In this article, I narrate my spiritual biography as an introduction to my spiritual website, www.panharmonicsanctuary.org . In it, I discuss the various spiritual experiences I have had, and the various teachers, gurus and spiritual organizations I have been involved with.
Welcome to my website! Allow me to introduce myself. My name is David Osborn, and although I am not a priest, minister or man of the cloth, I have been a spiritual seeker all my life, and have experienced some wonderful and amazing things as the result of my search. After all, Jesus said, “seek and ye shall find”, and I’d say that he was right. I was born the son and eldest child of an American career diplomat, and I feel that I was born into this cosmopolitan family background and upbringing because it really gave me a chance to broaden my spiritual horizons in life. I was born in Tokyo Japan, and during my youth and childhood, lived in far-flung places like Taiwan, Hong Kong, Burma and Switzerland. Being exposed to so many different cultures, religions and worldviews from such a tender young age, I could never have become dogmatic or narrow minded about matters concerning religion and spirituality.
My Parents and Family Background
My parents were quite different, but both contributed to my early education and upbringing in matters religious and spiritual – not in any formal way, and certainly not in association with any formal religious sect or creed. Thank God that I didn’t have anything drummed into me or shoved down my throat – given my individualistic nature, I probably would have rebelled against any heavy-handed religious upbringing anyway. That’s what happened on my father’s side of the family – his father was a Presbyterian minister, and was so authoritarian and heavy handed with his religion that my father and all his siblings totally rebelled against it, and became either atheists or agnostics. My mother came from a Polish Catholic family, and was not very religious; it seems like she mainly got religious at funerals, or when she was worrying about troubling things happening within our family – she said that praying to the Virgin Mary helped a lot. Anyway, although I was christened a Catholic, my parents didn’t want to raise me within any structured religious environment, because they wanted me to be free to choose my own religion or spiritual path in life – and that I have done.
My father had a towering intellect, and was quite the philosopher; an old friend of the family, who was a yoga practitioner, described my father as “a real Jnana yogi”, with Jnana Yoga being the path to God or Truth through philosophical inquiry. While a lot of his siblings became full- fledged atheists in rebellion against their father’s heavy handed religion, my father always insisted that he was an agnostic, who is someone who doesn’t know about the existence of God, but is open minded pending definitive proof. Being an open minded agnostic, my father was quite interested in some spiritual things, like Jungian psychology and the I Ching, or ancient Chinese oracle. My father was fond of saying that, if he had to choose a religion to follow, he would probably choose Buddhism, because it seemed to him to be the most rational and reasonable of all world religions. One pithy wisdom saying or aphorism of my father that has really stuck with me through the years is this: “If only people took the time to think things through, there would be a lot less trouble in the world.”
Another memorable saying of my father was that you don’t need to be religious to be a good person – and that truth was demonstrated and lived very well by my father, who was the very embodiment of gentleness and loving kindness. My sister once described my father as “everyone’s favorite person”. And being a diplomat was definitely his way of expressing that kind, humane and gentle nature professionally; dad was all for building bridges, not walls. This, I feel, went hand in hand with his inquisitive intellect, for fear and suspicion flourish in ignorance, whereas the lamp of knowledge illuminates the darkness, making all shadows flee. In Japan, my father was constantly praised by his Japanese counterparts and acquaintances as someone who really understood the Japanese kokoro, or heart and soul. And so, my father was far from being merely a dry intellect; he also had a big heart as well. My spiritual debt to my father is great.
While my father was more left brained and intellectual, my mother was more right brained and intuitive; she was also very artistic and creative. She had studied traditional Chinese painting when she was in Taiwan, and ikebana, or traditional Japanese flower arranging, when we lived in Japan. In fact, both my parents were quite artistic and creative, with my father doing sculpture, and my mother doing oil painting and other forms of painting. I remember even from a young age a painting that she did of a traditional Japanese doll. Music was a big part of my childhood as well. One of my earliest memories was the sound of the Chinese violin, the two stringed Hu Qin, flowing through the corridors of our huge residence in Taipei, Taiwan like a stream of liquid honey. Upon following that stream of melodious sound back to its source, I discovered that my father was recording a Hu Qin player on his tape recorder. He would also play a tape of Calypso Christmas Carols around Christmas time that was also a beloved part of my musical childhood. But my big artistic love as a young boy in Taiwan was the Chinese opera, to which I would go religiously every Sunday morning.
Another thing that my mother drummed into me was to always tell the truth; and so, I have remained a loyal devotee of the truth to this day, and believe that truthfulness is the foundation of all true spirituality. Consideration for others is another thing that my mother tried to drum into me from an early age. She held up her sister, my aunt Lillian, as a paragon of virtue because it was she who decided to give up her own life, and her own possibilities for marriage, in order to take care of her aging parents. I have heard that many large Catholic families have one family member, usually a son, who goes into the priesthood and becomes celibate in order to increase the family’s standing before God, and pray to get the other family members into heaven. Many ex-Catholics have said that Catholicism is basically a heavy duty guilt trip, and the way that my aunt Lillian was constantly held up as a paragon of virtue seemed to indicate that there was a lot of truth to those assertions. Other than that, I enjoyed the beauty and pageantry of Catholic masses and church services; it appealed to my sentimental, artistic nature.
Early Spiritual Experiences
Perhaps the earliest spiritual experience that I can remember was not a very pleasant one; it came in the form of a nightmare that was so real it seemed so much more real than a dream. I was on a battlefield, and I felt that I was stabbed in the back, right at the level of the stomach; then, I found myself floating up above my body, looking down on it, which lay face down in the middle of a meadow in the fall, with the leaves changing colors to bright red, yellow and orange. Then, I awoke suddenly, totally terrified. This little episode turned out to be a flashback of how I was killed in the lifetime immediately preceding this one; it seems like I had been a soldier on the battlefield in one of the two world wars, probably in Eastern Europe somewhere. This was confirmed for me in an unexpected way several years later by a psychic in San Diego California whose specialty was touching people to get impressions of their past lives. Telling her nothing about my past life flashback, I just laid on her massage table, face up, and asked for a reading. She immediately went to my abdomen, right over the stomach, and said, “an explosion”. I understood then that I had not been stabbed in the back, but had been shot. From the earliest days of my childhood, I had always been plagued by burping and belching, and my stomach and digestive tract have always been my great karmic Achilles’ heel health wise.
Out of body experiences were also a frequent occurrence in my childhood, and you might say that I was going out of my body since I was knee high to a grasshopper. Death also fascinated me from an early age, or consumed me. I remember lying in bed, staring up at the ceiling one night when I was a little boy back in Taiwan, when the chilling realization suddenly hit me: “You’re gonna die someday! At some moment in the future, essentially no different from the present moment, I realized, you won’t even be here in a physical body!” The whole realization was so absolutely terrifying; it was like being strapped in tight into a roller coaster on a one way trip towards death, with no escape, no way out. “If, at some point in the future, I will no longer exist, then why do I even exist at all? What is the point of it all?” After this chilling realization, I felt my whole life collapse or telescope down into nothingness; that’s when I would leave my body. The first time I left my body, I remember, it literally scared me sh*tless – and the shock would send me right back into my body again.
In response to my terrifying nocturnal meditations on life and death, I started to ask my father questions. “What is it like after you die?” I asked my father, to which he replied by asking me another question: “What was it like before you were born?” This, of course, was an allusion to reincarnation. Another serendipitous discovery that I made as a little child was that of lucid dreaming, or the art of dreaming consciously, of going places and doing things in your dreams under your own conscious volition. Here’s how I made this discovery: I knew that, the night after I saw a scary horror movie, I would have a terrible nightmare if I just let things take their course. I discovered that, if I willed myself and focused on being out of the body, flying, before I went to bed, I could escape the scary bogeymen who were chasing after me, and fly away. This seemed to work pretty well until one night when a scary bulldog sprouted wings and flew right after me. I would return to the art of lucid dreaming many years later as a method or point of departure for other spiritual journeys.
One spiritual experience I had as a little boy in Taiwan was particularly mysterious. It was a dark and stormy night, with thick clouds gathered overhead as I left the house to climb up the sea wall that separated our residential compound from the park by the Tamshui River, which was flooded in the aftermath of a typhoon. I got up to the sea wall and peered anxiously over the edge, and, lo and behold, I saw the biggest and scariest crab I had ever seen crawling right up the wall for me! In terror, I immediately jumped back down from the sea wall, running as fast as I could to the safety of my room, but as I ran, huge crabs jumped out at me, from the left and from the right, and I was just barely able to evade them. A pair of big crabs jumped out at me from both sides as I ran into the house. I finally dived into my bed, face down, with the door firmly closed behind me; I heaved a sigh of relief, and fell into a short nap, in the shelter of my pillow. When I awoke, I had a haunting feeling: Had the whole experience been real, or had it just been a dream – or had I been out of my body to experience all that?
Even the bedtime stories I got told as a kid weren’t the usual ones; my father was in the habit of telling me old Greek myths. Although he told me a lot of different Greek myths, two of them really stuck with me: the myth of Achilles and his vulnerable heel; and the myth of Daedalus and Icarus, and how they escaped from prison on manmade wings. Looking back on those old bedtime myths that he told, it seems like my dad never told me a myth that didn’t have a spiritual purpose behind it; these myths he told seemed specially chosen to deliver a spiritual lesson. The myth of Achilles and his vulnerable heel seemed designed to teach me the importance of modesty and circumspection when going into life’s battles, and the necessity to be thorough, and to cover all bases. And the myth of Daedalus and Icarus, and how Icarus flew too close to the sun and melted his wings, plunging to his death seemed to be aimed at teaching me the importance of moderation and the Golden Mean in all things, of not aiming too high, but instead setting moderate, realistic and achievable goals for oneself. Like the unquenchable mystic, Icarus was drawn ever upwards towards the sun, like the proverbial moth into the flame.
In contrast to those who have grown up within a single religion and a sheltered religious environment, I grew up within one of the most open, eclectic and cosmopolitan religious and spiritual environments possible. And so, the whole idea that any single religion or religious tradition could have an exclusive monopoly on truth and salvation was totally foreign to me. From a very early age, I was exposed to Buddhists, Confucianists, and just about every other religious perspective there is; even nowadays, I like to joke that, religiously speaking, I am “somewhere between a nudist and a Buddhist” whenever anyone asks me about my religion. The whole reality that other religious and spiritual traditions, and other sacred books, could also convey the power of deep spiritual truths was really driven home to me by an early encounter with the I Ching, the Chinese Classic of Divination, commonly called The Book of Changes in English. My father asked the oracle a general question, regarding what my life would be like, when I was the tender young age of twelve; the response was a single Hexagram, unchanging, that has proved to be uncannily prophetic down to this very day. My father then used that I Ching reading as an opportunity to tell me about the facts of life.
A bit further on down the road, when I was in high school in Tokyo, Japan, I was mysteriously approached by an elderly Japanese lady who asked me, “Do you believe in spirits?” I replied that I did, and she invited me to one of her church services, where a great yogi from India would be speaking. The church was of a spiritualist persuasion, and was one of the many “new religions” that had sprung up in post-war Japan; I also remember that the interior of the church was filled with many aquariums, or fish tanks. Anyway, the great yogi wanted to demonstrate his psychic powers of clairvoyance, and needed a volunteer from the audience to assist him – and I was the volunteer. He had himself blindfolded, and vowed to read, by psychic sight, whatever I would write on the blackboard. I had been studying the theory of Indian music on my own at the time, and wrote on that blackboard what I knew he would least expect from me – the Indian solfeggio syllables for the notes of the diatonic scale – not in English letters, but in the original Sanskrit letters, which I had learned to write. And, lo and behold, he had no trouble reading what I had written.
After the service, at a later date, the yogi invited me to have lunch with him. “My guru, who lives in the Himalayas in India, is over three hundred years old. I would like to invite you to India to study with my guru at his ashram,” he told me. I told him that I couldn’t promise him anything, that I would have to consult with my parents first, and ask their permission. Of course, my parents told me I couldn’t go; by that point, they were definitely thinking of a college career for me. I was able to go off to India at a later date, however. Life is a spiritual journey, and traveling off to faraway places to engage in programs of spiritual study and practice would be a strategy I employed many times during my life.
The Man Who Could Be in Two Places at Once
Throughout my college years and beyond, I was quite into a certain spiritual path, which many might call a cult, which was called Eckankar. It was founded by a certain writer and former newspaper reporter named Paul Twitchell, and yes, you can find videos about him and the spiritual movement he started up on YouTube, and not all of these videos portray Paul Twitchell and Eckankar in a positive light. I first ran across Paul Twitchell and Eckankar quite by accident when I was visiting my family and my sister in Hong Kong one summer. My sister had been reading a little paperback book on various psychic and paranormal subjects written by Brad Steiger, who was a popular writer on such subjects back in the late sixties and early seventies, when the Eckankar movement was getting its start. My sister had just finished reading everything that she had wanted to read in the book, and handed it to me. I opened the book right up to an article entitled, “The Man Who Can Be in Two Places at Once”, which was about Paul Twitchell and Eckankar.
That article really grabbed me. Here was a guy, Paul Twitchell, who could fly off in his soul body to visit heavenly worlds, or to do remote viewing of far-flung places in this world. And furthermore, he was teaching others how to do exactly what he did, and experience the heavenly worlds first hand, for themselves, so they would be able to prove to themselves the immortality and spiritual freedom that they had as Soul. All the other articles in that little book were about the usual stuff, like haunted houses and the like, but this article was different, because it was giving me the spiritual keys to secret worlds. Breathless and totally excited, I asked my sister if she had read that article – but unbelievably, it was one of the ones she had not read. The article mentioned two of Paul Twitchell’s books – In My Soul I Am Free and Eckankar: Key to Secret Worlds. As a guy who had had early spiritual journeys out of the body, this was exactly what I was looking for. When I went off to college in the fall, I contacted Eckankar the first chance I got, and enrolled in their discourses by mail.
And, by and large, Eckankar delivered what it promised. Some of the most amazing spiritual experiences of my life I had when I was in Eckankar. In other words, I was successful in traveling out of my body as soul and visiting the heavenly worlds. Eckankar was also a great vehicle for spiritual fellowship as well, and attending their seminars in various cities, and even playing my flutes in the orchestra and solo on stage was a great experience. I made some great friends in Eckankar, some of whom have even stayed with me to this very day. Best of all was talking with others and sharing about the amazing spiritual experiences we were having. Eckankar was also an interesting case study in religious organizations and how they worked –and how what went on within the organization of Eckankar was often quite at variance with what was happening “on the inner”, or in my inner spiritual life dong the spiritual exercises of Eckankar. Let me explain.
Eckankar was structured into a series of twelve initiations, the highest of which was the spiritual mastership of Eckankar – the Mahanta, the Living Eck Master. The first initiation linked you up with the inner form of the Living Eck Master, and usually occurred in the dream state. The second initiation was an outer initiation, and came usually a couple of years after you had studied the discourses; you received a secret word, which could be likened to a mantra. In the third and fourth initiations, you had to go within in contemplation to receive your secret word. Anyway, I floundered for a while in my spiritual exercises because I felt that I hadn’t really “got it” – that I hadn’t been successful in getting my secret word in the third and fourth initiations. In addition, I read in one of Paul Twitchell’s books where he responded to someone who asked how he could speed up his initiations and get them faster where he said, “What’s the hurry? Soul has been evolving for many lifetimes.” And so, I contacted Eckankar headquarters and tried to tell them that I wanted to go back to the beginning, and do my initiations all over again, but it went in one ear and out the other. All they responded with was, hey – your five year grace period has not yet expired – you can still renew your active membership and keep all your previous initiations! This was quite disillusioning to me; it seemed like Eckankar was nothing more than a big initiation game, kind of like keeping up with the Joneses.
Another thing that disillusioned me about Eckankar was the period of 1982 to 1984; there was quite a shakeup within the organization, and there was a period in which there were actually two Eck Masters – Darwin Gross, the old Eck Master, and Harold Klemp, the new one. Darwin was a musician, and liked to play his vibraphones at the Eckankar seminars; it seemed sometimes like he was hanging on so he could continue to have his captive audience, and to have the pleasure of performing. But tensions between the two Eck Masters grew, and before long, Harold Klemp and his followers got together to oust Darwin Gross and kick him out of the organization, accusing him of embezzling money and things like that. Darwin promptly left and formed his own organization, continuing to disseminate Eck-like teachings. Anyway, it got ugly, with followers of Darwin leaving Eckankar and following him. But what sealed the deal for me was that I personally didn’t like the changes that Harold Klemp made to Eckankar after Darwin left. What I learned from this experience was that all religious movements are prone to schisms and factionalism, which can happen even to the best of them.
Another glaring defect of Eckankar that I discovered quite by accident was Paul Twitchell’s great tendency to plagiarize. In my studies of Eckankar’s possible antecedents, I came across the teachings of the Radha Soami Satsang of Beas, an offshoot of Sikhism that had teachings that were quite similar to Eckankar in many ways. I even succeeded in acquiring one of their most famous books, entitled The Path of the Masters by Julian Johnson. When I started reading it, the words really jumped off the page at me, and seemed mighty familiar; I finally discovered that Paul Twitchell had lifted whole paragraphs, indeed whole pages, straight from Julian Johnson’s book. I’m sure that this was far from the first incidence of widespread plagiarism in the history of spiritual and religious movements, and I’m sure that it won’t be the last. After all, the plagiarist in the religious arena can simply claim that he is only echoing timeless spiritual truths that were declared by spiritual masters before, and would be declared again in future ages as well. But still, the plagiarism I discovered sure left me spiritually disappointed.
Eventually, I drifted out of Eckankar altogether. But what did I learn from the whole Eckankar experience? First, I learned that amazing inner spiritual experiences could paradoxically coexist alongside all the vagaries and imperfections of the outer organization. After all, the outer organization is only made up of flawed human beings, and that, when it comes to a spiritual path, you often can’t judge a book by its cover; many times, you simply have to dive into the teachings and practices of the spiritual path to see if they hold any inner truth for you. I also realized that the big hidden or inner factor was the aspirant him or her self, and what spiritual insights, faculties and aptitudes they brought to the encounter. “When the student is ready, the Master will appear” is a famous old saying among spiritual seekers everywhere. But the student and Master have to really click, and really be right for each other; in other words, the Master in question really has to have what it takes to unlock something vital in the aspirant, and if this isn’t there, then the would-be aspirant moves on. Or, the aspirant remains as long as he or she is getting something that they consider to be spiritually worthwhile out of the path or teaching, and when this dries up, the aspirant moves on. The path itself may hold many spiritual mysteries and wonders to discover, but the same or more can also be said for the inner mind and spirit of the student, which may be the greatest spiritual wonder of all.
Another lesson that I took away from Eckankar is that, in many ways, the path is what you make it. This is kind of like a spiritual corollary to what I just said, in that what the aspirant himself brings to the encounter is just as important, or even more so, than the path itself. It also points to the crucial importance of one’s spiritual attitude. Several years after I drifted out of Eckankar, I found a chat group on the internet that consisted of former members of Eckankar like myself. And what I discovered were that a lot of them were severely disgruntled and bitter about their time in Eckankar, and were, in many ways, like whining babies. By contrast, my own attitude was much more positive; sure, I had been disappointed in many ways with Eckankar, with the outer organization, but I had been able to drop those disappointments and move on. Another thing I learned by being in this internet chat group was how many Eckankar spinoffs, or, as some group members cynically put it, “Eck spawn” there had been. Let’s face it – in today’s spiritual marketplace, something that works is usually imitated again and again.
Holistic Healing as a Spiritual Path
Another thing that has been like a real spiritual path in life to me is holistic healing, especially herbal medicine. Oddly enough, the one who first introduced me to holistic healing and medicinal herbs was my voice teacher in college, Neumon Leighton. He was a staunch believer in the power of herbs and nutrition, and the first herb tea that he introduced me to was Fenugreek tea; this was an expectorant that would remove clogged phlegm from the throat, head and sinuses. We practiced our scales and vocalizes to the tune of “vitamin C and Fenugreek tea”, and Professor Leighton would always keep a large box of Kleenex on the piano, because when we sipped on the Fenugreek tea and hit those high notes, large amounts of congested phlegm were often released. Professor Leighton taught the old Italian school of singing, or Bel Canto, and at the height of my vocal studies with him, I had a four octave range. One of his pithy wisdom sayings that he often said to me whenever I made breakthroughs in my singing was, “We work with Nature and not against it.”
When I was in Eckankar, I had a friend named Gary who was quite the expert on herbs. There was a lot of interest in herbs within Eckankar, and Paul Twitchell, its founder, had written a book called, Herbs, the Magic Healers. Anyway, Gary and I would often talk about herbs together, and I was always picking up useful information on herbs from him and from other devotees of Eckankar. But my herbal studies were mainly small time until the early 1980s. I had recently returned to southern California from Japan, and had a Japanese girlfriend who was studying to become a chiropractor; she encouraged me to take up some form of holistic healing, because she sensed that I had a strong healing energy. After pondering things for a while, and after considerable introspection, I finally came to the conclusion that the type of holistic healing that I really resonated with was herbal medicine. And so, I started looking around for herbal correspondence courses, and finally decided on Michael Tierra’s East – West Master Course in Herbology.
Michael had devised an eclectic, cosmopolitan system of herbal medicine that mirrored my own approach to life, and to spirituality in general. He called his system Planetary Herbology, and Michael’s genius was to fuse the herbal medicine systems of East and West into one overarching and comprehensive theoretical framework. Discovering that I knew how to read and write Japanese, Michael referred me to the Oriental Healing Arts Institute, where I got part time work as a translator of books and magazine articles on Chinese herbal medicine from Japanese to English. Seeing that my opportunities were rather limited in my translating job, I then decided to go to acupuncture school and to study herbal medicine there, and get licensed to do it. The president of the acupuncture school I finally decided to attend, as it turned out, had contacted me previously in a dream, so when I met him, it was an “ahah” moment of déjà vu. Doctor Kim, the president of Emperor’s College, was quite gifted as a psychic and intuitive, and when we trained under him in clinical observation, he was always trying to get us to read the patient’s Shen or Spirit. “What is the patient’s Spirit telling you?” was his perennial question to us.
After graduating from acupuncture school, I became an herbalist in private practice. I even worked as an herbalist in the back of a Chinese herb store in Los Angeles’ Chinatown, seeing patients, looking at tongues, taking pulses, and then writing out the prescription of herbs in Chinese for the pharmacist to fill and put in little bags for the patients to make into a tea. Herbal healing is also something that has taken me around the world. When I take stock of all the things I have encountered in life and how they have helped me, I would say that natural healing and herbal medicine comes in at the top of the list. Above all things, I put my trust in Mother Nature, and in Nature’s God. The universe operates according to Natural Law and Divine Law, which mirrors the Laws of Nature. There are the physical laws of Nature, and there are the subtle metaphysical laws at work behind them; universal spiritual principles work just as reliably as the Laws of Nature. Definitely, God put herbs upon the earth for the use and benefit of man, if only we would follow the laws of Nature and natural healing.
I Discover an Astrological System of Meditation
All divorces are hard to get through; it is a lot like death or bereavement, even if the marriage had been a bad one. It is a period of the death of an old partnership, which is hopefully followed by rebirth, and new things coming into your life. And so it was for me, after my first divorce. I saw an article in The Whole Life Times, the local metaphysical magazine in the LA area, which featured an interview with Edwin Steinbrecher, who had invented an astrological system of meditation that he called the Inner Guide Meditation. It turns out that Edwin was an astrologer who had been seeing a Jungian psychoanalyst while he was learning about the Tarot cards. And so, his meditation system utilized creative visualization on the Tarot archetypes, accompanied by personalized instructions, all done in accordance with your natal astrology chart. After reading the article, I promptly made an appointment to be initiated into the Inner Guide Meditation. The initiation session was most enlightening, and I was given a detailed list of meditation instructions with different Tarot archetypes on different days, all according to my natal astrology chart. The meditation sessions were interesting, and I noticed spiritual changes begin to happen.
One of the most memorable sayings or aphorisms that Edwin Steinbrecher proclaimed was, “You are the greatest mystery you will ever encounter.” And as I attended classes and lectures at the Inner Guide Meditation Center in West Los Angeles, I began to see more and more how this was true as I learned the basics of astrology, and saw how it all played out in my own natal astrology chart. It was a good grounding or education in astrology for me, and after years of study, I started to do readings for friends and acquaintances. Indeed, human individuals are deep and complex mysteries, and seeing these subtle inner realities of the individual laid out and portrayed in graphic mandala form was the closest I could come to when it came to elucidating the inner mysteries of an individual’s mind and spirit. Another way to look at the natal astrology chart is to see it as a cosmic hologram with YOU, the individual, at its center. For me, astrology was a way to understand people and human nature better. Outwardly, we may all look pretty much the same, but inwardly, each one of us embodies one’s own personal universe.
The ancient Greek philosopher Socrates exhorted man to know himself, but now, over two thousand years later, man hasn’t made much progress at all in that direction; in fact, one could say that there are many more distractions in the outer world that keep man from attending to this vital task than ever before. In addition to astrology as a tool for acquiring self knowledge, meditation is also a way of going within to get the answers one seeks. Astrology can also be used as a means of predicting or forecasting future trends and directions in one’s life, but in my personal opinion, the greatest use of astrology is as a tool or an avenue for attaining self knowledge. Your natal astrology chart is like your very own personalized owner’s manual for your body, mind and spirit. Yet too many of us look only to the outer guideposts and norms of society, and never learn what we truly need as unique individuals in our own right. Like any other powerful tool, astrology can be abused; one should approach its use with an attitude of spiritual humility that recognizes one’s own human limitations in the face of divine mysteries.
In studying the Inner Guide Meditation, I also studied the Tarot archetypes, particularly those of the Major Arcana, which the meditation system focused on. The study of Tarot served as a kind of portal through which I entered, for a time, the study of Paganism and the occult. The most positive perspective from which to view Paganism, in my opinion, is as a form of Earth based spirituality that reveres the forces of Nature, and which strives for harmony and integration with these universal forces. Those who are attracted to various Pagan forms of spirituality are often those who are rebelling against a very oppressive or heavy handed religious upbringing, often in some rigid, fundamentalist form of Christianity. I attended my share of Pagan gatherings and Sabbats as a way of revering the turning of the wheel of the seasons, but somehow, Paganism wasn’t something that stuck with me, and before long, I drifted away from it. Paganism and its polytheism, as well as the Inner Guide Meditation and all the Tarot archetypes one worked with, seemed to elucidate the inherent drawbacks of a polytheistic spiritual mindset; you were always trying to balance or play off one deity or archetype against another, with the potential for losing your spiritual focus. But all religious and spiritual systems – yes, even monotheism – have their inherent pros and cons.
Yoga and Eastern Teachings: A Universal Spiritual Science
Another thread in the great spiritual tapestry that has been my life has been yoga and Eastern teachings in general. At different points in my life, I have been attracted to, and involved with, various gurus and systems of yoga; this is not just the usual Hatha Yoga, which focuses on physical postures and exercises, but also with other, more internal forms of Yoga, which focus mainly on meditation. The word Yoga means, “Union” in Sanskrit; it is also related to our word, “yoke” – in other words, Yoga is a spiritual discipline that yokes the body and mind and puts it under the control of Soul or Spirit. While a lot of Christianity is very exclusivist or exclusionary, as well as judgmental and controlling, Yoga, and Eastern teachings in general, offer the aspirant a spiritual science that is based on universal principles. This is the heart of Yoga’s enduring popularity with young Westerners who are fleeing rigid, dogmatic forms of Christianity. Yoga as a universal spiritual science also seems to offer the antidote for a lot of the superstitious, magical thinking that too much of Christianity is prone to.
One of the earliest yoga teachings I was involved with was that of Self Realization Fellowship, and its guru, Paramahansa Yogananda. Yogananda was the first great yoga guru from India to live and teach in the United States, and his great spiritual classic was Autobiography of a Yogi. More recently, Self Realization Fellowship has also released The Second Coming of Christ: The Resurrection of the Christ Within You, a two volume set of discourses on Jesus’ teachings from the Christian gospels. Since Yogananda was the first great Indian yoga guru to live and teach in the West, and the vast majority of his disciples came from a Christian background, Yogananda was always trying to show his disciples the common ground that yoga shared with Christianity, as well as with other religious and spiritual teachings. He characterized his own spiritual lineage of masters as being “Yogi – Christs of India” in his Autobiography. My first roommate when I lived in Pasadena, California was a devotee of Yogananda, and it was through him that I first read the Autobiography of a Yogi. Al had been a practicing psychic before he got into SRF, and his former psychic mentor predicted that he would get into yoga. “But I don’t want to tie myself in knots,” he protested; fortunately for him, Yogananda’s yoga focused on meditation.
I got married a few years later, and my first wife was a devotee of Yogananda as well. I have been to SRF church services, but my involvement with Self Realization Fellowship has mainly been peripheral. I consider Paramahansa Yogananda to be a Christo-Hindu sage who dedicated himself to forging a bridge between Christianity and his native Hinduism. Yogananda was definitely a divinely Self realized soul, and a great master of yoga who I respect and revere tremendously. Yogananda passed away in March of 1952, just a couple of months before I was born; actually, what happened was he consciously made the final exit from his body in what SRF devotees call a Maha Samadhi, or great conscious union with the Divine. Although Yogananda’s spiritual mission of Self Realization was carried on by his closest senior disciples in the years following his passing, these direct disciples of Yogananda have really started to winnow out in recent years, and in a way, the movement he started has gotten a bit senile and sclerotic spiritually as the personal memory of the Master has faded from view. Perhaps something similar happened in the early years of Christianity after the Nazarene Master’s passing.
My next big foray into yoga came in the early nineties, not long after I had graduated from acupuncture school and had gotten licensed in Oriental Medicine. I connected with a remarkable group of young yogis in Romania, and in the early nineties, it had been only a few short years since communism had fallen. I picked up and left my life in California behind, sold my car, and bought a one way plane ticket to Romania. And back in those days, right after the fall of communism, a month’s worth of living expenses in Romania was only a couple hundred dollars, rent included. Actually, I was able to go to Romania and connect with these young yogis through the agency of a medicinal herb that grew in Romania, but that’s a long story that is best left for another day. The Romanian yoga society went by the name of MISA, which was an acronym for Miscarea de Integrare Spirituala in Absolut, or the Movement for Spiritual Integration in the Absolute. Anyway, I first discovered these young yogis of Romania through a letter to the editor that they had written to the magazine Yoga Journal; not long after I had been living and studying yoga with them, I wound up writing an article about them for that magazine.
Like Eckankar, MISA was a curious mixture of both good and bad qualities and tendencies – although MISA’s spiritual indiscretions and shortcomings were markedly different from those of Eckankar. On the positive side of the ledger, I learned a lot of good yoga techniques while I was studying with MISA – yoga techniques that should be much better known and appreciated, and much more widely taught, like the locks, or Bandhas, as well as abdominal self massage, or Nauli Kriya, which has helped me a lot with my chronic digestive problems. Their approach to postures or Asanas was also totally different; each posture was like a mini-meditation, with internal concentration on certain chakras and subtle energy flows – which prepared the student for the meditation that came later on. Without this inner spiritual aspect to the Asanas, you might as well just be doing gymnastics or stretching exercises, said the yoga instructors at MISA. Unlike yoga classes in the United States, in which students drift in and out of them, MISA yoga students were a lot more consistent and disciplined in their approach; there was a five year yoga curriculum, which the average yoga student worked his or her way through.
The down side of MISA revolved mainly around the sexual side of things; I discovered, soon after my arrival in Romania to live with the MISA yogis, that they were very Tantric, which took me quite by surprise. You see, previous to my arrival in Romania, you might say that I had been a Tantra virgin. Suffice it to say that the sexual drive or impulse is a very strong one in both men and women, and I saw lots of manipulation and abuse going on in the yoga society involving the practice of Tantra. The prevailing philosophy within MISA was that of free love, and although there were some faithful couples within the yoga society, they tended to be relatively rare; one former MISA yogi said that the average person in MISA changed partners about as often as most people change socks. Spiritually and philosophically speaking, I wrestled with this whole Tantra problem, and finally came to the conclusion that it was best to practice Tantric sexuality, if it was indeed to be sacred, within a yoga society of just two loving, committed partners. Free love and total spiritual non-attachment to one’s partner sounded good on paper, but in practice, I found, it didn’t work out, due to the very nature of the intimate bond itself.
Within the broader context of the national spiritual temperament, it seemed at times that Tantra, or sacred sexuality, was a natural choice for a Romanian yoga society. Romania’s national poet laureate, Mihai Eminescu, was definitely of a metaphysical romantic bent, as his famous epic poem, Luceafarul, or the Morning Star, plainly shows. Many people may not know this, but Romanians are romantic and hot blooded Latins who are very open, expressive and friendly, like Latins everywhere. Most Romanians trace the strong spiritual bent in the national character back to their ancestors, the Dacians, who fought three long military campaigns against Rome before they were finally subjugated. The reason why the Dacians were such valiant and courageous fighters, it is said, is that they were firm believers in the spiritual world and in the immortality of the Soul. There is also a famous folk ballad called Miorita, or “The Little Ewe Lamb” in which a shepherd is told by his little lamb of a plot that is afoot by two other shepherds to kill him; in the end, the shepherd targeted for murder willingly accepts his fate, and tells his little ewe lamb to bury him under the stars, with his flock. This folk ballad is centuries older than Christianity, yet, in the shepherd’s willingness to give up his own life, it bears obvious parallels to the Christian passion narrative.
There are yet other spiritual luminaries in the Romanian firmament, like the genius of modern sculpture, Constantin Brancusi, who was very spiritually oriented when it came to his art; and Mircea Eliade, the incomparable scholar of yoga and comparative religion who was chair of the comparative religion department at the University of Chicago until his death. The Pan Flute is not from South America, as most believe; it is a traditional folk instrument of Romania, and is without a doubt Romania’s most beloved gift to world musical culture; Gheorghe Zamfir, the King of the Pan Flute, is Romanian. Yet the contemporary press really puts out a negative image of Romania; the images of Romania that prevail in the popular imagination involve things like voracious vampires, demented dictators, and AIDS babies. All the bad stuff that happens in Romania is what gets out and is sensationalized in the world press, whereas Romania’s beauties and treasures, and all the good stuff, is too little known and appreciated.
Since I lived and studied with the Tantric yogis of Romania, I have often looked back and reflected on my time with them; did it have to end the way it did, or could it have turned out differently? Each person is a unique individual, and so, I reasoned, each person’s experience, including that of other foreigners who have come and studied in MISA yoga camps and retreats, have often been more positive. After all, each individual is the co-creator of his or her own experience with any spiritual group or organization; there is definitely a spiritual alchemy going on. Yet, all these subjective ruminations of mine, and the negative manner in which my life with MISA ended, finally got some objective corroboration when I learned that Grieg, MISA’s guru, had to flee Romania and seek political asylum in Sweden after he was charged with illicit sexual relations with minors by the Romanian police. Yet, there are still those who carry on the MISA teachings, even in his absence; after all, Grieg put together an excellent yoga program or curriculum in many respects – just another spiritual paradox for you.
I Continue My Studies of Yoga, Ayurveda and Holistic Healing in India and the United States
When I was in MISA, I had a yogi friend who lived in Transylvania, in Cluj – Napoca, who urged me to invest in a pyramid scheme that was going on there. I was no naïve child about such things, and was aware of the potential hazards and risks when I asked the I Ching, the Chinese oracle, if I should invest in this pyramid scheme; not surprisingly, I got Hexagram 55, Abundance, which foretold a brief period of abundance, followed by a sure decline. That’s the way these things go, I told myself; nevertheless, the overall judgment was positive, indicating that I should, in the balance, go ahead and invest in this thing. My second question to the I Ching was how long the good times would last, and when the thing would come crashing down; I got two Hexagrams for my answer, one changing into the other, but both Hexagrams were linked to the month of October. Looking at the scheme’s schedule of payouts, I calculated that I would double my original investment by October, even though, if I had gotten all the payouts, I would have multiplied my original investment eightfold. Investing only money that I could afford to lose, I invested in Caritas; sure enough, I doubled my original investment, and then the whole thing came crashing down in October, just as the I Ching had predicted.
With the money I made, I decided to invest in a yoga teacher’s training course in India, in the beautiful tropical state of Kerala. By that time, I had come to the conclusion that, as far as yoga was concerned, I preferred to go my own way and be my own man than to be a teacher in the MISA organization. I had, by that time, also been living and studying yoga with MISA for almost two years; and so, this sojourn in India would give me the chance to get some objectivity and perspective on things spiritually as well. I set off by train from Bucharest to Sofia, Bulgaria on a night train and arrived the following day in Sofia; from there, I hopped on a Balkan Airlines plane bound for Calcutta. A few nights in a hostel in Calcutta helped me get acclimatized to India, and from there, I hopped on another train down to Tamil Nadu, switching trains across the platform to take me to Kerala, on the other side of the peninsula. My yoga teacher’s training course would take place at the Sivananda Yoga Dhanvantari Ashram at Neyyar Dam, which was deep in the forest near Trivandrum. At night, you could hear the roar of lions and wild beasts; in the mornings, we would practice our yoga postures on a platform by the lake, with Mount Agastya, hallowed by the memory of an ancient sage, in the background. I looked down at the surface on which we practiced our postures, and sure enough, it was made of packed down cow manure – just as prescribed in the Hatha Yoga Pradipika; these guys were real traditional.
The yoga curriculum that was laid out for us was a well-rounded and edifying one, with didactic courses and lectures on yoga theory and philosophy to supplement our yoga practice. I was particularly keen on the philosophy courses. One of our most beloved professors and lecturers was a Swami within the Sivananda organization who had come all the way from New York to teach; accompanying him from New York was his beautiful young assistant, who taught the classes in yoga postures. Even though the Swami was supposedly celibate, we could all feel the sparks fly between him and his beautiful young assistant; later on, after I had returned from Romania to New York to continue my yoga studies with the Swami, he broke the ice and revealed that he had not been celibate, and that his beautiful assistant was pregnant with his child. They promptly left the organization to raise a family in Hawaii. I later learned that both of them were Scorpios – they didn’t stand a chance at remaining celibate. Another student at the course, who was a bright young grad student in philosophy from an Indian university, was always peppering the instructors with questions about Tantra and sacred sexuality, but wasn’t getting the information he sought, due to the Sivananda organization’s taboo on such matters. I strongly urged him to go to Romania and study with the MISA yogis if at all possible.
There was another strange thing that happened towards the end of my yoga teacher’s training course. One night, when I and all the other students were in meditation, out of the corner of my eye I saw a young man, stark naked, walk down the aisle towards the altar; he was promptly removed by the Swamis who were conducting the evening meditation. The next day, we found out that this student, after he found out how effective the yogic Pranayama breathing exercises were, went off and locked himself in his room, practicing all day. It just so turned out that this put him over the deep end, and he wound up severely psychically unbalanced and unable to care for himself – and so, his mother had to fly all the way to India to take him home. Too much of a good thing never works; better to adhere to the Golden Mean in all things. After the course, I spent the rest of my time in India traveling around and visiting various Ashrams; one of them was on the Ganges River, and so, I got the chance to swim in the Ganges. While I was swimming, I tasted some of the water and, to my surprise, it tasted a lot like hydrogen peroxide. Many swear that Ganges River water has antiseptic powers, and perhaps it is due to a high ozone content.
During the return trip to Romania, on the final leg – the train trip from Sofia to Bucharest, I shared the same sleeping compartment with a man named Sam, who was to become my best friend. You see, after my return to Romania, my whole world started to fall apart with the yoga society, and Sam became my Rock of Gibraltar; almost overnight, I went from being somewhat of a rock star within the yoga society to being a pariah. I remembered how, not too long ago, I had spent a magical evening with my main Tantric partner, looking up at the stars, and she was singing the praises of God, and how He always provides for our needs. And now, I had seen the fulfillment of her words, even though it turned out to be outside the yoga society. Anyway, with my life with the MISA yogis now finished, I decided to return to America, to stay at the Sivananda yoga center in Manhattan, and at the Sivananda Yoga Farm in upstate New York. This provided a safe haven for me to recuperate from my rather traumatic experience in Romania.
That was in May, June and July; during my sojourn in New York City, I recorded my first album of Pan Flute music. At the beginning of August, I was called back by my mother to San Diego, California, because my father had just suffered a terrible bicycle accident. Although the actual circumstances were a bit sketchy and covered up, it seems like my father suffered a massive stroke while on his bicycle, just minutes away from home after going out on an errand. For the next six weeks or so, my father lay in a hospital bed, in a largely vegetative state, never able to fully regain his cognitive functioning. Finally, after about six weeks in this vegetative limbo, he passed on, overcome by a massive infection. I can’t help but wonder if Dad was, as Soul, looking at his helpless body lying there on the bed, unable to fully connect with or animate it. Perhaps my father, the perennial agnostic and religious skeptic, was finally getting living proof of his essential identity as Soul apart from his body and his mind.
The loss of my dear father was really a tragic one for me, and I went through a prolonged period of grieving. Everything good and noble that I could ever hope to be, it seemed, I got from my father. Realizing that life must go on, I threw myself into a new recording project with my Pan Flute; whereas the cassette I recorded in New York City had been a rather simple and homespun affair, this new recording project, with the title track being Debussy’s Reverie, played on a bass Pan Flute with electronically synthesized accompaniment, was a lot more ambitious. I enlisted the help of the master musician and keyboardist, Richard James, to orchestrate and synthesize the accompaniment tracks. As an outgrowth of this, I eventually moved to the San Francisco Bay area to become a professional Pan Flutist with an Andean band; I sold my recordings when I was with the band, and as it turned out, I made a pretty good living playing my flutes. Although we played the standard tourist venues on Fisherman’s Wharf, we also traveled widely, playing at farmer’s markets, street fairs and festivals from Monterey to Sacramento as well. I suppose that there’s nothing like the sweetness of music to heal the pain of grief and loss.
A few years later, I was living in Tucson, Arizona, and renting a casita out in the back of a friend’s house. All of a sudden, my friend and his girlfriend picked up and moved to Beijing, China to teach little children English; they also decided to sell the house, and I had to be out by the beginning of September. I auditioned for a job teaching herbal medicine to students at a local acupuncture school; my sample lesson had gone well, and the students loved it. The only problem was that the president of the college was dragging his feet about making a decision, and I was under a deadline. “What should I do?” I asked an old friend of mine from Eckankar days, who was now a Naturopathic Doctor in Tucson. He told me to put a little pressure on the guy. I also asked the I Ching, and the oracle told me to go easy on him. I wound up following the advice of my friend, but it was the wrong thing to do, because the president of the acupuncture school wound up hiring someone else on the rebound from my pressure. Once again, the I Ching had been right.
Now that the job had fallen through, I asked myself,” Where should I go?” and “What should I do?” I finally decided to go up to Albuquerque, New Mexico to study Ayurvedic medicine with Dr. Vasant Lad at the Ayurvedic Institute. Even right after I arrived there, I started having problems; for example, we sang Vedic chants both before and after class – the management told me that I was chanting too loud. I countered that I was not trying to chant loudly, but I had studied singing in college, and just had a naturally resonant voice. They even told me not to ask questions in class, to which I asked them, “How am I supposed to learn if I don’t ask questions?” They countered that a lot of my questions seemed idle or superfluous – and besides, the instructors were under a lot of pressure to cover a lot of material in a very short amount of time. Another experience that I did not ask for put me in a kind of awkward and embarrassing position. We had to study Sanskrit as part of the curriculum at the Ayurvedic Institute, and the Sanskrit teacher singled me out for praise for my beautiful Sanskrit penmanship, and asked me to stand up. I wound up getting severely disciplined and placed under an order of silence for the remainder of the school year. In my final exams, Dr. Lad praised me on my great understanding of Ayurveda, but even so, they would not let me take the second year Ayurvedic Studies Course. I suppose that I just wasn’t Sattvic or spiritual enough for them.
But beyond these little run-ins I had with the Ayurvedic Institute staff, there were deeper problems afoot, and it seems like Ayurveda may not have been that great of a fit for me. A fellow classmate at the Institute put it this way: He told me that, for the vast majority of students there, Ayurveda was, for them, the greatest thing since sliced bread – but he didn’t sense the same kind of enthusiasm from me. Another thing was there was a lot of a cult-like atmosphere around Dr. Lad, both from the students as well as from the staff, and frankly, I was rather turned off by the whole guru trip. In the course of my studies, attending Dr. Lad’s evening lectures, I made a rather serendipitous discovery. Dr. Lad would say things in his evening lectures about subjects like dietary therapy, for example, and as I was leafing through the Aphorisms of Hippocrates one evening – I had a copy of the complete works of Hippocrates at home – I discovered that certain of these Aphorisms matched what Dr. Lad had said virtually verbatim, word for word. “Oh no – first Paul Twitchell, and now Dr. Lad,” I thought to myself. “It seems like everyone plagiarizes!” I finally just rationalized it to myself by saying that good medicine is good medicine, East or West, and what works, works. Oh – and did I mention to you that I discovered that Grieg, MISA’s yoga guru, also plagiarized in his yoga discourses?
These serendipitous discoveries, coupled with an influential book on Medical Astrology in French that I had read while in Belgium a few years earlier, would lead me eventually to turn to Greek Medicine as mankind’s third great traditional healing system, and the original holistic medicine of Western civilization. This led me, via a chain of unexpected events, to return to Romania, where my friend Sam helped me to set up my first website. Sam asked me what I wanted my website to be about, and I promptly told him that I wanted it to be about Greek Medicine. Sam also introduced me to a talented young website designer, Cristi, or Cristian Mihai Albu, who has become my faithful partner and webmaster for over ten years now; I am much indebted to Cristi for all his work and support. I was pretty busy in the early days back there in Bucharest researching and writing the pages of my first website, www.greekmedicine.net , and after a few months I got an email from a Unani doctor (Unani Medicine, or Unani Tibb, is the Arab / Muslim version of Greek Medicine) who practiced in Dubai inviting me to speak at a Unani medical conference in Aligarh, India that November. And so, I accepted, and was off to India again.
Whereas my previous trip to India had been centered on yoga, this one was to be centered on Unani Medicine. Seeing as the national headquarters of CCRUM (The Central Council for Research in Unani Medicine) was in Delhi, and there was a lot of Unani Medicine happening around Delhi, due to the historical patronage of the Delhi Sultans, as well as a distinguished lineage of Unani doctors or Hakims, I decided to make Delhi my base of operations. Soon after my arrival, I met a lovely young Tibetan lady who became my girlfriend. She was always urging me to forsake the dirty, filthy Pahar Ganj section of town and move to the Tibetan camp, and, frankly speaking, I was crazy for not doing so and joining her. As a result of my failure to move over there, I succumbed to the poor sanitation and developed a terrible case of dysentery that almost took my life. Finally, I had to move to Rishikesh, by the Ganges River, in the foothills of the Himalayas, while taking Ayurvedic and Unani herbal medicines, in order to regain my health. And so, if you’re ever in India, try to spend as little time as possible in dirty Delhi.
Before I could depart for Rishikesh and the Himalayas, however, I got an unexpected phone call from my sister, saying that mom had just experienced what she called a transient ischemic attack to her brain. I immediately looked at what was happening with the planets on an online ephemeris and found that transiting Uranus, which is often associated with strokes, spasms and convulsions, had come to a station right on her natal Uranus, which was part of a core Grand Trine configuration of planets in her natal chart. I immediately called my sister back and said to her, “That wasn’t just a transient ischemic attack, now was it?” at which point she broke down into tears and said that mom had suffered a massive stroke, and was now in intensive care in the hospital back in San Diego. Feeling the urgency of moving to Rishikesh for the sake of my health, I left, but kept in touch with phone calls. I was able to connect with my mother by phone from Rishikesh, and it was the last time I ever spoke to her. I continued to follow the planets, and felt that my mother didn’t have long to live, and that she would pass away in a few days. I was right.
I remember attending an evening Puja ceremony on the banks of the Ganges River on the first day of December, 2007. A local swami had invited a choir of boys from a local Hindu school to chant the Maha Mrityunjaya Mantra, or The Great Mantra for Victory over Death. And as they were chanting as the sun was slowly going down, it was almost as if I could feel the Life Force draining from my mother’s body a half a world away. Surely enough, the next day, my sister called me with the news that my mother had passed away at 8:30 PM at the nursing home in San Diego, just after watching Lawrence Welk. Lawrence Welk had been the favorite TV show of her mother, my Polish grandmother, and I can’t help but think that the spirit of my grandmother gave my mom a tap on the shoulder, telling her that it was her time to go.
A strange event happened on December first, three years later, in 2010, in which my car broke down and blew a head gasket in Albuquerque, which is in Mountain Standard Time, one hour ahead of San Diego, precisely at 9:30 PM local time. I noticed the synchronicity of the exact date and time, accounting for time zone differences, and a spiritual mentor of mine who I talked to on the phone said that it was like my mom was speaking to me from beyond the grave. But what was my mother trying to tell me? After some reflection, it seemed that she was trying to tell me to just let the car die, as she had died. I should have heeded that intuition, because I got taken for a ride by an unscrupulous mechanic who talked me into letting him rebuild the engine. That repair was very short lived, however, and a couple of months later, I loaded up the car and moved back to southern California, and my car had its final breakdown in the White Mountains of Arizona. And so, my move back to southern California hit a big road block.
Internet Dating and a Missed Match in Southern California
I finally made it to southern California, to the city of Redlands, located at the eastern end of the southern California basin, directly east of Los Angeles. I had met my roommate to be online, via Craigslist. I wanted to meet people, and my roommate, being a veteran of online dating himself, suggested that I try it; he said that it was really quite simple – all you had to do was to weed out the crazies – and that he would show me the ropes. I decided to go on Match.com, and I did succeed in hooking up with a few nice and interesting ladies during my stay in Redlands. One of them was a portly, voluptuous black lady who saw that I was into natural healing, and said that she had had health problems due to her obese condition. It turned out that she had quite the crush on me. We had a brief and tempestuous intimate relationship; she also told me that she had been severely disillusioned by the way she had been taken advantage of by unscrupulous preachers in the Pentecostal church she had grown up in. And so, she had drifted out of the church when we were first seeing each other. I told her about the spiritual things I was into, and she seemed to be cool with that at the time.
I wound up leaving Redlands and moving to Altadena, where one of my best friends owned a health food store. I got a couple of phone calls from this lady, but nothing much came of it. And then, I remember I was putting the finishing touches on a Pan Flute I was making one day; I glued on a couple of laminations of super thin model airplane plywood, put on the clamps, and walked down a back alley the few blocks to my friend’s health food store. When I arrived, my friend told me, “Guess who just had lunch here?” Sure enough, it was this lady, and I learned from my friend that she had just left minutes before my arrival. “Where was she headed?” I asked. “She said she was going up to see you at your apartment.” Although I had not told her, it seems like she had figured out where I lived. Seeing as, not too long ago, she had written a crazy letter to my landlord trying to get me evicted, I was in no hurry to catch up with her, and had a nice and leisurely vegetarian lunch at my friend’s health food store.
When I made it back up to my apartment, I heard from the manager that this lady had been there, asking for me. The idea that this lady had been stalking me unannounced kind of gave me the willies, and not long after that, I decided to move back to Albuquerque. I was involved in another relationship when I got to Albuquerque, thanks to Match.com, which burned out after a while. Taking something I saw by chance as a sign, I reached out again to the lady in southern California to see if we couldn’t work something out and settle our differences. She told me the story of that fateful day in Altadena from her end; it seems like it was a classic case of crossed paths and a missed connection. While I was walking the back way to my friend’s health food store, down the back alley, she was going up the hill in the other direction on the main street, and so we just barely missed each other. She said that she missed me terribly and felt that she couldn’t live without me, and was ready to throw herself at my feet. She also said that she had been so heartbroken when I left her, and also when I wasn’t there when she decided to drop in on me that she went back to Jesus to heal her broken heart.
She also told me that if I wanted to get back together with her, that I would have to convert to her Pentecostal brand of Christianity, or at least to become a Christian; she said we had tried it our way, and now it was God’s way or the highway. This led to a long series of email exchanges as I tried to clarify and explain my religious and spiritual views to her, and she did likewise. I even said that I would be willing to work with her Jesus as a kind of spiritual threesome, to indicate the lengths to which I would go in order to accommodate her religious views and positions. But that didn’t work; eventually she became more distant, and more shrill in her “God’s way or the highway” demands. And in our correspondence back and forth over religious and spiritual matters lies the genesis of this website, in which I have striven to explain my basic views and disposition towards Christianity as it exists today, and why I am not totally on board with it. But this is by no means a wholesale rejection of Christianity; I am also putting forth my own esoteric and alternative vision of Christianity on this website. I hope you enjoy it, and find it informative and enlightening.
But What Does It All Mean?
As one nears the end of their life, one naturally starts to reflect back on their life experience, trying to distill its main themes, and the spiritual lessons that can be learned from it. Hopefully, one will come to a place of peace and clarity before one moves on. So, what have been the main themes of my life, and what spiritual lessons have I learned from it all?
First of all, I am grateful to God, or the Universe, if you prefer, for granting me some pretty amazing spiritual experiences. As Jimi Hendrix sang in his famous song, “Are you experienced?” A lot of the spiritual conclusions I came to did not come primarily from any book I read, but from my own spiritual experience. Sure, the mind needs some kind of theoretical model or paradigm when dealing with God or the Divine, and for that, some amount of didactic book learning is desirable, I suppose, but in the end, I feel, it all boils down to one’s experience. Because of the spiritual experiences I had from a very young age, the path of the atheist, agnostic or religious skeptic was not really open to me in this lifetime. If I had not had the spiritual experiences I had, I may very well have become an agnostic like my father. Being a mystic who is able to have firsthand experience of God or the Divine is definitely a gift that not all were blessed with; in the absence of the gift, perhaps the most spiritually honest thing one can do is to admit what one does not know.
Even though I have been blessed with the gift of spiritual experience and vision, I also feel that reason has an important role to play as well. That’s where the early influence of my father and his rational / philosophical approach to discerning Truth has come in handy, and has proven to be even more valuable to me down through the years. In my younger years, the joyful, ecstatic feeling that comes with direct spiritual experience was in the ascendancy, it seems, but as I have aged, my spiritual discernment has matured, helping me to properly digest and distill the import of the spiritual experiences I had, and to make sense of them. And so, I do not believe in blind faith alone, but in the marriage of faith and reason.
It has not been my spiritual path or karma in this lifetime to become the steadfast and faithful disciple of a true spiritual master; I do not disparage those who have had the good karma to find and follow a true master throughout life – I just realize that I have not been one of them. As I said at the beginning of this biography, I feel that I was born into the eclectic, cosmopolitan upbringing I was born into in order to really broaden my spiritual horizons and outlook. Along the way, I have looked at, and even seriously considered, casting in my lot with one path or teacher, or another, but at some point, there has come a parting of the ways in which I, in all good faith and conscience, had to go my own way in order to preserve and maintain my spiritual integrity. Not being able to feel like I really belonged has given me a certain amount of loneliness, I suppose, but preserving my spiritual integrity has been worth it. To quote the words of Paracelsus: “Let no man belong to another who can belong to himself.”