Antecedents of New Thought by Eric Butterworth
Lecture 10 - The Paranormal
Psychic phenomena, according to Eric Butterworth, should be studied and explored for what it may contribute to human understanding of the external world. But he cautions his listeners time and again in this lecture about mistakenly assuming that exploring psychic phenomena will reveal anything of value about spiritual unfoldment (clip 209) or about the meaning of life (clip 215).
He says that such activity actually obscures the development of valuable spiritual capabilities, such as spiritual healing (clip 217). His conclusion is that "the more we seek out there for phenomena, the more we’re pulling away from our own roots and the more we tend ultimately to become dislodged from our own integral relationship with the infinite process" (clip 223).
In this series of discussions on Antecedents of the New Insight in Truth, we have been attempting to trace the history of new thought ideas and, perhaps, secondarily, to indicate something of a history of the movements themselves within these areas. As I’ve said repeatedly, the subtitle should be There’s Nothing New in New Thought, that all ideas and all teachings have antecedents, that nothing ever just commences anywhere. I think it’s important that we understand this because it helps us to know the greatness of Infinite Mind.
We’ve considered roots in philosophy, roots in psychology. We’ve considered transcendentalism of Kant, Wordsworth, and Emerson. We’ve considered Phineas Parkhurst Quimby, Mary Baker Eddy, Thomas Troward, the Fillmore’s in Unity, Emmet Fox, Ernest Holmes in Religious Science. Last week, we considered the occult teachings and teachers. Today, we’re going to think a little bit about the paranormal and its general field.
Actually, when we’re talking about antecedents, we’re not implying today that much that we know today as truth has come about as a result of psychic investigations or spiritualist, mediumistic activities. We’re simply saying that these things have existed as a parallel activity all down through the ages. Obviously, there has been a certain interchange of ideas and there has been influences. We’re not really prepared to say how much, but we feel that we could not justly or adequately cover this area of Antecedents of the New Insight in Truth without at least touching this base.
Certainly, it’s true that from the very earliest of recorded history, man has been surrounded by things beyond his knowledge or experience, which, for want of a better term, we usually call supernatural. This term is relative and the appearances are relative. For instance, in the earliest times, the supernatural probably existed of such things as the Sun moving across the sky, the darkness of night, an eclipse of the Sun or the Moon or fire or earthquake or thunder, a lot of phenomena that were frightening and that were beyond the knowledge of the person. Certainly, in the earliest of times, in the development of religions of all kinds, there was a great deal of paranormal phenomena, both that which motivated religious fervor and that which was a part of the religious worship practice.
Great philosophers from Plato to Kant have either enthusiastically or reluctantly acknowledged the reality of certain psychic experiences or spirit contact. For instance, Kant, who is probably about as stable and mature and unemotional a philosopher as you could find, after investigating the incredible mediumistic powers of Swedenborg, who we talked a little bit about last week, wrote, “Philosophy is often much embarrassed when she encounters on her march certain facts that she dares not doubt, but will not believe for fear of ridicule.” Of course, this is the position that I think many have taken.
Certainly, we find a great deal of what could be called paranormal phenomena in the Bible. However, I personally do not find acceptable the attempts to equate all scriptural activity as the work of psychic phenomena. As we trace the history of New Thought, certainly, again, I think it’s important that we acknowledge that this whole field has grown up at least in an environment that has been surrounded by certain influences that could be called psychical or spiritualistic, paranormal. What the influence has been again, we don’t want to come to any conclusion.
Let me say at the outset that I’m not in any way this evening speaking for or against the world of the psychic. I have my own views and I will express a few of them editorially, perhaps, at the close and, perhaps, as we go along. I’m dealing with this field to do justice to the study of antecedents. It is obvious to me that certain mystical or psychical experiences have had a part in the evolution of new ideas and in the revelations that have come to individuals in the way of new thoughts.
Now, there are those, I’m sure, who would tend offhand to put down all psychic phenomena. I have a feeling that most persons have had, at some time in their life, something that normally would be referred to as a psychic experience. For the person who either has never had any or who, like Kant, refuses to, at least, own up to it, there is an illustration that, I think, is valid. At a reasonable distance from a piano, if a tuning fork is struck sounding an A, the A string on the piano suddenly vibrates. I’m sure many have seen this simple demonstration in high school physics. Now, in a Alice-in-Wonderland-like reaction, can you imagine the other 87 strings on the piano refusing to believe in the existence of the tuning fork because they do not vibrate?
I think this suggests that there are times a person may have some sort of a psychic experience or may see something that no one else sees or hears or feels. We may say, “Well, I didn’t see it, so it didn’t occur,” but we’re talking about vibrations and we’re talking about things that happen in the consciousness of the person. Obviously, there’s a need for a great deal of objectivity, a great deal of open-mindedness.
First of all, because we have considered teachings and teachers and movements, let’s just begin by a very brief consideration of the field of spiritualism. Now, as we said last week, perhaps spiritualism should come under the study of the occult. We said that we separated it because we wanted to group it with the study of the paranormal, where it is a little more closely related. Also because in the occult, practically all occult teachings and teachers are very closely involved with the idea of reincarnation and this is the one place where spiritualism would separate itself from the occult because reincarnation normally is considered anathema to a spiritualist.
Now, there have been individuals and whole groups of people interested in spirit contact through all history, so it’s very difficult to cite one point as the beginning of spiritualism. We can only think of the beginning of certain movements and because we’ve been more interested in the evolution of these ideas in America, we would be more concerned with the beginnings of spiritualism in America.
It could be pointed out, and often is, that there are many references to spirit contact in the Bible. However, I think we should honestly recognize that most of the comments are critical, that the Bible references to familiar spirits and involvement with them is usually referred to as an abomination to God.
Now, spiritualism in America is probably indebted chiefly to Andrew Jackson Davis, who was a man who wrote a lot, had a lot of great experiences and though he is not generally recognized or accepted by the spiritualist movement and his books are rarely read, yet, he certainly is the antecedent in America from which much of this has come forth. He experimented with the power of seeing on spiritual planes beyond the physical. He developed a healing practice similar to the more recent Edgar Cayce. I should probably add that Andrew Jackson Davis was born in 1826, so about 140 years ago or 150.
Now, in 1844, he had a vision of a man whom he said was the spirit of Galen, the famous medical authority of the 2nd Century AD. He said that Galen gave him a magic staff that enabled him to know about various diseases and their cures. Galen also allegedly taught him that disease affected only the bodies of people and not their interior principle. The interior creative spirit, the healing essence in each person, determined the exterior condition. Now, as I said, Andrew Jackson Davis wrote extensively and did some amazing things. There’s a great deal written about him.
However, the actual birth of spiritualism in America is generally credited to a family experience in Hydesville, New York in 1848, when two young girls, Kate and Margaret of the Fox family heard rappings in the house. This was a day, of course, when such things were sort of frowned upon and witches were burnt at the stake and so forth and so obviously, it was a phenomena that was very daring at first and very exciting. Many persons came to witness the rappings. There was a great deal of publicity, great broadening interest. No less than Horace Greeley, the editor of the New York Tribune, went to Hydesville to investigate the claims and he supported them, which served, actually, to give a validity to this whole thing, which caused it to spread even more rapidly.
Very soon, spiritualist groups were founded, various kinds of mediums appeared and all sorts of phenomena came to the fore. Of course, into this babble of confusion, there naturally appeared a great deal that was fraudulent and so there was all sorts of publicity. There were court cases. There was all sorts of confusion. In this confused period, it is interesting that in 1888, one of the Fox sisters, whose childhood experiences along with her sister led to the whole spiritualistic interest, confessed publicly here in New York City that when they had made the rappings, they had done so with their toes and that it was an attempt to scare their mother. We report this not to put down the development of the spiritualist movement, but simply to indicate that obviously, what it had going for it was something that transcended this little bit. This was a shock to many persons, but the movement went forward and spiritualism gradually developed into a church movement.
Now, generally, the spiritualists believe that God is an eminent, impersonal power manifesting in life through all forms of organized matter. There’s much in the spiritualist view that parallels the so-called New Thought concept. God or infinite intelligence is also principle and man’s salvation depends upon his living in harmony with the laws that are a manifestation of God on the physical, mental, and spiritual planes of life.
Now, as we said, spiritualism in general does not accept the idea of reincarnation. They do believe in what is called eternal progression. I’m not sure that I totally understand it. It simply, obviously, refers to moving forward and evolving in other planes and other dimensions. They accept biblical teachings. They do not accept Jesus as the savior. He was the greatest religious teacher. He was the greatest medium, who marks the path for man to follow.
Of course, the spiritualists believe that revelation is a continuing experience, that it did not stop with the prophets of old and so new truths are constantly being revealed through mediumship. Classes are held in psychic development normally within the spiritualist churches and many develop the potential for mediumship. Then there are seances and spirit contact both in small groups and in public services. The spiritualist churches, like all the religious movements that we’ve discussed, have had many divisions and schisms, but, of course, that history is not particularly relevant here.
Now, the field of the psychic is broad and it is very difficult to know where to deal with it and where to start and where to end. Perhaps we could just begin by looking at the work of J. B. Rhine at Duke University. Dr. Rhine developed what he referred to as the field of parapsychology to study paranormal phenomena in controlled laboratory experimentation. His experimentation was painfully controlled and many folks who already intuitively or by experience accept the idea of the paranormal thought of J. B. Rhine as dealing with kindergarten stuff.
Actually, he was trying, in a laboratory way, to determine the validity or the fraudulence of the claims of all sorts of ESP, such as telepathy and precognition and clairvoyance and prophecy and psychokinesis and so forth. As a result, I think the work of Dr. Rhine has been very significant in our time because despite the fact of his continuing almost skeptical approach to the subject, the evidence almost invariably was there that there was certain validity to the ESP experience or to the psychic experience.
I think the thing that we got confronted with immediately in dealing with the paranormal behavior of a person and the extrasensory experiences of people and the psychic phenomena is that man is and always has been a curious creature, so man has invariably been excited by and impressed with phenomena of all kind. Jesus, Himself, was, at times, disturbed about this, that people were more concerned with the signs and wonders than with trying to get the inner experience.
Now, the reason this is of concern is that when one is always looking for phenomena, he becomes extremely vulnerable to delusion, if not outright fraud. Even more importantly, he becomes the victim of self-delusion because the subconsciousness of man is such that it will almost invariably in time accommodate us with an experience if we have a deep enough desire to have it. If it is the thing to see an image or a vision of Jesus, one can actually conjure up in his subconscious mind the image of Jesus. Now, that doesn’t mean that one person did not have that image, but it probably implies that because of our intense curiosity and our intense interest in phenomena, quite often, we delude ourselves. This is one of the problems that compound the difficulties in any research into this field of psychic phenomena.
Arthur Ford once told me, and I’m sure many of you remember Arthur Ford as one of the most famous mediums of this century, one who devoted his life to the field of psychic involvement. Not because of any attempt to gain glory, but because he couldn’t help himself. He just had this faculty which he looked at not as any special spiritual development, but strictly as the fact that this came to him while other people had brown hair and blue eyes. It was just the way he was and he couldn’t help himself. He once told me that the power of attunement to the spirit, which is the way he would put it sometimes, would vary greatly and that the greatest psychic or the greatest medium cannot, at all times, be on, as it were.
When a psychic or a medium is in a position where he is expected to be on at all times and sometimes, as he put it, because he used his psychic power for his living, then the psychic is put in a position where he is tempted, at times, to fake it, even if he may be a very valid spirit medium. Yet, if he’s putting on a performance.
As a matter of fact, I talked to a medium in Europe, one who I knew through a friend, when I was visiting the Belgrade Square place one time a few years ago. Went to dinner with the woman and after a performance that she put on, which was quite impressive and interesting and she brought out all sorts of information and experiences for people there, and afterwards, at dinner, she was letting down her hair and she was talking about the problems of a medium. She expressed this same thing, the tremendous personal problem with one’s own integrity. Because a meeting was scheduled, she had to be there. She had to produce and sometimes, there was nothing there. She said sometimes, what can you do? You can’t let the people down, so you accommodate them, which means you fake it, you see. This was what Arthur Ford said.
Arthur Ford also said another thing, which I think is very important. I would not make the observation, but I simply record it as something that he felt very strongly about and that is that psychic power is not of itself an indication of spiritual unfoldment. When we look to people because of the phenomena that they can express or experience, there is a tendency to look up and see them as sort of divinely endowed, you see. Arthur Ford often referred to his psychic power as his curse. As I said, he felt that it was something he had and he couldn’t do nothing about. He was good at it and had tremendous experiences through psychic involvement. He freely acknowledged that in his own life, his psychic prowess was never really capable of dealing with his own problems and he had a lot of them, physical and various others.
I think that’s a very important thing. As a matter of fact, it is probably true that much that we call insanity or mental aberration may well be the result of an unrestrained psychic involvement in the person. That person, if he were to control that, might be a very fine psychic, but uncontrolled, he may have everything short of and maybe including complete insanity. It doesn’t mean that a psychic is insane because after all, what is sanity and what is insanity, but it simply means that this is an aberration, as it were, in the consciousness of man that enables him to see beyond the normal vibrations of sight and sound.
Now, there are a lot of phenomena that I think we could consider that I think are valid inclusions in this series because they have influenced and been influenced by New Thought ideas and people. The phenomena of automatic writing where a person becomes a channel through which some master may bring his teachings to the race. One such, and probably the most commonly known, is Levi Dowling’s Aquarian Gospel of Jesus the Christ. Now, many folks accept the Aquarian Gospel as gospel, as Scripture, which, of course, it is not.
Levi Dowling claims that it came from Akashic records, the so-called imperishable impressions of all the events which occultists have long believed are retained forever in the ether or space. The Aquarian Gospel as a book is interesting. It contains much that’s inspiring and I personally have been greatly inspired by many of the insights in it. It has within it many historical mistakes. The point is this is why it’s certainly good that we make sure that we separate it from that which is Scripture because if we say it’s Scripture, then we must, at least, find some way of its historical validity and there is not historical validity of the Aquarian Gospel. It is interesting. It contains a great deal that’s inspiring, but anyway, this is one of the works that have come out of automatic writing.
There are a lot of other works that do not purport to be Scripture and works that certainly have given much that is inspiring. Perhaps we don’t always know when a work is the result of automatic writing or the result of the intellectual development of the person. Who’s to say? As I said last week, every once in a while, somebody tells me they see a little bearded man standing behind me who does all my work for me. I always say if I could just be sure of that, I wouldn’t work half so hard.
Another of the works of automatic writing that some of you may be familiar with because it’s been around a long time is the Oahspe Bible, O-A-H-S-P-E. Many years ago, this was a work that was greatly read and highly controversial. It came through John Newbrough. It was written, he says, at the command of God. He says God called Himself the chief executive of the world rather than the creator. It contains a lot of instruction about religious and cultures of the past and it cites a lot of changes that are going to take place. Since its writing in 1846, most of the changes haven’t come and so in the passing 125 odd years, it has proved its fallibility. Again, it’s interesting. There’s so many, many other works like this that fall into this category that come out of a kind of a psychic experience or a paranormal behavior.
Obviously, in this particular context, I think we certainly would not do justice to the field if we didn’t refer specifically to one whom I believe to be the great phenomena in modern times in psychic or mediumship ability and that would be Edgar Cayce. Cayce was born in 1887. He had many vivid psychic experiences and visions from early childhood. He was intensely religious, deeply sincere person, thoroughly knowledgeable with the Bible. He was not particularly scholarly. He didn’t read much. He was a slow learner in school.
At age 12, he was faced with an experience that happens in so many families. An exasperated father was pushing him one night to learn a spelling lesson because he was on the verge of flunking a course because of his poor spelling. The boy was absolutely exhausted and finally, he begged his father for a five-minute break. The father said okay and so in five minutes, he put his head down on top of the book and went to sleep. When he awakened, he knew every word on every page in the spelling book. This had astounding implications in his life because as he went along through the years, he had that ability to master any book, no matter what, just by sleeping on it, which is rather interesting thing, but it indicates something of the psychic ability of the man.
At age 22, he had a mysterious illness. Here in New York City, a doctor treated him by hypnosis. When the doctor discovered that Cayce had psychic talent, he suggested that Cayce might benefit more from hypnotizing himself. He showed him how to do it. Cayce learned the art of self-hypnosis and so he went into a trance and as a result of it, some words that were spoken while he was in the trance were recorded and it contained the diagnosis for his own cure and he was perfectly healed. This was the first of some 15,000 diagnoses over 40 years of time, which are extremely significant, which have been recorded carefully by the Association of Research and Enlightenment and a whole movement has grown up around it. Much interesting work, many, many very exciting things that have come out of the mind and the relationship to Cayce with the psychic.
I think that probably, without getting too far involved, I would make a comment that the ARE is very much in danger of becoming a personality cult. Now, some might question that, as one man did this afternoon. What I mean by that is much the same as I have suggested to many of the other movements, certainly not leaving out Unity or Religious Science, that there is a tendency over a period of time to lose sight of the fact that ideas, consciousness demonstrations come through the flow of a divine process in the individual rather than from the person. There is a tendency then to begin to make the founder, the teacher, in this case, the medium as the master. That danger, I think, is very much involved in the ARE right now. I think there’s a great deal of excellent work which they have done and still have about to do. I simply feel that this is something that should be carefully looked at.
Now, the unfortunate thing about psychic involvement is the tendency to ascribe everything beyond the five senses to the other world. I say this is an unfortunate thing. It’s because there is a feeling that man is an isolated creature in a universe rather than an integral part of it. Out of man’s sense of inadequacy, out of his feeling that I am poor little me, nothing, nothing, looking for meaning, looking for relatedness, man is forever looking out here for answers instead of seeking to become more aware of his whole self.
In Louis Anspacher’s book Challenge of the Unknown: Exploring the Psychic World, and I suspect that if I had it to do over, I would have added his name to the bibliography, though this is another of those books that probably is not now available in print, but it’s a book that had wide distribution and may well be discovered in a used bookstore or, perhaps, at the Gotham Book Mart. It’s called The Challenge of the Unknown by Louis Anspacher. He does a very scholarly work in looking at the whole psychic field. He investigates, for instance, the attitudes and the feelings of religious people, of philosophers, of scientists, and so forth and does it in an interesting, readable way.
He asks us to imagine, for instance, to explain a world of color and music to an oyster, this primitive creature that has no organs to apprehend anything but the simplest vibrations. He says we might argue and intellectualize with the oyster. He has only a sense of touch and an undeveloped sense of taste. We might say, “But Mr. Oyster, why stop at two senses? Why not three or four?” The point is, we need to ask ourselves and ask of ourselves why should we stop at five senses? Why not six or seven?
Now, these so-called extra senses, which are looked at so often as special gifts that some people have and that you can develop like you learn to play the piano, are actually a part of our whole makeup. I think it is this point where psychic involvement so often tends to lose a very important turn. In other words, there is no such thing as extrasensory perception, except that we have so accustomed ourselves to seeing in a limited frame of reference that any larger seeing we think of as miraculous. The extra senses are a part of the whole person. They’re functions of our own mind.
I think it’s important that we see that. For instance, there is no such thing as paranormal except that we’ve had a very limited view of the normal. You see, if we think that normality includes sin, crime, all the terrible aberrations of human consciousness, then we will think that is is paranormal if a person overcomes and develops any kind of Christlikeness in his life so that there is a tendency to think of the paranormal as an explanation for anything that is beyond the kind of behavior that we’ve accepted as a part of our experience.
Now, this is one of the problems, for instance, with healing. Healing is often thought of as paranormal and I think this is unfortunate. Healing is often referred to as a psychic phenomena. Groups engaged in psychic experience and psychic phenomena often talk about healing as a part of the process. I think this is unfortunate because it degrades the process of spiritual healing as the natural expression of the allness that is always within the illness. In other words, there is a tendency to believe that sickness is natural and therefore, healing must be supernatural. This is a very important realization, I think, that health is natural, that it springs forth from within, that it doesn’t require a miracle. It doesn’t require magic. It doesn’t require some special psychic phenomena to change the physical system.
I feel that the less we get this awareness, then psychic involvement can actually be divisive rather than integrative. It need not, but it depends on where we are. It depends on whether we’re on the outside looking in, whether we’re trying forever out of our sense of inadequacy to find reality, to find power, to find wisdom out here looking through windows, looking through psychic experiences, looking through seances, looking through all sorts of phenomena trying to see reality or whether we begin with the realization that I am at the center of the process and I am centered in that process and as I become aware of my own oneness with God and with the universe, then I can see, but not looking in a window, but looking out of a window.
I see all these things then as extensions of my own consciousness rather than as something out here that I look up to and wish I had and get excited over. Isn’t that wonderful? We think of all the phenomena that are taking place and we look from one thing to another to another to another always trying to find meaning, always trying to find the answer of what’s life all about.
The truth is, as I see it, one will never find the meaning of life out there. One will never find meaning in a job, in a relationship, in the world, in a book, in a teacher, in a teaching, in a psychic experience or a direct revelation from Heaven if it comes through some outer revelation or outer experience. One can only find meaning in himself. You begin with meaning. You begin at the point of your oneness, at the center, your centered realization of oneness with God. Out of this point of centered awareness, then you see meaning everywhere and there’s a tendency to be able to be very controlled, very reserved, very objective, very mature in the inspection and analysis of any kind of phenomena that may take place out there.
There’s another interesting experience that I have had, which I almost hesitate to tell because so many people carry these all out of context. It happened to me many years ago. It’s the first time I’ve ever publicly expressed it. It was back in the time, I think, probably 20 years ago or more when there was a great deal of interest in flying saucers. It was the fad. Everybody was talking about flying saucers. A day rarely went by when there wasn’t something on the front page about some sighting of flying saucers. People were in flying saucers groups and workshops and prayer groups and there were people writing books on flying saucers. I had a very good friend. He was one of my close associates in my Unity work there who resigned his work and went off to write a book. He was an engineer by trade. He wrote a book on the engineering aspects of flying saucers. I once asked him, “Have you ever seen one?” “No.” “Have you ever been inside of one?” “No,” but he wrote a book about it.
Again, it was the fad. It was the thing to do. I’m not at all putting down the possibility that flying saucers may exist. As a matter of fact, the point of my story is that while so many folks that I talked to involved in those things had never, ever seen one and always entertained the hope that they would see one, I saw one. I said I would never tell anyone in those days, but I was riding a plane over South Dakota one time looking out the window. It was way in the early hours of the morning and looked out and I saw a phenomena that I couldn’t understand or explain. I was wide awake.
The thing was, again, maybe I’m weird about this sort of thing, but my feeling was so what? It doesn’t have to change my position any. If there are entities from outer space that are trying to come into our Earth’s atmosphere to give us a message, all right. We’re ready. Let them come. They don’t have to come in the night. They don’t have to come in mysterious ways. Let them come and land on my front lawn or on the White House lawn and say, “I want to see your leader.” I’m just saying, not in any way to build myself up, but to say that that was my feeling about it. I saw a flying saucer. I was interested in it. I thought it was a strange phenomena and anyone who has had any real valid information about these things, I would be very happy to talk with. Through the years, I’ve talked with a lot of people about flying saucers, but practically no one had any information really about them in a firsthand sense.
I think so often, this is the thing that happens in the so-called phenomena. When people get excited about phenomena, they lose all the perspective, all their base of their own relationship, almost that everything goes down the drain. Maybe he has the answer. Maybe he’s got the pipeline to God. Maybe this is the way to find meaning in life. I think that’s been probably the greatest challenge in this whole field, which, again, is in no way to put down the possibility that flying saucers exist and that there are entities seeking to come into this atmosphere and bring us messages, you see. I don’t debate that at all. How can I when I’ve seen one myself, you see?
Now, again, there is this problem, for instance, of healing, which I was talking about the idea of spiritual healing being a psychic phenomenon. In the Christian church, there is a revival of the ancient doctrine of the laying on of hands. Some people, for instance, my dear friend Olga Worrell had done some very interesting things through healing energy of spirit contact. She does it through a kind of mediumship and also through the process of laying on of hands. There are many very distinct and undebatable evidences of healing as a result, you see.
Again, I feel that there is a tendency to misunderstand the process and to look for the phenomena or the miracle of healing rather than to realize that man, every person is a whole creature. Every person contains within him the allness of the divine potential at all times and sickness is simply a frustration of that potentiality. If, and certainly, there’s no question that it sometimes happen, though there’s a lot of fraud in this field, as there is in many, if as sometimes happened, the outer activities or mediumship abilities of a person may serve to release this imprisoned splendor and to bring about a healing, praise God. It’s wonderful, but let’s don’t make the mistake of assuming that the healing came from the person or that it came through the psychic controller that came from outer space or flying saucers or whatever. If healing comes about, it comes about because the person is already a part of the divine flow and there has been whatever has happened, there’s been a means by which that flow has been unblocked. If we can keep that in mind, then we can deal with these things and understand them and be helped by them.
Then, of course, out of this has come what I think we should refer to it, the Charismatic Movement. In this, there is the phenomena of glossolalia, speaking in tongues, the baptism of the Holy Spirit. There’s a lot of this involved in the world today in the new emphasis sometimes called the Jesus Movement or the Holy Spirit Movement or whatever. This idea of glossolalia is based on the Pentecostal experience of the second chapter of Acts. There are some who say, and my dear friend George Lamsa always insisted that it came from a total misinterpretation, a misunderstanding of the intent of the second chapter of Acts. This tells of the time the disciples were gathered together in the upper room and the Holy Spirit came onto them and suddenly, because they were people of many different backgrounds, they all spoke and could understand one another and they spoke in tongues. As I say, there’s a lot of conjectural attitudes about this.
The point is, there have always been experiences of this type of ecstasy with people throughout all ages. In 1 Samuel of the Old Testament, there is a reference to the nabi, babbling seers who prophesied and were filled with ecstasy before Saul (I Sam. 9:9). Obviously, this kind of phenomena has been around, so in a sense, we’re not putting it down in any way. My suggestion is that though it may well be true and I think at times is true—I say I think at times it is true—because I have to have the reservation of my own intellect, that there are times I think when this phenomena is very valid and the experience is a release of something that, perhaps, few of us understand, though I question whether it is a Holy Spirit experience.
I think possibly, there is an attunement to a psychic involvement, which may well be an attunement with what Charles Fillmore used to call the garbage realm of the mind where a lot of things happen, a lot of confusion in which, Fillmore used to say, one could very well find jewels and diamonds, but he might have to rabble through an awful lot of garbage before he finds it. Often, the person is not equipped, really, to deal with it.
The problem involved, as we said in the beginning, is that when the person is so interested in getting into the experience, it’s like a group of, least, doesn’t happen. These things come and go in our time, but a few years ago when the Beatles came to New York City, I stood on Sixth Avenue and watched all the teenagers as they screamed and howled every time a Beatle looked out the window of the hotel. One girl may have had that ecstatic experience. 10,000 others duplicated it by wanting to, you see. This was the problem so that oftentimes, a person in a room may have the experience and it spreads like wildfire until pretty soon, everybody’s doing it because of this deep, subconscious desire to have the experience and the subconscious will so easily accommodate it and the experience will be reproduced. It’s very difficult to know when it is a valid experience.
Now, the American movement of this Charismatic thing began in Topeka, Kansas in 1901 when students of Reverend Charles Parham wanted to have their own upper room experience and they spent many, many days in the silence. Deep commitment, very sincere, and suddenly, one girl began to babble in a strange tongue. Pretty soon, everyone in the room was babbling and jumping about and having this experience of ecstasy. It was a kind of phenomena that may have many explanations. I personally question whether it’s the gift of God. That again is a personal editorial comment.
It may well be a kind of ecstasy that’s peculiar to the nature of man and may be the type of thing that may happen often to a person and sometimes is controlled, an experience that a person has out of his letting go of his natural resistances and his natural desire to filter through things out of the psychic realm in an orderly way. He may have this kind of ecstasy much in the same way as if a person is under hallucinogenic drugs. His mind may suddenly be open and he may find influences of all sorts of psychic things. Personally, I feel it’s very dangerous and I say that, again, as a editorial comment.
Now, the field of the psychic has helped us to know a great deal about mind. There’s no question about that. I am all for continued research in the areas of the psychic. I think it’s extremely important in our time personally. Again, it’s only a person feeling. I think the research should be left to researchers, much in the same way as I feel about the flying saucers. I would much rather allow people who are qualified and who are objective and who are sincere and desirous and have experience enough to be able to sort it all out to get involved in that kind of research. I’ll be perfectly happy to accept results or, at least, to deal with them at that time.
I think it’s dangerous for the individual to follow this type of activity because he loses sight of one very important thing. The important thing is that growth is what life is all about and growth is an inward out process. There is no growth to be achieved from the outside. There’s no person, there’s no teacher, no teaching, no great organization that can put spirituality into you. It’s something that either it’s there or it isn’t. Of course, we all believe it is there. It is there because it’s your own divine endowment. The need always is to seek to have that inner awareness of ourself, the integrity of our own oneness with God and to begin with the realization of that oneness.
The unfortunate part is there is this tendency out of our sense of inadequacy to be looking forever through windows because we feel like we’re on the outside. Many persons who get into psychic involvement are people who would do well to leave it alone. There are many people involved in the psychic who are very qualified to engage in that research. Many folks should leave it alone because they become what I call window peepers. They’re forever looking in windows. They have a total sense of inadequacy, a total lack of worthship as a person, totally confused in themselves and somehow trying to find clarity out there in that so-called other world or in those so-called psychic experiences, which lead only to further confusion. The need is to begin with oneself, to know one’s own relationship to the infinite, you see. There is a tendency to want to find the particular window that will reveal the meaning of the universe, but that window is the window our own soul.
We’re told that no one has seen God at any time. That’s one of the statements of the Scripture. There is a paradoxical comment of Jesus who says, “Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God.” Now, that is a great contradiction. I think it is understood when we realize that there’s no way that you can see God if you’re looking for God. It’s like how can the fish find water? There’s no way that he can find water. He can’t find it. He has no frame of reference that will enable him to discern water. Can you find the universe? You’re in it. If you’re looking out there for it, then it will always be the other side of the hill, you see. You’re in it. You cannot find God.
When you begin with the conscious realization of your oneness with God, then there is a purity of vision by which you see God, but you see from the consciousness of God. In other words, there is a tendency to try to look at God through phenomena, to try to look at the universe through phenomena so that the phenomena will give you the idea, the belief, the conviction of the reality of the universe or the reality of God.
We’ve got it all backwards. We should look at phenomena through God. Begin with the realization of God. Begin with the realization of oneness, of allness. Out of that realization, then, in a very mature and disciplined sense, we can look at all kinds of phenomena. They don’t disturb us. They don’t really excite us in the sense of saying, “Oh, my God. The whole world has come upside down.” We see further extensions of our own consciousness. In that awareness, we’re equipped to deal with the psychic and, perhaps, to be helped by it or, at least, to understand it. Without that awareness, it’s very dangerous. Again, that’s a personal feeling.
Quite often, I recommend to students who ask me, and you haven’t asked me, but I’ll recommend anyway, that if you’re curious and if you just kind of wonder what this psychic world is all about, then just leave it alone. There’s no question that one can improve his psychic powers and there are a lot of people around who advertise how to improve your psychic powers, how to increase your ESP. There’s no question that you can, but why do you want to? Actually, psychic power, according to someone like Arthur Ford, is an aberration and it’s a problem. It’s a millstone around your neck. It creates more problems than you know what to do with, normally.
There is an attempt, I think this is a human attempt, to want to get through things as best as possible. I think maybe we all try to look for shortcuts, for easy ways out. I think maybe many people come into the study of metaphysics because it promises much in terms of getting through problems, overcoming sickness, prosperity, and so forth. There’s an attempt to go through instead of to grow through the experiences.
The challenge of one’s looking into the psychic world is that this so often is an unconscious desire to open the petals of the rose before the rose has opened itself through growth. There is a tendency so often to open up our inner nature or to open up experiences, to open up revelations before we really have the consciousness to deal with them properly. It’s my feeling that psychic power, in terms of the extra senses of man, come to us when we’re ready to receive them, when we’re ready to deal with them. To try to expand or improve our psychic power or develop ESP, quite often is an attempt to shortcut. There’s no way you can ever shortcut in the spiritual sense without coming to know want.
I’m often asked by many persons what do I believe about spirit contact. Do you believe it is possible to contact the spirit of your departed mother or whatever? Is it possible? Now, this has always been the question that motivates the researcher and it’s a good question, is it possible, but there is a philosophic question that is rarely asked and that is is it advisable? From my own personal experience and, as I say, I haven’t dabbled a lot in it, I’ve had enough observation of it. I’ve seen, witnessed enough to accept without any question, at least to my satisfaction, that it is possible to have spirit contact with departed ones.
I fully admit and I’m glad to say that there are an awful lot of people in the field who admit also that there’s a lot of fraud involved and so there’s a lot of self-delusion. One sometimes has a very difficult time sorting it out in his own consciousness to know when he’s really getting a message and when he’s getting the fulfillment of his own subconscious desires. I believe it’s possible, but on the other hand, I believe it is highly inadvisable—for a lot of reasons. Even if just the realization that my departed mother is out there somewhere and I want to talk to her, if for no other reason than that.
I believe that the passing through what we call death is an ongoingness and whether we believe in reincarnation or constant progression, as the spiritualist would say, I believe that we should loose them and let them go. They must continue on and any attempt on our part to hold on, to try to receive messages from them, though it may be very fulfilling to us, it’s not really as fulfilling as we think. It only continues our instability of grief. Though we may feel personally fulfilled, it can be and I believe is very disturbing to the ongoingness of the person, but for other reasons, I think it is dangerous and inadvisable because I believe there is a tendency to assume that because a person has passed over to the other side, the words that are so often used, that he thus knows a lot more than we know. As a matter of fact, he may know less. Or, at least, I doubt very much if he has achieved any great wisdom because he passed on, you see.
To be asking them for guidance and what you would do and so forth actually puts us in a position of losing our own integrity, of losing our own self-confidence, our own self-control, our own self-reverence. That’s dangerous, much in the same way as a person may lose it by investing all power and authority in a teacher or a teaching or a psychic or a guru or whatever. Ultimately, we must come to know ourselves and to go through the process of progressively letting go dependence upon things and people. When a person has passed on, it’s a very good time to accept the dictum of a greater wisdom in life than our own, that it’s time to let go. We may hang on all through life, but it’s time to let go. It can be a blessing if we will let go and move on.
There is, I think, an interesting parallel, which I would suggest that could be drawn from this instance. Suppose, for instance, you had heard that there were very exciting possibilities of consciousness expanding as a result of hallucinogenic drugs. Maybe you decided that you want to find out firsthand and so you experiment in LSD. You may have some problems at first and then eventually, you have this experience and suddenly, you have this most exciting, mind-blowing experience of consciousness expansion. Now you’ve discovered that it’s possible. Now the question—is it advisable? Does that mean that you should for hereafter take drugs? I think in that sense, most of us would say no.
Yet, interestingly enough, much of the research that’s gone on in so-called psychic research or spirit mediumistic research has been on the question is it possible and so when we find scientists and philosophers and teachers and laypeople and everything else saying, “Yes, I had the experience. It’s possible,” so then so often the person will say, “Well, it’s possible, so therefore, that’s where it is.” I say I don’t believe it. I don’t believe that’s where it is. I believe where it is is in our own firsthand and immediate experience with the divine flow. The more we seek out there for phenomena, the more we’re pulling away from our own roots and the more we tend ultimately to become dislodged from our own integral relationship with the infinite process and whenever we’re cut off, we come to know want. There’s a great deal of confusion out there.
Now, that is in no way to put down psychic research, psychic phenomena, space vehicles, flying saucers, spirit contact, or anything. I don’t want anybody to go away saying that I don’t believe it all. I think it’s all hocus pocus because I say it isn’t. I believe there’s a lot of valid experiences in these fields, but I’m simply saying that I believe it is inadvisable for the average person on the quest for truth and of self-realization to get involved because I think we should be about the father’s business, which is the business of releasing our own divine potential right here and give up looking in windows and get the idea that it’s right here within myself. Then, when we look through windows, we’re looking out, not in. We’re looking out from a consciousness of stability. Then we can sort it all out. We can take the good and leave the rest without assuming that maybe over the next hill or in the next psychic contact there will be some great revelation that’s going to tell me what life is all about. Anyway, that’s my editorial comment.
All right. So much for our consideration tonight. I might say that I’m sure that as we’ve gone along in our consideration of antecedents thus far, I have touched a lot of bases and covered a lot of subjects. I’m sure I have not always said the kind of things that through your own involvement you’d like to have me say, but I’ve simply tried to be honest.
Right now, as we go forth this evening, let’s just take a moment to realize our own center, our own oneness with the divine flow and to get the realization right now that healing or guidance or protection is available to you not only as a result of some outside influence or some psychic involvement around you, but through your own firsthand, immediate experience with the divine flow. You are in it. It is in you. Go in that consciousness. You are centered in the divine force. There is a guidance in you that’s continuous. As Emerson says, it’s the continuation of the divine effort that made the man in the first place. There is a protecting presence in you, a security within you, a peace that passes all understanding in you. It is in you. It is you. It is yours. Go in that consciousness, stable, whole, complete. The word is integrity. In this faith, we rest and we give thanks. Amen.