Questions from Stacie: Part 2

1.) Do you think all children should be exposed to some sort of organized religion to help form their moral compass?

I don’t know much about child-rearing, so I really can’t say. Religions in general can  be a mixed bag of nuts when it comes to imposing their particular “moral compass” on others. Though generally I think it’s good to expose children to religion. At some point later in life most of us start asking the religious questions: “Why are we here? What is this life all about?” And religion is a good starting point for investigating into these questions.

2.) What effect does religion have on your daily life today?

Not much, I consider myself as a spiritual person, more so than a member of any particular religion.

3.) Are there any negative aspects of religion that have affected you in the past or that affect you now?

When I was in college, my roommate — who was a pot-smoking, guitarist in a KISS cover-band — suddenly became a Born Again Christian, cut off his hair, and spent the next semester tormenting me that I was going to Hell if I didn’t renounce Satan and give my life to Jesus.  So that was annoying.  Other than that, I can’t think of religion impacting on my life one way or another.

Questions from Stacie

1) Do you consider yourself religious, spiritual, or any other creative source?

I’ve always considered my life a spiritual quest. I’m a seeker by nature. At times I’ve felt like I was gaining hard-fought spiritual wisdom. While at other times I’ve felt like a spiritual cripple.  I’ve checked out most of the world’s religions. But don’t belong to any of them. Practiced yoga and meditation for many years. But I suppose those would be considered more as a form of spiritual science than as a religion. I’ve probably most been influenced by Vedanta and Hinduism.

2) Have you ever had a religious or spiritual experience so intense it changed the way you feel about the universe that you’d like to share?

When I was 19 I was heavily into LSD and Alan Watts and books about Zen. And at one point, peaking on acid, I had what I considered to be a pretty intense mystical experience. Experiencing God, experiencing myself as a manifestation of God, experiencing Oneness with God, Oneness with the Universe. I transcended my individual identity and experienced my Universal identity. Though later I came to question the authenticity of the experience. And to question the validity of psychedelics as a spiritual tool . . . .  My spiritual life sort of hit a dead-end after awhile, and was dormant for many years. Until I was 40 and a friend of mine gave me for a Christmas present a copy of this book by Swami Muktananda — an Indian guru — titled “Where Are You Going?” (good question) And I had an instantaneous “Shakti” experience just from looking at the photo of Muktananda in the book. “Shakti” is the experience when an enlightened spiritual master directly transmits his divine spiritual energy into a devotee. It’s like the ultimate “contact high.”  Where the guru gives you a taste of his Divine state. That experience kick-started a renewed interest in my spiritual development. And I would spend the next 7 years reading all of Muktananda’s books and practicing daily kundalini yoga meditation and mantra repetition. And I had many spiritual experiences from those practices.

3) What do you think happens when you die? If you believe in heaven do you think there are certain criteria that must be met to be worthy? Do you believe in redemption?

I believe in reincarnation. That we all go through many lifetimes — as a process of purifying ourselves. Until we ultimately reach the highest state and merge with God. Though the mystics regularly point out that in fact we’re already one with God, even though most of us haven’t realized that fact yet.

4) Do you believe that objects like crystals, symbols like tarot or ouija, have any power?

I believe that different objects, and places, can be blessed as well as haunted or cursed. There is spiritual power emanating from all the points of this universe of ours. Personally, I’m not very familiar with crystals, tarot or ouija, so can’t really comment about that.

5) Have you ever had a paranormal experience?

One of the unusual — and dangerous — side effects of practicing kundalini yoga is that as you get more advanced into it, you start to gain these occult powers. The powers are along the lines of “whatever you think will manifest.” The more purified and powerful your mind gets from the yoga, the more you’re able to make things happen simply by willing them to be. Which can get you into all sorts of trouble if you start using these powers. Especially in the early stages. Because you’re like a baby who has been given this extremely powerful (and volatile) toy to play around with. And I severely retarded my spiritual development because I couldn’t resist indulging on the occult level.

6) How do you think all this was created? Big bang, evolution, a higher power?Does your personal belief system help you act with higher standards of morals and behaviors? Was your first exposure to religion a positive one, or was it used as a judgment with unreachable standards or harsh punishment?

I believe God created this entire Universe in a blink of an eye, primarily for sport, for His own amusement and cosmic kicks. And one day God will blink his eye again and dissolve this entire Universe back to nothingness. And that the entire Universe is nothing less than the body of God Himself.

7) Do you think there’s only one “Right and true religion?” Can an atheist have a conscience and similar high moral integrity without religious rules or the punishment of purgatory, or hell?If you do believe in an afterlife or higher power, when did you first find your faith? Have you had more than one religion that you Identified with? Any other thoughts you’d like to share?

I think most of the world religions have something of value to offer. Different people feel comfortable with different religions depending on their temperament and cultural background. But there’s a common mystical thread that runs through most of them. And that’s the primary facet of religion that has always interested me. I started out primarily interested in Zen Buddhism (the satori experience) and Taoism. But was later drawn primarily to Vedanta.

I appreciate your questions. Spirituality isn’t something I talk about very much. It’s a personal thing with me. And not always easy to communicate with others about. And like I said, I primarily consider myself a spiritual seeker. So it’s not really my place to be a spiritual talker or teacher.

A kundalini Yoga story

PART ONE

I’ve resisted writing about this story for a long time. For a variety of reasons. But I finally figured what the hell, why not write it. And I can always delete it later if I decide it’s something I don’t want to share.

I started doing Kundalini Yoga in 1996. And I did it consistently on a daily basis for the next 6 years. And it really seemed to work. The more I practiced Kundalini Yoga, the more my mind and my soul seemed to get stronger and purer. Neurotic and psychotic tendencies in my psyche seemed to resolve themselves one after another. And I actually started to become the man I always hoped I could be. And I really thought there was a chance that I might actually be able to attain Spiritual Enlightment.

Now Kundalini Yoga is considered a science — a spiritual science — more than a form of religious doctrine or theology. It’s experiential, as opposed to theoretical. You experience it — like doing a scientific experiment on your psyche — and then come to your own conclusions.

The basic premise of Kundalini Yoga is that there’s this dormant spiritual energy that resides in the spine of the human being, this Divine energy. Like a coiled snake. And as you practice Kundalini Yoga, this divine energy gradually awakens, and rises up from the base of your spine, systematically cleansing and purifying all the different “chakras” in your system along the way. Until it finally reaches the final chakra at the top of your head — the “sahasrara” — and your Third Eye is permanently opened and you attain the Highest Spiritual State. Or so the theory goes.

Now one of the weird by-products of doing Kundalini Yoga is that, the longer you do it, the more you start to attain these “occult powers.” As your psyche because more purified, more powerful, and more focused, they just naturally arise in you. In my case these powers expressed themselves along the lines of that ancient spiritual concept: “Whatever you think will manifest.” For example I would be wishing for something, something very specific. And shortly after the thing would magically manifest in my life. It really was a form of magic. And it kept happening over and over, to the point where I concluded it was beyond coincidence. And this power really was manifesting within me.

Conversely you can use these occult powers in a negative and destructive manner. For example you can use them like the “voodoo doll” principal, wishing harm on an enemy, putting a curse on them. And you really have the power to inflict damage on other people.

For this reason, the spiritual masters have always strongly advised NOT to use these occult powers as they arise in you. Because they’re nothing to play around with. And they can cause all sorts of problems, accrue all sorts of bad karma, and retard your spiritual development. For one thing, the novice is like someone with the mind of a child who’s suddenly been granted the physical power of Hercules. So there’s a real danger in using these occult powers in a reckless, immature and destructive manner. And, even more importantly, if you use these powers for personal gain — to get rich, to gain power, to get sex with beautiful women, whatever — you’re using these powers to bolster your personal ego. Which is the exact opposite — and runs exactly counter-productive — to the whole point of Kundalini Yoga. Which is to gradually TRANSCEND your personal ego and merge with the Infinite. So, like I said, messing with these occult powers can really retard your spiritual progress.

So anyways, by 2002 I had been doing Kundalini Yoga for 6 years. Now according to the science of Kundalini Yoga, the process usually takes about 12 years. Working intimately with an enlightened Yoga Master, the yogi systematically goes from a novice until he finally reaches the Highest State. So, by 2002, I was at about the half-way point of the process. Getting higher and higher along the way. Until things suddenly started going south.

PART TWO

So anyways by 2002 I had been intensely practicing Kundalini Yoga for 6 years. And I had kept getting higher and higher. Until suddenly I stopped getting higher. It’s like I hit a glass ceiling. And could rise no more.

There were a variety of reasons for this. I started doing drugs and alcohol again. And I started using the spiritual powers I had attained for personal gain, for ego enhancement. Instead of in the pursuit of spiritual wisdom. You’re aspiring towards the Highest State after all. So there’s little margin for error. You have to be very pure. And I wasn’t. If it was easy to attain there’d be perfected Enlightened Masters hanging out on every street corner. But that’s not how it works.

So I began to get a little bitter at this point. After all the effort I had expended on Kundalini Yoga it looked like I wasn’t going to attain Enlightenment after all. Along with the happiness, love and satisfaction I had hoped for. And craved. So I started backsliding spiritually. 

Along with that, the Telegraph scene that I had invested years of my life into, was also backsliding. Getting more and more dreary and dysfunctional. Whatever magic had previously been in the scene was slowly but surely being snuffed out.

So one night I was hanging out by myself at “my” spot — the corner of Telegraph and Haste by Cody’s Books. And I started to get more and more angry how it had all turned out. This beautiful dream that I had aspired to had turned into a barren harvest that I was reaping. So in my mind I began cursing the whole fucking scene. Over and over. I even spit on the ground several times as an expression of my contempt. That whole FUCK THE WORLD!!! feeling. I curse you all!!

Now here’s the weird part. The very next day I showed up, like usual, at that corner of Haste and Telegraph. And I was surprised to find that the whole block had been roped off with yellow police tape: “DO NOT ENTER.” My first thought was: “Uh oh. What have I wrought.”

I ran into long-time Telegraph street person Crazy Allen and asked him if he knew what was going on. I could tell Allen was distraught.

“Yeah it happened a couple of hours ago, ” said Allen. “This guy was putting some money in the parking meter right down there on Haste Street just below Cody’s Books. When this crazy guy started stabbing him over and over. For no reason. I was screaming at him to stop. But he wouldn’t stop. I went running looking to find a cop. But by the time the cops got there and arrested the guy with the knife the other guy was already dead.”

“Holy shit,” I said.

“Yeah,” said Allen.

The next day when I read the newspaper articles, it turned out the killer was a guy with mental health issues. But no previous criminal or violent acts. He just seemed to snap. For “no reason.”

Of course I couldn’t help wondering if the negative psychic energy I had stirred up the night before was what had caused it. It was still spinning on that spot, like a little psychic hurricane of bad and destructive energy. And this guy — who already was in a precarious mental state — happened to step into that vortex. And it was enough to trigger his psychotic episode.

At any rate, the papers said it was the first homicide on that block in like 100 years. So it was a pretty rare thing to happen.

For a long time afterwards whenever I walked by the spot where the killing took place, I would notice the blood stains that were still on the sidewalk. And I would think about the whole thing all over again. And all the different issues in my mind. That I would wonder about. Over and over. But would never be able to prove one way or another.

At any rate, my spiritual progress pretty much came to a dead end at that point.
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