The Fellowship of the Inner Light had its humble beginnings in Arkansas in 1958, when Paul Solomon (born William Bilo Dove) was ordained, at fourteen. He began his pastoral tasks by ministering to the incarcerated and their families as the youngest Baptist Minister in the Arkansas Prison system. Soon after High School, Paul enlisted in the army, was married and had a daughter, and fulfilling his calling to the ministry, he enrolled in a Baptist Seminary. During this period, he preached in a Spanish speaking Mexican Baptist church in the Panhandle of Texas. He was well on this way to a successful career when his wife filed for divorce. Back in 1967, there was no such thing as a divorced Southern Baptist Minister. So, in one day he lost his family and his career.
The traumatic experience left him very, very angry … at God. He had given over his entire life to serving the Lord, and God had pulled the rug out from under him. And he rebelled; first smoking, then drinking. Southern Baptists don’t even use wine for communion. It was an entirely new experience.
He spent the next five years working, partying, trying not to think about God, and surrounding himself with people who were doing the same.
One day, watching his pet hamsters running endlessly on their treadmill, the lesson struck home: “That’s me.” he thought. “I am running as hard as I can just to keep myself from thinking about my life.” With that sudden realization, and little further ado, he kicked out the roommates he’d been partying with, and went into seclusion. He closed the blinds, locked his door, and stopped answering the phone.
He had an evening job as a night club manager and still reported to work, but his life had gone from frenetic activity to avoiding everybody. Days were spent in the dark in his apartment, and nights locked in his night club office. For about thirty days, the night club ran itself, which the waitresses loved.
He began to worry about his sanity. Maybe someone could tell him “he was alright” and help him out of an unrelenting depression. At his Seminary, he had majored in psychology, but he did not think a doctor could give him useful answers. He didn’t want to talk a Minister, because he knew what they would say. Then he remembered his work in the Army at the Brooke Army Medical Center.
Under the supervision of doctors, he had been part of a pilot program that used hypnosis in battlefield situations when pain killers were not available. He had also witnessed hypnosis help soldiers through a variety of personal problems, including depression. And given the success of that program, he thought that a good hypnotherapist would be helpful to him.
He found a hypnosis clinic in the yellow pages, called and made an appointment. The therapist seemed confident that Paul’s problem was a deep-seated guilt complex brought on by his strict religious upbringing and was sure that successful treatment was possible. However, when Paul was told the exorbitant price of the twice-weekly sessions, he left feeling more miserable than ever. Even when he actively sought help, it remained out of reach. His life was at a crisis point.
Hypnosis Experiment triggers a near-death experience
Paul went to work one night angry and bitter, but at least he had finally talked about his problem. He revealed his predicament to Harry, a regular at the nightclub. “How in the world am I supposed to afford hypnosis at those prices?” he complained.
“I hypnotized someone once,” Harry offered, his voice trailing off as Paul ranted on about the unfairness of life. Incredulous, Paul stared at him.
“You hypnotized someone once?” he echoed.
There was a dubious confidence in Harry’s expression, and Paul supposed “once” could happen again. “Let’s go, then!” And off they went to Paul’s apartment where he laid down, closed his eyes, and submitted, with no little apprehension, to Harry’s unprofessional instructions. Paul’s last conscious thought was, “This’ll never work. This guy has no idea what he’s doing. If anything happens, it’ll be because he bored me to sleep.”
The night was February 15, 1972. In response to Harry’s bland attempts at hypnotism, Paul appeared to fall asleep. Without warning, his body jerked erect as if his soul had been shot from a cannon out of his body. He began speaking in an intense, authoritative voice, apparently unconscious on the couch. Paul awoke from the hypnosis session doubled up with pain from cramps in his stomach and Harry jumping up and down with excitement insisting they had talked to “spirits.”
His only recollection of the hypnosis session upon awaking was a dream, which would later be recognized as some of the “classic” core dying stages of the near-death experience:
“I am approaching the entrance to a tunnel. It is similar to the mouth of a cornucopia because it seems to spiral inward and upward. I can see two figures at the opening. They seem to be waiting for me. One is Merle who was my girlfriend in high school until she died in our senior year. The other is my young friend, Jaida, who remained my secret companion for years following his death when we were seven. They each take me by the hand and lead me through the tunnel. We come out the other side onto a grassy hill. As we begin to climb, I see that we are approaching a temple at the top of the hill…. The two figures are waiting to take me through the tunnel. As I come out the other side, I find myself in a meadow of wild flowers where a soft breeze blows, and I can hear the sound of a brook. Ahead of me is a mountain. As I climb, I pass through seven terraced gardens of glorious color. At the top, I enter a temple. The air is rich with music, though I see no one. I see rows and rows of books with names on the bindings. I am in an enormous library….”
As Paul recovered from the violent post-session stomach cramps, Harry recalled all he could of “the voice” — which to Paul, sounded too “religious” to be true. He said, “Harry, what do you expect to get when you hypnotize an ex- Southern Baptist Preacher? He didn’t want to hear more and told Harry to leave. But Harry returned the next day insisting they the hypnosis experiment again. This daily process lasted about a week, until Harry made a remark that intrigued him. He said, “I know that wasn’t you because you’re not that smart.”
The next time Harry brought a tape recorder and together they formulated a test question; a question that neither knew the answer to but that was provable. Paul wanted to make sure that the answer was not coming from his subconscious mind.
Paul’s great grandfather had been murdered before Paul was born and died without disclosing the whereabouts of a large sum of money he had been saving but hiding. In spite of a thorough search, the family had never found the money. The question: “Where was great-grandfather’s money?”
They set up another hypnosis session again to clarify “who” was talking and this time recorded it. Again, the authoritative, booming voice spoke:
“You have not attained sufficient growth or spiritual awareness to understand contact with these records…That which you perform is a foolish experiment, for you attempt to harness powers you do not understand and to contact sources, records and intelligences you are not familiar with. How will you try the spirits should you attain that you seek? Would you recognize him whom you do not know, have not been familiar with?”
During hypnosis the “conductor” asked Paul who he was speaking to. Paul stated emphatically,
“This is not a spirit. It is not some other personality. “You are talking with the Source of his Mind, which gave birth to his mind. It pre-existed his physical body and created his physical body.”
Harry asked the voice what they should do to prepare spiritually for further hypnosis sessions. They were given a list of instructions, which included a specific diet, exercise, prayer, meditation, and a recommendation to read the Sacred Scriptures in the Bible, and study the Search for God books from the ARE.” Harry asked, “What’s the ARE?” The voice explained it was Edgar Cayce’s organization, the Association for Research and Enlightenment.
This time when Paul awoke, he was able to listen to the voice on tape. He heard a stronger, more authoritative version of his own voice, providing detailed information on a number of subjects, including a thorough description of his great grandfather’s death and the whereabouts of the hidden money: in the chimney of the old family home (where it was later retrieved.)
The voice also explained the stomach cramps Paul experienced upon returning to normal consciousness. “Your consciousness is disengaging itself from the physical body, and when the physical body feels the consciousness leaving, it associates that with death, and will do anything in its power to hold consciousness in the body. And for that reason, those muscles are cramping in an attempt to sustain life.”
At the conclusion of the session, as a kind of finale, the voice described a man who addressed a comment to Reverend Dove – Paul’s father; “You will know who this is and you’ll remember our agreement, and that this is the conclusion of our agreement.” Paul realized he had never encountered anything like this during his Southern Baptist Ministry. He knew this wasn’t just religion emanating from his own subconscious. He was both excited and disturbed by it.
But he needed to know: was this of God?
So with the cassette tape in hand, he went to South Carolina to consult the man whom he most trusted to know the answer, his own father, the Reverend Dove.
After playing the tape, he asked his father, “So, is it of God or is it of the Devil?” Looking his son straight in the eye, his father didn’t hesitate and said, “It’s of God.”
Paul, playing Devil’s advocate, asked, “Dad, how can you say that? Southern Baptists don’t believe in this stuff.”
The Reverend replied, “There are two reasons I know it’s of God. You know, this is not the first time in history that something like this has occurred. The prophet Daniel found himself in a situation where his life depended on receiving word from God regarding the interpretation of King Nebuchadnezzar’s disturbing dream — information that was not available to his conscious mind. Under threat of death, he went into a room with his three friends, and according to the Bible story, he “prayed all night.” I believe after their prayers, Daniel lay down and went to sleep and he awoke in the morning with the dream’s true meaning, which he passed on to the king, saving their lives. It seems to me that Daniel did something like what you just did.”
“And the second reason is this. Ever since you left the ministry five years ago, your mother and I have prayed every day for God to find a way to bring you back to a right relationship with Him. I knew it had to be something dramatic. I know it’s of God because I asked God for bread, and we were not given a scorpion or a stone.”
Reverend Dove advised Paul go back to Atlanta and carefully pursue his ministry. He expressed his belief that every minister, when he stands before a congregation, represents himself as communicating with God and should have that ability.
Finally, he shared with Paul the meaning of the little reference at the end of tape. Twenty-five years earlier, Reverend Dove had a discussion with a friend about whether or not there was awareness after death. His father’s response at the time was that he didn’t know, but they both were intrigued by the possibility of life after death. The two of them made an agreement that whichever one passed on first, if it were possible, would attempt to make contact and communicate. So the message on the tape was the completion of their agreement that had been made over two decades before.
PaulPaulPaulPaulPaulPaulPaulPaul It was the support he needed to continue his new work. Within a few months, the “voice” of the readings became known as the “Source,” who recommended William Bilo Dove change his name to Paul Solomon to reflect the new man he had become. He found the readings that had begun by accident, he could duplicate at will.
By October, 1972, Paul and twelve others, initiated the first formal class in Chablee, Georgia, called Inner Light Consciousness (ILC). The group looked at many churches and religions and found that each religion offered some thing of beauty that the others did not and that each lacked some facet that the others expressed.
In January, 1973 the group met to explore the establishment of a regular practice of Sunday worship together, and established a charter for the Fellowship of the Inner Light, not-for-profit interfaith church, in Virginia Beach, Virginia. Paul became known as much for his public speaking genius as his readings, covering a wide variety of Christian and interfaith mysteries. Paul’s work grew exponentially in the US and abroad, bringing ILC and his unique version of the Christian Southern Baptist style, to Europe, South Africa, Israel, Egypt, and in the late 1980s to Japan.
His work included a laying on of hands healing ministry, “Come Alive Bible,” and a vision of a School of Prophets which he hoped to someday establish in the western Virginia Mountains.
Paul became known as the “Second Edgar Cayce,” giving nearly three thousand “life and health Source readings.” After Paul’s untimely death in March, 1994, his life story was re-enacted on the nationwide telecast “Ancient Prophecies II” hosted by David McCallum.