Jul 292010

driving Like many people, I never seem to have the time I’d like for meditating and spiritual development. I’d like to begin each day with spiritual practice, but sometimes I’m running late and don’t get to it. Since I have a long commute, I’ve sometimes tried to listen to meditation tapes while driving, but this can be dangerous. Wayne Dyer’s Japa meditation CD, for example, had me in such an altered state that the physical world I was driving through lost importance – which is not a good state for driving.

This morning I tried something different – adapting mindfulness or walking meditation to driving. This seemed like a good match, since it actually makes you MORE aware of your surroundings. Rather than going within, your focus is on being fully present in the situation.

The technique is very simple. Start driving. Turn off your radio or music. Focus entirely on the sense impressions of driving. Be fully present in the experience of driving your car, and don’t focus on any inner dialog or thoughts. If you become aware that you are thinking about something other than the experience of driving, gently return your focus to the road in front of you. Don’t judge yourself for your thoughts, but keep returning your focus to the road, the car and your driving.

Naturally, you should continue to check your mirrors, watch your blind spots and follow good driving practice. In fact you should be more intently aware of your surroundings than usual. Be aware of the road and your surroundings with the same calm intensity of a cat watching a mouse hole. This is probably a better technique to practice on a routine drive, like a commute, than when you are trying to find a new location, although it would probably work with any kind of driving.

No two meditations are alike, and no two meditators are alike – so don’t judge your own experiences. What you experience is what you experience, and it’s fine. But here are a few observations on my own meditation this morning. First of all, it was a bit tiring. Being mindful in a complex situation like driving can be slightly overwhelming. The trick was to relax and be aware of all the experiences in general, rather than trying to shift a laser focus of awareness between all the various things going on.

I also discovered that I have a habit of giving myself verbal mental directions while I’m driving, telling myself where to turn and when to shift. That was a bit odd. But at times during the meditation I felt a wonderful sense of joy. Life seemed so good. Happiness was staring me in the face, waiting for me to shut up long enough to notice it. During these times, I had the odd sensation that I was driving on a route I had never seen before. I actually wondered for a moment if I was lost. The truth is, I suppose, that I had NOT seen it before – not really SEEN it. In fact, the day before this experiment, I had one of those frequent experiences of arriving at a particular turn on my route and being unable to remember how I had arrived, because my driving was on autopilot while I was lost in thought.

The experiment seemed like a success to me. At the very least, I think it won’t hurt my driving at all. It may improve it. Give driving meditation a try and let me know how it works for you.

Jun 042010

1676300378_bd28c2f0ea I usually don’t share my meditation or religious experiences, but I had an experience this morning so powerful for me personally that I wanted to attempt to record it and share it. It was an encounter with God unlike any I’ve had. It began with my reading last night of some passages from Karen Armstrong’s book The Case for God, which is turning out to be a profoundly good read, by the way.

Karen was discussing the interplay of cataphatic and apophatic theology. For those unfamiliar with these terms – cataphatic theology is an approach to God which focuses on what God IS – what can be affirmed about God, whereas apophatic theology focuses on what God is NOT, what is denied about God. For example, in the concept of the Trinity, God is one (cataphatic) but at the same time, God is NOT one, but three (apophatic). And yet he is not three (apophatic) but one (cataphatic). In the process of moving back and forth between these two, affirming something about God, only to deny it – we reach a state of abandoning human concepts and resting in the ineffability of God beyond human reason.

Samurai_At_The_End_by_sedART No human concept applies perfectly to God. The human intellect  is like a sword – with human concepts being as much about what something is NOT as what it is. The book is here, but not there. It exists now, but it did not exist five years ago. It is red, which means it is not blue. By cutting away what something is NOT, the human intellect arrives at a definition of what it IS. But with God, none of that works. He is here, and there. He exists now, and then. There is nothing to cut away. And because our concept of “existence” relies on this cutting away, it is not even possible to say that God “exists”. It is equally impossible to say that he does NOT exist. Not because, like the agnostic, we aren’t sure – but because the word “exists” breaks down when we try to think about God.

As I continued to meditate on God as beyond existence and non-existence – beyond good and bad, beyond desire and change, I was suddenly struck with the idea that all our human ideas of meaning and purpose which so drive our religious and spiritual quests might be nothing more than misapplications of our biological drives for survival. It was a very arid and even atheistic thought, in which the whole of human existence seemed like something of a sad joke. The ultimate object of concern – God – seemed on reflection to lack real purpose or quality. He simply is – take it or leave it.

And then – suddenly, I felt the presence of something that felt very remote, and yet full of inexpressible love and goodness. I had the distinct impression that this presence was observing me from a great distance, with total acceptance, but with some disappointment at my situation of having to exist in the material world. It was as if “God” were a slightly cruel boy tormenting the ants in his ant farm with a magnifying glass (I being one of his ants), while his older and much kinder brother looked on with disapproval from behind him, reaching to intervene and snatch the magnifying glass away.

It felt very “Gnostic”.  My sense of the material world was very negative, but I felt very intensely the presence of a remote goodness what was totally unconnected with the material world – something to which I immediately felt and expressed love and loyalty.

I find this a bit confusing. Previously, I have believed that there is a progression in spirituality from nature mysticism to causal mysticism to non-dual mysticism. One first sees God in nature (Pantheism or Paganism) and then sees God as above nature (Monotheism) or even against nature (Gnosticism) and finally sees God as both in and above nature at the same time (non-duality). I have had spiritual experiences and episodes of all these mystical states. But now I’ve had what seems a more intense and advanced spiritual experience, and the flavor is definitely Gnostic.

It may be that my earlier experiences were simply intellectual counterfeits, or “light” versions of real mysticism, and now I’m working my way through the series at a more intense level. Or I may have to re-evaluate the whole progression thing.

It feels like some sort of breakthrough, but I’m not quite sure yet how to deal with it.

Feb 172010

There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love.. (1 Jn 4:18 NKJV)

While fear is less and less a part of my life, there are still several situations that can cause me to panic. One is hypodermic needles. That’s improving. Another is sudden financial problems. The other day I opened my bank account online expecting to find a healthy balance only to find myself severely overdrawn. It turns out that when I had tried to make an online payment for $100.00 I had instead typed in 100,00 (a comma instead of a period). The company had processed a payment for $10,000.00 instead of $100.00 It took a week to straighten out, and my immediate reaction was panic to the point of having trouble breathing.

Fear is an instinctive reaction designed to make us alert and cautious in the presence of danger. This may be a very useful reaction when crossing a savanna teeming with lions. Unfortunately, our modern minds can create the mental experience of danger when there is no real physical threat. In the case of my mangled bank account, the actual situation was a matter of some pixels on a screen. There was no immediate threat or danger. My fear was the result of mental scenarios that my mind began to construct as it tried to process the implications of the error. Unfortunately, the mental reaction of fear was totally unhelpful in this situation. I needed a sense of perspective, clear objective judgment and cool reason. Instead I got tunnel vision and a body prepared to jump up a tree to escape a lion.

The spiritual roots of fear are even more destructive. Our ego, convinced of its separation from everything and everyone else, and conscious of its own mortality, constantly fears its own annihilation. The mind under the dominion of ego lives with a persistent background noise of existential fear. How do we escape it?

Since fear originates in the mind, practice in quieting the mind is a very helpful discipline to control fear. Meditation has many benefits, and this is one of them. A mind disciplined by meditation, like a well-trained horse, will not panic and throw its rider at the first sudden noise. Even if the horse jumps, like my mind did at the first sight of my negative bank balance, it can quickly be brought under control by the steady hand of consciousness. Meditation also shifts our consciousness away from the fearful ego and toward the greater Self, which is immortal, indestructible and beyond the reach of fear.

The passage from 1st John at the beginning of the article also suggests another spiritual practice that can help us. The way to escape the fear that torments us, says the author of John, is through perfect love. The Greek word for love here is “agape”, which is a rather difficult word to translate. It is not a simple human love. It is a divine, selfless openness and acceptance. It is a complete and total lack of resistance to the reality of the present moment, a surrender to the wisdom of God and the universe. It is a pure love for all that is, including the present situation.

In a post I did earlier, quoting from David Hawkins, I mentioned that this unconditional and universal love and acceptance is the first step to enlightenment. As a side benefit, as you perfect it, fear begins to disappear in your life.

There are other spiritual practices that can help transcend fear. People who have had near-death experiences report that the experience leaves them with a complete lack of fear. While we can’t deliberately have a near-death experience simply to cultivate this benefit, many of the same benefits can occur when we master astral travel, or out-of-body experiences. By having first-hand experience that we are more than just our physical bodies, and that our consciousness transcends our physical life, we lose some of our fear of physical dangers.

For particular phobias, hypnosis and self-hypnosis can also be helpful tools to rearrange our mental wiring.

Have you had good success with a particular method for overcoming fear? Share it with us in the comments.

Jan 142010

For a long time, I’ve been on the lookout for a really good book to recommend to a beginner wishing to learn meditation. This is that book. Finding the Quiet by Paul Wilson is a perfect introduction to meditation practices.

There are a lot of good books available (several that I own by Wayne Dyer) that teach a particular KIND of meditation, and do it well. This book teaches several kinds of meditation, encapsulating the essence of all the meditation traditions in general, in a wonderful style. Wilson is a student of a wide variety of meditation traditions, and he has done a great job of stripping away all the complexity and tradition-for-its-own-sake and streamlining the heart and soul of meditation. These are a set of hybrid techniques that take the most useful parts of all traditions and leave the rest.

Paul Wilson was apparently a natural mystic from the time he was a child, where he learned to find the quiet in the isolated Outback of Australia. Later, he took these lessons with him into the city and became a meditation expert – known as the “guru of quiet”.

The book focuses on both physical and spiritual aspects to meditation, and offers a variety of techniques that can be incorporated into anyone’s spiritual tradition without causing conflict. Wilson is especially conscious of the difficulties many Christians have in reconciling meditation with their religion, and offers techniques drawn from the Christian and other theistic contemplative traditions. Ultimately, Wilson believes, all these techniques lead to the same place, which he calls the Quiet. But the path may be slightly different. Since I have seen a lot of Christians get opposition even to so innocuous a practice as centering prayer, I appreciate Wilson’s efforts here.

The book is pleasantly neutral in regard to spiritual traditions. The beginning chapters establish the groundwork of what to expect and teach postures and other physical techniques for preparing for meditation.  Next is an explanation of the three broad kinds of meditation. The  the last section, which deals more with the spiritual aspects of meditation. But these spiritual considerations are entirely optional. All you need to start meditating is the first part of the book.

Along the way, Wilson unobtrusively introduces explanations of the science behind meditating and the brain function behind it. Hopefully this will make meditation more appealing to those who dislike all the unfortunate associations the New Age movement has burdened it with.

Highly recommended.

Dec 212009

Continuing on the theme of my own personal spiritual practices, let me introduce an audio CD by Wayne Dyer, Meditations for Manifesting. The CD contains a simpl explanation of a morning and evening meditation using vocal sound. The intent of the mediation is manifestation – ie causing the things you want and need to appear in your life.

The major portion of the CD is a live walk-through of the morning and evening meditation. The intent is that you follow along with Dr. Dyer as he performs each of these meditations for about 15 minutes. You can continue to use the CD in this way – following along with Wayne every morning and evening, or, once you get the hang of it, you can simply use the same method on your own.

First of all, let me say that this CD was very helpful to me during a time when I had to make a difficult decision regarding changing jobs. I needed to quit my job when I basically had nothing to turn to in it’s place – while supporting a family. But Dr. Dyers books and this CD gave me the courage to strike out into the unknown. And indeed, a better situation was waiting for me when I did.

I found the program very transformational even aside from it’s potential to manifest good things in your life. After 15 minutes of the morning sound meditation, I felt completely lifted above the physical world. I was more spiritually grounded for the entire day.

I should warn that some people who were great fans of Dr. Dyer found this CD a bit of anomaly. They found his voice distracting, or were hoping for more lecture content instead of the long sections of “meditate with Wayne”. The CD is short on explanation and long on demonstration.  As for myself, it was just what I needed. It was quite unlike any meditation I had done previously and I don’t think I would have persisted with it without the CD to help me.

So if you are interested in manifesting – if, for example, you are a fan of The Secret, and want to do some serious work with it – this CD can be a very helpful product. I’ve just begun using it again recently and hope to have interesting things to report.

Dec 202009

thomas_keatingSomeone recently asked me about my spiritual practices. I practice several forms of prayer and meditation, but one of my favorites is “centering prayer”. Although called “prayer”, centering prayer does not involve speaking at all. There is no petitioning or list of requests. It is closer to what most people would think of as “meditation”.

It is, in fact, very similar to many eastern forms of meditation, although it was actually derived from a long history of Christian mystical tradition – largely forgotten and neglected. The fact is that mystics of all religions tend to encounter many of the same inner experiences. The Trappist monk Thomas Merton discovered that he was able to share many experiences with his Buddhist friends regarding meditation and contemplation.

Most modern Christians aren’t familiar with what “contemplation” means in the ancient Christian mystical texts. It does not mean simply “thinking” about spiritual topics. Contemplation is a special spiritual state in which the soul opens itself to union with God.

Father Thomas Keating is the one largely responsible for reviving the practice of centering prayer in recent years.

There are a number of resources online that can teach you centering prayer, but here is a brief outline of how to begin.

First, you will select a word that will be used as a focus of the prayer, to represent your intention to approach God. Popular choices include “God”, “Jesus”, “Peace”, “Abba”, “Love”, “Being” etc. Any word that is meaningful to you will do, and you can change your word if you need to, but it helps to settle down on a single word, as soon as you can in your prayer practice, as your mind will learn to associate the word you choose with the state of contemplative prayer.

Once you select the word, you close your eyes, focus on feeling peace and love toward God, and begin your prayer by directing your attention to your chosen word. When you notice that your thoughts have drifted off, you gently return your focus to the chosen word.

It’s important to understand that you don’t repeat the word over and over. It is not a mantra.. It is simply a symbol of your intention to approach God. You return your focus to it only when you notice that your attention is wandering. And it is important to be gentle with yourself. Do not beat yourself up when you find that your attention has wandered. Gently return your focus to your chosen word, and once your attention is centered, let the word fade into silence and open yourself to that silence.

It’s not necessary to assume any particular physical posture for centering prayer. Most people prefer to pray in a seated position. It’s probably better not to attempt centering prayer while lying down, as it will be too easy to fall asleep.

Try to work up to at least 20 minutes of prayer, and devote the last two minutes to simply resting in silence, slowly coming back to your normal state of mind, but trying to bring the silence with you into your waking life.

Below is a short video introduction to centering pray from Father Thomas Keating, the most well-known modern instructor in the practice.

Sep 082006

Near the end of his life, Mark Twain said: "I am an old man and have known a great many troubles, but most of them never happened.” How many hundreds of hours have we spent agonizing over possible problems that never actually happened?


Ralph Waldo Emerson said it more poetically:


"Some of your hurts you have cured,

And the sharpest you still have survived,

But what torments of grief you endured

From the evil which never arrived."


The Peanut's character Charlie Brown is notorious for this kind of worrying. Eventually he said, “I’ve developed a new philosophy. I'm only going to dread one day at a time".


The Master Jesus doesn't want us to dread the future. Not even one day at a time. He wants to introduce us to the "Perfect love which casts out fear." He tells us in his teachings not to fear the future. Now the version of this we have in Matthew is a bit confused. It makes Jesus into Charlie Brown. Jesus says there, “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” Now I’m pretty sure that this isn’t a very good rendering of what Jesus actually said. Jesus never focused on troubles and he would hardly advise us to do so. I suppose if he had, we could make a fortune marketing the “Don’t Worry About Tomorrow” Christian day-planner. It wouldn’t have a calendar – just a page that says “Today’s Troubles”.


I suspect what happened was that some poor neurotic scribe a hundred years after Jesus read Jesus’ statement to “not worry about tomorrow” and thought “How can Jesus be serious? How can we not worry about tomorrow?? Oooohhh – it must be because there are so many horrible things to worry about TODAY!!” He apparently doesn’t notice that two verses earlier, Jesus tells us not to worry about TODAY either! Here’s how Bishop Keizer renders this entire teaching in the Simple Word of the Master Jesus:


“Therefore, do not WORRY (!) or say, what will we eat? Or, what will we drink? Or, how will we be clothed? For your Heavenly Father knows you have need of all these things. But seek first the guidance and justices of God’s INNER kingdom, and all these things shall be added unto you. Therefore do not fear the future; rather, entrust the problems of the day in prayer to the Father, and then act on Heaven’s guidance. For the transformed present will produce a transformed future.”


The Master Jesus wants our attention in the here and now. In the present moment – the only moment where we can actually change anything. The past doesn’t exist. The only contact you have with the past is in your memories – in the present moment. The future doesn’t exist. The only effect you have on the future is caused by your actions right here and now, in the present moment.


Does this mean we SHOULDN’T use an appointment calendar? No, that’s not what it means at all. It’s fine – even helpful, to use “time” for practical purposes. Who do you think worries more about tomorrow – the person who consults their appointment book and knows they have three appointments tomorrow – or the person who doesn’t HAVE an appointment book and THINKS they may have appointments tomorrow. The person without the appointment book may spend hours trying to remember where they are supposed to be and at what time, or making calls to find out.


Even if you aren’t consciously thinking about your appointments and things to do – if you don’t have a good planning and appointment system, your commitments will always be there in the back of your mind or in your subconscious, giving you a faint feeling of anxiety as your mind tries to keep track of everything. So the purpose of organizing your plans and appointments isn’t to worry about the future, it’s to NOT worry about the future. Once your mind knows that your commitments are captured in some external system that it knows you will check when you are supposed to – it can relax, and let you focus back on the present moment.


Of course, if organizing and reorganizing your day becomes your hobby – if you spend more time organizing than actually DOING, then you’ve let your organizing pull you away from the present moment.


So let’s get back to the present moment. Because the present moment is the gateway to the Kingdom of Heaven


I’m going to make a statement that may seem extreme, but I ask you to consider it carefully. Almost all of our worry, fear, stress, frustration and anxiety comes from refusing to accept the present moment as it actually is.


Next time you’re worried about a relative or stuck in a traffic jam, notice your feelings. At the bottom of your frustration you’ll find a deep feeling of resentment and hostility against the reality of the present moment. When we worry about the future, what are we really doing? We may be rebelling against the fact that our reality has uncertainties in it. Or we are unhappy with our present reality and want to focus on our plans for the future – but they’re not coming fast enough. There are too many setbacks. We’re not getting out of this terrible present situation as fast as we’d like to. Or perhaps we fixate on the past to escape the present moment. We linger in the sweet sadness of memories of a past that we prefer to our current situation.


We fight and we resist and we run away from the only thing that actually exists – the present moment.


Why do we resist it so?


Well, one thing that may worry us is an idea in the back of our minds that if we accept the present moment, and are content with our current situation – we’ll never get out of it. We’ll be stuck here. Forever. We think that with our discontent we can bribe or threaten God into changing things for us. But if we let him think we’re content – he’ll just let us languish. That doesn’t say a lot of good things about our image of God, does it? It sounds like the kind of God who if we ask for bread will give us a rock. But it is love and gratitude that open the windows of heaven, not discontent.


If we drop our resistance to the present moment, does that mean we are stagnant? That we can’t change? Of course not! It means that our change begins with an objective, loving assessment of out situation as it really is. It’s like a person who falls into quicksand. By resisting – by flailing around like a lunatic – we only sink deeper – because our activity is irrational – not productive. But if we keep ourselves calm – if we don’t resist the reality of our situation, then we can plan our escape more efficiently. And the universe will help us. Perhaps we will notice a branch nearby that we can grab. Something we wouldn’t have noticed if we were flailing around. Perhaps we can explore the quicksand and find a gentle handhold or toehold somewhere. And we make progress.


The next time you find yourself in the grip of worry, or resentment or anger some other strong negative emotion, try this exercise – completely surrender to the present moment, including all its risks and possibilities. Don’t resist. Know that everything is just as it must be for the moment. Suspend your judgment of other people, or the situation or yourself.


What you will find is that a space opens up in the spiritual atmosphere. There’s a feeling like a fresh breeze blowing away your problems. You may still feel anxiety or some other emotion – but you won’t be lost in it. You won’t BE worried – you’ll be a person aware of experiencing a feeling of worry. And that’s a much different feeling. And when you do, you’ll find that your emotions will settle down. Negative emotions like worry don’t like to be watched. They’re bashful. Be the witness of your emotions instead of being possessed by your emotions.


Let’s come back to the present moment again. There is another reason we run away from the present moment. This reason is rooted in the nature of our being. It’s a metaphysical reason. That doesn’t mean it’s weird or complicated. Just the opposite. It means it’s so basic it’s sometimes hard to see.


The Master Jesus says that the Kingdom of God – God’s dominion or God’s dimension – is within you – within each of you. If you could reach down to your innermost nature, your heart of all hearts – you will find the presence of God. Your innermost essence – is God’s essence. That is the secret of all secrets. That is the core of all mystical teaching – the root of all true religion.


But this inner kingdom is hidden from us. It’s covered up by huge amounts of emotional turmoil and mental noise. Anyone who has seriously tried to practice meditation knows that – even when you don’t want it to – the mind keeps spewing out thoughts like some unwanted television set that’s impossible to turn off.


Eckhart Tolle tells a story of sitting on a bus next to a woman who was mentally disturbed. She was talking to an imaginary person in a loud and often hostile voice. Lots of profanity. She was a running stream of conversation. Later as he washed his hands in public bathroom, Eckhart thought to himself “I’m sure glad I’m not like that woman” – and the man at the sink next to him gave him a strange look. Then Eckhart realized he hadn’t THOUGHT the phrase to himself – he’d actually said it out loud!


We’re all “crazy people”. We all have a running stream of mostly useless, mostly repetitive thought going on in our minds all the time. The only difference is that the “normal” people manage not to let it come spilling out of their mouths – at least MOST of the time.


A lot of those thoughts are hopes and plans, and especially worries, about the future. They pull us like a strong swift current away from our grounding in the present moment. And it is in the present moment, and only there – that we can find the gateway into the inner kingdom of God.


You won’t find the Kingdom of God in some grandiose plan for the future.


You won’t find it in some cherished memory of the past.


God, your inner nature – is reality. And there is only one point of contact we have with reality – that pinpoint gateway – that eye of the needle, between the remembered past and the imagined future. The doorway to the kingdom of God that fills up the reality of the present moment.


Be in the present moment. Don’t think about it. Experience it. Surrender yourself in a complete and loving acceptance of the present moment, and the door begins opens to you. And behind the door is the essence of the Godhead, the Buddha Nature, closer to you than you are to yourself.


And as you become more at home in the present moment, you realize that you ARE the present moment. It is timeless. It has no past and no future. It is only now – eternally now. Forms and manifestations come and go. They appear in the field of Now and then they disappear – but the Now remains, and YOU remain – at peace in the vibrant energetic emptiness of God – wanting for nothing, worrying about nothing.


And here’s the paradox. When you seek first God’s inner kingdom, all the rest falls into place. The universe aligns itself to your purposes because you are aligned to the universe. Just at the moment when you begin to lose your desperate grasping after the external things of the world, the things you need begin to come to you almost without effort. And you can enjoy them fully – free of worry, because when they go, as all finite things do, they don’t take a part of you with them. You are connected to the source of all manifestation.


This is the kingdom of God, and the home country of all mystics. It’s a place where worries and problems subside, because you are no longer at odds with the purposes of God manifesting in your life. Many teachers of different traditions have commented on this.


Listen to the Catholic mystic St. Theresa describe it:


Let nothing trouble you / Let nothing frighten you

Everything passes / God never changes

Patience / Obtains all

Whoever has God / Wants for nothing

God alone is enough.


The Indian Guru Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj said:


"You are all drenched for it is raining hard. In my world it is always fine weather. There is no night or day, no heat or cold. No worries beset me there, nor regrets. My mind is free of thoughts, for there are no desires to slave for."


And here’s one of the most famous quotes from “A Course In Miracles”


"Nothing real can be threatened.

Nothing unreal exists.

Herein lies the peace of God."


Put aside the unreality of your worries about the future, your longings for the past, your impatient desires. Surrender to the reality of this present moment.


And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.





















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Jul 262006

The conversation on the reality or unreality of “gods” interested me, and I wanted to add a few words by way of suggesting a particular metaphysical “model” for consideration.

MythMythAfter having been “around the block” a few times, I have come to the conclusion that many of the people who report seeing such diverse things as angels, demons, “gods”, monsters, aliens, faeries and other such things are actually having experiences that are, in some way “real”. Skeptics who are happy to write all such experiences off as pathological delusions will have no use for this model, and can stop reading right about now.

Many of us are willing to accept the reality of odd “sightings” that confirm our own worldview, but either reject everything else as delusional, or chalk it off to demonic impersonation, as Brandon did. One person may believe in angels but scoff at aliens. Another person may have the opposite viewpoint.

Let me suggest a more charitable model that can accommodate both. It comes from the general “New Age” framework of various esoteric teachings, but I don’t see anything in it that would prohibit a Christian, for example, from accepting it.

Let’s start with some observations from OBE (Out of Body Experience) or Astral Projection. People who experience this phenomena regularly noticed something long ago, and made note of it. The astral world can be shaped by human thought. If an astral projector find that he has need of a sword, for example, to fight off something bad, or wants a chair to sit in, it can be created with a simple act of will, and will exist in the astral world as long as this will is maintained.

Next, it was noticed that if something was created in the astral world REPEATEDLY, it began to take on a more permanent character. It would last longer with a smaller effort of will, or even remain in the astral dimension from one visit to the next. Mystics began to specifically create and reinforce things in the astral, such as temples. It was further noticed that this power of creation and maintenance was exponentially increased with the number of people concentrating on the task, and pouring their emotional and spiritual energy into it. A large number of people pouring a lot of energy into concentrating on some specific astral/spiritual thing, over the course of time, was found to have astonishing creative power.

Let’s suppose, for example, that thousands of people were to invest a great deal of psychic and spiritual energy into the notion of the god Zeus. Over the course of years, mystics would find themselves running into “Zeus” in their meditations, astral projections, etc. He would appear in more and more dreams. Given enough energy, he could even appear to people in altered (or in rare circumstances, even NORMAL) states of consciousness. He would even have considerable power during these appearances -power channeled into him by thousands of worshippers.

These powerful group thought-forms are called, in esoteric literature, “eggregors”. An eggregor, depending on its power (based on the number of people contributing their energy to it) can create strong influences and even physical manifestations. These manifestations can the various physical forms that make up the visual images of the eggregor. Let’s see how this might work:

Billions of people, over thousands of years, say trillions of prayers and devote enormous amounts of spiritual energy meditating on the Virgin Mary. This could build up an eggregor of astonishing power, causing, for example, the mass apparitions and solar phenomena observed at Fatima, Medujorge, etc.

Millions of people watching and reading science fiction spend countless hours thinking on the idea of extraterrestrials. This could build up an eggregor strong enough to cause sightings, altered states of consciousness perceived as “abductions”, etc.

People in nearly every religion have devoted great attention to the idea of angels. This might build up a strong enough eggregor to cause seemingly miraculous intervention by “supernatural” beings.

Voodoo and similar cults spend years of devotion and ritual directed toward a powerful pantheon of gods and similar forces. This creates a strong psychic eggregor which could be directed against particular individuals.

Let me back up and make a few disclaimer – I personally believe that there ARE angels, demons and probably a host of other types of supernatural beings that have a reality independent of human thought. Apparitions of Mary, angels, Jesus (or demons or aliens) MAY be exactly what they appear to be. Furthermore, not all eggregors are evil. Mass consciousness can be used for great benefit to help, heal and produce good works.

But consider the possibility that SOME “supernatural” occurrences may simply arise – not from God, and not from demons, but simply from natural human abilities to manipulate the spiritual world.

This model, it would seem to me, would explain a great deal.

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