“There are only two ways to live your life.
One is as though nothing is a miracle.
The other is as though everything is a miracle.”
~ Albert Einstein
“The self, harmonized by yoga,
sees the Self abiding in all beings,
all beings in the Self, everywhere he sees the same.”
~ Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 6, Krishna to Arjuna
“He who sees Me everywhere, and sees everything in Me,
of him will I never lose hold, and he shall never lose hold of Me.”
~ Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 6, Krishna to Arjuna
Especially during the first few years following my self-realization rebirth experience, which cracked – but didn’t dissolve – my self-woven karmic cocoon, I was given numerous glimpses of psychic and clairvoyant phenomena previously unknown to me. These experiences emphatically confirmed to me that the universe didn’t work the way I’d been taught or thought.
Here is my attempted categorization of these fleeting experiences, which looks like an index to a treatise on psychic phenomena:
Out of body experiences; Remote viewing; Astral traveling; Pre-cognition; Synaesthesia; Clairsentience; Seeing past nature scenes; Seeing apparent past life scenes; Exceptional energy experiences; Tantric merging of energy field with others; Seeing otherworldly inner light; Seeing auras from different dimensions; Seeing everyone as angelic; Seeing cosmic ‘perfection’; Seeing causal dimensions; Seeing astral dimensions; Visions (inner and outer); Microscopic vision; Remote diagnosis of medical conditions; Seeing and conversing with Ghandi as inner guide; ‘Channeling’ inner voice information from higher dimensions; Psycho-kinetic manifestations of desired artifacts; Conversing with inner guides and with birds and animals; Ecstatic trance dancing; Ecstatic meditative moods; Ecstatic crying and laughter; Continuing serendipities and synchronicities.
I considered all these psychic phenomena as “miraculous” natural occurrences which conventional science can’t yet explain, not as hallucinations of a deranged psyche. They were valuable insofar as they helped shatter prior paradigms and egoic beliefs, and revealed a deep longing and yearning for God – a yearning which sparked an irresistible curiosity for answers to ultimate philosophical questions, like “Who am I?”, “What is reality?”, “What is death?”, and “What is life’s purpose, if any?”
But these experiences were pitfalls to my spiritual evolution insofar as they fed ego illusions of my being a separate, specially gifted person, rather than universal consciousness – as revealed by my realization rebirth experience.
I was initiated by Guruji into the path of kundalini yoga two years after I began experiencing these spontaneous psychic phenomena. Thereafter, I learned that what I had considered psychic phenomena were called “kriyas” in kundalini yoga – spontaneous physical, mental, or emotional activities initiated by the awakened evolutionary kundalini life-force energies which purify the body and nervous system, thus allowing increasing experience of subtler states of consciousness.
But Guruji taught that each person was unique with unique evolutionary impediments. So different people experienced different “kriyas”, and no particular “kriya” was necessarily required for spiritual evolution. And I learned from Guruji and others that the evolutionary purpose of spiritual ‘practice’ is to reveal experientially that there is no separate ‘practitioner’; not that the practitioner is in some way a separate, special person with special powers.
Thus, since the evolutionary process is leading us to expression of one Life – one LOVE – amidst the infinite diversity of ephemeral forms, spiritual evolution does not require any particular clairvoyant or psychic abilities (“siddhis”) and evolutionary progress can be impeded by psychic powers which feed rather than diminish ego’s illusion of separateness.
I have learned that perhaps the best universal indicators of spiritual evolution are not psychic experiences or mental powers, but spontaneously compassionate and loving behavior, while skillfully living in the present moment with deep non-reactive awareness, and cessation of unwanted thoughts.
Please remember this as you read stories of my “miraculous” experiences. Each of us is unique with a unique perspective and spiritual path in this world. So, as you follow your Heart – your Bliss – your inner path differs from mine, but is equally authentic.
“Kundalini is the cosmic power in individual bodies.
It is not a material force like electricity, magnetism, centripetal or centrifugal force.
It is a spiritual potential, Shakti, or cosmic power.
In reality it has no form.”
~ Sri Swami Sivananda
While gradually becoming interested in Eastern spiritual ideas, I persisted in trying to understand scientifically my continuing unexplained metaphysical experiences.
So I subscribed to Psychic Magazine and looked for other possibly relevant writings. Then, synchronistically, I found and read with tremendous interest and fascination a medical case study book by Lee Sannella, MD, entitled: “Kundalini-Psychosis or Transcendence” about an esoteric psychophysiological transformation process long known to Indian yogis and adepts but not to Western medicine; a process initiated by awakening of dormant ‘kundalini’ life force energy at the base of the spine.
The book defined the kundalini process as an “evolutionary process taking place in the human nervous system”. As I read therein medical case studies of fifteen different people undergoing the kundalini process, I realized that I too had been experiencing that process since my April 1976 spontaneous rebirth episode; and, that the kundalini process might explain some of my ‘weird’ new experiences.
Some of the many extraordinary psychic phenomena which I was then experiencing, I associated with India. Perhaps the most surprising and memorable of these experiences happened one night while I was fast asleep in my studio apartment.
In the middle of the night, I was suddenly awakened and sat up in bed with open eyes in the completely dark room. Before me, I beheld in startled amazement the clear image of a woman’s face and upper torso, wearing a head scarve common to Hindu women. But instead of appearing in life-like colors the woman’s image was all luminous gold. Next, the golden female image was replaced by another amazing image; in its stead, I beheld my own clear image also in luminous gold, as if the Indian woman’s golden image had morphed into mine, or as if my image had emanated from that of the Indian woman.
It was especially startling for me to be viewing in front of my physical body, my own luminous image. Since beholding those extraordinary golden images, I have wondered why they appeared and their significance, if any.
I can not yet say why I so beheld my own image. But ensuing events seemed to resolve the puzzle of why I had seen an image of an Indian woman when I then knew no Indian woman and hardly anything about Indian culture.
I later learned of the importance in Hinduism of the Divine Mother conception and of various deity forms representing it. Foremost of those deities was Shakti – believed to manifest through female embodiment and fertility – while also existing in males as unmanifest infinite potentiality. In ensuing years, I met various well known adept Indian female spiritual teachers considered embodiments of Divine Mother. And I learned that Vedic scriptures declare Shiva and Shakti to be inextricably associated with each other in this phenomenal world, as the male and female aspects of the Divine.
The goal of the kundalini yoga transformative process is ascent of activated Shakti life force energy from the base of the spine to the highest energy vortex (or chakra) atop the cranium where – in the pinnacle of human experience – Siva and Shakti merge in Divine illumination.
Renowned 19th century mystic saint Ramakrishna Paramahamsa – with whom I later felt great affinity – legendarily worshiped Divine Mother as Kali, who revealed Herself to him as a “a limitless, infinite, effulgent Ocean of Consciousness” only after he threatened suicide if She did not appear. Thereafter, Ramakrishna taught that God is both formed and formless and can appear to the devotee either way.
Apart from these unforgettable golden image visions, also suggestive of India had been my spontaneous and continuous recitation in Hawaii of “Rama”, an Indian name of God, and the unexpected appearances of Mahatma Gandhi as my first spirit guide.
Later I had repeated inner appearances of an elderly man with a beard who didn’t look like a modern Westerner, but like an Indian. I had not yet begun any meditation practice. But, before retiring I would often close my eyes in quiet contemplation and sometimes see ‘inner pictures’. One of those inner pictures which kept recurring was the somewhat blurred form of the same elderly bearded Indian man.
To satisfy my curiosity about why I was having these inner experiences, and about the esoteric kundalini process, I wanted to meet Dr. Sannella, who practiced in the Bay Area as both a psychiatrist and ophthalmologist. So, on learning that he was a principal officer of the California Society For Psychical Study, I joined the society and began attending its bi-monthly meetings, where I met him.
One evening in early April 1978, I attended a regular meeting of the San Francisco Psychic Society. As I entered the room, I saw a poster announcing a forthcoming series of meditation programs at the University Christian Church in Berkeley. The poster featured a prominent picture of an elderly man with a gray beard. (See photo below.) As the meeting progressed, I irresistibly kept looking at the poster. Something about the picture of the old man fascinated me.
After the formal meeting concluded, I asked Dr. Lee Sannella about the the pictured meditation teacher and announced meditation programs. He told me that this would be a very rare opportunity for “darshan” of an Indian master yogi, Shri Dhyanyogi Madhusudandas, with power to activate and guide the Kundalini transformation process. I took a printed flyer with details of the schedule and decided to attend the first of the announced meditation programs.
A crucially pivotal new life phase was about to begin. I was about to evolve spiritually from being a secular Hebrew, to becoming a “born-again Hindu”.
“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.
“My life is my message.”
~ Mahatma Gandhi
“My life is my message.”
~ Mahatma Gandhi
“I consider myself a Hindu, Christian, Moslem, Jew, Buddhist and Confucian.” ….. “My religion is based on truth and non-violence. Truth is my God. Non-violence is the means of realizing Him.”
~ Mahatma Gandhi
“I consider myself a Hindu, Christian, Moslem, Jew, Buddhist and Confucian.” ….. “My religion is based on truth and non-violence. Truth is my God. Non-violence is the means of realizing Him.”
~ Mahatma Gandhi
After my synchronistic “Rama” rainbow experience in Hawaii, I began feeling an affinity with “Rama” as a divine name, but didn’t yet adopt a practice of regularly repeating that Divine name. Then synchronistically I met a new friend with a “Rama” name through whom I was further intrigued by the powerful potentiality of the Rama mantra.
Soon after discovering the Rama mantra in “Be Here Now” and then spontaneously reciting it in Hawaii, I met an American woman then named – “Veda Rama” – meaning “truth of God”.* She had received that spiritual name from a teacher in New Mexico after first meeting Baba Ram Dass in New Hampshire when he was writing “Be Here Now”, and following him to New Mexico where at the Lama Foundation she helped to produce and distribute the first hand-assembled and hand-bound editions of that wonderful book.
Veda Rama* became – and remains – a very important spiritual friend with whom I have continued to share synchronicity experiences, and with whom I then shared my story of how Mahatma Gandhi had appeared and counseled me as my first inner guide at Silva Mind Control. And I told her how I was quite curious about Gandhi’s life story. Soon thereafter, as a birthday gift Veda Rama gave me a beautiful pictorial Gandhi biography called “Gandhi the Man” by Eknath Easwaran.
Upon reading that book I learned that reciting the Rama mantra had been Gandhi’s principal spiritual practice; that in childhood Gandhi’s beloved nurse Rambha taught him to repeat the name“Rama” whenever he felt afraid and so to worship God as Rama; and, that this Ram mantra became his most important spiritual practice throughout life.
And I learned that as an adult, Gandhi often walked constantly repeating his Rama mantra in rhythm with his steps; and that he wrote extensively about his repetition of the name “Rama” – viz. the Ramanama. E.g.:
“When a child, my nurse taught me to repeat Ramanama whenever I felt afraid or miserable, and it has been second nature with me with growing knowledge and advancing years. I may even say that the Word is in my heart, if not actually on my lips, all the twenty-four hours. It has been my saviour and I am ever stayed on it.” “The mantram becomes one’s staff of life and carries one through every ordeal….” “Each repetition … has a new meaning, each repetition carries you nearer and nearer to God.”
Even as Gandhi fell to an assassin’s pistol fired point-blank into his heart, in forgiveness he uttered nothing but “Rama, Rama …” his last words from the eternal depths of his heart.
From “Gandhi the Man” I also learned that Gandhi had been a British trained barrister who for over twenty years had practiced as an idealistic and extraordinarily effective civil rights attorney in South Africa before returning to India, where he became that nation’s most beloved modern hero. And – like countless others – I became inspired by, and identified with, Gandhi’s non-violent pursuit of justice.
In the absence of an apt existing word, Gandhi called this path “Satyagraha”, a Sanskrit neologism which he coined – roughly meaning the non-violent and resolute pursuit of Truth; and, he often equated “Truth” with “God”. Gandhi’s non-violence [Ahimsa] was active – not passive – with steadfast remembrance that Divinity [viz. “Truth”] is immanent in all creation, including one’s oppressors. In addition to satyagraha and ahimsa, Gandhi, a vegetarian, lived a non-materialistic, simple life, and practiced aparigraha, non-attachment to possessions. This was significant for me since I, too, had become a vegetarian living with increasing non-attachment to worldly possessions.
The more I learned about Gandhi the more he inspired me, and the more I identified with him, both as a lawyer and as a spiritual truth-seeker. After Gandhi’s inner appearance at Silva Mind Control, I had wondered why the universe had chosen him to counsel me. But, retrospectively, it is now evident that such choice was absolutely appropriate; that Gandhi has been a continuingly important inspiration for the unfolding of my spiritual mystery story.
Gandhi’s history as a nonviolent civil rights lawyer and Rama devotee relentlessly pursuing secular and spiritual Truth has been especially inspiring and significant for me. As a lawyer I always had a strong devotion to the pursuit of justice. Spiritually, Gandhi’s inner appearance began for me a synchronistic sequence of connections with Hindu teachings, and ultimately to a beloved Guru, emphasizing meditation upon and devotion to the Divine name “Rama”. Initially inspired by Gandhi, “Rama” became – and remains – enshrined in my heart as a constant impetus to my ever evolving spiritual mystery story.
Even now, I frequently and spontaneously invoke that Divine name, sometimes in surprising ways and at completely unanticipated times. Thereby, since discovering Rama over thirty years ago, I have been blessed to self-experience ever less ‘Ron’ and ever more ‘Ram’.
Thus, Gandhi synchronistically became and remains an important influence on my life, as well as on lives of countless others. He taught not so much by his words, but by his exemplary way of living.
Once when asked his teachings, he aptly replied: “My life is my message.” Upon deeply realizing the universal wisdom of Gandhi’s statement, I was inspired to write this “Silly Sutra” verse:
Living Life, Teaching Peace
On the Earth branch
of the great Cosmic University,
We are all students
and we are all teachers.
We are all learning love.
And, as Gandhi observed,
our lives are our teachings.
So, as we live
and as we learn,
we each may teach –
peace, love, and compassion.
And so it shall be!
May Gandhi’s exemplary life, ever inspire and motivate ever more of us everywhere to live life peacefully and compassionately in constant remembrance of and harmony with Divinity.
*Later, Veda Rama was initiated by Shri Dhyanyogi, my beloved Guru, as “Ram Dassi” – the feminine equivalent of Ram Dass, meaning “servant of God”.
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.
“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.”
“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.
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.
“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.
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.