1942-1944 CAPTAIN MIDNIGHT Photo-Matic Code-O-Graph
The Captain Midnight Code-O-Graph called the Photo-Matic Code-O-Graph was distributed during the war years 1942-1944. Because of the metal shortage it was produced with enough overproduction early on so the same design could continually be issued throughout the war without the necessity of a new design created yearly as initially intended. The design allowed the owner to insert a photo of themself in a small open square at the top of the badge, replacing the photo of Captain Midnight that came with it. The idea for doing so was to create a personalized identification badge like those used in defense plants of the era. Once the picture of Captain Midnight was removed and the owner substituted it with a picture of their own, they were supposed to push down the four metal tabs at each of the corners so it could not be removed.
The Photo-Matic Code-O-Graph played an ever larger continuing role throughout my life, from childhood right on into adulthood, especially so after my brother inadvertently sent the one I owned as a kid to me while I was in the Army. See:
THE CODE MAKER, THE ZEN MAKER
SHANGRI-LA, SHAMBHALA, GYANGANJ, BUDDHISM AND ZEN
NAVAJO CODE TALKERS
Several years ago my younger brother, while cleaning out his attic one day, discovered a long forgotten cardboard box of stuff stashed away that at one time belonged to me. Among the contents of the box was a beat up copy of ZEN BUDDHISM: Selected Writings of D.T Suzuki (New York: Anchor Books, 1956), a book that had not seen the light of day in at least 20 years. The pages were faded and worn. Corner after corner of pages folded down. Pencil notes all over the margins and inside the covers. Sentences were underlined in ink. Whole paragraphs were highlighted in a now barely discernible yellow.(see)
The reason the book ended up in such a weather beaten and worn state was because the last year of high school and several years afterward I barely let it out of my hands. I carried it around like a preacher with a bible. Anytime anybody said anything about anything, and much to the chagrin and distress of almost everybody around, out would come my book...always ready with a 'Zen answer.' Then one day, like the ancient classic Zen master Te Shan who out of the blue threw ALL of his commentaries and books on Zen into a pile and set them afire, reducing them to nothing but ashes, something was different. Somehow I just didn't need Zen books much any more.(see)
As I turned those crumbling pages for the first time in over 20 years, the notes, the underlining, the highlights, all at one time seemingly so important, all seemed so odd. Going back I remembered how I met my Mentor. He had studied under the venerated Indian holy man the Baghavan Sri Ramana Maharshi at his ashram between the wars. When I saw him the first time I was set aback by the calm serenity he seemed to abide in. I begged him to 'make me like him.' Time after time he brushed me off.
Finally, I guess, thinking he would never get rid of me he began making a few suggestions. He told me about Vihangam Marg, The Bird's Way, gently coaching me through its finer subtleties; it was he who gave me and urged me to read Suzuki's book originally, hoping for the results that ultimately transpired;(see) it was he who sent me to study under the Japanese Zen master Yasutani Hakuun Roshi.
As I gained insight into some of the teachings afforded me by my mentor, in addition to his recommendations, and not always with his blessings, I began to widen my search for answers on my own. Sometimes the search came to pass by my own volition, other times by powers beyond my control. I spent months and months half a world away nearly on the roof of the world Doing Hard Time in a Zen monastery as well as the Mahasi Meditation Center in Rangoon, Burma --- of which staying there for meditators to this day is still free, including room and board.(see)
After returning to the states my mentor, rather than showing distain for my antics, seeing instead the intense seriousness of my drive towards things spiritual, once again took me again under his wing. So said, thinking of the best of two worlds in the oneness of it all, he arranged for me to study-practice under the mysterious and anonymous American Zen master Alfred Pulyan. Close, very close, but still not the breakthrough he expected. Then, one day what happened as recorded in the link below transpired:
Fundamentally, our experience as experienced is not different from the Zen master's. Where
we differ is that we place a fog, a particular kind of conceptual overlay onto that experience
and then make an emotional investment in that overlay, taking it to be "real" in and of itself.
ZEN BUDDHISM: Selected Writings of D.T Suzuki
A SOLDIER'S STORY
There is a continuing discrepancy lodged against me on a seemingly regular basis by what I call the number crunching nay saying sect when it comes to the timeline regarding my use (or possible not being able to use) Suzuki's book while in high school. The implication being my senior year and the book's publication date don't coincide, Suzuki's book not being published until the same month I graduated.
It becomes grist for the mill because of having written that my brother reminded me of how I used to carry the book around with me like a bible my last year of high school and several years afterward. Anytime anybody said anything about anything out would come my book...always ready with a 'Zen answer.' Of course, in writing what I did I am repeating what my brother said, how accurate or how well he was able to remember or recall what actually transpired relative to the time period we are talking about here, that is, me being in high school, is another question.
Many people cite that the book was not published until June 1, 1956 giving me absolutely no time to carry the book around like a bible in high school, thus me doing so just couldn't be so. Disregarding any possible error in my younger brother's ability to remember accurately what I did or didn't do in high school, an edition of the book WAS published and made available January 1, 1956 (see) to the general public --- giving me at least half a school year to carry the book around with me 'to always be ready with a Zen answer.'
I wrote what I did about my brother saying what he did because, in the fact that I had a copy of the book, there was no need to question his accuracy. However, for the number crunching nay saying sect, even though copies were available from January 1, 1956 onward, my mentor received a complimentary copy from the publisher well in advance of any official publication date, be it either January or June of '56. It was his advanced copy, of which he gave me, that I carried around with me all those months prior to graduation from high school and for so many years afterwards.
"The Buddha's Teaching was recorded in the Tipitaka several hundred years after the Buddha passed away, and this text was then copied and recopied over a period of thousands of years. The teachings were probably recorded very well, but it is possible to doubt that the reader will now understand what those who recorded the teachings meant. For me to refer merely to the texts all the time would be like guaranteeing the truth of the claims of another, claims of which I am not certain. But the things that I tell you I am able to guarantee, because I speak from my own direct experience."(source)
Te-shan burning the Sutras in a rant of liberated ecstasy is the image of Te-shan in the moment of having appropriated and internalized the Sutras. Once internalized the physical properties on which the words were exhibited were no longer necessary.
His destroying of his Buddhist texts and Zen commentaries, in essence subverting their authority, was not because his Realization was in conflict with what was projected by them, but because in an instantaneous flash it became clear that HIS Realization was an actualization of the same 'way' that gave rise to the Buddha's Realization --- an attempt of which toward understanding and coming to internalize the Way for all, at least the reasoning behind it, had been put down by the followers of the Buddha in Sutra after Sutra after Sutra in hope of that someone, somewhere at sometime, their mind would become ripe and for them, the veil of the Samsara world would dissipate.
In The Code Maker, the Zen Maker, cited as the source at the end of the quote below, I add a little bit more insight into the positive impact the Suzuki book made on me during my early years as well as make it a little clearer as to what the actual contents inside the "box of stuff" was made up of that was stored along with it in the box. To wit:
"That book, once so sacred and heralded by me, after languishing unread nor seeing the light of day for 20 years or more, was found in a taped up box with a ton of other books stashed away in a darkened cobweb infested corner of my younger brother's attic."(source)
As you can see from what I have written, the other stuff in the box was a "ton of other books," actually more specifically, Zen books --- all of which along with Suzuki's book I read at one time or the other throughout my early years, some several times. Most of the same books from "those days" and what they offered within their content are still pretty much valid today, especially so for those early on the path or seriously seeking.
Like me, a whole generation of Zen-folk were impacted by Suzuki's book. Fifteen years later, in 1971, there was a whole new book on the scene that created even a larger stir to a much wider and more informed audience, causing another whole new generation to seek out eastern style spirituality, with many trekking off to India --- albeit a little late in the scheme of things for me personally however because of the events as found in Dark Luminosity had already washed across me. That book was Be Here Now by Ram Dass, AKA Dr. Richard Alpert.
In 1967, Dr. Richard Alpert, a university professor and cohort of Dr. Timothy Leary, who had been formally dismissed from his academic position at Harvard in 1963 for a number of so-called violations, including the mishandling of research LSD and civilian-based psychedelics, traveled to India and Nepal. During his travels he met a young American called Bhagavan Das, who was by then fully and deeply ingrained into the spiritual culture of India. Bhagavan Das, a follower of the venerated Indian saint Neem Karoli Baba, after becoming cognizant of Albert's spiritual quest --- or just wanting to get rid of him depending on who you listen to --- took Alpert to see him. Neem Karoli Baba, following closely Alpert's struggle, dedication, and advancement along the Path, gave him the name Ram Dass, which means 'servant of God.'
After a year and a half in India Alpert returned to the United States and fully immersed as Ram Dass eventually wrote Be Here Now, published in 1971. The book, an unqualified success, became a wildly popular best seller and almost a bible in the counter-culture. The success of the Ram Dass book sent thousands of hippie-era wanderers, including for example even Apple computer genius Steve Jobs, to India in the quest for gurus and spiritual Enlightenment. It also escalated the existence of an unknown Indian holy man Neem Karoli Baba, who died in 1973, into the stratosphere, with the unintended consequence, but karma related, inundation by hundreds and hundreds of spiritual seekers.
When it comes to reading, my page Zen Enlightenment in a Nutshell offers several suggestions, otherwise most if not all of the books that had been found in the box, including a few others, can be found graphically presented on the following list:
BOOK LIST: ZEN BUDDISM
ZEN ENLIGHTENMENT IN A NUTSHELL
COMMENTARY ON THE TEACHINGS OF RAMANA MAHARSHI