“The most beautiful and most profound experience is the sensation of the mystical. …To know that what is impenetrable to us really exists, manifesting itself as the highest wisdom and the most radiant beauty
which our dull faculties can comprehend only in their primitive forms this knowledge, this feeling is at the center of true religiousness.”
~ Albert Einstein – The Merging of Spirit and Science
Following my April, 1976 rebirth experience, and before meeting my spiritual master, Shri Dhyanyogi, I began having extraordinary clairvoyant experiences, including precognition and seeing apparent ‘past lives’ and scenes. So I started wondering what was happening, and how it was possible.
My first memorable apparent precognitive experience happened in the Yosemite Sierras. Soon after my previously described transformative vision there of “ten thousand suns” (see Beholding The Eternal Light Of Consciousness), I climbed to a Yosemite mountaintop. After reaching the summit and viewing the magnificent alpine panorama, I rested sitting on a large granite rock with eyes closed. Soon I had a fleeting movie-clear inner vision of four people unknown to me. Twenty minutes later those four people climbed onto the summit.
Though I experienced this event as a precognitive vision, it might be regarded by some psychic researchers as an instance of “remote viewing” whereby I clairvoyantly viewed forms distant from my physical body. In all events, it was then an unprecedented experience for me, significantly undermining my Newtonian linear world-view about space/time.
Shortly after returning to San Francisco from Yosemite, I had another extraordinary precognitive experience which could not be considered contemporaneous “remote viewing”. Just before awakening one work-day morning, I beheld an extremely vivid inner image of a blue-eyed blond woman who I’d never before seen. Quite puzzled I wondered who she was and why I saw her. Those questions were answered a few days later.
Alone and lonely on a Saturday evening, I searched a newspaper’s weekend event calendar for something to do. There I learned that a Tibetan bell concert was about to happen in an auditorium not far from my apartment. Though I’d never before heard Tibetan bells, and then knew nothing about Tibetans, this concert seemed interesting. So I made a last-minute decision to attend.
There were no reserved seats, and by the time I arrived the only remaining seats were on a small balcony far from the stage, where I sat down waiting for the concert to begin. After a few moments, I noticed the person already seated immediately to my left. It was undoubtedly the woman who had appeared in my vision a few days earlier. She was a yoga teacher with whom I soon had a brief but very important romantic relationship – virtually my last romance before becoming almost totally abstinent for the remainder of my adult life – so far.
That precognitive vision (soon followed by more such visions) convinced me that serial time perception can be synchronistically transcended in “altered” states of awareness. (But my most significant learning from that relationship involved esoteric subjects other than precognition, which I will later discuss.)
In addition to apparent precognitive experiences I had various spontaneous “inner movie’ visions of scenes from other lifetimes of someone other than Ron Rattner, with whom I self-identified. Also, under hypnotic regression, I experienced details of apparent other lifetimes in Caucasian, Asian, African, and Native American male and female bodies during two past life sessions with a prominent past lives and reincarnation researcher and hypnotherapist, Helen Wambach, PhD.
Perhaps the most vivid and surprising other life experience happened quite unexpectedly and spontaneously while I was at a lecture in a spiritual bookshop on Sutter Street, San Francisco. Together with John Rubel, a long-time friend since high school, I attended a program about prenatal experience, which featured sounds recorded in utero of a fetal heartbeat and of the fetal environment, played through a loudspeaker.
As I sat listening to these hypnogogic intrauterine sounds, I was suddenly transported back to an apparent other lifetime, vividly envisioning myself as an indigenous native American man ecstatically dancing and singing to the beat of tom-toms.
Apart from my own extra-temporal spiritual experiences, during this period in “Be Here Now” I also read credible stories about the amazing prescience of Ram Dass’s Hindu guru, Neem Karoli Baba. And I learned from other readings that some mystics have the apparent power to see past lifetimes.
So, as my spiritual mystery story unfolded, I wondered whether some spiritually evolved beings might have extraordinary extra-temporal powers of clairvoyance unexplained by our conventional ideas of space-time reality.
Ultimately, I was soon blessed by meeting such a being with whom I learned that this was so.
“You must be the change
you want to see in the world.”
~ Mahatma Gandhi
“Non-violence, which is the quality of the heart,
cannot come by an appeal to the brain.”
~ Mahatma Gandhi
“A man is but the product of his thoughts;
what he thinks, he becomes.”
~ Mahatma Gandhi
Soon after my positive experience at the est seminar, I learned that some of est’s intriguing ideas about how thoughts and habits influence our lives had been borrowed by Werner Erhard from another self-help seminar, Silva Mind Control. I learned too that the Silva program supposedly taught how to manifest a happier life using positive thinking, visualization, and self-hypnosis techniques; that it claimed to teach so-called right brain thinking to foster clairvoyance and intuitive access to higher intelligence. All of this greatly interested me, so I decided to enroll in a Silva workshop.
The Silva seminar turned out even more influential for me than est because it sparked amazing new spiritual experiences which shattered old beliefs and raised new questions about death and “reality”. In contrast to the hundreds at est trainings, there were less than twenty participants at the Silva program I attended.
The program began with the Silva teacher’s explanation of how our minds influence our lives. Conflating mind and brain, he emphasized that the mind becomes much more effective as it becomes more focused in deeper states, and he then taught how to go into right brain “alpha wave” states of consciousness through self-hypnosis techniques.
I don’t believe that Silva’s mind/brain analysis was accurate. But the Silva self-hypnosis and visualization techniques worked for me. They provided my first structured introduction to meditative states of awareness, in which I experienced extraordinary new glimpses of clairvoyance, visualization and inner communication of higher wisdom.
Here’s what happened.
Near the end of the four day Silva course, participants were asked to each write on separate small pieces of paper names of two people with medical problems or illnesses known to them. Each paper stated only the name and residence place of the sick person. Description of their illness was not written. The papers were then put together in a box, from which each participant – one at a time – randomly drew out two of the papers submitted by others. As we took turns at drawing out the papers we were asked to go into “an alpha state” and to diagnose each identified person’s illness.
When my turn came, I was first given the name of a man who lived in Denver, Colorado. I closed my eyes and immediately clearly visualized within a husky man with a crew cut, a bit over 6 feet tall. Then, with ‘x-ray vision’ I scanned his body and reported to the group that the only anomaly I observed was a white spot in the brain area, which did not appear to be a problem. Whereupon, I was told by the submitter of the Denver man’s name that I was exactly right; that this man had recently had a brain tumor removed. His head had been shaved for the surgery. So he now had a crew cut as the hair regrew. Apparently, the white spot I saw showed where the tumor had been excised.
Next, I was given the name of a woman living in Menlo Park, California. I found one problem which I called “sick blood”. The submitter of her name told me that she suffered from leukemia.
Until then I had never heard of medical intuitives or remote healers. So I was amazed at the accuracy of my results and those of some other participants. This remote visualization and diagnosis experience shattered my Newtonian preconceptions about the nature of our “reality” and I began wondering, “How was it possible for me to remotely see and diagnose complete strangers, especially when I had no medical training whatsoever?” And this question spurred my continuing search since then for new explanations of “reality”.
And soon after my remote diagnosis of strangers, I had another amazing Silva psychic experience. As the course progressed, we had been asked to visualize a perfectly peaceful sanctuary in a nature place or within an imagined structure; an inner place to which we could retreat at will to relieve stress and “recharge our batteries”. I visualized a beautiful room in a peaceful place.
On the last day of the seminar – ‘graduation day’ – we were asked to invite into our previously imagined retreat place an inner guide to counsel us about our problems and questions. It was suggested that we either visualize and invite presence of the wisest person we admired or, if we didn’t know of such a person, that we ask the universe to send our most appropriate inner guide. I couldn’t think of any wise person to visualize, so I invited the universe to send my most appropriate inner guide.
Thereupon, to my amazement, I clearly saw a little bald headed man wearing a white Indian dhoti. Mahatma Gandhi (who had been assassinated in 1948) appeared as my inner guide. Though I then knew very little about Gandhi, I clearly recognized him, and silently received his wise counsel about some of my questions. Gandhi thus appeared as my inner counselor, not only on conclusion of the Silva seminar but afterwards for a short period, whenever I invoked his presence while in “an alpha state” of consciousness.
Gandhi’s appearance raised deep questions for me about death and whether a person’s spirit or soul survives physical death. And I wondered why the universe had chosen Gandhi to counsel me.
Gradually, as my spiritual mystery story continued to unfold, I was given synchronistic answers these questions, which I will later share with you.
“Perfection is a state in which things are the way they are,
and are not the way they are not.
As you can see, this universe is perfect.”
~ Werner Erhard, est
Before the divorce, I had attempted to find answers to my new questions by reading articles and books about parapsychology and psychic phenomena, but not about religious mysticism or spirituality, of which I was still ignorant. But upon living alone as a single person with a new life style, I gradually expanded my quest to weekend seminars and lectures where for the first time I began being exposed to Eastern spiritual ideas. The first seminars, “est” and “Silva Mind Control”, incorporated perennial Eastern ideas into a Western self-help context, and were of significant help for me.
When I became single again, est was well known and flourishing in the San Francisco Bay Area. It was then aggressively being promoted as a self-help “training” offering participants exceptional opportunity to radically transform their lives. It had begun in San Francisco five years earlier with a seminar conducted by its charismatic and controversial founder Werner Erhard attended by several hundred people.
Werner had creatively crafted the est training by incorporating self-help ideas he eclectically gathered from various sources and by expressing them epigrammatically and dramatically in his own original est jargon. Est attracted participants by hyperbolically promising to disclose and to experientially teach them esoteric principles of living a happy life, thereby providing them “space” for “getting IT”, an allegedly transformative epiphany which Werner claimed to have experienced while driving across the Golden Gate Bridge in March 1971.
So I was quite curious about est when I became single again. But still an uptight lawyer, I was reluctant to take the est training because of negative reports I’d heard about it and about Werner Erhard. Then Allen Chase, a childhood friend who – like me – was recently divorced, persuasively urged me to take the training by claiming to have been immensely helped by est. So I changed my mind and enrolled.
Thus, with lingering skepticism I attended a 1976 est training in Marin County, in a large hotel where I was joined by hundreds of others eager to “get IT” – the secret of a happy life. At the outset I had negative reactions and considerable resistance to what was happening.
The training was conducted in an hierarchical cult-like atmosphere by a man who talked like Werner, dressed like Werner, and appeared to be somewhat of a Werner clone. To present his ideas he often used a ‘Zen master stick approach’, which was sometimes harsh, profane, and authoritarian. All of this ‘turned me off’. Yet I remained interested and curious.
The trainer told us that the brain mostly functioned automatically as a self-perpetuating “tape” machine, pre-programmed to repeat over and over again the same mechanistic responses to similar situations facing people in their daily lives; that accordingly we’ve developed debilitating habits and beliefs, and have misidentified with the “voice in our head”. He promised us an opportunity to “be at cause, not effect” ; a chance to transcend these debilitating habits by “getting IT”, the alleged central truth of human existence.
Most of us had been lured to enroll by est promotions claiming that when you “got IT”, you got the secret of happiness. And on enrollment we had all signed confidentiality pledges against disclosing “IT”. So we all anxiously awaited our chance for a “getting IT” epiphany. Not until the final moments of the two weekend workshop did the trainer finally disclose “IT”.
AHAA! In est aphoristic jargon, “getting IT” meant realizing that: “What is, is, and what ain’t, ain’t.” ; that “the Truth is what’s so.”
Thus, getting “IT”, was the realization that one must accept “what is” in the present moment of your life; viz. to live happily accept yourself and everything and everyone in your life just as they are, without reflexively resisting or reacting to them, and “take responsibility” for all your responses, choices and actions.
Perhaps in gathering and formulating these ideas Werner was influenced by philosopher Alan Watts who (unknown to me) had taught them to small groups on his Sausalito houseboat prior to his death in 1974. For example, in a 1960 essay entitled “This is It”, Watt’s described the ‘enlightenment’ experience for which est later lured participants:
“To the individual thus enlightened it appears as a vivid and overwhelming certainty that the universe, precisely as it is at this moment, as a whole and in every one of its parts, is so completely right as to need no explanation or justification beyond what it simply is….the mind is so wonder-struck at the self-evident and self-sufficient fitness of things as they are, including what would ordinarily be thought the very worst, that it cannot find any word strong enough to express the perfection and beauty of the experience…The central core of the experience seems to be the conviction, or insight, that the immediate now, whatever its nature, is the goal and fulfillment of all living.”
Werner was less erudite in his presentations, but often more dramatically impactful, than was Dr. Watts. And his enigmatic illogical aphorisms motivated participants to reflect on important ideas about spiritual wisdom transcending “common wisdom”.
Retrospectively, I now see that Werner was astute in creating an extraordinary environment for the est trainings, because in that unusual environment participants were moved out of their habitual ways of thinking and experiencing the world – their left brain patterns – and thereby they were opened to seemingly illogical ‘right brain’ insights and experiences. That’s what happened to me.
After completing est, I remained annoyed and ‘turned off’ by est’s harsh, cult-like ambience and and hyperbolic promotions, but I felt that I had gotten considerable value for my large tuition payment. In fact, I was so glad that I had taken est that I soon urged my friends Dave Weiner and John Rubel to enroll.
The est training planted significant seeds for my spiritual evolution by presenting some important and intriguing ideas from perennial wisdom teachings – like disidentifying with the “voice in my head” and “acceptance of the present moment” – which were then new to me and which remain important after more than thirty years of experience, study and reflection.
Paradoxically, as I now “seek relief from belief” and gradually have winnowed and discarded as no longer useful many ideas and beliefs acquired and embraced since est, I realize that “IT” – acceptance of “what is” in the present moment – remains for me a core principle for living a happy life. And perhaps I was subconsciously influenced by Werner’s other wise teachings and aphorisms, which I didn’t then understand, or appreciate, like “Don’t change beliefs. Transform the believer.”
“The brain does not create consciousness,
but consciousness created the brain,
the most complex physical form on earth, for its expression.”
~ Eckhart Tolle
I regard consciousness as fundamental.
I regard matter as derivative from consciousness.
We cannot get behind consciousness.
Everything that we talk about, everything that we regard as existing,
~ Max Planck, Nobel laureate physicist, as quoted in The Observer (25 January 1931)
“The very study of the physical world leads to the conclusion that
consciousness is an ultimate reality and,
all the possible knowledge, concerning objects
can be given as its wave function”
~ Eugene Wigner, Nobel laureate physicist and co-founder of quantum mechanics
For millennia mystics and seers have realized experientially that our space/time/causality reality is but a play of consciousness; that all impermanent appearances, all apparent forms and phenomena – including human brains – are but holographic projections of timeless Universal Awareness.
But very few scientists have shared this revelatory mystical world view. Most scientists do not regard as “real” that which is beyond perception and conception.
Rather than recognizing consciousness as the ultimate and eternal Source of our reality, reductionistic and materialistic mainstream science says that brains generate consciousness, and that we see via our brains.
However, there have been innumerable published reports of near death and out of body experiences and other mystical experiences which contradict this mainstream brain hypothesis. (*See footnote re Near Death Experiences [NDE’s].) Nonetheless, until now most brain scientists have dismissed these reports as untrustworthy “anecdotal” evidence. Rarely have mainstream brain scientists transcended their mistaken materialistic paradigm. But there have been noteworthy exceptions. (see e.g. Atlantic Monthly: The Science of Near-Death Experiences.)
Dr. Eben Alexander
Thus, in October 2012 Dr. Eben Alexander, a neurosurgeon who has taught at Harvard Medical School, went public with an autobiographical account of a life changing dramatic and vivid near death experience (NDE) of what he called “heaven” while he was in a week-long comatose state with a non-functional brain neocortex. (His best-selling first book, ”Proof of Heaven”, was published by Simon and Schuster on October 23, 2012.)
Dr. Alexander reported being told in “heaven”:
“‘You have nothing to fear. There is nothing you can do wrong.’ The message flooded me with a vast and crazy sensation of relief.”
He has written that prior to his NDE he did not believe in such experiences, and ‘scientifically’ dismissed them.
“As a neurosurgeon, I did not believe in the phenomenon of near-death experiences. I grew up in a scientific world, the son of a neurosurgeon. I followed my father’s path and became an academic neurosurgeon, teaching at Harvard Medical School and other universities. I understand what happens to the brain when people are near death, and I had always believed there were good scientific explanations for the heavenly out-of-body journeys described by those who narrowly escaped death.”
“According to current medical understanding of the brain and mind, there is absolutely no way that I could have experienced even a dim and limited consciousness during my time in the coma, much less the hyper-vivid and completely coherent odyssey I underwent.”
“There is no scientific explanation for the fact that while my body lay in coma, my mind—my conscious, inner self—was alive and well. While the neurons of my cortex were stunned to complete inactivity by the bacteria that had attacked them, my brain-free consciousness journeyed to another, larger dimension of the universe: a dimension I’d never dreamed existed and which the old, pre-coma me would have been more than happy to explain was a simple impossibility.”
Raised as a Christian, Dr. Alexander used the religious concepts of “God” and “heaven”, to describe his extraordinary experience.
“Communicating with God is the most extraordinary experience imaginable, yet at the same time it’s the most natural one of all, because God is present in us at all times. Omniscient, omnipotent, personal-and loving us without conditions. We are connected as One through our divine link with God.”
Apart from referring to God, he also identified unconditional Love as the the ultimate Reality and “basis of everything” that exists.
“Love is, without a doubt, the basis of everything. Not some abstract, hard-to-fathom kind of love but the day-to-day kind that everyone knows-the kind of love we feel when we look at our spouse and our children, or even our animals. In its purest and most powerful form, this love is not jealous or selfish, but unconditional. This is the reality of realities, the incomprehensibly glorious truth of truths that lives and breathes at the core of everything that exists or will ever exist, and no remotely accurate understanding of who and what we are can be achieved by anyone who does not know it, and embody it in all of their actions.”
With newfound openness to “anecdotal” evidence, Dr. Alexander now expresses optimism that as science and mysticism ever more agree, humankind will evolve to wonderful new states of being.
And so may it be!
*Near Death Experiences [NDE’s].
The term ‘Near Death Experience’ [NDE] was coined in 1975 by Raymond A. Moody, Jr., PhD, MD, in his book Life After Life which sold over thirteen million copies worldwide. Since then numerous NDE accounts have been published and discussed in mainstream media, on the internet, in films and videos, and in magazines and books. Many spiritually inspiring NDE stories have been published and researched by the International Association For Near-Death Studies [IANDS] and others. So NDE’s have become widely considered, especially by those who claim to have experienced them. And some non-materialist scientists cite NDE’s as evidence that consciousness survives physical death. For millions of people NDE’s, and other extraordinary mystical experiences, have proven to be spiritually inspirational, and transformative events, diminishing or ending fear of death and encouraging a newly open, trusting and loving lifestyle. (see e.g. Atlantic Monthly: The Science of Near-Death Experiences.)