Excerpt for The Altai Chronicles: Tablets of Light by , available in its entirety at Smashwords

The Altai Chronicles

Tablets of Light

by Carol Hiltner

“Carol Hiltner weaves a spellbinding tale that is all the better because it is true!”

Nicki Scully, author of Alchemical Healing

“Her writing sparkles; it explodes off the page. Hiltner is an original—a gate-keeper to secret knowledge.”

Jay Moore, reviewer

“Carol’s books are powerful tools for bringing the mystical Altai energy out into the world.”

Lloydine Argüelles, co-author of
Dreamspell: The Journey of Timeship Earth 2013

“A remarkable story of one woman’s journey to find herself. I found myself immediately hooked.”

Sandra Ingerman, author of Shamanic Journeying

The Altai Chronicles: Tablets of Light

by Carol Hiltner

Published by Altai Books at Smashwords

206-525-2101 •

This book is also available in print at most online retailers or at

Text and illustrations copyright 2018 Carol Hiltner

ISBN#: 978-0-9833695-0-9

About this series:

When angelic Light Beings invited Carol Hiltner to make a spiritual quest into the sacred Altai Mountains of Siberia, they requested that she journal her experiences. They asked her to publish four books with the following titles.

Book 1: The Altai Chronicles: Tablets of Lightalso available in Russian translation

Book 2: The Altai Chronicles: Out of Time

Book 3: The Altai Chronicles: Off the Mapalso available in Russian translation

Book 4: The Altai Chronicles: Home Again

For links to view the author’s mystical paintings based on her visions in the Altai Mountains, as well as other creative work by Carol Hiltner, see the last page of this book.

Author photo by Leonid Doroshenko: Carol on 10,000-foot Karatyurek Pass with sacred Mount Belukha in the distance

Smashwords Edition, License Notes

This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This ebook may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. If you’re reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then please return to your favorite ebook retailer and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.

List of Illustrations

Cover Mt. Belukha, reflected in Lake Akkem


Part I: Opening the Door

Early morning at the computer

Louise and her little white dog, the girls, and me

On the train

Shamans’ markings on trees at Kuzuyak Pass

Valley of moss

Mt. Belukha at sunset

Log bridge at Lake Akkem

Mountains of luggage

Part II: Crossing the Threshold

Castle visions

Mountain-climbing contest

Part III: Helmet of Light

Susan’s schematic

Forest fire in Kucherla Valley

Valley of the colored water

Belukha from the ridge

Apartment in Moscow

All paintings and illustrations are by the author.

Table of Contents


“Opening the Door” Excerpt



Map 1: Asia

Map 2: Altai region

Map 3: Belukha area (topographical)

Part I: Opening the Door


1: The Call

2: Setting Out

3: The Trek

4: Belukha

5: Leaving the Mountain

6: Going Home

Part II: Crossing the Threshold

7: Off Again

8: Moscow

9: Novosibirsk

Part III: Helmet of Light

10: Visas

11: Altai

12: Akkem

13: Psychology

14: Moscow Again

15: Translation


The Tablets of Light

About the Author


To fully enter into the reading of this tale, tune your ears to the primordial sound of the living earth; of the trees and the bird songs and the rushing rivers. The smell of pine and wood-smoke must be always at the edge of your awareness.

Drift further, into the stillness of your own knowing, and allow the drama chronicled here to transmute itself, finally, into simply another sparkle of the light and glory that is life.

Opening the Door” Excerpt

...But the psychic events of the day were not over. I had been told that the reason I was to go to Mount Belukha was to “open a vortex in the energy grid of the earth”—a gate, a door between humanity and other dimensions. I had looked during the entire trek for that door, which was where I thought the visual fireworks would occur—in an opening between dimensions.

As I dropped off to sleep, an image began to coalesce in my mind’s eye of light glinting around the edge of a round gate or cover. I realized that I had actually been seeing this image in the back of my mind for several days. Later, I realized that I had been seeing this image my whole life. It looked like two round grids set crossways in such a way that they had to be rotated to line up, but I had not yet figured out how to do that. That night I dreamed:

I realize, clearly, that I am the gate and, for it to be open, I must become transparent—which I do. Now, I can see that the gate is really a passage and has length.

Suddenly, my whole body is a crystal, which must be aligned with the light from the gate. I rotate myself to align the polarity—which, when it lines up, registers in my body as a deep shock.

Colors and patterns of the energy make kaleidoscopic shifts simultaneously inside and outside of my transparent body, as I move my crystal self into place between the dimensions. This is the place, and I am the door.

The light from the gate is rotating and spindling out sideways like the beacon from a lighthouse.

I woke abruptly then, bedazzled, excited…exhausted. Here were the visual fireworks I’d sought—breathtakingly beautiful, deeply profound. But oh, what a shock this was to my body. I needed to sleep now—to sleep forever. The timing had been perfect, I realized. I could never have managed this while we hiked.


This story is true—as I experienced it. But even for me, it is a thin slice of a broad journey. Different stories may be equally true for me as my perspectives change.

Each person described herein also has a true story, and it is certainly different as well. But my characters don’t get equal time. So, I have changed everybody’s names, with the exception of my immediate family who couldn’t escape anyway.

I thank all the wonderful people with whom I shared this adventure—through all the ups and downs. I am particularly indebted to my daughter Aimee for her willingness to walk this path with me, considering all that it entailed. And to Dmitri who, despite all my denials, turned out in the end to be my “important person.”


The Altai Chronicles: Tablets of Light is a true saga of my personal, contemporary, mystical quest. I was invited to “please come” to remotest Siberia, to find my way through an interdimensional door—a gate of transformation—and to discover and return with a treasure for humanity, the translation of the Tablets of Light.

All human stories, great and small, are essentially quests. These are the threads that make the fabric of history.

But it could be argued that human history as a whole is also a quest, and that we have now arrived at a collective gate of transformation. Humanity is always transforming, of course, but there are many, myself included, who believe that we are now in the midst of a greater transformation—one which has been prophesied in the great religious and spiritual traditions.

We are at a balance point, where individual dramas can have great leverage for all of humanity.

This transformation appears to be an evolutionary expansion of human consciousness into the fourth dimension—that of time. We are leaving behind the limitations of that unidirectional vector which we call a time-line, and gaining access to an entire dimension, a geometric plane, within which we can move in all directions.

Because this expansion of consciousness enables one to see or know everything simultaneously (like looking down at a maze), all secrets will be exposed and all polarities dissolved.

One of the most evident signs of the end of secrets is the immense increase in available information. Concurrent with the scientific explosion, there has been a vast increase in personal psychic awareness, as well as the publication of spiritual and religious materials that have been held secretly for millennia. This is because all pasts and futures become accessible to us as we learn to move around freely in the dimension of time.

And as we expand our consciousness, polarity—good/bad, light/dark, love/hate, etc.—will cease to exist as such, because linear time is the mechanical constraint which makes polarity possible: linearity allows us to see only part of ourselves at any given moment, rather than to experience everything simultaneously.

Although the shift seems to be gradual, there are certain milestones—prophesies fulfilled or revelations received—which anchor and support our transition.

The changes I had to be willing to make for my own transformation—to get through my own door—were essentially the same challenges as in the greater human story: to expose my secrets and to dissolve my polarities.

I had to begin uncovering my own secrets: my own fear and pain—twin gremlins of linear time—which I had buried in ever deeper spirals, until I forgot even about their existence. Their offspring, unconsciousness and confusion, had fully asserted themselves in my life.

And since I was essentially unconscious and confused, my bigger challenge was to even recognize the extremity of my personal polarization, especially around sexual intimacy. As events forced me either to modify my behavior or abandon the quest, I chose to modify my behavior—but confusion was my constant companion all the way through.

And I eventually realized that, compounding my sexual polarization, I had also withdrawn into my intellect—polarizing myself in a different direction, by hiding so far from my feelings that I forgot about them as well.

So before I could move through the door into the new dimension, I had to begin to feel again, and to re-incorporate masculine energy in my life. Only then could I find and translate the Tablets of Light.

My translation of the Tablets consists of two parts: first, my journal describing how the promises contained therein became real for me in my own journey; and second, my best effort to put the patterns of light, which are the Tablets, concisely into words. Please understand that the transmittal of the Tablets of Light is the entire purpose of this book.

My quest was only one reflection of the Tablets’ principles—which are promises to all of humanity. Therefore, these are principles are promises and an invitation to you personally.

Map 1: Asia

This is the route of our circumnavigation in 1999.

Airplane sections are marked with solid lines. Train and car sections are marked with dotted lines.

The Altai Region map is marked with the rectangle, and on the Altai Region map, the Belukha Area is marked with the rectangle.

Map 2: Altai Region

Map 3: Belukha Area

▲campsites where we spent the night

Part I

Opening the Door

It’s just that step follows step

And suddenly, I’ve walked a long, long way.

I lean into my dreams, you see,

Until I’m inside them, looking out.


Come. The thought rang like a bell through my dreamspace.

Please come. Words formed as I drifted awake that winter morning two years ago.

This was not the first time I had been awakened by my dreams. Life-changing insights and wonderful poems had come to me this way. I decided I had better get up and record them before they dissolved in the daylight. Sleepily, I climbed out of the warm cocoon of my bed into the morning chill. Groggily, I groped my way over to my computer and sat down, hunching, drawing in my arms to maintain the warmth in my naked body.

Early morning at the computer

As the November sun slowly bleached the sky from silver blue into silver gray, I wrote down what came through my mind:


Greetings, beloved. We are so glad to have reunited with you. We are light beings, who hold light for mankind. The mountains of fire are belching forth and the portal is open.

Please come.

The river of light springs from these mountains. The will of the Lord is made manifest on this plane. Put aside your fears and hesitations. This is the time you have been waiting for.…

I sat for a long time that morning, slowly awakening into a world that was altered by the dream. This was clearly a call, an invitation, from the mysterious spiritual realm of dream and altered state. Of course I would follow it, if I could.

1 – The Call

Tuesday, July 6, 1999

And so, here I was, midway across the Pacific, folded into the last seat available on a Boeing 747, flying from San Francisco to Seoul, on the first leg of a mystical quest—to the Altai Mountains in the heart of Siberia.

I had launched myself with only the sketchiest information—gleaned from dreams, intuitions, and stunning coincidences. I had certainly sought more concrete information, but hadn’t found it. Finally, I chose to go without information, because staying home was not an option.

So I didn’t really know where I was going, what I would find there, or what I was supposed to do once I arrived.

Nonetheless, I felt a physical, tangible certainty that this quest was necessary, right, and valuable. Also, I knew from experience that, if I didn’t willingly commence, I would somehow find myself there anyway—wherever “there” was. Words from my dream came back to me:

We are indeed inhabitants of earth—as much as you are. There are one hundred in the ruling council. As you hold space for transformation, we hold space for you. Yes, we too once enjoyed bodies. We will assume them again soon.…

Even with this certainty, though, I could hear my mother’s voice pulling me back to practicality, “Carol, I worry about you. When are you going to get a job like a responsible adult. You can’t just do what you want!”

Just the thought of this made me flare with frustration, tears springing into my eyes. We had had this conversation so many times: “I worry about me, Mom. You know I’ve done the best I could. I have gotten jobs—they just haven’t lasted, or I haven’t been able to make them work.”

She and I both knew that was true. I had tried a variety of career paths, all of them with hard landings. I seemed to have all the components of culturally-defined success, so she suspected, wrongly, that I wasn’t really trying. Nonetheless, in a quarter-century, I had yet to find a place to settle in.

I, with an artist’s sensibilities, had been raised in a family of intellectuals. My family appreciated the arts, but only once they were accomplished—there was no place in our intellectual paradigm for the exuberant, unpredictable process of the artist. If the intellectual paradigm of my childhood could be represented as the proverbial square hole, then I was a starburst-shaped peg.

Time had passed anyway, though, and things had changed. My children were grown, and my desperate need for financial security had dissipated. Through the years of working very hard at what seemed to me like failure after failure redeemed by an occasional unexpected success, I had developed three related characteristics:

First, I actively reserved judgment: at any point, a failure could re-emerge as a success; an adversary could be transformed into an ally.

Second, I was powerfully driven to finish what I started: I would do that last difficult one percent, when I could see what needed to be done. At the same time, when I could not productively take a project further, I was willing to set it aside for months or even years until the inspiration and resources reappeared. And then I would pick it up again.

Third, I took every opportunity for adventure: I had much to gain and little to lose. And, in the most wonderful interludes of my life, my heart had led. So, why should I not simply follow it? Maybe thereby, I would finally find a place for myself.

You will find it easy to do the work that we have requested of you. You will not need to lose awareness of yourself when we are present. We are present now. In fact, we are always and have always been present. Now, however, we choose to speak.…

Awareness of myself, at this moment, included the stench of urine and disinfectant from the airplane’s rear bathroom next to me, and the clatter made by stewardesses preparing dinner immediately behind the bathroom. Somewhere forward in this writhing sea of compressed bodies, vague anxieties, and half-stowed luggage, in the next-to-the-last available seat on the airplane, beside another bathroom, sat my twenty-four-year-old daughter—my traveling partner for this journey—wedged, with her cassette recorder and her thoughts, into her own space.

You ask for some indication that this information is coming from us, rather than originating in yourself. Know that we are all one, and the thoughts must indeed come through your mind for you to write them down. You do not know—since you are and have always been close to us—that your thoughts have always been aligned with ours.

Had the quest started with that dream? Or had I, somehow, been preparing for this my whole life? Certainly, I had always been committed to be of service to humanity: my queries about that were a substantial part of my journaling as an adolescent. And, several times in my life, I had commenced on trips which had turned out to be journeys of initiation—of profound spiritual awakening.

But I had backed into those. This time, my eyes were wide open. I had been given both time to prepare and at least some information, if riddles and prophesies could be considered information. I was ready for this trip—as ready as one could be, to knowingly commence on a process of spiritual rebirth.

No, I wasn’t backing into this quest, and I was excited to be doing it. But I also discounted it and joked about it—to hide from myself how deeply unsettled I was by the extraordinariness of what was occurring. I couldn’t afford to really believe it.


At least I had no question about where I was being called to. Years ago, my friend Marguerite told me of the Altai Mountains in the middle of Siberia—of which Mt. Belukha, my destination, was the centerpiece. Marguerite herself had been invited to go to Altai several years back—to document shamans who now wanted to communicate with the outside world. Her invitation had also been filled with strange coincidences and “psychic” events. Never wishing to miss a good adventure, I had immediately volunteered to accompany her. But the years went by, and her trip never did happen.

Finally, Marguerite told me in the fall that a documentary film crew was applying for a grant and, if I still wanted to go, to plan for the coming summer—which I did.

So Altai had been on my mind that November morning when I awoke still hearing the reverberations of the invitation, Please come. And when the invitation mentioned mountains, Altai was the obvious answer to the question, Where?

But Marguerite’s grant didn’t come through, so she had pointed me toward time and place. The journey was my own, not hers.


Shoe-horned into my economy-class seat for the twelve-hour flight across the Pacific, unable to get comfortable enough to sleep, I had plenty of time to reflect on the events of the past six months.

Just two days after that startling first dream, I had been awakened again—this time with brilliant images of a rose-colored star and green glass writing tablets fading from my vision. Again, I got up out of my warm bed to make notes:


The rose star. Green glass tablets

I asked, in my mind, what this was all about. The thoughts continued:

We are your friends. You are loved.

You are safe.

You will accomplish what you set out to do. The things you desire are yours, and manifestation has been set in motion.

It is not yet time for you to remember the information which you are to share. We like to connect with you in the mornings, but it is currently for your joy only.

I was fascinated by the dreams—but, if sitting naked and freezing at my computer at dawn to record them was for my joy only, no more of that!

Although in the core of my being, I could feel the truth of these dream messages, my mind could not really take them in—especially the “safe” part. Safety was not part of my experience; I couldn’t imagine how it might feel. So I discounted the possibilities. But I had endurance: I would wait and see.

Two days after the second dream—the one with the green glass tablets—I happened to be rummaging through my files, and my eyes fell on a sheaf of papers my psychic friend Elizabeth had given me years ago. I had filed it away in deference to her, since the papers had meant nothing to me at the time.

I glanced at the title: “The Emerald Tablets of Thoth the Atlantean.” Emerald tablets? An electric shock ran through my body. I had just dreamed of these tablets, and that dream had felt like a continuation of the invitation.

Why had these emerald tablets appeared in my dream, and this document surfaced coincidentally? Could this “Thoth the Atlantean” somehow be involved in the quest?

Who was Thoth, anyway? To my astonishment, the first person I asked knew the name. “He is the bird-headed Egyptian god who gave humanity writing,” she replied. I had no idea what to make of that.

So I re-read the “Emerald Tablets” looking for clues. They described how Thoth got to Egypt in the first place—his escape in some sort of airship, as Atlantis sank. And they also outlined his spiritual journey which led up to his ability to escape when the rest of that powerful civilization was destroyed. Certainly, there was much more to it, on other levels that were beyond my comprehension.

But what did Thoth have to do with me? I sat down, closed my eyes, and waited for a thought—an answer—to form in my mind.

Thoth is your mentor and guide. This work is the purpose for which your soul was created, eons ago.

Oh! The earth beneath my feet shifted. This was it? Now? This trip?

Yes, the trip is only a beginning. Your work is to translate between dimensions.

But what did I know? Why me?

You will know everything you need to know when you need to know it. And why not you?

Why not me, if I would know whatever I needed to know? I had experienced a lot of surreal things over the past several years, but I had always tried to keep some separation between practical, everyday matters and the occasional, utterly inexplicable events. I had always clung, however tenuously, to the seemingly solid rock of rationality.

Now, suddenly, I was adrift; the surreal was central; my dreams and imaginings had come to the fore. My soul existed for the purpose of translating something, between dimensions, guided by a myth—a bird-headed Egyptian or (even more remotely) Atlantean god? And I was supposed to start by traveling to the center of Siberia—one of the remotest places on earth—this summer, to do what? How could I proceed with just dreams and a god from Atlantis as guides?

Yet I could feel the truth of these revelations. Energy had rushed into my heart—substantiating me, and giving me strength to proceed, even without any verifiable rationale.

The day I found the “Emerald Tablets” in my file drawer, the quest became my own. So I had surrendered. Overwhelmed, that winter morning, I sat gasping with my mouth open, my head on the back of the chair, tears streaming down my cheeks.


As spring progressed, and I had not heard from Marguerite, I researched travel books on the Trans-Siberian Railway, which runs through Novosibirsk—the portal for the Altai region. One travel book, in describing treks in the Altai Mountains, mentioned that many people considered Mt. Belukha, on the southern border of Russia, to be sacred, and possibly the site of the mystical Shambhala.

I was curious about Shambhala. I associated the name with some sort of paradise, but initial library and internet research turned up nothing useful. I thought that perhaps I would get information directly once I was there.

But my psychic friend Elizabeth, who had first given me the “Emerald Tablets,” had information to share when I told her of my dreams and finding the document. This was not a normal conversation, however, because, in the intervening years, Elizabeth had had a disabling stroke, which paralyzed her and took her speech. It was a game of guess and telepathy—the guessing was mine, the telepathy was hers. She burst into tears as I described what was happening for me.

“Elizabeth, over the years you’ve mentioned beings who live, in different dimensions, inside the bases of our major mountain ranges. Could the ‘council of one hundred’ from my dream be related to these?”

She nodded and shook her head simultaneously.

“Yes and no,” I interpreted astutely.

She smiled. Then she pointed to me and to herself, and made a visor of her hand as though she were looking into the distance.

“Us,” I continued, “far away…at Mt. Belukha?”

She nodded and craned her head forward, looking harder.

“And long ago.” Her eyes flickered confirmation.

Now, she lifted her hand, palm up, and closed her eyes with a look of peace and bliss. She opened her eyes and pointed, first at me, and then similarly, repeatedly, on around the room.

“A lot of us,” I guessed, “a civilization.”

She nodded sharply. Peace and bliss reappeared on her face.

“A highly evolved civilization—an enlightened civilization.”

Elizabeth’s smile was beatific. She gestured outside—through her tall windows—where sunshine and dappled shade were being swept successively across the yard by a fresh wind.

“Weather?” I asked.

Outside, the shadow momentarily deepened, and she pointed emphatically.

“The climate changed.”

Elizabeth nodded, without a smile this time. Suddenly, a sob caught in her throat—like a hiccup. She pointed again to me and herself, and gestured like she was sweeping something off a table. Tears welled up in her eyes.

“We died.”

She cocked her head, shook it slightly, and repeated the sweeping gesture.

“We chose to die.”

She pointed around the room again, her tears making rivulets down her cheeks.

“We all died.”

She nodded, and caught her breath with a sob. With her hand, she divided the imaginary people into groups, sweeping the groups off the table one after another.

“We died in waves. It was the end of the civilization.”

Elizabeth lay back, bit her lip, and closed her eyes. I took her hand and held it. Finally she recomposed herself.

When she opened her eyes again, I asked, “What about the ‘council of one hundred’?”

She scooped air with her hand, and gently lofted it upward.

“Ah,” I understood, “they changed dimensions.”

She nodded.

“And they are waiting, holding the knowledge.”

Her tears began to flow again, and she nodded.

“And I am supposed to do something with this knowledge,” I concluded.

With that, she grasped my hand, and gave me a piercing look and a sharp nod.


In the fall, when Marguerite had first revived the idea of going to Altai, I had proposed that Aimee, the younger of my two daughters, accompany us. She would have just received her degree in architecture, and would therefore be available to come. By mid-spring, it was evident that Marguerite would not make the trip, and I was glad to have invited Aimee. We have always thoroughly enjoyed each other’s company, and I could not think of anyone with whom I would rather travel.

In the six years she had been away at school, she had become a woman, although I still thought of her as my baby, and she thought of me as her “mama bear.” She had always been a staunch “mama’s girl,” and she had looked just like me. Both of us had liked it when people jokingly referred to her as my “clone.”

Aimee seemed to understand and accept the uncertainty and the mystical nature of our journey much more than I did. As a child, Aimee had always been particularly aware of the psychic undercurrents in the people around her, and she had continued to develop that ability. During her university years, she had begun to perceive and be helped with her schoolwork by “spirit guides.” With her own spiritual awakening underway, Aimee was excited to participate in mine.


I had much to learn about Thoth, who seemed to be my “spirit guide.” Through internet research, I discovered that he is credited with founding the Egyptian mystery school, and also, under the name Hermes Trismegistus, with founding the Greek mystery school and the secret “hermetic” sciences—the basis of modern philosophy.

But for all that he gave the Greeks and Egyptians, he was making himself known to me, personally, in the present, as a profound mentor and benefactor. I did not picture him as a god with a bird head. Rather, for me he appeared as a compact, middle-aged man with an angelic face—and no hair.

He was present, in my mind’s eye—every time I paused from my daily doings long enough to look—enigmatically smiling back at me. He didn’t give me specific information directly; other people did that for him. Rather, he gave me a sense that my back was covered, that I was safe no matter what did or didn’t happen. I didn’t always remember that sense of safety in the moment, but once I had recognized its existence, the safety net he provided boosted my self-confidence and willingness to take risks.

As I prepared for the journey, my various psychic friends tuned in to Thoth and fed me information about what this quest was. In the past fifteen years, quite a number of psychics and healers have introduced themselves to me in one way or another. One of my primary sources of information about Thoth was Barbara, who had become a friend when I edited a book she had channeled.

Barbara was a big woman—an imposing presence both physically and energetically—certain of her psychic awareness, and abrupt and disdainful with those who didn’t share both her certainty and her psychic awareness. She was disdainful with me, but there must have been something about me that interested her because she kept coming back for more.

Mid-winter, Barbara was sitting on the love seat in my living room with the golden afternoon sunlight shining on her diagonally through rain-streaked windows. I told her about my dreams and then finding Thoth’s papers in my files.

She closed her eyes, steepling her hands in front of her mouth. After a moment, she spoke in her contralto voice, “You will be opening a vortex in the energy grid of the earth.” She had talked about this energy grid before—she’d even drawn me a picture once. I hadn’t understood. “It will be a channel—a door—between humanity and other dimensions. What do you see yourself doing?”

I shrugged, “I don’t know. I was just invited to come—I really don’t know much more than that.”

“What does Thoth tell you?”

“He doesn’t really talk to me. What do you get?”

Barbara was silent for several moments, with her eyes closed—intent, as though listening. “Thoth says that you are to translate some tablets—like the ‘Emerald Tablets.’” She laughed her deep laugh, “You are called ‘the Writer’ in the ethers. Your translation will be coded, and have many layers of information. It will help humanity to begin to reclaim full knowledge of the ancient mysteries.”

Another time, Barbara gave me a piece of writing that she channeled from Thoth, stating that the translations would be in the form of my journal or diary. I could not conceive of how that could be, so I set it aside and promptly forgot it.

I leaned hard on the assurance from my dream, You will know what you need to know, when you need to know it. I certainly didn’t know any of this stuff now, although other psychics had also told me that I write spiritual material in a coded and layered manner. I was pretty sure that I didn’t necessarily have to understand the codings and the layers when I wrote them. Some of my poems have deeper layers that I have discovered years later. As with the dream invitation, I simply had to try to find words that expressed what I was experiencing. At least I hoped that that was what I had to do.


The most startling of my psychic sources was Louise, a neighbor who had a little white dog that my grandchildren loved. On warm spring evenings, Louise and I would chat while the children harassed the dog—that had been pretty much the extent of our relationship. About the first of June, she and I were sitting on her front steps. The girls were squealing with delight as they chased the little dog in tight circles around the front yard, and screaming in feigned terror when the dog reversed direction and chased them. Above the uproar, I mentioned to Louise that I was going across Siberia this summer.

Louise and her little white dog, the girls, and me

First, her eyes widened and she laughed aloud. Then she closed her eyes and, with a half-smile, said, “You are actually going to translate some tablets.” These were the exact words Barbara had used! I was stunned.

Despite preparations going so smoothly, I continued to have a very difficult time with the whole idea of the “quest” and the “translations.” The notion seemed grandiose and far-fetched, even as key events were unfolding before me. The ideas were larger than life, and even more significantly, separated from life.

Louise was not fazed by my incredulity. She continued, “You will encounter someone important to you on the way to your sitting place.” Louise paused, scrunching her eyes closed. “You will not particularly notice this person, but he will feel like this,” she opened her eyes and moved her hand up and down in the air. On the side of my body toward her hand, my skin tingled and my hair stood on end. My jaw dropped again. “I would tell you what he looks like,” she said, “but I am not sure that he looks like that now.”

The little girls shrieked and chased the yipping dog between us, up and down the front steps. Louise continued unperturbed, “You will find objects on the trail close to your destination that you should pick up. The people in the area will know what you are doing—they are the guardians of this place—but they will leave you alone to do it.” Of course I had questions, but Louise was finished talking. She grinned at me, and blinked twice.

A part of me kept hoping that, somehow, all of this spiritual “woo-woo” would go away and I could resume my life-long (and thus far, futile) efforts to be a “normal” person. I still clung to the idea that spiritual was somehow in opposition to practical, rather than spirituality being the foundation and essence of true practicality.

I struggled every day with the idea that perhaps I had completely lost my mind. On one hand, revelations like Louise’s confirmed that if I had lost my mind, at least I had company. On the other hand, these revelations made it completely clear to me that reality went far beyond what was indicated by the usual five senses.

With the promise of such adventure, however, I was ready to proceed in any event.


I invited Louise to meet Barbara, and the two of them became immediate friends. They were a lot alike, actually—both big women who projected self-certainty and a no-nonsense attitude. I think the only reason they bothered with me was that Thoth had their attention and was using their abilities to get information to me that I didn’t seem to be able to access myself.

In the month before our departure, Louise, Barbara, and my daughter Aimee tried in vain to teach me to consciously manipulate my own psychic energy, which each of them seemed to do naturally and skillfully.

After dinner together, one warm June evening, we had retired to my living room. Street noises and the scent of honeysuckle from my front porch wafted in on the evening breeze through the open front door. We had settled back onto my couches.

“Carol,” Barbara began, “you have to learn to control your energy. You’re loud.”

Louise nodded somberly in agreement, but with a sparkle dancing in her dark eyes.

“Okay,” I shrugged, “What d’you recommend?” I was doing a lot of shrugging in this company.

“Draw your energy in,” Barbara commanded emphatically. I closed my eyes, visualizing a rainbow-colored energy-field around myself, and imagined it becoming denser and smaller, drawing closer to my body.

“Draw it in!” Barbara repeated, louder. “Bring it around yourself as a shield.” I kept imagining a dense, tight aura.

“Come on!” she coached, almost shouting. “It’s still huge. You’re all over the place.” I imagined harder—my eyes shut tight. Hearing an exasperated sigh from Barbara’s direction, I opened my eyes. I raised my eyebrows and cocked my head in an eyebrow shrug.

Barbara looked over at Louise and they nodded to each other. Both women got to their feet—Barbara heading toward the front door and Louise going for my back door forty feet away.

“Carol,” Barbara admonished from the front doorway, “I’m all the way over here, and I still feel your energy.”

I had gotten up to watch them, so I could see Louise at the back door when she called out, “And I’m all the way over here, and I still feel your energy.”

Now Barbara moved out onto the front porch and toward the front steps, shouting back, “I can still feel your energy.”

“Wait,” I stopped them. “Come back here. I get the point. You’d probably have to leave the neighborhood to get clear of me. But, so what?”

“So what?” Louise returned to the living room. “It’s dangerous to have your energy field all over like that.”

“Why?” I could tell from their scowls that I must have seemed inconceivably dense to them.

“Because you’ll attract trouble. You have to learn to pull your energy field in and put up shields.”

“Y’know, I’ve gotten along fine until now. And I don’t like the idea of trying to shield myself all the time—it’d wear me out.”

“Carol,” Barbara lectured sternly, when she and Louise had re-established themselves on the couches, “This is what I see: You and Aimee are racing across Asia on a very narrow path. There is darkness all around you, but Thoth has cleared the way, and you are surrounded by angels. You are in danger anyway. You mustn’t step off the path. You have to be able to pull in your energy. You have to be able to shield yourself!”

I liked the idea of angels around us, but if they were trying to frighten me into managing my energy like they did, they had failed. And even if I’d wanted to, I didn’t seem to be able to pull in my energy field. Although the two psychics were clearly exasperated, I just had a growing, uncanny sense of calm.

“Look,” I proposed a compromise, “if Aimee senses danger while we are traveling, and tells me to draw in my energy, I’ll try. If I can’t, then I guess I’ll just blunder my way through.” After all, this was my quest, and whatever adventures appeared were all part of the package. I would know what I needed to know.


From a variety of sources, I learned that the whole Altai region was considered to be a place of healing, and that Mt. Belukha was the locus of this healing energy. Altai lies directly north of Tibet, with the width of China’s high western Xinjiang Plateau in between. The borders of Russia, Khazakhstan, China, and Mongolia intersect here in a huge jumble of mountains in all directions. The name Belukha means “white,” and the awesomely beautiful 14,783 foot mountain is the highest in Siberia.

I set Mt. Belukha as my destination and plunged into designing the coming and going—the remainder of the journey. I picked the dates—July 6th (just after my birthday) to September 2nd (just before my granddaughter’s birthday).

Since Siberia was on the opposite side of the globe, we decided, with excitement, to circumnavigate. Aimee would go with me to Mt. Belukha and, on the way there, and then on around the world, I would join her in visiting as many architectural sites as we could manage.

For the first part of the trip, we arranged to have a guide, a driver, and accommodations in each city—Beijing; Ulan Bator, Mongolia; and in Russia: Ulan Ude, Irkutsk, Novosibirsk (the departure point for the Altai Mountains), Moscow, and St. Petersburg.

From St. Petersburg, we would fly to Athens, from which we planned to travel on our own, staying at youth hostels, first in the Greek islands and then across Europe—Naples, Florence, Venice, Geneva, and finally to fly home from Paris.

I did try to get information from the travel agent about what to expect in the Altai Mountains. Was it remote wilderness, or were there villages every few miles? What were the trails like: rocks and roots, like many in the Pacific Northwest; or stone stairways, like I had trekked in Nepal? And the weather? And the altitude?

I got no answers.


Remembering my dreams, I figured that whoever had asked me to please come would pave the way, so I would just go where I was pointed.

One of my key acts of faith was related to financing this trip. That, I hate to admit, was the biggest leap for me: Where would the money come from? A trip of this magnitude, with hotels, drivers, guides, and transportation for the two of us, was beyond my immediate means. And I knew enough about traveling in Russia that I understood that pre-arranged services were an absolute necessity for the non-Russian–speaking traveler. But Barbara volunteered to me that the money would be “provided.” I leaned hard on that assurance.

I have had money provided at other junctures in my life, so I knew it was a possibility. But I still lacked confidence about the working of spirit on such tangible things as money. When I told my parents and siblings—who all looked seriously askance at my mystical doings—that I was planning this trip, I included the condition that the traveling depended on the appearance of the necessary money, and that it had been promised.

I really wanted to do this trip though, and I was willing to use credit cards if necessary. With the credit cards as a hedge, I could afford to be patient. And the time did slide by: I had no idea how the money might be provided. I just shrugged when my mother asked about it.

Only two weeks before my planned departure, my folks and I were sitting out in my garden, having dinner. Abruptly changing the subject from other things, Mom cranked up her courage, “Carol, just how do you plan to pay for this trip?”

I knew she wasn’t going to like the answer, but also, in that moment, I realized where the money would come from. I said, “I was told that the money would be provided.”

“Well, has it been?” she asked, leaning forward.

“Not yet, but I’m not really worried. Even if it doesn’t show up, I’m going anyway. I’ll put it on credit cards.”

Mom blanched and got silent.

The next day, she phoned: “Carol, I can’t stand the idea of you putting this on credit cards—so I’m going to pay for it.”

I was relieved. Not only was my financial concern solved by this, but more importantly, I experienced a prophecy coming true. This bolstered my confidence in the whole process, and my level of worry subsided considerably.


Always, when I had traveled in the past, I had promptly gotten to the point where I couldn’t sit still in my airplane seat—my feet tingled and my legs jumped. And this discomfort always precipitated “traveler’s doubt”: Why am I leaving my nice comfy home to go off across the world?

There was none of that this time, despite the difficulties we were already encountering. The first flight of the trip—from Seattle to San Francisco—had ended in an hour-long holding pattern over San Francisco, so we were among the last to check in for the trans-Pacific flight. And in Seattle, the computer had been unable to check our bags through, so we had to rush to haul them the length of the San Francisco airport to recheck them. Actually, we were able to make the flight, with our luggage, only because planes trying to take off were delayed in the same traffic jam.

We had a fair amount of luggage—the limit, in fact. Okay, over the limit if we counted our “purses.” In jumbo rolling duffels, one for each of us, we had packed our sleeping bags, camping gear, and quantities of food, since we had no idea whether food would be readily available, especially the freeze-dried camping stuff, or if we would want to eat the food we found. I prefer vegetarian fare, so I had packed a variety of high-protein concoctions. Aimee was picky because, even in the best circumstances, food tended to jump and squirm in her belly. The food was heavy, and each bag tipped the scales at fifty pounds.

In convertible rolling backpacks, which we euphemistically called our “carry-ons,” we had each packed our clothes for two months, plus such necessities as our water filter, medicines and sundries for every contingency, and extra film. These weighed in at about 25 pounds each.

In our “purses,” actually roomy waist-packs with liter water jugs on each side, we stowed about ten more pounds of the absolute necessities: money and documents, writing materials and cameras, toiletries, day food, overshirts, and Aimee’s cassette player.

So we had plenty of stuff with us—as big a buffer between us and “out there” as we could carry. Even though this was a quest, we were still trying to minimize our risk and exposure. I saw no necessity to lean on spiritual providence any more than I had to.

2 – Setting Out

Friday, July 9, 1999

Aimee and I were stretched out on the white bedspreads in our air-conditioned room on the sixth floor of the Peace Hotel in downtown Beijing, inhaling the ambrosial taste and smell of jasmine tea, satisfied to have gotten through our first “tourist” day.

The Peace Hotel was ostentatiously grand, with a huge marble-floored lobby, a sumptuous breakfast buffet each morning, and carpets on the floors of the elevators which were changed daily to show the day of the week in English.

Our windows looked out the back of the hotel, not quite so grandly, across layer upon layer of disheveled blue-tile roofs and alleys festooned with colorful strings of laundry. The urban cacophony of the sweltering summer evening was only slightly audible through the sealed windows and the white-noise of the air conditioning.

I was reading The Hobbit aloud to Aimee, inspiring us to have courage for our own quest. If the hobbit had known what he was in for, would he have gone anyway?

Dinner, for me, had been rehydrated, freeze-dried lasagna eaten directly from its zippered foil pouch. Aimee thought the lasagna tasted vile (she had a good point). As I read to her, she dined more reasonably on spoonsful of peanut butter, potato chips, and red licorice. I had packed the red licorice secretly, as a surprise for her.

Both of us were adjusting to the idea of living out of our suitcases for the next two months—feeling somewhat tenuous, and glad for the travel food we’d brought with us. Lunch had been part of the tour, and breakfast buffet came with the room. But for dinner we were on our own—and we were too tired to even think about trying to find a restaurant, much less figuring out how to read a real Chinese menu and pay in yen.

We had survived two luggage crises: first, Aimee’s bag was delayed for a day, which had caused her tears of panic at the airport. And I had improvised the repair of a loose wheel on my huge rolling duffel with equal parts duct tape and disassembled flashlight clip.

That day, in 100+° weather, we had visited the Forbidden City, and eaten lunch at the Summer Palace of the empress. And in the austere grandeur of Tiananmen Square, sweltering tourists hid from the sun in the long, narrow shadows of light poles—each light pole trailed a line of parched Chinese.

I had had a headache all day, but that was usual for me. Headaches were something I just lived with. Most of the investigation I had done into my physicality, mentality, emotionality, and spirituality was initiated to find a solution to my constant headaches—all to no avail. Medical remedies had improved significantly over the years, but they all lost effectiveness if used too frequently, had side effects, and were expensive. Usually I just ignored the headaches and proceeded as well as I could.

So, headache on not, I was glad that our adventure was now fully underway.

Saturday, July 10, 1999

Today we climbed the Great Wall—awesome and forbidding. Mists crowded the crests of the undulating ridges, and the serrated dragon-back of the wall faded to infinity in both time and place.

Steep, irregular stairs stretched between the watchtowers, slowing us tourists as they must have slowed invading armies. Aimee and I relished the strenuousness of the climb—smugly thinking of this physical exertion as a small preview of the trek.

Climbing to the top of the watchtowers, we and a thousand Chinese tourists peered down at the sheer, emerald-green cliffs, falling away steeply from the razor-sharp ridge. And we imagined a time when fierce, marauding nomads had threatened a powerful empire.

Monday, July 12, 1999

We were off to Mongolia: home to fierce nomads, then and now.

Mongolian grasslands stretched from horizon to horizon—rolling green hills, like swells of the sea—dotted with sheep herds, horses, yaks, and wild camels. It was as wild and remote as a country could be—awesome in the vast sweep of grass and sky.

As anxious as I was to get to Siberia, I also savored the journey. I could not imagine ever coming this way again, so three days in Mongolia would be a glimpse of this exotic culture—a National Geographic moment. We were not disappointed.

We arrived on the final afternoon of Nadaam, the Mongolian national festival, featuring traditional contests in wrestling, horse-racing, and archery—with high prestige for the winners. Our driver detoured on the way from the airport to catch the last glimpses of the horse-racing—a wild, pell-mell steeple-chase. Roars of approval from the gathered populace rose all around us, even louder than the thundering hooves.

Ulan Bator, the capital, was vibrant with intense young horsemen dressed in eye-poppingly bright silk shirts, galloping full-speed through the center of town with herds of the compactly-built Mongolian horses. It seemed to me, from watching the horsemen, that Mongols were as fierce as reputed. Lin, our beautiful guide, put me to a small test. “So, just why did the Chinese say they built the Great Wall?” she asked.

I stuttered, looking for the trick, “To keep out the Mongols, of course.”

“Correct!” she gloated, and after that, she warmed up to be good company with a sharp sense of humor.

Tuesday, July 13, 1999

Our itinerary took us, by car, at alarming speed but seemingly no progress, on endlessly-braided brown tracks across the endless Mongolian grasslands. We were on the road the entire day.

We had scheduled two nights in a yurt camp, which was tucked under one of the few rock outcroppings in the otherwise uniformly rolling, bright green hills. A yurt is a round, tent-like building, about twenty feet in diameter, made of heavy felt covered with canvas, which is stretched around a four-foot-tall, expandable, wood-lattice sidewall. The roof is supported by a dome of poles which radiate out from a center skylight/ventilation hole and rest on the top of the sidewall lattice.

Those we saw were all identical—with white canvas covers and orange-painted wood frames which were beautifully decorated with geometric designs in red, white, green and blue. We were told that they were all manufactured in Ulan Bator, in a factory set up during the time when the Soviet Union was pouring money into Mongolia, and cost about $1000US.

Wednesday, July 14, 1999

After a night in the yurt camp and a one-hour “tourist” horse-back ride, we took off again by car, faster, on the main road across Mongolia. The car, actually a mini-van, was practically new, with only 15,000 kilometers on it, but it was definitely worse for the wear. It had been driven at breakneck speed over roads that were alternately asphalt with potholes, compressed gravel, or vast networks of dirt tracks which detoured around ubiquitous road construction projects.

Our destination for that day was Karakorum, the ancient capital of Genghis Khan—a square fort, maybe a hundred yards on a side. Several buildings remained from that time, and were furnished with artifacts.

The word kara means “black,” and the place still held the blackness of the terror wrought by Genghis Khan in his time. Even I sensed the palpable aura of violence that had remained in these stones through the ages. The day was blisteringly hot, but in this enclosure, our blood literally ran cold. We found ourselves shivering.

We snapped a few photographs and jumped back into the car as fast as possible. Then we were driven back through the infinity of shimmering green hills to the yurt camp.

Thursday, July 15, 1999

After a second night in a yurt, we suffered through an additional day’s drive back to Ulan Bator. The driver raced over potholes and brown dust, bouncing us all over the car.

In the evening, we were loaded onto the Trans-Mongolian train to spend the night rolling north to the Russo-Mongolian border—the start of our rail journey across Russia to get to Altai, the center of my quest.

While Aimee and I sat in our four-passenger sleeper compartment waiting for the train to leave Ulan Bator, we were joined by a Mongolian man, also assigned to our compartment. We had struggled through polite hellos for about five minutes when his cell-phone rang. He answered it and, holding out the phone to me, said, “For you.”

Aimee doubled over laughing at the expression of stark astonishment on my face—that I could be getting a call on a cell-phone in a train car in Mongolia. I put the phone to my ear, “Hello?”

“It’s Lin,” came the voice of our guide through the phone.

“How? What…” I sputtered.

Matter-of-factly, Lin continued, “I just wanted to remind you to be sure to use the toilet before the train gets to the border in the morning, because it’ll be locked for several hours while the train clears customs.”

“Oh, thank you,” I said automatically, but I was thinking, How on earth is this happening?

“Have a good trip!” she chirped. “Bye.”

With complete lack of comprehension, I handed the telephone back to its owner. Aimee could hardly contain herself.

“How?” I shook my head and looked incredulously at the Mongolian man sitting complacently across from me.

“Ah,” he laughed, delighted with the success of their joke, “My brother work same company, big company. We buy train tickets same time.”


Trains, in that part of the world, are the primary means of transportation across those vast, empty distances. All classes of passenger cars are set up with benches for sleeping. A few rubles procure clean bedding.

The car attendant came around with the sheets, slapped them down on the bunk, and held out her hand to me. I didn’t understand what, exactly, she needed. So she told me—in Mongolian, I presumed.

She and the crowd that gathered in the passageway to watch were amused by my ignorance. She punched two fingers into the palm of her other hand. Ah, she wants money, I realized. I dug into my wallet, but I didn’t have any small change. I gave her my smallest bill, expecting change. But she happily pocketed the extra, and walked away laughing aloud. I laughed, too. Our guardian angels must have been on lunch break.

With travel time between cities frequently a day or more, passengers customarily came aboard with major feasts packed in their plastic shopping bags: chicken, salted fish, potatoes, hard-boiled eggs, cabbage and carrot slaw, tomatoes, cucumbers, seltzer water or fruit juice, loaves of black bread, vodka, frequently, and quantities of sugar for tea. Anything else could be purchased quickly when the train stopped at a station: babushkas lined the platforms, hawking everything from ice cream to hot boiled potatoes.

Aimee and I didn’t venture out, however, knowing neither the time-tables nor the language. Our Mongolian guide had given us boxed lunches, which supplemented the food we had in our bags.

The sleeper cars accommodated four passengers per lockable compartment, with eight or ten compartments per car. There was a samovar full of boiling water at one end of the car, and the toilet at the other end. Toilets were locked whenever the train was stopped, as we had been so memorably advised.

In the sleeper compartment, four berths—stacked two per side—were each about thirty inches wide and seven feet long. Each berth had its own reading light, small gear hammock, and towel bar. Luggage could be stowed securely under the bottom berths, or, not as securely, adjacent to the upper berths in a large space that extended out over the ceiling of the car’s passageway. Folding ladders on each side of the door could be used to get up and down from the upper berth, but they blocked the door, so most people managed without them.

The fold-down table between the two lower berths was generally used for meals, with bags of food stored below. The curtained window could be opened in the summer, but was kept locked in the winter. Both ways, the air in the compartments was always stiflingly hot. In the winter, cigarette smoke circulated through the ventilation system, and in the summer, noise and diesel fumes were sucked in through the open windows.

Passengers were friendly with each other and with us—obviously foreigners. Corridor doors were usually left open during the day, and small children ran up and down the narrow hallway, laughing, yelling, and making eyes at any adult who caught their interest.

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