Sam Bowers: I had a second type experience at McNeil Island; an ecstatic experience. There had been a terrible amount of trauma on my part; this experience was far more complicated than the first. This second took place on April 2, 1972, 20 years (not to the day) since the first. I was in the chapel at McNeil Island attending an Easter service. I've always taken Easter very seriously, since I'd been baptized in 1966, I've entered into the Easter season with calculated devotion and seriousness. At the time, I was in my second year in prison. I had read an article in Time magazine about the Lutheran controversy in the Missouri Synod; the focus of the article was that a Missouri Synod school was expelling an atheist from its faculty
for non-belief. The heretic was appealing to the AACP in order to have the school discredited institutionally. I read this article on Good Friday at my desk in the Education Department. I'd been trying to prepare myself for the Easter event; though I am a heathen most of the time, Easter always compels me towards a time of earnestness and seriousness.
At Easter I try to get myself into a calculated mood of peace and tranquility. I was then taken to lock-up at the end of the day. I lay in my bunk during lock-up, before going to supper and began to think about the matter of the church college's attack from this atheist. Rage began to build up within me; rage, rage, rage. I said to myself: "here I am, locked up in this place, my church is being assaulted by this heretic, when in fact it should have been the case that the church was assaulting him. I lie here powerless to do anything; the persecution should be the other way around. The heretic should be suffering; not the church." My rage kept feeding on itself until I felt totally overwhelmed by it. In this mood, I went into the service in chapel. I was still in mental turmoil. But I knew it was my duty to participate in the Easter service.
On Easter morning, five ministers and the minister went out to the chapel at 5 am and entered into anguished prayer--while I'd been in such turmoil... I was filled with rage and mental anguish. Z took a seat in the chapel at 10 o'clock. and was sitting next to Wayne Roberts, a co-defendant in the Philadelphia case and a Mormon. (But Wayne really does have a devout side to him.) The chapel that day was full of dope dealers making transactions, homosexuals making alliances, and all kinds of disreputable characters; and there were also 2 or 3 bad niggers carrying on behind Wayne and me. I don't know what they were doing exactly, but they were certainly there to engage in some sort of illegal activity. Wayne had a justifiable reputation as a physical militant. Wayne began talking about the Negroes loud enough for them to hear and to become angry; he was hoping to begin a fight with them.
Charles Marsh: [They were probably taunting Bowers and Roberts.]
SB: If I had been by myself, I could certainly have ignored the situation, but being with Wayne I felt I needed to back him up, whatever he did. We were on the verge of a secular, intense irruption of physical violence in the chapel. There niggers were distracting us, deliberately. At that point the young Lutheran minister came out into the chapel and there were tears of joy coming down his face. He was just wishing a blessing on all of us on this Easter morning in prison. He wanted us to know that God was real and full of majesty: 'oh. majestic is your name in all the earth. ' The minister was not even in the pulpit, My friend Chris was behind the minister; the choir was a racially mixed group of degenerates. They began singing "The Battle Hymn of the Republic." Then we began to hear an angelic choir swelling up from the chapel front; and then there was ecstasy. There was this ecstasy. Then the choir finished; we all sat down. All the degenerates.
At the conclusion of the service, Mafray was outside shaking hands. I was overcome L with ecstasy. I shook Mafray's hands and thanked him for the service. I told him I would have gladly served out my full sentence for the opportunity to take part in this experience. He had a surprised look on his face. Then we got to the Mess hall; there were some other degenerates there. One in particular was a man named Beal, who had a homosexual relationship with someone else; Beal was the jocker, or the male lover. He was also a racist and always deferential to me. He leaned over to me and said, "What in the world was going on in chapel?" I replied, "That, my friend, was the Holy Spirit. " "Man, I've never really felt anything like that in my life, " he said.
In both mystical experiences, there was a tremendous, inner turmoil in my life. Those were angels singing out in that prison chapel on Easter morning. I recall now a song I used to sing in grammar school called "The Lost Cloud." "I struck a chord." Here was an experience of the actual undeserved imposition of the Holy Spirit on depraved human consciousness. My anger vanished.
To be saved you must go to the point of insanity. The Psalmists recount this [I 17?]. And in the personal child. I knew what The Holy Spirit is from personal experience. But the context of the gospel, indeed we must approach it from that context, I think I've overcome that personal child rage to the point that I will never condemn heresy again from the standpoint of rage but from orthodoxy.