My landlord’s dog is a white female American bulldog named Julie. She is 8 years old, and exudes sweetness and love to such an extent that nearly everyone who meets her tells my landlord, whom I’ll call Jim, “If you ever decide to give her up, I’ll take her.” I rent a room in Jim’s house, and when my cat Urdwill was alive, Julie accepted him as one of the pack; if anything, he, not she, was the more aggressive and territorial of the two.
For the past few days I have been caring for Julie. About 4 days ago, Jim was taken to the hospital, where he has been ever since, with a cracked pelvis from a fall, a deep upper leg infection, and urinary difficulties. Jim is a very large man, and it took a four-man team of paramedics and firefighters to transport him from the upper tier of the bunk bed where he sleeps down to the gurney they had waiting for him. When I spoke to him on the telephone yesterday, he sounded disoriented and frightened. In his deep bass voice he said, “I’ve never felt so helpless before.”
I can believe it. Jim is 74, with a lifetime of international sales, business ownership, and professional rugby behind him. When I met him, about 2 years ago, he had been reduced to spending most of his time in a chair in front of his large screen TV, watching sports programs. I learned that some years back he developed a brain embolism that impaired his hearing, eyesight, balance, short term memory, and completely erased his sense of smell, which in turn has reduced considerably his ability to taste anything. A Type Two diabetic, and a heavy nighttime vodka-and-cranberry-juice-cocktail drinker, he is also a hoarder. Nearly every square inch of his house is filled with sports equipment, boxes of books, clothing, heaps of old bills and letters, tools, memorabilia, and trash, and the yards around his house sport several huge, inoperative vehicles, including a chartreuse van and two trucks, one of which has a mobile hot tub attached to it. (In the Seventies, Jim used to drive this rig around Santa Fe, renting it out to partying hippies.)
Despite his brain damage and short term memory loss, Jim notices at once if anything new appears in his vicinity, or if anything is thrown away or moved from one spot to another. “Is that your towel on the washing machine?” he asks. “Did you move that [tiny scarlet] tag from the desk to the side table?” Severely depressed, he goes to bed around midnight and gets up around 1 or 2 in the afternoon. “It just doesn’t seem worth it most days to get out of bed,” he told me.
Jim is on Medicare, and has had a string of caseworkers who come by now and again, disappear, and are replaced by new caseworkers. This is not because Jim is a difficult client to deal with; he is remarkably sweet tempered for a man with his background and in his condition. It’s because New Mexico, one of the poorest states of the Union, does not allocate much money to social services, and typically caseworkers are paid little, overworked, and overscrutinized by middle management longtermers anxious not to lose their jobs. Still, it’s a good thing Jim has Medicare, as he tells me he will be in hospital for at least another week, and in the meantime I am more or less in charge of taking care of Julie. “She misses you a lot, Jim,” I told him. “I miss her a lot, too,” he said, and his voice broke.
I find myself grieving, for Jim’s pain, certainly, but also for my own. My father, pictured above, was a big man, too, with a bass voice, and like Jim had little liking or talent for asking for help. Tonight I miss my father keenly. I was scared of him, much of the time, and angry with him, much of the time, and yearned for his approval and acceptance all of the time. He filled the house I grew up in with his presence just as Bill fills this house with his, and after my father died, of the last in a string of heart attacks back in 1971, the house loomed vast and empty without him in it.
I have no reason to believe that Jim will die, not this time, anyhow, though the events of the past week are clearly a wakeup call for him: change your ways of handling your pain, or make a humiliating, and possibly protracted, exit, stage right. But however long he is in hospital or rehab, and however many changes must take place in his house for it to accommodate his new fragilities, for now, I am here with his dog Julie; and our hearts, both hers and mine, are aching. •
Various explanations have been offered down through the ages to explain the suffering experienced by so many in physical reality. In some traditions, there are good gods and evil gods, constantly vying for supremacy over their Creation. In Fundamentalist Christian tradition, it’s humans’ fault that pain and hardship exists in the world, which was cursed because of Adam and Eve’s disobedience at the dawn of time; catastrophe is frequently seen in this tradition as God’s punishment for unrepentant human sin. In traditions where reincarnation is espoused, pain and suffering is often explained as the logical outcome of misdeeds done by the sufferer in past lives.
In atheist materialist tradition, physical reality is a mindless mechanism unaware of and unconcerned with the suffering of its creatures. Stephen Fry, noted British actor, writer, and outspoken atheist, recently said in an interview that in light of all the horrors that exist in this world (such as certain insects that can burrow into childrens’ eyes), a compassionate loving God could not possibly exist. The argument is simple and compelling: as God, the deity is presumably omnipotent and omnipresent; as a loving God, the deity is presumably concerned with the suffering of others. Logically, then, if God created insects that burrow into children’s eyes, God is either not loving, or It does not exist.
The visions I experienced in the fall of 2013 showed me unmistakably that a multiversal Consciousness (which many call “God”) does exist, and that Its nature is love and light. These visionary experiences I have since learned resemble those of many religious and non-religious individuals down through history and across all cultures. The symbols vary from person to person and culture to culture, but the gist is the same: that we are each of us known, accepted, and supported by a universal consciousness that is personal without being individual, and that is utterly familiar without being comprehensible. [For a compelling examination of mystical experience from the viewpoint of a nonmaterialist neuroscientist, see The Spiritual Brain by Mario Beauregard and Denyse O’Leary (New York: HarperOne, ISBN 978-0-06-162598-5, paperback $14.99), available through Amazon.com.]
My visions have given me hope that ultimately, whatever happens to my body, the core of me is eternally loved and safe. But my visions did not give me any theology with which to understand why life in physical reality involves so much suffering, or why “God” appears to do nothing about this.
The Kinds of Suffering
Not all my suffering arises from the same vectors or conditions. I’ve broken down the stuff that causes me the most pain into several categories, organized according to the forces and actions involved in the suffering I experience.
Suffering That Results Partially or Primarily from the Actions of Natural Forces: My severe juniper pollen allergy, worse this winter than ever before in living memory; my genetic predispositions towards osteoarthritis, depression, heart disease, obesity, and diabetes; the aches and pains that come from the natural aging of my body; my spinal damage due to a mild case of polio as a child in the Fifties; the physical distances between things and people; the deaths of loved ones from AIDS, alcoholism, and heart attack.
Suffering That Results Partially or Primarily from the Actions of Others: My ongoing PTSD, the result of my upbringing in a dysfunctional family with an alcoholic pedophile mother, an angry chronically depressed father, and a sadistic, mentally ill older brother; the economic and sociopolitical forces operative nationally and in New Mexico that make access to employment and medical care difficult for low-income people like me; my struggle for self-acceptance as a gay man in a homophobic culture; Santa Fe’s socioeconomic stratification; the high cost of education; the suicide of my lover Stuart.
Suffering That Results Partially or Primarily from My Own Actions or Inactions: My years of resistance to acknowledging, and seeking help for, my incest background and eating disorder; my poverty, which partially results from my having made unwise education choices as a young man; my loneliness, the result of self-imposed social isolation; my perfectionism; my attempts at controlling a physical reality that is naturally in a constant state of change; my lifelong tendency to resist exercise; my lifelong practice of eating foods that harm me; the harms I have done to others; the depression that comes from my insistence upon listening to radio news and reading newspaper accounts of the world’s pain; my resistance to acknowledging the good things in my life because I’m so pissed off by the bad things; my resistance to asking for help from God and others.
I recognize that I have not experienced horrors and brutalities that so many of the world’s peoples experience on a daily basis. Nonetheless, suffering is suffering. What kind of help can I expect the “God” of my visions to give me in dealing with the sufferings of everyday life? To what extent can the “God” of my visions directly affect or mitigate the hardships spacetime affords me? And how can I best access this help? We’ll look at this issue in the next blog.
Next: Accessing Divine Help In Spacetime.
Today, January 27th, is the anniversary of the day I found you dead on your bed in 1988. My elderly cat has been sick, and though I love him dearly and will miss him terribly when it is his time to pass, my weeping was so intense today, and my feelings of guilt and shame so pronounced, that I knew what I was feeling had to be about earlier losses, too. Hence this letter.
It’s not the only letter I’ve written to you, by any means; for years I struggled with the persistent notion that I could have saved you from your suicide; that somehow you had killed yourself because I had failed as a partner and lover. Now, so many years, therapies, 12 Step programs, and heart-openings later, I know that your story was not my story. Had I opened the door that night at 10pm when I returned from work to find the light on under your door, I might have delayed your death, for the coroner told me you had died around midnight that night. But in the end, if death is what you wished for (and your ex-wife told me over the phone you had attempted it before, during your marriage to her), you would have found a way to hasten it. After all, a month before you died you warned me what was going to happen.
We were in the car going somewhere, you driving, me in the front passenger seat. You said, “I had a funny dream last night. I dreamed we were in a hospital room. I was lying in bed in a coma, and you were sitting on the chair next to the bed. And I knew that you were all right with my condition, because I’d told you many times that the place where I go when I do deep trance is so beautiful that some day I may not want to come back.” Maybe it was that dream (if it was a dream and not your way of hinting what was to come) that prompted me on some level to realize our time together remaining would be curtailed, for it was in mid-January that I sprung on you that surprise birthday party, where all our friends gathered, and we played a game, and you had cake, and laughed, and said, “No one has ever had a birthday party for me before.” Less than two weeks later you were dead.
My inner child has always been terrified of death. Death, in fact, is my Life Theme, the greatest truth this incarnation of mine has been learning to accept, assimilate, and adapt to. Maybe that’s one reason I was attracted to metaphysics after my rationalist upbringing and my ensuing 7 years as a Fundamentalist Christian—I sought to find evidence that the body is not all of us; that physical death is not the death of something deeper and more core in us; and that somehow Tarot, trancework, channeling and so forth would console me in ways that conventional religion failed to do. And it has helped. After my little brother Jeff, you were the greatest spiritual inspiration in my life. Your deep-trance channelings, which I (suspiciously at first, then more and more credulously) helped you attain with my guided meditations, changed my life completely. My entire spiritual world view has evolved from the talks you gave in your spirit-persona of “Alexandra”, and I’m not the only one you helped by any means.
I can still recall clearly the sense of peace and nurture that flowed through your Alexandra persona to me and everyone else who attended our meetings in Key West, Florida, Ireland, and later Santa Fe, New Mexico, where you died. And I can recall vividly that the morning I found you, the moment I put my hand on your doorknob at 10am to rouse you for a meeting with a client we had scheduled for 11, I knew you were dead. I opened the door, saw you on the bed, and felt you and Alexandra—not the same person, but two personas—”floating” near the ceiling, witnessing me. I’ve had spiritual experiences since then, several in which I caught a glimpse of that Heaven of Light and Sound which made you so blissful whenever you tranced. But the experience I had that morning was my Lightning-Struck Tower.
Thank you for all you gave me. Thank you for my sense of your continuing presence in my life. I have loved other men since I met you, but you remain uniquely precious.
P.S. Please watch over my cat, and help me release him to the arms of Love when it comes his time to rise. •
Spent last Sunday morning giving a little talk at the Celebration, a spiritual congregation in Santa Fe. I told them about some spiritual experiences that I had last fall. Those of you who are interested in this sort of thing might enjoy giving my talk a listen. Of course, being a Pisces, I got choked up with emotion several times.
Mister Rand is frequently plagued with concerns that the truths he has clung to for consolation and support he will find, in a shattering moment of terror on his deathbed, to all have been founded upon falsehoods. He is not alone in this fear. Many individuals, when apprised of their forthcoming deaths, return to the religions of their childhoods; or, alternatively, trumpet their atheism, comforting themselves with the certainty that the death of the body is an extinguishment (rather than a damnation or rebirth, as others claim). Mister Rand has always wished to look Death in the eye when that angel finally comes for him, because Mister Rand has feared Death all his life. And so what do these matters tell us about faith and doubt?
Faith and doubt, as we see it, are tools selected unconsciously or consciously by the human soul in order to create certain experiences while in physical reality. For example, when he was a boy, Mister Rand unconsciously elected to side with his agnostic father regarding religion and the divine, because his mother, an alcoholic and pedophile, was a believing Christian according to her lights. Mister Rand wished his father to approve of him, and he wished to detach himself from his mother, particularly as he grew older and her anger towards males became more apparent in her attitudes and actions towards him. But once Mister Rand’s father died, Mister Rand’s need for a context in which to know himself and live his life led Mister Rand to accept Jesus Christ as his personal savior on a beach in New Jersey, as a result of a young man preaching to him from a pamphlet called “The Four Spiritual Laws.”
Returning to the town where he was attending college, Mister Rand got involved with a church where he was welcomed by many, and this gave him a sense of having a family again. He cast himself fully into the practices and doctrines of the church group, even to the point of trying to convince family and friends of the truth of the Christianity he espoused. And yet part of him did not like the sacrifices Mister Rand felt he had to make in order to continue to be accepted by the Christians with whom he was involved; that is to say, his homosexuality, which, as he recovered slowly from the trauma associated with the death of his agnostic father, exerted more and more of a tug upon his bodymind. And so, when he had healed from the greater part of the death trauma around his father, and when Mister Rand had gained the inner strength to once more go out into the world on his own, he began to question some of the teachings of the group with which he was involved. Feeling his faith slipping away, in desperation he sought out an elder of the church and asked this man to mentor him; but the man was homophobic, having lost a wife to her coming out as a Lesbian; and only grudgingly told Mister Rand he would mentor him. And Mister Rand knew his days as a Christian were over.
So Mister Rand [again] embraced the agnosticism of his father. It was an effort to permit himself an expansion of his earthly experiences. Agnosticism, unlike atheism, does not claim certainty of the existence or nonexistence of God/dess; so to Mister Rand unconsciously agnosticism represented a freedom to explore matters of faith and reality and experience that he had not permitted himself before in his life thus far. This period of agnosticism came to an end when Mister Rand’s younger brother discovered the “Seth” channelings of the late Jane Roberts. There awakened in Mister Rand a curiosity to explore spiritual mysticism and the practices of divination known as the Tarot, for deep down he had continued to feel a yearning for certain guidance for his soul. He also wished to become looked up to by New Agers as a man of occult wisdom, for he felt like a failure whom no one could love or look up to, because he was not a famous writer like his father; had no life partner; and was not tall with big muscles, bravado, and/or tattoos like his older brother.
So Mister Rand became a Tarot reader, and found he had a talent for seeing connections when stimulated by querent questions and the images on the Tarot cards. And so his reputation as a Tarot reader spread slowly throughout the community where he lived with his mother and brother. Suddenly he met the man who for two years would become the most important figure in his life: Mister Alex, named Stuart Lucker. Together they became a psychic team, first in Key West, Florida, then in Santa Fe, New Mexico. And from Mister Alex’s channelings as “Alexandra” came several life systems that Mister Rand hungrily adopted, for they gave his life meaning without demanding that he hate his innermost nature, as Fundamentalist Christianity had done.
After Mister Alex’s death, Mister Rand continued to explore the Tarot, and later, trance work or “channeling” as well; and within his superconscious created the aggregate information source he calls “The Family,” a source within his Greater Self that enables him to see connections not easily perceptible to his conscious mind. This mindset he has more or less maintained ever since.
But Mister Rand has always been plagued by doubts that his New Age beliefs might be no truer than the Christian beliefs or agnosticism he had previously espoused. Part of the reason for this is that Mister Rand is incarnated as the Essence we call Judgment, in which dualism, and in particular dualistic thinking, is enthroned mightily: I believe/I believe not; I am man/I am woman; I am good/I am evil; God is Love in all parts of Godself/God is a consuming fire; reality has purpose, with Love at the core of it/reality has no purpose, and all physical reality’s denizens are merely accidental meat machines. Another reason for Mister Rand’s doubtings is that as he has grown in experience he has, deep within himself, sensed a truth larger even than the truths channeled by his lover Alex and later by himself; that is, truths of a different order entirely and beyond what “The Family” as he thinks of us can express and perceive. For we are a construct merely, a tool for the transmission of insight already held within Mister Rand’s Greater Self, and within the Greater Selves of Mister Rand’s clients who seek “The Family’s” advice. So, just as when he left agnosticism for Fundamentalism, Fundamentalism for agnosticism, and agnosticism for spiritualism, Mister Rand, unknown to himself, has a longing for experience that he does not feel his current form of belief can support or legitimize. And so part of him doubts the teachings of “Alexandra” that have sustained him for so long.
And so faith and doubt are tools, even more than they are expressions of psychological bent or orientation; tools which the Greater Self uses to assist Mister Rand in creating life experience for himself. What form Mister Rand’s new tools will take we cannot say, except that Love is at the core of it; for his recent visions of Love, utterly without doctrinal or theological system to accompany them, have exerted a major influence upon Mister Rand’s soul.
And so, if you struggle with doubt, ask yourself, “What experience has faith not given me that I may be needing to leave my former faith in order to enjoy?” And we thank you for sharing.
— May 10, 2014. Channeled by Rand B. Lee. All rights reserved.