stage, only a chair and a square table with a pitcher of water and a glass awaited the speaker.
Just before the appointed time, a pleasant, silver-haired gentleman in his forties, dressed in a black woolen suit, walked out from a door at the back of the platform and surveyed the audience. His cerulean-blue eyes swept the crowd. When Pater Benjamin’s gaze found Albert’s eyes, the young student’s body jolted as if he had received an electric shock. He stifled a small gasp and sat straighter in his seat. Pater Benjamin lingered on Albert a moment longer, then with an enigmatic smile, he made his way to the table.
Albert had been drawn to this lecture because of the dreams. From occasional disturbances, they had grown into nightly ordeals from which he awoke in a cold sweat. They had become more vivid. He dreamt of flying or visiting with his long-dead friend Johann. In other dreams, he interacted and discussed esoteric concepts with famous men from history—people like Galileo and Isaac Newton. It all felt so real.
Albert finally had to admit that he needed help. He felt compelled to look beyond what the rational world could explain. It was then, he’d come across the flyer for Pater Benjamin’s lecture. Born in Eastern Europe, Pater Benjamin was a mystic and a visionary, who lectured about what he called the “true reality,” worlds beyond the physical senses. He talked about concepts like karma—the law of cause and effect; what you sow, so shall you reap—and the idea of re-embodiment, in which humans live many lifetimes through which their souls may gain experience and progress spiritually. Had Albert known the topic of his talks, he might not have come. But he was at his wits’ end and was ready to try almost anything to be able to sleep through the night again.
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