Spirit guides, meditation, astrology, the "higher Self," raising the kundalini, developing psychic abilities, praying to gurus, astral travel, numerology, Tarot cards, contacting the dead, hanging out with witches, Sufis, followers of Muktananda, Rajneesh, Sai Baba, Maharaji, -- all these and more were part of my journey. How did I get on this path?
That journey continued through college where I had paranormal experiences, made friends with someone who said she saw auras, and attended spiritualist meetings where the ministers received messages from the dead. One bright sunny Florida afternoon, as I rested on my bed fully awake with eyes partly closed, I felt myself floating. I opened my eyes and was stunned to see my body on the bed below me as I hovered near the ceiling. I thought I had died. The shock slammed me back into my body in an almost painful way. This was my first out-of-body experience and I had no idea what it was or that it even had a name. I told no one about it.
The journey stretched into the 70's when I visited psychics and an astrologer, and did a lot of reading on the paranormal, and about Hindu and Buddhist beliefs. I remember reading a book on Vedanta (sect of Hinduism) each morning in the cafeteria of the building where I worked. I started to see connections in my life with the colors of the chakras, the seven psychic centers of energy in the body according to Hindu beliefs. This and other experiences pushed me into an active plunge into the alluring worlds of the paranormal and Eastern beliefs.
Another reason I accepted the scary stuff was my attitude. I liked to think I was tough and nothing could frighten me away. So I would think, "Go ahead, scare me. I can take it!" I had a lot of anger and defiance in me which probably came from dealing with an alcoholic parent. This angry defiance proved useful to me in many ways. It helped me get through a lot of painful situations, and it was going to help me deal with the bizarre experiences I would face. But anger and defiance over a long period of time easily turn into cynicism. I did become cynical although it was usually hidden, even from myself, behind a desire to help people. This defiant cynicism was my defense, as in "No one is going to stop me doing what I want; nothing can scare me away; and dont try to impress me." Later, after many occult experiences, the cynicism was deeper. I knew a lot of people had not done what I had, and I thought most people were wimps and satisfied with superficial lives, not searching deeply as I was. But this was my defense against getting hurt or feeling helpless.
I also learned to meditate, do psychic healing, analyze dreams, and chant. It was mystical and magical. When I first started to do Eastern meditation, I felt an incredible peace. I felt that I was fading away and merging with something greater. It seemed I was literally one with the universe, and the teaching that we are all connected to one force seemed true. After all, I believed that truth was in experience, and here my experience was confirming that belief. At last, I thought, I was connecting to that spiritual realm. Later, my studies took me on many paths -- Tibetan, Hindu and Zen meditation and philosophy, spirit contact, numerology, psychic development, past life regression. Reincarnation seemed to answer questions and I experienced what I thought were memories of past lives. However, it was sad to think that my next life might not be so great so if I did not learn lessons from this or previous lives. But why dwell on that?
Finally, it seemed I was on the edge of a hidden wisdom, a truth higher than the everyday superficial thinking around me. Books by Edgar Cayce, Ruth Montgomery, Chogyam Trungpa (Tibetan Buddhism), Annie Besant (Theosophy), Hanz Holzer (ghosts), and Ram Dass (Hinduism/New Age), and titles like "Seth Speaks," "The Metaphysical Dictionary," and "Autobiography of a Yogi" by Yogananda began to fill my shelves, along with books on astrology, tarot cards, numerology, and other occult teachings. My spiritual progress seemed assured, especially since I was having so many paranormal experiences. The natural result was that I felt I was an "insider" in the spiritual realm.
I noticed that while doing chart readings for clients, I would "tune in" to the chart in a paranormal way, during which I felt an energy connecting my mind to the chart, and felt guided through the chart. It often seemed that I was being fed information or led to specific things to say about the client. After so many years of Eastern meditation techniques, I was slipping without effort into an altered state of consciousness while doing astrology. I gave credit to my "past lives" as an astrologer and spiritual counselor, to the help of spirit guides, and to astrology itself. In those years, the only source of such information could be good since I did not believe in evil.
Yet, with all the knowledge and experience I had acquired, what were the answers? Since I came to believe there was only ignorance, not evil, stories of vicious cruelty and murder made me uncomfortable. Though I believed I would be come back after my death, where would I go in between and for how long? Some taught that we would go somewhere that was like a school, then choose our next life. Others taught that we go somewhere to be spiritually purified - how, it was not explained - then our next life would be chosen for us. By whom? That was not explained. We were supposed to just trust the process.
There was also the disquieting teaching that whatever thought was in my mind at the moment of death would determine the after-death experience for some time. Better not have a bad thought for too long! Better not fall asleep with fearful images! This was scary to contemplate -- but that contemplation was itself a negative thought! I would try to chase away these fears by meditating or chanting something -- maybe the "Hare Krishna" chant I had taught myself, or repeating a Tibetan Buddhist mantra like "Om Mani Padme Om."
I sought peace in Zen Buddhism. Trying to detach myself from all desire involved a meditation that allows thoughts, fears, or desires to come up and then not to respond to them. This was to be applied to life outside meditation as well. For someone like myself, carrying a lot of emotional pain from my past and my present, this was appealing. But though detachment sounded good in all the books, there was a price to pay. The detachment seemed contrived and unnatural. Seeing "the emptiness" behind my surroundings, another sign of spiritual acumen, struck me as nihilistic and depressing. Maybe if I had pursued these practices more devoutly, I might have gradually replaced my natural reactions and feelings with non-feeling. But is it human to be non-feeling, to accept every thought, action, and emotion without judgment?
Being taught to be natural and "holistic" on one hand, but then learning to let go of my natural reactions on the other, seemed a contradiction. Of course, rational analysis like this was discouraged, even attacked. Therefore, contradictions could and should be accepted. If it didnt make sense, so much the better. The idea was to transcend the rational mind which was a barrier between me and enlightenment. Although I failed in achieving detachment, I clung to the paradoxical teachings of Zen, reading books with Zen tales, and continuing the meditation. I noticed that the peace I had felt with my initial meditations had decreased, causing me to meditate more in an attempt to re-capture that elusive peace.
I also learned that the nature of occult and New Age thinking is that there is no one answer. There is no one single truth, and there is no one reality. Truth is based on your experience, so it changes and can differ from person to person. If there are multi-levels of reality and there is no absolute truth, then there must be many contradicting truths and realities. In the abstract, this was fascinating food for thought, and led to being comfortable with whatever truth I wanted. But on the practical level, what difference did truth make if one finally discovered it? Or how did we know if there really was such a thing? And if not, what did anything that anyone believed matter anyway? These teachings gave answers that only raised more questions.
The best way to help others and stay true to your path, I heard and read over and over, was to work on yourself and love yourself. Although talk of "love" was common and was taught to be the basis for everything, it also seemed as if everyone used it to justify whatever they were doing. So, if your husband was not your spiritual match, then "real love" allowed you to leave him or find another with whom you had a true bond. After all, this was a "law" of the universe: the law of love. But this love was not defined. It was just sort of out there - a love force that pervaded the universe. There was no personal being to love me; there was this energy coming from the cosmic One and that was it. Could a force care?
Despite the meditations, trying to live in "the now," and the talk of love, I continued to have frightening experiences. One of the worst was waking up to see an older woman staring at me from the bottom of the bed. I knew she was not flesh and blood, but a spirit. She did not speak, but I heard her in my mind say to me, "I am here to take over your body." Too scared to speak, I said in my mind, "No! No!" This seemed to go on for a long time, although I have no idea how long it really was. Finally, she simply faded away. I was left trembling, perspiring, and my heart racing. By the way, I was not doing drugs.
In the opening minutes of a service in a large church in downtown Atlanta, I felt a love I had never known wash down over and through me, so powerfully that I started crying. I knew this love was from God, not from the music, the people, or the place. That love was the real thing. Coming from an alcoholic home, I was starving for that love. I returned the following Sunday, not to have another experience, but so that I could be where that love had happened to me.
After several weeks, I began to feel unclean about astrology although no one in this open-minded church said anything about it. All I knew was that it was somehow separating me from this God of love. I then got the impression that God did not like astrology and wanted me to give it up. Give up my life's work? Give up my identity and purpose? Outside of my son, nothing was more important to me than astrology. But I felt I had no choice; it was so clear to me that God did not like astrology. Not even believing what I was doing, I decided to give up astrology in late 1990. At the time, I was chairperson of the curriculum committee, a member of other committees at the astrological society, and scheduled to teach an upcoming class. I had to find another teacher. I had to tell clients who called I was no longer an astrologer. (I did give a talk in February, 1991, after bad advice from a pastor and not liking what I was doing but not strong enough to get out of it. It took over a year for full comprehension of what I had been involved in to sink in.) Now what happens? Thinking I should read the Bible, I started reading in Matthew, the first book of the New Testament. Reading the Bible put me in touch with something pure, but I didn't know what it was. Although I had read the Bible before while growing up and had quoted from it for astrological articles, this time it was different. I felt as though I was being cleaned form the inside out as I read it.
Jesus was different from the masters I had studied. He was more real than the spirit guides, the Ascended Masters, the Higher Self -- all those airy, elusive things that gave no evidence of their existence -- because He came to earth in flesh and He hungered, thirsted, felt pain and sorrow. He did not give a message that denied the dirt and dust of life, but He sat with the outcasts, the prostitutes, and the hated tax collectors yet remained sinless through resisting temptation. He was as real as it gets. Though fully man, Jesus was fully God incarnate, equal to God in nature but setting aside that glory (not deity) to be among suffering men and women. Jesus Christ willingly was tortured, laid down His life and died an agonizing death to pay for our sins. He bodily rose on the third day, conquering death, so that we can have eternal life with God. No sorcerer, no spiritual master, no Buddha, no shaman, no witch, no psychic has conquered death, but all still lie cold in their graves. But Jesus has power over death and is living today.
Many people want to know if I had to wage spiritual warfare after trusting Christ. Well, a few months later, as I was about to go forward in a church to publicly proclaim faith in Christ, I got incredibly ill. When I went home, I got sicker. I felt an angry presence in the room and I thought it was my spirit guide. I basically told him I belonged to Christ and there was nothing he could do about it, that even if I died, it was too late. "You lose," I said. I was addressing Satan, although I was really talking to my spirit guide. I do not believe in doing this now; I do not address demons nor Satan. They have already been spoken to and defeated by Christ. I prefer to speak to the ruler of the universe, Jesus Christ. I do not want to give demons any attention at all. Yes, I have had a few strange attacks that could be construed as demonic. But I do not like to focus on them. My focus is on the One who is worthy of attention: Jesus Christ, who has power over all rulers and principalities, in both the physical and spiritual realms.
What is the biggest difference between my former life and my life in Christ? That I am happier, that life is easier? Not at all. The difference is that I am spiritually satisfied. There is more to learn and much room to grow, but the learning and growth spring from Christ as the foundation, not from a search outside Him. The search has ended; the thirst has been quenched; the hunger within has been filled.