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Gateway to Strangeness
This is the story of a journey of the mind, of the spirit, of the heart. It is also a story of how I have tried to reconcile the places I've seen and the experiences I've had—all of which are far stranger than the Orient must have seemed to Marco Polo—with what I thought I knew before I began. The result of my journey, which I am still taking, is that I now know that everything I thought I understood about the world, life, and the universe is in question. The beliefs that I built my life around have crumbled under my feet as I walked this path. I have questioned everything about my life, beginning with the "facts" of the world and ending with my philosophy and theology.
Christopher Vogler in The Writer's Journey outlined a mythic structure for storytelling that's based on Joseph Campbell's study of world mythology. Good stories of all kinds, Vogler contends, have the same basic structure throughout the world, across all cultures. They start with a sense of the Hero's ordinary world—what is his (or her) life like just before things start to happen? Then comes the call to adventure—a call to step outside the realm of the ordinary to do extraordinary, even heroic, things. Our Hero generally initially refuses the call and can only be persuaded to answer it by increasingly dire circumstances, or the advice from a mentor. And so on.
My life has been like that. I was an ordinary person who received a call to adventure—and refused it. Years later, that call was repeated, under more dire circumstances. And this time ... I accepted. I set out on a journey to go somewhere— I didn't know where—and to do something—I didn't know what. It was, in fact, my own personal Hero's quest. I haven't yet reached the end of my story, so I don't yet know if I will be able to return the elixir—the goal of the Hero's quest—to my ordinary world. Perhaps I'll succeed; perhaps I won't. Either way, the journey itself is the story—and the journey is what matters, not the result.
So how did my journey finally begin? With a call to adventure, a call to walk through a gateway to a special world....
* * *
I am more than my physical body. Because I am more than physical matter, I can perceive that which is greater than the physical world.
—the beginning of the Gateway Affirmation
I first encountered these words several years ago when I attended a six-day residential program conducted at The Monroe Institute in Faber, Virginia. I felt more than a little uncomfortable with them on that first hearing. I didn't honestly know what I was doing attending a spiritual retreat as my first true vacation in many years.
At the time, I was a senior scientist and project manager for a major Department of Defense contractor, doing research and development in artificial intelligence and neural networks—computing systems that mimic the brain. My training in college and graduate school was in physics and mathematics; my career since then had been exclusively in computer science, with a foray or two into the structure of the brain deriving from my specialization in neural networks. I'd never had a psychic experience, and didn't believe in such things.
My advisor and mentor in college wasn't just a physicist, but an experimental physicist who thought theoreticians were way too "out there" to be trusted. If you couldn't measure a phenomenon, pick it up, weigh it, put a voltmeter on it, or do some such thing, it simply didn't exist in his worldview—and he had the lectures and examples to prove it. By the time I graduated as a University Scholar and summa cum laude in physics with the obligatory math minor, I too was convinced that physical reality was all there was. Psychics and their claimed capabilities might well be entertaining, in the way a stage magician's act is entertaining, but they mostly were hoaxes perpetrated on a gullible public. Or so I thought.
I'd never had anything even approximating a psychic experience. I'd never seen a UFO. I didn't believe in alien abductions—sleep paralysis and a desperate need for attention was my considered opinion as the cause of those incidents. Near death experiences? The last dying gasps of a brain shutting down. The mind itself? Merely an emergent behavioral property of the collection of a hundred billion or so electrochemically connected neurons, easily explained as soon as we had the biological detail and mathematics to describe it in the appropriate level of complexity. The mind was strictly biochemical and electrochemical. As for an afterlife, there simply wasn't one. As I'd opined to a co-worker in a discussion, when you're dead, you're dead, and that was that.
So what was I doing attending what could best be described as a "woo-woo" program? How did I come to be there at all?
The truth is, I didn't quite know. I'd gone through a deeply traumatic period a few years before. Taking a break from my career to look after my mother in her last months had left me financially ruined, traumatized, and grief-stricken—especially because in the space of four months, I suffered through three deaths of those very dear to me and discovered that a fourth was mortally ill. I had two sets of medical bills and funeral costs to pay, and I'd gone completely through my savings. I was broke, in despair, and had no idea how I'd recoup financially or personally. I was sure any light I perceived at the end of this dreary tunnel was only an oncoming train.
But somewhere in those bleak months, I'd accidentally run across a Buddhist saying that states, "with our minds we create our world." And I realized that my insistence on hanging onto a positive attitude with my mother and in doing what I felt was the right thing for her, no matter what the immediate cost to myself, had indeed reshaped the experience of becoming a de facto nurse—the last task I would ever have voluntarily undertaken—from a horrible experience to one that transformed me in a positive way. I realized I was a better person than when I started looking after her, more patient and more willing to help others. My own attitude had created that new reality.
It wasn't much of a personal revelation, but it was a start. From there I dabbled a bit in Buddhism, but was turned off by the reincarnation aspects. (Me? Live previous lives? Impossible! When you're dead, you're dead, remember?) I tried meditation, but couldn't turn off the "monkey chatter" in my head long enough to get anywhere.
But somewhere along the way a couple years later, I ran across a website for The Monroe Institute (TMI) and decided to order a set of their Gateway Experience CDs. After trying them for a few weeks, I'd accomplished just enough to sense that they were important—very important. And so one early spring day I signed up for a Gateway Voyage residential program on the TMI campus in Faber, Virginia. I couldn't get away until August, but that was fine with me. It would take me a while to get up the nerve to attend such a program anyway. I'd never met or talked to anyone who'd ever been to a Gateway retreat and didn't have any real idea what the program was about.
Two days before I left, I found myself in the middle of a huge career crisis and in conflict with my immediate boss over, among other things, some ethical violations I'd reported on the project I was managing. By then my airfare was paid for—nonrefundable ticket of course—and the Gateway tuition was similarly paid for—nonrefundable also at that late stage. If I stayed home, I'd lose the money I'd already paid for the trip and program. If I went, I didn't have any idea if I'd have a job when I got back.
After thinking about it, I decided I badly needed the vacation, my first in a very long time. Even though I was sure the program itself would be a complete bust because I expected to spend the week obsessing about my work situation, at least I'd have a quiet time to gain some perspective and work out a plan for what to do next.
That's not quite the way things worked out. Almost from the moment I set foot on the TMI campus, it never occurred to me to wonder about what was happening back in California. And though the first day or so felt really peculiar—I'd never uttered an Om in my life, except perhaps when discussing Ohm's Law in electricity—by Monday of that week, strange things were happening ... very strange things indeed.
The Strangeness Begins
The weirdness started right up front. While waiting for the program to begin, each of the 24 participants had a private intake interview with one of the two trainers. Things careened a little off-the-wall in that interview because the trainer interviewing me made a point of assuring me that only about 15 percent or so of Gateway participants go out-of-body during the program itself, and that I shouldn't set my expectations on doing so, or feel disappointed if that didn't happen for me.
Going out of my body? Oh, no! I obviously had wandered down the wrong rabbit hole! Anyway, what was an out-of-body experience, commonly referred to as an OBE, and why would anyone voluntarily want to do that?
Although I'd read Robert Monroe's books on his OBEs, it had never occurred to me to connect the strange, almost hallucinatory experiences he described with anything that would be in the program I'd signed up for. The week hadn't even started, and already I clearly was in way over my head.
At the first session right after dinner Saturday night, we gathered in a large room and introduced ourselves. Here again, I could see I'd chosen the wrong venue for a vacation. Nearly everyone else was a bona fide New Ager, with years of meditation experience, healing, shamanic or Reiki background, leaving me as virtually the only "techie nerd" in the group.
Definitely I was in the wrong place.
I started wondering if I could leave and get any of my money back. Surely I'd do better fretting over my career issues at home, or even in a nice, innocuous motel room in Charlottesville, than here, surrounded by a bunch of strangers who took their Oms seriously.
Every skeptical bone in my body was convinced I was surrounded by a bunch of crazies—sincere crazies, maybe, and very nice crazies, but folks who definitely belonged in the lunatic fringe. No question about it. None of this stuff was real. None of it was true. And no one could make me believe that resonant tuning or playing with imaginary energy bars would do me or anyone else any good at all.
And yet ... by the end of that week—even as little as 48 hours into the program—everything looked very different. I could no longer count myself a skeptic of anything. Nor could I insist that psychics were all tricksters and hoaxers. You see, when you personally do magical things, you know that no trickery is involved.
And that was the essence of the program. No one told me what to believe. No one insisted I take anything on faith. They merely gave me the opportunity to experience altered states of consciousness in a safe, controlled fashion under the guidance of compassionate and caring facilitators, then let me draw my own conclusions from my own experiences.
* * *
So what did I experience in that life-changing week?
I found myself taking messages from my best friend's dead mother, whom I never met, that meant nothing whatsoever to me but that were deeply meaningful and specific to my friend.
I discovered I could remote view—describing in perfect detail two separate blind targets. The first target was presented to us only with its latitude and longitude coordinates. I'm not a pilot, so latitude and longitude don't mean much to me. Besides, the target in that case was a specific structure, which I not only identified correctly—even naming it—but I also drew two sketches of it which corresponded precisely to the perspectives of the two images we were shown when it was time to check our work. For the second target, the trainers couldn't remember the longitude and latitude coordinates, so they just told us to describe the intended target, which was "somewhere in North America." Well, that certainly narrowed it down a lot, didn't it? It didn't matter; I described that one perfectly too, sketching it as if I had the picture directly in front of me. Again my sketches matched the exact perspectives of the images of the target we were later shown. Spooky. Downright spooky.
I did psychic healing on my desperately ill cat from 2500 miles away, literally feeling my kidneys acting as dialysis machines for him and had the success of that effort confirmed—to the astonishment of the vet—when I took him in for his previously scheduled checkup the day after I returned from the program.
I received precognitive flashes throughout the entire week, constantly knowing exactly what would happen next even though the trainers specifically made a point of not "front loading" the participants with information about upcoming exercises.
I connected with my own deceased family members—human and pets—and got unexpected but consistent messages from them.
I was, in fact, psychic that week in a big way, demonstrating a wide variety of psychic skills. Somehow, in the course of six days, I'd gone from Psychic Zero to Psychic in one astounding leap.
And what about my job? The night before returning home, after the program was officially over, I sat out at the picnic table at TMI, looking up at the stars and wondering vaguely what had happened to my career during the week I'd been gone. Even as I asked the question, I was filled with a deep confidence that somehow, things would work out in my favor and all would be well.
In that one last, meaningful step, I was connected to the spiritual guidance that has remained with me ever since.
And things did work out just fine. Within two months of my return, I was transferred to a much happier division in a different group. I had a new project to work on, and best of all, my new office was only five minutes from my house instead of an hour's drive away.
But the changes in me were longer lasting and far more meaningful than a new work assignment. Shortly after my return, my best friend only half-jokingly asked if I were a "pod person" because my personality had changed so much. I no longer obsessed about my work. I was calmer, more serene about everything. I was happier, more loving, more patient, more forgiving, and an overall nicer person than before—all because of six days spent learning how to release the psychic that apparently lurked inside me.
It sounds crazy, doesn't it? In fact, it sounds so completely nuts, that you no doubt are wondering what kind of Looney Toon wrote this book. But scientific evidence is beginning to mount that such claims perhaps are not so crazy after all. There is evidence that the underlying structure of the physical universe isn't exactly as physicists have been claiming for the past few centuries. Maybe, just maybe, mystics and seers and psychics have actually had a better understanding of truth than science has given them credit for.
My experiences learning how to access altered states of consciousness have totally changed the course of my life. I realized I could no longer view the world or the universe in the simplistic scientific terms I was used to. In fact, my faith in scientific views of the world had been shaken at its very foundations. I recognized that some serious retrenching of my entire belief structure about how the universe works was needed, to align what I was experiencing with what I had believed true.
I'd always been skeptical of magical claims, though with a moderately open mind that insisted I should at least listen to such claims and try to find the flaws in their logic. That's how I was trained to think, and I found this ultralogical, rational viewpoint worked well for my experience with the world. The problem I now had was that such a viewpoint no longer described the world I was experiencing. In fact, my direct personal observations about the outside world completely contradicted several fundamental laws of physics. Nor could I claim that the events were hoaxes—I was the one doing these things!
If I did something impossible, could I claim that it was a hoax? I knew I hadn't fudged anything at all on any of these experiences, even if they might not stand up to the ultrarigor that the scientific establishment demands of all paranormal evidence. I hadn't, after all, intended to conduct a scientifically rigorous experiment in the first place!
Each of these experiences, and many others, happened. I somehow had to explain them to myself, if no one else, despite the fact that they individually and collectively contravened quite a number of fundamental laws of physics, biology, and chemistry. How could I possibly resolve such conflicts?
Excerpted from SUDDENLY PSYCHIC by MAUREEN CAUDILL. Copyright © 2006 Maureen Caudill. Excerpted by permission of Hampton Roads Publishing Company, Inc..
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Posted July 24, 2009
This book written by Maureen Caudill is 100 years ahead from now. It is clear , practical and the experiences she describes can be reproduced by the reader.
It is a must read by any person with purpose to learn and experience altered states with relevance in the daily life.
Every chapter is a jewell.
excellent book !!
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