By Marcia Montenegro
Spirit guides, meditation, astrology, paranormal activity, the "higher Self," raising the kundalini, developing psychic abilities, praying to gurus, astral travel, numerology, Tarot cards, contacting the dead, hanging out with witches, Sufis, followers of Muktananda, Rajneesh, Sai Baba, Maharaji -- all these and more were part of my journey. How did I get on this path?
I grew up with an agnostic father and a mother who was raised going to church. My sister and I had to attend church, because my mother thought that was the right thing to do, although she did not always go. Due to my father's job in the Foreign Service, we moved around a lot, so we ended up in different churches located overseas and in the Washington, DC, area. Eventually, I became serious about religion. In high school, I had the idea that being good would please God and get me into heaven. But reading about other religions and meeting those who believed differently made me wonder. Maybe there was more to it than what I had -- some knowledge of God and Jesus which was mostly superficial. I wanted something deeper, more experiential. Christianity seemed defined by sermons, going to Sunday School, and doing good works. How boring! I was missing out on something! Also, I never fit in during my high school years. Being someone who wrote poetry, being in an alcoholic home, having no real roots all combined to make me feel different and unlike other people. I started my journey at the end of high school.
That journey continued through college where I experienced paranormal activity, made friends with someone who said she saw auras, and attended spiritualist meetings where ministers claiming psychic abilities received messages from the dead. One bright sunny Florida afternoon, as I rested on my bed fully awake with eyes partly closed, I felt myself floating. I opened my eyes and was stunned to see my body on the bed below me as I hovered near the ceiling. I thought I had died. The shock slammed me back into my body in an almost painful way. This was my first out-of-body experience and I had no idea what it was or that it even had a name. I told no one about it.
The journey stretched into the 70's when I visited an astrologer and others with psychic abilities, and did a lot of reading on paranormal activity. I also read about Hindu and Buddhist beliefs. I remember reading a book on Vedanta (a sect of Hinduism) each morning in the cafeteria of the building where I worked. I started to see connections in my life with the colors of the chakras, the seven psychic centers of energy in the body according to Hindu beliefs. This and other experiences motivated me to plunge into the alluring worlds of paranormal activity and Eastern beliefs.
Over the years, my search for psychic abilities escalated. I studied astrology and took a 7-hour exam on astrology in Atlanta, Georgia, administered by the City but formulated and graded by an astrology board, in order to qualify for the business license. Passing the test, I started practicing astrology, and eventually I taught astrology, gave public talks, wrote for astrological and New Age journals, and sat on the board of astrology examiners that gave and graded the exams, becoming chairman of that board.
Yet, with all the knowledge and experience I had acquired, what were the answers? Since I came to believe there was only ignorance, not evil, stories of vicious cruelty and murder made me uncomfortable. Though I believed I would come back after my death, where would I go in between and for how long? The world religions I was most comfortable with gave mixed messages. Some taught that we would go somewhere that was like a school, then choose our next life. Others taught that we go somewhere to be spiritually purified - how, it was not explained - then our next life would be chosen for us. By whom? That was not explained. We were supposed to just trust the process.
There was also the disquieting teaching that whatever thought was in my mind at the moment of death would determine the after-death experience for some time. Better not have a bad thought for too long! Better not fall asleep with fearful images! This was scary to contemplate -- but that contemplation was itself a negative thought! I would try to chase away these fears by meditating or chanting something.
I sought peace in one of the most mystical of the world religions: Zen Buddhism. Trying to detach myself from all desire involved a meditation that allows thoughts, fears, or desires to come up and then not to respond to them. This was to be applied to life outside meditation as well. For someone like myself, carrying a lot of emotional pain from my past and my present, this was appealing. But though detachment sounded good in all the books, there was a price to pay. The detachment seemed contrived and unnatural. Seeing "the emptiness" behind my surroundings, another sign of spiritual acumen, struck me as nihilistic and depressing. Maybe if I had pursued these practices more devoutly, I might have gradually replaced my natural reactions and feelings with non-feeling. But is it human to be non-feeling, to accept every thought, action, and emotion without judgment?
Being taught to be natural and "holistic" on one hand, but then learning to let go of my natural reactions on the other, seemed a contradiction. Of course, rational analysis like this was discouraged, even attacked. Therefore, contradictions could and should be accepted. If it didn't make sense, so much the better. The idea was to transcend the rational mind which was a barrier between me and enlightenment.
Although I failed in achieving detachment, I clung to the paradoxical teachings of Zen, reading books with Zen tales, and continuing the meditation. I noticed that the peace I had felt with my initial meditations had decreased, causing me to meditate more in an attempt to re-capture that elusive peace.
I also learned, in my search for psychic abilities, that the nature of occult and New Age thinking is that there is no one answer. There is no one single truth, and there is no one reality. Truth is based on your experience, so it changes and can differ from person to person. If there are multi-levels of reality and there is no absolute truth, then there must be many contradicting truths and realities. In the abstract, this was fascinating food for thought, and led to being comfortable with whatever truth I wanted. But on the practical level, what difference did truth make if one finally discovered it? Or how did we know if there really was such a thing? And if not, what did anything that anyone believed matter anyway? These teachings gave answers that only raised more questions.
We are just drops in the ocean, I learned, and the goal is to eventually, after many lifetimes, rejoin the cosmic oneness that some call God. This God-force was what we came from and was our final destiny. So that meant my identity, memories, talents, and personality would be swallowed whole into the cosmic One. Where would I be? The disturbing answer was that I would no longer be. Death became an absorbing but uneasy topic for me.
The best way to help others and stay true to your path, I heard and read over and over, was to work on yourself and love yourself. Although talk of "love" was common and was taught to be the basis for everything, it also seemed as if everyone used it to justify whatever they were doing. So, if your husband was not your spiritual match, then "real love" allowed you to leave him or find another with whom you had a true bond. After all, this was a "law" of the universe: the law of love. But this love was not defined. It was just sort of out there - a love force that pervaded the universe. There was no personal being to love me; there was this energy coming from the cosmic One and that was it. Could a force care?
An unexplained compulsion to go to a church gripped me in the spring and summer of 1990. Since I hated Christianity, churches and Christians by now, this made me angry. I first ignored this compulsion, then resisted it, and then, after struggling against it for awhile, I decided to give in, hoping that it would go away. It was probably from one of my former lives as a priest or monk, I reasoned.
In the opening minutes of a service in a large church in downtown Atlanta, I felt a love I had never known wash down over and through me, so powerfully that I started crying. I knew this love was from God, not from the music, the people, or the place. That love was the real thing. Coming from an alcoholic home, I was starving for that love. I returned the following Sunday, not to have another experience, but so that I could be where that love had happened to me.
After several weeks, I began to feel unclean about astrology, although no one in this church said anything about it. All I knew was that it was somehow separating me from this God of love. I then got the impression that God did not like astrology and wanted me to give it up. Give up my life's work? Give up my identity and purpose? Outside of my son, nothing was more important to me than astrology. But I felt I had no choice; it was so clear to me that God did not like astrology. Not even believing what I was doing, I decided to give up astrology in late 1990. At the time, I was chairperson of the curriculum committee, a member of other committees at the astrological society, and scheduled to teach an upcoming class. I had to find another teacher. I had to tell clients who called I was no longer an astrologer.
Now what happens? Thinking I should read the Bible, I started reading in Matthew, the first book of the New Testament. Reading the Bible put me in touch with something pure, but I didn't know what it was. Although I had read the Bible before while growing up, this time it was different. I felt as though I was being cleaned form the inside out as I read it.
This person Jesus fascinated me. It was as though I was learning about Him for the first time. One evening while reading part of the 8th chapter of Matthew, right before Christmas of 1990, I saw who Jesus really is. On the boat with His disciples, a terrible storm arose. The disciples were afraid and woke Jesus up, telling Him that they were going to perish. Jesus stopped the storm in its tracks! How? This was not like other paranormal activity. He did not visualize calm waters, He did not perform sorcery. He rebuked the winds and the sea, and they obeyed him. That means He has authority over nature.
I was separated from God by everything I had done in my past -- I had lived my whole life based on my will, a will that had rejected and defied God and His word. I realized that the only way to be forgiven, the only way to be reconciled with God, was through Jesus, the God-man who suffered and died for me out of a great and unconditional love. I realized Jesus is the Savior, He is the Son of God and God the Son. I understood for the first time why Jesus died on the cross.
In those several minutes sitting on my bed with the Bible, I knew that the truth and the answer to all my questions were one and the same: Jesus Christ. What a simple but awesome truth! And so I gave myself to Christ and knew I belonged to Him from that moment on. Several months later, I found out that a young Christian man at the part-time job where I worked had been praying for me with a fellowship group at his church during 1990.
Jesus was different from the "masters" I had studied. He was more real than the spirit guides, the Ascended Masters, the Higher Self -- all those airy, elusive things that gave no evidence of their existence -- because He came to earth in the flesh and He hungered, thirsted, felt pain and sorrow. He did not give a message that denied the dirt and dust of life, but He sat with the outcasts, the prostitutes, and the hated tax collectors yet remained sinless. He was as real as it gets. Though fully man, Jesus was fully God incarnate, equal to God in nature but setting aside that glory (not deity) to be among suffering men and women. Jesus Christ willingly was tortured, laid down His life and died an agonizing death to pay for our sins. He bodily rose on the third day, conquering death, so that we can have eternal life with God. No sorcerer, no spiritual master, no Buddha, no shaman, no witch, no psychic has conquered death, but all still lie cold in their graves. But Jesus has power over death and is living today.
Spiritually, I had been in a grave with the buddhas and the sorcerers and the seekers of wisdom who had rejected the truth of Christ. The complicated and intricate studies that had enthralled me, the endless layers of truths and realities I had pursued, the constant effort to evolve, the paranormal experiences, the need to believe in one's own goodness at all costs, were all a maze and a trap. The truth was simple enough for a child because the truth is a Person. Jesus did not teach the way or say He had a way. He said that He is the way -- not a way, but THE way.
What is the biggest difference between my former life and my life in Christ? That I am happier, that life is easier? Not at all. The difference is that I am spiritually satisfied. There is more to learn and much room to grow, but the learning and growth spring from Christ as the foundation, not from a search outside Him. The search has ended; the thirst has been quenched; the hunger within has been filled.
"I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me," - John 14:6.
"But whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life." - John 4:14
"I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me shall not hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst." - John 6:35
"And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, 'All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.'" - Matthew 28:18
"Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me." - Revelation 3:20
Many pursue psychic abilities and paranormal activity in search of personal and spiritual fulfillment. God offers that fulfillment in a relationship with him. To find out more please see Knowing God Personally.
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