A life filled with wonder is a wonderful life.
~ Ron Rattner, Sutra Sayings
Since May 2010, people worldwide have been accessing and reading essays, aphorisms, and stories posted on SillySutras.com by Ron Rattner. For those who may be curious about the author of these postings, we are embedding a brief documentary film created by Rob Tobias an original contemporary singer/songwriter and instrumental recording artist from Eugene, Oregon.
As the long-time life partner of Ron’s niece Janice Medvin, Rob observed the before and after transformation of Uncle Ron from an unhappily married secular Jewish lawyer, to becoming a happily eccentric spiritual aspirant following an inadvertent cannabis caused out of body experience [OOB] and later mystical realization and opening.
Rob and Janice decided that there ought to be a cinematographic record of eccentric Uncle Ron, as a sort of family history project. So for several years in various places Rob video’d Ron talking and walking and explaining his evolution from litigation to meditation and beyond; from secular Hebrew, to ‘born again Hindu’, to uncertain Undo – seeking relief from belief.
From many hours of raw footage, Rob created a 38 minute documentary film which he titled: “Walks With Ron (A Spiritual Memoir)” Included in the film are various archival audio-visual materials and music written and arranged by Rob. Rob has posted the film on YouTube and encourages its free sharing.
If interested, you can view it here:
“Follow your heart – even if it contradicts my words”
“If there is love in your heart, you don’t have to worry about rules.”
~ Shri Dhyanyogi Madhusudandas
During a traumatic divorce and “mid-life crisis” in 1975, I experienced what Hindus call a spontaneous awakening of the kundalini energy with sudden realization that I was much more than my physical body, its story and thoughts with which until then I had always self-identified.
That realization triggered an extraordinary and unforgettable “rebirth” experience, accompanied and followed by many amazing mystical experiences, which forever changed my life and impelled me to begin questioning whether the universe worked the way I’d thought or been taught; and to soulfully seek answers to ultimate questions and a new paradigm guiding the remainder of my life time. So, paradoxically, a broken heart opened me to a wonderful new way of experiencing life.
Since then my life has unfolded in ways I couldn’t previously have imagined, like a spiritual mystery story. For example, after starting life as a non-observant Jew – a secular Hebrew, I was initiated into a Hindu tradition by a venerable Hindu guru, and for many years thereafter regarded myself as a “born-again Hindu”. Though I no longer consider myself a “born-again Hindu”, but an “uncertain Undo”, I write today because of what my guru told me eighteen years ago.
It was February, 1992. I had just retired after thirty four years of practicing as a San Francisco litigation attorney, and had come to Ahmedabad, India, to pay my respects to my then 114 year old venerable Hindu guru, Shri Dhyanyogi Madhasudandas (Guruji). Guruji was living in the apartment of a local doctor. His mental, intuitive and prescient powers were amazingly acute – as ever, but his 114 year old body was weak, and he was obliged to spend his days mostly in bed. On one of those days, I was granted an audience together with a small group of Guruji’s closest Indian devotees, including his female successor Shri Anandi Ma, her parents and her husband, Dileepji. Except for me, all present were Indians with whom Guruji conversed in Gujarati, while I knelt facing an altar at the foot of his bed.
After a while, Shri Anandi Ma’s father, Pravin Jani, a Vedic astrologer and pundit, spoke in English to me: “Guruji wants to know if you have any questions.” Having just retired, I was thinking of starting a daily diary of spiritual experiences as a way of promoting my spiritual progress – my “sadhana”. So I asked if this would be OK, and received an answer which astounded me, and which I’ve been considering until now.
Guruji said: “Rasik should write and publish his spiritual memoirs. They will inspire many people”. Rasik – meaning “one engrossed in devotion” – was the spiritual name he had given me upon my initiation in 1978. I listened in astonishment and bewilderment, thinking: “Publish my personal memoirs? Shouldn’t they be kept private? How could the experiences of an ordinary person like Ron Rattner inspire many people?.”
Eighteen years have passed since that day in India. Since then, I lived for many years in introspective semi-seclusion, without a TV, computer, newspaper, or radio news of the “real world”, meditating, praying, seeking answers to ultimate questions, and “enlightenment”. Since then I’ve made many mistakes and have had many experiences and insights from which I think I’ve learned and benefited a lot. Though I haven’t stopped making mistakes and learning, I’ve now lived long enough to realize the prescience of Guruji’s instructions to me, and wish to honor them and you by sharing with you some of my spiritual stories, and their significance and lessons for me.
I feel that Humankind is now processing an extraordinary evolutionary leap in our common consciousness; that we are evolving from millennia of hierarchical dominance and constraints to an epoch of egalitarian and democratic sharing and openness; that we are democratizing and merging the spiritual and secular aspects of our lives. So, though I began my mid-life spiritual journey with an hierarchical Guru-disciple relationship, which I eternally honor, I now consider Life to be my spiritual teacher. But I am guided by Dhyanyogi’s highest teachings: “Follow your heart – even if it contradicts my words”; and, “If there is love in your heart, you don’t have to worry about rules.”
Many meaningful and noteworthy experiences have revealed to me the deep and essential commonality, connection and interdependence of all life on Earth, so that everything we think, do or say changes this world in some way.
This life has become like an amazing spiritual mystery story. Without yet – and perhaps never – solving the Mystery, more and more I’ve learned to honor it, with gratitude and awe. And I now gratefully experience my life as synchronistically magical and miraculous – feeling happier than ever before. So in sharing with you what I’ve learned from these spiritual experiences, I do not and can not write as a Guru, but as just another participating ‘fellow traveler’ on the spiritual path to an ever mysterious shared destiny.
My deepest aspiration is that everyone everywhere – all life forms – flourish and be happy; that all humankind be empowered to use their unique gifts to fulfill their highest potentialities, and thereby harmoniously to benefit all life on our precious planet – and beyond.
So in now sharing with you some of my experiences and perspectives my intention and dedication is to contribute to that vision and goal. As a ‘senior citizen’ and member of ‘Generation Exit’, I especially wish to be of help to younger people to whom we bequeath our future, as they inherit the mistakes and learning experiences of their forebears in an ever changing world.
An “identity crisis” can be life’s greatest opportunity,
because it raises life’s most crucial question – “Who am I?”
~ Ron Rattner, Sutra Sayings
Upon graduation from the University of Chicago law school in 1958, I became a Chicago lawyer. Two years later I was married and moved to San Francisco, rather than settling into married life in Chicago. An idealist then, I had quickly become disillusioned with the Cook County Illinois court system and felt that there must be another place where courts administered justice more consistent with truth, law and equity than politics. And because I previously had a very positive experience of the San Francisco ambiance and “vibes”, I thought the Bay Area might be such a place. Also, my new wife, Naomi, and I both believed that starting married life might be easier if there was a two thousand mile distance between us and our parents. So adventurously we moved to San Francisco after our marriage in June, 1960.
Unlike many others, I didn’t move to California to participate in significant Bay Area social ferment and transformation of that era. I wasn’t interested in Beatniks, Hippies, Flower Children, the Haight-Ashbury scene, or Eastern spirituality (of which I was then totally ignorant). As a San Francisco lawyer, I just wanted to – and often did – help unjustly exploited or downtrodden people with legal problems. But I felt compelled to work within the legal system on cases which came to me, and not pro-actively – except for certain civil liberties issues. Though as an idealistic lawyer I abhorred the tragic injustice and insanity of the Viet Nam war, and the authoritarian suppression of free speech at U.C. Berkeley, I wasn’t politically active in those causes, or in the feminist revolution with which I ambivalently sympathized. And I was quite ‘uptight’ about breaking any social ‘norms’ or doing anything illegal, like using psychedelics.
While keeping distance between us and our parents may have initially been helpful for Naomi and me, it wasn’t enough to prevent irreconcilable differences from ending our marriage fifteen years later. While we had long been stressed by our incompatibilities, for me the psychological seeds of our parting and of a new life beyond married life, were first sown at a 1974-5 New Year’s Eve party, at the Clarendon Heights home of doctor friends who weren’t as uptight about certain social norms as their lawyer friend Ron Rattner.
As we embarked for the party I felt inexplicably happy – happier than I had felt for a long time. And at the party this happiness kept growing as the evening progressed. So by the time that the new year arrived, I was very high in Clarendon Heights. All evening I had been sipping champaign and singing old Broadway songs around an upright piano played by a pianist with an unending repertoire of Tin Pan Alley favorites. The singing brought me back to happier times in high school and college when Dave Weiner, my multi-talented friend since kindergarten, would often lead similar singing from the piano.
After mid-night and customary “happy new year” proclamations, we ate a ‘pot luck’ buffet dinner. I enjoyed the food very much, especially the desert – a home baked cake. But soon after eating it, I began feeling very strange – like I’d never felt before. My brain felt anesthetized, so that I could hardly think. Believing that I was becoming quite ill, I asked Madlyn, the hostess, for a place to lay down. She showed me into a very small, dark utility room furnished with little more than a bed, upon which I quickly fell face down, after removing my eyeglasses.
Then, after lying face down on a pillow for a short time, I had an unprecedented and unforgettable out of body experience (OOB). It seemed that I floated out of my body and up to the ceiling of that small dark room. And from the ceiling, with my glasses on a bedside table, I clearly saw my body lying face down on the pillow. Then, with difficulty I thought: “How can I be up here, when my body’s down there?” And with every thought, I beheld a vividly colored kaleidoscopic form – a surreal thought form, which appeared below the ceiling (where I was) and above the bed (where my body was lying face-down).
All these perceptions seemed very real – not dreamlike or hallucinatory. And for the first time in my life they irresistibly raised an urgent new question: “Who or what am I?”
In later reflecting on my OOB experience, I reasoned that if I was on the ceiling of the room, while my body was face-down on the bed, I couldn’t be the body; and, that if I was on the ceiling of the room, while my thoughts were appearing below me, I couldn’t be the thoughts. Then, if not my body and not my thoughts, who and what am I?
Until then, I had always assumed that I was only my mortal physical body, its thoughts and its story; that I was a middle-aged secular Jewish litigation lawyer, married, with two kids, born in Chicago and living in San Francisco. But with ‘pot luck’ on New Year’s Eve 1974-5, those assumptions were forever shaken.
Thereupon, irresistibly and persistently I began asking the question “Who Am I”, intensely longing for an answer. This self-inquiry process proved an enormous blessing which changed my life forever.
“Birth and death are virtual, but Life is perpetual.”
~ Ron Rattner, Sutra Sayings
“The soul never takes birth and never dies at any time nor does it come into being again when the body is created. The soul is birthless, eternal, imperishable and timeless and is never destroyed when the body is destroyed. Just as a man giving up old worn out garments accepts other new apparel, in the same way the embodied soul giving up old and worn out bodies verily accepts new bodies.” “The soul is eternal, all-pervading, unmodifiable, immovable and primordial.”
~ Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 2, Krishna to Arjuna
At Mid-life, a Rebirth to a New Life
Soon after my life-changing out of body experience (OOB) at a 1974-5 New Year’s ‘pot luck’ party, I learned that the experience had been triggered by my unwitting (and only) ingestion of cannabis; that the home-made desert cake which I had so enjoyed then was laced with marijuana. Though this initially raised doubts about the “reality” of the experience, it did not end my irresistible determination to find out what really had happened.
The New Year’s Eve experience was too vivid and too authentic to dismiss it peremptorily as a mere psychedelic hallucination. Yet it was so challenging to my egoic sense of self identity, that I was afraid to then share the experience with others. And as an upright, uptight officer of courts, I didn’t want to admit to anyone my ingestion – even unwittingly – of an illegal substance. So, I didn’t promptly tell Naomi or anyone else about my out of body experience.
Instead, sparked by the momentous question: “Who or what am I?”,
I began covertly exploring what happened.
Though busy with my law practice, I sporadically read articles and books about parapsychology and psychic phenomena, but not about sacred mysticism or spirituality, of which I remained ignorant. As I read and reflected, I intuited the validity of various reported metaphysical phenomena, but still hadn’t encountered information about out of body experiences, which I didn’t yet know were common.
However, irresistibly I kept thinking about my New Year’s Eve experience and its meaning. Though convinced of the authenticity of that experience, I suppressed conscious confirmation of it’s true significance until April, 1976 – fifteen months later – when it burst into consciousness from the subconscious, shattering the ego’s psychic shell, which until then had censored and suppressed such awareness.
By that time my marriage was ending and I was confused and troubled, trying to cope with the shock and trauma of divorce and its consequences. Naomi and I were then living separate and apart, but still in the same house, pending legal agreement on sale of the house, our only major economic asset. I had temporarily moved into a third floor attic room, anxiously awaiting my lawyer’s permission to move out. It was the unhappiest time of my life.
My heart was broken at the prospect of being permanently separated from our young children, Jessica and Joshua. But, I hadn’t yet experienced the depth of my emotional sadness, and – as an uptight man – hadn’t shed any tears during my entire adult life.
Then it began happening. I awakened one Monday in April, 1976, feeling an unprecedented slight pressure inside my head. It lasted all day, and was still present the next day – only slightly more intense. For the entire week, the feeling of pressure inside the head intensified each day.
With growing apprehension I began wondering whether I was developing a serious neurological disorder. But, ambivalently, I continued with my busy schedule without consulting a doctor. By the time the weekend arrived, I was experiencing, with considerable concern, great pressure inside my head – as if it was about to ‘explode’ from the inside out.
That weekend Naomi went away with the children, and I was alone in the attic room, when the ‘explosion’ finally happened. I was again wondering about the meaning of my New Year’s Eve out of body experience and the question “Who or what am I?”, when, at long last, I had a profound but simple insight that:
“I am not my body or its thoughts, but pure awareness; I am not my role in life – lawyer, husband, father – with which I’ve identified, but pure awareness.”.
Thereupon the pressure in my head immediately ended, and I burst into unending flood of tears. [Synchronistically, I later realized that the head pressure was a symptom of ascending “kundalini” energy spontaneously purifying my nervous system, by opening subtle body energy channels (nadis).]
As I intensely and uncontrollably cried as never before, my body went into fetal position and spontaneously and convulsively I began gasping and hyperventilating with spasmodic movements. It was as if I was replicating a newborn baby’s emergence from the womb into this world via the mother’s birth canal. The crying, sobbing and ‘rebirthing’ process continued intermittently and spasmodically for twenty four hours, until finally I fell asleep.
Upon awakening, I felt extraordinarily different than ever before. Initially, instead of experiencing myself as a physical body, I experienced only consciousness of flowing lines of vital subtle energy channels , which I later associated with the ‘chi’ meridians described by Chinese acupuncture medicine and with nadis described by kundalini yoga.
Thereafter for almost three months, I needed very little sleep. I would habitually get into bed every night but slept very little, finding that customary restorative sleep wasn’t necessary. Though this extraordinary energy gradually waned and my former physical body experience returned, never again have I experienced life as I did before that self-identity insight and ‘rebirthing’ process.
Paradoxically, my prolonged mid-life birth canal emergence process may have been the first time in this life that I had an experience like a normal newborn’s journey through the birth canal. Prior to this ‘rebirth’ event, my highest spiritual energy experiences had happened when I was present in the delivery room at the births of Jessica and Joshua, our two beautiful children. But these were births of other beings. My own birth was a different story.
Early on November 8, 1932, the day of Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s first election, I was traumatically extracted with forceps from my mother’s body – a breech birth – after an exceptionally protracted but incomplete labor period.
Because of the psychological significance of perinatal trauma, I have wondered whether that breech birth extraction affected my personality, and whether it in any way triggered or contributed to my mid-life rebirth experience.
Some Western astrologers say that because I emerged at a very propitious time, when the Moon was in Pisces, I came into this world with an open Hearted tendency, not so characteristic of other Moon signs. So, despite the breech birth trauma, that birth time may have been a great blessing.
What do you think?
“In this ever-changing space/time world,
nothing is immutable, but much is inscrutable.”
~ Ron Rattner, Sutra Sayings
Both inner and outer life changed radically for me after my self-realization rebirth experience, and upon living alone after divorce. From living a ‘normal’ middle class life style, I began living outwardly like a Western ascetic, and inwardly with formerly unknown rich spiritual experiences.
I now realize retrospectively that my unforeseen new life unfolded and evolved perfectly, as if a Divine novelist was writing my life story’s script; and, that I have been and am now continually guided in my new life by increasingly frequent ‘miraculous’ synchronicities – meaningful or noteworthy ‘coincidences’ and premonitions – which Western science can’t yet explain.
Long-time worldly habits changed. Though I had always walked to my financial district law office, now almost every morning before walking to work I jogged alone for about an hour to the Golden Gate bridge.
Intuitively, and not because of anything I’d then heard or read, I gradually evolved from a common Western flesh food diet to a largely raw food vegetarian diet. Upon experiencing ‘withdrawal symptoms’ when I forgot my morning coffee one day, I realized that I’d become addicted to caffeine. So I stopped drinking coffee, and drank peppermint tea instead. As a vegetarian I became gradually unable to metabolize alcohol. So I stopped drinking beer and wine and all other alcoholic beverages (which I’d enjoyed since adulthood).
Instead of sleeping on a raised bed, I began sleeping on a futon on the floor. Instead of living in rooms filled with furniture and furnishings, I preferred a simple ‘Zen-like’ austere residential environment.
My ascetic new eating, drinking, sleeping and exercise habits have continued for over thirty years, though after suffering leg injuries in a 1988 car accident, I stopped jogging but kept walking usually for at least an hour a day.
Why did I turn to asceticism? Was it because of ascetic past lives? These remain yet unanswered but recurring questions.
Aside from changed worldly habits, my inner life became – and continues to be – like a spiritual detective novel, with ever new questions arising from new experiences and new realizations.
For many years, beginning with my three month period of extraordinarily high energy, I had numerous amazing mystical and psychic experiences, which repeatedly substantiated my post-out of body realization that the universe didn’t work the way I’d been taught or thought and sparked an intense quest for a new “reality” paradigm.
All these new incidents seemed quite “real”. They could not be readily rationalized away as “unnatural hallucinations” as they were not prompted by ingestion of any biological or chemical psychedelic or drug (which I didn’t use). Nor did I appear to have ‘gone crazy’, since I continued to function effectively as a litigation lawyer despite my new secret life.
After the unforgettable inner experience of seeing each of my thoughts manifest as a separate kaleidoscopic thought-form outside my body or brain, I intuited that thought was the genesis of all phenomenal reality. But I had no idea of how that could happen, and wondered about any such process. So with great curiousity I sought a new paradigm or world-view encompassing my new experiences of “reality”.
Ask and it shall be given, seek and ye shall find. Gradually, I was given synchronistic answers to my questions.
This process was accompanied by an ever increasing sense of awe and gratitude for our marvelous, miraculous and mysterious universe. Intense longing with ever growing gratitude gradually transformed a secular lawyer into a deeply devotional seeker of Truth – of answers to ultimately unanswerable questions of perennial philosophy.
And never again since the long-locked floodgate of tears was opened during the self-realization rebirth experience have tears failed to flow regularly. For many years, I cried so often and so profusely with deep longing for the Divine, that I was puzzled about what was happening to me.
But gradually, through synchronicity, I came to realize that I was experiencing a great transformative blessing known in the Catholic tradition of St. Francis of Assisi and St. Ignatius of Loyola as “the gift of tears”; a blessing similarly recognized in various other devotional and mystical spiritual traditions, including the ecstatic Sufism of Rumi, Hafiz and numerous others, and the Hindu tradition of bhakti yoga, which I followed for many years after synchronistically meeting my venerable Hindu guru, Sri Dhyanyogi Madhusudandas (Guruji).
Though never a frequent flyer, for many years I became – and remain – a very frequent crier. Tears have helped purify my body and nervous system permitting ‘peek experiences’ of higher states of consciousness. And I regularly experienced numerous other spontaneous and unpremeditated activities, feelings and sensations which helped further my spiritual evolution. For example, when not crying I often had what I now call ‘alternative LSD experiences’ of spontaneous (and sometimes ecstatic) Laughing, Singing, and Dancing.
Many years have passed since Guruji told me to write and publish my spiritual memoirs, so the memoirs have gradually shortened as they have been ‘edited’ and abridged by time. But the most valuable experiences were unforgettable. Hereafter, I will share with you some of them, with theories of what they might mean.
“There is a light that shines beyond all things on Earth, …
beyond the highest, the very highest heavens.
This is the light that shines in your Heart.”
~Chandogya Upanishad 3.13.7
“Beholding the higher light beyond the darkness
we came to the divine light Sun in the Godhead,
to the highest light of all.”
~ Rig Veda
“You are the light of the world.”
~ Matthew 5:14
Every particle of the world is a mirror.
In each atom lies the blazing light of a thousand suns.
~ Mahmud Shabestari, Sufi Mystic, 15th century.
Beholding The Eternal Light Of Consciousness
Though I’ve always loved walking in nature, such walks rarely happened during my married years, as it was not an interest shared by my wife. But soon after our divorce, in summer 1976 I vacationed at Yosemite National Park, where for the first time I spent days hiking in the Sierra Nevada high country, while sleeping and eating at various park tent camps at differing elevations.
I arrived at Yosemite with many new questions arising from recent re-awakening and high energy experiences, and left with even more new experiences and new questions. But an amazing, unforgettable and unforeseen answer to one question – “Why I am crying so much?” – was soon bestowed.
After spending my first night at Merced Lake, the lowest elevation Yosemite tent camp, the next day I hiked over ten miles and more than two thousand feet upward to one of the highest camps, Sunrise, where I arrived just before sunset. I was assigned a bunk where I deposited my backpack, and then decided to ascend to the summit of a ten thousand foot granite dome adjoining the camp.
As I climbed up I felt unusually invigorated yet tired from hours of hiking. On reaching the summit of the granite dome, it seemed as if I was on top of the world. It was the end of a glorious clear summer day in Sierra Nevada high country. Turning southward, I beheld a magnificent mountain vista of the Cathedral Range.
The extraordinary beauty of that alpine panorama at sunset seemed unworldly, and evoked for me strange feelings of déjà vu – of being in the Himalyas – and of entering ‘God’s cathedral’. Spontaneously I began sobbing and crying intensely torrential tears.
Then, completely overcome with emotion, suddenly and instinctively I threw my body to the ground and with crying eyes closed, silently importuned a momentous request. Earnestly addressing the Highest Power with utmost urgency, I implored: “Take me. Take me now. I want nothing more; there is nothing more left for me in this life!”.
Whereupon, I beheld within an unimaginably intense and ethereal effulgence, which I can only now describe as the ‘light of ten thousand suns’. Ancient Vedic scriptures have thus alluded to this inner light:
“If the radiance of a thousand suns
Were to burst at once into the sky
That would be like the splendor of the Mighty One –.”
Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 11, Verse 12
Until that transformative inner light revelation at Yosemite, I had been puzzled about why I had continued crying so much since the realization that I was pure Awareness – not my body, my thoughts or my story. Sadness at the divorce was not an adequate explanation for what was happening to me. But the puzzlement began resolving with that unforgettable Yosemite inner light revelation.
Before Yosemite my intense crying had begun with the realization that I was pure Awareness. And at Yosemite while suddenly and intensely crying and yearning to end my ‘imagined’ sojourn in this world, I beheld the transcendental Light of that Awareness.
My tears then were not tears of sadness, but tears of intense longing to merge with that Light, and so to end the illusion of separation from it. I had beheld Divinity in that magnificent panorama of God’s cathedral, and with all my Heart intensely yearned to be eternally merged with it.
But this realization of why I was crying, raised a new mystery: “How could it be that a secular lawyer who hadn’t cried or fervently prayed during his entire adult life, was now intensely crying and praying for God?”
Ultimately, I learned that I had been graced with “the gift of tears” – a blessed spiritual path of longing and crying for the Divine associated for millennia with devotional mystics in Catholicism, Sufism, Sikhism, Hinduism and other paths. The Universe gradually provided answers to that question, and other questions about my many mystical experiences, through a series of extraordinary synchronistic happenings and experiences which were bestowed after the Yosemite experience.
Though these happenings and experiences were too numerous for me to now recall and recount, I shall share some of the most memorable ones with you.
“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.
“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.”
“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.
How can the divine Oneness be seen?
In beautiful forms, breathtaking wonders, awe-inspiring miracles?
The Tao is not obliged to present itself in this way.
If you are willing to be lived by it, you will see it everywhere,
even in the most ordinary things.
~ Lao Tzu
Gandhi’s appearance as my inner guide began a synchronistic sequence of connections with Hindu teachings and teachers.
Soon after est and Silva, Allen Chase, the same friend who had urged me to take the est training, successfully importuned me to read a book called “Be Here Now”. It told about the spiritual transformation of Dr. Richard Alpert, Harvard Ph.D, into Baba Ram Dass, a Western teacher of Eastern wisdom, after meeting his Hindu guru – Neem Karoli Baba.
“Be Here Now” was my first memorable exposure to Hindu and other Eastern teachings. It was for me an extraordinary book, unlike any other I’d ever before seen or read. Filled with beautiful calligraphy, art, and photos, it imaginatively presented a fascinating melange of Eastern ideas previously unknown to me.
“Be Here Now” concluded with a sort of spiritual ‘cook book’ section, with many suggestions and ‘recipes’ for various spiritual practices. Some suggestions interested me though I didn’t immediately adopt any of them. But the book planted seeds for spiritual practices which I later adopted. The first of these practices – simple repetition as a mantra of the word “Rama”, a Hindu name for God – soon manifested in my life, in a surprising way and with remarkable continuing consequences.
Shortly after reading “Be Here Now”, in June 1977 I spent several days in Honolulu, Hawaii, where I was taking depositions. I stayed at a beautiful hotel on the outskirts of the city near a state park, and I decided to linger for the weekend after conclusion of the depositions.
Returning to the hotel after the depositions, I had time for a late Friday afternoon walk in the state park which was a ‘jungle-like’ hillside area of lush tropical plant-life. Dressed only in very light clothing, I began walking upward on a narrow trail into the tropical wilderness area.
As I walked up, I ‘spaced-out’ and stopped paying close attention to the trail or the environment. After a while I suddenly realized that I had left the trail and was lost in the ‘jungle’; and, that it was getting late and soon would be night-time. I unsuccessfully searched for a trail through the seemingly impassible jungle undergrowth, which would guide me down and out of the hillside wilderness area. But I couldn’t find any path. Gradually, I became more and more apprehensive, afraid of being lost there, hungry and chilled through the night, without the comfort of my luxurious hotel accommodations.
Then something extraordinary happened. For the first time in my life, spurred by fear I began, spontaneously repeating out loud “Rama, Rama, Rama, Rama…” – thereby urgently invoking some Divine solution to my dilemma. And soon I experienced an “Ahaa moment” providing that solution.
Suddenly, I realized that a shallow meandering mountain stream which I had been crossing was flowing down the hill and out into the ocean. I stepped gingerly into the rocky stream bed and followed its twisting path down and out of the jungle park.
As I walked downward in the stream bed I kept repeating “Rama” “Rama”, “Rama”, “Rama”…….until I was out of the nature area and back at my hotel, just before dinner time.
Retrospectively, I now view this experience as an important metaphoric message for me and perhaps others on a spiritual path, who may feel fearful or lost and unable to find or reach their Divine destination: “What you seek is in plain (in)sight. So, fear not and stop searching in all directions. Just let go, and go with the flow”.
On returning to my hotel room, I felt extraordinarily peaceful, but very “strange” and different than ever before. In this strange state, as I was about to get ready for dinner, I gazed into a large dressing room mirror and beheld in amazement my image reflected as never before. I perceived my face and head enveloped in a beautiful multi-colored aura, like auras I had seen portrayed on some ancient religious icons.
Thereupon, instead of going down for dinner in a hotel restaurant, I sat for hours virtually thoughtless on a dressing room bench intently gazing in wonder at my mirrored auric image.
On awakening Saturday morning, I immediately recalled with wonder this unprecedented experience. Whereupon, there ensued an inner dialogue between a “voice in my head” and my intuition. Every time my heart was uplifted by recalling that beautiful experience, the ‘voice’ told me that I’d been hallucinating, and hadn’t really seen anything unusual. So, I went out to the beach that morning in a state of mental confusion.
It was a beautiful calm and sunny day with a few white wispy clouds in the sky. But my mind was not calm. As I sat in the sand, I kept wondering whether or not I had really seen that beautiful multi-colored aura. But finally I intuitively resolved my inner debate, and thought: “Yes, it definitely was a ‘real’ aura, but I’m not sure I remember all its beautiful colors. What were they?”
Thereupon, I looked up and beheld a lovely rainbow, with the very same colors I’d seen in the aura. While I had been lost in thought, a couple of dark clouds had appeared with a quickly passing light tropical shower, leaving in its wake the fleeting rainbow.
I took the sudden appearance of the rainbow as Divine confirmation of my aura experience. Retrospectively, I see that the rainbow’s unexpected appearance, was one of innumerable continuing synchronicities which have blessed and guided my inner transformation process and given clues for my ever unfolding spiritual mystery story, which I will continue sharing with you.